In accordance with the indications given by Rudolf Steiner for foreign language teaching in a Waldorf school, Spanish instruction begins in the first grade in a purely oral form through verses, songs, rhythms, poems, games, fairy tales and stories. The teacher uses gestures, pictures, puppets and other props to convey the meaning of the material. This allows each child to develop a sense of, and an enthusiasm for, the culture and language in a natural way, similar to the way in which native speakers acquire language. Vocabulary goals include numbers, colors, body parts, classroom equipment, fruits, common verbs and prepositions. As in first grade, the second grade child learns through imitation. First grade vocabulary is reviewed and new vocabulary goals include words related to nature, vegetables, clothing, more body parts, furniture in the house, more classroom equipment, alphabet, common verbs and more prepositions. Question and answer periods are longer. The rhythm of the third grade curriculum follows the two previous years, with the oral approach stressed. New vocabulary goals include parts of the house, furniture, foods, table setting, feelings, more clothing, animals, adjectives, and the alphabet. Days of the week, months, seasons and weather are introduced in this grade. In the fourth grade, the goal is to learn to read through learning to write. The students copy songs, poems, and stories they have learned from the blackboard. The children read them after writing them down. Questions and answers are presented orally and in writing. A short reader may be used to ensure that pronunciation and reading are accurate. Vocabulary from previous grades is reviewed orally and through written work in a vocabulary book. The students in the fifth and sixth grades review the previous years’ material and continue reading. They learn Spanish sayings and more complex constructions. Grammar is introduced through active exercises, especially all regular and a few irregular verbs in present tense, and the use of prepositions, and adjectives. In the seventh and eighth grades, the program continues to build on the students’ knowledge of basic sentence structure, vocabulary, and fluency through the use of dialogues (e.g. going shopping, asking for and giving directions, buying a ticket at the train station, cooking a recipe). Vocabulary is also expanded by reading poems and stories appropriate to the students’ reading level. Cultural aspects of life in a Spanish speaking country are also shared in English, and students read excerpts from books.
Handwork plays an important function in helping to develop the will of the child, in fostering self-esteem and an appreciation for beauty. It also plays a critical part in helping to establish and activate pathways in the brain that link the left and right side of the brain and also act as a general network in each hemisphere. The hands are the primary instrument that growing children use to inform themselves about the world in which they live. What the hand feels the brain knows.
In the first grade, the children start the year with a small sewing project. Knitting needles are made in preparation for knitting. The primary activity in first grade is knitting, which uses both hands equally, helping to create the left-right brain connection.
In second grade, the children do a review of knitting by making a striped flute case. By the end of the flute case most of the children have a good grasp of knitting and purling and more complicated stitch patterns.
The third grade handwork curriculum dovetails with the main lesson curriculum. They are taught spinning, natural dyeing, and crochet. Most of the year is spent in mastering crochet and making a small project, such a hat. The ability to create a round object that moves outward in a balanced rhythm helps the children ground themselves through the nine-year change.
Fourth graders move on to sewing, embroidery and cross-stitch. The emphasis on symmetry in fourth grade is an internal analytical exercise for the children.
Fifth grade brings the students to knitting again but at a much more advanced level as they learn how to use four needles and how to knit ribbing for a pair of socks. This project is intellectually demanding but is also a mathematical process that fits their developmental stage.
The sixth grade starts the year by making stuffed animals, which requires artistry, imagination and will forces.
In seventh grade, the students make either marionettes or dolls. Making marionettes has the added dimensions of the staging and performance of a story.
In the eighth grade the students are taught machine sewing, which coincides with their study of the Industrial Revolution. The fall semester may be used to explore fabric design techniques such as batik or tie-dyeing. Each year is different depending on the group of students involved, but machine sewing is a staple of the curriculum. By the end of the eighth grade the students have a good grounding in textile arts but, more importantly, they have learned perseverance, an appreciation of beauty, and a sense of the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.
In woodworking the will is put to task as arms are strengthened and hands become skilled. In completing a woodworking project, students gain the experience that they can make things happen, that they have the power to be a creative and transformative force.
Regular woodworking classes begin with the fourth grade, when the children have grown strong enough to work with a tough, dense material. The first project is a wooden egg, a simple, archetypal form. Created only with rasps and files, the project requires patience and determination. The work is steady, rhythmic. All of the essential elements of woodworking are contained in the egg: a rough piece of wood is converted to the shape its maker intends, polished smooth, and given a finish that protects and enhances the wood. Next, fifth grade students carve wooden spoons. This project is about making a tool that is useful and beautiful. The convex form of the egg is shadowed by the spoon’s concave bowl. The students learn to use saws and carving gouges. Their confidence and ability are expanding. Various projects have been undertaken in grades six and above. Most attempt to reflect something from the curriculum. Mechanical toys involve an understanding of physics. Interlocking cube puzzles are a wooden equation that demand clear thinking and precision. In grades seven or eight, as the students are learning about the Industrial Revolution, a few basic power tools, such as drills and jigsaws, are introduced.
