The Waldorf Curriculum: Verses for the Primary Grades

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In the Waldorf school recitation, games, and songs play a central role in strengthening the memory and providing a spatial and kinesthetic foundation for learning. This is a collection of verses that Eugene Schwartz wrote for his class as he shepherded them through the primary grades. They are used by Waldorf teachers throughout the world and may be freely downloaded.

This June, Eugene Schwartz will lead “The Essential Grades One, Two, and Three,” three conferences for teachers and home educators, in Kimberton, PA. For more information visit www.essentialwaldorf.com.

Student work reflecting the entire  Waldorf Curriculum, Grades One through Eight, is available on The Elements of the Waldorf Curriculum, a set of CDs that may be purchased from the Online CD Catalog at www.millennialchild.com.

 
 

GRADE ONE 

 
 

Number Verses 
 

One is the Sun that shines so bright,

One is the moon so high;

One is the day and one is the night,

One is the sheltering sky.

One is a head so still and tame,

Upon one body whole with health;

And I is the one and the special name

That only I can call myself! 
 

Two are the eyes with which I see,

Two are the ears that hear;

Joy and sorrow both live in me,

And so do courage and fear.

Darkness and Light must together live,

Night and day are as sister and brother;

And two are the hands that receive and give,

To help myself or serve another. 
 

Around me in the world I see

Beast and plant and stone.

Nature weaves her world as Three,

But I am three in one:

A head well-wrought for wisdom’s work,

A heart hallowed by love;

Strong limbs to labor on the earth

As Angels do above. 
 

Summer and Autumn, Winter and Spring,

Through Four seasons passes the year;

Fire and Air, Water and Earth–

Out of these four does our whole world appear. 
 
 

Five are the fingers upon each hand,

Each foot has its five toes;

Five rays has the star shining high o’er the land,

Five petals has the rose.

And when with limbs outstretched I alight,

Like a five-pointed star

All the world I make bright! 
 

The Snow Queen casts Six-pointed flakes

On stormy winds to ride;

The crystal with its six clear walls

In deepest earth abides;

When the busy bee builds honeycombs

He sculpts them with six sides.

Wherever Light would find a home,

In storm, or cave, or honeycomb,

Six is its chosen number and form. 
 

Odd and Even Game 

(The children form two lines; one line wears crowns bearing odd numbers, the other crowns with even numbers.) 

Line One:

      We are the Odd Numbers

    Oh, so lonely!

    We haven’t any friends

    By night or day;

    Ah, for one friend,

    One friend only,

    To hop and skip and run and play! 

Line Two:

    Here we come,

    The Even Numbers!

    We’re your friends,

    We’ll stand by you;

    Call our names and we’ll come romping,

    Dancing, stomping, two by two! 

(Calling out their numbers in turn, the children pair up, take hands and skip together to music played by their teacher.) 
 

Summer is Ending

(A poem for loud and low voices; to be accompanied by the appropriate gestures) 

“Summer is ending!” the father bear said,

“In yonder tree hollow I’ll build me a bed.” 

“Summer is ending!” said all the gold weeds,

And so, softly sighing, they scattered their seeds. 

“Summer is ending!” the hurricane cried,

Hurling and whirling harsh winds high and wide. 

“Summer is ending,” said fiery King Sun,

“My flame must grow fainter, then fade out to none! 
 

Jack Frost 

Jack Frost crept into my room,

Though the windows were shut tight;

Painting pictures on each pane,

Weaving worlds of glimmering ice.

Glowing on the gleaming glass,

Frosty flowers, snowy trees,

Crystal castles, icy grass–

Jack Frost painted all of these.

When the morning’s rosy rays

Showed the power of the Sun,

Jack Frost laughingly erased

All the work that he had done! 
 

Adventsong

(To be recited while walking in a spiral) 

In the deep and dark wood’s heart

Where moans the North Wind cold,

You will find a sun-filled cave

When you walk a spiral road.

Shimmering stars will sing above

To the crystals that glitter below,

While you draw your light from a flame so bright

Bringing warmth to the sparkling snow. 
 

Late Winter, Early Spring 

Busy gnomes chip away

At the winter’s hard ground,

So that bulbs may burst forth

And spring’s beauty abound.

