A Steiner Waldorf school aspires to a distinctive ethos that puts the needs of the developing child at the heart of its educational practice. This ethos crosses boundaries of ethnicity, gender, religion and nationality and affects every gesture in the school irrespective of its cultural setting. The curriculum and pedagogy is founded on the notion that lesson material and educational method must be in harmony with the developmental readiness and emergent capacities of the children. This awareness is a common thread that guides and binds the work in the school.
‘Formal’ teaching and learning begins in the Lower School, where the thread of rhythm, imagination and experiential learning introduced in the Early Years is picked up and extended. Teaching in the Lower School embraces the idea of integrated education in which the core skills of oracy, numeracy and literacy are woven together with a study of science and an immersion in the arts.
The two-hour Main Lesson, usually given in the morning, is an opportunity for the children to work with a range of themes over an extended period, and to engage with those themes via a variety of perspectives and learning styles. Topics introduced in the Main Lesson are varied and age-appropriate; for example, ‘Weighing and measuring’ in Class 3 (age 9/10 years) or ‘The Story of Rome’ in Class 6 (age 11/12 years).
These themes can be extended and developed in subject lessons, as appropriate, and represent an opportunity for an experience that embraces practical, aesthetic and cognitive learning styles, and for an education that is genuinely inter-disciplinary. Typical subject lessons in a Steiner Waldorf school include one or two foreign languages, music, games, handwork, landwork, religion and eurythmy (a movement-based activity that addresses coordination, concentration and spatial awareness, as well as social skills).
A further distinctive feature of the Lower School is the role of the class teacher, who works with a single class of children over an extended period (typically, between six and eight years), taking the children from the early stages of childhood into the throes of adolescence. This is an expression of the importance given to cultivating positive social relationships within the class and the school as a whole.
Main Lesson curriculum in the Lower School:
The introduction, consolidation and practise of literacy and numeracy skills are at the foundation of every Main Lesson throughout the Lower School. This work is supported and enhanced by the progressive introduction of age-appropriate themes and topics. These include:
Class 1: Fairy tales and legends
Class 2: Fables and animal stories, nature stories
Class 3: Traditional crafts and farming, measurement, Old Testament stories
Class 4: Myths and legends of northern cultures, animal study, local geography, mathematics (fractions)
Class 5: Ancient civilisations, Greek history, plant study, mathematics (decimals), UK geography
Class 6: Roman and medieval history, geology, mathematics (percentages), physics, European geography
Using SSP (Systematic Synthetic Phonics )
Our school use phonics as one of many tools for teaching literacy but we start with an `analytical` approach, beginning with the whole and moving to the parts, not the other way around. From a story will come a sentence, within the sentence there will be focus on certain words, within those words specific letters, sounds and blends will be explored. Letters are then learned as a picture or `shape`. They learn that some letters – particularly vowels – have more than one sound and will be able to identify which sound it is making in a given word but the rules as how this works come later. Once the children have mastered a few letters they will begin to write simple words and sentences and from this prior activity of writing they will begin to learn how to read.