Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wisdom, Waves, and Water Sprites

We began our W week with twenty-four new words: with, will, which, when, what, where, we, was, walk, warm, write, woman, way, wish, white, where, way, want, would, work, went, womb, waves, and water.  

Rather than memorizing the correct spelling through written repetitions, we've been combining skills by writing complete sentences using our W words.  Our goal is to have A. writing paragraphs by the first day of summer with 3-5 coherent, meaningful sentences that stay on topic, make sense, and use natural vocabulary.  I think she's well on her way to reaching that goal.

We've also been enjoying word problems and found this great resource for first and second grade math games and worksheets.  While I'm not a big fan of worksheets, I have to admit that since implementing a new house rule of at least one per day, A.'s math skills are showing marked improvement.  She actually enjoys the three-minute timed drills; however, I have a rule that, in my classroom, there are no mistakes -- only learning -- and I've banished all red pens in favor of erasers.

Yesterday we enjoyed a mindfulness practice and brought a bowl of water to our morning circle.  We wet our hands, turned our palms up, closed our eyes, and tried to feel when the water was dry by focusing our attention just on the bodily sensation of having wet hands.  Then we made ripples by tapping the center of the water and discussed how people are like waves of the same sea and how, when we have peace within, we create peace on earth through our relationships and interconnectedness.  I asked A. to recall the morning not too long ago when the lake was calm and reflecting the sky.  Then I asked, "How is the water like our mind?"  She answered, "When our mind is calm, it reflects how things really are... just like the lake reflects the whole sky. When they're rough, everything looks wonky."

Then we named some of the things we can do to help keep our mind reflecting what is real.  While I suggested eating healthy, organic foods and exercising, A.'s answers surprised me.  Her first answer was, "By doing things where we concentrate."  I couldn't agree more.  Engaging our mind in an activities like music or art requires mindful awareness.  Through practice, we can develop an abiding clarity of mind.  

Her second answer was, "By trusting ourselves."  She went on to explain how she's been learning to make sharp turns on her bike without training wheels.  When she worries, she misses the turn.  When she trusts herself, she succeeds.  I think this is quite an insight for a Kindergartner.

Today we read a Jataka Tale, The Prince and the Water Sprite.  Jataka Tales are folklore-like literature, much like Aesop's Fables, only native to India and relating to the adventures of the Buddha in his former existences.  Today's story was filled with W words and features a mischievous water sprite who captures all who enter his pond except those who give the right answer to one question: "What are the good fairies like?"

The youngest princes answer incorrectly and are carried off to the the water sprite's lair.  The eldest brother, who is wise of heart, answers correctly saying, "The good fairies are like the pure in heart who do no wrong, the good and kindly in word and deed."  His wisdom saves his brothers and the three princes go on to rule their kingdom together in kindness. 

Wisdom is a recurring theme in our home studies.  It's what happens when we learn to send our intellect down into our heart and allow our actions to flow from compassion.  Sadly, it's missing from Fry's 300 Instant Sight Word list  because it doesn't fall into the category of seventy-five percent of the words children are most likely to encounter in literature.  Today we added it to our vocabulary list as word number twenty-five.
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