How to Present the Montessori Three Period Lesson

If you’ve been around the Montessori world for a while, you may have heard of the Three Period Lesson.  This is a method of teaching nomenclature and it is used quite frequently in the Montessori classroom whenever new material is introduced.  With young toddlers, especially those whose expressive language is not yet developed, the three period lesson can drag on for quite some time.  With older children, it only takes a couple lessons for all three periods to be mastered.  L and I prepared a little video to demonstrate what the three period lesson looks like when it has been completed.  Although this video shows all three periods taught at one time, the three period lesson is never done in just one sitting.


Let’s do a quick explanation of each of the periods before we watch.

First Period — Naming

The first period of the three period lesson is quite simple.  The teacher points to each object and names it.  You will notice in the video that there are minimal words used — typically only the word that defines each object.  In our video, we used the color tablets to show how you would use the three period lesson to teach the names of the colors.  You can do this for any vocabulary that you are trying to teach.


Second Period — Recognizing

The second period of the three period lesson is the longest and provides the child with a lot of repetition and practice in recognizing the objects by name.  The teacher asks the child to show her each object.  “Point to red.  Point to yellow.  Point to blue.”  You can also have some fun with this, as you tell the child to “Put red on your head,” or any number of places.  Repetition equals more opportunities for connecting the name with the object.  If your child is a younger toddler exhibiting receptive language (she understands what you are saying) but not yet expressive language (she does not have the words to express herself), you will be in this period for a very long time.  Once your child begins saying more words and she has clearly mastered the second period, it is time to move on to the third.

In our video, you will see that I share an example of how to extend the second period — this is especially useful when your child is not yet ready for the third period, as it keeps her interest engaged.


Third Period — Recalling

The third and final period of the three period lesson tests recall.  The teacher points to each object and asks, “What is this?”  This period is not presented until the teacher is almost positive that the child will be able to respond with the correct name of each object, as evidenced by full mastery of the second period.


L has already mastered her color names, so I asked her if she would help me make a video to teach other people how to do it.  She had a blast and wanted to keep filming even after we were done.  🙂

This video features the song “Naïve” by Sergey Cheremisinov, CC BY-NC 4.0.


While this video shows the three period lesson as an isolated event, you can actually spend all day doing various stages of the three period lesson — and you SHOULD do that, especially if you have an infant or toddler in your home.  You’re probably doing it without even realizing it, but now you can be more aware and intentional about incorporating it in your everyday life.  For example, a three period lesson while you’re brushing your teeth in the bathroom would simply be pointing to each object and naming it:  “Toothbrush.”  “Toilet.”  “Sink.”  “Soap.” “Diaper.”  A few days later, the second period of that same “lesson” would be, “Hand me a diaper, please.”  When you’re trying to teach specific new vocabulary that your child may not come into contact with in her regular day-to-day routine, teach it as a special sit-down lesson.  But when you’re just out and about and your child is absorbing everything around her anyway, work it into your routine.







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