RI.4 7-10: Not Filling A Pail But Lighting a Fire (#289)


A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 289

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.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.

Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:
By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Information.  Isn’t this the information age?  Or maybe it’s the digital age.  In any case, it’s too much, too soon for your fourth grader.  It was WB Yeats who said that education should not be the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.  Pouring too much information into your fourth grader’s head is putting the cart before the horse.  Time enough for information processing (like that specified in standard 7) later, after the fires have been lit.

The spirit of standard 7 however, is well met by the Waldorf approach.  Stories based in both myth and fact are told and retold in great detail by the students and then processed in many ways: visually, orally, musically, dramatically, and in movement.  Processing learning through the arts is most effective at contributing to understanding.  As for the web, the Waldorf approach is notorious for delaying computer/media use and exposure for good reason, much of which has been amply documented.  (Note that many Silicon Valley families choose low-tech Waldorf for their children.)

Reasons and evidence.  Best reserved until reason and logic naturally awaken: later.  Information from two texts on the same subject is well covered by the Math By Hand trickster tales from many cultures.  A rich, cultural tapestry makes up the curriculum at all grade levels, and the spirit of “compare and contrast” is alive and well with every lesson.  So that when formal essay writing happens, there’s a solid foundation upon which to draw.

History and social studies are covered within the local geography lessons, zoology within animal studies, and technical information abounds in the handwork and practical crafts activities.  Waldorf students are steeped from the beginning in the high end of each grade level range and beyond, since the restriction of having to read complex texts independently is removed.  And fractions!  Note how inversion for dividing fractions is illustrated in this delightful page from the Nelson Waldorf School.  (Notice the cursive writing, a lost art that’s still being taught in Waldorf!)




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.



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