First – Fifth Grade
Our goal is to enable each child’s potential to unfold by developing creative and imaginative capacities while building a strong academic foundation. Waldorf education recognizes that children aged seven to fourteen learn best through their imagination. Knowledge is presented through activities which capture and enliven their imagination and channel their abundant energy in a disciplined and artistic way. The arts are integrated into the entire academic curriculum, including math and science, bringing vitality and wholeness to learning, balancing intellectual development and generating a genuine inner enthusiasm.
- Grade 1 begins the morning with the group recitation of a poem. After the morning exercises, the children go on to what is know as the main lesson period, which occupies the first two hours of the morning, and is devoted to a single subject for two to four weeks. The first main lesson subject is painting and drawing until the children have a facility in handling crayons, paints, and paint-brush, as writing, reading, numbers, nature study and handwork are all taught in ways involving color and design.
Letter writing is presented in a lively pictorial way with the help of fairy stories. “S” may be a fairy tale snake sinuously slithering through the grass on some secret errand; the motion of the sounds becomes dynamic. The children draw the letter in the air with their hands and on the floor with a large pattern to move on with their feet; their whole being participates in the writing experience. Then the children make their own pictures of waves, and then W’s, creating an illustrated book as each letter is presented.
When the children have mastered the sounds and can name and write them, they are ready for reading. The episodes of a story are illustrated by a series of pictures drawn on the blackboard by the teacher and in notebooks by the children. The class composes short descriptive sentences to accompany each picture.
Exploration of numbers begins with solving riddles such as “What is one thing in the world that there can never be more than one of?” (“Me!”). So the characteristics of one, two, three, etc. are explored in the children’s inner experience and in nature.
Nature study takes the form of an experience of hearing the world speak, talking of life and its adventures. The child learns the true facts of nature, but always in vivid, dramatic, story form.
Handwork serves several important purposes. Knitting is an in dispensable first-grade activity as there exists a close relationship between finger movement, speech and thinking. Modeling is done with honey-fragrant beeswax.
Music periods are devoted to singing and playing the pentatonic recorder flute, which also helps develop finger dexterity.
The imitative genius of early childhood is still active in the first-grade child, making this an ideal time to learn through hearing and speaking two foreign languages, chosen for their appropriateness to the time and the school’s location.
Eurythmy, an art of movement developed by Dr. Steiner, is taught by specially-trained teachers. Exercises affect the children’s grace of movement, sensitize hands and fingers, heighten drawing and modeling ability, relieve strain and tension, stimulate musical, poetic and dramatic senses.
- The Class Teacher, according to the Waldorf plan, he/she continues with them through all eight years of their elementary schooling wherever this is feasible. The class teacher who can look back on all his pupils’ previous learning experiences and build step by step on his own foundation can endow his teaching with real unity. And primary children, who are very sensitive to readjustments and changes, are given the security of knowing one personality and method intimately and thoroughly.
English now becomes a special subject assigned its share of main lesson periods. Based again on the spoken languages, fables satisfy the children’s deep interest in the animal kingdom while legends offer lofty striving and highlight the noblest human qualities. These fables and legends are not the focus of writing material. The children learn cursive writing by joining up the printed letters of last year. Grammar is introduced with liveliness and humor by acting out stories in which the children can experience the contrast between “doing” words, “naming” words and “describing” words.
In arithmetic, the children carry out more complicated operations with the four processes. Imaginative stories still form the basis of these problems. Through rhythmic counting accompanied by accented clapping and movement of the whole body, they learn to count by twos, threes, fours, and fives and can begin learning the multiplication tables.
Nature study continues in connection with poetry, legends and imaginative descriptions of natural processes.
Painting and modeling are drawn into constant service in other activities in the main lessons. Crocheting is introduced, and small projects of the children’s own creation always observe an important principle that handwork products be useful and functional as well as beautiful.
Foreign language, singing and flute lessons continue to be taught as in first grade with Eurythmy leading the children into a more conscious forming of vowels and consonants.
- Quickened physical growth takes place during this transition period in which the age of dream is passing and a new age is beginning to dawn. Now there is a shifting emphasis as the child’s relation to the world around him changes: to the extent to which the child feels separate from the world he seeks knowledge of it and his studies will now have a more realistic, practical character.
In this transition to realism, social studies are now introduced into the main lesson. The children learn how the kingdoms of nature mutually support and complete one another, visit a farm for concrete experience of the dependence of man on plants and animals. They study shelter and house building, contrasting their home with those of other times and peoples and climates.
