Thursday, November 16, 2023

Waldorf and the Capital Letters Block

Zac and a friend in the digging pit
Aug 2018

The Waldorf First Grade curriculum is working off of the assumption that children are coming from a completely play-based Kindergarten. They are not expected to know all of their letters or be able to count to 100, etc. These academic concepts are introduced slowly and through great beauty (storytelling, watercolor painting, and more).

For children who come to me at age 6 or 7 who already know this information, we still go through it again in the Waldorf way.

Not only do they respond to the beauty -- as we all respond positively to beauty in our lives -- but it helps to heal the anxiety that they can be holding from having had such an intellectual early childhood experience.

In the Waldorf First Grade flow, you start with Form Drawing (fine motor skills, practicing straight lines and curves in preparation for handwriting) and then introduce the Roman and Hindu-Arabic Numerals.

Then you present children with lively and rich experiences of the Capital Letters. Beginning by only writing in capital letters is a wonderful gift. It eliminates the problems with reversals that many young children have!

poured pulp papermaking experience
G is for Goose

Waldorf makes the art essential to the learning process because the teacher chooses stories and pictures for the letters with great care such that when the children are illustrating the stories they are also drawing the letter itself. They get to find the letter in their illustration!

So my hunt is for things that both start with a given letter and look like the shape of that letter (like M is for Mountain) plus stories that include them.

After they know all of their Capital Letters, we can then begin to make main lesson books about all kinds of interesting topics. With the main lesson books, they are drawing an illustration on one side and writing on the other side. The writing begins with a letter in November and then becomes a word and then moves on to a complete sentence by the end of the school year.

During First Grade in Waldorf, it is important to remember that you are teaching writing more than you are teaching reading. After all, writing came first! By doing this steady and gentle progression, you are holding space for children to look down and realize that they can read the books they wrote!

We are doing Capital Letters I in November and Capital Letters II in January, with the Class Play in between.

Here are the stories I chose for 2023-2024:

November 2023

W - Worm
U - Underground

    story - read Tillie and the Wall by Leo Lionni

    W - make wonderfully wiggly worms with playdough (sensory play), colored pencil drawing of worm for MLB

    U - draw underground tunnel with crayons for MLB

O is for Otter
S is for Stars

    story - read A Lot of Otters by Barbara Helen Berger

    O - make potato printed otter faces with potatoes and brown paint for MLB (add eyes, noses, whiskers with Sharpie after the paint dries)

    S - make S of shiny star stickers on sparkly paper for MLB

T is for Tower
B is for Bubbles

    story - read The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl

    T - use blocks to build a tall tower with turrets (imaginative play), colored pencil drawing of tower for MLB

    B - give kids sleeping yeast to try to wake up with kitchen ingredients of their choice (science experiment), mix watercolor paint with bubble stuff and blow colored bubbles onto watercolor paper for MLB

A is for Alligator
Y is for Yak
C is for Cat
M is for Mouse
R is for River

    story - read Alexander and the Magic Mouse by Martha Sanders

    A - colored pencil drawing of an alligator with a letter in his mouth for MLB

    Y - make wool painting (pure wool felt and wool roving) of yak snout and horns and sew onto MLB page

    C - colored pencil drawing of curled up cat for MLB

    M - colored pencil drawing of mouse getting a magical message in his tail for MLB

    R - colored pencil drawing of rushing river making an island around the house for MLB

January 2024

E is for Eggs

    story - read Edwina the Emu by Sheena Knowles

    E - use ten chicken eggs to form an enormous E, colored pencil drawing of eggs for MLB

    note: you can buy a blown-out emu eggshell from Nature Watch

N is for Nail

    story - read "Nail Soup" from JGB anthology Series 2, First Semester

    N - do "I Had a Little Pig" verse from pp.22-23 of Chants, Fingerplays & Stories by Bev Boss (circle time), use three nails to form a N, hammer golf tees into cardboard box, hammer roofing nails into a block of wood, colored pencil drawing of nails for MLB

Q is for Quail
H is for Hazel

    story - read Cinderella / Aschenputtel from the Brothers Grimm

    Q - scatter lentils in a dish of cornmeal/panko and have the children pick them out with tweezers, colored pencil drawing of quail for MLB

    H - colored pencil drawing of three hazel twigs for MLB

V is for Valley
Z is for Zig Zag

    story - read The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico

    V - colored pencil drawing of valley for MLB

    Z - add a zig zag of masking tape to our "walking the tape line" activities (circle time), colored pencil drawing of zig zag of lightning for MLB

G is for Goose
F is for Firecrackers

I is for Icicle
P is for Plum

    story - read The Magic Plum Tree retold by Freya Littledale

    I - colored pencil drawing of tree branch with icicle for MLB

    P - colored pencil drawing of tree branch with plum for MLB

D is for Dragon
L is for Ledge

K is for King
J is for Jester
X is for Xylophone

    story - tell "The King, the Jester, and the Xylophone" (original story)

    K - colored pencil drawing of king for MLB

    J - colored pencil drawing of jester for MLB

    X - play xylophone, arrange two mallets on xylophone to make an X, colored pencil drawing of xylophone for MLB

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