Without doubt, one of Dr. Montessori’s most important innovations was the inclusion of a technique called the Three Period Lesson. Adopted from the work of Eduoard Seguin, a French doctor and educator, the three period lesson is used by Montessori teachers on a daily basis and is an indispensable way to teach new language and the concepts intrinsic to that language. Used properly, the three period lesson gives children information in an orderly and straightforward way which allows them to glean small amounts of knowledge over a long period of time. This allows children time to reflect on the new knowledge and apply it to concepts they’ve already mastered. As they gain more and more bits of knowledge, they begin to draw conclusions about the world around them based on a solid, fact-based stockpile of information.
So how does it work? Well, as the name implies, there are three parts to the lesson. The first period is the naming lesson in which the child is told the names of objects (one by one, in isolation). The second period is the recognition stage in which the child is asked to remember a specific object. Finally, the third period is when the child recalls the name of a specific object.
That’s a very brief description of the three period lesson. I haven’t gone into a long explanation about how to present the lesson because there are lots of examples all over the internet. (Here’s a very good description if you want to learn more.) However, the best way to see a three period lesson is to ask your child’s teacher to give you a demonstration.
The importance of the Three period lesson can’t be underestimated. It is a tool that can be used anywhere. In the classroom we use it to introduce letter sounds, number values and symbols, continent names, plants and animals, but it is not limited just to the classroom. It can also be used in the playground, in the kitchen, at music lessons, and at the super market. It can even be used to introduce object names in a second language. There is no limit to how this lesson can be used because, under the right circumstances, there is no limit to the amount of information a child between the ages of 3 and 6 is capable of absorbing.