Waldorf Common Core Curriculum
The Waldorf Common Core Curriculum Alignment and Handbook can be downloaded from the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education website.
The curriculum at a Waldorf school can be seen as an ascending spiral. Every day a strong foundation is laid for future learning, and every day children learn optimally as teachers build on the previously instilled foundation and love of learning.
In kindergarten, a foundation is laid for academic study. Young children gain experience and develop relationships with learning primarily through structured play and free creativity. Children play at cooking; they sing, paint and color; they model beeswax and build houses out of boxes and fabrics. Through songs, poems, puppet shows, and stories, youngsters learn to enjoy language, as they learn about relating with others. To become fully engaged in such work is the child’s best preparation for learning and life. It builds powers of concentration, interest, and a life-long love of learning. When children enter first grade, they are eager to explore further the world of experience they had learned to identify with and imitate in kindergarten.
With their physical bodies now basically developed, children are ready to begin work with their minds. In first grade, children begin to “see” pictures, “hear” stories and “divine” meaning at conscious levels; they also become more able to imagine and think actively. At this time teachers—who progress through three grades with their students—create a “rhythm” for students’ school lives that will continue in core learning areas through all the grades:
Language Arts – Story telling and fairy tales are used to help children master alphabet shapes and forms.
Mathematics – The qualities of numbers, and exploration of whole, natural objects are used to introduce counting. Arithmetic concepts are introduced through choral speaking, stepping and clapping.
Music – Use of the pentatonic scale and simple flutes, as well as songs based on seasonal themes provide early exposure to harmony, finger coordination, concentration and breath control.
Knitting – Knitting is an indispensable tool for helping to strengthen eye-hand coordination and to enhance children’s ability to concentrate and perceive patterns, particularly at this age when the brain is still developing.
Art – In first grade, children directly experience color by painting with watercolors (wet on wet technique). They use beeswax to express feelings, and follow teachers’ work to learn about basic forms.
Foreign Language – Aside from English, at the WCS youngsters have the opportunity to begin hearing and speaking Russian beginning in grade one. As the school grows it is the intent to add a second foreign language so that children will be introduced to myriad sounds and language systems. This early introduction to a second language comes at the ideal time in a child’s development.
Science – Nature-oriented lessons are taught through outdoor experiences, animal stories, and observation of seasonal changes.
The teacher who progresses with students from 1st to 2nd grade is completely aware of pupils’ previous learning experiences and can build step-by-step on shared foundations. Young children, who are sensitive to change, enjoy the security of knowing one teacher’s personality and methods intimately and thoroughly. The second grade child is like a butterfly who has just emerged from the chrysalis and sits upon the leaf waiting expectantly for new wings, poised for flight.
Language Arts – Literature from many cultures creates natural incentives for second graders to strengthen their reading and writing skills. Studies in one of two foreign languages are continued.
Mathematics – Imaginative stories are used to illustrate addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Rhythmic counting by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 5’s, and early multiplication tables are internalized through use of whole body movement and artful number tables. These basics, which kids need draw on many times over their lifetimes, are deeply and positively engrained by such methods.
Art – Crocheting is introduced, and children undertake useful, beautiful textile handwork projects. Musical instruction expands on earlier learning and includes singing and flute lessons.
Science – Observation skills are strengthened through outdoor experiences and lessons about growing and living things, natural processes, and seasonal changes.
Many Waldorf teachers refer to 3rd grade as the “Crossing Point”. The third grader begins to feel independence and begins actively to question their surroundings and feelings. Nine year olds need to achieve new forms of inner security and techniques for coming to terms with their emotions. Third graders are thus helped to form new relationships with nature through gardening, with a sense of history through the study of ancient civilizations, with others through building experiences, and with themselves through more focused studies in drama, music and grammar.
Language Arts – Study of grammar awakens children’s awareness of verbs—words that are doing, naming or describing. Studies of ancient civilizations begin, raising concepts such as battles between good and bad, us and them. Studies in two foreign languages are continued.
Mathematics – Study of math remains physically connected through practical measurements of length, volume, time, weight, money and music. Children measure and weigh many things, and advance their understanding of the usefulness of mathematical tools and concepts.
Art – In music, round singing and flute recorder are emphasized. Drama is introduced, which, along with music allows for lively relationships with the teacher and each other.
