Sunday, September 9, 2012
Course Descriptions 4th grade 2012-2013
Form Drawing - weekly
As we have done since 1st grade, we will start the year with Form Drawing. This year the children will learn to construct forms utilizing the circle and a straight edge. They will draw forms whose lines weave over and under in a rhythmical balanced movement. These knotted or braided forms are often called Celtic Knots. We will also continue to draw running forms and Mandala-type forms building on skills learned in 3rd grade. I plan to do Form Drawing throughout the year during a skills period and incorporate it into the Main Lesson books.
Local Geography and Maps – 2 blocks
Our first block of the year will be Local Geography. We will begin with what is familiar to the children and bring their experience to a greater degree of consciousness with form and organization. We will start with the classroom and then I will ask the children to go home and make a map of their room. We will work with the four directions, North, South, East and West and orientating by the sun. I welcome any parents who are skilled at orienteering to visit the classroom for some expert instruction. We will draw a map of the school and a simple map of the route to the park. As a homework assignment, they will be asked to sketch out their route from home to school from above. This shift in perspective, viewing the earth from above, is a powerful experience for children of this age. They are taking their three dimensional experience and representing it in two dimensions. Younger children are not really capable of doing this. The children will build on their measuring skills acquired in 3rd grade and learn to orient and represent direction, size and relationship of objects and places. They will need their measuring tapes. If the measuring tape disappeared over the summer your child will need a sturdy, 16’ (minimum) tape measure. Please label it with permanent marker.
We will continue to build on mapmaking skills throughout the year. The children will be introduced to working with a simple grid. They will draw simple maps of the Great Lakes Region, various maps of the Chicago River, Illinois and Chicago. By the end of 4th grade the children should be able to read a map and I encourage you to enlist them whenever there is an opportunity to read a map in your family life. I will bring my globe from home. I encourage you to have maps around the house as much as possible. The CTA maps are free at the ‘L’station.
In our second Local Geography block through stories of a Native American girl named Starwatcher, we will travel to the very distant past for experience of the geological history of the area. We will touch briefly on how the region we live in once was and how it transformed over millions of years to become the land -- the Great Lakes Region and the prairie -- we find ourselves living in today. The children will encounter history through stories, songs and verse, and hear about the First People and the later tribes of the area (Algonquin and Iroquois) and how they lived in relation to the earth and each other. From the distant past we will move to stories of the human beings and events that formed our present home. The children will hear of Father Marquette, Louis Joliet, the Chicago River, Du Sable, La Salle, America’s relation to the British (lightly) the battle of Ft. Dearborn, Chief Black Hawk, the growth of Chicago as a city, the railroads, the Chicago Fire, the rebuilding of the city, the Columbian Exposition and the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution. The children will hear of the great influx of immigrants and the work of Jane Addams. I will ask the children to interview their families to find out when their ancestors arrived in this country, where they entered the United States, how they made their living and how they came to be in the Chicago area. These conversations will bring history to life for the children and they love to hear family history. The changes of the ninth year allow your child to see you (and others) as real human beings with history to be revealed and it gives the 4th grader a very solid sense of where he or she is NOW.
As we cross over to the 20th Century we will hear stories of the evolving modernity of Chicago. The human relationship to the land and water will shift from one of harmony with nature and move toward one of harnessing the resources of nature to serve more and more people. Canals will be built, the Chicago River will be redesigned and Lake Michigan will serve as a great port. We will hear of the Century of Progress International Exposition, the completion of the subway and the building of the tallest buildings in the world. As we travel nearer to the 21st Century we will look at how Chicago will change from a great industrial and manufacturing center to different activities such as finance, information technology and services. I hope to travel to the places that once served as the docks and factories and are now ‘gentrified’ into shopping and entertainment. We will look at the migration of industry to suburbs and other countries, and ponder the benefits such as cleaner air, and losses, such as fewer jobs. The emphasis will be on how everything in history depends on the human beings’ relationship to each other and the things of the earth: climate, resources, geography.
It is my hope to be able to go on field trips to places such as the Field Museum, Chicago Historical Society, Sears Tower, a Chicago River tour, Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier (the docks) and various walking tours to places like Ridge Avenue and Rosehill Cemetery.
Language arts will permeate the Local Geography, the Norse Myths and our Man and Animal blocks. It will include composition writing, work with vocabulary and spelling, use of the dictionary, simple research, recitation and oral presentations. Grammar will gain more focus this year and we will work with becoming aware of things like subjects and objects, tenses, more parts of speech and types of sentences.
