Friday, November 26, 2010

A Three Period Lesson with The Montessori Sandpaper Letters

This year long series looks at the experiences of teachers, parents, students, and Montessori education itself, as we follow a student through his first year at a Montessori Preschool. The Montessori Insights and Reflections of a Preschool Student’s First Year is a collection of useful stories, tips, and information that has arisen from one real student's Montessori journey, viewed through the eyes of his Montessori Teacher, Bree Von Nes.

NAMC montessori sandpaper letters three period lesson
Introducing the Sandpaper Letters – Three Period Lesson
Over the past couple of weeks, Jordan has been showing interest in the Montessori Sandpaper Letters and is always watching the lessons I give to other children. We have worked with the I Spy game several times and he has become quite proficient with identifying which objects begin with the various sounds. Today, Jordan brought me the box of Montessori Sandpaper Letters and asked if we could do sounds together. It was wonderful to see him initiate the presentation and of course, I seized the opportunity.

A Three Period Lesson with The Montessori Sandpaper Letters

We sat down together at a table with three of the Sandpaper Letters, “m”, “a” and “s”. Jordan was very eager to begin and fortunately, the other students were all working beautifully at the time. I moved the Sandpaper Letter on the left (m) toward us and slowly and lightly traced it with my primary fingers while saying its sound. I then invited Jordan to try. It was delightful to see him carefully trace the m with such precision and focus. Jordan told me that he wants to learn his sounds so that he can read big books like his sisters. We continued with “a” and “s” and it was clear that he was ready for a Montessori Three Period Lesson.

First Period (Naming):
  • Using my primary fingers, I slowly traced the sandpaper letter, “m” and stated its sound: This is “m”[phonetic sound "mmm"]. Jordan did the same.
  • Using my primary fingers, I slowly traced the sandpaper letter, “a” and stated its sound: This is “a” [phonetic sound "aaa"]. Jordan did the same.
  • Using my primary fingers, I slowly traced the sandpaper letter, “s” and stated its sound: This is “s” [phonetic sound "sss"]. Jordan did the same and even told me that “s” starts the word snake……definitely off to a good start!
The Second Period (Recognizing): "Show me...”
  • I randomly placed all three Montessori Sandpaper Letters on the table and began the second period.
  • I asked Jordan if he could show me the sound, “s” and he pointed to it right away.
  • I repeated the process with “a” and “m” and he was very quick to point them out and trace the shape of each one.
  • I then asked Jordan if he could place each sound in my hand as well as in the corner of the table. He did so with a grin on his face and without any hesitation whatsoever.
  • The second period was clearly a success and he was still very focused on the presentation………on to the Third Period!
The Third Period (Pronouncing/Recall): “What is…?”
  • Again, I placed all three Sandpaper Letters face up on the table and began the Third Period.
  • First, I pointed to the sound, “s” and said, “What is this?” Jordan responded, “’s’ [phonetic sound] like in snake.”
  • Then pointed to the sound, “a” and said, “What is this?” Jordan responded “a” [phonetic sound] and said, “A starts my sister’s name, Ashley.”
  • I then pointed to the sound, “m” and said, “What is this?” Jordan responded “m” [phonetic sound] and said, “Just like mom.”
Jordan clearly understood the lesson and I asked him if he would like to play the “Knock Knock Game” with me. The Knock Knock Game is something that I have been implementing for years when presenting the Montessori Sandpaper Letters and the Montessori preschoolers love it. It is essentially a follow-up to the Third Period and reinforces the sounds one final time. He was keen to play the game so we began.

The Knock Knock Game - Extension
  • I invited Jordan to flip over each of the three sounds so that the sandpaper side was face down on the table. Jordan had seen the game played many times before and knew exactly what to do. He promptly turned over “m”, “a” and “s”.
  • Then, I asked him to gently knock on a door. He carefully knocked on one of the letters and as I flipped the letter over, I said “Who’s There?” Jordan responded correctly……”m”.
  • He then knocked on the other two “doors” and correctly identified both of the sounds.
  • I thanked him for working with me and recorded his progress on his ‘sound card’.*
Jordan worked so hard today and remained focused the entire time. It is clear that although we haven’t formally worked with the Montessori Sandpaper Letters until today, he has been watching and absorbing the sound lessons that I have been presenting to other children. Some children are such careful observers while other children need more repetition and hands-on practice before they master a particular concept. It is wonderful that the Montessori environment is so conducive to each child’s unique learning style and I love the effectiveness of the Montessori Three Period Lesson!

NAMC montessori sandpaper letters three period lesson
*Note about recording a child’s progress:
I keep a recipe box on the Language Arts shelf and inside the box I have a ‘Sound Card’ for each child. Essentially, it is simply a recipe card on which all 26 letters of the alphabet are written. When I introduce a particular sound or sounds, I circle or underline them on the student’s index card. The next time I do a sound presentation with Jordan I will check his sound card and review those that are circled or underlined. If Jordan is able to identify a sound without any hesitation, I will circle the letter to indicate mastery and will move on accordingly.

Related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, November 26, 2010.


  1. I enjoyed reading about how you presented the sandpaper letters to Jordan. I also love the idea of the knock, knock game, what a fun way to reinforce the letters and their sounds.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thank-you for your comment, Shelley and yes, the "Knock, knock game" is definitely a favorite with the children. I have students who request it on a daily basis and it really is a fantastic way to reinforce the letters/phonetic sounds.

  4. Wow I really enjoyed reading about Knock, knock game. I will use this with my children. Thank you for the idea.

  5. You're more than welcome, Donna and all the best with implementing the Knock Knock Game. It is always a favorite with little ones!


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