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.
Writing instruction should be basic and methodical, with all its elements clearly defined. It should be made clear however that writing is the servant of the content or subject matter. Nothing is more boring than learning about tools for the sake of themselves. If the subject is compelling and exciting enough, it provides the incentive for learning how to write about it.
In the Waldorf approach, enthusiasm is all. Deep interest is the best teacher, and if the student is passionate about communicating what’s been learned, the tools and the means to do so will be found and acquired. The main lesson is always devoted to the subject at hand: local geography, Norse mythology, zoology, math. Writing is an essential part of all of these, and the tools needed to effectively communicate their essence are willingly learned. Here are local geography main lesson book excerpts from Erinn Warton’s Pinterest page.
Writing per se is usually not the focus of a main lesson block, though it is consistently present in every other main lesson subject block. Mechanics can be taught quickly and easily, and this can usually be reserved for the skills period following the main lesson. Over the course of the Grade 4 year, the students’ writing gradually becomes more independent. Because the main lesson books are the students’ self-created textbooks, all the material in them should be accurate and well-written. To this end, students could write rough drafts to be reviewed by the teacher before writing the content of the lesson in their books.
Text Types and Purposes:
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.
Students learn the essence of good writing from exposure to good literature, which happens consistently from Kindergarten on as stories are heard from many classic sources. Extensive vocabulary and good structure are built this way, serving as efficient tools for excellent, successful, and persuasive communication. Writing opinion pieces however, should wait until reason and logic are fully formed, at around age 12.
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
Link ideas within categories of information using words and phrases (e.g., another, for example, also, because).
Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented.
Every one of these elements is present in every main lesson book entry: clearly conveyed ideas and information through explanatory text, copious illustrations of literally everything studied and learned (without multimedia which is reserved for a later grade), related facts, definitions, and details, precise language and domain-speicific vocabulary. Good, basic structure such as the introduction, elaborative paragraphs, and conclusion, with proper headings and other formatting, is used throughout.
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
Use a variety of transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events.
Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.
Narrative writing may happen toward the end of Grade 4, when enough experience and ability has been garnered to enable good creative writing. As with all things Waldorf, there’s no rush for this. Ripeness is all. 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.