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Refugee Education: Use 3 Period Lessons to Teach Vocabulary, Letter Sounds, and More!

The 3 Period Lesson was created by Edouard Seguin and used in Montessori classrooms to teach young children vocabulary, reading, and concepts.

Years ago, at a Literacy Door County training, I heard a Montessori teacher suggest using this method with adult language learners.  I was recently reminded of the method when Portage County Literacy Council introduced me to English with Newcomers, which uses a similar approach.

The 3 Period Lesson is a great place to start tutoring new arrivals with little or no English, literacy, or formal education.

The method considers 2 important language learning principles:

  • introduce new information in small, manageable chunks
  • reception proceeds production (we can understand what we hear before we can speak)

“A lot of repetition strengthens pathways in the brain. . . A student may hear a word or expression 20 or 30 or 100 times before they use it,” explained Sara Williams with Portage County Literacy Council.

3 Period Lesson

  1. Introduction: “This is . . .” Teacher shows 3 items, one at a time and names each item.
  2. Recognition: “Show me . . .” Teacher lays out 3 items and asks the learner to point to each item. You can also ask learners to manipulate the items.
  3. Recall: “What is this . . .” Teacher asks the learner to name each item. Teacher assesses if they need to introduce any of the items again.

Watch a Montessori teacher demonstrate each step:

*with adult literacy learners, we start with printed letters, not cursive

Read how to teach new vocabulary: Though the linked article focuses on items important to children, you could use this method to teach:

  • food
  • household items
  • clothing

I’m excited to hear how this method influences your lessons. If your agency has any Montessori teachers volunteering as tutors or instructors, I would love to hear about their experiences!

Connect with Others Exploring 3 Period Lessons