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.
Production and Distribution of Writing:
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)
With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 4 here.)
With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
Starting with the last, Waldorf fourth graders are not yet using technology. It’s delayed until sixth grade, aligned with the theory that until the age of reason (at 12) there are not sufficient resources to fully understand the nature of the mind-boggling advances in computers and other technology.
In spite of the fact that today’s children seem to be born with a computer gene, and that they need almost no instruction to get off to a running start with technology, research has shown that early computer use is detrimental to both mental and physical health. Simple observation of a child under the age of 12 after prolonged exposure to screen time tells the tale: irritability, pale complexion, lack of energy, shortened attention span (and more) are the end result.
The idea that an early start is needed to be able to absorb the copious skills demanded by today’s job market and culture is mistaken. When there’s a readiness for it, these skills can be acquired very rapidly. Research has also shown that hand written note taking stimulates an area of the brain that makes learning more effective. Laptop note taking in contrast, does not.
Waldorf students produce and publish writing regularly and consistently, from Grade 1 on. Though there is a reliance on the teacher at first (written text is copied from the board into the students’ books), by mid fourth grade students are summarizing what they’ve learned in their books, with teacher guidance.
A word on teacher guidance: the Common Core standards specify “some guidance and support from adults” throughout the lower grades, along with a focus on peer interaction and collaboration. This may be a fallacy, virtually impossible without sufficient maturity. I’ve seen many Common Core videos of just such peer collaboration, but up until age 11 or 12 the children seem to be at a loss to fulfill this requirement.
There is no down side to the teacher being an authority for students. True discipline arises from this sort of authority. Children are disciples in the truest sense of the word: from the Latin discere, learner. Independence arises when there’s enough maturity and readiness for it.
Editing for conventions can happen as an aside, in a skills period. As previously stated, writing should be subordinate to its content. Similarly, the mechanics of reading should take a back seat to the content of what is being read. The challenging complexity of the English language is best learned through exposure, by reading as much and as often as possible. Drills and tests are a comparatively weak means of teaching spelling.
Jumping ahead two years to sixth grade will find students learning formal geometry with instruments. It’s now possible for them to embrace more abstract concepts, but always integrated with the arts, beauty, and even a touch of philosophy. Here are several main lesson Geometry book pages from the website, A Waldorf Journey.
Note that while illustrations and text are technically correct, they also display a loving attention to detail and a close look at the essence of each concept. The geometric drawings below are taken from the blog Natural Suburbia and beautifully illustrate the variety of form that can be found within a circle of 6. 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.