The Waldorf Curriculum: Grade Four

Block Rotations and Subject 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.

Note: Elements of Grade Four, a downloadable file with many images of student work from this grade, as well as a class play, may be purchased at

Eugene Schwartz leads Online Conferences on Grades 1-8 for teachers, homeschoolers, and parents. For information, visit:

Fourth Grade Main Lesson Block Rotation Eugene Schwartz, class teacher

September 6 – September 29 Local Geography and History

October 2 – October 20 Arithmetic

October 23 – November 22 Zoology

November 27 – December 22 Norse Mythology

January 8 – January 26 Language Arts

January 29 – February 16 Class Play

February 26 – March 23 Arithmetic

March 26 – April 12 Norse Mythology

April 23 – May 11 Zoology

May 14 – June 1 Language Arts June 4 – June 8 Year-End Review

Our class trip will take place sometime during the May Language Arts block


Local Geography and History(3.5 weeks)

In third grade, the children awoke to the realities of the world around them in a generalized and dreamy way. The archetypal tasks of farming and house-building, and the activities of measuring and weighing, helped them find their way to the earth. Now, in fourth grade, they are here, and it is time for them to orient themselves in space and time. For this reason, Geography is introduced into the curriculum at this grade level. First we will learn what a map is and how it represents the complexities of three-dimensional space in a compact and schematic way. We’ll proceed with this in a practical way, and by late autumn your child should be able to help you navigate your way to a Thanksgiving family dinner. We will then turn our gaze to the Hudson Valley, studying its physical characteristics, its resources and its beauty. Geography in the Waldorf school is pre-eminently cultural geography, so we’ll spend time hearing legends of the Native Americans indigenous to our region, and stories of the colorful historical figures who have graced the river’s shores, from the eponymous Henry Hudson and Peter Stuyvesant to Anthony Wayne and Benedict Arnold to Robert Fulton and Jay Gould to Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton . . . . (well, we may not get to all of them!) Two or three field trips will enhance the children’s experience of our area.

