I'm a Montessori parent rather than a Montessori teacher but I've done quite a bit of reading and research on this topic as my son is bilingual and I'm supporting his English language reading and writing at home.
I would definitely consider Montessori a phonics-based approach. Children are initially introduced only to the letter sounds - and only later learn the letter names. There is a big focus on I-spy type sound games - identifying the letter sounds in words. Yes, after a while, Montessori reading does introduce common "tricky words"/"puzzle words"/"sight words" but my understanding is that the vast majority of phonics-based programs do the same.
IMO, the main factor that distinguishes Montessori from other phonics based approaches is that it is *child-led*. It is not taught to a whole class at same time - children progress through the materials at their own pace. Another difference that comes to mind is that writing (based on having learned the letter sounds) generally comes before reading. Oh, and the use of "hands on" materials (being child-led and using hands-on materials are part of the general Montessori approach, not just for learning reading and writing)
I would recommend "Montessori Read and Write" by Lynne Lawrence as a good introduction (though it is written for parents rather than teachers).
Edited by linn7799 - 11/2/12 at 12:47am