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What is… The Three Period Lesson?

If you have spent any time at a Montessori school, you have probably heard teachers speak of the “three-period lesson,” but what exactly is it? The three-period lesson is a concept so central to Montessori teaching, we very often forget that to an outsider this language is just gibberish. So here it is, the three-period lesson in layman’s terms.

The goal of the three-period lesson is to move students from understanding to mastery. To do this, teachers break an introduction to a new subject into three parts. The first phase can be characterized by the words, “This is…” In this phase teachers slowly isolate the desired nomenclature of a subject. For example, if a dog were the subject of a lesson, the teacher would say, “This is a dog… dog.” The slow repetition of this phase allows the child to enter into understanding.

The next phase of the three-period lesson is characterized by the phrase “Show me…” During this phase, a child is not asked to verbally identify a subject. Rather, the point of this phase is to extend what was learned cognitively in the first phase to kinetic learning. In this phase, a child might point to a dog or pet them to show their teacher what a dog is.

The final phase solidifies a student’s mastery of a subject. “What is this…?” characterizes this phase. Being asked this question ignites a student’s recall of the information that they previously learned. Their answer will allow them to translate the concept into their own language—the true sign of mastery.

It is through mastery of subjects that students begin their quest for knowledge and gain confidence in their abilities. So have you mastered the concept of the three period lesson? Understanding how students develop this mastery is key to supporting them on their journey to success!

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