In the woods, damp and dark,

They must labor below

Crooked roots and cold stones,

Pushing stalks through the snow. 

Undines melt snow until

Water can flow again,

Filling the leaves growing

Green with spring rain.

Sylphs, they are dreaming

Of winds softly streaming

Through petals all yellow

And purple and blue. 
 

Some Vowels and Consonants 

‘Midst the mountains’ melting snows,

    Murmuring breezes meekly blow;

    But mighty winds among the vales

    Meet mists that move o’er marshes pale. 

A,E,I The sun shines in his heart,

    The sun’s rays make him brave;

    He leads a steed as fleet as thought,

    From fire and ice he’s saved. 

B Be brave, Snow White!

    Be bold, Rose Red!

    The bear all burly brown

    Will soon become the bearer

    Of a bright and beauteous crown! 
     
     
     
     
     

Tooth Fairy Game

(To be acted out by children whenever a classmate has lost a tooth; insert the child’s name and correct pronouns) 

This night it is a special night:

Lithe fairies dance upon the roof;

All the prancers must alight,

For LUKAS has now lost a tooth! 

The Fairy Queen gives her commands:

Twelve bright fairies must join hands

And together in the circle stand

To guard Lukas while he sleeps. 

The Tooth Fairy into the circle now leaps,

And the hidden tooth she takes;

Oh, she has so far to go,

Before sleepyhead Lukas awakes. 

Three times around the world she flies,

O’er valleys deep and mountains high;

She skirts the storm clouds thick with thunder,

And wings o’er waves all wild with wonder. 

Deep within their earthly home

Finally she finds the gnomes,

Who upon the tooth must work,

And never once their duty shirk. 

Some are hammering, hammering, hammering,

While some the bellows blow;

Others must sweat at the sweltering forge,

And then cry out, “Heigh-ho! 

The tooth has been turned into a crystal bright,

A glittering, glowing gem;

The Tooth Fairy takes the gnomes’ gleaming gift

And bows to all of them.

Before the sun’s first rays are shown,

She returns to Lukas’ bed;

Places the gem beneath his head,

And then–away she’s flown!

(32 lines = 32 teeth) 
 

Snow King and Spring Princess

(To help learn “body geography”) 

(Children stand in a circle, with the Snow King in the center and the Spring Princess outside of the circle.) 

Circle of Children:

    The Snow King casts a frozen spell

    On everyone in sight–

    He makes them dance about so well,

    Then turns them into ice! 

    (The Snow King leads children in movement, as in “Simple Simon”) 

Snow King:

    Raise your right hand!  Raise your left!

    Above your head now clap!

    Place your hands upon your hips!

    Give your knees a slap!

    Right foot in and left foot in,

    Spin about if you please!

    In and out and in and out and… 

    (Children rapidly alternate right and left feet in and out of the circle until the Snow King says, “FREEZE!” 

    (The Spring Princess now enters the circle of frozen children, goes up to a child and asks: 

Spring Princess:

    Which foot now within the circle rests?

    Is it the right foot or is it the left? 

    (To the child who answers correctly the Princess says, 

    You are thawed out! 

    (That child now asks another the same question and the process continues until everyone is thawed out.  The children then take hands.) 

Children:

    We are thawed out!

    Spring has come!

    Let us dance and

    Let us run!  (They run about in the circle and sing “Spring is Coming


GRADE TWO 

     

St. George

(For Michaelmas–September 29–or St. George’s Day, April 23) 

(The children form a circle, which becomes the battlements of the town wall.  Within is the princess or prince, and outside of the circle are St. George and the Dragon.) 

In a swamp, dark and dank,

Lived a Dragon most wild,

Who devoured the crops

Every lamb and each child. 

(The Dragon breaks into the circle and pursues the princess or prince) 

All folk trembled in fear

When he rose from the mire,

Like a fierce flying snake,

Belching smoke, breathing fire! 

(St. George enters and battles the Dragon.) 

Oh St. George, Come! Advance!

‘Gainst the Dragon to fight,

With your horse and your lance

And your conquering might! 

St. George battled the beast,

‘Till the rays of the sun

As it rose in the east

Showed our knight to have won! 
 
