07 June 2013

Class 1&2 Teacher, Mr Sulodia, looks back over what the children have been doing during ‘Main Lesson’ this first year.

The first classes, at age 6/7, are the beginning of formal schooling in Steiner Education – a stage marked by children’s new interest in learning, inspired by the awakening abilities of memory and thinking.

The core curriculum is delivered in 2 hour ‘Main Lessons’ every morning, with subjects being studied in depth for three to four weeks. Each lesson has a  balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content. This approach allows children to fully immerse themselves in a subject with freshness and enthusiasm. In Class 1 and 2 the children familiarise themselves with the fundamentals of arithmetic and literacy, developing a repertoire of strong core skills.

We started the year with a week of ‘Form Drawing’ Main Lessons where we explored and experienced two magic symbols – the straight and curved line. The children loved discovering how everything around them, whether 2D or 3D, is made out of these two magic symbols, whilst developing their skills in the core shapes required for all writing.

We then looked into Arabic and Roman numerals, forward and backward counting, and even and odd numbers through a variety of games and stories

The class as a whole is becoming quicker in basic mental arithmentic and recognising and drawing basic geometrical shapes such as triangles, circles, squares, rectangles, five pointed stars, hexagons etc.

The children heard Fairy tales, drew from their imaginations, and from those drawings the letters of the alphabet emerged. The children were able to make connections between each letter of the alphabet and the story related to it. We had stories for example, about Big Brown Bears and Majestic Mountains, introducing the letters B and M.

We explored selected consonants and all the five vowels and looked very closely at the difference between vowels (singing sounds) and consonants (hard, earthly sounds). Grammar is not taught explicitly to children at this stage but rather understood through being active and creative.

Steiner Education meets the student’s innate curiosity and desire to grow with a rich multisensory experience. Students sculpt, draw, move, listen, imagine and sound out—all ways to engage different learning styles—to stimulate the young mind so that the children become motivated eager learners.

Writing the consonants with crab apples from our garden

After the alphabet we were able to work on reading and writing simple words. The children enjoyed the challenge of identifying what consonant sounds they hear in the beginning or end of a word, and what vowel sounds they hear in the middle of the word. At this stage we are not doing letter names or spellings. I still say ‘What sound?’ rather than ‘How do you spell?’.

We then moved our focus back to Maths – we experienced and explored the qualities of numbers from 1-12 through an extended story of two sisters Phaedra and Adira and their adventures into the Land of Numeria. The children loved listening to the story, and couldn’t wait to open the special golden box – kept in the classroom and locked with a combination lock – which could only be opened when they had discovered the qualities of each number from 1-12.

Finally just before last half term, Cypher, the guardian of Land of Numeria (the children were convinced I was Cypher) gave the sisters (the class) a golden scroll with the code on it. One day one of the children asked me what really was in the box. I told her that there was something in the box which would stay with each of them for the rest of their lives. The response was a big smile!

The children opened the box on the first day back in the new school building after half term and inside they found gems, beads, marbles, crystals (counters for maths)… and many more things along with a tiny little felted gnome dressed all in red with white a beard and a curious symbol (division).

He was Gnome Share. The children enjoyed listening to the story of Gnome Share and  learning about his task. We practiced a lot of division with the counters, around the concept of  fairness’ ‘lets share 10 between 5 friends’, ‘how many groups of 2s in 6’ etc. The children didn’t quite realise they were doing ‘division’, but as they solved all the questions, worked really hard, and enjoyed the lesson, the core foundation of understanding this basic mathematical concept was laid.

After the serious business of Gnome Share they met a funny gnome dressed all in blue with a hole in his pocket, who kept on losing all the gems and stones. He was Gnome Minus Takeway. The children used their marbles as counters to do basic subtraction problems, not just ‘5 take away 3’ but using stories which really engaged the children’s interest and imagination. They also experienced the dilemma of Gnome Minus Takeaway, as they found the marbles very hard to keep in one place!

After a lot of practice with division and subtraction I decided to give Maths a little rest. The children were naturally disappointed as they really wanted to meet the other two gnomes – the generous (and rather fat ) Gnome Add and the extraordinary Gnome Times who counts in groups – but they were satisfied when I told them that we would return to the Land of Numeria after Easter.

This rhythm of immersion in a theme, such as maths, then allowing it to settle, to sink down into the background for a while, is a key feature of Steiner education. Just as experiences form the day are ‘processed’ by the mind during sleep, so too the periods between learning deepens and enhances the learning experience and helps form a different, more habitual relationships to what is learnt.

Going alongside the core curriculum delivered in the Main Lessons with the Class Teacher, the children study a variety of special subjects with specialised teachers. The special subjects in Class 1&2 are Music, French, Welsh, Handwork, Games, Outdoor Curriculum and Eurythmy (a movement art specific to Steiner Education). We hope to cover these in more detail in later news stories.

Pankaj Sulodia
Class 1&2 Teacher

 

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