Animals and saints alike have much to teach the second grader
Second graders begin to awaken to the human being's dual nature-animal-like in our appetites, and saint-like in our aspirations and potentials. Our challenge is to make 7- and 8-year-olds comfortable with this duality.
At Pine Hill Waldorf School, we respond to this challenge as we respond to all child development issues: by telling stories.
Fables of animals and their crafty natures illustrate the foibles of humanity. And the lives of saints and heroes or heroines model the mysteries of the spiritual world, to which children relate with reference.
Whether the teacher is Aesop, St. Francis, or Harriet Tubman, his or her lessons apply across the curriculum.
Waldorf schools actually teach writing before teaching reading, so students may find themselves writing lines from a story they've just seen told by the teacher. Children learn to write the sounds they hear in their stories: simple consonant-vowel-consonant words from grade one (hop, tap, bit); consonant digraphs (ch, sh, th, wh, ph); or letters at the ends of words (-ed, -er, -ing, -ly, -s). The teacher systematically leads the class through the silent e and other long vowel combinations (ee, ea, ie).
The school pursues a phonics and whole language approach to reading. As children learn to read, they're given times of silent reading everyday.
Second grade introduces the concept of place value with-what else?-a story. This leads naturally into adding and subtracting in columns by carrying and borrowing (or sharing). Lessons in division include the concept of a remainder.
All the while, children exercise their times tables. Rhythms reinforce the concepts as children do exercises involving beanbags, rhythm sticks, jump rope and more. The teacher gives the class regular opportunities to do mental math.
All this writing and number-drawing comes from skills the child develops in form drawing. Now come more complex forms involving horizontal and vertical symmetry, running forms, circular forms, loops and crossings.
Singing and flute playing continue daily, and continue to more complex pentatonic and diatonic flute pieces. Dances, hand clapping games and other movement activities may enrich the morning circle.
Students develop fine motor skills with such activities as modeling story characters in beeswax. Wet-on-wet watercolor painting demonstrates the qualities of colors and how they relate to each other.
Children re-enact the stories they hear and may stage a favorite in the classroom. There, families can witness the children's recitation, singing, flute playing, crafts and costumes.
Science begins by observing natural phenomena around us. The class keeps a nature table, to which children contribute gifts from nature such as stones and pieces of wood, as well as little treasures they make. The children might learn verses and songs, take field trips, make craft projects and create books of their discoveries.
The children practice how to sit on a chair and how to take care of desk contents, when to begin to play the recorder, and how to sit up attentively during recall and story. Learning to treat one another kindly, take turns in the classroom and pay attention to teacher's requests is an ongoing practice.