The Norse Myths – 2 blocks
The Norse Myths are probably the most compelling stories the children will hear in their years at Waldorf. The characters and themes resonate very strongly in the souls of American children, particularly of this age, and are woven throughout our culture. These are some of the original super heroes! We will begin with the story of the creation of the Nine Worlds, the great tree, Yggdrissil, which grows throughout these worlds and the appearance of the Vanir and Aesir. From there we will follow the adventures of the Allfather Odin and the gods of Asgard to the Twilight of the gods and Ragnarok. It is out of the Norse Myths that I will draw such lessons as the conjugation of verbs. Past, present and future are wonderfully represented by the three Norns: Urda, Being of the Past, Verdande, Being of the Present, and Skulda, Being of the Future. I will select our class play from the Norse Myths. It is my hope to do our play in the auditorium this year but, as a younger class, must wait for the upper grades to settle on their dates before I am able to give you a set date for our performance.
Now the children are older, we will shift from the three-day rhythm of the younger grades to a two day rhythm for the telling and review of each story. The children will be asked to think about the ‘why’ in regards to some of the activities of the characters they meet, and their writing will express more of their individuality. They will be asked to write drafts of their compositions and I must enlist parents to correct the most egregious errors when the children bring their work home. Since 1st grade, I have told the children they are in school to make mistakes. Treat the correction of your child’s writing as objectively as possible and balance it all with positivity and encouragement. The children will also be allowed more individual expression when drawing in their main lesson books. The students will be asked to memorize and recite long epic poems done in the trochaic meter such as in the Vainamoinen story from the Kalevala and Longfellow’s epic poem Hiawatha.
Grammar - weekly
Grammar and writing will be woven throughout Local Geography, Norse Mythology and the Zoology/Man and Animal blocks. In addition to the Main Lesson there will be three Skills lessons designated for Language Arts. The areas to be covered are:
Parts of speech – noun, verbs (regular and irregular), pronoun, possessive pronoun, adjectives, possessive adjective, adverb, preposition, prepositional phrase, articles, conjunction, interjection
Verb tenses – simple past, simple present, simple future and a few perfect tenses introduced for future work.
Synonyms and Antonyms – this works well with adverbs and adjectives
Types of Sentences – declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, imperative
Punctuation - period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, semi-colon, colon
Reading, Spelling, Vocabulary
We will read aloud in groups of fifteen on Monday while the class is split into two groups for Eurythmy. The students will be asked to define words they come across while reading. First, we will draw the meaning out of context and then we will look up the word. I have purchased desk dictionaries for students and we will be learning how to use them. I have told the children many times, “The dictionary is your friend!” I also expect the children to be reading to themselves during quiet times and at home. Mysteries, animal stories and adventure stories abound for children of this age. It develops the Will for a child to read an entire book from beginning to end.
I am experimenting with our spelling routine and approach to ‘spelling homework’. The children will have small ‘Word Journals’ in which they will have spelling words, such as their and they’re, and vocabulary words such as Wisconsin Glacier and moraines. The words will go on the board on Monday and we will work with them during our Skills lesson. The words will go home and I ask that you please quiz your child to see which spelling words need to be practiced. A weekly test will be given on the spelling words. Your child needs to understand the vocabulary words and be able to use them in sentences. Spelling the vocabulary words correctly is wonderful and I encourage it, but I believe knowing how to spell a vocabulary word will come with usage. Your child must know how to spell these words well enough to look them up if necessary and recognize these words while reading. These are the words that will be necessary to use in dictations and compositions about block subjects. If children are intimidated to use an appropriate word for a composition they might choose a less specific word or a worn-out word like ‘thing’. I want them to stretch their vocabulary wings.
Fourth grade is a time when comic books become very popular. Please make certain you are aware of what your child is reading. Watch out for some of the lower levels of comic books. At times they depict characters such as Thor and Spiderman as having an ambiguous relationship to evil. Comic books can weaken the reading muscle and poor readers are often drawn to them. Children learn to speak from the human speech around them and what they read. They will often speak what they read and write what they speak. I will not forbid comic books, as children of this age love them and they have their place in our culture but I ask that they are balanced with good literature that builds inner pictures with words. I do ask that comic books, trading cards game cards etc. remain outside of school. Buying and trading such items during school hours can lead to all kinds of trouble I wish to avoid.
Arithmetic – 3 blocks
In our first block we will review what we learned in third grade: addition and subtraction with regrouping, multiplication of multiple digits by single digits, division and long division. We will let go of the morning movement routine around multiplication and division. The children need to know their arithmetic facts by heart as they will be applying these facts to the more complicated problems. If they do not have their facts at hand we must find ways to support them so they are able to move forward with the class. We will continue the daily practice sheets with 30 problems and mental math. We will also review what we learned about linear measurement during our Local Geography block. They will be applying the four operations to measuring the dimensions of their rooms and the classroom. At the end of this block the children will be introduced to factoring and prime numbers in preparation for fractions.
