In a Waldorf school, children become increasingly free as they develop. They learn to create solutions rather than replicate them: to think rather than memorize. They learn that initiative, not compliance, is rewarded.
Waldorf education uses cohort teaching, a term indicating that the grade school teacher stays with the same group of students as they transition through the grades. Often a teacher who starts with a group of students (their cohort) in 1st grade will stay as their main class teacher throughout the entire lower school years until completing 8th grade.
In the Grade School, the Class Teacher moves with the class through several years of the Lower School journey, often from Grade 1 through Grade 8. This continuity allows the teacher to get to know children’s strengths and needs deeply, and to support a strong, positive social dynamic in the classroom. This also supports the continuity of curriculum from one year to the next, and the weaving together of disciplines.
The Main Lesson
The Main Lesson is fundamental to the grade school classes. The first two hours of each morning is spent with their Class Teacher in "Main Lesson". During this time, when young minds are freshest, they will intensely study a block from one of the core subjects. In this way, the rhythm of the day begins with work which requires the most attention, and each academic subject can receive special focus during the course of the year.
Each morning a core academic theme is experienced, weaving together science, math, English, geography and history with the arts and movement activities. The Main Lesson starts the school day and uses rich images to engage the students emotionally and intensify the learning experience. Each theme is explored for 3 to 4 weeks, known as a Main Lesson Block.
The teacher has time to enter each subject in depth and to approach it in a variety of ways; time to enliven each topic with poetry, painting, modeling and drama. Thus, intellectual learning is always combined with artistic, rhythmical and practical work. After about a month, when one topic has been fully explored, a new Main Lesson block is introduced.
The Main Lesson is concluded with work in the Main Lesson Book: the student writes and illustrates one of these in the course of each lesson block, gaining much practices in grammar, composition and art along the way.
The samples of work shown here are the work of current and former London Waldorf School students.
How is the Waldorf classroom different? What methods are Waldorf teachers using to really inspire the children? Please watch the video below, produced by the Waldorf School of New Orleans.