Sunday, April 30, 2023

Editing Exercises for the Business Letters Block

I really want to create a collection of grammatical and typographical errors for my Grade 6 students to find and fix as part of their Business Letters main lesson block... not from teacher-made worksheets, but from real life!

I run across them constantly, and have finally decided I am going to start to list them here. If you find one that you think a middle schooler could identify and fix, please share the link, the error, and the correction! This could be a very easy "bell ringer" to start the day.

Find and Fix

Oura Ring

    error: "How's your energy today, are you up for some action?"

    correction: semicolon, not comma (comma splice)

Back to the Roots Garden Toolkit (page 3 of PDF)

    error: "Fungus, however, has a superpower of collecting nutrients from every available area of soil and delivers it to plants."

    correction: delivering, not delivers AND them, not it
    (remove the prepositional phrases from every available area and of soil to see this better)

    error: "Plants in turn give Mycorrizhae sugar, it’s a mutually beneficial exchange!"

    correction: semicolon, not comma (comma splice)

Don't Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

    error: musn't
    correction: mustn't

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Vietnam War

Another 8th grade topic in Waldorf schools is U.S. History. Here are the book titles that I like best for a discussion of the Vietnam War (1955 - 1975).

If you have others to recommend, please share!

A Wall of Names: The Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
by Judy Donnelly
even though this book is labeled as a Step 4 early reader,
we found it perfect for an overview of the war

The Coconut Monk

by Thich Nhat Hanh

10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War

by Philip Caputo

Inside Out and Back Again

by Thanhhà Lai

of course, I also always think of Forrest Gump (PG-13)

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Platonic Solids: A Main Lesson Block for Class 8

Eighth graders (age 14) in Waldorf schools often have a Geometry block on the Platonic Solids. Here are some resources I highly recommend. As always, let me know if you have taught this block and have other ideas to share!

Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time

by John Blackwood
chapter 3: Platonic Solids
pages 111-162

Drawing Geometric Solids:
How to Draw Polyhedra from Platonic Solids to Star-Shaped Stellated Dodecahedrons

Making Geometry: Exploring Three-Dimensional Forms

by Jon Allen

Learning About the World Through Modeling:
Sculptural Ideas for School and Home

by Arthur Auer
"Transformations of the Five Platonic Solids" article by Michael Howard
pages 121-127

link to download this book FREE as a PDF from the Online Waldorf Library is here

the same article by Michael Howard -- with accompanying illustrations -- is also found in Arthur Auer's new book, Exploring Shapes Creatively Through Pure Form Modeling: A Sourcebook of Sculptural Ideas for Grades 1-12
pages 54-60

link to download this book FREE as a PDF from the Online Waldorf Library is here

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Saturday, April 29, 2023

Fungi week 3

What makes it a Fungus?

My main focus for today was explaining the Three Questions that scientists ask to determine whether something is Plant, Animal, or Fungus (we studied Microbiology in Science Club last year, so we aren't focusing on Protists, Eubacteria, or Archaebacteria right now). Then we looked back at their questions about Mosses and Lichens and answered them (Mosses are a no, Lichens are a yes).

1) review (for students who did this lesson as part of the Human Body several years ago) the "Building an Organism" activity

    Cut five slips of paper and label them as follows:
    Organ System

    Place one single Lego by the slip of paper that says Cell.

    Connect several Legos together. Place your creation by the slip of paper that says Tissue.

    Create several Tissue creations, each made of several Legos. Attach your Tissues to one another. Place this by the slip of paper that says Organ.

    Create several Organ creations, each made of several Tissues, each made of several Legos. Attach your Organs to one another. Place this by the slip of paper that says Organ System.

    Create several Organ Systems, each made of several Organs, each made of several Tissues, each made of several Legos. Attach your Organ Systems to one another. Place this by the slip of paper that says Organism.

