The Waldorf Curriculum: Grade Six

Block Rotations and Course Descriptions



As he or she progresses through Grades One through Eight, the Waldorf class teacher must determine not only what will be taught, but also how and when. The “block rotation” presented here, as well as the descriptions of the subjects to be taught and the week-by-week approach to this teaching, will hopefully inspire class teachers to develop their own modus operandi for this challenging task.

This July, Eugene Schwartz will lead “The Online Grade Six Conference,” for teacher. For more information visit

Note: Elements of Grade Six, a CD-ROM with many images of student work from this grade, as well as a class play, may be purchased through the Online Catalog

Sixth Grade Main Lesson Block Rotation
Eugene Schwartz, class teacher

September 4 – September 27 Geometrical Drawing September 30 – October 11 Astronomy October 15 – November 1 Language Arts November 4 – November 22 Mathematics November 25 – December 20 Roman History, Part 1 January 6 – January 17 Mineralogy January 21 – February 7 Work on Class Play February 10 – February 14 Mathematics February 24 – March 21 Physics March 24 – April 16 Roman History, Part 2 April 28 – May 16 European Geography May19 – May 23 (Tentative) Class Trip May 27 – June 13 Medieval History • Our Class Play school performances will be on the evenings of February 7th and 8th. • We will go on curriculum-related day trips to the Museum of Natural History, the Rose Planetarium, and the Cloisters.


Geometrical Drawing

For the past five years many children in the class have worked regularly with Form Drawing, gradually honing and perfecting their own body as a “drawing instrument”. This year, as they descend more fully into the mineral/mechanical nature of their physical bodies, the children will draw with instruments which provide an external image of the eye and the arm: T-square, straightedge and compass. All of our forms will be constructed within a circle, which will also be done with the more challenging five-part division of the circle. Great stress will be laid on neatness and accuracy. The drawings will be constructed using hard and fine draftsman’s pencils, and then carefully colored in.

