What to Do When 3-Part Cards are “Boring”

Montessori 3-Part Cards are a tool for teaching nomenclature. There’s a card that has a picture and the word beneath it (the control card), a card with just a picture on it (the picture card) and a card with just a word on it (the label card). The general idea is that you present the control card, then the child matches the picture card and the label card to the control card, learning new vocabulary in the process. Three-part cards come in sets according to theme, helping the child to categorize as well — and there are cards available for just about any theme you can imagine!

But what if your child has little to no interest in this work?

For pre-readers, 3-part cards are mostly used for matching pictures — and that can be a bit boring for the child who is somewhere between purely pre-reading and actually reading.  Something that can make it a bit more interesting is to treat the word on the label as its own matching work. Sure, your child might not be able to read it yet. But she can match the pattern of letters from the label card to the one on the control card.

Your child who is somewhere on the path to reading and writing can also use the labels on the 3-part cards to copy words with the movable alphabet. Choose some control cards from a 3-part card set and find those letters with the movable alphabet to build that word beside the card.

If you have a child who prefers work that requires more whole body movement, set up your 3-part cards as a scavenger hunt! Hang one part of the 3-part cards up on the walls around the room, then go around and match the other parts to them. If you’re practicing writing, let your child write a list of the ones he’s found on a piece of paper.

You can also play Memory with the 3-part cards! If you have a pre-reader, turn over all of the control cards and the picture cards, then play Memory to find the matches. If you’re working on letters or have a full-on reader, turn over the control cards and the label cards and play that way!

3-part cards are fantastic materials to use as a self-assessment tool with children who are fluent readers. It gives them a chance to look at a picture card, name it, and then find the label card that says that word — then they can check it on the control card.  This is even better when it’s used at the end of a themed study or with science/botany/geography works to assess what’s been learned.  For example, after learning about the “Parts of…” something, they can test themselves by labeling those parts with the picture and label cards and then check their work with the control cards.

Katharine of I Believe in Montessori has a fabulous free guide for many different ways to use 3-Part Cards, so your child may be more interested in some of those extensions. A lot of them involve movement around the room, which is always more interesting that doing 3-Part Cards at a table or work rug.