Monday, January 22, 2018

Odin's Eight-Legged Steed

Today we finished up Norse Mythology I, the first half of our Norse Mythology block. Students absolutely loved the story of Odin’s Eight-Legged Steed and the idea of Loki being pregnant had some of them giggling non-stop. We were inspired by the illustration Leah created for her MLB when she did this subject years ago, and which solves the problem of trying to draw an eight-legged horse! (Although needle felting an eight-legged horse would probably be really fun, and I think creating the pipe cleaner frame would be an interesting challenge!)

You can always see the difference in a summary where children loved the story, just like you can feel the difference in the classroom when the teacher tells — and enjoys — the story instead of simply reading it aloud. Here’s one example of a summary created today by one of my oldest students. He was very proud of it and asked me to publish it:

    One day Asgard’s wall of gold and silver was failing. The Aesir knew that they had to build it of stone and they did not want to because it was such a heavy gloomy material. Luckily, a stone mason came along and offered to help them. They accepted and asked what his price was and the mason said he wanted Freya, the sun, and the moon! The Aesir were outraged. They would not give Freya, the sun, and the moon to the mason. But then Loki had an idea. He said in a whisper to the Aesir, “Say he can have it if he finishes before Spring,” and the Aesir and the mason agreed on those terms. But then the mason was almost done and had plenty of time left, so Loki turned into a mare and distracted the mason’s horse. This delayed the mason and he ran out of time and got nothing for all of his hard work. While the horse was chasing Loki he got pregnant and had an eight-legged baby horse!

Here are my notes from our final week of this block.

    Norse Mythology, Block I

    Week Three, Day One
    For those students who had been absent for the snow/ice storm, we took some time to finish adding Loki, the Mischief-Maker to the MLB.

    Then we read several short chapters from D'Aulaire's, introducing a few more major characters:
    chapter 11 (Balder, the God of Light)
    chapter 12 (Heimdall, the Watchman of Asgard)
    chapter 13 (Njord, Frey, and Freya)

    Note: My students already knew about Odin and Mimir from our previous story so I only read them the information about the hostages which the Vanir gave to the Aesir.

    Then I had each student choose a person we had just heard about and start to draft an acrostic poem.

    Week Three, Day Two
    We reviewed the figures from the previous day (Balder, Heimdall, Njord, Frey, and Freya) and added the acrostic poems and illustrations to the MLB. Next, it was time to hear hear chapter 14 (Bragi, God of Poetry). I had the students each paint or draw the outline of a cauldron on the next blank page of their main lesson book, and spatter paint drops of paint (wire screen, old toothbrush) inside the cauldron to be the drops of spittle / mead.

    Week Three, Day Three
    Happily, we were able in this week to visit a local art museum and listen to a harp performance (and our harpist allowed the students to touch the strings afterwards). This was perfect timing for Bragi's story! We then drafted the summaries of Bragi, God of Poetry for the main lesson books, and I had the students write their summary in the MLB, either on the spatter painted background inside the kettle or around the outside edge of the kettle.

    For our final story of Block I, we heard Odin’s Eight-Legged Steed.

    Week Three, Day Four
    We reviewed the story of Odin's Eight-Legged Steed and I had the students either draw a stone wall around Asgard or create a border in their MLBs of cut construction paper blocks. Inside this stone wall border, they added Odin’s Eight-Legged Steed to the MLB. In March we will pick up where we left off, and continue on to the rest of the D'Aulaire's book with Norse Mythology II. As always, all of my plans and the links to all of our activities are documented on my website.

The spatter painted mead-spittle-kettle illustration and the construction-paper-block stone wall around Asgard are both ideas which my daughter Leah originally had when she did this MLB several years ago (she was in sixth grade, which is why her summaries are longer than your typical fourth grader). I loved her creative ideas! See all of the photos of her MLB here.

click to enlarge; you will also see that a rainbow from our prism fell across the page today while I was photographing it!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Organic Chemistry: Sugar II

We began by reviewing Photosynthesis. I read a section of David Mitchell's Chemistry book called "The Great American Forest" by Rutherford Platt (p.140).

The Wonders of Waldorf Chemistry: Notes from a Teacher’s Notebook

Then the children made chocolate chip cookies. This was our analogy for how photosynthesis works... and last week they begged me to let them make actual chocolate chip cookies this week. I agreed but, since it was for Science Club, I made them use a vintage recipe with metric measurements.

While the cookies were baking the group worked on their summaries for their Science Binders, which I am doing instead of main lesson books. I always love to see the variety in student summaries! Some children go for the traditional narrative, with a series of paragraphs, while others spin off into more creative ways of summarizing the content. I myself suggested writing a limerick, and came up with one on the spot to illustrate my point:

    There once was a young plant so green
    The prettiest plant you've ever seen
    It took in carbon dioxide and water
    And when the sun's rays got hotter
    Poof! A molecule of glucose came into being

(Don't judge... it was improvised!)

