Tuesday, July 14, 2009

journey unfolds

curriculum for the first grader

First grade is an exciting time for the young child, and for the teacher as well! The child is transitioning out of the first seven year cycle (toddler and kindergarten years), and is at the threshhold of developing his or her awareness of the Self and of the World.

In this blog post, I wanted to outline the curriculum of the first grader, and briefly touch on the reasoning behind it. For the formal classroom teacher or the homeschooling parent of a 7 to 8 year old child, this is information that will align you to current Waldorf pedagogy. Please remember to treat the information as guidelines - each Waldorf school has their own culture and requirements, and each homeschooling parent has the benefit of the parent-child relationship to know what is truly right for the child.

This post is organized as follows:

Key Developmental Features of the First Grader

Beginning the Day

The Block Rotations: A Year's Curriculum

A Weekly Schedule

Art of the Main Lesson

Key Developmental Features of the First Grader

The first grade child is about 7 years of age. He is transitioning out of the otherworldly plane of early chidlhood where the Spirit Self has not yet completely touched down onto the earthly plane of their own physical body. (Picture our toddlers as angels sent down from heaven, and as they turn about seven years of age, their senses come into more focus that they are a physical entity with the wonders of the world about to unfold before their eyes!) As a first grader, the child has the sense of connectedness to the world around them. Oneness with their peers and their environment is a major part of their being. They think in terms of "we" instead of "I." The imagination is strong, their physical development is crucial.

Beginning the Day

In the classroom or the homeschool, create a setting, a mood, that exudes welcome and warmth. Because the child's spirit is so connected to the environment, the spaces where the learning is happening needs to be positive and welcoming. The teacher can make a physical connection with the students through a firm handshake, and emotionally create the caring bond through genuine eyes and a joyful smile. Receive the child, and become attuned to his or her vibe. Harmonize the entire class through a routine morning program of a simple song, or a verse, and always with body movement, preparing the teacher and the class for the lessons and adventures of the day.

The Block Rotations: A Year's Curriculum

In the Waldorf classroom, the subjects are blocked together. These blocks comprise what is called the Main Lesson (more on that later). Here is the first grade curriculum:

Month and
September: Form Drawing
October: Introduction to Vowels
Oct/Nov: Numbers (Times Tables)
Nov/Dec: Intro to Consonants and Crafts
December: Winter break
January: Form Drawing
Jan/Feb: Numbers (Add and Subtract)
February: Consonants
Mar/Apr: Numbers (Division)
May: Letters/Phonics/Reading
June: Numbers (Multiply)

A Weekly Schedule

The first grade schedule is not a full day, as it recognizes that the child's stamina for the structured learning environment, no matter how loving and wonderful, needs time to develop. The day appears to be less than four hours total.

Typically, from 8:30 t0 10:30, MTWRF, the main lesson is given. From about 10:40 to 11:15, the foreign languages are taught, alternating between Spanish and German, MTWR. On Friday, this same time may be occupied by handwork. The last period of the day may go something like this: Monday, handwork; Tuesday, games and beeswax; Wednesday, eurythmy; Thursday, music; and Friday, painting.

Art of the Main Lesson

The main lesson is the bread and butter of Waldorf education. Here, the teacher is also a performance artist, a visual artist, musician, and storyteller all rolled into one joyful, clever, and impossibly creative educator!

The two hour block is comprised of four half hour segments. The first half hour is circle time, designed to bring the students into a collective spirit with movements and singing. This first hald hour focuses on the students' feeling life, and brings the heart's rhythms into synchronicity with the environment, invigorating their imaginations and their bodies.

The second half hour focuses on their thinking life, as this is the time for recall and review of previous material, plus the introduction of new material. Their intellectual selves are challenged, their brains are exercised, and their minds become expanded.

The third half hour is work in the main lesson book (this needs its own space to describe). Briefly, the MLB is this da Vincian-like journal that mixes art and the intellect to show off the progression of their daily learning. Here, their willing lives are practiced, as the learning is translated to their hands.

And finally, in the final half hour, a story is told, often drawn from the Grimm's fairy tales, and the child's experience combines the feeling, thinking, and willing self.

Through the entire main lesson, the teacher weaves the learning material into all the aspects of the lesson. In this way, learning is experiential and multisensory, anchoring the material, whether it be math, or the langauge arts, or science, into the being of the child.


themagiconions said...

Great overview of the First Grade... thanks!

Tan Family said...

Perfect timing...I'm starting to plan our homeschooling calendar for this upcoming school year. Thank you for explaining the main lesson blocks for Grade 1.

Faiza said...

Thank you! That is really wonderful, perfect timing for me too. I really loved the main lesson description. So much easier to understand now.

Earth Mama said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I really enjoy it. Can you refer me to information on the first seven year cycle?

Jen said...

This was a great intro/summary for 1st grade, Rick! I printed it out and will put it in my Waldorf binder. Will be very helpful as we plan for 1st grade. Can't wait to get started :) Great blog!

patrick said...

Hi Rick,

Such a sensitive and artistic rendering of your experience have you built here. It is a joy to read and see. I will return often.

Patrick W.E.