Form Drawing is always the first subject done in first grade in a Waldorf School as it helps the children develop fine motor skills as well as the hand strength and concentration that will be required when they begin to write.
The classic lesson in the Montessori Lower Elementary (age 6-9) classroom on the first day of school is the Big Bang. The classic lesson in the Waldorf grade 1 (age 6-7) on the first day of school is the straight line and curve.
In both methods, you start things out right away with a BIG IDEA which will be referred back to over and over throughout all of their learning.
Everything that the first graders see in the world around them is made up of the straight line and curve. So, too, are all of the letters that they will be expected to begin to write. Steiner also talks about doing a lot of painting of color stories, developing visual discrimination with children before they begin to write (you can read more about the Language Arts curriculum in Waldorf education in Teaching Language Arts in the Waldorf School, Roberto Trostli's wonderful FREE book of collected quotes painstakingly collected from Steiner's work). These color stories require the children to work with two colors of paint, bringing them closer and closer to each other but not allowing them to touch. The children also notice whether painting the two colors in different combinations results in a painting with a different feeling.
Handwork, particularly the teaching of knitting, is also done at the very start of grade 1 in Waldorf to help further strengthen the neural pathways connecting both hemispheres of the brain prior to the teaching of reading.
Even though the older children in our group will be doing more advanced form drawing this school year, they did the first few introductory forms of this week together with the younger children. These activities also call for students to focus on following directions, working slowly and carefully, and practicing care of the materials and care of the environment: things which are good for all ages! Next week the older children will move into complex mirrored forms as well as beginning their MLBs for the study of Geography.
The archetypal images of straight line and curve, mirrored forms and metamorphosis forms, also make up all of our landforms & water features.
With all of that in mind, we began with Form Drawing, Handwork, and Watercolor Painting in the afternoons. Here are some quick notes:
Monday, August 26
- Form Drawing - straight line and curve
walk the lines on the floor, feel in your body the sense of uprightness with the straight line compared to the gesture of giving and receiving with the curved line, draw in air, draw on paper with yellow
- Rolled Beeswax Candles (straight line and curve)
- Handwork - spinning roving with fingers, wrapping on stick
(fiber: 50% camel / 50% silk)
- Watercolor Painting - yellow circle in center, blue all around
"Little Blue is curious about Little Yellow," as one child put it
Tuesday, August 27
- Form Drawing - read A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston
compare the gesture of the vertical with the horizontal "resting line,"
lie down on floor, draw with toes, draw in air, find horizontal lines around the room to trace with your finger, draw on paper with blue
- Plant seeds and place pots on Nature Table (resting line)
- Handwork - feel and compare raw fleeces from my brother's sheep
Stuart - full Blue Face Leicester
Shadow - 50/50 Clun Forest / Shetland cross
practice winding a ball of yarn (fiber: wool)
- Watercolor Painting - blue circle in center, yellow all around
"Little Yellow is curious about Little Blue"
Thursday, August 29
- Form Drawing - read How Thunder and Lightning Came to Be: A Choctaw Tale retold by Beatrice O. Harrell, diagonal lines have a quality of movement, draw Figures 3a, 3b, 3c, 4, and 5 (from page 3) in shaving cream, draw in air, draw Figure 5 on paper with red
- Sand and polish Game of Graces sticks (diagonal line)
- Handwork - story of cotton plant, feel cotton boll, finger knitting
- Watercolor Painting - blue circle in center, red all around
"I think some other colors should come to play on the playground"
Friday, August 30
- Form Drawing - read Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Helen Berger, draw circle on paper with purple (after practicing sphere first in clay)
- Clay Modeling - sphere, pp.17-20 from Basic Sculptural Modeling: Developing the Will by Working with Pure Form in the First Three Grades by Hella Loewe (available FREE at the Online Waldorf Library)
- Handwork - continue finger knitting, make three lengths in different colors and braid together as a belt
- Watercolor Painting - red circle in center, blue all around
let red and blue touch lightly and overlap at edges of circle
(there's no way Little Red is going to sit still on the playground!)
This is the progression for the first four days of Form Drawing as described and illustrated in Form Drawing: Grades One through Four by Laura Embrey-Stine and Ernst Schuberth. This week we also had educational games and one-on-one introductions to the Montessori materials in the morning and, of course, lunch and recess (the vintage Game of Graces is the new favorite activity at recess, besides tree climbing and the mud kitchen). We also began Abel's Island by William Steig as a read aloud and started our Recitation exercises with memorizing "A Promise" from Whittle Your Ears by Barbara Dawson Betteridge. This lovely Waldorf book of poetry and plays is also available for FREE at the Online Waldorf Library.
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