Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Illuminated Letters

The third and fourth year students worked on the first of a series of exercises designed to introduce them to the art of illuminated letters. I was fortunate enough to work for a couple of years at Lake Country Montessori School in Minnesota. While there, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Elementary classrooms. I will never forget how impressed I was by the cover illustrations that the children made for their history and language projects. They had obviously spent many hours developing their calligraphy skills and learning the decorative arts. Recently, I visited several museum sites and found a handful of lessons on how to teach the art of illuminated letters to younger children.

First, I showed the students several laminated images of illuminated letters that the museum sites included in their lesson plans. I also found some images of work done by young children. My students were amazed at the detailed designs incorporated into the letters themselves or surrounding the letter. I then placed four different handouts of single letters on a working rug along with a basket of colored pencils. Each letter was wonderfully shaped into an object or creature which started with that letter. I invited the children to color in at least one of the handouts while noting that they could do all four if they chose to.

Each child worked with great focus and amazing attention to detail. When they finished their illustrations, they were given construction paper to glue their letters on to. I was so pleased by their efforts and the results of that effort. See below:

The second exercise will include the children decorating or illuminating the first letter in their name. I will pre-make a large, block outline of the letters and distribute them to be decorated by the students. This work will be followed by the children drawing a letter of their choice and illuminating it. Over the next several weeks we will return to this exercise and conclude with the child selecting one of his/her illuminated letters to press gold leaf onto. I can't wait to see this work.

For the lesson on illuminating letters, and others go to The Getty Museum site at


Beverly said...

My oldest daughter, who is almost 7, would love this. She's big enough to draw her own.

SekolahOnline said...

how you can find those butterfly, girrafe graphic..

i love to do it for my boy


Susan Y. Dyer said...

Here is the link for the printable letters


Susan Dyer

chicago_mom said...

I just found your blog and I'm totally stealing your ideas for my kids! I love every one of them so far! Also, I tutor kids at a chicago public school once a week, and one little boy who is 9 years old can not read at all. However, he has a major artistic bent, I think, so I think coloring these letters may help him put things together in his artistic little brain. Thanks for the ideas! I love you Montessori ladies!

Elisabeth said...

This is great! I was researching illumination for children and am having a very difficult time finding much. Your site has helped me a lot. Thanks for the link to the alphabet letters.