Fiddling While Rome Learns
A Peek into the Second Grade Classroom
You leave the office, walk down the hall, come as far as the library, you look to the right and see our second grade classroom. As you peer in, you see a room that shows “time standing still”. The Math Meeting time board shows a March calendar bordered by student-made Trinitarian shamrocks. Time is standing still. Mrs. Gaub’s block calendar on her desk says, March 12th. Here we are, May 12th is upon us, and “we’ve continued our pursuit of knowledge online for the past two months.”
Let us continue to look around the classroom. We see a Poetry Tree - a mainstay in second grade room. We memorize a poem each month as we continue to learn at the “grammar level.” The recitations of “The Topsy, Turvy, World” by William Brighty Rands, which is a definite student favorite, and several poems by Longfellow, Stevenson, and Field help the children to accumulate a rich vocabulary. They learn the cadence to the melody of the vowels, metaphor and simile, as well as the emotion behind the poet’s writing.
As we continue to look around the classroom, we see a rich source of books for leisure reading, when students complete their written work. Another option is “Drawing Warm-Ups,” a grammar level packet of drawing instruction and practice that the children do that reinforces learning the elements of shape. This is an exercise to develop careful observation and, later on, an appreciation for the beauty and structure of pieces of Art. A poster of “Babar The Elephant,” including elements of other famous paintings, shows us how these simple lines and circles can be discovered in masterpieces.
Now turn to the front of the room. There, framing the whiteboard, we see the counting strips. These are a centerpiece of learning number-sense. We begin tackling multiplication, which helps us learn products quickly as we recite and sing the multiples of two through twelve. Patterns in math stimulate our number sense and prepare us for the abstract thinking needed for mental math, and the next phase of learning in our liberal arts education.
While peering into the classroom in the early morning, we are gathered around the piano, singing during our opening devotion time. We sing the weekly hymn and catechism lesson through song. We love to sing every chance we get! In the afternoon, you will hear grammar chants of adverbs, adjectives, prepositions and helping verbs!
Another glance in our room you hear short, precise sounds of our phonetic alphabet. We recite our phonograms and words, syllable-by- syllable to tackle spelling and reading. When we encounter new words in Literature, History, or Science, we know we can break the words down into syllables. Phonics rules we put to memory help us in our own writing as we add a suffix to a word which begins with a vowel.
Perusing the room for students work, you will see work displayed which is edited for our “personal best” in manuscript writing and eventually, cursive writing. We learn the elements of cursive, the five strokes, and put them to use while making each letter. And, yes, you may even see the students talking to themselves, they may be saying, “start with a short upswing, pull straight down to the baseline, finish with a tiny upswing”.
You may even see us leave our classroom to go to another classroom and be filled with the Grammar of History, Latin, and Art. Learning spatial relations (geometry) is a characteristic of an educated person. In the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America, Veith and Kern write, “Someone who is educated should be able to handle numbers (mathematics), science (astronomy), aesthetics (music), and spatial relations (geometry),” (14). So we learn the geography (maps) and architecture of the time period being studied in History and Art. Latin requires mental gymnastics that ultimately strengthens the mind. We also leave the room to strengthen our bodies in physical education class.
Most importantly, we will be found in the church for daily chapel, or inside the room with our Bible storybooks in hand. We focus on God’s Word given to us about His only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is here that we not only learn about all God has done for us, but we receive forgiveness for all our sins as we gather in our Lord’s House.
All the learning we do in our room is centered in Scripture. It guides our learning of history, our world and nature, the Bible verses we memorize, and the hymns we sing. Most importantly, we give God the glory for our redemption through Christ who died and rose for all mankind.
So here we are, May 12 is tomorrow, and, to the naked eye, the second grade classroom looks lifeless and deserted, stuck on March 12. But the learning has not stopped. The second grade students are excelling in all areas of our curriculum in a different classroom. The ‘new’ classroom looks like the inside of each student’s home.