Science – Gardening and outdoor activities provide realistic windows for observation and understanding the natural world, seasonal cycles, earth processes, and ecosystem dynamics.
Stability and strength are characteristics of the fourth grader. The “hero” emerges through literature at an age when miraculous feats capture children’s attention. At the same time, the human qualities, the emotions, and life’s struggles and confrontations are emphasized.
Language Arts – Grammar composition, writing, Norse mythology and studies of heroes are emphasized along with narrations of children’s own experience. Foreign language studies are continued.
Mathematics – Complicated form drawing is introduced, along with fractions, wholes and parts, and decimal divisions of numbers. Students’ knowledge of basic mathematical rules and concepts is explored and enhanced.
Art – Stringed instruments are introduced, and at this age singing in rounds and harmony are emphasized to demonstrate a child’s developing individuality and ability to hold her own within a group of others.
Science – Comparative studies of human beings and animals, and continued honing of observation skills produce very important lessons at this age.
The fifth grade curriculum builds on well-established foundations. At the same time, it introduces new elements to take full advantage of the rapid learning and greater depth of interest that are the hallmarks of this age.
Language Arts – Study of language and literature continues, with focuses on poetry and humans’ use of symbols including hieroglyphics. Foreign language study continues.
History – This area expands to become a main lesson subject. Learning about ancient history (Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece) helps students to understand the deeds and strivings of mankind and to connect with their own humanity. Studies in American geography begin.
Mathematics – Geometry is introduced, and lessons in fractions and decimals continue.
Art – Regular choral singing continues and students form an orchestra. Woodworking and knitting are emphasized, while painting continues
Science – Study of Earth’s physical features is linked with how human life has been lived in northern regions. Botany becomes a key area of study, too, as students learn about and compare local plants with those in other parts of the world.
Sixth grade is the gateway to pre-adolescence and idealism. With students’ increasing awareness of their physical bodies comes the right time to study the physical body of the earth.
Language Arts – Language and literature studies continue, with emphases on grammar, public speaking and writing for practical purposes, such as business letters. In their foreign language studies, students begin reading simple texts, humorous stories, and translations.
History – The transition from ancient to early modern history is relevant to the sixth grader, who is also in transition. Greek and Roman history and accomplishments effectively match the 6th grader’s “I can do anything!” attitude.
Mathematics – Percentages, ratios and geometry are key areas of study.
Art – Students begin to sing in two-and three-part choruses. Instrumental playing advances. Knitted animals and woodcarving are emphasized.
Science – Lessons in botany and biology concentrate on more formal study of flora and fauna. Geology is introduced as students learn about minerals, metals, gems, crystals, and the earth’s configuration. Study of Earth’s oceans and climates further help students to understand nature and our planet.
Seventh grade continues the study of the physical body of the earth, broadening and deepening their understanding. It is also a time where students begin to look inward at the physical processes of the human body. Across the curriculum outward striving and inner knowledge are grown in a balanced way.
Language Arts – Literature studies include lyric poetry, historical novels, adventure stories centering on the Arthurian legends and voyages of discovery. Continuing work on biographies, creative writing, research papers, early play writing, and forms of poetry. Students explore metaphor and imagery. They learn the craft of letter writing for different purposes – bank managers, eyewitness accounts, factual summaries, commentaries, notes, e-mail, etc.
History – History from 1400 to Renaissance, biographies, African and European geography. History of European Explorations, invention of printing, the Renaissance, birth of modern science, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, de Medicis, Thirty Years’ war, the Plague.
Mathematics – Beginning in 7th Grade and continuing into 8th Grade, pupils create order with the strength of their new ability to experience internal logic. This is exemplified in algebra. Work in geometry is linked to history through the study of perspective drawing, which was first used during the Renaissance.
Art – Perspective drawing, ink brush and pen, continue with veil painting. Free drawing. Sphere, cone, etc. drawn as spatial solids. Handwork lessons can include the following: leatherworking, weaving, carving and making wooden toys and boxes.
Science – In the 7th Grade, the physical science curriculum continues with the study of Light/Optics, Acoustics/Sound, Heat, Magnetism and Electricity. The 7th Grader, in addition to experiencing phenomena and then reflecting on the experience, also asks “how has the phenomena arisen and how does it work?” Students experience blocks on Mechanics, Inorganic Chemistry, Physiology, Health, Astronomy and Computer Science. In addition, students learn
the biographies of great scientists to show how science is set in a historical context and how determined individuals pursued their fascination with phenomena.
