The first primary school year at The Waldorf School is an incredible journey to faraway lands with tales of brave and honourable knights, evil queens, virtuous princesses and dreadful dragons. This is how Waldorf children learn.

The children are introduced to fairy tales from around the world. These stories not only set the central theme for the year, but they allow the child to embark on a journey of the soul. Such stories strengthen the moral lives of children, so that later, after these pictures have lived in them for many years, this strength and guidance will help them to deal with the challenges life brings to them.

To put Waldorf education in context: it is through the stories that are told daily that the foundations of Literacy, Numeracy and Life Skills lessons are based.

Literacy through characters

In Literacy the letters of the alphabet are introduced to the children. Where an adult might see the standard letter used to form a word, the child sees a picture and the letters become alive within them. It is through this imaginative thinking that children are taught the beginnings of written language. Once all the letters have been introduced and the children are able to string letters together to make words, they then copy sentences off the black board. It is through this exercise that the process of reading begins and will become the focus in Class 2.

Where numeracy is more than just numbers

From the beginning children are made aware of the significance of numbers. They are encouraged to find numbers in nature and the natural world around them, and in this way the children are shown the geometrical beauty of maths. In Class 1 the children become acquainted to all four processes (+ – x ÷) and through songs, rhymes, games and manipulatives they learn the role that each process plays.

A lot of focus is placed more on plus and minus and the bonds of numbers up to 30 are practiced. By drawing interesting new shapes and geometrical stars (form drawing), the children learn basic geometry.

Life skills nurtured through colour, music and handwork

Handwork becomes more focused and, while it is always fun and creative, it is designed to facilitate brain development. Cjhildren start with finger knitting and, as their fingers become nimbler, they move onto knitting with two needles – often creating their own recorder bag.

Another new concept to the Class 1s is the recorder and the process of learning to play and read music. The children learn to play the pentatonic recorder by mimicking the finger movements of the teacher, developing their finger dexterity as well as teaching them the rhythm of music. Recorder becomes more formal as the children grow older, and by Grade 6 they are able to play the recorder by reading sheet music.

Visual arts also play an important role in Class 1 as children experience colour and art through painting and drawing. They work with beeswax crayons and learn to draw pictures by copying the teacher and creating an object or animal drawn from whole shapes rather than simply filling in outlines. Painting presents many “wow” moments when the children see how colours are created by mixing them on the paper, rather than simply painting a picture.

Class 1 is the bridge that transports the children from their kindergarten phase to “big” school. It allows them to explore learning whilst keeping alive the wonder and fantasy of childhood.

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