Teaching Capital Letters

The following is shared by Marsha Johnson. You can join her group, Waldorf Home Educators, by clicking here.

    A good guideline in the use of authentic Child Development in the practice of Waldorf Education is to keep in mind how human writing developed over thousands of years.

    Initially, there were only single forms of symbols. Single large forms that could be easily carved into stone (straight lines are much easier to do!) or pressed into wax (the cunieform sticks) and many early languages in the human record were hieroglyphic or conpletely related to body-form, one reason why we use Roman Numerals first, as the one represents one-finger.

    In many of these ancient scripts, no vowels are even noted, only the forming, earth bound consonants. Did they realize the vowels, the singing ones, were coming directly from the spiritual cosmic realm?

    In ancient Hebrew and modern, there are small markings to indicate vowel sounds and pronunciation, clues to show what to say.

    In current times, the child, of course is going through those ancient stages of development and in the grade one child, these large letter forms are really a kind of artistic endeavor, similar to the form drawings, that have hardly any connection to the art of 'reading' over that first year of education. The child knows that there is a fabulous story connected to that form, it came out of a picture! and a story! and the King stood so straight and tall to salute the brave one who saved the kingdom or whatever you chose, but the K itself is not called KAY but K K K K (kuh kuh kuh), it has a sound that belongs to itself and it not a KAY at all. K--ing...... ..and we can bring that sound with choppy stomping poems that we make up for fun and joy, not focusing on phonetics but enjoying the KUH

    Kranberry Krows, Krazy Cats, Kindling Burns in Kopper Vats!!!!!!

    or

    Kindly the Kocoa Kradled the Kandy Kane!

    Wow, let's make cocoa!

    You are really spending this entire year bringing those capitals as part of a very imaginative trek that persists for months and months, not focusing on acquring either reading or writing skills at all.

    The fact is, if you examine history, you will find that lower case letters emerged in the time of Charlemagne or so, round the middle ages or slightly later. That time period comes later, and you can see in many cultures as well, symbolic coding of speech sounds took centuries to develop and refine, we cannot imagine those times very well now, with this literal flooding of the universe with writing writing writing..... ..

    The symbols were precious, guarded, esoteric knowledge, secrets held by the highest ones in the lands, carefully used, look at the cave paintings, creep in with torch or brand, lit with flaming fire, create these sublime images on the walls, creep out again....... ..

    The children have a sense of this awe and honor of the written word despite the fact we literally throw out thousands of pieces of junk- mail every day now, waste paper like leaves, and ignore the spirit of the symbols.

    The child needs to have this and in the grade two year, you can bring lower case letters.

    In the grade one, there is no need or reason to bring a 'printed' page for any purpose. The child is creating main lesson books with beautiful pictures drawn and simple capital letters, you can paint these too, form them from beeswax and stick on a north facing window, what a pretty sight, and towards the end of the year, copy a few poems or well known songs using the capital letters with a star or apple or heart drawn between each word.

    Consider how we speak------often running breathy phrases dictated by our need for more air! Writing attempts to document this on the page......so the 'other' can see what we have to say when we are not there.

    I hope this helps. I would imagine that the goal of reading has become a bit too prominent at the moment, but the goal is more about whole head, heart, hands education, forming a healthy basis for future learning, and it might be good to examine the files a bit in the grade one area.

    I have noticed that in home schooling, many times, parents do tend to fall back into the way THEY were taught, often, and this does often mean a different approach than Waldorf..... ...easy to do, but to really nourish the child and the receive the fruits of the anthroposophic understanding of child development, consider the points raised here and elsewhere, it might impact your teaching or ideas about when to really bring reading (grade two).


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