Davis Waldorf School


Language Arts Curriculum
The Waldorf language arts program has its foundation in a rich oral language experience starting in the preschool and continuing through all the grades. From preschool onward, teachers bring stories rich in imagery, high-level vocabulary, and complex sentence structure. These stories stimulate the children's imaginations and foster the development of careful speech as well as a broad vocabulary. Teachers also form their speech artistically, and through regular speech exercises engage the children in developing clear, articulate speech. Nourished by the living images in the stories, the children grow increasingly capable of bringing their own creativity to the retelling and writing of stories they have heard or read.
In first grade, fairy and folktales from around the world form the central theme of the language arts story curriculum. The introduction of the alphabet recapitulates the historical development of writing as the letters arise in an artistic way out of the story and the picture. The teacher finds or creates a story or verse whose images lead from the picture via the sound to the letter. For example, the letter "M" may be introduced through a story in which a pair of mountains plays a key role. The two mountain peaks will be drawn. Then the teacher leads the children in memorizing a verse or tongue twister emphasizing the sound of the letter, as well as other activities stressing the sound. The written form of the letter is introduced as the children write the word "mountains" and then the individual letter "M". The teacher brings vivid imagery and many active movement and tactile experiences that reinforce the shape of the letter and connect it to its sound. After the capital printed alphabet has been introduced, the children begin to write words, sentences and verses into their main lesson books. These are taken from the content of the story material or from group experiences, such as walks in nature. The children read what they have written, first chorally and then, over time, individually. The lower case printed letters may be introduced in the first grade as well. The feeling for language is developed through the daily telling and re-telling of fairy and folk tales, along with poetry and verses, which are told by the teacher and re-enacted by the children.

In second grade, the Golden Legends on one hand and the fables on the other reflect the beginnings of the dichotomy the children will experience on a soul level as they move toward the nine year change. Fables in which one-sided qualities are explored and Golden Legends of human beings who have transformed themselves in striving for their higher nature highlight for children the dual aspects of the human experience. If the lower case printed letters were not introduced in first grade, they are introduced in second. The students also receive their first readers, often a collection of verses and stories learned in first grade, handwritten by the teacher. "What is important is that the child experiences how the printed word arises out of the spoken word and becomes alive again through reading."[1] Commercially-produced readers may be used in the latter part of the year, and the children practice reading chorally and individually. Some of these readers may include Primary Phonics books by Educators Publishing Service and King Thrushbeard, Lazy Jack, or The Prince and the Dragon by Kelly Morrow. Reading groups may be formed. Words and sentences from the main lesson stories are created by the teacher or together with the class, and the teacher writes them on the board for the children to copy into their main lesson books as beautifully as possible. Opportunities for children to "talk on paper" are also offered, as they gradually learn to write down what they want to say about a story or experience. Basic phonics rules and sight words are learned and practiced, which helps the children with their spelling, and the children participate in a variety of phonics-based activities. Grammar may be introduced through drawing the children's attention to "doing" words, "naming" words, and "picture" or "describing" words.

In third grade, the main lesson story content comes from the Old Testament and from "Living on Earth" activities. Verses from Genesis are learned and recited in English and possibly in Hebrew. The Psalms of David may also be explored, and the children may create their own poems of praise. Writing practice continues with teacher and class-created compositions. The children also independently compose simple sentences and descriptions from the main lesson content. They come to understand the use of capital letters, lower case letters, and basic end punctuation. Beautiful handwriting continues to be emphasized. Spelling rules are reviewed and more complex ones learned, and more sight words are automatically recognized. Rudolf Steiner said that we use grammar as a means to "strengthen (the child's) consciousness of self,"[2] and consequently formal exploration of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs, and possibly other parts of speech, begins. Reading continues to be practiced through written and commercial texts, chorally and individually. By the end of third grade, many children will typically be able to read age-appropriate texts silently and with good comprehension.

In fourth grade, the stories of Norse mythology, particularly the Edda, along with local geography and the "human and animal" study, form the base of the main lesson material. Rudolf Steiner recommended special speech exercises for this grade level which contain moral guidelines and at the same time demand a listening for finer nuances; for example, "What you do, do through your active will"[3]. A major theme for this age group is feeling at home in time and space. This is supported through grammar lessons exploring simple verb tenses and prepositions. The verb tenses are typically brought imaginatively through the characters of the Norns, which represent the past, present, and the future. The children use the tenses and prepositions appropriately in their own compositions. A regular focus on spelling and vocabulary development is maintained. Fourth graders continue to compose writing together with the teacher but increasingly compose their own material based on main lesson content. Creative writing is inspired through stories based on the human and animal study. The animal project is the first formal research the students conduct, write, and present. The students practice descriptive writing, including impressions of local California geography, as well as writing about field trips they have taken in connection with their local and state history lessons. Letter writing is formally taught, and pen-pal relationships with another local fourth grade class may be established. Dictionary skills are introduced. Reading continues to be practiced through written and commercial texts and the children move toward more individual and possibly partner reading. Readers may include Back in the Before Time, Nim's Island, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Good Master, and Caddie Woodlawn. By the end of fourth grade or the beginning of fifth grade, most children typically are able to read at grade level as identified by the public schools.

[1] Kellman, Janet, Betty Staley, and Astrid Schmitt-Stegman. Examining the Waldorf Curriculum from an American Viewpoint. Chatham, NY: Waldorf Publications, 1994. Pg. 28.
[2] Kellman, Staley and Schmitt-Stegman 29
[3] Kellman, Staley and Schmitt-Stegman 53


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