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.
The next series of posts will focus on Grade 4 Common Core 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.
Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which, that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why).
Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.
Use modal auxiliaries (e.g., can, may, must) to convey various conditions.
Order adjectives within sentences according to conventional patterns (e.g., a small red bag rather than a red small bag).
Form and use prepositional phrases.
Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to, too, two; there, their).
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Use correct capitalization.
Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text.
Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.
Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.
Learning to read and write may be thought of as topsy turvy compared to most public, private, and home school methods. Here is an excellent overview from the website “Why Waldorf Works” as a rationale for the wisdom of listening to great literature from Kindergarten on, being the best lead in to acquiring excellent reading and writing skills.
Learning to read is an entire process with many contributory facets, and Waldorf Education undertakes reading instruction in almost the opposite way that it is introduced in most schools across the nation Indeed, the foundation for reading instruction is laid already in the kindergarten.
In the United States, the mainstream approach to reading has been to introduce decoding skills as the first step in the reading process. This entails memorizing the alphabet and its corresponding sounds through repetitive drills and then linking these sounds together to read simple words and sentences. This is the approach that is built into early readers. You probably remember: “See Dick run. Run, Dick, run. Run, run, run.”, or some similar type of reading material when you were in school. Because the content of these early readers must be very simple to restrict words to those that can be easily sounded out, teachers are forced to wait until the middle and upper elementary years to work on more sophisticated texts. Then teachers must work hard to improve comprehension since the pupils at this age have already moved beyond the phase of where imaginative thinking is at its peak.
There is a second concern about teaching reading skills in this sequence. This approach is difficult for many young children because, in many cases, their eye muscles have not matured to the point where they can track properly on a page. Thus, a number of children will be labeled as slow or remedial readers simply because their eyes may not have matured as early as other children.
Waldorf Education approaches reading instruction from an almost opposite direction specifically so that instruction is synchronous with the development of children. Reading is much more than recognizing sound/symbol relationships. For true reading to occur, there must be a corresponding inner activity that takes place as the child decodes words: that is, the child must form an inner picture of what he or she is reading so that comprehension develops. The rich life of the imagination is most potent in a child during kindergarten and early elementary years and is present at the same time that the child’s sense for the sound and rhythm of language is at its peak.
To capture these capacities at the time that they are most present in the child is the rationale for a foundation of reading that begins first with spoken language. The rich language of fairy tales, the pictorial imagery of songs and poems and the desire of the young child to listen to stories and repeat rhymes and sing songs all become the basis for a language arts curriculum through which a child may come to love “the word”. Imagine how much more complex and imaginative are the stories to which a child may be introduced if they are orally presented rather than through the simplistic language of a reader. Imagine how much a child’s vocabulary can develop from listening to the content that the teacher brings. Imagine also how much more sophisticated a child’s understanding (comprehension) of the world can become through hearing the rich and complex language in the teacher’s presentations and stories.
For all of these reasons, Waldorf students will be given a strong foundation in comprehension, vocabulary and in the sounds and meanings of their native tongue. Then students will be introduced to writing and spelling the letters and words that are part of their stories. And, as a final step, the students will read from their own texts describing the stories that they have heard. In this way, students have the proper time to develop all of the skills that are part of the complex skill of reading at the time when it is most appropriate for them to do so. When reading is approached in this way, children become voracious readers who love and understand what they choose to read.
Main lesson books in the Waldorf upper grades reflect this excellence. See below for a page from the Honolulu Waldorf School’s 12th Grade block on the history and significance of architecture. As always, 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. Tune in tomorrow as we continue to explore ambient counterparts to the CCSS language arts standards.