2) notice that the word part "organ" is repeated often in the terminology, introduce the term "organelle," explain that the Lego-cells themselves have to be made up of smaller parts, draw a picture of an animal cell (which does not have a cell wall) and a plant cell (which does)

3) explain that the initial system of classification was mainly based upon morphological characteristics -- looking at something's outside features -- but now scientists look inside the organism in order to group like with like

Question #1 - Does it have a cell wall?

if yes, it may be a Plant or Fungi

if no, it is an Animal

Question #2 - Does it contain chitin?

if yes, it may be an Animal (exoskeleton) or Fungi (in the cell wall)

if no, it is a Plant

Question #3 - Can it do photosynthesis?

if yes, it may be a Plant or Lichenized Fungi

if no, it is an Animal

4) note how astonishing it is that Fungi are the only thing here that can potentially say YES to all three of those questions, and explain that scientists are very curious as to where it falls within the sequence of evolution and the Tree of Life!

a few various interesting things we discussed:

Fungi are closer to Animals than they are to Plants

LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor)

Lichens consist of Fungi in partnership with either green or blue-green algae, so scientists had to decide where to classify them; ultimately, they decided to categorize them by their Fungal partner, so therefore they are considered part of the Fungi Kingdom

more primitive designs tend to be ancient organisms (for example, mosses have spores and they are older than the flowering plants which have seeds)

Nature doesn't waste a good idea BUT it wouldn't makes sense for Plants and Animals to branch off from one another first and then Plants have an offshoot which is Fungi (using chitin in the cell wall) and then for chitin to evolve independently later on in the Animal branch... where we see chitin as part of the design of some of its very first organims, the invertebrates

the skeleton of a black coral has chitin

chitin is also found in the most primitive vertebrates, the cartilaginous fishes

if chitin didn't evolve in two completely different places in the Tree of Life, did Plants evolve first (with cell walls) and then Fungi (decomposers would have had to have something to eat, so they couldn't have been first?) with cell walls with chitin and then Animals branched off from Fungi and kept the chitin but moved it to an external structure instead of an internal structure?

Animals have internal digestion (we have organs and organ systems for that) but Fungi have external digestion

"Generally, plants make their food using the sun's energy (photosynthesis), while animals eat, then internally digest, their food. Fungi do neither: their mycelium grows into or around the food source, secretes enzymes that digest the food externally, and the mycelium then absorbs the digested nutrients." - Ministry of Forests

inter-plant communication through mycorrhizal networks

watch a portion of Wild Isles, episode 2, "Woodlands" (38:10 - 42:20)

wetware computers

Fungi are often just stuck off to one corner in an illustration of the Tree of Life, but really the question of where they go is tremendously important and interesting! (a nice illustration which does include Fungi is found in Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet)

We ended the session by doing the wonderful Tree of Life work by Waseca Biomes. Always a favorite, this time we slowed down and read all of the Fungi cards instead of zooming past them to hone in on Plants or Animals.

Waseca Biomes Tree of Life Material - 69 Leaves
list of organisms

The Fact File cards we read were:

    card 1 - Prokaryotes

    card 6 - Protists

    card 11 - Protista: Slime Molds

    card 13 - Kingdom Fungi

    card 14 - Kingdom Fungi: Phylum Zygomycota

    card 15 - Kingdom Fungi: Phylum Zygomycota

      LEAF 6 - bread mold
      Rhizopus nigricans

    card 16 - Kingdom Fungi: Phylum Ascomycota

    card 17 - Kingdom Fungi: Phylum Ascomycota

      LEAF 7 - reindeer lichen
      Cladonia rangiferina

    card 18 - Kingdom Fungi: Phylum Basidiomycota

    card 19 - Kingdom Fungi: Phylum Basidiomycota

      LEAF 8 - fly amanita
      Amanita muscaria

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Friday, April 28, 2023

Bloodthirsty Plants

In looking through some newly donated Botany books, I just found the best-ever series for kids who want cool creepy science books (like Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca Johnson). This set of 6 Botany books is called Bloodthirsty Plants. Here are the titles in the series:

Bladderworts: Trapdoors to Oblivion

Butterworts: Greasy Cups of Death

Carnivorous Mushrooms: Lassoing Their Prey?

Pitcher Plants: Slippery Pits of No Escape

Sundews: A Sweet and Sticky Death

Venus Fly Traps and Waterwheels: Spring Traps of the Plant World

There is also a chapter about Pitcher Plants in The Burgess Book of Nature Lore: Adventures of Tommy, Sue and Sammy with Their Friends of Meadow, Pool, and Forest by Thornton W. Burgess (my favorite book he wrote). It is chapter 3, "Tommy's Insect Soup."

Perfectly Peculiar Plants

by Chris Thorogood

Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana)

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

The Big Book of Blooms

by Yuval Zommer

Venus Flytraps

Pitcher Plants

If you know of other resources, please let me know!