In the second block we will review the factoring and look at prime numbers, deficient numbers and abundant numbers. We will begin with the experience of fractions as part of one whole through such activities as folding paper, cutting clay, dividing up shares of food and dry measurement. We will work with the language of fractions such as numerator and denominator and apply these terms to real situations such as how many children have red shirts in the class (ratio). The children will be introduced to the four operations with fractions beginning with addition and subtraction of fractions with like denominators then multiplying and dividing fractions.
In our third block we will continue the work with the four operations and move to addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators, incorporating our previous work with factors. We will then work with improper fractions and mixed numbers. If our work with fractions goes smoothly I would like to touch on just a few of the decimal equivalents as a preview of 5th grade.
Throughout the year, Mrs. Trevillion, the math teacher for grades 5-8, will be assisting two times a week during our Skills lessons. She will be working with me to provide the children with the individual attention necessary to grasp this sometimes challenging subject. It is always helpful if you, as parents, provide the opportunities to use fractions at home with practical activities such as cooking.
Zoology/ Man and Animal – 2 blocks
The world of animals is the world closest to the human being. This will be the first ‘science’ block for the children but the approach is uniquely ‘Waldorf’. The focus will be what the animals are able to teach us about being human. What have human beings in common with animals? How are humans and animals different? We will begin with the human being, our physical form, our uprightness and our three-foldness. We will look at this three-foldness embodied in the human being represented by the three archetypal animals, the eagle, the lion, and the bull. We will examine this three-foldness: Head – nerve-sense system, thinking, Trunk – rhythmic/circulatory system, heart, feeling, and Limb – metabolic system, limbs, transforming the world, doing. We will then study the animal forms and how those forms serve each animal (or does the animal serve its form?). What is specialization? What do an animal’s teeth tell you about it? Compare the teeth of rodents, carnivores, ungulates and humans. We will look at other animals that possess characteristics from within these archetypes yet overlap with traits from another archetype such as the rat (carnivore-like) or the beaver (ungulate-like). From there we will look at what the human being has in common with each animal and how we are actually a compilation of animals, able to do a variety of actions with freedom.
After we explore the similarities and differences between animals and human beings, we will focus on the animals, keeping in mind whether they are head-like, trunk-like, limb-like; or any combination thereof. These can be lively and thought-provoking conversations and the children can be very involved in voicing and substantiating their opinions. This block lends itself very well to the use of adjectives and adverbs! We will begin with the simplest forms of each type of animal and move on to include more complex (and complicated) creatures:
1) Octopus, cuttlefish, clams, oysters, snails, starfish
2) Fish, salmon, flounder, dolphin, sea creatures
3) The rodents: mice, beavers and rodents
4) The birds: eagle, owl, duck, sparrow, peguin
a. Three-fold division in sea and air
b. Three-fold division in mammals
5) The ungulates: cows, horses, deer, bull, oxen
6) The carnivores: wolves, dogs, seals, cats
The children will receive instruction on how to draw animals using the three archetypal forms: circle, triangle and square. These three forms can be metamorphosed into simple animal shapes expanding to grow various animal parts. We will gradually move from crayon to colored pencil, learning how to use the side of the pencil, blending and shading.
The 4th grade will take a trip to Camp Edwards this winter to experience animal tracking in the snow. I would also like to include orienteering by the stars if possible and ask for at least one chaperon who knows how to do this. We will be staying in cabins or the big lodge this year and the food is provided. I am waiting for a date from the Camp.
Painting/ Artistic work
We will paint once a week on Fridays with half the class. In addition to our large and small flat brushes, I have purchased additional brushes with a narrowed tip so we can try new techniques. We will work with the wet-on-wet method bringing in more form and blending some of our colors on a palette. Later in the year I would like to try our hand at painting with very pale layers of watercolor on dry paper. This is not yet veil painting as is done in the upper grades but it is a gentle approach to bringing depth and control to some of the subjects the children will want to paint.
We will be using plasticene and beeswax to create animals. I would like to do some relief maps with paper mache’ for our geography blocks. I welcome any expertise or assistance in this area.
The students are expected to do their written work in cursive. There will be more focus on writing neatly in cursive script. The children will learn to write with fountain pens. First they will use brushes, quills, nibs dipped in ink, and finally cartridge-loaded ink pens. I have ordered left-handed pens for those children who need them. The children will most likely receive these pens at the holiday break but the necessary steps to being able to write with and care for an ink pen must be in place. Please do not talk about it in front of them at this point.
At the end of the year the children will be asked to create a diorama depicting the animal of their choice. They will need to be prepared to talk about their animal without notes and answer a few questions posed by classmates and me. I will also ask that they write a few paragraphs about their animal and what made them chose it. They may include a few interesting facts that stood out but I discourage copying facts from a resource. They will also be asked to draw their animal using the techniques learned in class. There will be many creative ideas brought by the children for this project and we will discuss them as the time approaches.
It looks like another busy year for our enthusiastic children. I am sure they will enliven all that comes their way and create a year to remember …as they always do.