In addition to very young children, I also work with several primary school- aged children with speech and language difficulties and second language influences. With all of these children, I play a Montessori game called ‘The 3- period Lesson’. I have found this game useful for 2 things.
1. Learning new vocabulary eg. Names of things in a different language, letter-sound, numeral symbols, even the timetables!
2. Introducing your child to the idea of remembering and learning: this is especially true for children under 6 years old because up till then, they have mostly acquired knowledge and information without much effort, as such is the nature of the very young child’s absorbent mind.
So here is the 3- period lesson for names of furniture in Spanish. Imagine you have picture cards or doll house figurines of the below:
Point and name each object, ‘la mesa’, ‘el jarron’, ‘la lampara’.
Period 2 is about giving experience of associating the word to its meaning (object) but asking the child to do something with the named object.
‘Where’s la mesa?’
‘Where’s el jarron?’
‘Can you put la lampara in my hand?’
Then move the objects around and ask different questions, do it faster and slower and really fast. ‘Can you put your thumb in la mesa?, ‘Can you touch el jarron with your nose?’
When the child is identifying all of them accurately, go to the 3rd period.
Point and ask the child to name each object. ‘What is this?’
Most 4-5 year olds will be quite apt at it and be able to name all 3 things at 3rd period effortlessly. 3 year olds may have some difficulties at the beginning, because they are still developing the mental order for remembering things. Even older children may have difficulties, depending on the character that their environment has helped to develop. -The game requires a mental effort and an appreciation of challenge which children and all human beings naturally enjoy. Unfortunately, children who are frequently not expected to persevere or problem-solve are not very used to making such efforts and may avoid situations where reward or achievements are delayed. Even so, the game can be adapted to include 1 known object and 2 new objects or even 2 known objects and 1 new object. The latter may be popular with other educational methods that encourage cumulative learning and learning one layer of knowledge and skills followed by another. Montessori’s method is progressive in that sense as well except that we take into account the very young child’s natural way of learning which is global. The young child does not learn the way you and I do, rather s/he absorbs everything around her quite easily. So 3 things are really very accessible to them.
Also note that if I was really introducing Spanish words, I would probably be asking the questions in Spanish as well. The example was just to enable you to appreciate the challenge. In a Children’s House, 3- period lessons are also used to introduce things in the home, neighbourhood, famous paintings, parts of a plant, letter-sounds, numbers, sight words, names of countries, geometric shapes and so on. I recently adapted this for a second language and times-tables. Can you imagine how?