Thursday, June 30, 2022

Say Yes to Morphemes

Some opponents to Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) argue that teaching morphology from the beginning is too complicated and children can't understand it. They argue that phonemes are more important anyway.

English spelling is actually NOT primarily about representing sounds... the primary job of spelling in English is to represent meaning... and bringing attention early on to how words are built can help children tremendously.

Any little child who creates the word hurted (hurt + ed) already understands morphemes.

So explicitly addressing that words have parts is not bringing something to them that they haven't already considered. It's not beyond their scope. Children are born expecting that the language they speak will have predictible patterns and young learners are already seeking to uncover them.

Here are some more examples:

    The goblin is running because something is pitpat-ing

    This is so race-y (playing with a toy car)

    The backyard is so play-ful

    I think he's a kind of a fix-ment man (carrying a ladder)

    I'm a good sock-er (getting dressed)

    I was sharpening this pencil and then I sharpened it some more and I de-sharpened it

    We could just un-attach the fence

    I'm blood-ing

    I rule-d the school kids not to go upstairs

    That's too hurts-y (walking barefoot)

    I hold-ed the door open

    I'm going to choose my un-favorite clothing

    It was a way filling-er dinner

    You are a good paying attention-er

    In the morning you're not as active. In the afternoon you're outside playing more move-ily.

    I wonder if Illinois is going to get ancient-ed

    It look progress-ive (making progress)

    He fell off the bed cuteness-ly

Those are all from Zac. A friend shared with me a word that her child created when he felt so mad he wanted to kick something. He described it as feeling kicker-ty. Love that!!!

If you write down the precious things your children say when they are learning to talk, you'll quickly see that these little phrases have something in common. And that's experimenting with morphemes!

Leah as an infant, wired for language
Natalie as a toddler, experimenting with speech

I think SWI is incredibly important and gives much better results than traditional literacy instruction. If you have questions about how to bring SWI into a Montessori- or Waldorf-based homeschool or classroom environment, let's chat!!!

Note: Phonology is also taught in SWI, just in context with other pieces to the orthography puzzle. Please read this important piece by Pete Bowers: Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) Teaches Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondences More Explicitly Than Phonics Does: An open letter to Jennifer Buckingham and the reading research community

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

MMA - Georges Braque

This summer a tutoring client and I are going through the Magnificent Modern Art course from Art History Kids together. It's been really interesting so far. Art History isn't something I ever really learned about, so it's new to me. And so, of course, I'm going to keep some notes here as we go along!

Last week it was Fauvism and the artist Henri Matisse.

This week we are studying

Georges Braque
Cubism (1907 - 1922)

sample artwork from the art movement

    Juan Gris
    Still Life Before an Open Window

    Pablo Picasso
    Portrait of Dora Maar

    Robert de la Fresnaye
    Conquest of the Air

since, in her video, Lotus mentions that Braque first visited Picasso to view a specific piece of artwork, it would be good to show it:

sample artwork from this artist

    Woman with Guitar

    Studio with Skull

    The Chair

    The Birds

    Little Harbor in Normandy

    Fruit Dish and Glass

    Woman Seated at an Easel

focus piece of art from this artist

    Violin and Sheet Music

element & principle of art and design


other notes (my suggestions)

    look at images from Picasso wall calendar

    watch the March 26, 1989 Barn Dance episode of Reading Rainbow before doing video 3 (focus on painting) to see a violin being made

    today Zac and I just happened to go to the University Museum at SIU and we saw a piece of art by DJ Kennedy which Zac said reminded him of Violin and Sheet Music! it was titled Belleville Big Band

    it would be fun to compare and contrast the two

    more interesting background reading:
    Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso: Two Cubist Musicians

    it is not known who invented collage, Georges Braque or Pablo Picasso!

    Pablo Picasso and Collage website with information, art & videos
    Weiner Elementary School

    Fruit Dish and Glass | Georges Braque
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    I found a book that we can cut up which shows a head from many different perspectives (I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara Garriel) so it will be perfect to use in a Cubist collage project

    "In the spring of 1907, Georges Braque visited the studio of Pablo Picasso to view Picasso's notorious work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907). Impressed with what he saw, Braque quickly befriended Picasso. In the years that followed (1907-1914), Picasso and Braque were essentially inseparable."

    "Picasso and Braque forged a relationship that was part intimate friendship, part rivalry, and part two-man excursion into the unknown. The two artists were constantly in each other's studio, scrutinizing each other's work while challenging, motivating, and encouraging each other."

    I couldn't figure out why Braque isn't included in the "Friends and Influences from Picasso's Life" section of Picasso and Minou, but I think it must be because this book ends with the very beginning of Cubism. It focuses more on Picasso's Blue Period and Pink Period.