 
 
Saint Martin

(November 11) 

St. Martin, St. Martin, a Roman soldier bold,

Swiftly on his snow-white steed through icy streets once rode,

Not fearing bleak November skies nor numbing winds so cold! 

An aged, ailing beggar Martin met upon his way,

“Oh, could you spare a coin for one so poor, my lord, I pray?

“Oh, would you save a soul who suffers from the chill this day?”            

Martin drew his cloak more tightly ’round his shoulders broad;

Bright red was the woolen cloak that stretched from helm to sword;

Only Roman soldiers wore such warmth as their reward. 

Yet the wind cut keenly through the rags the beggar wore;

Beneath the soldier’s Roman garb a Christian heart grew sore–

From his armor Martin now the woolen mantle tore. 

With his sword he cut the bright red cloak in pieces two:

“What was one I’ll double so that it may be shared with you!”

(Multiplying by dividing was a secret Martin knew!) 

Martin dreamed a wondrous dream upon that icy night:

Hosts of angels drew him upwards to the starry heights,

Where the Lord his mantle wore, wrapped in radiance of light. 

“It was I in beggar’s guise who asked your charity;

You were wise to trust to heart and give so graciously–

For what you do to any one you do so unto Me.” 
 
 
St. Jerome and the Lion

(Expansion and Contraction) 

(The children form a very quiet circle of monks.  Jerome sits on a stool in the center of the circle; the Lion is outside the circle.) 

Quietly working, the monks did not look

Backwards or sidewards or up from their books

When in strode a lion, ferocious and rough,

Who they were certain would eat them all up!

      (Children run to farthest corners of the room)

Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! 

      (The Lion approaches Jerome; the children reform their circle and slowly walk towards the center.) 

Mild St. Jerome neither faltered nor feared,

He did not flee when the Lion appeared–

He kindly cared for the poor limping beast,

And tended his paw ’till his suffering ceased.

      (Children again run to farthest corners of room)

Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! Ceased! 

      (As Jerome cares for the Lion’s paw, the children slowly approach the center of the circle again.) 

Later that day, all bedraggled and beaten,

The monks returned, certain Jerome had been eaten.

They found, when they timidly peered in his cell,

That the Lion was purring–Jerome was quite well!

      (Children again run to farthest corners of room)

Well! Well! Well! Well! Well! Well! Well! Well! Well! Well!  
 
 
 
 

GRADE THREE 

 

Time-Telling Game 

(Twelve children form a large circle–the are the NUMERALS.  The individual children who portray the HOUR HAND, the MINUTE HAND and the SECOND HAND move along concentric circles within the circle of NUMERALS.) 

      (The HOUR HAND–ideally, a phlegmatic child–moves slowly within the large  circle.) 

Hour Hand:

    At the slow, steady pace

    Of the Sun’s kingly power

    I carefully toll out

    The day’s twice-twelve hours.

      (As he walks past each NUMERAL he strikes a gong and the NUMERAL calls  out his number.) 

      (The MINUTE HAND–ideally, a sanguine child–now moves with greater speed  within a smaller circle.) 

Minute Hand:

    I count by fives and

    Move twelve times as fast–

    When he tries to catch up

    I’m already past!

    (As he passes the NUMERALS he calls out, “5–10–15–20–…”) 

    (The SECOND HAND–ideally, a choleric child–runs rapidly within the smallest circle.) 

Second Hand:

    I’m sprightly and bright

    As the beat of your heart,

    And dart halfway round

    Before Minute Hand starts!

    Not one to be quiet,

    I cry out, “Tick-tock!”

    And never grow tired

    Of my race ’round the clock!

    Tick-tock! Tick-tock! Tick-tock!… 

                                              (Continued)

Time-Telling Game

(Continued) 

      (After the three HANDS have moved around the circle once or twice, they stop  and grow silent and the NUMERALS–ideally, melancholics–now speak.) 

Numerals:

    Let others move slowly,

    Or quick as they will,

    We serve Time best

    By just standing quite still.

    Like heavenly stars,

    Ever calm and steadfast,

    We remain true,

    Knowing all things must pass. 

