Saturday, 20 November 2010

Where we study, work and play.... Geography

This week - or rather the last two weeks - the class has been doing geography. They have started with the school and then begun walking around Holywood. To help them, Donna, has been drawing maps...of the town - that is Holywood. It is really beautiful when done in pastel too.

These are their practise composition books. I can't remember if i said in an earlier post, but the kids have a main lesson book and a practise book. The practise book is where they do everything first. Donna then corrects it. Then the write it into the main lesson book. This way the main lesson book becomes their textbook - and their keepsake. Everything they have learnt through the year is documented in the main lesson book. It is a thorough and very meticulous process.

Another practice book for the composition.

Here is the main lesson book.

The school's front gate. It is fascinating to see how the same scene can be depicted in a completely different way by different children. This is Iseult's work.

Croft Road, where the school is situated.

The Maypole.

Johnny tha jig's playground

The graveyard at the edge of town

The park down the road...whose name i forget

This is Nuala's book.

The school


Johnny tha jig

The graveyard

And the park down the road.

I also interviewed Donna a few weeks ago.... here's the results of the interview. It was about what makes the way she teaches different....

Steiner education addresses both the academic side of education as well as so much more. Can you say what else it also looks at?

Rhythm is a very important part of this stage of development - as it balances the soul. It features through the entire day, as well as the months and weeks, in the activities that we do. It gives the child a centre where they are able to learn, it gives stability and routine. It is not the same a structure.

Can you give examples of this?
There is an outward rhythm and inward rhythm - they take in during a lesson and then they show that they have learnt when they respond. Through verses we say everyday, we control our breath through words.

We work on an eight week schedule which supports the development of the young child. this is especially helpful if a child has learning difficulties as it helps its co-ordination. We do a lot of outside 'work' - like skipping and running - at the start of the day. This helps the children to focus when they come back in and helps to learn. It also gets every sense going in the body at the start - it helps wake up the mind, body and the soul and body, which helps the child to learn.

We also do other work, to balance children, such as exercising which have them crossing their arms, euryhthmy and this helps to 'balance' all their senses, also helping with centreing and control.

What happens after the first part of the day, when you've been out and running around?
We then go to Main Lesson, which is Maths and English for now.

There is a common myth that we don't mark the children. We do, at Class Four we start doing this. But we never mark them wrong - we make sure that they do get it correct, but whatever we do when we correct, we make sure that it does not affect their self-esteem and we focus on the positive.

Can you talk a bit about the lesson planning and Main Lesson?
Every Main Lesson has mental math and spellings regardless of subject.

Main Lesson is a single block of Maths or English which is taken for up to three weeks. During this time the children only do Maths or English, which allows us to focus on the subject. We do not break it up as it establishes a rhythm which is natural and allows the children to focus and learn naturally.

The main lesson's structure is very rooted in rhythm. We start with a verse and song (which helps with the breath and awakens the soul. We then do a poem and then move onto mental maths (if they are doing a math main lesson). We then do movement and if we are doing an English Main Lesson we will do spelling, followed by handwriting and form drawing, as well as recall. This is done in pairs.

We also use very visual techniques to help reinforce the ideas - like playdough, artwork, etc.

There is a three-day rhythm the Main Lesson follows.

Day 1 - New Material
Day 2 - Recall
Day 3 - Do something with it

However there is something new everyday, recall everyday and book work everyday.

For example Norse Myths

Day 1

New material - introduction and story of the first frost giant - Creation in Norse Myths
Recall - Old testament creation from last year
Book work - Front cover for book

Day 2

New Material - Story of creation of earth
Recall - First frost giant
Book work - Draw picture of tree creation in book

Day 3

New material - Story of creation of man
Recall - Story of creation of earth
Book work - Draw picture of creation and do writing

Anything new is related to work we have done 2 days ago and in this way we are able to return to concepts, which reinforces the learning process. We may do research or writing, but it is always connected to what took place two days ago, although it is a progression.

So the idea is that we forget we learn, the knowledge then goes to rest in the body, and then after the child has 'slept on it', we ask them to gently recall or build on it again.

The Main Lesson also uses the story - and stories and very thearapeutic. We do not overstimualte a child by overloading them with too much information or talking about things in abstract. This results in the stifling of the child's imagination.

That all sounds like really hard work.

The children here work a lot harder. There is another common misconception that there is no structure in the school and the kids just do whatever they want to. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are not given handouts and they do not have text books. Everything that they have in terms of written work is their own. Their Main Lesson books are the only reference books that they will have, so we make sure that it is really up to scratch. In the Main Lesson book, they demonstrate what they have learnt and they show us that they are learning by doing their own work. Nothing is given to them.

So how does this all benefit the children?

Firstly, they are more confident - this is because through the entire process, their strengths are pointed out, so everyone feels they are worthwhile. Everyone feels that they have an important contribution to make to the class and society.

Then they are very practical children. They are able to adapt their abilities to many situations. We do many arts and crafts which they will take with them when they leave the school - these are real life skills like sewing, cooking, gardening, woodwork - even at this young age.

There is a very wide cirriculum. We do everything from a second language and farming and music and art is part of everyday work.

The children are more sociable and able to interact with adults and able to carry out very sensible conversations. This is because they are able to express themselves and allowed to give their opinions. They have tremendous strength and believe in things and they have a passion for life.

Their creativity is not stiflied and they are encouraged to ask questions.

The lessons allow time for discussion and not just listening.

Finally, they learn to appreciate others and difference.

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