The Waldorf Curriculum: Grade Three

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.

Eugene Schwartz leads Online Conferences for teachers and parents of children in grades 1 through 8. For more information visit

Note: Elements of Grade Three, a CD-ROM with many images of student work from this grade, as well as verses and a class play, may be purchased at

Third Grade Main Lesson Block Rotation
Eugene Schwartz, class teacher

September 4 – September 27 Farming and Gardening September 30 – October 11 Arithmetic October 15 – November 1 Language Arts November 4 – November 22 Time-Telling November 25 – December 20 Shelters & House Building January 6 – January 17 Arithmetic January 21 – February 7 Farming & Gardening February 10 – February 14 Language Arts February 24 – March 21 Measurement March 24 – April 16 Class Play April 28 – May 16 House Building May19 – May 23 (Tentative) Farm Trip May 27 – June 13 Review of the Year


Farming and Gardening
(7 weeks, as well as weekly work in our garden and a one-week Farm Trip)

As I have said in numerous parent evenings, the third grader, becoming aware that he or she is forever leaving the world of early childhood, suffers a sense of irretrievable loss. This is experience, which is microcosmically akin to the “expulsion from Paradise,” is addressed on the soul level by our study of the Hebrew Scriptures (see below), On the physical level, just as Adam and Eve were told that they would have to earn their keep “by the sweat of their brows,” the third grader seeks a way in which his or her will may be brought in relationship with their new home – the earth.

With this in mind, we learn how the gardener and the farmer live and work. Through our own “hands-on” work in the school garden, weekly visits to the Fellowship Community gardens and farm, and, at the year’s end, our five-day stay at the Hawthorne Valley Farm in Harlemville, NY, the children learn in an active way. By hearing in the classroom about a composite farm family, the children will learn imaginatively about the course of the year on a farm.

Some of the themes that we will take up include: • The importance of the cycle – Seed ⇒ Plant ⇒ Food ⇒ Compost ⇒ Seed; how animals and human beings depend on the soil and strive to fructify it. • The “Seven Grains.” We will learn to identify these grains “on the stalk,” and learn of their importance in world nourishment and culture. This will actually mark the children’s introduction to “world geography.” We will see the relationship of Asian rice to water and to intensive agriculture, North American maize to earth and to the depletion of soil, etc. • We will not only learn how foods are grown, but also how they are processed. Some of our time at the Fellowship will be spent helping with the drying, canning, and freezing of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.

(4 Weeks, plus daily “mental arithmetic” and classwork reviews)

In second grade we learned about place value to the hundreds place; this year we will expand our understanding to the millions place (and some children will find their own way beyond that). Last year we introduced the concepts of carrying and borrowing, but this year we will solidify those concepts and put them to work in all four operations. Our work with measurement will serve us well in the area of borrowing and carrying, for the “English” measurement system – we Americans are the last holdouts who insist on using this “antiquated” system – was praised by Rudolf Steiner for the way in which it forces us to be flexible. Our linear measurement is built up on a base of 12 (and within that are various fractional divisions of one), our weight measurement is based on 4’s and 16’s, and our monetary system is based on the decimal system. Each time a measurement problem is given the third grader will have to think for a moment, adjust to the particular base, and then correctly “borrow” from quarts or dollars, yards or pounds – clearly, we have some exciting arithmetic classes ahead of us!

We will also continue our work with times-tables. Now that the children’s own rhythmic-circulatory systems are developing, we will begin to use strong rhythmic repetition a little less, and ask them to recall the tables in a more random-accessed way. By the end of the year, it is my hope that every child in the class will be able to recite the times-tables from the 2’s to the 12’s (up to 12 x 12) and to be able to randomly answer such questions as “What is 8 times 7? What is 12 times 9?” etc.

Language Arts
(5 Weeks, in addition to many short compositions and grammar exercises throughout the year.)

