Three Period Lesson
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The three period lesson is the basic method for teaching vocabulary. It is used with all sorts of Montessori materials. The items for which the vocabulary is being taught are usually presented in groups of three. The three parts of the lesson are:
Period 1: The child is taught the name of the object.
- "This is red. This is blue. This is yellow."
Period 2: The child is asked to recognize and find the object.
- "Which one is red? Which one is blue? Which one is yellow?"
- The longest and most important step is the second part of the lesson. This is where the bulk of the learning takes place.
It would get very boring for the child and the teacher if we stuck only to “Which one is red? Which one is blue?” Mix it up a little by saying things like, “Hand me yellow. Put blue in your lap. Hold red above your head. Hide yellow behind your back. Move blue to this corner.” etc. For each action, ask about each of the items in the group and then move on to another action.
Also, you should usually begin each action with the item you did last with the previous action. Red, yellow, blue. Then blue, red, yellow. Then yellow, blue, red.
- The longest and most important step is the second part of the lesson. This is where the bulk of the learning takes place.
Period 3: The child is asked to name the object.
- "What is this?" "Red."
- If the child makes a mistake at any point (pointing to blue when you asked him to point to red) don’t correct him or point out the error, simply go back briefly to the first part of the lesson. Similarly, if the child makes a mistake in the third part of the lesson, don’t make any comment to point out the mistake, just go back and work more in the second part of the lesson.
When introducing a new item in a set, it works well to lay it out with two other items with which the child is already familiar.
Three Period Lesson is used for teaching new words to the children. The related vocabulary of a material is given after the child has mastered using it. We teach both the names of materials and the names of the qualities (positives, comparatives and superlatives) related to these materials. The Three Period Lesson is divided into three steps, which makes language absorption easier for the child. The technique has been explained below with the example of vocabulary introduced with geometric solids.
Three Period Lesson for Naming
Period 1: Naming Period (This is _______)
The directress presents the child with three contrasting objects, and places them on a mat/table leaving some distance between them. She, then, feels the objects thoroughly one at a time with both her hands. She also asks the child to feel all the objects. After the child has felt the objects and placed them back, she places her finger in front of an object and gives the name saying, “this is a _________.” For example, “This is a cube.” In the same way she gives the names of the other two objects. She repeats the names of each of the objects, sometimes also changing their position on the table/mat.
Period 2: Recognition and Association Period (Show me ______)
In nature's course of development, the child learns to point out things before he begins to say the names of things. Thus, pointing towards things is a relatively easier skill than actually naming them. For example, children respond to questions like “Where's mama”, “Where's the fan”, etc. They either look towards those objects or point towards them before they can actually say those words. Therefore, we also move to showing steps after naming, rather than pronouncing. After naming the objects a few times, the directress challenges the child to recognize the objects by their names… saying, “Show me _________”. For example, “Show me the cube”.
If the child makes an error, the directress should go back to Period 1 without correcting the child. The second period should be extended and the directress should spend more time in this period as compared to any other period in the lesson. She should change positions of the objects and ask the child again to show a particular object.
She can also ask the child to do something with the object she names. For example, “Please place the cube in my hand.” Or another example could be, “Please place the cylinder over there”. With extension of second period, the child will be putting the names of the objects into his long-term memory. She may move one step ahead and associate the language with the environment, asking if the child can point to another cube in the classroom. The second period may be extended to several days.
Period 3: Pronouncing Period (What is this?) Once the directress is sure that the child can name the object, she challenges the child to name the objects himself. For example the directress might point to one of the objects and ask: “What is this?” The child should then respond, for example, “This is a cube.”
Three Period Lesson for Grading - Positives
While introducing the adjective, the teacher always takes two extremes in the beginning. For example, in the case of Pink Tower she will take the biggest cube and the smallest. She puts them on the table in front of the child. She tells him that these are both cubes, and she is going to tell something about them.
First Period The teacher makes an association between the object and the quality by pointing to each cube in turn, and saying several times:
"This is big....big."
She pauses a moment before saying "big" or "small", (depending on which cube she is showing) and raises her voice slightly, pronouncing clearly. She may use sound variations like Biiiiiggggg/Small.
She repeats until she thinks the child has made the association between the object and the quality. Second Period She places the cubes in front of the child.
In order to make sure that the child has understood and in order to help him fix his knowledge, she asks him:
“Show me big/biiiiiiiggg."
"Show me small."
She asks, again and again, sometimes mixing the cubes first, sometimes asking for the same one a second time in succession. The teacher tries to make it interesting and enjoyable. Each time the teacher says "big" or "small" the child has to make an association in his mind between the word and the size. We get the proof that the child understands if he shows the teacher the correct cube. If he makes mistakes too often, she does not correct him but goes back to the first period.
The second period should be extended and the directress should spend more time in this period as compared to any other period in the lesson. She should change the cubes (taking cubes other than two extremes) and ask the child again to show big or small. She may move one step ahead and associate the language with the environment, asking if the child can point to a big chair and a small chair. The second period may be extended to several days.
