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Montessori 3-Part Cards are a beautiful way for children to interact with new information. Because these cards can be used in endless ways, children can interact with the information over and over again without growing bored.

This repetition leads to mastery of the information on the cards, which in our case leads to an ever growing vocabulary in your target language! 

​This post will ​cover what exactly Montessori 3-Part Cards are, how to use them for a Basic Lesson, and ​how children can use these cards to study independently.​

Let's get started!

​What are they - The Anatomy of Montessori 3-Part Cards 

Montessori 3-Part Cards, not surprisingly, consist of three parts. There is a Control Card that includes a picture with a word label, a Picture Card with only the picture, and a Label Card with only the printed word label. 

If you are using our Morning Time Plans, you can create Montessori 3-Part Cards by printing two sets of the flashcards. Cut the first set into Control Cards by leaving the labels and pictures together. Cut the second set into Picture Cards and Label Cards by separating the labels and pictures.

If possible, I suggest printing on 110lb cardstock for durability. Alternately, you can laminate the cards (it's easier to laminate before you cut them up).

​For storage, ​I organize our cards in envelopes by week (if using our Morning Time Plans) or by theme.

Pretty straight forward. Not too complicated. But now you have envelopes full of Control Cards, Picture Cards, and Label Cards. What next? ​Use them, of course!

How To Use Montessori 3-Part Cards for a Basic Lesson

The 3-Part Card Basic Lesson is my preferred way to introduce new vocabulary to my children. The main reason for this is the immediate attachment of a new Spanish word to an image rather than an attachment to an English word.

The Basic Lesson, like the cards themselves, consists of three parts. It begins with the introduction of the Control Cards. This is followed by the matching of the Picture Cards, and it ends with the placement of the Label Cards. 

It is best for lessons to take place completely in the target language. However, if you are learning a language alongside your children go ahead and use English for all words except the vocab words you are learning. Try to keep those in the target language. You’ll be surprised how quickly your vocabulary grows!

Basic Lesson Part One: Introduce the Control Cards 

For this example, I am using the Spanish word for "backpack", la mochila.

Sit across from your child at a table or on the floor and slowly place one card down and say “This is la mochila. Can you say la mochila?” Repeat this process for each of the new vocabulary cards. Work through them slowly allowing your children time to begin to attach new labels to common images.

Note: Having children repeat out loud is key for mastering new vocab. Encourage and praise ​​their efforts, but don’t force a child to speak new vocab aloud if they are hesitant. New sounds are strange, and it takes courage to speak them out loud. If your child doesn’t want to repeat new words simply say “Maybe next time. I know it feels funny to make those sounds, we’ll all get used to it!” Remain cheery and excited about your family’s language learning.

Basic Lesson Part Two: Match the Picture Card

Once all the Control Cards are laid out, pick up the Picture Cards. One at a time show the cards to your child and say “This is la mochila. Can you say la mochila? Excellent! Can you find the other mochila?” When your child points to the matching Control Card say “Awesome! You may place la mochila card next to the matching mochila card”. Hand the card to the child and let them place it next to the matching Control Card. Slowly work through all Picture Cards.   

Note: At this point in the lesson they have already heard each new vocabulary word seven times, and repeated it aloud twice

Basic Lesson Part Three: Place the Label Card

With your Control Cards and Picture cards matched up, take the Label Cards one at a time and say “This label says la mochila. Ready to say it? La mochila.” If your children are eager learners or confident readers you can say “Can you remember where la mochila is? Read the labels if you need help.” If your children are pre-readers or do not enjoy being put on the spot, work through the Label Cards by saying “This label says la mochila. La mochila is here [point to cards]. You may put the label card in its place.” When all the cards are matched, celebrate! 

Note: Placement of the Label Card is the most difficult part for children learning new vocabulary, especially if they are pre-readers. When first introducing vocabulary, you decide if your child would enjoy the challenge of finding the correct match, or if they would prefer to be shown the correct placement. 

Congratulations! You have just completed your first Montessori 3-Part Lesson! Now let’s learn some simple variations that can lead to independent work.

Simple Variation and Independent Work

The simplest variation is to ​let your child lead you (or siblings) through the basic lesson. Ask your child if they would like a turn. If so, shuffle the Control Cards, Picture Cards, and Label Cards and let them run the show! If they are new to the Basic Lesson they may need some direction from you, but it doesn’t take long before even very small children can guide others through the Basic Lesson.

Independent Work

Once a child has been introduced to a new set of vocabulary, they can drill themselves using Montessori 3-Part Cards. ​​

A reading child may take the Label Cards and lay them in a line, reading each label out loud as they go. Next, the child takes the Picture Cards and matches the Picture Card to the correct Label Card, again, speaking each word aloud as they create matches. Once the child believes they have correctly matched the Pictures with the Labels, they may use the Control Cards to check their work.

When your child is ready for a challenge, they may start by laying out the Picture Cards first. Recalling and speaking the vocabulary words aloud without seeing the Label Cards in front of them creates a layer of difficulty. ​After the Picture Cards are laid out, they may match the Label Cards and check their work with the Control Cards.

A pre-reader will need more repetitions before they can work independently, but even very small children can use these cards independently to review and master vocab. Just make sure that they are speaking the vocabulary words out-loud while matching up the cards.

​Remember: The goal is Mastery, Not Matching

The goal with Montessori 3-Part Cards is not that the child match the cards correctly every time, but that the child manipulates and interacts with the information often and in a multitude of ways so as to master the vocabulary!

Mistakes, especially when self-corrected by the child using the Control Card, are the way to mastery!

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Lauren Stengele

Lauren is a 4th generation Mexican-American, and 2nd generation homeschooler. She learned Spanish as a way to reclaim her heritage, and now passes it on to her three children whom she homeschools bilingually. She started Bilingual Together to provide encouragement and resources to other bilingual homeschooling families.

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