Montessori teachers use the term three-period lesson so often it becomes second nature. We forget that there are others who may not understand what a three-period lesson is. This was ever so clear the other day in a staff meeting where we were discussing basic Montessori classroom techniques. I glanced over at a new assistant who has not yet gone through training and I could see that she was clearly lost. So now, before we get any further into the school year, is a perfect time to review the concept of a three-period lesson.
The three-period lesson is a fundamental approach to introducing a new concept (not just vocabulary) to children. It is used to move the child from basic understanding to mastery.
The Three-Period Lesson: A Key Part of the Montessori Method Explained
For this discussion, I will use the largest and smallest cubes with the Pink Tower material while teaching the terms big and small.
Period 1: Introduction (This is…)During the first period, it is important to always isolate the desired nomenclature*. Pick up the biggest cube. Say to the child “This is big…big.” Set it down and move it out of the way. Pick up the smallest cube and say to the child “This is small…small”. It is always good to repeat the words several times while pointing to the appropriate item or card. Letting the child handle the Montessori materials is also a good idea. There is no need to rush; there is beauty in the calm serenity of the lesson.
Period 2: Association/Recognition (Show me…)The second period is often a separate lesson, done after the first period lesson. Its purpose is to extend the handling and action presented in the first lesson. It is not a time to ask the students to verbalize the names of the Montessori materials. Unfortunately, most adults want to rush through this period and prematurely ask students to verbally identify materials without enough practice. This is the most critical period and should last the longest.During the second period the Montessori teacher has the opportunity to review and reinforce vocabulary as well as see what connections the child made.
In this lesson, the Montessori teacher calls upon the students to show the appropriate materials. Place both cubes together on a mat. Begin with the last item named in period one. Ask the child to show you the small cube. Repeat small and big several times in different contexts: “Point to small. Hand me big. Place small on the tray. Return big to the shelf.” If the child is unable to correctly identify the correct item, return to the period one lesson, stating the word and pointing to the correct item.
Period 3: Recall (What is this…?)This is the first time the Montessori teacher asks the child to name the object or idea. The teacher should only move to the third period when she is sure that the child will succeed. This may come some time after the second period lesson as mastery often takes time. Since the ultimate goal is to help the child master the information for himself, moving to the third period too soon, puts the teacher into the mode of correcting the child.
Begin by isolating the objects, starting with the last object shown. Ask the child to name the object. While pointing to the object, say to the child “What is this?” Continue until child has named all of the objects.
It is important to understand that the knowledge gained during these lessons becomes the starting point for the child’s next quest for knowledge. Every time a child masters a skill or idea, he or she becomes stronger, more competent and more independent and wants to learn more.
For more information on this topic, please visit Montessori for Everyone, Montessori Basics 1: The 3-Period Lesson posted on April 21, 2007.
The Three-Period Lesson is used throughout NAMC’s Early Childhood (3—6) curriculum manuals for teaching nomenclature to children.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, September 3, 2007.