Becca decided to write hers as a comic strip, and asked me to photograph it and publish it in the blog. Click on any photo to enlarge:

After summaries were done and cookies were tasted, it was time for a wet-on-dry watercolor painting of the Plant in Rainbow Colors. We were inspired by this one. I stretched the dry paper on my melamine painting boards with masking tape. I had a watercolor brush, a jar of fresh rinse water, and a small piece of test paper ready on each board. We shared small ceramic dishes with the concentrated Stockmar watercolor paint in them.

I learned this trick at my six day long Waldorf painting workshop in New York. I just put a popsicle stick scooped dollop of concentrated paint in each dish and let it air dry. When it is time to paint, get your brush wet, loosen some of the paint, check on your test paper to see if it is too strong or too weak, and paint. Clean your brush carefully before you put it in a new color. If you need to mix paints you can do it on your painting directly, or on your test paper, or in a separate jar (but we didn't for this painting).

We used the following colors from the Stockmar Watercolor Paint Basic Assortment: ultramarine blue, Prussian blue, vermillion, carmine red, and golden yellow. We also used the red-violet from the Supplementary Assortment.

Stockmar Watercolor Paint, Supplementary Assortment

If you are curious, the steps in our painting were as follows:

    red-violet (deepest earth)
    ultramarine blue (earth)
    a light vermillion wash (sky)
    Prussian blue (roots, stems, leaves)
    golden yellow (warmth of the sun)
    carmine red (flower buds)

an example of a finished painting

The paintings turned out beautifully and while they were drying we ate some more cookies and I began to read them the next section of David Mitchell's book, called "The History of Sugar." Note: This book is also available for free as a PDF download from the Online Waldorf Library.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Throwaway Writing"

My older group (ages 13 and 14) is working on their essay writing. We are primarily using Gretchen Bernabei's book Reviving the Essay: How to Teach Structure without Formula.

Most recently, we've been doing Lesson 5: "The Insight Garden: Growing Opinions from Art, Literature, and Life." We used the timed, guided writing exercise with several visual prompts and truisms:

    "When you fall in love, you're willing to look more foolish than at any other time in your life."

    "Every family has its heroes."

Her book is full of examples of visual prompts and truisms; there is also a collection of 89 of her visual prompts & truisms available free as a PDF.

The Insight Garden has five components and can be taught as a timed, guided writing or as a kernal essay.

    An insight about life

    One illustration from literature

    One illustration from a movie

    An illustration from my life

    I wonder

Currently, the students are working at home on definition essays. The topic is Leadership, where they explain their own individual definitions of Leadership and provide personal examples. Although I introduced this assignment on Monday, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day was celebrated, students do not have to only choose figures from the Civil Rights Movement.

We had Writer's Workshop sessions yesterday where students got feedback from their peers, using our new Six Dimensions of Effective Writing Rubric from Creating Writers Through 6-Trait Writing Assessment and Instruction. The six traits are Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, and Conventions.

Today we used Gretchen Bernabei's Lesson 29: "Throwaway Writing." Gretchen says on page 152, "Writing teachers can easily name sentences or phrases that are clearly throwaway writing. This exercise provides a lighthearted way for students to play with how not to write an essay, by loading it down with throwaway writing. And afterward, students will be able to identify throwaway writing and prevent it, too."

My students loved what they wrote and wanted me to share it with you. Enjoy!

    Hello, Grandma.

    I am calling you for three reasons. My three reasons are very important. The first reason is that I called you. My second reason is my three reasons. My third reason is because of the date. In this phone call I will tell you about my past, present, and forseeable future. Then I will tell you what my feelings were during the past, present, and forseeable future. Then I will ask you about your past, present, and forseeable future. After you tell me that, I will ask you what your feelings were about your past, present, and forseeable future.

    Bye, Grandma. It was fun talking to you. I will call you again in the forseeable future.

    In this essay I will tell you everything about this essay. This is my introduction to my essay. Now my introduction is done. Time for the topic.

    This is the topic of my essay. I feel very strongly about this topic and believe it should be taken more seriously. Now my topic is done. Time for the ending.

    I hope you enjoyed my essay on this extremely important topic that no one talks about. This was my essay. I hope you enjoyed my essay and what I told you and am telling you in my essay. I hope you enjoyed my essay.

    This is an advertisement for a product everyone needs in their home. This product is wonderful because many people use it. That makes it good. In addition, it is something that many people prefer to own. First I will tell you three good things about the product. Then I will tell you that many people like it. In conclusion, you should buy this product. Thank you for your time and attention to this very important matter.

    Jo - Hello, 911?

    911 (Paul) - Yes, hello, what is it?

    Jo - I need to tell you about what just happened.

    Jo - First, I will tell you what I'm doing right now.

    Jo - Then, why I'm calling.

    911 (Paul) - Sir, I need to know...

    Jo - Then I'm going to tell you why it is so important that I called.

    Jo - Then, finally, I'll tell you the emergency.

    911 (Paul) - PLEASE JUST...

    Jo - Okay, bye.

    911 (Paul) - Must have been Jo.

    This is the introduction. This paragraph will introduce my essay. This is where I tell you my main idea. This is why this topic is interesting. This is my thesis statement. This is a question that will be answered later. This is the end of the introduction.