Arithmetic becomes practical, applied to “real life situations” such as measuring, cooking and money. Rhythmic reciting and stepping of tables continues with added mental gymnastics.
Stories and poems of the Old Testament dealing largely with real persons and happenings whose drama parallel the 8-year-old’s own experience are the children’s first introduction to history. Grammar studies continue, often expressing parts of speech in colors suitable to their nature. Spelling receives much attention. Painting, drawing, and modeling continue in connection with all main lessons rather than as a separate period. In music they begin to learn notation. Simple sewing is introduced, and useful articles are crocheted and knitted.
- Inner and outer worlds are no longer one world for the nine-year-old. The greatest care must now be taken to bring the outer world to the child in a way that makes it possible for him everywhere to discover its human meaning.
In their study of mankind and animal in external form, the child can now model the heads of man and the animals he is studying. Because this is an age of hero worship seeking an inspiring picture of human nature, history looks at the Finnish and Norse sagas with their stress on strength and boldness rather than cunning. In composition simple narration of the child’s own real experiences begins with continued work in grammar and the introduction of letter-forms.
Social studies begin with familiar things of the child’s own time and environment and lead him gradually to an experience of less familiar places and events. Simple map drawing of travel routes, home and school is followed by a study of California geography and history with visits to missions, Indian settlements, and early adobes.
Now the children begin to write as well as speak their foreign language. Their understanding of grammar progresses to the point that they can consciously grasp rules underlying the construction of these languages.
In music the child’s newly strengthened individuality now gives him the ability to hold his own in part-singing as he could not have done successfully before; canons and rounds form a natural bridge to this exciting new skill. He shows his first real delight in harmony and the minor key answers a deep-felt need leading inward in self-discovery. String instruments begin this year.
At this crossing point in development, handwork takes up cross-stitch. The children design and execute an original cross-stitch pattern in addition to embroidery and sewing.
- In Grade 5, students have enhanced their recent gains in consciousness and grown more accustomed to being an isolated self, seeing the work in a new perspective.
History had until now only a pictorial and personal nature and no attempt was made to introduce exact temporal concepts or to proceed in strict sequences. Now however, history becomes a special main lesson subject, as does geography. Geography does exactly the opposite; it leads him away from himself out into ever wider spaces from the familiar to the unfamiliar. History brings the child to himself: geography brings the child into the world.
Ancient history in the fifth grade starts with the childhood of civilized humanity in ancient India, where men were dreamers. The ancient Persian culture that followed the Indian culture felt the impulse to transform the earth, till the soil, domesticate animals while helping the sun-god conquer the spirit of darkness. The next great cultures were those of the Chaldeans, the Hebrews, the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians. Next comes the civilization of the Greeks with whom ancient history ends. Every means is used to give the children a vivid impression of these four ancient cultures.
Geography emphasizes contrast as American geography is studied. Every consideration of the earth’s physical features is linked with a study of the way human life has been lived in the region, the human uses made of natural resources, the industry, and produce.
As a continuation of their study of the living earth, the fifth graders begin a study of botany, the plant world. After discovering some of the secrets of the plant life found in his own environment, the child’s attention is drawn to vegetation in other parts of the world.
Fractions and decimals continue to be the chief concern of arithmetic study in the fifth grade.
Regular choral singing is practiced in fourth and fifth grades with the C-recorder flute being used in relation to the main lesson. Many children begin studying a stringed instrument in third or fourth grade and participate in orchestra within the school day. Woodworking is begun with carving and knitting now uses four needles. Eurythmy, foreign language, and physical education also continue.
Special Subject Teachers complement the work of the Class Teacher, presenting each week:
- Foreign Language: Spanish
- Eurythmy: an expressive movement art with dance/theater components
- Music: singing, recorders, string instruments, woodwinds, guitar
- Practical Crafts: knitting, crocheting, sewing, needlework, woodworking, cooking, and gardening
- Physical Education: games, gymnastics, circus arts and sports
Crafts and handwork are an integral part of the curriculum, developing dexterity, patience, perseverance, and imagination. Practical work such as woodworking, house-building, and gardening give children an understanding of how things are created and a respect for the work of others.
By entering into many disciplines, children can achieve clarity and flexibility in thinking, compassion of heart, and powers of good judgment that continue to ripen throughout life.