Calligraphy for Beauty, Order, Self-Perfection,
and Love of Work

At The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori, we teach cursive handwriting beginning at age four or five.  But what about learning manuscript? Calligraphy seems to be the perfect vehicle for not only the development of printed manuscript, but for a host of other benefits. Several years ago a veteran Montessori teacher, John Berno, introduced the art of calligraphy to our school. Mr. Berno is no longer at our school, but a vibrant calligraphy program has taken root.

Calligraphy Program at GSCM

In the “casa” or 3-6 level, students learned that language can be set down and made visible. This was done with the sandpaper letters by learning the sounds as they traced the letter forms with their finger. Once a few sounds were learned, a new tool – the moveable alphabet  was introduced to begin to record their sentences and stories on large mats . Finally the students learned to permanently record their stories in cursive on paper using another new too l- the pencil. Decorations and illustrations were added by the student to bring beauty and illumination to their new work. A love of order was experienced by the 3-6 students.

In the 6-12 class and more noticeably in the 9-12 class, we find the work may be untidy and carelessly done. The love of order seems to have abated. This carelessness sometimes passes into the student’s writing, even if the writing hand was beautiful in the 3-6 class. This lack of order and beauty may have been caused by boredom with always writing the same way. Therefore, we expose the older student to a new art form of handwriting to re-kindle the 6- to 12-year olds’ interest in writing beautifully. We provide opportunities for the “art of writing” with different forms of calligraphy.

The word ‘calligraphy’ derives from ‘kallo’, meaning beauty, and ‘graphein’, to write. Six series of exercises were developed for the calligraphy program at GSCM for the 6-12 student:
Book 1: Using a pencil: Chancery form is taught using graph paper.
Book 2: Using a felt –tip nib: Chancery capitals are taught and a series of poems with decorations are required.
Book 3: Using a steel nib with colored inks. Black letter or Gothic letters are taught.
Book 4: Students create and illustrate a series of concrete poems. Calligraphy by a 6th Grade Student
Book 5: Students create poster-size art work using a variety of nibs and one of the two calligraphy forms.
Book 6: Students learn Carolingian letters and create a series of poems.

With calligraphy, the following Montessori tendencies or values seem to be exhibited:
• Love of work: Students enjoy spending large amounts of time completing their exercises with interest.
• Self-perfection: Students like to work until their letterforms are perfect
• Order: Students find the calligraphy has a logical and pleasing pattern,and is a source of relaxation. In the atrium, calligraphy is an excellent way for students to prolong their contact and meditation on the Word of God.