Saturday, October 6, 2012

Second Grade Michaelmas Play

                                    Courage and Love Triumphant
                       A Michaelmas Play by Lori Ann Kran for the 2nd Grade

Characters: Chorus, Animals, Plants, Farmers, Children
Enter stage singing “Michael Radiant and Bright”

Chorus: In a lovely land not far from here
            There dwelt a community good and dear
            They cared for the animals, plants, and earth
            They cared for each other and were full of mirth.

Farmers: (begin Stomping with right foot in a circle 5x than pause with left hand raised,  
repeat next time left foot forward with right arm raised)

Yes we have the strength,
Yes we have the will,
Our beasts to tend,
Our earth to till!

(Stop, all face forward and sing)

SONG: We work each day
            LowE  G   A       B
            Making time for play
            LowE E  G    A     B
            With Michael’s courage
            E        DBA         B   G
            Our hearts we do nourish
            E     G       A    A  B D           

Animals: The children treat us delightfully!
             That’s why we leap so sprite-fully!

Plants: The farmer’s tend to us row by row
            With Sun and Rain we grow and grow!         

Farmers: (Same movement as above)
            Yes we have the strength,
            Yes we have the will,
            Our beasts to tend,
            Our earth to till!

(Stop, all face forward and sing)

SONG: We work each day…. (see above)

Farmers and Children: The earth we respect,
                                    We would never neglect,
                                    Archangel Michael, He is our guide,
                                    In love, truth, and justice by His example we abide.

Chorus: But Evil lurked not far away,
Up in the mountains the Dragon held sway.
On plants and animals he feasted and tore,
 When he saw people he let out a roar!
The humans he’d lift them to the Sun,
And then ravenously eat them, one by one!

Farmers: What are these shadows that dim the sky?
            That sulfurous cloud; it stings our eyes!
            The stench is quite strong
            The smell it is rotten!
            Oh what could it be? What have we forgotten?
             Look! There in the distance the dragon flies near.     (DRAGON ENTERS)
            His aim is to eat us, to create havoc and fear!
            Oh, who can protect us? Must we all perish?
            Must we lose the community we cherish?

Children: Our hearts tell us now: Call the Angel of the Lord,
            St. Michael please guide our actions and our swords!
We shan’t kill the Dragon, for killing’s not right,
We’ll conquer him with courage and kindness, not might!


SONG: “Unconquered Hero of the Skies…” author?)

Chorus: The Dragon approached devouring crops as he came,
            Searching for animals to eat just the same!

            The lambs they all bleated,
            The cows they all mooed,
            The chickens they squawked,
            And the doves cried, “coo coo!”

Farmers:  We pray Oh St. Michael,
Give us a sign,
We need your aid now,
From your realms so divine.

Children: Here are our swords,
Crafted with love,
Send us a miracle,
Oh Michael from above!

SONG: “Michael, Michael with your sword so bright!”
                B  B E    B B E       

Chorus: As the Dragon approached,
            The sky it did darken,
            The children all cried, “Michael we hearken!”
            Then from the heavens came a piercing bright light,
            Michael on his steed did swiftly alight!
            He gave every child the courage of knights,
            Blessed with nobility,
            They were ready to fight!
            The Dragon ambled forward,
            The scent of children he found,
            The children stood firmly,
            Protecting their ground.

Children: In Michael’s name we command you, “Be still!”
            The love in our hearts will transform you, “It will!”

Chorus: The Dragon slithered forward with fiery speed,
            But the children all stood there brave, yes indeed!
            Then suddenly from Heaven the meteors flew,              (THROW METEORS!)
            And transformed all the swords to sacred iron quite true!

Children: With our swords we transform you,
                Forever and anon,
                Your evil ways will forever be gone!

Chorus: We thank thee St. Michael,
            The Dragon’s evil has vanished!
            Now, once again, our community can cherish,
The love and the goodness we relied on in need,
We triumphed together in our Michaelic deed!

SONG: “Firmly on the Earth I Stand…” sung by the upper grades.