Week One: Introduction to drawing instruments and materials. Simple forms based on the six-part division of the circle. Week Two: From the six to the twenty-four division of the circle. Week Three: Construction of the pentagon and pentagram. More complex forms based on five and eight divisions of the circle. Astronomy The skills that the sixth graders develop with compass and straight edge will be put to use again as we depict the arcs and circles that describe the paths of the stars in different quadrants of the sky. Our study of Astronomy will be based primarily on observations made with the unaided eye. In spite of all that we have learned using advanced optical and radio telescopes and through the development of the computer simulation of stellar conditions, we are remarkably blind to the wonder inherent in the simplest astronomical observations. This block will attempt to awaken your child to these primal phenomena. Week One: Apparent movement of the stars in different parts of the sky. “Fixed stars”, “wandering stars” and constellations. Appearance of the stars in different parts of the world. Myths and legends linked with the constellations. Week Two: The moon and its phases. The relationship of the moon’s position to that of the sun. The sun in four seasons; the sun in the equatorial, temperate and polar zones of the earth. Language Arts We will approach this subject viaGrammatica, a glimpse into the Latin language and some aspects of its grammar. This will help us to understand how many laws of English grammar arose out of the language spoken by the ancient Romans. The fact that the Latin language is inflected (i.e., a noun’s ending immediately indicates its role in a sentence) while English is not, makes our language easier to use but much harder to analyze. Although our grammatical laws are derived from the Latin, a dead language, they must be applied to a language which is still living and developing. We will also see how many of our word “roots”, prefixes and suffixes are unchanged from the Latin. [Apart from this main lesson block, there will be weekly language arts lessons during our extra mains.] Week One: Review: parts of speech, punctuation, direct and indirect quotation, tenses. Week Two: Aspects of Latin grammar; “case”; transitive and intransitive verbs; prepositional phrases. Subject and predicate. Week Three: The sentence and the paragraph. Writing exercises. Mathematics We will begin by reviewing the arithmetical concepts of earlier grades and honing the children’s skills in the four operations, fractions, decimals and simple formulae (area and perimeter of regular figures). Two new topics this year will be formulas and “business math.” You may recall the enthusiastic interest shown by the class at the end of fifth grade when they were introduced to some simple formulas for squares and rectangles. This year we will discover and use formulas for finding the perimeter, area and circumference of a number of shapes, and look at their practical application. We will also continue our work with charts and graphs, experiencing again how bar, line and pictographs allow us to present complicated information in a directly accessible manner. To produce graphs that are both accurate and beautiful, the skills learned in Geometrical Drawing will be called upon once again. Pie-graphs will give us a visual basis for understanding percentage, the most important “new” mathematical concept with which we will work this year. On the one hand, percentage looks back to decimals and fractions (remember those fourth-grade “fraction pies”?): on the other hand it is the doorway into Business Math. Once a familiarity is gained with percentages, we will approach such economic concepts as interest, taxation, profit and loss, markups and markdowns. Once we’ve learned the formula for simple interest we will take up such issues as borrowing and lending and the role of banks from medieval times to our own. In this way, sixth grade math will help your child begin to face the complex realities of the financial world. [Apart from this main lesson block, there will be weekly math reviews during our extra main lessons.] Week One: Presenting numerical information in graphic form; different types of graphs; pie graphs and the concept of percentage. Week Two: Percentage, decimals and fractions. Common fractions as decimals and percentages. Borrowing and lending money; how a savings account works. Week Three: Buying and selling; percentage and profit. Interest rates and banking. Business word problems. Roman and Medieval History In fifth grade we made a gradual and gentle transition from the dreamy and poetic world of ancient myths to the more clearly delineated biographies of historically-documented figures such as Pericles and Aristotle. In sixth grade, only a short period of time will be spent recapitulating this “mythical stage” of history, as we examine Rome’s divine origins. We will then rapidly move into the study of figures of flesh and blood, and events whose monuments still stand in our own age. This is appropriate, for the sixth grader now stands, like an ancient Roman, solidly on the earth, and craves facts and their relationship to one another. Now we study history in relation to space and will make a time line to show events unfolding in chronological order. The expansion and contraction of the Roman Empire and the ever-changing map of Europe, on the other hand, will help us understand history in relation to space. History will be a subject studied quite extensively this year. Our work will be divided into three blocks. Our first block will cover early Roman history, from its mythological period through the Seven Kings of Rome and onto the Roman Republic. In our second block we will see Rome’s transformation from Republic to Empire. Our third block, at the year’s end, will take us through the decline and fall of the Empire and the unfolding of European civilization in the Middle Ages.Part One Week One: The Aeneid: the epic life of Aeneas, who carried the impulse of ancient Troy to the Italian peninsula. Romulus and Remus: the founding of Rome in the eighth century, B.C. The Seven Kings of Rome. The overthrow of Tarquinus Superbus and the establishment of the Republic. Map-making: drawing from Roman models. Week Two: The structure of the Roman Republic. Lives of noble and heroic Romans. Hannibal and other enemies of Rome. Daily life in the Roman Republic. Making a time line. Roman style debates. Week Three: Roman engineering and methods of construction: the aqueducts and the Via Appia. The structure of the Roman army and government in the provinces.Part Two Week One: Julius Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic. Caesar’s European campaigns. