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Eugene Waldorf School

Curriculum, First Grade

The morning begins for the first graders with the group recitation of a poem. After the morning exercises, the children go on to what is known as the main lesson period, which occupies the first two hours of the morning, and is devoted to a single subject for two to four weeks. The first main lesson subject is painting and drawing until the children have a facility in handling crayons, paints, and paintbrush, as writing, reading, numbers, nature study and handwork are all taught in ways involving color and design.

Letter writing is presented in a lively pictorial way with the help of fairy stories. S may be a fairy tale snake sinuously slithering through the grass on some secret errand; the motion of the sounds becomes dynamic. The teacher shows on the blackboard drawing how the letter is embedded in the picture, how perhaps the W is hiding in the drawing of the waves. The children draw the letter in the air with their hands and on the floor as a large pattern to move on with their feet; their whole being participates in the writing experience. Then the children make their own pictures of waves, and then W's, creating an illustrated book as each letter is presented.

When the children have mastered the sounds and can name and write them, they are ready for their first reading experience. The episodes of a story are illustrated by a series of pictures drawn on the blackboard by the teacher and in notebooks by the children. The class composes short descriptive sentences to accompany each picture. The wording is then copied from the teacher's model. Through these activities the children learn word and sentence structure without conscious effort and have the joy of creating their own illustrated books for reading material. Even children who have naturally learned to read by first grade find themselves thoroughly engaged, and experience a deepening of their comprehension and interest.

Exploration of numbers begins with solving riddles such as "What is one thing in the world that there can never be more than one of?" ("Me!"). So the characteristics of one, two, three, etc. are explored in the children's inner experience and in nature. Children take delight in counting, especially when the strong, rhythmic choral-speaking of the numbers is accompanied by stepping and clapping. Through activities, the children befriend themselves with the form and movement of the number element, and then begin to practice the four arithmetical processes, always proceeding from whole to parts.

Nature study, or science, takes the form of an experience of hearing the world speak, talking of life and its adventures. The children learn the true facts of nature, but always in vivid, dramatic, story form.

Handwork serves several important purposes. Knitting is an indispensable first grade activity as there exists a close relationship between finger movement, speech, and thinking. Modeling is done with honey-fragrant beeswax. Music periods are devoted to singing and playing the pentatonic recorder flute, which also helps develop finger dexterity.

The imitative genius of early childhood is still active in the first grade child, making this an ideal time to learn through hearing and speaking a foreign language, chosen for appropriateness to the time and the school's location. Currently, Spanish is taught at the Eugene Waldorf School, beginning in Grade 1.

Eurythmy, an art of movement developed by Dr. Steiner, is taught by specially trained teachers. Exercises affect the children's grace of movement, sensitize hands and fingers, heighten drawing and modeling ability, relieve strain and tension, and stimulate musical, poetic and dramatic senses.

(The above description is paraphrased from Teaching as a Lively Art, by Marjorie Spock.)

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