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.
Key Ideas and Details:
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
Authentic, original literature remains the focus in Grade 4. Trickster tales culled from various cultures or Norse Mythology form the backbone of literature this year, although other stories are told in conjunction with local geography, human/animal studies, or even math! Since faculties of reason and logic have not yet fully dawned at this age, the children should not be expected to draw inferences from the text, though each story is taken in and then retold in great (and minute) detail.
Typically in Waldorf, independent reading and writing is begun mid to late Grade 3. In Grade 4, stories are told by the teacher daily, and retold by the children the next day. The teacher still provides images for the students to draw from, as illustrations of the story in main lesson books. These illustrations serve as prompts and/or guides for the children’s written summaries of the story on the facing page, focusing on theme, character, setting, and events. These in-depth summaries will invariably include characters’ thoughts, words, or actions. Here’s an excellent example from the blog, Ducks In the Pond.
Craft and Structure:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
As always, the Waldorf student acquires a considerable wealth of wisdom and knowledge, all culled from great literature and other, more practical stories. However, all teaching must pass through the filter of childhood at this age. Analytical and conceptual modes need to be trumped by the pictorial and concrete. Although vocabulary is prodigiously built through exposure to great literature (and this is the best, most effective way to build it) it is not directly drilled to any great extent at this point.
A great deal of poetry is learned and recited by heart in Grade 4. Again, the analytical approach must wait. Major differences between poems, drama, and prose are deeply absorbed as are the structural elements of poems by virtue of their memorization and recitation. Casts of characters and settings within the myths and tales told are richly presented, illustrated, and portrayed, verbally and in writing. Script-writing, costuming, set design, and stage direction are extensively taught and learned in the process of producing and performing an end-of-year play.
Compare and contrast is an essay-writing tool that is still a bit too analytical at this age, though the basics of this skill are instinctively and foundationally learned. Narrative point of view, along with the distinction between first and third person narration is deeply taken in, but not yet analyzed as such.
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.