Grades 1-8 General Curriculum
Waldorf education embraces cohort teaching, in which the grade school teacher stays with the same group of students through all eight grades. Ideally, a teacher who starts with a group of students (their cohort) in first grade will continue as their main class teacher through eighth grade.
In first grade, the teacher meets each student in a formal welcoming assembly called the “Rose Ceremony.” This meeting initiates the teacher’s personal commitment to oversee the academic development and personal growth of each child in a mentor-pupil relationship. This long-term relationship supports a rich social dynamic in the classroom and affords the teacher a deep understanding of each student’s strengths, challenges, and developmental milestones.
Waldorf teachers attend professional development workshops, conferences, and teacher trainings over summer breaks and during periodic sabbaticals in preparation for the next year’s curriculum. Teachers customize their lesson plans from archetypal Waldorf curriculum modules, and they are mentored and given ongoing support and supervision from master teachers with depth of experience in specific subject matters. This system pairs younger teachers with experienced mentors, and it invigorates master teachers with new colleagues' ideas and enthusiasm for innovative thinking. This collegial process supports an active, engaged faculty who bring expertise and field-tested instructional methodology to their classrooms.
Most school days begin at the classroom door where the teacher meets students with an individual greeting and handshake; this moment of connection and focused attention reinforces their personal relationship and individual awareness. The teacher begins every class by leading the students in moving their bodies and "waking up" their psyches with active music, singing, and verse before moving into a two-hour morning lesson. The morning's lesson immerses students in a particular academic subject, such as Language Arts, Math, or grade-specific subjects, like Botany or Geography. Every course of study, or "block," lasts three to four weeks and covers a focused subject matter that is approached from multiple access points, including story-telling, observation and participation, physical exercises, music, poetry, painting, drawing, movement, and dramatic activities. Engaging students in immersive, multidimensional explorations of block subjects is a proven effective learning method.
In the Grade School, students create their own Main Lesson books filled with formal dictation, careful note-taking, and personal observations. Compositions, diagrams and drawings by the student illustrate, archive, and interpret their studies. The students' responsibility for—and authorship of—their Main Lesson book establishes an independent, self-reliant, and interpretive method of student learning. This method fosters the students’ academic skills in organizing, absorbing, and reflecting on content; it helps students build their knowledge base systematically; and it promotes active, critical inquiry.
After morning lessons, the students enjoy an outdoor recess for physical exercise and social interaction. After recess, special subjects teachers provide instruction in various topics, such as foreign language (Spanish), handwork, music, woodwork, physical education, and eurythmy (which incorporates dance, balance, poise, and athleticism). The combination of Main Lesson Blocks and specialty subjects in the Grades provides a comprehensive foundation for a child's development, inspiring a love of learning, inviting academic excellence, and supporting creative exploration.