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.
Back to the Common Core for Grade 3 English Language Arts Standards. Math By Hand integrates language arts with math, and though the Waldorf curriculum is taught in blocks, none of the subjects are really taught in isolation. Integration is key, and the ambient standards posted here will reflect that. The Common Core language arts standards are listed here in blue, followed by ambient language arts suggestions.
Conventions of Standard English:
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences.
Form and use regular and irregular plural nouns.
Use abstract nouns (e.g., childhood).
Form and use regular and irregular verbs.
Form and use the simple (e.g., I walked; I walk; I will walk) verb tenses.
Ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement.*
Form and use comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.
Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.
Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, all of the above are covered quite indirectly in the Waldorf system, through timeless, classic literature, poetry, and anecdotal history and biography. Mechanics are taught and learned as well, but in a artful, storied, hands-on way. The parts of speech are given personalities and relevant characteristics, so they are humanized and interesting, not dry or boring. Colors are related to each of the parts of speech, relevant to their dominant characteristics.
VERBS: the DOING words are RED
NOUNS: the NAMING words are BLUE
ADJECTIVES: the PICTURE words are YELLOW
ADVERBS: the DESCRIBING words are PURPLE
ARTICLES: the POINTER words are GREEN
PREPOSITIONS: the POSITION words are PINK
Simple, color coded felt pouches could be sewn with the children, to hold the various types of words written in their corresponding colors on small squares of paper. Words could continually be added to the pouches, then used together, to construct whole sentences. Using this sort of colorful approach with adult/child hand-made learning tools is most effective and successful!
Here’s how to make the pouches:
Cut 6″ (or larger) felt squares, one each of all the above parts of speech colors.
Sew a 1/2″ running stitch all around with yarn, starting and ending in one of the corners.
Knot the yarn 1/2″ from the ends, then pull both ends tight, gathering the edges and forming the pouch.
Tie the the yarn in a bow to close, filling each pouch with words!
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Capitalize appropriate words in titles.
Use commas in addresses.
Use commas and quotation marks in dialogue.
Form and use possessives.
Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.
Consult reference materials, including beginning dictionaries, as needed to check and correct spellings.
Knowledge of Language:
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
Choose words and phrases for effect.*
Recognize and observe differences between the conventions of spoken and written standard English.
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning word and phrases based on grade 3 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
Determine the meaning of the new word formed when a known affix is added to a known word (e.g., agreeable/disagreeable, comfortable/uncomfortable, care/careless, heat/preheat).
Use a known root word as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word with the same root (e.g., company, companion).
Use glossaries or beginning dictionaries, both print and digital, to determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps).
Identify real-life connections between words and their use (e.g., describe people who are friendly or helpful).
Distinguish shades of meaning among related words that describe states of mind or degrees of certainty (e.g., knew, believed, suspected, heard, wondered).
Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them).
Writing should develop organically for the most part, with concentrated lessons and direct teaching beginning in Grade 4. For now, playful practice like that described above for learning parts of speech, could be employed to hone all of the above skills. Remember that exposure to excellent literature, both hearing it and eventually reading it, will do more for acquiring all of the above skills than almost anything else.
Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Back to a bit more of the CCSS Grade 3 math standards tomorrow, before bidding farewell to Grade 3!