The Waldorf First Grade

First grade is a time of awakening to many wonders. This is the bridge from early childhood to the second seven-year period of development in which the forces of feeling predominate. Folk and fairy tales are the mainstay in first grade, replicating the dreamy feeling the students are waking up from at this age.

Reading and writing are introduced to the first grader through stories and pictures. A story is told to the students to introduce a capital letter, awakening in the child an image or feeling to connect with each letter and its sound. For example, out of the “Fisherman and his Wife” can come the “W” that grows out of the waves, and the “F” that grows out of the fish. Although the details are left to the teacher’s imagination, the general principle is as it was in the history of language itself, developing from picture to hieroglyph to symbol. The children hear the stories, draw the pictures, paint the forms, draw the forms, and then write the letters. It is through the repetition of this process that children begin to connect these letter “symbols,” and how they are arranged within the words, to their meaning. The student experiences that “aha” moment when she begins to understand the words she is looking at and writing down – the epiphany that she is reading!

In arithmetic, students first experience the qualities of numbers before learning addition or subtraction. Stones, acorns, and even the student’s own fingers are used to introduce and advance counting capabilities. Once these numbers are familiar, students are challenged to manipulate the numbers and search for relationships among them. The four arithmetic operations are introduced in fairy tale-like stories.

First graders begin the pentatonic flute, which develops finger coordination, concentration, and breath control. Knitting is introduced in handwork, as there exists a close relationship between finger movement, speech, and thinking. They also do watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, and crayon drawing. In coloring, the students imitate the teacher’s work, attempting to draw whole shapes rather than filling in outlines. The children are also exposed to two foreign languages for a well-rounded beginning to their academic career.

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