Maria Montessori felt it was important to give the children a 'Vision of the whole universe' and this is why she designed the Great Lessons. Maria Montessori says ' We shall walk together'...'on the path of life for all things are part of the universe and are connected together to form one whole unity'.
The Great Lessons were first mentioned in Maria Montessori Lecture in London 1935 but her Idea was taken aboard by Mario Montessori [her son] who developed the stories together with Margaret Stephensons.
Traditionally there are 5 great Lessons:
- Story of the universe
- Story of the coming of life
- Story of Man
- Story of Writing
- Story of Numbers
There are also other Great Lessons that have been added since Mario's time. Each Great Lessons is told once a year. The teacher tells the story and uses visual aids where possible. Maria Montessori stresses that the 6- 12 years teacher must be a good story teller who can excite the children's imagination. However the purpose of the stories are not to teach facts, but to excite the child and stimulate an interest in a variety of areas. After a story is told, the teacher must wait two weeks in which she will observe the children carefully to see where the story has sparked off an interests for each particular child. The teacher can then start to present 'Key Lesson' for that area of interest for child.
The traditional stories have a religious background however the modern stories have a more scientific background. Once you understand the stories it is easy to change or adapt them to suit your particular beliefs or culture. Personally I feel that it is first important to teach the child the story that is culturally appropriate for their beliefs. Then once the child can understands their version they need to know: then they can learn the other versions.