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.
SPEAKING AND LISTENING:
Comprehension and Collaboration:
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.
Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
These might just as well be rules and protocols of behavior at a corporate board meeting! Certainly not suitable for healthy, active, curious 9 year olds. First, notice “grade 3 topics and texts” since it’s italicized and meant to be noticed. There’s no need to water topics down to reduced levels, rather all material needs to be presented integrally whole so no talking down is necessary. The difference is that all material is cloaked in art and story, so it’s translated and understandable at a third grade level.
Discussion requires logical thinking on the part of all participants. Not yet, not until age 11 or 12 when reason becomes accessible and developmentally available. The word “idea” comes from the late Middle English via Latin from Greek meaning “to see the form or pattern.” Again, this is the product of clear, logical thinking, and not to be expected just yet. At this stage, the child is still absorbing all we can offer from the annals of those who came before us. As teachers/parents we are the keepers, obliged and entrusted with this task.
At the Waldorf Grade 3 level, stories are told by the teacher who really is a “living textbook” in that all the material to be relayed is taken in and then translated to fit the needs of the children before him or her. After sleeping on what they’ve heard, the children recount the story the next day. And yes, all of the guidelines in SL 3.1 B/C are present at this recounting! As for SL 3.1 D, not yet. The 9 year old is still in the absorption phase, not yet able to form reasoned opinions or original ideas.
Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
Main ideas and supporting details come from the teacher in pictorial story form and not from a text read aloud or presented in diverse media and formats. As I stated in a Facebook post on the value of various screens in the elementary classroom, oxytocin never has and never will come from a screen, because it is the essence of human presence: the best teaching tool available.
All is faithfully recorded in the children’s main lesson books, after the material is recounted from the teacher’s presentation the day before. From the alphabet in Grade 1, letter by letter, to the structure of the skeletal system or the workings of the human heart in Grade 7, all is beautifully illustrated and documented. Here are two examples from Grade 7 Waldorf main lesson books: the skeletal structure of the hand, from the Four Winds Waldorf School, and the human heart from the blog, In These Hills. As you can see if you visit these two pages, appropriate elaboration and detail is always attended to in the production of all main lesson books.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.
Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification. (See grade 3 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)
Reports on topics are completed every day in main lesson book pages, after the topic has been thoroughly recounted orally, with appropriate facts and relevant descriptive details. All of those details are illustrated beautifully as well. Waldorf students speak most clearly from Kindergarten on, as many classic verses and songs are learned by heart. The teacher’s clarity of speech is emulated in all that’s said, on any topic.
Students create many engaging presentations, from daily recitation to elaborate class plays, though no audio recordings are usually made. Visual displays are consistently created, both for the love of art and to emphasize and enhance certain facts or details. Since the teacher always speaks in clear, complete sentences and all content is conveyed in this way, the student learns by example to do the same.
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.