Grade 1 Blocks: Everything You Need to Know (#56)

A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 56

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. Today’s post will review the Grade 1 block schedule plan, including a brief description of each block.  (These blocks can be adjusted accordingly for teaching every subject every day.)  A workable schedule for the Grade 1 year would be:

1 form drawing block
3 writing and reading blocks
3 math blocks
1 handwork block
1 nature studies block
1 year end review and play block

After 3-4 weeks of form drawing, the child(ren) are ready to settle down to the business of learning.  In the writing and reading blocks, each week starts with a form drawing lesson, then one letter a day is learned via a fairy tale.  Each letter is drawn, illustrated, and captioned with a sentence from the story.  In this way, the alphabet is learned over the whole year, slowly, carefully, and artfully.  Reading is learned through writing.  The drawings and letters are demonstrated by the teacher, as is the caption.  Rather than copying, this is instead a reverent process of learning how to draw and write.

Math blocks alternate with the writing and reading blocks.  It would not be optimal however, to completely abandon either subject while focusing on the other, so the skills practice time can keep math alive while working on language arts, and vice versa.  The three math blocks build upon each other.  In the first one, the numbers 1-12 are learned in the same way as the letters are learned, one each day via a fairy tale.  In the next math block, the numbers are made “real” in many different ways so their forms are learned playfully and creatively.  The real numbers can be used in the next block as manipulatives for learning the 4 processes.

Knitting is learned in Grade 1, along with other natural crafts like beeswax modeling or crafts that reflect the seasons in two 3-4 week blocks: knitting and nature studies.  Knitting can begin with sewing a simple handwork pouch and making a pair of knitting needles using wood dowels and colorful beads.  Nature studies can be lively and hands-on, with forays into the woods, stream, or ocean to gather leaves, stones, shells, and more, while also learning about the wonders of the natural world.

Reviewing the year is a satisfying and wonderful way to end it.  Blend the review with a play that captures the mood of what was learned.  A fairy tale play is a good bet for Grade 1.  Enlist family and friends to join in the fun: making costumes, creating scenery and props, learning lines, and performing!

Of course, this blog’s focus will be on the three math blocks, relating them to the Common Core Math Standards.  To my dismay however, after reading the CCSS for Grade 1, I find that I am unable to relate any of them to the first two math blocks outlined above.  These standards are so narrowly focused on addition and subtraction that I will not be able to interpret them more broadly as I was able to with the California State and National Math Standards, when aligning them with Math By Hand materials.  So I will devote a number of posts to the first two math blocks, building a foundation for working with the 4 processes, without relating them to the Common Core.

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal.  We’ll be getting to know the numbers 1-12, up close and personal, starting tomorrow . . .

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