The Montessori Great Stories each have a different main theme that help start discussion, learning and create connection with the community the child lives in. They are a centre point of Cosmic Education in Montessori 6-12.
They help children answer spiritual questions like
-Who am I?
-What is my role in the world?
-What is the role of my family, community to the world today and in the past?
-How do I work with others to care about the world
-How can I work with others to fuffil my role in the world
The Five Great Lessons (some people have six) are impressionistic windows into the world that help children see the big picture of the world and at the same time the Montessori curriculum. We use them as jumping off points for the teacher to introduce or reawaken interest in other curriculum areas such as history or botany or language or maths.
Some teachers try and get through each of the stories within the first few weeks of the years, other teachers like myself focus on a different story each school Term. Here in New Zealand a Term is ten weeks.
Each story has traditionally been delivered by a teacher and uses props or experiments to illustrate parts of the stories. They are traditionally delivered to a whole class of students.
Some people encourage the stories to be told off by heart by the teacher to the child like a story you are recounting of something you have seen or done. The big thing though is that we deliver them with heart , soul, perhaps some humour but a lot of enthusiasm.
The lessons build on each other so the teacher is able to make connections back to what the child has been introduced to previously.
THE GREAT LESSONS
I want to be clear before we go any further that the Great Lessons are not the entirety of the 6-12 curriculum they are like what I said earlier 'key connection points' to put it really simply we can't just deliver the five great lessons and then say we have taught a montessori 6-12 program. We also have to give follow up lessons that meet the 6-12 child's needs.
Depending on the version of the story you use and your children these stories can take up to 30-40 minutes to deliver. You would gather your child/children along with the props or experiments and sit on the same level with them telling it to them in a similar way to reading a story.
Before the Great Lesson I engage with the child by asking questions like
-- tell me what you remember about...(the previous big lesson)
--when did that happen
-how did that happen
While I am delivering the stories I make my presentation interactive much like I do when I am reading a book to a child allow space for the child to ask questions, for me to ask questions to see if they are following and so on. Obviously if the child's question is going to to take a really long amount of time I say that there question is good and we will come back to it later.
Another thing I do is alert the children to key vocabulary I am going to use by sharing some key words I am going to use and asking the children to listen out for them. I put the key words down on card for the students to look at through the story.
After the lesson we can make more connections to cosmic education through questions like
- what bits did you find interesting?
-what are you wondering about?
-was there something in the story that you want to know more about?
-using journal or discussion questions
Lets look at the Great Lessons
THE FIRST GREAT LESSON - The Beginning of the Universe
This story introduces students to the formation of the universe, stars and solar system and the beginning of the earth. Now there are a couple of different versions of the story so you can tailor it to your families beliefs if desired.You may be interested in: First Great Lesson Powerpoint and Script
THE SECOND GREAT LESSON - Life Comes to Earth
This story introduces students to the earth's earliest life forms and how they adapted to the earths changing conditions. It talks about the different life forms and how they came to be on earth and ends just before humans came onto earth.
You may be interested in: Second Great Lesson Powerpoint and Script
This is the jumping off point for looking at Botany and Zoology including looking at the parts of animals, types of animals and needs of different plants and animals. The Botany Impressionistic Charts are given at this time. This is also a great opportunity for nature walks (although Nature walks are always awesome!)
THE THIRD GREAT LESSON - Humans Come to Earth
This story introduces how humans came to earth and what makes humans special.
You may be interested in: Third Great Lesson powerpoint and Script
This is the introduction point to Fundamental needs of Humans and studying civilisations. Students may want to research different civilisations or make models from different times.
THE FOURTH GREAT LESSON - Writing
This and the next story are shorter than the previous ones. The fourth great story talks about how writing began
You can look at different writing systems from around the world. One of my favourite with students has been looking at the evolution of Chinese Characters.
This is also a good link into looking at Grammar and Language in general.
You may be interested in: Fourth Great Lesson Powerpoint and Script
THE FIFTH GREAT LESSON - How Numbers Began
How humans invented numbers and mathematics.
Like the fourth Great Lesson you can also look at civilisations and different cultures.
You may be interested in Fifth Great Lesson powerpoint and Script
As I said earlier the great lessons don't equal cosmic education they are part of it. So when we are giving other lessons say a lesson on biomes we make links to the big themes of cosmic education such as connection, living in harmony, the environment. For example a lesson on endangered animals may lead us to link back to how humans have changed the environment and what we can do to make things better.
You may also be interested in my webinar on what to do once you have given the Great Stories
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I enjoyed the write ups