In Grade 1, children cross the bridge from Kindergarten into the Lower Grades. At Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, First Grade is a half-day with the option of playgroup in the afternoon. A strong rhythm is created in the classroom that echoes the rhythms of nature and festival that are explored in Kindergarten.
Through fairy tales, the children are introduced to each letter of the alphabet in a meaningful way. This paves the way for writing and reading as the year progresses. Numerical qualities are experienced in a multi-sensory way with children applying rhythm and physical games to their exploration. This strong foundation helps the children to move into numerical application with a firm sense of the numbers they are working with.
MAIN LESSON SUBJECTS
ART, HANDWORK, AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
The healthy first grader gains more control over his/her body, is immersed in play, imagination, and the arts, and begins to be interested in learning in a more formal way. Each morning of first grade begins with physical activities to improve the children’s balance, concentration, strength, and awareness. The children also develop their breathing and speech through singing, poetry, and playing the pentatonic flute. They grow artistically through regular drawing, beeswax modeling, and painting lessons.
HISTORY, SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS, and LANGUAGE ARTS
The academic portion of our main lesson alternates, in four-week blocks, between language arts and arithmetic. Science is interwoven throughout the year in nature walks and studies. The children take weekly hikes and go to the farm to work with the animals. History is explored in an intuitive way through the many stories the children are told – thus enlivening their sensitivity to different times and peoples. In the language arts, the children hear, retell, and act out fairy tales. They learn and practice the sounds and forms of the letters and then begin writing words and sentences. Most of the main-lesson book content comes from the stories, but some of the drawing and writing also focus on the seasons of the year. Spelling includes the use of word families, while reading is practiced using the script of a play that the students are learning by heart orally, as well as through rereading the work in their main-lesson books. In arithmetic, the four basic operations are introduced through a story, and practiced through rhythmical activities, using physical objects from nature such as stones, and through writing in their main-lesson books. The students end the year having created several main-lesson books which serve as a memento of their year, a text they have created, and a reference source for their studies.
German and Spanish
In first grade the children recite poems, sing songs, and play games. Stories in the languages are read aloud and the children repeat and act out the content. They also learn vocabulary for parts of the body, colors, and items in the classroom.
Beginning with finger exercises and playful engagement in making loops, slipknots, and decorative yarn chains, the children are introduced to wooden knitting needles. They learn to cast on stitches and to knit, and they practice this skill all year. The children also learn to cast off stitches, run-in the ends of the yarn, and put fringes on their completed wool scarves. This project is often completed during the first part of second grade and may then be followed by other knitting projects. Knitting provides an opportunity to hone fine-motor skills and develop neural pathways that support academic learning. The children also regularly model with beeswax, which allows them to work with their hands while listening to a story, creating an animal or figure out of the content of the fairy tales.
Music, painting, and drama are part of the first graders’ year. In the weekly music class, they sing songs in unison, accompanied by guitar, and sometimes with clapping, movement, or acting out the lyrics. Songs are selected according to the season, and may be pentatonic or simple folk songs. The class prepares and performs a play out of their fairy-tale work.
In the weekly painting class, the students work with watercolors in simple, primary-color combinations. Drawing in the main-lesson books occurs daily and covers a wide variety of content, both imitative and original.
Through movement, first graders experience the difference between a straight, a curved, and a bent line. Gestures for vowels and consonants are also introduced through stories and poems. These work to further the children’s ability to act and move cohesively as a class. The children practice following directions and being part of a group, striving to create a healthy unity. We also begin simple concentration and rhythm exercises.
The healthy first grader gains more control over his/her body, is immersed in play, imagination and the arts, and becomes interested in learning in a more formal way. The day often begins with physical activities to improve the children's balance, concentration, strength, and awareness. This includes weekly hikes and walks to the farm to work with the animals. The children develop their breathing and speech through singing, poetry, and flute playing. They grow artistically through regular drawing, modeling and painting lessons.
The academic portion of the Main Lesson alternates, in four-week blocks, between Language Arts and Arithmetic. In Language Arts, the children listen to, retell, and act out fairy tales. They learn and practice the sounds and forms of the letters and then begin writing words and sentences. Most of the Main Lesson books' content comes from the stories, but some of the drawing and writing also focuses on the seasons of the year. We developed "word families" of words that rhyme and are spelled alike. In the last third of the year, the children may learn and practice reading from a script of a play they have learned by heart.
In Arithmetic, the four basic operations are introduced through a story and practiced through rhythmical activities with gems/stones and in writing. The class practices the 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, and 11 times tables and learn about division with a remainder and what it means when a number "goes into" another.
Though the children are not tested in school in first grade, progress is assessed by their attention level, interest, and participation in class. Some children are reading fluently, others are beginning to sound out and read words, and others only know the letters and their sounds. At this point, all of those levels are acceptable. In Arithmetic, the children should understand the four operations and their symbols. They should be able to add and subtract single digit numbers and recite a few of the times tables. Though we work with division, it is likely still illusive for many of the children.
In general, in first grade, we look for overall health and involvement of the child and do not try to pinpoint their academic strengths and weaknesses. At this time, it is better to let them develop at their own pace without anxiety or self-consciousness.