Eighth grade is a year of culmination and preparation to move on to high school and beyond. The students are led to bring together what they have learned into a meaningful world picture in which the human being as a striving ethical being has central significance. They should also be ready to work independently. With these goals in mind, the yearlong 8th grade project challenges the students to bring all their skills together under a theme that captures their individual interest.
Language Arts – Shakespeare, epic and dramatic poetry, continue literature, grammar, spelling, essay writing, business and practical writing, write skits and short plays. The eighth grade project demands polished research and reporting skills.
History – 1700’s to present, biographies, American history, Geography of Asia, Australia and Antarctica. Pilgrims, the Constitution, Civil war, Gandhi, Nightingale, Red Cloud, Wounded Knee, Industrial Age, child labor, newer technologies, WWI.
Mathematics – Work on linear and freehand perspective, as well as on rotations and transformations of shapes and solids, continues the study of geometry. Work in Algebra continues also, with students using formulas in a variety of practical areas, such as calculating speed, simple/compound interest and mechanical advantage.
Art – Black and white drawing. Continue with painting. Detailed copies. Sculpting figures with dramatic gestures. Handwork classes can include work with sewing machines, making costumes for plays, building a clay bread oven, building a teepee, making a picture frame and designing and building a skateboard ramp.
Science – If the key question in 7th Grade was “How,” the questions in 8th Grade are “Why” “Where” and “Who.” Why does this process occur? Where in the world does it happen? Who found a way to apply it? In Physics, Acoustics, Optics, Heat and Electromagnetism are pursued further and are taken up through their practical application as founded in the industrial and technological revolutions. Studies in Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Meteorology and Aeromechanics are introduced. Work in the Life Sciences, or Physiology, continues with a study of the skeletal and muscular systems (particularly the form and function of the spinal column and its relationship to uprightness), as well as the inner working of the eye and ear. The nervous and reproductive systems are also taught. 8th Grade students learn to build a simple computer and continue their understanding of the basic science of computing.
Understanding the Specials
As a school inspired by Waldorf methods, Winterberry offers a rich Specialty Program to all of our students. Specialty courses are an equal and essential part of the Waldorf program and are designed to deepen and enhance the main lesson activities. Attending Winterberry requires every child’s full participation in all offered specialty courses. Below you will find descriptors of these courses:
As human beings, we use our hands regularly in our daily lives. As Waldorf, the Handwork curriculum is broad and includes skills such as knitting, crocheting, hand sewing, embroidery, felting, paper crafts, pattern design, and machine sewing.
Many of the benefits of the Handwork program are obvious: hand-eye coordination; basic math skills such as counting, the four math processes, and basic geometry; the ability to understand and follow a process from concept to completion; and the ability to focus on a project for an extended period of time.
There are also more subtle rewards that complement these obvious benefits. Students must prepare and care for materials. Many of the created items have a practical use – a case for a flute, a needle book, a pair of socks. Design and color choice allow for individual creative expression. One of the most far- reaching benefits of Handwork class is the social aspect. While there are times when quiet is needed, such as when students are learning a new stitch, most of the time the atmosphere in the classroom is social and conversational, not unlike a quilting bee. Students learn to speak politely to one another. Throughout the process, respect is fostered.
At Winterberry, all first graders learn how to knit. This basic skill uses both right and left hands, and brings a steady, calming rhythm to the younger child. Crocheting, which emphasizes the right or left hand, almost always follows in the second or third grade. Cross- stitch is paramount to fourth grade as the children begin crossing over from childhood to adolescence. In fifth grade, knitting in the round, used to make hats, mittens, and socks, is a three dimensional, mathematical activity leading up to critical thinking in the middle school. Long-term hand-sewing projects involving concepts, patterns, and mathematical computations are usually found in sixth or seventh grade. The eighth grade Handwork curriculum often involves machine sewing, which perfectly integrates the student’s study of American History and the Industrial Revolution.
Russian is offered at Winterberry to all students in grades one – eight. The intent of Winterberry’s language program is for students to gain an innate appreciation for the sound of another language as well as its cultural richness. It is a dynamic program where language is offered through culture, music, games, cuisine, storytelling, crafts, singing, and dancing. From the content of these activities, children absorb the Russian culture and its passions. Students learn the geography and history of Russia and throughout the year, students prepare for and celebrate holidays and cultural events.
