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The next day during the observer's visit, the children worked at creative writing. The teacher pointed to a list of descriptive phrases on the board, and said, "The underlined words help us to see, or feel, or hear. Do you know what they mean?"
golden rays lively maiden
Together, with a mixture of humor, whimsy, and seriousness, teacher and children worked out the meanings.
"As we write our stories, maybe we can use some of these words," she said. Then, to each group of four children she distributed magazine pictures having high story value. The children enjoyed these for a few moments, then settled to their writing. By the time the observer was ready to leave, several had made considerable headway, while others were still "thinking up an idea."
Teaching-Learning Situation No. 2*
Science. The children were showing posters they had made about science studies. Gordon's was entitled Facts About the Moon. He had gone to the library and found "good facts" which he had written down, had cut pictures from a magazine, and had made an attractive poster. The teacher asked, "How much would you weigh on the moon, Gordon ?"
"I would weigh one-sixth as much as I do here. I weigh 64 here. If you use 60, I would weigh 10 pounds there."
Jeff reported, "If you jump 5 feet here, you would jump 30 feet there because you are lighter."
Gordon: "Athletes would jump about 100 feet."
Another poster pictured the moon orbiting around the earth and the earth orbiting around the sun. Two others posed questions:
We Wonder and Find Out
What does a magnet do?
How does a compass work?
How is it made?
How does it move?
How does it work for us?
Who discovered electricity?
A table held a magnet, a telescope, and other equipment.
The teacher presented a magazine page with 28 numbered pictures of electrical appliance parts. The children gave themselves numbers to correspond and each tried to identify the appliance bearing his number. This activity afforded them both pleasure and learning.
Mathematics.-The children showed models which they had made or otherwise obtained. One child explained how to use a candle with marks; another, how the sun dial ("which is inaccurate") functions; and a third, how the electric clock ("which uses units of measurement") works.
The following dialog between the teacher ("T") and one or another child ("C") took place:
T-What is a unit?
C-A part, a piece, a fraction, a measure, a section, an amount.
C-Scales: Pounds, ounces.
C-Liquid: Quart, pint, 1⁄2 pint, measuring cup, 1 cup, 1⁄2 cup, 1 tablespoon,
T-Are these the same?
Children thought not.)
(Picking up a measuring cup and a half-pint jar. Prove it.
A child went to the table and eventually showed that both held the same amount.
C-There is dry measure, too.
C-There is a cash register, too; it uses money measures.
T-Here are some problems using measures. If you can buy 1 pound of coffee for 71 cents, and 3 for $2.07, how much would mother save if she bought 3 pounds?
T-Would it be a bargain?
C-Yes-no; my mother doesn't buy coffee. No; we don't use much and
it might not keep.
T-Two-thirds of an ounce of cologne sells for $2. How many thirds are in a whole ounce? (All knew.) How much would a whole ounce cost? C-$3. It would be $1 for each third.
T-Why is cologne sold by the ounce?
C-It is expensive. It loses its smell if you have too much.
C-(Read aloud an advertisement about a snow pusher with a 21-inch blade for $11.98.)
T-How much is 21 inches? Show with your hands. (Children showed
great difference in ability to do this.) Can you draw it on the board! (Child drew a line.) Prove it with the yardstick. (The line measured about a yard.) How much would $11.98 be in round numbers?
T-Coffee is measured by dry measure; cologne by what?
T-Yes; and 21 inches is linear. The word "line" is in it. What do we measure with linear measure?
C-Wideness and length.
T-Yes; width and length.
C-And how high.
T-Yes; depth. Length, width, and depth. Think of an ice cube: how long, how wide, how deep. What do we call it when we measured all
T-Well, what other kinds of measures are there?
T-Yes. Isn't it fascinating? Do you want to study how time is measured? Children-Yes!
T-We'll begin on Monday.
Reading. Some children took out library books, among them Mary Poppin, The Great Houdini, Skyscraper Island, and other wellknown and more current books. As these children settled to read, the teacher said to a small group who were reading identical books, "Remember as you read that you are to pick out good topic sentences to read aloud to us. Is there anyone who does not remember what a topic sentence is?" (None.)
