In Grade 2, children begin to take on newer and more complex elements in all their explorations. They experience new stories, now seeing morals arising out of the fables. The innate mystery of the world stays with them through these legends and also through the Saint Stories where one can marvel at the remarkable feats of the Saints. In their further exploration of mathematics the children continue to build on the processes they learned the year before and with their strong number sense convert counting by twos, threes, fours, and fives into the multiplication tables.
MAIN LESSON SUBJECTS
ART, HANDWORK, AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
The study of history continues, interwoven throughout the Waldorf curriculum. Students are exposed to fables and saints’ stories that provide them with an intuitive, age-appropriate window into the stories of the past, reflecting much of the first graders’ own inner experiences..
SCIENCE and NATURE
The children take many nature walks and participate in cooking and outdoor projects both with their class teachers and using the resources of the Learning Center located at the Hawthorne Valley Farm directly across the street from the school. The second graders experience the seasons and forces of nature as they wander through our ever-changing valley. They discover the gifts of nature such as acorns, sumacs, and sweet-tasting birch twigs. They also help with the harvests of the farm.
Second graders often participate in a vaulting and therapeutic-riding program in the spring. Students turn the vaulting positions into stories that they simultaneously perform on multiple animals. They also learn how to steer the horses and donkeys, using lead ropes as reins. The children are taught to catch, groom, and tack the horses and donkeys without help, as well as help each other onto the animals. The children truly learn how to work together as a class at the barn, and many of them gain new confidence around animals.
Students explore the concept of time in a science block. They look at the four seasons of a year, noticing what changes occur outside as the year progresses. The year is divided into twelve parts and the class discusses how July differs from August (cherries ripen in July, corn comes in August), and what makes October different from November (the leaves are still on the trees in October, November brings the lantern walk). After the months and their holidays, students name the days of the week and learn a verse from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books about what was done on each day. Following the seven days, they explore how the day differs from the night, learning about the different sleep rhythms of some common local animals. They then move to hours, minutes, and seconds. Each child makes a clock to practice telling time with, and they draw and decode clocks for a few days. They end the block with each child’s describing his/her birth date in increasing detail (year, season, month, day of the week, time). Second grade is the first time that a block is presented to the children as having a clear beginning and end and focusing on a specific subject matter – time in this instance.
Writing, grammar, and reading form the basis of the curriculum for the second graders. The second-grade language arts curriculum contrasts fables with stories of saints and heroes. The fables use animals to illustrate various negative traits humans exhibit, while the saints and heroes show how these traits can be transformed by strong men and women. (The crow who is tricked through flattery can also choose to use her voice to sing the praises of the world with Saint Francis.) Second graders are exploring the qualities exhibited in both the fables and the stories of the saints, so our curriculum helps them to experience and process both aspects of humanity.
Some of the fables or saints’ stories will culminate in a play. Often music and song are incorporated into this drama work. The children take turns playing the various roles in each of the poems and songs. The parts are often not assigned until a couple of days before the presentation. This late casting ensures that each child learns all of the parts and practices all of the suggestions for how best to speak the lines; this is common in Waldorf schools, and it is a very different approach from that of most theatrical productions, which assign roles in the beginning. It is an important representation of Waldorf pedagogy: we want each child to be a part of a versatile, cooperative group, experiencing each of the separate parts so as to understand better how the whole is attained.
German and Spanish
In their second year of foreign languages, the children learn about their surroundings: colors, animals, nature, parts of the body, items in the classroom, and numbers. Songs, poems, games, stories, and fables are part of this learning process. The children act out many of the stories and poems, and they also draw pictures in their notebooks to reinforce what they learn. The students learn about different cultural customs and holiday celebrations through songs, poems, and stories.
The students practice arithmetic, times tables, and numerical patterns as the core of their second- grade math studies. The children are excited to learn that they can write and read numbers into the millions and beyond.
