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Why is there a leap year?
Why are days called days?
Why does a year have 12 months?
What kinds of calendars did the ancients have?
How was the calendar made?
How do you explain the language of the calendar: year, month, day, decade, century?
Five committees were formed to study the questions. Some of the children looked up names; some filled in worksheets; some used encyclopedias and others, tradebooks. The teacher said that they were to be sure to take important notes-in phrases, not sentences. They were to look up the following:
1. Meaning of day, solar year, month
2. Ways used by Babylonia, Greece, and Egypt, to measure a year
3. Different men who improved the calendar
4. Others ways of measuring a year
5. Meaning of B.C. and A.D.
A group worked with the teacher looking at a strip film, The History of Our Calendar. Another group read to find out about the source of the month. (Question from this group: Is the Chinese week a 5-day week?)
Music. The teacher moved about helping each group. Finally time was called. The teacher asked, "Have you ever been out in the moonlight?" Most of them had been-"with my mother"-"last summer at camp," and so on. The teacher introduced Clair de Lune with "Listen to the music of the moon over the water." The children listened with interest, and asked whether they might make pictures sometime.
Teaching-Learning Situation No. 1*
Typing. An entire class takes typing daily under a special teacher. At the time of the observer's visit, the children were copying complete pages of manuscript, using carbon and learning how to erase. All were enthusiastic; some showed high skill, while others showed little promise. Occasionally the children would attempt original work such as typing a play they had written. At such times, according to the teacher, they would give considerable attention to spelling and punctuating correctly.
Language arts.-A child came to school saying breathlessly, "The play's next week. We'd better get busy." "Well, get busy," said the teacher. "Where's the committee?" Whereupon the committee tore out to the front office to cut the stencils for their own dramatic script for a production of Tom Sawyer. In about an hour and a half, they were back with the pages, ready to assemble them.
Later, as they read it together, they were not satisfied with the ending and so they revised it.
Current events. It was election day. The children had just followed a voter through the process of voting, had stood inside the booths, and were now back in the classroom. One child had a list of the nominees and brochures describing them, provided by the League of Women Voters. They discussed which positions were at State, county, and local levels; the responsibilities of each position; and which were nonsalaried. The children made many comments about school board nominees, one drawing a laugh by exclaiming that Mr. would probably be elected because "he doesn't like fancy things or Iowa tests."
Issues were discussed, vocabulary words noted (franchise, prothonotary, and others), and the children introduced a lively give-andtake on the minimum age of voting.
Next day they reviewed the election results. Eventually the teacher asked, “What happens in the United States when the election is over? Does the loser have to go away somewhere? Is he punished? Does he seek revenge?"
C-They shake hands and say how happy they are.
T-Is this evil or good?
C-It doesn't seem honest.
C-It's evil if they just want something.
C-It's good. Then they work together.
With that the discussion turned from state to county and local matters of interest to the children.
Social studies. The room was full of activities, based chiefly on Gunther's television program, High Road. The children had undertaken a brief study of Latin America, Vietnam, and India. Each had made a notebook about Mr. Khrushchev's tour of the United States; several of the notebooks contained original political cartoons. These, said one of the boys, "had to explain something." Many had made notebooks about the various countries studied. No two were alike, and they varied greatly in every possible way: in artistry, breadth and accuracy of content, organization, style, and appeal.
A bulletin board held a map of Vietnam, a picture labeled "Nguyen Thuong Chi, Our Friend," and pictures and accounts of his activities in Vietnam.
Since the month was October, Halloween month, the children had made masks similar to those used in Mexico. Glowering from a high bulletin board were several outstanding productions having a degree of authenticity, for they were the work of a committee headed by a child "anthropologist" who was studying the Maya culture. Present plans of the class were to make masks to use while telling stories to younger children.
This class was also interested in maps, a fact attested by the wide array of maps and charts in evidence on bulletin boards and on tables.
