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.
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.
Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
Creation stories and stories about how we build shelters to survive here on earth are the focus in Grade 3. As always, the parts are taken from the whole as the children hear authentic, original source literature. I told a story a day, taken from and covering the entire Old Testament over the year, when I taught third grade. Math By Hand’s creation stories are taken from diverse cultures’ creation myths. Cultural stories accompany examples of how and why shelters are built around the world.
All creation stories (including and perhaps especially the Old Testament stories) are dramatic, replete with lots of action, motivations, feelings, lessons and moral implications. But the children do not analyze them as such at age 9. The reasoning and logic needed to do this has not developed yet. So the stories are taken in deeply, weaving the very fabric of the children’s developing personas, and are allowed to remain deep, outwardly expressed only in the drawings and stories that make up their main lesson books.
Craft and Structure:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.
This sort of technical jargon is best reserved for later. It is essential for elements of literature to be learned at some point, at this level of analytical thinking. But not yet. All of the above can be covered with exposure to classic, quality pieces of literature: from the historically cultural to short stories and chapter books, poetry, limericks, and songs. It is not yet possible to clearly distinguish a point of view at age 9. These things are deeply felt at this age, but should not be extricated and examined. If allowed to germinate, as a seed does, the knowledge and wisdom imparted here will flower and bear fruit later on.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).
(RL.3.8 not applicable to literature)
Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).
The Boxcar Children was the first chapter book series my daughter read, at the end of third grade. As a Waldorf student, she was not encouraged to read until there was a readiness for it. So the joys of reading independently were great! I’m sure she was able to process all of the above, but was not made to sit down and produce worksheets or be tested on any of it. Again, it was all taken in deeply and when the time was right, she did learn these very elements of literature. The metaphor of the germinating seed is an excellent one to keep in mind here. If exposed to the light too early, the seed fails. It must be buried in darkness in order to sprout and grow. So it is with children until they reach the age of logic and reason.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:
By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Mid to end of third grade is when most Waldorf students begin to read independently. They never needed to read “simple” books, because at age 9 there’s a readiness to take on “real” books. There must be a certain feeling of frustration attached to reading at the lower grade levels before real, meaningful literature can be taken in. That’s why if the child is supported by being exposed to quality literature before being able to read independently, there’s a much greater appreciation for literature overall.
This article re the Pasadena Waldorf School’s Grade 3 Shelter block illustrates why this sort of project-based learning is far superior to a test and worksheet based curriculum. The group of model houses pictured below bears witness to this fact!
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.