Week One: Orientating ourselves in space. The sun and stars, the four directions. Compasses and landmarks. Drawing maps and reading maps. Understanding geographical terms.Week Two: “Manahatta, the Mother of All Waters” – the special qualities of the Hudson River. Tracing the river from Mount Marcy to the Atlantic Ocean. Climate and resources. High Tor, Storm King and the Palisades. Legends and Native Americans. The early Dutch settlers. Life in early New Amsterdam and in our area.Week Three: Stories of the Revolutionary War: West Point, Stony Point, and the Hudson’s strategic importance. The 19th century: the steam boat, the railroad, Nyack and Piermont. Ice-block export, brick-making and other Rockland industries.Week Four: The Hudson Valley in modern times. From the ferry to the Tappan Zee Bridge, from the Indian path to the Thruway. Where does our water come from? And where did all the farms go?Arithmetic(7 Weeks) We’ll begin the year with a thorough review of the arithmetic work that the class has done over the past three years: the four operations, place value, manipulations with multiple-digit numbers, long division and long multiplication. Fourth graders develop a passion for patterns and “codes,” and this will be a point of departure for us. We’ll review the multiplication tables by searching for patterns in numbers, and we’ll learn about factors, abundant and deficient numbers and amicable numbers. We’ll develop some shortcuts to help with mental arithmetic, and we’ll do a lot with word problems. Our second block will focus on fractions. Fractions represent the threshold that divides “arithmetic” from “mathematics”; for the first time, the class will be working with numbers in a form that is conceptual as well as experiential. Factors are the numerical equivalent – what T. S. Eliot would have termed the “objective correlative” – of the newly-developing inner life of the fourth grader. When a child grasps the fact that the greater the denominator, the smaller the fraction, we are witnessing an important step in the child’s incarnation process. If you recall your own school years, learning fractions when you were nine or ten may not count as one of your most enjoyable experiences! As you might expect, matters are completely different in the Waldorf classroom, and your children will be enamored of all that they learn in this block (let’s cross our fingers)! In the course of our parent evenings I’ll share with you the various approaches we’ll take to this challenging subject. By the year’s end, your child should be comfortable with the four operations in fractions and with some simple fraction-to-decimal conversion.First Block Week One: “Secret numbers.” Codes using numbers. Magic squares and number games.Week Two: Review, review, review! Multiplication tables. The four operations. Place value.Week Three: Factoring numbers. Abundant and deficient numbers. The factor “candelabra.” Second BlockWeek One: Understanding fractions as parts of a whole and as ratios. Understanding fractions through manipulatives. Common fractions.Week Two: The four operations with fractions. Addition and subtraction of fractions of like denominators. Multiplying and dividing fractions. Week Three: Addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators; using factors. Improper fractions and mixed numbers.Week Four: Continued work with the four operations. Word problems with fractions (including review of third grade weight and measurement). Introduction to decimal fractions.Zoology(4 weeks) Zoology is the first formal science block in the Waldorf curriculum. From Kindergarten through third grade, the children were introduced to natural phenomena through “nature stories” and fairy tales, through poetry and imaginative pictures. Now that the 10-year-old begins to distinguish between the “inner self” and the “outer world,” a degree of objectivity arises which makes the study of science meaningful. We begin in fourth grade with the animal world, the closest “kingdom of nature” to the human being; in grades five through eight we’ll study the plant, mineral, and human kingdoms, and also study laboratory science. Along with fractions, the study of Zoology marks a significant crossing point in your child’s life. Although we only will devote four weeks to this year’s science block, with each succeeding grade the amount of time spent on the sciences increases significantly. This block is alternatively named “Man and Animal” (“People and Animals” in California). As with all of the sciences that are taught by the class teacher, our focus will be what the animals teach us about being human. Through the study of the world outside of ourselves, we learn much about what lives within us.First Block Week One: The physical form of the human being. Animal forms and their relationship to the human form. What teeth tell us about animals.Week Two: Mice, beavers and other rodents.Week Three: The octopus and the dolphin, creatures of the sea.Week Four: Cows, horses and other ungulates. Second BlockWeek One: Hummingbirds and penguins, eagles and chickadees.Week Two: Lions and cats, wolves and dogs.Norse Mythology( 7 weeks) In third grade, many of your children experienced a subtle “contraction” in their souls; a going-inward which reflected the incorporation of higher soul faculties. In fourth grade, the pendulum swings the other way. Now the soul turns outward again, and the class may take on a more extroverted quality. In keeping with this reversal, the narrative content of the third and fourth grades is a study in contrasts. The Hebrew Scriptures studied in grade three were models of morality and sobriety; they are such serious tales that only once in the entire sweep of the Hebrew Scriptures does anyone ever laugh! (That is Sarah, when she learns that she is going to bear a baby in her nineties.) The Norse myths that we will study in fourth grade are filled with laughter — raucous laughter, hilarious laughter, and sometimes derisive laughter. With their powerful wills, their contentious natures and their love of adventure, the Norse gods serve as a remarkably accurate reflection of the fourth graders who study them. Underlying these extroverted tales, however, is a hint of pathos and tragedy, for the Norse gods know that, in spite of their power and beauty, they are doomed to be overcome by the giants and trolls who wait in their subterranean lairs . . . . Although these millennium-old myths may at first appear quite distant from modern life, we will learn about the impact that the Norsemen have had on life in Europe and even North America, and how the Norse gods live on in America’s “tall tales,” and even in our language (sun, moon, night, day, east, west, love, hate, are all of Norse derivation, and that’s just a sampling).First Block Week One: The Norse Creation myth; the lineage of the Aesir, the gods of Asgaard. Yggdrisil, the World Ash. Week Two: Odin, Thor, Loki and other gods and goddesses. The Norns and their prophecies.Week Three: Stories of the gods. Adventures of Odin, Thor and Loki.Week Four: Stories of the gods. Exploits of the Vanir and minor Aesir. Second BlockWeek One: Loki’s anger at the Aesir. The death of Baldur. Week Two: Ragnarok: The final days of the Aesir.Week Three: The story of Siegfried.Language Arts(6 weeks) In first and second grade, your children learned how to “experience” time, using the periods in the day, the days of the week and the festivals of the year as markers to move through time in a qualitative way. In third grade, the class learned how to “tell” time, using such external quantifiers as clocks, sundials and calendars. In fourth grade they will learn to express time, to combine the qualities and quantities of time by mastering tense. Grammar moves to the fore as a central subject this year. Besides learning the nuances of tenses from simple past to future perfect, the class will study several new parts of speech, the four types of sentences, punctuation and letter writing. The difference between subjects and objects will be central to our study, so please be ready to help your child avoid saying “me” when he or she means “I.” Language Arts will also permeate our other blocks, and it will include more composition writing, work with vocabulary and spelling, recitation and oral presentations.First BlockWeek One: Review of parts of speech learned in third grade. The seven parts of speech. Week Two: Writing personal and business letters.Week Three: The Three Norns and the three simple tenses. Second BlockWeek One: More complex tenses. Week Two: Types of sentences and sentence punctuation.Form Drawing(Weekly) The class will focus on “knotted” and “braided” forms, many of which will be based on Norse and Celtic models.Painting(Weekly) The children will learn how to paint on dry paper, and their subjects will draw from the Norse myths.Class Play(2 to 3 weeks of main lesson time) We will performThor Triumphant,a rollicking production which includes Thor, Loki, Odin, a host of Valkyries, giants and a most unusual giantess.