Saturday, May 4, 2019

Montessori Fourth Great Lesson - Notes

Montessori teachers for Lower Elementary -- and I'm no exception -- casually toss off references to the Great Lessons all the time. "Oh, that's part of the Fourth Great Lesson." It used to drive me crazy when I was new and couldn't tell them apart, and other veteran teachers would do that. Now I talk like that and don't even notice. They're as familiar to me as breathing!

There are tons of comments about the Six Montessori Great Lessons sprinkled all throughout the 1500+ posts in my blog. They are done every year in Lower Elementary (mixed age class, ages 6-9). So here I'm trying to assemble some more precise, and chronological, notes since I am currently going through them more slowly one-on-one with tutoring clients.

This post is a continuation of my previous three; I have each of the Great Lessons as a tag in my blog posts so you can search for ideas that way; I also have book suggestions on my website under My Montessori Library.

Montessori First Great Lesson - How the Earth and Universe Came to Be

Montessori Second Great Lesson - How Life Came to Be

Montessori Third Great Lesson - How Humans Came to Be

The Fourth Great Lesson topic is the Story of Written Language.


week 1
recall the cave paintings at Lascaux

read "How the First Letter was Written" from the collection of Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling


week 2
recall "How the First Letter was Written"

draft and add Why We Invented Writing to the MLB

discuss life in Ancient Egypt and read Nile Crossing by Katy Beebe


week 3
recall Nile Crossing

use Ancient Egyptian Costumes Paper Dolls to look more closely at male and female clothing

look at papyrus reeds and sheet of papyrus from Papyrus Activity Kit

use Fun with Hieroglyphs rubber stamp kit and long fax paper scrolls to write words in hieroglyphs

read some of chapter 6, "The Puzzle-Writers," from A Child's History of the World (1952) and look at cartouche of Cleopatra's name on page 31

recall that Ancient Egyptians made mummifies to preserve important sacred animals as well as their loved ones, discuss how things which are completely dried out cannot rot (hardtack is a perfect example), brainstorm what material might have been used to pull out all of the moisture from the bodies

set up a dish of cucumber slices and cover them with salt, watch and observe, set the cucumber slices aside to look at again tomorrow

look at Cluckopatra, the chicken mummy which lives in my garage
(Becca and I made her in 2018 during the Ancient Egyptian Mythology block using a whole raw grocery store chicken, a jumbo popcorn-sized tin with lid, two gallon ziploc bags, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and 36 lbs of kosher salt)


week 4
papermaking project (continued over multiple days)

    day 1
    tear colored construction paper and white printer paper into small pieces, place in a large bowl, add plenty of water, soak overnight

    day 2
    blend softened paper and water into a pulp in batches using a blender, add thyme seeds for plantable paper ornaments, spread a linen dish towel out smoothly on top of a thick stack of doubled bath towels, pour paper pulp into cookie cutters placed on the dish towel, use fingers to smooth pulp into an even layer and press out extra water, leave shapes on dish towel & bath towel stack overnight

    day 3
    remove paper ornaments to cookie drying racks, allow to dry fully

look at photos from making King Cluck (my previous chicken mummy)

rough draft and add Ancient Egypt to the MLB


week 5
recall Ancient Egypt and writing on papyrus, discuss Ancient Babylonians and writing on clay tablets, describe cuneiform, explain the origin of the term "stacks" in our libraries today

look at Nebuchadnezzar's name on page 99 of A Child's History of the World

form a tablet out of self-hardening clay and practice punching wedge shaped marks into it while still wet

lay out and look at History of Language Card Set from Clocca Concepts


week 6
look back at MLB and review the story of written language

use Sumi-E board to practice writing Chinese characters (My Little Book of Chinese Words bilingual edition English and Mandarin Chinese) as well as Japanese kanji (included with Buddha Board set from For Small Hands)


week 7
review Sumi-E board and add Chinese Writing to the MLB

read Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford

read all of chapter 13, "The People Who Made Our A B C's," from A Child's History of the World and discuss Ancient Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome

do Alphabetical Order work from Word Study Set #4 from Montessori Research & Development


The tutoring client who was really into this topic suddenly moved -- with only one week of notice -- and so we wrapped this up quickly so that we could briefly touch upon the Fifth Great Lesson, the Story of Numbers. But here are some of the books which I like to do next, to cover the Middle Ages and illuminated manuscripts, the invention of the printing press, Braille, etc.


The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane

by C.M. Miller


Marguerite Makes a Book

by Bruce Robertson


Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press

by Bruce Koscielniak


Bembo's Zoo: An Animal ABC Book

by Roberto De Vicq de Cumptich


The Handmade Alphabet

by Laura Rankin


Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

by Jen Bryant (it's nice to have dominoes handy for this)


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