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.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge:
Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Apply grade 4 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “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].”).
Apply grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text”).
Research is the be-all, end-all of Waldorf Education! Every main lesson in every subject spans a broad scope of inquiry into that subject. In a classroom setting, the class as a whole embarks on this journey of discovery, and in a homeschool setting the family and community form this nexus of inquiry.
My daughter’s high school homeschool study of US History included a conventional textbook as well as the excellent 10-book set by Joy Hakim, A History of US. Ms. Hakim states her purpose as, “This is what I am trying to do: create textbooks that can be held to the same high standards as the best fiction and nonfiction. If we want our children to read and think and do both well we need to give them great ideas to think about and good writing to make those ideas clear.” Find a detailed description of all ten books here.
Also from Ms. Hakim, “”History is full of stories–true stories–the best ever. Those stories have real heroes and real villains. When you read history, you are reading about real-life adventures.” And so it goes with Waldorf education: getting to the story that informs every area of life is most important. So I guess what I’m saying here is that as a Waldorf-inspired student (or teacher), the element of research imbues every lesson. No need to artificially create a research project just yet. Time enough for the index cards and organized, formal writing after reason and logic arrive!
The depth of literary detail listed in standard 9A is also present in every Waldorf lesson. Interest and enthusiasm form a structure and base that is unmatched by any other means. The Latin roots of the word “interest” demonstrate this concept: inter, “in between” and est, “it is,” meaning that the most effective approach to learning about anything involves just this sort of relationship. Standing on the bridge between self and world as an astute observer is perhaps the only way to really learn anything, while giving each subject its due respect and recognition.
As for standard 9B, reasons and evidence per se are beyond the ken of the fourth grader. S/he will consistently experience both on a deeper level, but will not bring them to the surface completely and consciously until reason and logic arrive at age 12.
Range of Writing:
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
The teacher is still the lens through which the fourth grader sees the world. Human childhood is the longest among mammals for good reason. The human brain needs to grow at its most advantageous pace, and rushing this growth pattern does not yield any advantage, on the contrary it can be most detrimental. Creative writing occurs regularly, from fourth grade on, but is not quite as independent as this standard would have it. Time enough for independence later on. As with all things Waldorf, there’s absolutely no rush!
The wonderful chalkboard drawing below from Catie Johnson’s page, illustrates the fairy tale The Six Swans as an embodiment of the letter “S.” At the same time it’s a glimpse into the realm of animals, planting a seed for deeper animal studies in fourth grade. So you see that research starts at the very beginning and continues life-long.
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.