The Waldorf Curriculum: Grade Two

Block Rotations and Course Descriptions

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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 http://www.essentialwaldorf.com

Note: Elements of Grade Two, a CD-ROM with many images of student work from this grade, as well as verses and a class play, may be purchased at http://MillennialChild.com/catalog1.html

Second Grade Main Lesson Block Rotations Eugene Schwartz, class teacher

September 5 – September 28 Saints’ Stories / Lower Case Letters October 1 – October 19 Arithmetic October 22 – November 9 Form Drawing / Fables November 13 – November 30 Arithmetic December 3 – December 21 Saints’ Stories January 7 – January 25 Arithmetic January 28 – February 15 Form Drawing / Fables February 25 – March 15 Saints’ Stories March 18 – March 27 Arithmetic April 8 – May 3 Form Drawing / Fables May 6 – May 17 Saints’ Stories May 20 – May 24 Work on Class Play

SECOND GRADE MAIN LESSON BLOCKS

In last year’s curriculum report I attempted to describe in great detail the foundations of our work, which in essence hold true for the first three years in the Waldorf Lower School. This year my descriptions, building upon last year’s details will be shorter but I trust equally informative.

The children make a great leap from First to Second Grade, perhaps one of the biggest leaps in their school career. Writing, which was virtually an extension of drawing in Grade One, now stands on its own; numbers, whose qualitative aspect was stressed last year, now are recognized as quantities, extending in space and time. And the world of Fairy Tales, although not completely absent, now makes way for the Lives of the Saints – biographies of men and women with an historical verity – and fables.

If the circle is a picture of First Grade, all whole and unified, each part sustaining the rest, the Second Grade may be seen as two parallel lines. For the child is no longer carried by the dreamy sense of security in all that encircles him, but begins to experience a delicate quality of “apartness”, of “identity”. At this age, criticalness may suddenly appear, along with a tendency to squabble endlessly, or feel persecuted by “everybody”, bereft of friends. The Fables point out the foibles suddenly appearing all over; the Saints’ legends calm, console and reassure.

Writing and Reading (16 weeks)

The first block rapidly brought to the class all of the “small” letters, whose larger counterparts took most of Grade One to learn. A great deal of stress was placed on correct proportions, with the children using a self-drawn colored guide to help them in the first months of their writing. By mid-year they wrote without the guiding spaces. Most of the children’s work now shows a good sense for the relative proportions of the letters and a good eye for keeping each line of writing straight. It is my intention that for the rest of their years in the Lower School the children will never have to revert to using “liners” to keeping their writing straight. The class worked on two Main Lesson books at this time, “Vowels” and the “Book of Saints.”

As we began using our readers, the children were asked to write and read longer sentences, learning a little about punctuation, capitalization, etc. “St. Brendan” arises out of this winter work, while “Belling the Cat” marks the class’s introduction to pencils as writing tools. This latter book was also the first composed by the class itself. Sentences were suggested by a child, emended by others, and finally written by me on the board. Their last book, “St. Francis,” is also the longest and required work that was exceedingly careful.

Reading work was done almost exclusively out of our own reader, “The Sun-Filled Cave.” Beginning with poems already known by the children, we read aloud as a class until various children were able to identify various words, and, in time, recognize them in new contexts. Over the year reading has been done in a very low-key and non-pressured atmosphere, for at this age it is less important that the children begin to read right away than that they become certain that, in time, they will be reading. For those who simply come to reading sooner, a number of books were always available which they could read aloud to their friends, or to themselves. Our little “St. Brendan Game” also included a very basic reading vocabulary which most children learned. An unexpected supplement to our reading work came about when a number of children asked to copy out their play parts and “study” them. Since most of the children already knew their lines by heart this actually became something of an additional reading exercise for them.

In Second Grade, Recitation remains the heart of our class work. Several hundred lines of poetry, including our play, “The Fire on Tara” were learned by heart, played as games or simply recited by the children. As in Grade One, much of this poetry was specially written for the children, but Emily Bronte, W. B. Yeats and Wordsworth were also represented in our poems. The re-telling of fable and saints’ lives also developed poise and verbal skill as well as the growing power of memory.

Arithmetic (16 weeks)

Great stress was laid this year on coming to know the Multiplication tables up to 12 x 12, both through recitation and writing, and developing some facility with the Four Processes of Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division that were first learned last year.

The times tables, in the experience of my colleagues, are a learning challenge that must be tackled anew every year until Grade Eight. This year we worked a lot with clapping them out so that a regular rhythm was established, i.e., One, two, clap, four, five, clap, seven, eight, clap, etc.

Going through the tables backwards also strengthens memorization, and they were made the basis of various “concentration games” some of which I have demonstrated at Parent Meetings. However creatively or playfully they are approached, however, the tables are eventually learned by rote and through constant drilling.

Work with the Four Processes brought in larger quantities of countable objects, and a stress on the relationship between the processes – e.g. multiplication as an extension of addition, division as a faster subtraction. Problems to be solved by division, for example, were always of a social nature, so that rather than becoming an activity divorced from life, work with numbers is taught as a skill completely involved with practical life. The “St. Brendan Game” was designed as a means of giving the children further experience in subtraction and addition. For a number of weeks it was at the center of our recess activity.

Form Drawing (6 weeks of blocks; 1x week all year)

In the portfolio of Form Drawings your child has brought home you will see over 30 examples of the year’s work. In the first two years of school, Form Drawing is possibly the most important activity undertaken by the children, and I hope you will look at these deceptively simple drawings in detail. These forms are an invaluable aid to me in determining potential form-perception problems, and as the children practice form drawing over the months, such work helps to solve or at least mitigate these same problems.