Friday, July 30, 2010

Montessori Elementary Curriculum: When to Tell The Five Great Lessons

One thing has been well established by our experience: that facts are of less interest to the child than the way in which those facts have been discovered. Thus children may be led to the history of human achievement, in which they want to take their part. ~ Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential

NAMC Montessori elementary curriculum when to tell the five great lessons stories
The telling of the Five Great Lessons is a much-loved Montessori tradition. The stories are typically told at the beginning of the Montessori school year (within the first eight weeks) to Year 1 and other lower elementary students (6-9s), with upper elementary students (9-12s) invited to join in. Many upper elementary students choose to hear the stories every year in the Montessori classroom. These older students often reflect on what they have learned since last hearing the stories.

Each Montessori teacher will tell the stories in his/her own way. Although there have been a great many interpretations of the five Great Lessons over the last century, the fundamental purpose of the lessons remains the same: to inspire awe, excitement, and curiosity in the students. To that end, the stories are best told passionately, with a sense of drama and wonder, using gestures, actions, animated facial expressions and vocal tones. This is one of the few instances where the Montessori teacher takes center stage!

The Montessori Five Great Lessons span about 15 billion years and follow the development of the universe, earth, life, and the inventions of written language and numbers. Here is a brief outline of each lesson:

Montessori Elementary Curriculum: When to Tell The Five Great Lessons

NAMC Montessori elementary curriculum when to tell the five great lessons stories volcano experiment
  • The Beginning of the Universe and Earth - This story introduces students to the formation of the universe, stars, and solar system, with a focus on the earth’s early development.
  • Life Comes to Earth - This story introduces students to the earth’s earliest life forms and how they adapted to the earth’s changing conditions.
  • Humans Come to Earth - This story introduces students to the appearance of humans on earth.
  • How Writing Began - This story introduces students to how humans invented written language.
  • How Numbers Began - This story introduces students to how humans invented numbers and mathematics.
As you can see, there is plenty of material to cover in between the telling of the Lessons. While it is important to tell the First Great Lesson as early in the Montessori school year as possible, time should be left between the Great Lessons to give Montessori students the opportunity to explore the information contained within them. Rushing through the Montessori Great Lessons bombards children with information, thus negating the importance of that knowledge.

In upcoming articles, we will further explore the Five Great Lessons and their importance in the Montessori elementary curriculum.

NAMC is proud to offer the elementary teaching manual, The Five Great Lessons/Cosmic Education and Peace: a comprehensive curriculum manual for Montessori elementary teachers.

NAMC offers instruction in The Five Great Lessons in the Lower Elementary 6-9 curriculum as designed by Maria Montessori. With utmost respect for the diversity of our international student body, NAMC in no way requires that the Five Great Lessons be taught, and leaves the decision to the discretion of our students.

Recommended reading:
  • To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori. Clio Montessori Series. ISBN 1-85109-094-0
Related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, July 30, 2010.


  1. This is a wonderful post and one I'll be sure to bookmark for later learning.

    I just completed my 3-6 training course through NAMC and blogged about it here:

    I hope it inspires others to enroll and make Montessori a part of their lives.


  2. Thank you, Mari-Ann, and congratulations on graduating from your NAMC diploma program! We will certainly follow your blog; kudos for sharing your passion for teaching Montessori!


Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

NAMC Montessori Series

Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

Montessori Classroom Management

The School Year

Montessori Materials

Montessori Curriculum

Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

What is Montessori?

Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!