The Five Great Lessons - the catalyst to the Montessori Elementary curriculum


In the beginning…there was darkness…


Isn’t that a great way to start a story? Pausing for dramatic effect, watching the children’s eyes go big with anticipation of what’s to come.

And so begins the first of The Five Great Lessons - the catalyst to the Montessori Elementary curriculum. They’re meant to inspire and ignite the child’s imagination. Told too quickly, the lessons become meaningless, causing the children’s imaginations to jump from one concept to another.

When we imagine, we are using abstract thought to think of things that cannot be seen. The follow-up lessons that come from each of the Five Great Lessons are used to materialize these abstractions. In other words, the children prove the existence of the wonders of the universe through concrete exploration.


The Five Great Lessons form the foundation of the Montessori elementary environment. The excitement that they foster drives the child’s work in the classroom. The Great Lessons lead to further discussion - What was happening during the First Great Lesson? Which of these concepts was most interesting?

It leads them to research the topics they are most interested in. They start by recording their questions in their journal, including the date, time and heading of their interest - written in full sentences. The materials in the Montessori Elementary classroom supports the research the students will need to find the answer.


A younger student generally works with an older one, to encourage collaborative learning. For the younger child, they have someone to work with and look up to. For the elder child, this reinforces their own learning by having to explain and guide the younger child through the work.

Not all students need to be working on the same topic at the same time. Older students may have ideas about what they want to research while younger students are just learning how to conduct research. The Montessori teacher encourages students to use books and computers to gather research, take notes, and write reports. They are always asked to write their reports in their own words. Math and language go hand in hand with this, allowing students a greater opportunity to explore. Students cannot conduct research if they cannot read; they cannot calculate light years if they cannot do math.

The Five Great Lessons are the curriculum guide for the Montessori Elementary classroom.