Monday, January 27, 2014

The Story of Communication in Signs: Great Lesson #4

I say it every time we do a Great Lesson, I am in awe of Montessori's genius. The Great Lessons really are the core of her philosiphy and a driving force in the elementary grades. I realize that most Montessori schools would be finished with the Great Lessons months ago, but we are behind as usual.  We are continuing to plug along slowly but surely. I am hoping that we can get some enthusiasum about cursive through this lesson. T has had some initial interest in cursive but quickly decided it was "too hard" and didn't want to continue. I am hoping this lesson on the history of writing will spark some new interest.

I did something a little different this time than in our past Great Lessons. Normally, I would use the lessons from Miss Barbara's Great Lessons page, but this time I found it to not be what I was looking for. There was a lot of info, but very few pictures. I read through it and decided that T would not sit through that entire lesson without getting bored. She has a lot of great info, but I think that version would be better for upper elementary students with longer attention spans. This time we went with the store from moteaco. It has the story and simple pictures to go along with it. We then pulled out lots of books to get more details.

We had a couple of books in our library about hieroglyphics that were very helpful. I also borrowed several books from our local library system that had wonderful photos and stories.

T's favorite book was a book called Hieroglyphs from A-Z.  On each page of our modern alphabet it shows a large hieroglyph that starts with that letter and then a smaller picture of the hieroglyph for that letter.  As you can see in the picture below, A shows an Archer and the hieroglyph is a vulture. B shows a Beetle and the hieroglyph looks like a foot.

This book also came with a cardboard stencil for the entire alphabet. T had great fun using it to make codes.

Translation: Hello Dad
He loved the book Ox, House, Stock The History of Our Alphabet. It shows the progression of each letter over time. He loved the first four letters and then got a little bored so we just skimmed the rest of them. There is a lot of info with great pictures.

We enjoyed the book The Story of Writing by Carole Donoughue, as well. This one has some very informative stories that put the reader into the character's shoes. It describes being a scribe having to learn to write cuneiform writing but in the story YOU are the boy learning to be a scribe. It showed some of the cuneiform alphabet and how it was made in clay. So we gave it a try with play dough. T asked if I would beat him if he made a mistake, like the scribe boy in the book would be. Of course not! It was a great way for him to relate to how life was so long ago.

T's attempt at the cuneiform for Cow 

He had fun with this so he decided to try doing the same thing with hieroglyphs as suggested in the book Pyramids: 50 hands on activities to experience Ancient Egypt.

The Letter X and the hieroglyph for X
I also used the book The Story of Writing by Andrew Robinson for my own research. We looked at some of the pictures in this book but it is not meant to be a children's book. I found it helpful for myself though. I also found a lot of information in the Mid-American Montessori Language Albums. I plan to print out some of those pages for T to work with but this was just our initial lesson, there will be plenty of time for follow up.

On a side note, this past weekend we attended the open house of a lovely Montessori school in our area. I have mentioned before that T attended a Montessori school for primary. This was a different school but it was like coming home to visit this school. I just love this environment so much!


  1. Fantastic work!! Great books suggestions!!

  2. I agree! Thank you so much for posting about this and the books suggestions! I can't wait to get my hands on those!

  3. Oh, thanks so much for sharing your resources and where you pulled your information. This lesson/story is on my to-gather list!

  4. Thank you ladies. I'm glad I could help with book suggestions. I am always looking for books that go with the Great Lessons so we often have several for each one. And then I clear out the library with whatever they have on the subject as well. LOL