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Artistic Approach to Education

My third grade students made this banner as a gift for our school. It’s the culmination of a year’s work. We started at the end of 2nd grade when we planted a dye garden of indigo, zinnias, and marigolds.  Last fall we harvested the flowers and indigo leaves, created dye baths, and then dyed white wool roving: the blues are indigo, the yellows and browns are marigolds, and the pinks are zinnias. Finally, each child, using “treasures from nature” wove his or her own unique, circular peace flag.  Many flags created one whole gift.

I share this project with you because it is symbolic of a healthy and diverse class. Every student liked and disliked aspects of this project: some dug in the dirt with zest, others “oohed and ahhed” as the yellow colored indigo bath turned the wool blue once it hit the air, others enjoyed planning their designs and weaving, and still others loved writing and drawing about the experience. Noticing who connected with which aspect of the project is my research about how students learn.

The key to successful participation for all students in this year -long project, and indeed to every lesson I teach, is engaging my students’ heads, hearts, and hands. Well rounded students must be able to think critically, deeply, abstractly, and imaginatively; they must forge emotionally rich and heartfelt connections to the material; and finally, they must be expected to do excellent work, whether it’s preparing a garden, knitting a pair of socks, playing an instrument, or equally vital, writing an essay, learning math concepts, or observing and recording a scientific phenomenon.

This pedagogy, that addresses students’ head, heart, hands, requires an artistic approach to education. By this I mean that lessons must be planned to meet the specific needs of individual students, as well as the whole class. Indeed, for success, teachers must know their students well. Lesson plans must be enlivened and cannot be dictated by the state. Teachers must have autonomy in the classroom.

So the big idea is incorporating the thinking head, the feeling heart, and the creating hands into every lesson. Here are the small details from 2 math lessons.

Let’s look at number patterns and geometry. All students must memorize their multiplication and division tables. Children memorize math facts quickly and joyfully when they get to move, feel, and finally, solve them. Engaging the whole body, or “getting the math facts into their bones” is an effective tool for memorization.  Teach students to march, clap, sing, and skip the tables. Tell math stories with rich visual imagery to help students calculate problems in their heads. Lastly, have them sit down and solve problems with pencil and paper.

Every day, my students experience math through movement, they solve problems in their heads, and they write out the math problems with pencil and paper. Even in 2nd and 3rd grade we connect math patterns to geometry. Once they’ve memorized, for example, the 4s table, I gather 10 students into a circle and have everyone hold onto a long piece of string.  If every fourth child holds the string, a pentagram is formed. When every second child holds the string, a pentagon is formed. Notice the geometry in number patterns! Later in the week, I ask students to draw what they experienced with their whole bodies.  They inscribe a pentagram, in a pentagon, in a circle, first freehand, without tools. We revisit this exercise in 6th grade geometry, and striving for precision, students construct the forms using a compass and ruler.

How can fractions be taught more concretely and artistically? When introducing fractions in 4th grade, it’s imperative to start with the whole number and see what happens when we divide. I might ask my students to stand as one whole class of 25 and then tell them to divide into 5 equal parts, reminding them that fractions are division problems. A tasty way to demonstrate a whole divided into parts is by baking and eating pizzas and pies. 16 slices in the whole, 8 eaten, ½ left.

Once students have grasped the idea of parts of the whole, it’s exciting to connect fractions to musical notation. All Waldorf students learn to play flute in first grade by watching and playing along with their teacher. But for 4th grade fractions, I’ll do something different. Rather than teaching them a new song in the old way, I’ll have written musical notation on the chalkboard in 4/4 time. I relate the value of the musical notes to fractions: the quarter note gets 1 of 4 beats, the half note gets 2 of 4 beats, the dotted half note gets three of 4 beats, and the whole note gets 4 of 4 beats!  Students are learning about fractions and relating them to music; they are connecting abstract dots on a page to the fingering they already know so well. They are emotionally engaged with the new song. A concrete, yet heartfelt understanding of fractions, satisfied bellies and a new song learned are the results of this lesson.

So I’ve given two small, detailed examples, to highlight one big idea. Engaging the thinking head, the feeling heart, and the working hands into all aspects of the curriculum allows the full human being to learn. Students who have spent the first 8 years of their education actively engaged in heartfelt thinking move on to high school, college, and the world ready to work compassionately and thoughtfully for the greater good.