At Winterberry, we begin in grades one through three by immersing the children in the spoken language. In the first three grades, children experience the Russian language through verses, songs, and finger plays. Additionally, by adding stories and games we help the children deepen their experience of the language. In these grades, all work is generally oral in nature, with little or no reading or writing.
As students enter grade four and are fairly adept at reading and writing English, we introduce the Russian alphabet to them. The Russian alphabet offers great challenge to students with both its visual and phonetic differences. In order to help the children quickly make the connection between the letters and their sounds, we begin by writing out and reading aloud verses the children learned by heart in previous years. Soon the children are able to read Russian aloud almost as well as they read English. In grade five, we revisit stories heard aloud in previous grades in a printed form and begin more focused work with grammar.
The work of the middle school years is a bit more strenuous. We pull the language apart to study its nuances.
Culture & Folk Dance
Using Russian Language class as a base, students will engage in cultural experiences and dance throughout the grades. Students will cook, draw, sing, complete crafts, and learn Russian folk dance. Additionally, students will be introduced to folk and other dances, crafts, and food from around the world based on main lesson curricular focus.
Movement & Games
Just as Waldorf schools honor the natural unfolding of the developing human being in determining the academic curriculum, Movement Education springs from this same understanding. In a culture where organized team sports hold such high status, children can sometimes think of movement only in those terms. The Movement Education curriculum gives students basic coordination and movement skills that will help them if and when they decide to play organized sports. Depending on the grade, children will play games, do relay races, or learn dances that serve to develop skills that may also be beneficial for a conventional sport.
Not only does a movement class provide the opportunity for children to play games and have fun, it also works with their social interaction: their activity teaches them to play with each other before they play against each other, to acknowledge each other, to play safely, and to gain an appreciation for all kinds of movement. Movement Education enables students to move fully, know who they are, and enter into a more healthy relationship with the world and its requirements.
In the early years, kindergarten teachers introduce movement through imitation of daily activities, circle games, singing and imaginative play. Movement in kindergarten is crucial for establishing social and communication skills as well as laying the ground for cognition.
In grades three through five, movement education is taught through various games to help develop an enhanced awareness of personal space, with clearly defined boundaries. Physical activity is emphasized through games using imagery, story, rhythm and imitation. In the fifth grade, there is a focus on beauty and form, and in the spring the fifth graders participate in the Pentathlon, along with a gathering of fifth grade classes from Anchorage Waldorf School and Birchtree Charter School.
In grades six, seven, and eight, more conventional sports are introduced into the physical education curriculum. Only now can the children have a real respect for the law of rules and understand how a team works together. At the same time, they are developing their own self-discipline and competitive nature. They aspire to a finer exactness, technique, timing and spirit of the law, as they also become more aware of the world.
Music is an essential part of the Waldorf curriculum and permeates the school day from kindergarten through eighth grade. Music not only enlivens the spirit, but also increases the child’s capacity for learning. Through the study of music, we learn to sensitize our hearing, allowing us to better listen to the sounds of the world and to each other.
In the earliest years (kindergarten through first grade), the children sing primarily pentatonic melodies without harmony. In grade one, the pentatonic flute is introduced and is carried through to the second grade. From Kindergarten through Grade Two the class teacher is responsible for presentation of the Waldorf music curriculum via song, flute, and simple instruments.
Beginning in grade three, the students learn a more mindful approach to music, in keeping with their developing self-consciousness. It is in grade three that weekly music lessons are presented to Winterberry students by a certified music teacher. In this grade, we move on to the recorder. Additionally, the class moves through more complex vocal arrangements and progress at a rate that matches the students’ developmental needs.
In the middle school, ensembles, recorder groups, and choirs are formed and offer musical performances to the community within and beyond our school. Elements of musical theory are woven into the musical curriculum each middle school year. We also explore the lives of composers and aspects of music history. In the upper grades students also have the opportunity to learn the soprano, alto, tenor, and the bass recorder and bring in other instruments they have learned to play.
The Waldorf music teacher takes a primary interest in each child’s musical development but other adults also contribute to and support these efforts. The class teacher plays a vital role either by singing with the class and/or by playing recorder with them. The relationship each student develops with his or her private teacher is an important one, while parents help by supporting concentrated and regular practice times at home. (Adapted from: The Waldorf School of Atlanta)