A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!.
For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.” And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”
Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. Because the Common Core Grade 1 Math Standards address addition and subtraction exclusively, they will appear here later, in conjunction with the blocks that focus on the 4 processes. Earlier math blocks focus on meeting the numbers up close and personal through stories, movement, art, form drawing, and hands-on activities like making real numbers. The numbers should come together for calculation only after an in-depth introduction has established them as friendly and personable, so essential for circumventing math fears and phobias!
The original goal of this blog was to ambiently interpret the math standards, but I must also expand it to include language arts standards. Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired curriculums are deeply cross-curricular. Today, the next eight standards (which will appear in blue) will be reviewed, followed by their ambient counterparts (references may be made throughout to “The Prince in the Black Scarf.” Please return to it and review as needed. (Note: Knowledge of Language L1.3 begins in Grade 2.)
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple meaning words and phrases based on Grade 1 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.4A
Use sentence level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or a phrase.
The frequency and rich content of storytelling in Grade 1 (fairy tales of the length and complexity of “The Prince in the Black Scarf” are told three to four days a week in both the language arts and math blocks) insures that complex and compound sentences are spoken and heard consistently. This lays a solid foundation for a more direct experience with reading and writing later on. Nothing improves vocabulary like reading or hearing great literature. New words are learned within the rich tapestry of the story, very much in context.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.4B
Use frequently occurring affixes as a clue to the meaning of a word.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.4C
Identify frequently occurring root words (e.g., look) and their inflectional forms (e.g., looks, looked, looking.
Exploration of the root, prefix and suffix word structure can happen very colorfully and playfully in second or third grade. But here and now, in Grade 1, it’s a bit too analytical. A foundation could be built for later by color coding some words as they are written in the captions or excerpts from the stories. Writing in Grade 1 could be done with crayons or chunky colored pencils rather than lead pencils, and then some select words (not too many) could be color coded by their roots and affixes. No need to teach directly at this point.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.5
With guidance and support from adults, demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.5A
Sort words into categories (e.g., colors, clothing) to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
Foreign languages are taught from the Waldorf Grade 1 on through the grades. And they are taught in just this playful way: the teacher might bring a suitcase full of clothes, pull them out one by one, saying each one’s name. Or for food names, s/he may unpack a picnic basket. This could be done with English as well, since in some sense it’s still a foreign language for the child(ren).
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.5B
Define words by category and by one or more key attributes (e.g., a duck is a bird that swims, a tiger is a large cat with stripes).
Nature and animal poetry comes to mind here. A good deal of poetry is learned in the morning circle time. Recitation is an excellent way to access many skills like speaking, memorization, rhythmic sense, to name just a few. And the sense of accomplishment and joy gained in having learned something by heart is immense. Find this sort of word play and categorization there.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.5C
Identify real-life connections between words and their use (e.g., note places at home that are cozy).
This can be accomplished through simple, everyday conversations between teacher or parent and child. If a child is spoken to with a conscious awareness of these connections on the adult’s part, s/he will absorb them. And “absorb” is key here, as the most efficient, effective, and painless method of learning such things.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.5D
Distinguish shades of meaning among verbs differing in manner (e.g., look, peek, glance, stare, glare, scowl) and adjectives differing in intensity (e.g., large, gigantic) by defining or choosing them or by acting out the meanings.
Great fun can be had here by acting out the meanings of both of the above, again through poetry or songs (with lots of movement, ham it up here!) in the morning circle time. Parent or teacher made ones are fine if none can be found.
CCSS ELA-LITERACY L1.6
Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using frequently occurring conjunctions to signal simple relationships (e.g., because).
Any literature or any good conversation is replete with compound, not simple sentences. Everyday conversations with your child(ren) that honor their native intelligence will have frequently occurring compound sentences, complete with a wealth of conjunctions. You can also be sure to include them and all of this standard’s requirements in the captions that accompany the story illustrations. Responses to text occur continually throughout Grade 1 in the story retell.
I must say that finding my way through these standards is difficult. It’s difficult to find the joy so necessary for effective, successful teaching within their confines. I flashed back to a teacher’s blog I read recently, stating that he continually sees other teachers crying in their cars in the school parking lot in the morning, just not able to find the strength to go into the building. I experienced this sadness myself tonight, trying to bring these standards to life.
More than ever, remember that knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal. More CCSS ELA tomorrow!