vocabulary activity, Montessori, 3 part cards

You’ll Love This Vocabulary Activity (Montessori 3-Part Cards)

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Montessori 3-Part Cards: a vocabulary activity for enrichment

As parents, we read books to our children every day as much as we can. We recognize the importance of reading books to enrich vocabulary. 

Additionally, we can have fantastic conversations and turn them into a fun vocabulary activity to explore topics that interest our children. 

My daughter, Annie, will be four in a few months, and she has been expressing interest in cars and other vehicles. 

She enjoys playing with her toy cars, and she enjoys the Little Blue Truck books and The Little Excavator book. I’ve also been reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary during rest time.

The next lesson in the language sequence is three-part cards, also known as vocabulary enrichment or nomenclature cards. 

I thought it would be fun to present road vehicle cards to Annie. I’ll share the lesson from my teacher training and how it went with Annie at home!

3 part cards, pin, road vehicles

In This Post

Vocabulary Enrichment

Another name for Montessori three-part cards is Vocabulary Enrichment. Reflecting on all of the oral language lessons that come before this one, they are wonderful for developing vocabulary. 

However, this lesson explores deeper into a topic while also matching the words. It is a more advanced pre-reading activity that genuinely enriches your child’s vocabulary. 

I previously wrote about three-part cards with an herb garden theme last year. Check out that blog post to read more if you’re looking to involve nature and a hands-on approach.

Also, check out my parts of a butterfly lesson that includes three-part cards.

As discussed in previous lessons, vocabulary words help prepare young children for reading comprehension and overall academic success. 

According to an article by Phys.com, 7 Ways To Build Your Child’s Vocabulary,

"Children acquire knowledge rapidly as they learn words that refer to more complex concepts. As time goes on, these words will be used during conversations about new ideas and experiences. For example, during a trip to an aquarium a child might see fascinating creatures as their parent names the animal, talks about parts of its body—its fins and tail, for instance—and how it moves."

If you find that your child is interested in ocean animals, you could further explore this topic with ocean animal three-part cards. 

If your child loves a particular ocean animal such as a sea turtle, you can also create three-part cards for parts of a sea turtle: carapace (shell), plastron (bottom of shell), hind flipper, fore flipper, and so on. You could also create three part cards for the 7 different sea turtle species.

vocabulary activity, Montessori, 3 part cards
Matching the vehicle objects to the cards

What is nomenclature?

Vocabulary is a collection of words a person knows and uses. Nomenclature is the process of naming things. In early childhood, the purpose of nomenclature is to understand that things have a name. 

As I mentioned above, Montessori three-part cards are also known as Nomenclature cards. It can be a set of names that go together. In the example of parts of a sea turtle above, your child can learn the different scientific names of the body parts. 

It’s important to note that you present terms within one classified group; or a set of names for a particular category or field. From there, you can expand vocabulary with more details. 

You can do this with parts of a whole activities, such as parts of a bird, flower, fish, or tree. The ideas are endless, and you can go deeper into the study with further exploration. 

What are Montessori Three-part cards?

Three-part cards are a vocabulary activity. It’s a set of cards that have three parts to match. For example, I made a set of 9 types of road vehicle cards; 9 control cards, 9 picture-only cards, and 9 label-only cards. 

Note: Even if your child is not reading words yet, she can still visually match the letters and words on the cards. She doesn’t have to be a reader to do this activity!

vocabulary activity, Montessori, vocabulary enrichment
Road Vehicles 3 Part Cards on the tray

1. Control Card: This is the largest card that has a picture and label on it. It’s called a “control” card because it is the control of error. This means that the child uses it to correct her work independently.

2. Picture-only card: This card has only the picture on it.

3. Label-only card: This is the smallest card that has only the name or label of what is in the picture.

I made a set of 9 types of road vehicle cards, which include: 

  • fire truck
  • sports car
  • police car
  • school bus
  • motorcycle
  • semi truck
  • ATV
  • pick-up truck
  • delivery truck
I made these cards to go with Safari Ltd. On the Road Toob.

*If you’d like to download the road vehicle cards, sign up for the Resource Library at the bottom of this post. If you’re already a subscriber, the latest password to the Resource Library is in my newest email

How to do the Montessori 3-Part Cards lesson

What you will need

You’ll need a set of 3-part cards within one classified category. For example, types of:

  • fish
  • mammals
  • birds
  • amphibians
  • flowers
  • musical instruments
  • boats
  • farm animals
  • fruit, vegetables
  • herbs

Tip: Basic topics such as farm animals, fruits, and vegetables are great for very young children. As you explore more topics with children a little bit older (older preschoolers and kindergarteners), you could try parts of a whole, such as parts of a sea turtle with more tricky scientific names.

Vocabulary activity, Montessori, road vehicle cards, nomenclature
Road vehicles: three-part cards completed

Step-by-step: 3-Part Cards Vocabulary Enrichment Lesson

Invite your child to do the activity, name the activity “Vocabulary Enrichment” or “3-Part Cards,” and bring the basket of objects or cards to an area rug on the floor.

vocabulary activity, Montessori, road vehicle
Place the control cards in a vertical line

Place the control cards (card with picture and label) vertically down the left edge of the rug naming each as you place them.

Remove picture-only cards and randomize them.

Pick up a picture card and match. Name again.

vocabulary activity, vocabulary enrichment, nomenclature
Match the picture-only cards to the control cards

Pick up another picture card and hold it next to the pair you just matched. This tells your child that the pictures paired already could still match it.

vocabulary activity, vocabulary enrichment, nomenclature
Picture-only cards matched

Show your child that you do not have to match in order. Pick up a picture-only card that doesn’t match the next card in order. 

