Special Subjects

Foreign Languages

The goal of the foreign language program is not fluency by the end of grade eight, but rather to develop the child's ear for language, flexibility of speech, and appreciation for other cultures. Contrasting languages - Spanish and German - are taught, initially through games, songs, folk tales, dialogues, puppetry, and plays, and only orally for the first three grades. In this way a broad foundation of vocabulary and pronunciation is built. Translation is kept to a minimum. Writing and reading are introduced gradually from fourth grade, after which grammar and reading comprehension skills are built systematically over time. History, geography, biography, cooking, and drama are all components of the upper grades language program. The language teachers introduce subjects relevant to the current main lessons of a given grade and skills appropriate for that age.

Crafts And Handwork

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.

In the early grades, class teachers offer their classes a range of arts and crafts in afternoon lessons, apart from the official handwork curriculum. Examples are origami, cooking, papier mache, tissue paper window transparencies, kite making, simple weaving, sewing and indoor board games. These are seasonal in nature and sometimes gifts are made for parents or other children. The choice of activity is at discretion of the teacher.

Movement / Games

Joyful and responsible movement is at the heart of Waldorf physical education. Teachers encourage age-appropriate activities in class and during recess. Activities and movement change from year to year, consistent with the development of the child. Kindergarten and first grade games are group activities: circle games with the class teacher and free, imaginative play during recess. Games classes begin in second grade. In second and third grades, the children are encouraged to bring a story to life by moving as their particular character would move. Activities featuring competition and scoring begin gradually in the fourth grade. Individual skills are honed and celebrated in fifth grade as the students prepare for the annual multi-school Pentathlon. Learning to throw a javelin and discus beautifully, rather than relying solely on muscle power, and running as a group, rather than focusing on individual glory, are the core of this day-long event. Organized sports become appropriate in the sixth grade when rules and structure are very important developmentally. In the seventh and eighth grades the emphasis continues to be on individual improvement and “levity” in the sense of lightness, or opposition to gravity. Activities involving scoring and competition are avoided before fourth grade, recognizing that the young child’s emotional reactions to losing can take all the fun out of this opportunity for joyful movement. In this regard, parents of young children are strongly encouraged to discuss after-school sports activities with the games teacher.

Eurythmy

In eurythmy, a form of movement to speech and music, children learn to orient themselves in space by moving in geometric forms which they dissolve and reform in new configurations. This helps the students to understand the mathematics behind such constructions. Basic physical discipline is taught through rod exercises, concentration, and agility exercises. Eurythmy helps to support what the class teacher has introduced in the main lesson or subject lesson. What the child has experienced through her limbs, she will remember.

Eurythmy also provides a healthy balance to the academic work. The growing thinker must think with the whole body, not just with the head.

Music

In a Waldorf school, music forms an integral part of almost every lesson. Teachers sing with their classes in Main Lesson; all students play a pentatonic flute in first grade and learn string instruments from fourth grade on; and formal choral and instrumental concerts are held throughout the year. Music plays an important part in school festivals, plays, and assemblies.

Strings

In the fourth grade, a string class is formed and the children begin to play violin, viola, cello, or double bass. The structure of these music classes varies from year to year depending on the students’ needs, the class dynamic, and teacher recommendations. The classes move away from picture words, unless there is a particularly difficult rhythm, and music lessons across the board continue to develop skills in their various techniques, and all emphasize reading. The children are expected to take private lessons outside of class time to help with the fingering and bowing. Their work on musical elements such as rhythm and the time signature continues, beginning with 4/4 time, then 3/4, and rhythmic notation of eighth and sixteenth notes, dotted notes and relative rests. The beauty of playing is stressed along with creating an understanding of the requirements for proper playing. In the fifth grade students are now asked to sight-read, and simple to moderately difficult three and four part pieces may be roughed out within a single lesson. The students learn to understand their pieces in reference to the scale in which the melody is written. It is important that the children grasp the reason why the key signatures are written the way they are.

Winds

In the fifth grade diatonic recorders are usually introduced, The children mostly learn to play them through imitation. This is taught either as a part of choir, by a winds teacher, or by the class teacher. Each class is looked at independently and a decision is made between class teacher and music teachers to decide when to expand the instrumental program to include wind instruments. Sometimes the class dynamic is so unified in the string program that they continue through sixth grade before branching out to other instruments. Depending on students’ interests and available teachers, this class may begin to experience a more diverse instrumentation, including the rest of the family of recorders and other wind instruments, as early as the fifth grade. Changing from a string instrument to a wind instrument is a decision which involves the parents, and teachers. Students who make this change are still required to take private lessons. Those who are taking private lessons on wind and brass instruments may be invited to play these instruments with the string orchestra. Students who choose to play a wind instrument who are not confident enough to join the string orchestra meet separately twice a week to work on note reading, music appreciation, and ensemble playing.

Choir

The children in grades five and six learn chorus decorum, most importantly, being able to listen quietly while the teacher works on one or another part. Theory also progresses at the appropriate pace in the individual classes. Most advances in reading are made in singing lessons since there is no added complication of fingerings and position to deal with. The children continue to sing and play scales and arpeggios and learn about the minor scale, half steps and whole steps, and part singing. They are shown how to find their way on the page, and the meanings of different musical terms.

In seventh and eighth grade, a more formal choir is stressed and the class now practices music rather than studying it. Classroom management is a large issue, and the combination of grades depends a great deal on the ability of the teacher to hold the group. A piano accompanist is often required, though some teachers prefer to play the piano themselves or work without one.

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