Grade One Curriculum

Mountain Laurel Waldorf School - Grade One CurriculumThe first grader emerges from a world of all immersing imaginative play and takes inaugural steps in a formed classroom environment toward their sense of purpose in the world. Mountain Laurel Waldorf School strives to make first grade a healthful transition for the children from the rhythms of the kindergarten into those of the grade school, creating a well-balanced template for the three-day rhythm of learning and providing a strong foundation for the children’s academic future.

Academic learning is confined to the morning, so that after lunch the children may rest or sleep and engage in outdoor free play—a reassuringly familiar rhythm for those children who attended a Waldorf kindergarten. This provides an appropriate outbreath that allows the children time to digest the rich content of the morning’s activities.

Circle time is the heart of the morning lesson. Initiated in the kindergarten, circle time provides the ideal setting in which thought, movement and feeling are integrated through song, dance, poems and games. Movement is incorporated into recitation, so that the earliest form of literacy (the spoken word) is enlivened with life, breath and action. Numbers are imbued with rhythm so that they come to life through the children’s limbs as they clap, skip, stomp and jump.

Mountain Laurel Waldorf School - Grade OneThe three-day rhythm establishes a habit for much of the learning in the years to come, as a story told the previous day by the teacher, having been taken into the child’s sleep life, is recalled by the class and then developed and explored in the days that follow in a multiplicity of ways such as drawing a picture from the story, writing related text, or bringing it to life again through dramatization. This rhythm of learning encourages the feeling life of the child to take an active part in the act of remembering. In first grade, the children create their own textbooks. These reflect what they have learned in class and sow the seeds for the children to be active participants in the learning that will take place throughout the grade school years.

Mountain Laurel Waldorf School - Grade One CurriculumLANGUAGE ARTS
First grade is a time of transition from play to work. Morning circle activities help make the transition from active, movement-oriented learning to more focused, concentrated and quiet desk learning.

The children experience the bridge from imitation to pictorial thinking through language arts. The very first lessons lead from imitating the teacher’s straight and curved lines as a movement exercise, to drawing them on the chalkboard, in the sand, with their toes, with a paintbrush, or by any other means in which the teacher feels inspired to present them. This exercise establishes literacy’s foundation as the children use their mastery of the straight line and curve to eventually master all 26 letters of the alphabet. Each consonant is introduced through the external form elements of a story, revealing a delicious secret— the hidden wave in a ’W‘ or the slithering snake of an ’S’ for example. As each letter is also paired with a fairytale (from around the world), the letters are living, breathing entities in the soul life of the child. A seven-year old taught to read in this way hears the “sssssssssssssssssssss” of the snake whenever they look at the letter ‘S’ and remembers, without any effort, the story of the magical white snake that allowed its eater to understand all the languages of the animal kingdom. Vowels are usually introduced differently as the children explore how consonants hold the shape of a word and vowels breathe the life force into it.

Reading is thought through writing, which is introduced through form drawing (straight and curved lines) during the first days of school. Copying text from the blackboard and reading it in unison are the first stages of teaching reading. The teacher may create a “reader” for the class based on the stories they have heard. Word families may be introduced and some students may begin sight-reading.

MATH
In grade one, the qualities of each number from 1-12 are introduced. The class counts up to 100, works with all four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and consistently practices the 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 times tables. The four operations are presented through imaginative stories. The children practice writing numbers from 1-100, and the times tables are introduced through many types of games and movement, such as clapping and stepping rhythmic patterns. Memorization is not expected at this time.

The quantitative aspect of numbers is explored through extensive practice with concrete manipulatives such as glass beads, beans, acorns and sticks. The teacher takes care to bring these exercises in a whole-to-parts format. Rhythmical movement carries counting by twos, threes, fours and fives to pave the way to learning the times tables through the grades.

Simple geometric shapes are introduced through form drawing. The children learn to draw straight lines, curved lines, circles, triangles, squares, and pentagrams.

NATURAL SCIENCES
First grade honors and nurtures the child’s senses and works to sustain the natural joy and wonder of a child’s experience of the natural world through nature stories, seasonal verses, and songs that enable the children to live in the rhythm of the week, the months and the seasons. In rain or shine, the first grade spends a large portion of the day outside, adapting their creative play to the seasonal environments.

GEOGRAPHY
The beginnings of geography are brought about as the children explore their immediate surroundings firsthand, as well as through songs, poems, and stories from around the world.

HISTORY
The children are introduced to the cultural history of humanity through fairy tales from around the world, bringing to light certain universal truths about human nature.

PAINTINGMountain Laurel Waldorf School - Grade 1 - Painting
First graders engage in color study through wet-on-wet watercolor painting. Each painting experience is preceded with a story that brings a mood and personality to the colors. The children are encouraged to playfully explore both the properties and personalities of individual colors and the relationships between the various colors. The emphasis here is on the inner experience of the child and less on external form elements, which come later.

WORLD LANGUAGES
Studying a world language offers the children the opportunity to see and feel through a different window – one that opens to the wonders of the world, culture and the gifts that they bring. Mandarin Chinese and Spanish are introduced in the first grade throughout the year in an immersive oral form where the children explore the soul life of other cultures through stories, poems, songs and games. Children are still fluid enough to mimic the native speakers with accuracy and to genuinely absorb the various rich soul qualities that world languages have to offer.

HANDWORK
The intelligence gained by working with the hands lays the foundation for the development of clear thinking. Capacities for concentration, patience, and perseverance are reinforced as students work to complete projects. The main skills introduced and developed in first grade include sanding and finishing a pair of wooden knitting needles, learning to knit and cast off, finishing a knitting project with hand sewing, and learning to shape knitting with a decrease.
Handwork and eurythmy play a vital role in strengthening and supporting the will life of the children as they transition to a more academically rigorous school life.

MUSIC
The rich and vital role that music plays throughout the grades is inaugurated in first grade through daily singing and flute playing. Teachers bring pedagogically appropriate songs from around the world. Songs are often sung and played in the pentatonic scale, similar to the Mood of the Fifth, gradually branching out towards the full scale that will be introduced towards the third grade. Music occupies a central and joyful role in the life of the first graders and brings nourishment to the soul life of the class. Songs are learned by listening to and imitating the teacher. Through singing and playing flutes together, the class learns valuable social lessons as a group—they listen to each other, hold a song together, synchronize their breathing and are attentive to the teacher’s signals. The foundation for musical fluency also begins here, supporting individual achievement in the upper grade years

GAMES
First grade games are presented by the main lesson teacher as part of the morning circle work as well as by world language teachers as a means of engaging the active will of the child in learning new vocabulary. Bean bags games, clapping games and rhythmical walking are typically utilized in extra main math classes as well as the morning circle time period.

Outdoor playtime provides the outbreath of free play. Children are given the appropriate setting and time to create active and imaginative scenarios that encourage the organic development of such abilities as problem-solving, compromise and collaboration. Between the large sandbox, tree house, swings, balance beams, stumps for leaping between, and wood for constructing there are ample opportunities for active movement. Jump-rope, tag games, building and winter sledding are all popular options for free-play in first grade.