     

GRADE FOUR 

Manahatta’s Musings

(Local Geography, NY) 

    I am the majestic Hudson,

    Born out of fire and ice,

    I am Manitou’s daughter,

    The Mother of Waters,

    I greet Brother Sun at his rise. 

    I once was a river of fire,

    Volcanoes ruled then – wild, untamed;

    Molten stone flowed,

    For ages untold,

    And my blazing banks flickered, aflame. 

    Those smoldering peaks spewed and sputtered

    Thick vapors of smothering smoke;

    From my heights to my deeps

    I shuddered in sleep

    When with a loud CLAP! I awoke. 

    From the northlands grim glaciers descended,

    In their grip all grew solid and still;

    Cracking and crushing,

    Pounding and pushing,

    My mountains gave way to their will. 

    Those fierce frosty sculptors sliced through me,

    Scooped stone and sand out of my depths,

    In their pulverized play

    They ground rocks into clay

    As the Palisades rose in the west. 

    The ice melted and water coursed through me,

    From bubbling brooks and swift streams,

    It crashed in cascades,

    Splashed past Palisades,

    ‘Til into the sea it careened. 

    Though I now seem to stream so serenely,

    Ice and fire wrestle still in my veins,

    And when the salty sea’s force

    Mingles with my fresh source;

    When the lightning’s bright flash

    And Storm King’s cold crag clash;

    When my brittle ice crumbles

    And the Dunderberg rumbles,

    You will hear my ancient name:

    Manahatta, Mother of Waters,

    Manitou’s mighty daughter . . . .

    I am the majestic Hudson! 
     
     

Subject and Object

(Grammar) 

When you speak or write in sentences,

Make them clear and make them true,

For confusing the SUBJECT and OBJECT

Is something you are not to do! 

“Merton swiftly strikes the nail”–

Of this we can be certain;

But think how painful it would be,

If it were said, “The nail strikes Merton!” 

“A strong horse pulled our heavy sled

Across the snowy course”–

But we’d not have gotten anywhere

If the sled had pulled the horse! 

“Because he was so bad in school

His mother spanked poor Tom;”

It would not have been proper, though,

For Tom to spank his Mom! 

I could tell so many tales

(But the tales could not tell me)

Of subjects turned into objects

And objects used subjectively,

Of a world tuned topsy-turvy

When grammar is ignored,

And how, through proper sentence form,

World Order is restored. 

So keep the horse before the cart–

And make the hammer hit the nail–

Be sure to think before you speak,

And you’ll speak well without fail! 
 

 

GRADE FIVE 

 

Ant, Bee and Butterfly

(Botany) 

Have you ever watched the humble ants

Cast up hillocks of dirt?

And carve out catacomb-like halls

Sequestered in the earth?

Within they form a little world,

So perfect in itself,

Where each the other serves and so

Ensouls the common wealth.

Rotting wood they turn to good,

Dead carrion make living,

While on her eggs their calm Queen broods;

Prime Mother, ever giving. 

The busy bee asks not the aim

Nor purpose of his labor,

For in it he such sweetness finds

That the task itself he savors.

The bloom and bee, the bee and hive

Form a sweet trinity;

For through the bee the seed shall thrive,

And through the blossom lives the bee. 

When the chrysalis seems most asleep

Or deathlike, she is weaving

On the warp and woof of her living loom

And her primal form receiving.

Then, as a golden butterfly,

Casting off the gray and cold,

She awakens, self-created,

Reborn, renewed and whole. 
 
 

GRADE SIX 

 

In the Mountains

(Mineralogy) 

Though dark the night, we move in light

Amidst the radiant mountain peaks;

Earth’s crystal gaze, subdued by day,

At night reflecting starlight seeks.

This rock kingdom, seemingly dumb,

To wakeful ears is sounding;

Each crag to each thunderously speaks,

‘Gainst vales each voice rebounding.

In limestone’s chill and crystal’s fire

The mountains brood o’er their abyss;

Intone in adamantine choir

Mysteries of their genesis.

The rocks, roused from long epochs’ sleep,

Riddles solve of Space and Time,

While metals, gleaming in the deeps,

Harmoniously chime.

O seeker, slumbering in the haze,

Awaken with the stones!

Find crystal’s flame within your gaze,

Lime’s might in blood and bone.

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