First grade at the CWS launches an eight-year journey. Leaving Kindergarten, children add thoughtful work to imaginary play. For many, the loss of baby teeth signals the body’s preparation for more tasks. Friendships begin and broaden. New group skills invite wholeness, each child playing his/her role. The teacher, familiar with each child even before the year begins, forms lessons around daily rhythms; these structure and comfort the children in this new beginning.
Children learn best when making a heart connection to material rather than meeting material in abstraction.
Each day starts with songs, poems, and movement; in unison, children share a morning verse from the founder, Rudolf Steiner, recited in each Waldorf school worldwide. Over the year, the children learn many verses. Speech exercises develop listening skills, pronunciation and memory. Students develop finger coordination and an ear for music notes; in 1st grade, they play the harmonious five-note scale of the pentatonic flute. Formal music class later in the day enriches morning music through the rhythms of seasonal songs and festivals. The children feel grounded, given an internal sense of direction to flourish.
Children learn best when making a heart connection to material rather than meeting material in abstraction; feeling and forming mental pictures assures this connection. Thus the teacher artistically presents new material to engage the child’s imagination. Fairy tales and nature stories form the lessons, offering rich mental pictures of the natural world and the human soul. A fairy tale introduces each letter of the alphabet. The child draws a picture of that story, writes the letter, perhaps drawing it in sand or modeling it out of wax. Each letter is thus derived to impart the corresponding sound: a king for “K” or a mountain for “M.” Consonant mastery then makes way for vowels, conduits to the realm of an emotional inner life. Children first feel vowel qualities through story, then learn their forms. Letters expand to sentences; the teacher models beautiful drawing and writing. Children take in aspects of sentence structure through inspired imitation. In learning, naming and writing the sounds, children prepare to read.
The concept of unity and the wholeness of the number One form the groundwork for mathematics. Stories and counting with natural objects (stones, games, beanbags) bring the lessons into the body. Clapping and stepping enhance addition and subtraction. The children work with the four main operations in creative ways before symbols are introduced. Then practiced; children begin to learn math facts. They may focus on the various ways of making ten. They skip and count by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, or 10s: they begin to learn the times tables.
Form drawings stimulate and develop observation and motor skills. Children discover and practice straight and curved lines through walking, tracing in the air, and on paper. A series of one and two color paintings focus on the mood and gesture of each color. Beeswax modeling sends the children’s warmth down to their fingertips, engaging their limbs and interest.
In Handwork, knitting connects spatial awareness with fine-motor coordination. The children make their own needles, learn to knit useful items. Spanish through games and imitation invites new sounds and intonations. The teacher begins Movement by stimulating the children’s imagination in story. Outside games develop dexterity and social interactions beyond the classroom.
The 1st grade elementary student undergoes many changes over this first year. At home, the essence of healthy development includes a mindful sleep routine, with careful food and toy selection. The 1st grader eagerly takes in the world; it greets her or him with beauty and grace.