Using the Montessori 3-part cards, also known as nomenclature cards, is a proven way of introducing a variety of topics to your child’s active vocabulary. Whether it’s science, biology or geography these cards serve as expansive tools for increasing comprehension and memory retention.

There are several methods of using learning cards, either as flashcards for learning math and languages or card-to-object matching. Any of these methods will increase the cognitive skills of your child. However, simple card-object matching is mostly for younger children. Once their skills have sufficiently developed, they should graduate to the Montessori 3-part card method to maximize the learning possibilities.

If you are new to this method, this article will, hopefully, shed some light on using Montessori 3-part cards for teaching various topics. But there is a lot to learn about these cards, so get comfortable because you’re in for a long lesson!



What are Montessori 3-part cards?

If you’re new to the Montessori style of education, 3-part cards can be a little confusing. They consist of, you guessed it, 3 cards, usually laminated. The control card has the object, or part of the object, with the name on it. The second card is called the object card and has only the picture on it. And the third card has just the name on it. Once you learn the process, they’re actually very simple to use.


It may seem illogical to start using cards with names printed on it with children who can’t read yet, and if you let your child play alone, you would be correct. But these cards are designed for guided teaching, led by a teacher or parent to introduce the new vocabulary or objects. Later, when the children have grown and can read, their play can be more independent.

But it’s not a stretch when I say that these cards can be used with children as young as 1 to 2 years old. Read till the end to get more ideas on what subjects these cards can help you teach your children. You may be surprised by some of them!


Get them talking

Talking a little about the cards first gets your child familiar with each individual card as well. If they’re about animals, talk about where they live, the jungle, the desert or in the ocean. Make a conversation out of it and find out what they already know about each thing you will cover.

If they are cards with parts of things, like a flower or an animal, talk about the shapes, the colors or something it resembles throughout the lesson. Get them thinking, asking questions and, if you can, laughing. Laughing helps us remember and understand things better than a boring lesson.


What are the steps in the process?

First, make sure you have a basket or small receptacle for mixing up the cards. There are many different steps to playing with these cards and matching is one of them. This is why we need a vessel to store the cards without them getting lost by strewing them out on the floor.

If you have a large set of cards, like the animals of the world or human organs, it’s a good idea to group them into sets of just 4 or 5 cards. This way the kids aren’t overwhelmed by too much vocabulary at once, especially if they are younger.

What language to use

Once you have the cards grouped, separate the control cards (object and name) from the other two. Lay them out on a flat smooth surface one at a time making sure to introduce each card with “This is …”. This lets them know you are introducing a new object. Lay the cards out in a line either horizontally or vertically.

Be sure to let them say the name of the picture, only helping if you see they are having difficulty remembering.

After placing the first group of cards, we start with the comprehension check. Say “Show me the …” to check their understanding and memory. Important here is positive reinforcement. If they get one wrong, remark it until the end of the group and repeat your “this is …” as many times as it takes till they get it right themselves. Try to avoid sentences like “That’s wrong”. This only makes them less likely to try again for fear of failure.

A variation of this last sentence is “What is this?” while pointing to a specific object card. It should be used as a back up to ensure comprehension. Again, if they get any wrong, repeat your first sentence.

After having a chat about the first set of 4 or 5 cards, have them take out the mixed up object cards from a basket or bowl and match them. Be sure to let them say the name of the picture, only helping if you see they are having difficulty remembering.


Involve them in the process

Once the object cards have been matched, take the name cards out. If they can read, great. They read the card saying, “this is …” and match it to the corresponding cards. If they can’t, either they can match similar words, or you can read it for them and see if they remember the names of the pictures they just matched.

This should be repeated with each group of 4 to 5 cards, and then repeated again with the whole set as a sort of retention test. Can you see the power of reinforcement taking place here? The kids are learning not only concretely by observing the object but also abstractly by associating a word with that object. Absolutely fascinating!

Just remember to keep it in that order as you expand into other groups of cards: first, the control card with the object and name, the object card, then just the name card.


Move it up a notch

If you want to expand the lesson because you have nice figures to match with the cards, you can increase the sensory nature of the game. Simply replace the object cards with the figures. Go through the whole cycle of This is …, Show me …, and What is this?

If you want to make it even more difficult, then take away the control cards and replace them with the object cards. Then they match their figures and name cards to those object cards.


And to move it up yet another notch, take away the object cards altogether and just match the figure and name cards, going again through the standard cycle of, this is …, show me …, and what is this?

The figures can also be replaced by pieces of felt if you have bought one of our felt boards. Use individual organs, continents or even leaves in place of your object cards. The more you mix up the learning the more fun and varied you can make the lessons. The last thing you want are bored kids, right?


What type of lessons can I use these cards for?

As I mentioned earlier, these games are ideal for increasing vocabulary on a myriad of scholastic topics. But they can also be useful when applied to more complex systems, such as the stages of a black hole forming or solving complex math equations. The sky is the limit really. I have seen cards for landforms, bird beak shapes, even Egyptian hieroglyphics!

There are many different parts and steps to these things. Learning not only the names but also how they connect and interact is critical to a child’s understanding of the whole. When children learn complex systems as a young learner, their chances of understanding and performing well academically are increased by many folds.




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    Bobbie Hallberg says:

    Both my kiddos would benefit from the 3 part card system. My oldest is very intelligent and my younger loves following in his sisters footsteps!

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