- Fairy and folk tales
- Introduction of letters and foundations of word formation and reading
- Form drawing
- Arithmetic (four processes)
- Science through nature stories
- Recorder playing
- Foreign languages
- Physical education through games
First graders learn through the imagination
Young children are master imitators. That's why Waldorf early childhood educators model the behaviors they want their charges to emulate. But with the coming of the elementary school years, imagining becomes the means by which the child learns.
The Waldorf elementary school teacher presents every lesson as a story that appeals to the students' imaginations. For example, arithmetic operations may be dramatized by the adventures of Polly Plus, Missy Minus, Danny Divide and Tommy Times.
Writing comes in a similar way. A story (which is enacted by the teacher, never read) helps develop a strong ability to create their own pictures. For instance, the teacher may tell the tale of a sinuous snake that slithers through the grass or suns itself on a stone, giving the children a picture of the sound "S." The children come to know writing just as humankind developed it over the millennia, with ideograms or pictaforms that evolve into letters.
What else you'll see—and what you won't see
Teachers use many means other than stories to impart knowledge. Arithmetic lessons, for instance, may employ marching and hand clapping as the children count and keep time. What fun to discover the times tables as the children emphasize every third or fourth beat!
Note the absence of textbooks in this description of the Waldorf classroom. While textbooks may make their way into the middle school, they can't come close to approaching the teacher's lively animation and heart connection to the student.
The rhythm of the day
The teacher starts the day by shaking hands with the child and looking him or her in the eyes. The eye is the traditional window into the soul, and the teacher strives to recognize each individual student as a soul making its way in the physical world.
We begin Main Lesson, lasting two hours, with morning circle: exploring languages and the world of numbers, followed by a period of movement, song and verse. Main lessons are taught in blocks that last three to four weeks. First year subjects include form drawing (the basis for writing), arithmetic, writing and reading. The children retell the story previous day's story then each student works in their main lesson book using words, pictures and diagrams that reflect the lesson of the day. These books are a treasure containing all their work. Many of the illustrations on this Web site are from students' main lesson books.
Mornings are also the time for reviewing previous lessons and learning art, foreign languages, handwork, movement and eurythmy, a movement program unique to Waldorf schools. Specialized subject teachers usually present these lessons, although the class teacher may accompany them.
After a rest period, afternoons are more active and they may include some classes but primarily a time of imaginative play. Studies have shown that social, outdoor activity helps the young child learn to work and play in a group and focus in a classroom setting.
Finally, a description of grade one isn't complete without a word on the class playground. The first grade has its own play area deep in the trees behind the upper play field. There, whether they're playing games or making proto-scientific discoveries of the layered qualities of mica, they're safe in an imaginative world suitable to their developmental stage.