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.
READING: INFORMATIONAL TEXT
Key Ideas and Details:
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
Contrary to a current idea re the role of the teacher as a “guide on the side” along with the greater use of technology in the classroom, the Waldorf teacher is still the sage, but not necessarily the “sage on the stage.” Until the children reach age of reason at 11 or 12, the teacher is relied upon as the sage who imparts the worldly knowledge s/he has gained through life experience or thoroughly and specifically researched for each teaching moment.
This is a living fact, that no textbooks are used in Waldorf instruction. No “informational text” is read independently by the students. Rather, the teacher will humanize the lesson by customizing the necessary information to the class or individual student’s needs. For example, the plans for a building project will be drawn up by the teacher or parent in advance, or better yet, drawn up together as a class with the teacher.
The students ask and answer questions as they proceed through the project. “Main idea” and “text details” are too analytical for now, so they will be experienced within the context of actually working with projects that demonstrate these qualities. For example, the foundation of a shed is a main idea and the types of screws or nails used to put it together or the length of the floorboards are the supporting details of a living text.
The relationship between a series of historical events is made clear through the cultural and / or anecdotal / biographical stories heard daily. Scientific ideas or concepts can be learned experientially through gardening or experiences with farm animals, bees, etc. Language that pertains to time, sequence, cause and effect occurs regularly in the context of the above-mentioned stories or practical projects. This playhouse built by the Grade 3 class at the Vancouver Waldorf School is a wonderful example.
Craft and Structure:
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area
Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.
Close reading of informational text is a cornerstone of the Common Core. But again, if the young child learns about the things of the world directly through a teacher-mentor, the necessary support needed at this age is built in. Rather than hunching over workbooks and worksheets indoors at a desk, shouldn’t an active 9 year old be out in the world learning by doing, under the trusted guidance of a caring parent or teacher?
Waldorf students do not use technology until Grade 6 when they can better understand and manage its potential invasiveness and addictive qualities. Many technology proponents do not wish their children to be exposed to technology until they’re older, as evidenced by Silicon Valley parents preferring Waldorf education for their children.
As stated earlier, children at this age have not yet established individual points of view to the extent that they can write (or talk extensively) about contrasting them with an author’s. They do experience this indirectly as they recall/recount the stories told by the teacher, demonstrating their individual understanding and nascent opinions within the bounds of this context.
How many domain-specific words can be learned in the context of working together on a building project? Like this one at the New Hampshire Pine Hill Waldorf School.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).
Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
These sorts of analytical reading and writing skills must wait. If the foundational knowledge is put in place now, these more advanced skills will quite naturally flow at a later time. All of the above are very well covered within the context of the classic cultural/historical literature shared with the children daily by the parent or teacher.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:
By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
There are no textbooks in the Waldorf classroom, since the teacher is the filter through which the child sees and learns about the world. The material presented by the teacher or parent, learned, and beautifully written about and illustrated by the child, is way above the high end of Grade 3 text complexity. Proficiency is gained, but the child is not expected to learn and perform independently yet.
Just look at this small, wood-fired oven built by the Grade 4 class at the Eugene, Oregon Waldorf School with the help of Day One Design! 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.