In Third Grade, students’ vocabulary, grammar, and spelling take on new life; their math skills advance into long division. This school year is often referred to as “the turning point of childhood” because eight- and nine-year-olds go through a change that is particularly profound. Waldorf teachers also refer to it as the “Crossing Point.” Third graders become more independent, and they question everything. They also take special interest in practical work, which is amplified through farming and gardening experiences--including a working stay at Live Power Farm and grape stomping at Frey Vineyards--as well as through hands-on cooking, weights and measures problems, and a challenging building project.
A New Outlook On the World
Developmental Picture of the Student
In third grade, children experience a new sense of self. Students begin to question who they are relative to others and to the world. Waldorf education recognizes this stage of self-discovery as the nine-year change. New capacities for thinking and judgment are taking shape. The younger child’s experience of the unity of all things matures into the third grader’s awareness of his or her distinctly separate inner life. Strong opinions, likes, and dislikes are emerging. The children begin to develop a more realistic view of everyone and everything around them.
How the Waldorf Curriculum Meets the Third Grader
Children at this stage begin to recognize what it means to leave paradise, to step into the real world, and to begin to stand on their own. In response to this growing awareness and sense of self, the curriculum connects third graders to meaningful, practical work, such as construction, farming, and gardening. Developing these skills helps students build confidence and stamina. The primary lesson material is drawn from ancient Hebrew stories, which also meet and reflect the third grader’s inner experience. The Hebrew stories present strong role models who show courage and determination, and they teach foundational language arts which promote writing and independent reading.
In the developing third grader, new capacities for thinking and judgment are emerging as they become more independent in thought and action. In math, the children continue exploring the four basic operations by measuring distance, capacity, weight, and time. Students apply math studies to the real world by measuring in their gardening and building projects, creating a natural bridge between subjects. They study time, including how to read a clock and what the changing seasons mean, in order to trace the ongoing rhythms of life. A weekly Hebrew lesson immerses the students in the language and culture of the Jewish people.
Third graders also begin formal gym classes where basic movement skills are taught through games. In music instruction, students choose a string instrument (violin, viola, cello or base) and are introduced to the basics of instrument handling, reading and playing music. Through stories and hands-on experiences third graders begin to understand their potential for courage, determination, and skill.
In Fourth Grade, we begin to take an intense interest in our local environment. This is manifest in a study of animals we find locally as well as their various habitats. Whether we’re watching whales or bearing witness to migrating birds, we strive to find a way to be true to the animal in our writing and in our visual artwork. We also look around us at the geography of this place, and look back into the past, wondering who has lived here and how they might have adapted to this environment. The children study the myths and stories of the Pomo and other regional Native American tribes, and examine how the world has changed here since various European peoples have come to the area, including Russians, Spanish, Mexican, and American. In math, we delve deeply into the world of fractions, breaking the unit into smaller and smaller pieces and finding ways to build it back up again. Truly, the world becomes more complicated the more closely we examine it! Through the nurturing, encouraging environment the teachers strive to create in the classroom, the children are led to a place of confidence in their ability to meet the world in their own way, with their own unique challenges and strengths.
Revealing Strength, Courage, and Adventure
Developmental Picture of the Student
Fourth graders become more self-confident as their perceptions of the world sharpen. They also experience a stronger separation from their surroundings and become more independent. These developmental steps broaden the student’s perspective and reveal a world of endless, exciting possibilities. The fourth grader is curious, adventurous, and eager to explore new capacities for learning and creativity.
How the Curriculum Meets the Fourth Grader
Because of their growing independence, fourth graders are keen to make their own choices. Norse mythology--the primary lesson material for this stage--models the process of conscious choice and the responsibility for actions taken. These traditional tales foreground strength of character, courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance while revealing hidden motives, and character fallibility. The stories highlight for students the gifts and the risks of exploring independence as free human beings. Through these myths, the language arts curriculum expands to introduce independent writing and grammar.
In fourth grade, students’ conception of the world—which once exhibited a magical wholeness—begins to break apart, and this is the appropriate time to introduce fractions. Through hands-on activities, the children discover the world of quantities between any two whole numbers. In science, students investigate diversity in the animal kingdom, and they learn research skills, which they use to create their first independent report on an animal of their choice. They also strengthen their reading and writing skills by drafting book reports.
Language Arts: Hebrew legends/Old Testament stories; introduction of grammar; writing stories and composition; cursive writing(including the fountain pen); recitation of poetry; reading aloud, Norse Mythology; grammar
Social Studies: Festival celebrations; ancient Hebrew culture,Nordic culture; local geography/history; Native American practical life; map-making
Science: Farming; gardening; nature observation, Housing/Shelter building,Zoology
Math: Measurement—liquid, dry, linear, weight, time; money; long multiplication and division, Fractions; long multiplication, long division; multiplication/division tables (1-12) solidified
World languages: Counting; naming; songs; dances; poetry; conversation
Art: Wet-on-wet watercolor painting; beeswax modeling; crayon/colored pencil drawing; form drawing
Practical Arts: Knitting; plant-dyeing; cooking; gift-making,wood-working
Drama: Re-enactment of stories; class play; assembly performances
Music: Diatonic flute; singing; strings ensemble
Movement: Two outdoor recesses a day; Eurythmy; traditional and folk dance; physical education; daily rhythm/coordination exercises
life skills experienced in third and fourth grade
Introduction to homework assignments through weekly spelling reviews
Daily reading in groups, with partners or independently
Spelling and vocabulary development
Understanding basic sentence structure
Beginning library use and research protocol
Learning cursive handwriting
Memorization of the multiplication tables
Daily practice with the four basic operations and multiplication tables
Write an independent research paper on an animal
Writing summarizing book reports
Practice with measurement, the four basic operations, long division and multi-digit multiplication
Memorizing lines and actions for parts in the play
Practice string instruments at home and in lessons