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The Main Lesson

The Waldorf school day is divided up into three main parts: head, heart, and hands. The Head lesson is also referred to as the Main Lesson and is done first thing in the morning. After a break, the Heart subjects follow. Heart subjects include drawing and painting, drama, eurythmy, foreign language, music, and so on. The afternoon is reserved for Hands. This is PE, dance, handwork (knitting, woodworking, etc.), gardening, and other types of gross motor skill activities.

In general, one should strive to have the blocks be equal amounts of time. For example, you could rise at 7 am, get dressed, have breakfast, tidy up the house, and have a nature walk. At 8 am the Main Lesson could begin and run until 9:45. Then a 15 minute break. The Heart block would begin at 10 am and run until 11:45 at which point you would have lunch and afternoon rest time. From 2 pm to 3:45 pm would be Hands, and then the remainder of the day would be devoted to family time, preparations for dinner and other household chores, and so on.

Storytelling Tips

One of the thing I have found in making up your own stories for subjects where you are striving to get across content -- for example, the 3rd grade Farming block -- is that it is helpful to have bullet points prepared the night before as you plan the story. Make a list of all the information you'd like the story to include, develop how the story will unfold, and then sleep on it. The next morning, refresh your memory by looking at the list of bullet points before you begin. It is KEY to research before you begin to teach in Waldorf, even more than in traditional education, because the student does not have textbooks or workbooks. You are solely responsible for imparting all the information.

3rd Grade Farming Block - Lesson on Corn
Key Points

  • the cultivation of corn was important to Native Americans
  • corn was developed from a wild grass over several thousands of years
  • the procedure for planting corn
  • the procedure for harvesting corn
  • how corn grew in conjunction with other plants
  • how corn was used in the diet as well as other uses
  • traditions or legends surrounding corn

FYI - Storytelling advice from Marsha Johnson
includes recommended stories to accompany curriculum of each year (Grades 1 - 8)

The Three Day Rhythm

Waldorf is unique in that students are not immediately quizzed on information received, either by written work or by oral questioning. Instead, the child is given time to process and digest the new information. The usual three day cycle for a lesson is this:

  • Day One - storytelling
  • Day Two - recall story (child does this), further exploration: painting, drama, and so on
  • Day Three - recall story (child does this), written composition in main lesson book

For our corn example above, you could tell a story of a little Indian child who was taught by her grandmother all about how to plant and tend for corn. That morning you could grind some corn and make cornbread. On day 2 you would ask the child to recall the information from day 1, and continue the story by telling a legend about corn. Do a watercolor painting of a field of corn (yellow, blue, red). On day 3, ask the child to recall both the factual information about how corn is planted, harvested, and used by the Native Americans and the legend which has been passed down from generation to generation, then compose a short piece for the main lesson book (several sentences), practice it on plain paper, correct grammar and spelling, copy it into the main lesson book and paste your watercolor painting beside. Or, if you are creating your own main lesson book from scratch, you would hole punch the composition paper and the watercolor painting and place them next to each other in your Farming MLB, to be tied with yarn at the completion of the block.

This is only one example. The hallmark of Waldorf education is that it responds to the individual needs of your unique child and is not a prescriptive curriculum. It is SOUL EDUCATION and each little soul is different. Please do the inner work which is recommended for parents, reflect on your child, and use that to guide you in your lesson preparation.

contributed by Rhoda

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