Grade School Overview - Age Appropriate Development
Waldorf education embraces cohort teaching, in which the grade school teacher stays with the same group of students as they transition through the grades. Often a teacher who starts with a group of students (their cohort) in 1st grade will stay as their main class teacher throughout the entire lower and middle school years until completing 8th grade. In 1st grade, the teacher meets each student in a formal welcoming assembly called the Rose Ceremony. This initiates a personal commitment to study the development and mentor the skills and personal growth of each child and forms a strong bond that will last for many years. This long-term relationship supports a rich social dynamic in the class. It gives the teacher a deep understanding of each student’s strengths, challenges and developmental milestones and it creates a mutual connection between student and teacher. That sense of teacher familarity, care and awareness⎯which is often the hallmark of small class sizes⎯is achieved through this long term committment within the context of large class sizes in Waldorf schools that provide a rich social environment for the students to engage in.
Waldorf teachers attend professional development workshops, conferences and teacher trainings over summer breaks and during periodic sabbaticals in preparation for each year’s new curriculum. The 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, who have previously taught the course materials. 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 a field-tested strength in instructional methodology to the students in the classroom.
Waldorf Education's unique cohort teaching enables long-term relationships that give the teacher a deep and progressing understanding of each student’s strengths, challenges and developmental milestones.
Most school days begin at the entrance to the classroom where the teacher meets the student 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 such as Botany or Geography. Every course of study, or "block," lasts 3-4 weeks and covers a focused subject matter that is approached from multiple access points including story-telling, observation & 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 Morning Block lesson books filled with formal dictation, careful note-taking and personal observations, compositions, diagrams and drawings that illustrate, archive and interpret their studies. The students' responsibility for⎯and authorship of⎯their Block Books establishes an independent, self-reliant and interpretive method of student learning. It fosters the student's academic skills in organizing, absorbing and reflecting on content, building knowledge and it facilitates an active method of inquiry.
After morning lessons, the students transition to an outdoor recess for physical exercise and social interaction. Upon their return, special subjects teachers provide instruction in various topics such as foreign languages (Spanish or German), handwork, music, woodwork, physical education and eurythmy (a form of body movement that incorporates elements of dance, balance, poise and athleticism). In this integrated fashion, the Grade School provides a comprehensive foundation for a child's development that inspires a love of learning, expects academic excellence and supports creative exploration.