In the spring, work begins in regrouping numbers in vertical addition and subtraction. Students work initially with beans, gems, and rocks to illustrate the different place values, but are soon able to move to practicing the concepts without manipulatives. They learn to move multiplication vertically, and begin to multiply numbers beyond the 12 times table. The students work hard on the multiplication tables this year. They play many games during circle time to practice them, and children gain confidence in their ability to recall the answers. Learning the tables is one of the main focuses of math in the second grade, and practice continues in third grade (and throughout the grades), since committing the tables to memory will be invaluable for the rest of the children’s lives.
In second grade, most children complete the knitted scarves begun in grade one. Then knitting is laid to rest for a time, and another natural fiber, cotton yarn, and the crochet hook are introduced. Crocheting is a more complicated process than knitting, requiring great focus to enter the hook in exactly the right spot. When the children crochet a square, stitches have to be counted at the start. This allows the children to discover for themselves when a square is truly a square. The various projects involve early geometry that is schooled by observation, and with each completed project, students’ confidence grows. The handwork experience is one of first doing, then recognizing, and finally contemplating one’s creations.
The class teacher works with the children on beeswax modeling and form drawing. Much of the content of the form drawings comes from the stories the children hear. Students also have opportunities to design their own form drawings this year, which is something they will do more of as they move through the grades.
Music class occurs twice weekly. The children sing songs in unison or in simple rounds, accompanied by guitar. Songs are selected according to the season, and include pentatonic songs, folk songs, sea chanteys, and others.
Wet-on-wet watercolor painting is offered once a week; sometimes during the painting period the children paint cards for holidays and special occasions. The painting classes provide an opportunity to expand on the color studies from first grade, as the students create works that include some shapes that are more distinctly formed. The children are still immersed in the medium and enjoy its fluidity.
Speech skills are practiced each morning, and the children learn poems, verses, and songs. The morning circle incorporates exercises to improve balance, coordination, and movement, and provides opportunities to practice language skills and multiplication tables. Students also play their pentatonic flutes during designated blocks of time, playing every day for a few weeks and then letting the activity rest for a time before returning to it.
The second graders learn to understand and move spatial forms in connection with poetry, stories, and music. Most of the time they move together as a group in one circle, since the circle still gives order and security to young students like a protective sheath. However, a little bit of variation is brought as well: patterns based on straight lines and curves are moved in smaller groups, as in the piece. Students also enjoy moving mirror forms, taking turns being the leader and the follower, which is done in pairs. Gestures for vowels and consonants are further developed through stories and poems. The children perform one of the fables that has been prepared in class for the parents and other classes. The lessons also include rhythm exercises, contraction and expansion, concentration exercises, harmonizing and calming slow walking, and other exercises for dexterity, flexibility, and coordination.
The second grade games activities regularly take place outdoors, weather permitting. Students play a variety of group and team games, as well as taking occasional walks and sledding in the winter. In the spring, some slightly more complex games (i.e., Star, House, Moon and Steal the Bacon) are introduced.
Faculty Perspective: Language Arts
The second grade Language Arts curriculum brings the contrast of fables with saints and heroes. The fables use animals to illustrate various negative traits humans exhibit, while the saints and heroes show how these traits can be transformed by strong men and women. Second graders explore the qualities exhibited in both the fables and the stories of the saints, and so our curriculum helps them to experience and process both aspects of humanity.
The children add some of these stories to their Main Lesson books, and they also spend quite a bit of time learning songs and poems of the fables. Often the fables culminate in class's first real play.
The children had to learn many lines with different rhythm schemes. Song and eurythmy helped to balance out the program. The children take turns playing the various roles in each of the poems and songs; the parts are not assigned until a few days before the presentation. This late casting ensures that each child learns all of the parts and practices all of the suggestions for speaking their lines.
This represents an important aspect of Waldorf pedagogy: we want each child to be a part of a versatile, cooperative group, experiencing each of the separate parts to better understand how the whole is attained.