As the children read, the teacher called several individually for a conference on their reading. Eventually she called the small group.
T-What did the cadets have to know?
C-The cadets had to know the 3 R's: readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic, to get in.
T-Can you tell at once what the story is about?
C-West Point. That's where cadets are.
T-Let's read our topic sentences.
The children then read:
"That night at 20 minutes to 10, the Maine blew up with a terrific explosion."
"The crewmen scurried across the decks, started the engine, got up the steam . . . ." (Teacher helped them pick out the lively action words: scurried, scuttled, scrambled.)
"At that very moment a loud voice sounded from ..."
"There was no suspicion in his mind that this beautiful May Day was the most important day in his life."
T-Which sentence could you have used in your creative writing of the "Unexpected Gift"? (These were delightful stories, fastened to the bulletin board. Some were about Hanukkah and some about Christmas.)
The teacher later explained to the observer that she used individualized reading in basic series and in other books. Children read independently, each proceeding at his own rate. She showed the reading analysis chart which she maintained, listing individual accomplishments and needs. The chart included: (1) word recognition, context clues, phonetics, consonants, digraphs, vowels; structural roots, compound words, prefixes, suffixes; (2) composition skills: main idea, details, sensory impressions, understanding emotional tones, drawing inferences, choosing titles, topic sentences; (3) work-study skills: locating information, skimming, organizing facts, dictionary skills, tests.
Spelling. The lesson dealt with difficult words. In working with them, the children had a great deal of fun :
Social studies.-Posters made clear what the theme was and what the subtopics were. The latter were each on a separate poster. The theme of the unit was: "How does New York City provide us with everything we need?"
The subtopics: How may kinds of work do people do in New York? What services does our city government give us? How does New York provide a water supply for all its people? How do people live in a big city like ours? Why is our borough important to the city? Why is living in New York so exciting and wonderful?
Other posters listed what a good chairman and a good committee member do and suggested the use of some of the following: encyclopedias, textbooks, magazines, maps, globes, trips, movies, and strip films, radio and television, picture files, newspapers, and people.
The children grouped themselves into six committees, moving tables and chairs together for group discussions. They discussed the subproblems in order to choose those they wished to study. Chairmen had served their time, and it was now necessary for each group to choose a new one. (The teacher explained to the observer that previously the chairman had chosen the question to study; today it was to be done by cooperation. This was a first venture.)
In one group, only three
(half the members) were present. "This," said a boy, "is not a quorum. Decisions cannot be made."
C-Because these three might go for Bob, but the other three might not.
T-But you can go ahead with work, can't you?
T-Yes, that might be a good thing to do.
The children worked with many books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers as the teacher moved from one group to another. Eventually she called time and the children returned to their seats. Discussion was postponed until next day.
Current events.-A child told how the city schools were being checked for fire safety, and how one nearby school had been closed for 7 days to "fix up."
Another reported, "Juno will be fired this weekend."
The teacher asked how Juno and missile were spelled. The child knew how to spell missile, but thought that Juno was spelled Juneau. She said she would find out how to spell the name of the missile correctly and then give a report.
The teacher called attention to the fact that it might be named Juneau, but it might also be named Juno (writing the two words on the board). She asked why this was true.
C-For a Greek-or Roman-goddess.
C-William Knowland says Nixon is qualified to be President in 1960.
Knowland was defeated for governership of California.
T-Which political party? (No response.)
T—It should be an interesting election in 1960.
C-(Gave news about Perry Como and Frank Sinatra.)
Music.-Melody bells were now tried for the first time. The eight bells were distributed and children played chords and Jingle Bells. Creative writing.-In the middle of a discussion, some voices apparently came from the sky. The children said the sounds were those of a pilot's voice. Some said this would make a good start for creative stories, and some declared that they would write them "that very evening." (After school, the voices proved to have come from the fire department working in the street getting ready to examine this school building.)
Teaching-Learning Situation No. 3*
Art.-Some children got together on the floor to make a threedimensional mural that was too large for any table in the room.