    This is my first real paragraph. Do you remember my topic? Here is my main point and I will back it up with this, this, and this. This is how I will prove my point. This is a similar point but is somehow different. This is my final point. This is the end of my first paragraph.

    This is my second paragraph. How do you like it so far? Here is my main point. This is a sentence containing the answer to why I believe in this topic. Ths is another sentence that contains a sub point. This is another subpoint. This is my last point. This is the end of my second paragraph.

    This is my third paragraph. Do you get my topic by now? Here is my last main point. This is how it relates to my main topic in three ways. This is the first sub point about how interesting my topic is. This is another subpoint. This is my last subpoint about how interesting my topic is. This is a cool fact that you probably already know. This is the end of my third paragraph and of the actual essay.

    This is the conclusion. In conclusion I will restate my topic and my thesis statement. This is a question that won't probably get you thinking. This is the end of the conclusion. This is the end of the essay.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Photos from the Classroom

a practice bin of flour
and my two year old learning how to use a flour sifter

hmmm... this is making a bit of a mess

using the washboard to full her wet felted egg
wet felting is wonderful handwork for Early Childhood

watercolor painting time!

Zac wants to paint too

everyone is working on the first painting in our Norse Mythology series

Muspelheim, world of fire
Niffleheim, world of frozen fog and ice
Ginungagap, the void in between them

potholder loops galore!

my new coordinate graphing work from Clocca Concepts

examining the Biomes of the World canvas map from Waseca Biomes

a new challenge... painting Muspelheim and Niffleheim again

vermillion, a warm red, is closer to yellow
carmine, a cool red, is closer to blue

where the sparks and ice crystals meet in the void
LIFE begins

our third painting in the series presents even more of a challenge 
in terms of form and controlling the paint

the forms of the first humans, Ask and Embla, on the seashore
and the three Aesir gods Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur standing behind them

the painting book which inspired us, Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools

my chalkboard drawing of the Nine Norse Worlds

learning about the difference between phrases and clauses

the Montessori grammar symbols help us to really see the structure of a group of words to decide if it's a phrase or clause

deep in her chapter book, Becca refuses to be photographed

the grammar symbols help us in the Dictionary Game as well

joyful preschool wagon play
tugging it up the hill, one child pulling it down the hill and one child riding, 
working together to turn the wagon around, and going back up again

our list of fruits for the Citrus Sensory Bin!

plant dissection drawings in Science Club journals

Zac's new gardening sensory bin is a perfect use for the plant parts and soil

pipe cleaners, straw pieces, a colander -- a Threading Station!

the joy of turning 13... 

organizing supplies for the watercolor resist map of Egypt
inspired by this map in Gods & Pharaohs in Egyptian Mythology

I find that watercolor resists work better with oil pastels than with crayons

once again the "hot new thing" in the classroom

I never would have guessed that this old Christmas popcorn tin would become an essential classrom item in the study of Ancient Egypt!

covering our chicken with salt after soaking it overnight in rubbing alcohol

the first time, it took 2 1/2 boxes (7.5 lbs) of Kosher salt

R.I.P. Cluckopatra

"Do Not Disturb
Chicken Mummy Underway"

cutting out pieces for the jester pattern from Feltcraft

from Montessori Research & Development

a marble maze extraordinaire
Leah's jukebox-inspired design holds four possible pathways

organizing beads for the Timeline of Life Bead Chain work
from Clocca Concepts

the finished bead chain, which is then taken apart and the beads, string, and cards are placed neatly in the box for the next child

"Mom, take a picture!"
the Yoga Pretzels deck and yoga mats are always available to students

paper weaving... another big trend in the classroom right now

Natalie's lovely loaf of homemade Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread  
a snowy day gives her plenty of time to make a yeasted bread

"Look at my snow art!"
painting on a dish of snow

deciphering a note from a sister
this is the BEST use EVER for my old box of fax paper rolls

making two numbers with the stamp game material
to play the Crocodile Game (<, >)

which quantity is greater?

a visit to the local art museum, Artspace 304, for "Sandwiches and Strings"

looking up close at a violin... handmade by the musician!

getting the chance to play the harp

our dried pinto beans (which the kids were surprised to learn were seeds) germinated beautifully in their moist folded paper towel inside a closed Ziploc bag... so simple!

creating a design to trick a plant into growing down instead of up...
inspired by The Curious Kid's Science Book
planting it in a watermelon

and inverting the watermelon

why not try the same idea with a banana?

after requiring each student to draw a design and write a materials list, I provided the supplies and let them build their contraptions

this clever design uses a soda bottle cut in half horizontally.  

the student then removed the top half, flipped it over (so the cap was on the bottom) and filled the top half with potting soil.  he then covered it with saran wrap.  we cut a small hole in the middle of the saran wrap and put the root of the bean through it into the soil, then flipped the top half back over.  the saran wrap keeps the potting soil in place.  the stem and leaf part of the bean plants hangs down and will --  hopefully -- grow downwards into the empty space in the bottom half of the bottle.  

to water the top half, which holds the soil and roots of the plant, simply unscrew the cap!

after watching other students water their plants, this child decided to cut a small hole in the top of her watermelon so that she could water her plant too

we can't wait to see how our baby bean plants fare!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!