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What are Montessori Nomenclature Cards?

What are Montessori nomenclature cards?

You've likely heard of or seen these cards before if you are at all familiar with Dr. Montessori's methods. They are often referred to as 3-Part Cards. I'm talking about Montessori nomenclature cards.

I often refer to them as 3-Part Cards simply because I want Montessori-style teaching to be within reach for everyone, not just those familiar with the pedagogy. I feel that using an easier-to-understand term can help spread Montessori to a wider audience.

For this article, though, we are going to use the formal term, as lots of people have questions about what Montessori nomenclature cards are and how and when they are used.

What exactly are nomenclature cards and how are they presented?

A set of nomenclature cards is made up of one single card that features a picture with the corresponding word below it. This card is called the “control set”.

The second card in the set is referred to as the “working set”. The working set includes a picture card and a separate label card featuring the corresponding word.

Montessori shapes nomenclature cards

It's important to know that Montessori nomenclature cards are not presented to a child that has not already been introduced to the concepts featured on the card in a concrete fashion. For example, the nomenclature cards featured in the photo above would not be presented until your child has worked with shapes in a sensorial fashion and been introduced to the vocabulary.

The presentation of Montessori nomenclature cards

  • Place the set of control cards (the ones with the picture and word) down on the left side of the table.
  • Set the stack of working picture cards in front of your child.
  • Pick out the top card from the stack and say its name.
  • Take the picture card and compare it to each control card. Place it to the right of the matching control card.
  • Point to the match you have made and again say the name of the object. Then, ask your child to also say the name of the object.
  • Repeat this with the next card at the top of the stack. If your child shows interest, let him take over the process.
  • After all the pictures have been matched and named, place the stack of the label cards in front of your child.
  • Pick the label card from the top of the stack, compare it to each control card, then place the label card below the corresponding picture card.
  • Name the card and have your child repeat the name.
  • Just like with the first part of the presentation, when your child shows interest in taking over, let him.

Of course, as with all Montessori materials, you have your child put them back where they go after the activity is finished. Let him know that he can work with the cards any time he wants.

This might seem like a tedious and boring activity, but kids love following steps and of course, they love matching activities. You will likely find your child using these cards quite often all on their own!

Reading over the steps might seem confusing or overwhelming. What I suggest is that you get a set of nomenclature cards and practice presenting them a few times on your own before presenting them to your child.

Montessori musical instrument nomenclature cards.

Printable Montessori nomenclature cards

Featured above is how downloadable nomenclature cards look when you print them out. These are musical instrument nomenclature cards.

You will need to laminate and cut them. (Laminating is optional if you use a thicker cardstock to print them out.) Practice a few times and then you're ready to add Montessori nomenclature cards to your homeschooling repertoire!

If you don't homeschool, or if you homeschool using a different method, nomenclature cards can still be a great benefit to your child! Montessori activities can always be used outside of a Montessori environment.

montessori nomenclature cards

For the toddler years, these cards can be used for simple matching games. When your child is ready to learn that written words are associated with objects, that's when the presentations begin. This should begin after about the age of 3.

You might be thinking, “I thought writing comes before reading in Montessori. Why are we introducing written words to kids before they've started to write?”

The answer is simple.

The nomenclature cards introduce the concept that objects and pictures can be represented by written language. When pre-reading children match the word portion of a nomenclature card to a control card, they are only matching the letters/letter shapes.

Cheers and don't forget to subscribe!

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Thursday 20th of January 2022

Thank you for the helpful explanation found on your website to make Montessori methods more accessible. Where can I find the instrumental nomenclature cards?


Thursday 20th of January 2022

Thank you for your kind words. Here is the link for the musical instrument printables:

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Thursday 7th of January 2021

[…] are also called “3-part cards.” You can read this article to find out more about how nomenclature cards can be used with preschoolers. In Montessori […]