Lessons Learning through the five senses

Children are given the opportunity to choose one of the prepared lessons they are interested in. Each Montessori lesson has an order designed to expand on a child's existing experiences (which includes previous Montessori lessons.) Children use their senses to learn from their physical experiences. The Montessori lessons are designed to incorporate as many senses as possible to reinforce the lesson being presented.

For example, in the Sandpaper Number Lesson, ten cards with the numbers made out of sandpaper are presented to the child. If it is the child's first experience with the lesson only numbers one through three are presented. The teacher will trace the numbers with her finger showing the child how to write the number while saying the name of the number is. Then the child is asked to trace the number and say the name of the number. This is what is known as the First Period of the lesson. It teaches both the name and the shape of the written number by using the child's sense of sight (the look of the card), hearing (saying and hearing the name of the number), and touch (feeling the rough sandpaper.)

The Second Period builds on the experiences gained (lessons learned) in the previous period. During this period, the teacher places the cards, in order, on the table and then asks the child to show her the number one, then two, then three. In this step the child is recalling the name and the shape of each number learned in the previous step. They are then building on this by learning sequencing.

Finally, during the Third Period, the teacher will place the cards randomly on the table and then ask the child what each number is called. Once the child understands those numbers they move on to the next three and so on, following the same process. This lesson teaches the child the written numbers as well as preparing them for writing those numbers.

Each step in a lesson (and each lesson overall) provides the foundation for the next step (and next lesson.) Children do not move onto the next step or lesson until they master the current step or lesson. This process means a child is never held back because of their age nor are they forced to learn something before they are ready. The article, The Three-Period Lesson, describes more about each step of the lesson.

General watchfulness and individual lessons exactly given are the two means by which the teacher can help development.

Maria Montessori