Children under the age of six have an unlimited capacity for language, and want to know the names of everything around them. In Montessori, we use this limitless capacity for language to introduce new vocabulary to the children every day. Sometimes it’s things as basic as colors, and other times very specific vocabulary such as parts of a seahorse or types of cars.
Three Period Lesson
Regardless of the vocabulary being introduced, it is always presented in the same way - The Three-Period Lesson.
Let’s walk through the process together, and you’ll see how this game is a natural progression from brand-new vocabulary to memorized, without any pressure or feeling of being tested.
The First Period
Formally called the Naming period, this is an introduction. We gather three items to introduce vocabulary. In the classroom, we would provide language for all the materials and their qualities, but we also have collections of vocabulary cards typically grouped together by some common aspect, such as balls, flowers, parts of a tree, etc.
A wonderful thing about the flexibility of being a Montessori guide is that if there is a subject the children in your class are particularly interested in, for instance dinosaurs, we can create vocabulary cards relating to that subject. It’s one way we follow the child. The first step, whether using cards or physical objects, is to say what each item or card depicts, presenting the new vocabulary.
The Second Period
This period is also called the Association period, and consists of a simple game.
“Can you touch the lion? Hold the elephant over your head. Please hand me the giraffe.”
If the child indicates the incorrect item, we gently steer them in the right direction, “That’s the elephant. Touch the lion. There it is!”
The Third Period
Also called Recall period, this is an assessment to determine if the child has attached to the language. “What is this?” we ask, while pointing at the object or card. If the child hasn’t quite grasped the language but is still very interested, we might return to the second period for some review. If they are able to recall all three words and are eager for more, we might introduce three more pieces of new vocabulary, but usually not more than six in a day.
Every time we sit down together to do a new vocabulary lesson, we begin with this Third Period, to see if the child already knows some of the vocabulary.
With those inquiring, hungry minds, and all the observing of others that happens in the classroom, sometimes a child knows a whole set of vocabulary cards, even though they’ve never had their own lesson on the material!
This Three-Period Lesson is one of the ways we introduce new vocabulary in the classroom, fulfilling the child’s strong desire to acquire as much language as possible, as precise and specific as we provide for them. It can also be a fun game to play at home!