Music. In general, the children in the class under discussion enjoyed music. They had brought to school some recordings of operasa favorite was Porgy and Bess-as well as rock-and-roll. Tastes varied widely, but the children were tolerant and interested in each other's selections.
Teaching-Learning Situation No. 2*
Arithmetic. The teacher said, "Yesterday we were exploring fractions: 24. Who knows the old way of solving this?"
T-Yes. There is a new way, too. Let's consider:
%÷2=16. If we find the common denominator, we can divide fractions (explaining as she worked):
What number divided by 8 gives 61⁄2?
A bicycle was reduced to four-fifths of its original cost. It now costs $32. What was the original cost?
Problems were added about taxi fare, games won and lost, and recipes; and the teacher encouraged "using no pencils" and "finding easy ways." She used the following example:
T—A recipe calls for 3⁄4 cup of sugar. Mother wants to make half of the recipe. How does she find out how much to use?
T-In mastering fractions, we have learned how to divide a whole number by a fraction (2÷1⁄4), or a fraction by a whole number (3⁄4÷3). In each case, we learned how to use mixed numbers, too. (Children indicated that this was true.) Now: 4%. How do we find this? Can we find interesting problems dividing a fraction by a fraction? They are rare, except in science. But we must know how to do them. (She put the following on the board.) 1⁄2÷1⁄4=2... %÷1⁄2=13⁄4 . . . (She then diagramed the fractions by means of a circle.)
T-Can we do it without a diagram? %÷%==14. The rule is to find the common denominator and divide the numerator.
C-It's the same old way. Now we can do all our examples the same way. (Excited, a little relieved.)
T-Let's put the rule into our notebooks. The rule applies to all division of fractions and mixed numbers. (She asked a child to dictate the rule.) Reading or literature. A girl showed a chart illustrating Curtain Call by Leeuw. She recommended it for girls, and when the teacher asked whether some boys might like it, the girl said, "Only if the boy is very interested in theater work."
A child reading The Diary of Anne Frank said she liked it, explaining, "She's a Jew-she was hiding from the soldiers." Other
reports included: Kidnapped, by Stevenson and Sea Song, by Allan Cunningham.
T-What do you watch for in reading a poem?
C-Appeal to the senses, alliteration, metaphor (the teacher listed these on the chalkboard), simile, thought told in a poetic way, reverberation (immediately when these words were pronounced, several turned to their dictionaries) or repetition, descriptive language, and rhythm. T-Let's turn to the Sea Gypsy by Hovey. (The teacher read the poem several times, the children pointing out examples of the qualities making it a poem. She then assigned Mansfield's Sea Fever for reading and study.)
The children turned to individualized reading, some to basic readers and some to library books. The assignment was to find a good topic
Science. A child showed a beautiful looking chart of the solar system, the relief depicted by means of rope pasted on cardboard. The facts were confused, however.
C-If you can't read your chart accurately, you can't expect other people to-you should do it scientifically. (This was not a personal reproof but rather more of a generalization, and the maker of the chart seemed to take it in stride.)
T-Check your chart and bring it in again.
A child showed a poster he had made depicting the earth's axis, a work both beautiful and accurate. The children admired it, saying, "It has esthetic quality," "It has clarity," "It has accuracy."
Another child showed his picturization of phases of the moon. The earth was centered, and the sun painted at one side. The children admired it.
Still another child displayed his representation of a constellation— stars pasted on cardboard. The child volunteered, "My neighbor is making a book of the constellations and you can see what the sky is like each month."
Later, the teacher showed the observer a pile of projects in various stages of development. "There's too much to put up in the room," she said.
She gave a homework assignment to find out what scientists believe about Mars, and referred the children to Junior Scholastic.
Creative writing.-A child read an autobiography which she called Meet Me. Later, the teacher handed the observer a stack of autobiographies, including one called Monday and another Sense of Humor. These were intriguing, enjoyable essays.
T-We have chosen the theme "This Gift-Giving Season."
some words that describe how you feel when you receive gifts? C-Jubilant, flattered, thrilled, excited. (Various children.)