Throughout all of the classes, students are taught the safe and proper use and care of tools, as well as an appreciation for the gifts of the forest. Social skills are also exercised when students assist each other, tending to the occasional cut finger, or cooperating in group projects. More than anything, woodworking provides an opportunity for the students to learn to direct their incredible energy and creativity.
Beginning in the Kinderhaus, children sing and learn to play instruments appropriate to their development. Minor adjustments to the following description of the program may be made from time to time.
In first grade, the children sing and usually, after winter break, begin to play the pentatonic flute. In second grade, children continue to sing and play the pentatonic flute for the entire year. Third grade students learn how to sing in rounds and usually after the winter break transfer their skills to C-flutes (diatonic). In the fourth grade, students learn more complicated rounds, and they also continue work on the C-flutes. The children begin to play the violin this year, as well. Beginning in the fifth grade, the vocal work takes on a variety of styles. Students in fifth grade may continue the violin or they can choose to play the cello.
Eurythmy is an expressive art that makes language and music visible through movement. The children participate through individual expressive gestures and by moving in accordance with particular forms as a group. Eurythmy develops balance, coordination, hemispheric lateralization of the brain, and spatial, rhythmic and musical awareness.
The eurythmy program begins in kindergarten and continues through the eighth grade. In the early years, the students imitate the teacher’s sound gestures as the teacher recites imaginative stories and poetry. The first and second graders combine simple geometric floor patterns, beginning with a beautiful circle and then following the circle through various forms such as the spiral, with the sound gestures of spoken poetry. Music is introduced in the first grade and continues to eighth grade. The children clap and step the musical rhythms, follow the rising and falling of a melody with their arms, and learn simple dances incorporating elements of what is known as tone eurythmy. Rhythmic activities, which lift the children off the ground, like skipping, galloping, and dancing, are balanced with grounding skills such as stamping and exact stepping. The third through eighth grade curriculums build on this work, delving into more complicated forms and rhythms. Stepping exercises requiring increased concentration are introduced along with forming more complicated geometric figures, such as the five-pointed star. The movements are accompanied with drumbeat, music and poetry. Movement with copper rods is also introduced. This involves the rhythmic passing of rods in a circle, exercises involving fingers and hands, rolling rods on one’s own arms and into the arms of a partner, and balancing the rods on the top of the head.
Throughout these years the students become conscious of the meaning of specific gestures and movements in eurythmy, learning the movements for the tones of various scales or for the alphabet sound gestures, for example.
Our school’s movement program for grades one through eight is taught developmentally, presenting the skills that each age specifically needs. In the first grade, story or singing games, string games and basic hand-clapping games are shared. Basic gross motor skills like running, jumping, swinging and galloping are practiced and students learn how to throw and receive, walk on a balance beam and skip rope. Many versions of tag are played, along with imaginative and nature games. The second and third grades practice these same activities with the movement teacher, although more intricate games and exercises are added. Imaginative animal stunts are practiced as a basis for tumbling in later grades. Blind and backspace games are introduced in grade three as the children grow in spatial awareness. Fourth grade activities build upon earlier practices. Tag games and relay games become more complex with more props. Ball handling skills are enhanced through games. Students develop movement memory as they imitate a sequence of movements in rhythm. Javelin and discus throwing, long jump, running and wrestling of the ancient Greek times are introduced in grade five. Emphasis is on beauty, form, grace, style and symmetry. The class competes together with students from other Waldorf schools in mock “city-states” for the annual one-day Pentathlon. All other movement activities become more complex. Sixth grade moves from the Greek to the Roman culture. The students experience their muscle strength in a new way and the movement teacher meets this with stretching and strengthening exercises. More sport-specific skills and games are introduced. Roman law finds its way into rules and goal-oriented sport and games. Gymnastic work is formally introduced, beginning with simple technical skills. Archery and rod fencing are also brought to the students as preparation for the Medieval Games, another annual one-day event that brings Waldorf students together. Now that children have clearly passed the nine-year change, juggling, balance and resistance play a strong theme, testing the burgeoning individual in spatial relationship to others. The seventh grader is easily drawn toward levity at this pubescent time. Movement classes play with this exploration of levity and gravity, flexibility, and agility as well as working on cooperation and communication in games. Outdoor activities offer great challenges as individuals begin to form a team and develop the spatial relations among team members. The eighth grader, contrary to the seventh grader, leans towards gravity. Focus in eighth grade is on uprightness of posture, deepening technique of previously learned skills and sports, and building a team through cooperation, communication, consciousness of others, and challenge activities.