    Picasso and Minou

    by P.I. Maltbie

    Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail

    by Laurence Anholt

and more...

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Monday, June 27, 2022

A Prefix Game

I got this lesson idea from the recent Word Torque conference.  The inquiry is whether any word can be given the un- prefix.  You set up stations and the children go around the room, doing and then undoing the given action.  

Can you paint and then un-paint a picture ?

Here are some examples that would be really fun:

cut and un-cut a feather

tie and un-tie a ribbon

staple and un-staple paper

bite and un-bite cheese

sing and un-sing a song

break and un-break a cracker

squish and un-squish a marshmallow

lock and un-lock a lock

string and un-string beads

stack and un-stack blocks

When you are done, you discuss whether you can un- everything!

In Waldorf, this activity would go in Grade 2. Although Steiner did not propose this, it is now common to do a Word Families block in second grade. It is the perfect time to begin a little bit of SWI! There are things that we wait until after the nine year change to do, however, so be thoughtful about that. My colleague Virginia Berg and I have an article -- "Sparking Curiosity Through Spelling" -- in the current issue of the Research Bulletin about this.

I'm also available for consultations about how to bring SWI into the Waldorf environment. Feel free to contact me!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Fun with Music Part 2: Jazz Musicians

I think that Jazz is key for 1st and 2nd grade in Waldorf education. Last year I was working my way through reading all of the picture books I bought about Jazz, and I was really excited to find reference to the pentatonic scale!

"A blending of two musical traditions, African and European, contributed to the development of jazz. African music, with its five-tone, or pentatonic, scales and complex rhythms came to North America during the slave trade."
(from the introduction to Jazz by Walter Dean Myers)

The more I read about Jazz, the happier I felt about choosing this as a music topic to do with students early on. For one, I felt better knowing that it connects to the "pre-approved" pentatonic scale.

And, there's a more important reason. I attended the very first Racism in Waldorf Education online conference at Sunbridge last November (and it was sold out so quickly they scheduled a second one... and then a third). One of the major themes was how the Waldorf scope & sequence is inherently so Eurocentric.

We also talked about the new and complex questions about raising children who are not only not racist but are actively anti-racist.

I think that it would be a wonderful thing if we start off our children's schooling right away in First Grade with celebrating the stories and music of Black musicians.

However, to be honest, I never took the time to sort out musical selections for each of these artists, and so I never did read the books to my First Grade students. I am making this a priority for our Summer between grades 1 & 2, inspired -- in part -- by the work of Henri Matisse. Matisse often compared "the rhythm of cutting paper to the spirit of jazz music" and Using Art to Create Art: Creative Activities Using Masterpieces by Wendy Libby suggests listening to Jazz music while doing Matisse-inspired paper cutouts. Love that!

So I'm revisiting my earlier blog post Fun with Music and copying over the Jazz picture books and adding in links to the music.

If you wanted to, you could even do "J is for Jazz" in the First Grade Capital Letters block! A saxophone looks just like a J.


    The 5 O'Clock Band

    by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
    modern book, really brings to life the culture of New Orleans

      good follow-ups would be:
      find the city of New Orleans on a map
      take a riverboat cruise
      listen to "When the Saints Go Marching In"
      read a book about Louis Armstrong
      eat some of the foods mentioned in the book (red beans and rice, andouille sausage, collard greens, okra with tomatoes)

    Trombone Shorty

    by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews

    The Greentail Mouse

    by Leo Lionni
    Mardi Gras


    by Walter Dean Myers
    really useful introduction & timeline

    Freedom in Congo Square

    by Carole Boston Weatherford

    This Jazz Man

    by Karen Ehrhard

      Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

      Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

      Luciano "Chano" Pozo y González

      Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington

      Charlie "Bird" Parker

      Art "Blu" Blakey

      John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie

      Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller

      Charles "Baron" Mingus


Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong

by Lesa Cline-Ransome


by Jonah Winter

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

by Katheryn Russell-Brown

    Melba Doretta Liston
    played with Dizzy Gillespie


Bird & Diz

by Gary Golio

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop

by Chris Raschka

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

by Kathleen Cornell Berman

Mysterious Thelonius

by Chris Raschka

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

by Carole Boston Weatherford

John Coltrane's Giant Steps

by Chris Raschka

    John Coltrane

    "Giant Steps" was composed and recorded during Coltrane's 1959 sessions for Atlantic Records, his first for the label. The original recording features Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on double bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Art Taylor on drums.


Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

by Renée Watson

The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue

by Suzanne Slade

Jazz Age Josephine

by Jonah Winter

    Josephine Baker
    cabaret singer and dancer

quick clip

longer documentary (for adults)

Oskar and the Eight Blessings

by Richard and Tanya Simon

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson

Pam Muñoz Ryan
this concert happened April 9, 1939

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!