I’ve found that one major gap in the Waldorf resources that are out there is that there simply is not a good, thorough language arts resource. This is one area where the teacher is truly called upon to be an artist, creating a curriculum from scratch. Making sure you cover everything (without any gaps) in an enlivened way is not an easy task. There are so many different aspects of language arts (reading, writing, grammar, spelling, the list goes on) that creating it all anew is a nearly insurmountable task.
Grammar, in particular, can be quite challenging. It is the driest, least imaginative aspect of language arts. It would be helpful, at least, for there to be strong indications as to when to bring topics so that the teacher could put energy into bringing them in a lively way.
To that end, here are my thoughts (inspired by Steiner’s indications as written in The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum — hereafter referred to as “The Big Yellow Book.”)
Grade One — No grammar is formally taught
- Simple punctuation based on spoken rhythms (pauses, breaths.) Commas, periods and question marks can be brought in this way. Hold off on exclamation points in an attempt to curb the impulse to use exclamation points too much.
- Imaginative, light approach to verbs (doing words), nouns (naming words) and describing words. Many teachers wait until grade three to bring this strongly in combination with the Old Testament story of Adam naming all of God’s creations.
- The three different types of sentences: questions, statements and what Steiner refers to as “feeling sentences” which I assume to mean exclamations are brought. Steiner emphasizes that giving care to bringing these different types of sentences in a feeling way to the children can prevent the grammar from being dry and lifeless. The Big Yellow Book mentions that this is a recurring theme in Steiner’s indications, “develop the whole world of grammatical forms out of the artistic element, with the help of feeling.”
- Nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. Steiner mentions that the 9-year-change brings enough separation from the world to be able to name things and to understand the difference between the different types of words.
- Basic sentence structure analyzed. Periods, commas, capital letters and question marks.
- Sentence structure continued. Children of this age still forget capital letters and periods.
- Past, present and future verb tenses. Often brought with the story of the Three Norns in Norse Mythology. Steiner emphasized the “perfect” tenses, but in English the past, present and future verb tenses bring the equivalent phenomena.
- Continuing with nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Prepositions can come in a fun, imaginative way with lots of games indicating direction (over, under, above, beyond, etc.)
- Continuing sentence structure. Still capital letters, periods and other punctuation. Bring colons, semi-colons, hyphens and parentheses.
- Review verb tenses. Simple vs. progressive forms (I run. vs. I am running.)
- Active and passive voice. (I bought the milk. vs. The milk was bought by me.)
- Direct speech — emphasize getting the story right. Which do we feel is more true — direct or indirect speech?
- Review nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions. Bring pronouns and conjunctions.
- Sentence structure reviewed. Begin to formally identify parts of the sentence with subject and predicate. This can work nicely with your writing practice.
- Review verb tenses including past, present, future, simple vs. progressive. Bring present perfect tense (I have lived here for years.)
- More analytical diagramming sentences can be brought. This goes along nicely with the lawfulness theme of the sixth grade 12-year-change. Begin with subject, predicate, direct object, indirect object and prepositional phrase. They also have enough knowledge to be able to identify all of the parts of speech in a sentence. They’ll find this quite satisfying.
Grades Seven and Eight
The emphasis in both grades seven and eight is to take this grammatical knowledge and put it into written form. This happens in grade seven with the creative writing block with the title of “Wish, Wonder and Surprise” and in eighth grade with the short story block. Finding different ways to construct sentences and then diagramming them and identifying the parts of speech within them makes for students who can write quite creatively.
To make sure you cover everything, I highly recommend purchasing a grammar textbook. I found the book that my own eighth grade teacher used and I’ve used it endlessly for inspiration, writing my own samples but taking the subject matter from the book.
Did I miss something? Please comment! Perhaps next week I’ll share some ideas for imaginative ways of bringing this material.