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The Great Lessons

By: Dixie Kosmin, Lower Elementary Directress

In the beginning of each school year, Lower Elementary teachers tell the great stories, also known as the great lessons. As I have been preparing for and telling these stories, I am struck again by their importance to the Elementary curriculum, as well as how perfectly they are designed for Lower Elementary children. The children truly love listening to these stories each year. I’m always amazed at how quickly the children settle in and how intently they listen to the stories.

Dr. Montessori says the work of elementary children is the acquisition of culture, rather than the absorption of the environment as it was in earlier years. What better way to begin the quest than with a story about the creation of the universe? The first great story opens the entire universe up for the child. Now he can study whatever interests him in that universe. The stories of the alphabet and numerals encourage the children to begin thinking about humankind and all of its contributions to our society.

Children in the Elementary are developing their sense of imagination¬†rather than relying so heavily on sensorial experiences as they did in the Children’s House. The great stories allow¬†our children to flex their imagination muscles. They can think about the earth at its very beginning when it was just a hot ball of gas and dust. The imagination is the only way to experience this. The children use their imaginations to think about how early human beings might have communicated with one another before they even had words. Stories of early life encourage children to imagine what the earth might have looked like to the first fishes or early mammals. Imagine a dragonfly as big as a child – incredible!

Elementary children have a voracious appetite for knowledge. They want to know everything about everything. They do this through the acquisition of knowledge (listening, reading, researching and writing), which increases their powers of judgment, thinking, and reasoning. The more they know about, the more they can exercise these powers of critical thinking. The great stories give them some of this information, but are also broad enough to merely hint at other concepts. This leads the children into further studies based on their individual interests. For example, after hearing the story of the alphabet, a group of children may decide to do some research to learn more about hieroglyphics, the Phoenicians, or even the color purple. All of these topics are touched on briefly in the story. A Director or Directress never knows which part of a story will spark an interest in the children. This is why elementary children are given the freedom to research topics independently.

The great stories also appeal to the elementary child’s developing sense of responsibility. These children are beginning to feel accountable for their actions and they want to do what is right. The great stories impress upon the child that it is our responsibility to maintain a balance between the elements on earth. The stories also tell of human beings who have made our society what it is today. They talk of people working together to solve collective problems. We know the names of some of these people and some we do not, but we are thankful to all of them.

Year after year, I continue to be in awe of the Montessori Method and how well it works with the children. At times, it seems truly magical and I am thankful to be part of it.

To learn about the Five Great Lessons, click here.

Ruffing Montessori School   |   3380 Fairmount Blvd Cleveland Heights, OH 44118   |   Phone: (216) 321-7571   |   Hours 8am-4pm M-F   |   After Hours Phone (216) 321-0913