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, Octavius (later Augustus) Caesar and the establishment of the Empire. Daily life in the Empire. Week Two: The “mad Emperors,” Caligula and Nero. Jesus of Nazareth, the Apostle Peter and Paul of Tarsus. The pomp and decadence of imperial Rome and the simplicity of life in the Catacombs. (Our class play will be based on material studied at this time.) Week Three: The decline of Rome: the vitality of the Germanic tribes and the weakness of the Roman people. The conversion of Constantine, and the division of Rome into the western and eastern (Byzantine) empires. The rise of the Roman of the Roman church.Part Three Week One: The Diaspora and the development of medieval Judaism. The Torah and the Talmud. The life of Mohammed and the rise of Islam. Week Two: The “Dark Ages” in Europe. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The castle and the monastery. The feudal system. (A class trip to the Cloisters will provide an experience of medieval life.) Week Three: Charles Martel and his sons. The conflict of Europe and the Arab world. Charlemagne and Haroun Al-Raschid, a study in contrasts. Mineralogy “Natural Science” divides in two in the sixth grade. Astronomy will draw our attention to heaven, and, as a counterbalance to such imaginative soaring, Mineralogy will draw us into the earth’s depths to view its many marvels. This division reflects the dual nature of the sixth grader. On the one hand, she feels herself becoming a “citizen of the earth”, and incarnates ever more fully in her physical body. One the other hand, in her nature there are stirrings of a life of ideals, and of perfection that can be attained only in thoughts. The former experience is met in sixth grade especially by Mineralogy, Roman History, Business Math and Physics; the latter by Astronomy, Geometrical Drawing and Grammar. In this Mineralogy block we will study the polarities of the world of the minerals, expressed outwardly in the fiery genesis of igneous rocks and the watery development of the sedimentary rocks. As a means of understanding the practical applications of the study of minerals, we will learn about the manufacture of cement and glass, and examine the origins of “fossil fuels” such as coal and petroleum. An examination of precious metals and jewels and their role in human civilization will complete our study. Week One: Rocks and what they tell us. Observations made on a mountain journey. Volcanoes and igneous rocks. Sedimentary rocks and “limestone terrain.” Caves; stalagmites and stalactites. Quartz and limestone; crystals and shells. Week Two: Limestone and the manufacture of cement; quartz and the making of glass. Coal and petroleum, their origins and consequences for human life. Gold and diamonds.Physics This third science block of the year is important not only because it is the longest of our blocks (five weeks) but also because it is our introduction to laboratory science, and therefore provides quite a different experience from the natural science/natural history that we have studied up until now. No longer is it sufficient for the children to “take my word” about natural phenomena — now they must see it, feel it, and hear it for themselves! Along with Roman History and Mineralogy, Physics reaffirms the sixth grader’s growing connection with the physicality of earthly life. In a time when their developing senses are being assailed by synthesized sights and processed sounds, the study of physics serves to stimulate and sensitize the students’ eyes and ears. This block will serve as a general overview of the Physics that we will study in these next three years. Our main areas of study will be Acoustics, the science of sound, and Optics, which will include the study of light and color. We will also have some experiences with heat and cold, subjects which we will then pursue further in the upper grades. Week One: Sounds in nature and everyday life; the propagation of sound. Elements of music and different musical instruments. Pythagoras and the monochord; the relationship of fractions and tones. Bottles and glasses as musical instruments. The Chladni plate and its “sound figures.” Week Two: Our experience of light; light and shadow. Primary and secondary colors; complementary colors. After images (“physiological colors”). Prisms and the interplay of light and darkness. Week Three: Reflection and refraction. Mirrors and their geometry. Lenses and their laws. Week Four: The Nature of Heat. The effect of heat on various substances and states of matter. Heat and cold, expansion and contraction. Boiling and freezing; the special nature of water. The thermometer; heat and cold on and around the earth. European Geography In a departure from the Green Meadow tradition of teaching South American geography in sixth grade, we will work with Europe this year and South America next year. In their study of Roman history, the sixth graders will again and again encounter European peoples, rivers, mountains and natural resources. It seems appropriate for them to come to learn about Europe in a more systematic manner. Next year, when we study the “Age of Discovery,” our attention will be naturally drawn to the South American continent. As always, our study will be of “cultural geography.” We will learn not only of the endowments provided by nature, but of what European humanity has made of them. In this exciting moment in history, when the map of Europe is being changed daily, and the individual character of the many European peoples is at once asserting itself yet searching for new means of cooperation, our study of Europe should help to prepare your children to understand the variety and complexity of challenges facing that continent. Week One: The great European rivers and the cultures that have risen along them. The major mountain chains of Europe. Week Two: Characteristics of the four directions in Europe: the Iberian peninsula and Scandinavia. Week Three: The four directions, continued: Eastern Europe; Germany and France. The British Isles as a reflection of the European continent. Class Play Our play this year, to be performed in February, is set at the time of the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero.Roma/Amorwill explore the possibility that the brightest hopes for the future of humanity may have lived even in the darkness and decadence of Imperial Rome — a time, alas, not unlike our own. At our first Parent Evening I will be soliciting the help of those parents who would like to be involved in planning the class play well in advance.


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