Things have been so busy lately I haven’t been able to do much more than post a chalkboard drawing every now and then. I hope to be able to post more soon but until then, here’s my current chalkboard drawing. It was actually remarkably easy to do and I just love how it turned out!
School has started and all is well. Things are super-busy as my family and I rediscover our old rhythms and create new ones in our new home. I am loving my new class and enjoying all of the vibrant energy that is 4th grade. I have a classroom full of spirited vikings and we are having wonderful robust days together. I can hardly believe that tomorrow begins the final week of our Norse Mythology block.
We’ve done some wonderful work together and I hope to share more about that soon, but for now I’ll just share my chalkboard drawing of Yggdrasil. What fun it was to draw!
Every year mid-August brings a flurry of conflicting emotions as I feel the summer starting to wind down. Between beginning of the year faculty meetings, my rigorous schedule of home visits and a late summer trip to get my own son ready for school, I can count my free days on one hand. They seem precious and not to be squandered. The conflict comes as I must choose whether to use those days to enjoy the last glimpses of summer or get a leg up on my planning. Some days it’s a tough call but today I’m all about planning.
With this in mind I thought I would share a couple of books I’m reading these days that I’m just loving.
When my last class was in fifth grade we read a short biography on Anna Botsford Comstock, the author of this great book Handbook of Nature Study. The book goes over how to teach children about nature in a very engaging, enlivened and experiential way. It is full of information and great ideas for presenting it. I think it’ll be great for my Human and Animal block this year.
I may be coming late to the party on this one, but I’m also reading The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. What a great book! It is such a sweet story and the little boy main character is such a great example of what it is like to study and learn about an animal. White weaves factual information about swans into the story in such a natural, beautiful way. I’m just trying to decide if I could assign this story as a class reader or if it will be a read aloud that we share together. Just wonderful.
Well, I’m back to the books for now. It’s a good thing I enjoy prep work so much!
I’m so pleased to begin offering my sixth grade materials! It all starts with my collection of essential sixth grade documents.
In this packet you’ll find my most essential Waldorf Grade Six documents. It is not a full curriculum guide but it gives a brief picture of the year as a whole and includes some of the most important documents that provided a framework for our work for the year.
- The Upper Grades Morning Verse — The translation I like best.
- A Grade Six Sample Block Rotation — When should you teach each main lesson block? Here is my calendar of the year in the form of main lesson content.
- A Grade Six Sample Weekly Schedule — Including my thoughts on what is the best weekly schedule.
- A Grade Six Sample Main Lesson Rhythm — The nuts and bolts of how that two hour main lesson block is spent.
- A Grade Six Curriculum Overview — A small taste of how and why the Waldorf Grade Six curriculum meets the 12 year old.
- A Main Lesson Book Liner — Does your students’ writing slope down the page? Print this out and have them put it behind their work to keep straight lines.
I hope to follow in the coming weeks with guides for many of the sixth grade main lesson blocks. Watch this space for updates.
I have been doing lots of reading this summer on the subject of classroom management. One little bit of knowledge I have gained in my years of experience is that establishing rhythms, routines and habits in the classroom is what makes the bustle of creativity possible in main lesson. And, even more important, these rhythms, routines and habits need to be directly taught and regularly practiced. The first few weeks are the time to show the students mundane things like how we line up before school and how we hand out supplies as well as more complicated things like how to resolve disputes on the playground and what kind of language we use when talking to each other. Of course many of these topics go beyond the work of the first few weeks, but that time at the very beginning of the school year is most important.
I have received some great ideas for this work from the following books and I highly recommend them.
This book, Assertive Discipline: Positive Behavior Management for Today’s Classroom by Lee Canter is fantastic. What I appreciate most about it is that it lays things out in a very systematic way. It is very straightforward as it goes through methods a teacher can use for managing her class. Things as simple as suggesting that after giving the class an instruction, the teacher should watch and within two seconds give the class feedback like, “Oh, I see that Mary and Michael are taking out their pencils like I asked.” Doing this means that the students are hearing the instructions again without you repeating them, which has always been a no-no in my book. Following this, Canter instructs the teacher to follow up with anyone not following the instructions within 5 seconds. Though I am sure these guidelines will be more flexible in practice, it is good to start out with techniques that are so clear and straightforward.
Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Charney is another gold mine of information. It is so clear and really emphasizes teaching children the simple activities in the classroom that we might take for granted they already know and are familiar with. She goes through techniques of building classroom rules along with the children and how to keep your discipline and attitude towards the children positive. I am just thrilled with this book and I can already feel it shaping my interactions with the students.
The First Six Weeks of School is another positive, straightforward approach to teaching children the rhythms and routines that will sustain your work all through the year. It is so clear that it gives a day by day schedule of activities for the first six weeks that teachers can follow and it varies this schedule for differently aged students. There is a K-2 schedule, a 3-4 schedule and a 5-6 schedule. It emphasizes that these rhythms and routines are the curriculum for the first few weeks, which is a concept I had never considered until reading this book. Of course, teachers will adapt this resource to their own particular situations (I can’t imagine following someone else’s schedule for the day) but having a template as a guideline is very helpful!
I’m starting to dive into the fourth grade curriculum, as well, but that’s a separate post.
