Teaching the Montessori Way: The Three-Period Lesson

Have you ever been curious as to how children learn in a Montessori setting?  The Montessori Three-Period Lesson (basically a lesson in three parts) is used throughout the Montessori environment to help introduce a new concept and lead the children along a path to understanding and mastery.  Villa Montessori Leesburg uses the Three-Period Lesson extensively (but not exclusively) in language development; it’s a wonderful way to increase, enrich, and broaden a child’s vocabulary.

In simple terms, the three periods, or steps, are as follows:

  1. Naming (Introduction)
  2. Associating and Recognizing (Identification)
  3. Remembering and Recalling (Cognition)

Let’s use the example of teaching a child the names of fruit using a vocabulary basket of fruit.  Learning takes place through the senses, not just by hearing.  Young children touch, taste, squeeze, smell, and manipulate everything.  A Montessori teacher will set up the lesson on a table or mat.  For this example, the objects are an apple, an orange, and a banana.

The First Period:  Name the Objects (“This is….”)

This period is generally rather short as it is simply giving the objects a name.  A teacher will point to the first object (apple) and say “apple”.  A teacher will repeat the name several times, clearly and slowly, “This is an apple.  Can you say apple?  Apple.”  The teacher may look at all the details and offer it to the child to have a look.  The teacher will then name the other two objects in the basket in the same way.

The Second Period:  Recognition and Association (“Show me…”)

This stage of learning is the longest to extend the handling and movement of objects.  The child needs to have many experiences hearing the name of things.  This handling and movement increase the kinesthetic memory and will solidify a child’s recognition of the object’s name.  There are many games that can be used to make learning hands-on and fun.

A teacher may rearrange the objects and ask the child to show them a specific object.  

“Please show me the orange.”

“Can you put the apple in the basket?”

“Can you place the banana in my hand?”

The movement will make the lesson more engaging and will help the child be successful.

The Third Period:  Recall (“What is this?”)

This period verifies the child’s knowledge.  A teacher will only start this period if she believes the child can be successful to build self-confidence.  This is the very first time the teacher will ask the child to verbally recall the name of the objects.  When the child can name something, it signals cognition.

The teacher will place the objects back in front of the child.  She points to the first object and asks the child, “What is this?”  Once the child answers, she repeats the question with the second and third object.

If the child does not know the names of the objects, it indicates that the child needs more repetition and experience.  Montessori teachers will simply say the names again and will end the lesson without making the child feel as though they have failed.  The teacher may then reintroduce the lesson later playing more naming games until the child can be successful.

Summary of the Three-Period Lesson

As you can see, the Three-Period Lesson is a perfect example of how the Montessori approach to education is child-centered – allowing children to learn through play and develop at their own pace.  The length of time each period takes varies greatly from child to child.  Some may speed through all of them in a day, while others will need to spend longer on the second period before they are ready for the third.

We would love for you to come and visit our school to see just how we put these principles to work and how we foster self-confidence at all age levels!  Call and request a tour, virtually or in-person at 571-281-5800.  We look forward to meeting you and your child!

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