Language Arts will branch out into four different, but interrelated areas: • Reading. While not taught as a “block,” reading will permeate every subject that we will study this year. Beginning in November, groups of parents will come twice weekly to lead reading groups, providing every child the opportunity to read aloud from collections of poetry, literature and the Bible. Towards the end of the year, we will read aloud from our Bible reader every day. As you know, we will have “mixed” reading groups, groups that are not arranged according to ability, but rather that provide a full range of reading skills. At present, no other teacher in the school does this, and, for at least another decade or two, I don’t think that this arrangement will be widely replicated. Some of you have expressed skepticism about my prospects for success with this method, and, of course, at the school year’s end, we will assess it. [Note: In our final Parent Evening of the third grade school year, “mixed reading groups” were judged by the parents to be an unqualified success.] • Cursive Writing. If you still groan with memories of practicing endless loops and slanted lines, I hope that you will appreciate the approach that we will take. We will learn cursive writing over the first two or three weeks of school, in extra main lessons, and we will learn it completely through Form Drawing, a subject that the children already enjoy and in which they show real mastery. • Grammar. Using our Bible stories as models, we will begin the study of the basic parts of speech; nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs. We will learn what a sentence is, and see how we can make our language colorful, active, clear and meaningful. • Writing. In addition to copying paragraphs that I have written on the blackboard, third graders will be writing their own short compositions based on our main lesson blocks.

(6 weeks, in addition to many math problems based on measurement through the year.)

One of the salient characteristics of a culture becoming a “civilization” in Biblical times was its capacity to measure. Each culture made its own contribution: the Babylonians exceeded in numerical relationships, as befitted a mercantile people; the Egyptians were masters of linear measurement, and the Hebrews understood volumetrics. (This is why the Pharaoh needed Joseph to apportion the grain in times of famine; only an Israelite could make the volumetric calculations needed for storage.) We will study a number of measuring methods this year: • Time. We’ll learn about the historical ways in which time has been measured: the cycle of the year, the sundial, the hourglass, the water-clock, and the medieval clock with years – all the way up to the anxiety-producing digital clocks of today. Children will learn how to read an analog clock, and time-telling will be a daily exercise. Children will also learn how to read a calendar and will make their own calendar for next year. • Space. The Greek sophist Protogoras said, “Man is the measure of all things,” and we’ll see how linear measurement evolved from the proportions of the human being. The children will probably enjoy learning of how the “official” foot, yard, inch, etc. were determined by kings, and how the term “golden rule” arose. Children will learn how to read a foot-rule and a yeardstick. We will attempt to use our “cubits” to measure our Noah’s Ark on the playing field. • Liquid. Did you know that such terms as “shot,” “pint,” and “jack,” were first named in taverns and depended on the drinking capacities of their customers? We will delve deeply into the world of fluids (not the tavern kinds!) and make our own measuring cups. Children will learn how to use all the measurements needed to bake a cake. • Weight. Here we see how objects – including our own bodies – relate to earthly gravity. The study of weight, which I place towards the end of the year, marks the child’s true “descent” onto the earth and its matrix of forces – no wonder our weight is such an intimate number for all of us! Children will learn how to use a balance to weigh, and how to read a modern scale.

Shelter and Housebuiding
(6 weeks)

Beginning with the Biblical archetypes of “man’s first home”, we will see how, once expelled from Paradise, humans had to protect themselves from the elements and create their own sense of space. Like the seven grains study, our first block take us into the study of world geography. In the past, how did a particular setting determine the type of houses that people built? We’ll see the Inuits’ houses of ice and the lake-dwellers’ houses on stilts, houses built of grasses and palm fronds, houses carved out of rock, etc. etc. Children will be asked, with your help, to construct models of the types of houses that we will have studied.

In our second block we will learn about the multitude of steps that go into the making of a house. We will try to observe any local construction, and perhaps undertake a small building project of our own on the school grounds.

Form Drawing
(Once a week throughout the year)

This year, the big step for the class will be working with forms that meet and cross each other, to create a new form out of their intermingling. We will also work with forms within a circle, lemniscate forms and transformations of straight lines into curves, Metamorphosis of forms will be practiced extensively on the board.