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.
A Peek in the Classroom - Kindergarten
By Mrs. Bohot
On any given day at Memorial Lutheran School, it is not uncommon to hear students chanting their phonograms, rapping their math facts, reciting Bible verses, or singing about the continents in the kindergarten classroom. This is an age of discovery and excitement where students eagerly learn about a variety of subjects. In kindergarten at MLS, we work to build a strong foundation for our children as they begin their educational journey through elementary school. We recognize their abilities and excitement for learning and teach in a way that helps them to grow in their knowledge and build their confidence as life-long learners.
The grammar stage of classical education provides a strong foundation for our kindergarten students. At this stage of learning, students soak up and gather an abundance of knowledge. They are always learning and exploring and retain much of what they learn. At MLS, we provide instruction that utilizes this stage of development in each of our students.
Reading is a critical skill at the kindergarten level. Our Writing Road to Reading curriculum uses a comprehensive approach that incorporates phonics, writing, reading, and spelling altogether. Students learn a variety of phonograms—sounds that make up words. They put these phonograms together to form words to read and spell. Students practice writing these phonograms and words at the same time they are learning them, and they use the phonograms to decode words as they read. This thorough approach to reading development uses a variety of skills—reading, writing, and spelling—to help establish both oral and written forms of communication. This approach builds a strong foundation from the beginning, doing more than just teaching a child to read, but helping to develop spelling and writing skills at the same time. Students are also introduced to a variety of literature. As they are read aloud, students discover different types of stories and identify the type of story being read. They use a variety of mental actions to be active listeners and readers as they comprehend each story that is read to them.
In Saxon Math, students learn a variety of math skills through the use of manipulatives and math strategies. They acquire a wealth of math facts using strategies, songs, and rhymes. Learning math facts through songs and rhyme helps to make it fun for the students, but it also develops confidence in their math abilities. However, students do not just memorize math facts, they are discovering the concepts of addition and subtraction through the use of manipulatives and math strategies at the same time. Most importantly, once they learn a skill, students continue to use it all year, never losing the skill once it has been learned.
Science is always a favorite among the students. In Elemental Science, students are introduced to a variety of sciences—chemistry, geology, botany, physics, meteorology, and zoology. They learn through labs and experimentation as well as instruction and exploration. They love the hands-on approach as they discover the world around them, and they develop an appreciation of God’s handiwork as they learn about the intricate details of the sciences.
History and geography are also taught in kindergarten to give students an opportunity to delve further in the study of their world and their country. Students learn about the history of the United States by learning about influential people in our history from Christopher Columbus to Martin Luther King, Jr. They focus on familiar subjects like American symbols and presidents and learn about the history behind them. In geography, students learn the continents of the world and the names of our fifty states through songs, and they also identify them on maps.
In religion class, students learn the rich history of the Bible beginning with the account of creation and ending with John’s account of heaven in Revelation. Religion is taught with a Christ-centered focus, incorporating both law and gospel to give students a thorough understanding of our sinful human nature and our need for Christ’s salvation. This is illustrated through every lesson. Lessons are not only chronological but also follow significant events of the church year, such as Christmas and Easter, so students understand the history as they experience the different seasons of the church year. Daily chapel also provides students consistent opportunities to confess their faith each day through liturgy and through song. The rich language of the liturgy and hymns is an ideal model for young children as they learn to express their faith daily. Using Luther’s Small Catechism, students learn about the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, Baptism, Holy Communion, and the Office of the Keys to better understand the basis of their faith. Students memorize Bible verses that support the catechism focus each week.
At MLS, students also have the opportunity to attend additional classes with other teachers. Music instruction involves learning a variety of music skills and songs. Students also have several opportunities to perform during the school year at church services and concerts. PE is taught twice a week and students experience a variety of different sports and physical skills. Students also have art class twice a week where they learn different techniques and occasionally study an artist’s work. Students also have a chance to visit the library once a week where they check out books and listen to a story read aloud.
MLS offers a comprehensive classical program that recognizes the developmental strengths of a child at each stage of learning. Instruction at the grammar level introduces students to a wealth of knowledge to help them establish a strong foundation as they prepare for the next stage of learning. It is a joy to watch these young students discover and learn!