Move the picture down the line to find the matching control card. This is important for matching visually (non-reading).

vocabulary activity, vocabulary enrichment, nomenclature
Match the label cards to the control cards

Match label-only cards in the same strategy. Dramatize this matching, move slowly, and look carefully. 

Name the pictures again as you place the label card below the picture. 

Your child is matching visually, matching letters, and not reading. After the matching of all cards is complete, name all of the cards again. 

Optional: for vocabulary words that your child doesn’t know yet, do the three period lesson. Choose no more than two or three cards at a time.

Pick up control cards, picture-only cards, and label cards, place them back into the basket and place them on the shelf. 

vocabulary activity, Montessori, nomenclature, road vehicles
Optional: Match objects to the three-part cards

More three-part card vocabulary activity ideas

Owl cards

vocabulary activity, Montessori, 3 part cards
matching types of owls 3-part cards

I also created types of owls three-part cards. Annie also loves owls so we tried these as well! She liked them but she wasn’t as interested in them as the vehicle cards.

*If you’d like to download the owl cards, sign up for the Resource Library at the bottom of this post. If you’re already a subscriber, the latest password to the Resource Library is in my newest email

Different matching variations and extensions

1. Use different sets of cards. Change the topics often according to your child’s interest.

2. Match the picture-only cards (or objects) to the label-only cards, and then use the control card to check your work.

3. Play the memory game (concentration) with the control cards and the picture-only cards.

4. Match the cards from a distance. Set up the control cards at a table or rug and set up the picture-only cards and label-only cards at a different table on the other side of the room, and match the cards one at a time.

5. Use the picture-only cards and write the words with the moveable alphabet. Use the control cards to check your work.

6. Make a little booklet like the set of control cards. Draw the picture and write the name.

Bonus: I also made 3-part cards for the Safari Ltd Toobs, In the Sky and In the water! Check out my blog post:

Try This Exciting Transportation Activity: Land, Air, Water

vocabulary activity, Montessori, 3 part cards
This is the delivery truck!

Concluding thoughts about 3-part cards

The road vehicle cards were a big hit with Annie. She wanted to do them again and again. She also liked the owl cards, but she wasn’t as interested in them. 

She thought it was cool that there are different types of owls, and we were trying to figure out which one looked like the owl from Winnie the Pooh!

But she was more excited about the vehicles. She loves the motorcycle and the ATV the most and carries them around the house.

The big takeaway from this lesson is to follow what your child loves. The activity shouldn’t be too easy or too challenging. Remember that this is a vocabulary lesson, so we want to pick a topic that interests our child and introduce some new words that go with the subject. 

Reading books to our children every day is fabulous for language and vocabulary development. Observe your child and determine her favorite books. Use those discoveries as a jumping-off point to introduce new words that go with it. 

Give the three-part card activity a try to enrich your child’s vocabulary! Have you tried this type of activity? What’s your child’s favorite subject? Leave a comment below!

3 part cards, pin, road vehicles

More Montessori Resources

lesson 9 mock up

You can also download the lesson plans for:

1. Beginning Oral Language Activities

2. Picture Story (Dictation) Plus 24 photos and the lined paper we used!

3. Naming – plus 140 labels for around the house

4. Classified Objects – plus 8 insect photo cards

5. Object Discrimination (Object Matching)

6. Object Picture Matching – plus 8 flower photo cards to go with objects

* The Three Period Lesson Cheat Sheet – plus 7 bird photo cards (you can use this method to remember vocabulary words from any lesson).

7. Picture Matching – plus 11 dog breed photo cards to match or play memory (print out two copies of the picture-only cards to make matching cards).

8. Go-Togethers – plus 9 pairs of sports go together matching cards

9. Vocabulary Enrichment (3-Part Cards) – Plus 9 types of road vehicle cards and 8 types of owl cards

Montessori three part cards to enrich vocabulary

vehicle cards pin
owl cards pin

24 thoughts on “You’ll Love This Vocabulary Activity (Montessori 3-Part Cards)”

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful activity. I really like how the child is able to independently correct their work when using this method. This will inspire them to be confident and involved learners.

    1. The little figurines are from Safari Ltd. Toobs. You can find them on their website, on Amazon, and they sell them at Michaels Arts and Crafts stores!

  2. What a fun vocabulary activity to do with the little ones. I’m bookmarking this page for the summer. My daughter would love this as preschool prep.

  3. This is helpful. We’d love to try this. This is just a fun way to learn. Thank you for sharing this detailed guide.

  4. This is a fantastic idea, I love a visual aid and educational lessons that are also fun! Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Monica Simpson

    What a simple yet meaningful activity! I remember when my kids were little they loved looking at realistic pictures of things.

  6. I really like this idea, my son is a bit older, but I think it’s still a great way to introduce new words to him. He loves these matching games as well, so win, win!

  7. I learned something new today – I didn’t know that Montessori three-part cards are known as Nomenclature cards! Thanks for the great instructions. As usual, they are easy to follow and I will have to try it with my daughters!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that, and it’s wonderful that you want to try the vocabulary activity with your daughters!

  8. Charlie-Elizabeth Nadeau

    What a smart way to make learning fun and interactive! Love this idea for vocabulary enrichment, seems simple to put together and like it would be very beneficial to learning. Thank you for sharing! Great read 🙂

  9. It’s such a brilliant idea for the kids to learn and at the same time have fun with the activity. For sure this activity will make those little ones become more interested and focused. I might as well use this method with my boy.

    1. Yes, the trick is to choose what calls to our children. I’m so glad to hear that you want to try this vocabulary activity with your boy!

    2. Playing for fun and learning at the same time is crucial for kids. Introducing the right types of activities at the right age is important.

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