This little place has been sorely neglected! There are lots of things going on and changes afoot in my part of the world. Here’s a quick breakdown.
- The biggest news is that my family and I are moving. I am not continuing on to 7th grade with my fantastic group of students. Greater employment opportunities for my children’s father are taking us to a larger city.
- I will be teaching 4th grade next year to a large group of lovely and energetic students who I plan to take through to 8th grade. I’ve never taught 4th grade before, so I’m very excited! I’ve just returned from my summer intensive training and I can’t wait to plunge headlong into planning. (Packing and moving must come first.)
- I’ve received several requests that I make my 6th grade materials available. It is indeed my intention to pull those things together but with so much else going on this summer it will be difficult to make happen. Still, I will put something together but it likely won’t be before mid-August. Watch this space for updates.
- With this change, the question has arisen for me about whether I should continue to keep up this little space. I’ve thought about it a lot and I truly believe that maintaining this blog brings a new level of consciousness to me with regards to my work. I find that it supports my work and makes me more aware of what I am doing and the context in which it exists. I also love the sense of community that I feel through the comments and emails I receive via this blog. Recognizing that there are so many others on this journey brings comfort to a profession that can be very isolating.
So I look forward to another academic year — 2012-13 — with enthusiasm. I imagine my posts here will focus much more on the work, rather than the students. Photos will be of blackboard drawings and main lesson book pages, rather than of students. I have a lot of ideas for 4th grade and I can’t wait to get started!
Things continue to be busy and eventful in the sixth grade. Since I last posted we had another week of physics (all about light) and a week off for Spring Break.
Today was our first day back and we started the heat component of our Physics block, in addition to having archery practice for the first time. The kids did great and just loved it!
I also assigned a new reader — The Hobbit. I think the students are really going to enjoy it, though it will be a bit of a stretch for some of them.
I hope to post more soon — so much to do!
We are having such an amazing time with our Physics block so far!
For the first week we are focusing on sound and we’ve already learned so much about the world of sound. Though our task is to focus on the realm of experience and not worry so much about the concepts, in our experiences we have come to understand so much!
First, we started by exploring musical sounds vs. non-musical sounds. I began by playing a symphony for the students and I had them identify the different instruments that were present in the piece. Steiner was very clear that the students’ understanding of sound should come out of their experience of music. This seemed just perfect to me. Our experience in main lesson on Monday was the first experience many of my students had had at looking at a piece of music more objectively. That experience really set the tone for what our work in this block would be about. How can we take those experiences that we’ve had so far in our lives in the feeling realm and look at them with a bit more objectivity? Music was the perfect place to start.
The next day I had everyone bring a sound in to the classroom. First, we made all of our sounds at once. The cacophony that arose was deafening! I was quite a contrast to the melodic symphony we’d experienced the day before! Next we tried to see if we could make these various sounds musical. We were quite surprised and impressed to find that if we added instruments one by one we were able to accomplish it! The students then came up with a fantastic definition of musical sounds vs. non-musical sounds. They observed that while non-musical sounds exist on their own in chaos, musical sounds have a relationship to each other. They exist with an awareness of the other sounds that are present. I was quite impressed with this insightful definition of music.
We went on to take a look at different types of sounds classified by the way that they are made. We came up with three basic categories — struck sounds, friction sounds and blown sounds. We came to the conclusion that just about every sound we could think of fell into one of these three categories.
Today we explored the idea of pitch and volume. We played with bottles and filled them with different amounts of water and created a scale. By the end of the day we had worked our way up to playing Happy Birthday! Tomorrow is the birthday of one of the students and we can’t wait to play it for her!
Tomorrow we’ll look at the different ways sound travels. We’ll see how it moves through air, both in an enclosed space and outside. We’ll also make tin can telephones to see how sound travels along a string. So much fun!
It has been so long since I’ve given an update here — we’ve been lost in class play-land. But I am happy to say we have successfully emerged. Tomorrow we start our long awaited Physics block. We start with Sound this week then move on to Light next week. After spring break we’ll move into heat, electricity and magnetism.
I hope to give a fuller update later this evening, but while I have a moment I thought I would at least post about the book that is my primary reference for this block.
Physics is Fun by Roberto Trostli is so great about giving the “why” behind what we’re doing in addition to the “what.” Definitely the best book to have for this fantastic block.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here but much has been happening in the sixth grade. We finished our geometry block and have started to work through our class play — The Emperor’s New Clothes. This story is just perfect for sixth graders and we’re loving the paradox it is bringing. Though it is all about placing little importance on the material world (clothes especially) it is giving us a fantastic opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in that realm. We’re having a great time coming up with the outrageous costumes the emperor and his family will wear. Perfect!
Here is a small sampling of work from our geometry block. Definitely our favorite block so far!
Now we’re moving on to a history block — The Middle Ages. Here is my chalkboard drawing.
Today I started with finishing up the fall of Rome. I plan on covering monastic life for the rest of this week and then the rise of Islam next week. I’ve got a great book of biographies that will lead us all the way through.
The World of Walls by Polly Schoyer Brooks and Nancy Zinsser Walworth is one of those great old books that relates historical content in story form. It begins with the story of Gregory who really brings the story of both monastic life and the importance of the pope in medieval history. I’m so grateful to have found this old, out-of-print gem. If you can get your hands on it, grab it!