Third Period Now, the teacher checks if the child can remember and say the words himself. She places the cubes to one side, and puts one of the cubes in front of the child. She asks him:
"What is this?"
She does the same for the other sized cube. She asks the child again several times for the quality of the different cubes. If the child has done this easily (means he can identify the quality and say big or small), or on another day, the lesson is complete.
Three Period Lesson for Grading - Comparatives
When the child has successfully completed three period lesson with positives, the directress may go ahead with introducing the comparatives. At this stage the child is already familiar with the terms big and small. She takes three big cubes and asks the child if they are big cubes from the pink tower or the small ones. Being familiar with the terms big and small the child will reply big. The directress then starts three period lesson.
First Period (Bigger) She points to the cubes one by one and says, "They are all big but;
this one is (slightly) bigger than this. and this one is (slightly) bigger than this. (Below are additional phrases which may be skipped during the earlier few attempts)
this one is bigger than these. (optional) these are both bigger than this. (optional)
She pauses for a moment before saying "bigger” and raises her voice slightly, pronouncing clearly.
She repeats until she thinks the child has made the association between the object and the word.
Second Period (Bigger) She places the cubes in front of the child.
In order to make sure that the child has understood and in order to help him fix his knowledge, she asks him:
"Can you please show me the cube which is slightly bigger than this?"
She asks, again and again, sometimes mixing the cubes first and sometimes asking for the same one a second time in succession.
She extends this period by including more cubes and repeating the same question. She may, then, move one step ahead and associate the language with the environment, asking if the child can point to a bigger chair than a particular one. The second period may be extended to several days.
She, then, skips the third period, and moves on to the first period with the comparative “smaller”. She takes three small cubes and asks the child if they are big cubes or the small cubes. The child would reply small. The directress then starts the lesson.
First Period (Smaller)
She points to the cubes one by one and says, "They are all small but;
this one is slightly smaller than this. and this one is slightly smaller than this. (Below are additional phrases which may be skipped during the earlier few attempts)
this one is smaller than these. (optional) these are both smaller than this. (optional)
She pauses for a moment before saying "smaller” and raises her voice slightly, pronouncing clearly. She repeats until she thinks the child has made the association between the object and the word.
Second Period (Smaller) She places the cubes in front of the child. In order to make sure that the child has understood and in order to help him fix his knowledge, she asks him:
"Can you please show me the cube which is slightly smaller than this?"
She asks, again and again, sometimes mixing the cubes first and sometimes asking for the same one a second time in succession.
She extends this period by including more cubes and repeating the same question. She may, then, move one step ahead and associate the language with the environment, asking if the child can point to a smaller chair, for example, than a particular one. The second period may be extended to several days.
Third Period (Bigger / Smaller) Now, the teacher checks if the child can remember the attributes for himself and say the words. She may take a variety of cubes and ask the child:
"What is this as compared to this… bigger or smaller?" She repeats the same question many a times placing her fingers on different cubes. If the child has done this easily, or on another day, the lesson is complete.
Three Period Lesson for Grading - Superlatives
When the child has successfully completed three period lesson with comparatives, the directress may go ahead with introducing the superlatives. At this stage the child is already familiar with the terms big/small and bigger/smaller. She takes all the ten cubes or a selection of cubes and starts three period lesson.
First Period She point to the biggest cube and says, "Among all these, this is the biggest… the biggest”
And pointing towards the smallest she says, “And among all these this is the smallest... the smallest”. She then changes the positions of the cubes and repeats the same sentence many times. She also changes her selection of cubes and repeats the same sentences, each time showing a different “the biggest” and “the smallest”.
She pauses a moment before saying "the biggest" and “the smallest” and raises her voice slightly, pronouncing clearly.
She repeats until she thinks the child has made the association between the object and the word.
Second Period She places the cubes in front of the child.
In order to make sure that the child has understood and in order to help him fix his knowledge, she asks him:
"Can you please show me the biggest amongst all these?"
and
“Can you please show me the smallest amongst all these?”
She asks, again and again, sometimes mixing the cubes first, sometimes asking for the same one a second time in succession.
She extends this period by changing her selection of cubes and repeating the same question. She may, then, move one step ahead and associate the language with the objects in the environment, asking if the child can point to the biggest chair in the classroom, etc. The second period may be extended to several days.
Third Period Now, the teacher checks if the child can remember the attributes for himself. She may take a variety of cubes and ask the child:
"What is this amongst all these… the biggest or the smallest?"
She repeats the same question many a times placing her fingers on different cubes. If the child has identified the attributes and said the words easily, or on another day, the lesson is complete. Three Period Lesson is very important and the directress should have complete command over it. It is used extensively in the classroom for teaching new words and important concepts. The above explanation of the lesson introduced terms we use for Pink Tower only, but it is used for vocabulary related to almost all sensorial materials.
Further Reading
- Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-fives by David Gettman, pages 69-72
- Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock, page 48