Vowels, Angels, Reading, & Writing (#284)


A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 284

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 entire Grade 1 Language Arts curriculum consists of learning one upper case letter at a time, each one introduced by a relevant fairy tale, and then carefully and reverently drawn next to an illustration that represents the letter, taken from the story.  A tale about a wolf (they abound in fairy tale lore!) could illustrate the letter W with the head of the wolf and two paws forming the letter.  So it goes for all of the consonants.

The vowels are a different story however.  Steiner suggested that the consonants are more earthy, practical, and their sounds are more superficial, formed by the lips, tongue and teeth.  The vowels are sounded from a deeper place, the throat, larynx, and even the solar plexus.  In the Waldorf first grade, the consonants are covered over several blocks, then at the end of the year the vowels are introduced using body gestures and feelings.  Here is an image from Natalia Derbeniova’s Pinterest page.

In the upper right corner, angels (or fairies) bring the vowels down the rainbow bridge to earth.  The individual vowels are represented by gestures taken from Eurythmy, Steiner’s method of making speech visible (in which each letter is represented by a gesture).  A is a feeling of awe and openness, E is more self protective, I is the feeling of the self as the bridge from spirit to earth, O is encircling and inclusive, and U represents receiving blessings from the spirit world.

If there’s a hesitancy in bringing the “spirit” dimension into your language arts lessons, know that these gestures will resonate with your young children.  We have moved too far away from the deeper dimensions in favor of an exclusively materialistic bent, which not only takes its toll on us as adults but does so much more so on the more vulnerable and innocent.

Back to Grade 4!  If these deep foundations are laid at the beginning, they will color and carry through all aspects of the language arts: literature, composition, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.  Reverence for a subject goes such a long way toward effectiveness and ultimate success.  Then there’s the matter of trust.  Much of Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and in fact all standards and testing based approaches, function from a foundation of untrustworthiness.  Children cannot be trusted to learn and retain knowledge, as we their teachers cannot be trusted to teach it.  Hence the relentless drilling and testing.  This, from Life Learning Magazine, says it so well.

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 launch into Grade 4 Common Core Language Arts standards and their ambient counterparts.

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