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Celebrating the Three-Year Cycle

By Lynn Shevory

As the school year ends, I always marvel at our “third-year” students. They are our student program leaders within the three-year-cycle who have much to offer and demonstrate as confident, kind, empathic learners.   But what exactly is a third-year student, and why are they so spectacular to behold at the end of the year?

In a Montessori classroom, from Primary to Upper Elementary, the third-year student is a student who is completing the three-year cycle that Maria Montessori built her method of education around.  Kindergarten ends the Primary cycle, and third and sixth grade ends the  Lower and Upper elementary cycles. Below is a breakdown of what each year provides students as they progress through the process.

Year One – The first-year student is typically part of the youngest of the program.  They usually make up about ⅓ of the class.  New to the program, they look to the older students around them to learn the classroom norms and routines with extreme curiosity.  They are introduced to and work with a curriculum that meets their developmental understanding; however, they are constantly previewed what’s to come by being in the same classroom environment as their older counterparts.  If we can use a baking metaphor, year one is equivalent to a baker gathering all the ingredients for the most delectable cake.

Second Year – The second-year student is no longer the youngest, but not the oldest either, taking on the role of “the middle child.”  A bit more established in the community, I think of this as the year of “figuring things out, or back to the metaphor, mixing all the ingredients.  The younger peers are there to remind them of their recent learning and that there is a process for such knowledge, and the older students are inspiring aspiration while they build confidence in a safe space they have returned to.

Year Three The RISING of the Cake! Students in the third year are the experts in their communities. They have a natural sense of ownership and are inherently proud to have risen to this role. They take on their responsibilities from September through June, demonstrating patience and empathy to younger students.   

The growth students experience from year one to year three is exponential, thus making the beauty of watching them complete their cycle incredible.  Learning in such supportive communities allows children to make connections that might not be made on their own.

So bravo to all of our third-year students! We wish you all the best as you enter a new cycle and a new role in your program ahead.

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