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IPA Word of the Day

I have really liked using the new High Frequency Word (aka sight words) curriculum by Fiona Hamilton and Rebecca Loveless with my younger class this year! We did Study Booklet #1. Next year we will do the other four booklets in the series. We started late because I didn't want them to have a Word Study block until midway through the 2nd grade year. There is plenty of literacy instruction already happening with the Waldorf method of learning to read via bookmaking. After all, writing came before reading!

The older children learned about the history of the English language, and we had a Linguistics special guest come, Dr. Jeffrey Punske. He went over the Great Vowel Shift and the International Phonetic Alphabet. The older children were fascinated by IPA and wanted to learn more. Luckly, The hfw Project includes learning about IPA as part of the activities for each word! So I just put an IPA Word of the Day up on the board under the date, and each morning at our Morning Meeting they tried to figure out what it said. We learned about the history of the word (etymology is also included in the curriculum) and the younger children then practiced tap-spelling it to get muscle memory for how the word is built and how to correctly spell it.

Study Booklet #1 includes the following words: a, I, the, that, and, to, on, in, he, she, it, you, they, my, by, but, is, was, for, have, of, with.

Now that we have finished up Study Booklet #1 with < with > on Thursday, the older children have asked that I put up more difficult IPA words for them to figure out each morning. So I'm going to use because they not only have a Word of the Day, but there's a little button you can click next to the pronunciation that says "show IPA."

Today, for example, the Word of the Day is retrograde.

/ ˈrɛ trəˌgreɪd /

By the way, if you need to write in IPA and your computer keyboard is objecting, a useful website is The description states, "This page allows you to easily type phonetic transcriptions of English words in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). You can edit your text in the box and then copy it to your document, e-mail message, etc."

I'll update the list of words as we do them together and round out the year:

May 1 - fioritura  / fiˌɔr ɪˈtʊər ə /

May 2 - mauka  / mɑˈu kə /

May 3 - nearlywed  / ˈnɪər liˌwɛd /

May 8 - lilapsophobia  / lɪˌlæp səˈfoʊ bi ə /

May 9 - pervicacious  / ˌpɜr vɪˈkeɪ ʃəs /

May 10 - chryselephantine  / ˌkrɪs ɛl əˈfæn tɪn /

May 11 - bai  / baɪ /

May 15 - paronomasia  / ˌpær ə noʊˈmeɪ ʒə /

May 16 - logophile  / ˈlɔ gəˌfaɪl /

May 17 - ferhoodle  / fərˈhud l /

May 18 - quidnunc  / ˈkwɪdˌnʌŋk /

What's Happening in May

With only a few weeks left in the school year, it's time for some decisions. We have had several goal-setting meetings this week, as the children and I decide which unfinished projects to complete and which topics we want to focus on, and what -- if anything -- we want to shift to another school year.

Here is the plan for May:

Art History - finish up Dale Chihuly with one more art project and a field trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden (Thu, May 4)

Morning Math - do Puddle Questions

Handwork - as children finish up their final knitting and embroidery projects for this school year, they will be helping out by weaving on our tapestry loom (the current collaborative tapestry is The Nine Norse Worlds)

Norse Mythology - the Plastic Utensils voted to do a double block (2 months) on Norse Mythology, to take the time to finish their MLBs beautifully, and to put their requested PPI topics into the Specials schedule

Foods of the World (KW) - this has been a 2 year long PPI Project for KW, and she is finishing it in May by making recipes from the continent of Asia

International Phonetic Alphabet (AH, CR) - the Pterodactyls have finished booklet #1 of The hfw Project and will have their last spelling test on Monday; they will continue to do review and reinforcement by playing games for their sight words; the IPA Word of the Day (a fun morning routine) will shift to more difficult words that the older children can try to figure out

Native American Legends - the Pterodactyls are taking one more week for this block, and then will have a two week block on the Stories of the Saints

Read Aloud Story - we will finish Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham and read Abba Moses: Notorious Robber, Desert Father by Andrew Votipka as our last book of the year (this is one of my favorite Saint stories)

Canterbury Tales (KLL) - the oldest student had two ideas for a PPI project and because we spent a double block on The Canterbury Tales (2 months), there's not enough time left to do both of them; he is going to do Chinese Mythology in class and make a MLB; he is going to do Psychology as an independent research project at home and present two reports to classmates

Nature Study (AG) - we have bees in the swarm trap, chicken eggs in the incubator, and plenty of green growing things ready to go into the garden and yard... and AG is planning on doing Carnivorous Plants as his PPI project

Science Club - three more sessions of Mycology in Science Club, and our Fungi Fun Day on the last day of school!

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