Three – The Montessori Magic Number

The importance of THREE in a Montessori Classroom

The number three is a magic number in authentic Montessori classrooms. For parents looking to choose a proper Montessori school, the qualities outlined below are good indicators that set an authentic Montessori school apart from other schools.

Here are the elements of authentic Montessori schools that incorporate the principle of three:

• 3-years in the same classroom: Montessori classrooms are designed with progressive materials that capture the attention of children. Materials are often interlinked with each other with easier ones preceding the more complex ones. For e.g., a child is introduced to the forms of geometry through geometric solids (3D) and eventually the names of geometric shapes (2D) – angles, sides, radius, circumference, etc. Hence, in order to get the complete benefit of Montessori education, it is important for a child to finish the full 3-year cycle in a Montessori environment.

• 3-year age mix of children in every classroom: This is so important for smooth functioning of a Montessori learning environment. A good balance of three, four and five year olds in a classroom means that, at any given point in time, there will be enough children that already know the way a classroom functions. This allows for younger children to learn from older children and for older children to model behavior, paving way for developing skills such as collaboration, communication, sharing, leadership and gaining confidence and independence – all qualities that will enable them to have bright futures.

• 3-period-lesson: In a Montessori classroom, the introduction of language is offered through three period lessons. At any given point in time, three objects – letters, numerals, maps or other images of animals, birds, etc. – are chosen to introduce language. For e.g., if three provinces of Canada are chosen, then:

  • In the first period, the names or the words are introduced, “This is Ontario, please say Ontario. This is British Columbia, please say British Columbia, and this is Saskatchewan and please say it”

  • In the second period, the language is offered to the child for recollection and the child is asked, “Show me British Columbia. Show me Saskatchewan and show me Ontario. The second period is continued for a long time to ensure that the names are engrained in memory.

  • Then, finally in the third period, language is sought from the child by pointing and asking, “What is this? What is this one? And what is this?”

• 3-hour work-cycle: Through scientific research and observation, Dr. Montessori realized that children learn best in uninterrupted work-cycles of three hours. Since children concentrate best in the mornings, authentic Montessori schools strive to offer 3-hour uninterrupted work cycles in the mornings. With freedom of choice of materials to work with, encouragement of social interaction, choice of working at a table or mat, snack available at all times, children do successfully work through 3-hour work-cycles without requiring teachers doing group activities such as gym or art lessons or second language.

In our over 20-years of collective Montessori experience, we find that these elements enhances the strength of the Montessori learning environment. We often underestimate the power of children learning from one another and their ability to focus, explore and learn on their own. We find out children happy to come to school and are eager to explore and learn with minimal intervention from the directress in the classroom. A good Montessori school will pay attention to each child and help develop that child at his/her own pace and these elements help us achieve that goal confidently. Hence our motto, “Nurturing one child at a time”.

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