Teaching Literacy in Waldorf Schools



I'm here to talk to you tonight about reading and writing in a Walder school and how we teach it so like any good answer it's going to start with a question so my question to you is to think about your children I'm assuming you all have children or you know somebody who does and that's why you're here what's the very first language thing that your child ever did okay more things first language thing your child ever did just call it up and you get to know you you can read their cries okay there's an iceberg and like most icebergs pretty much most of it's under the water so the very first thing that most human babies do well all of them I don't think there's any exceptions to this the first language art language thing that they do is listening and after listening then what do these babies do and what they're listening and they're imitating they'll COO they'll cry gestures and smiling will go along with it and then after a while what's the next thing that will start to happen with language with your child you sure so I say the children when they asked with seven are you sure but you're not you're right on there's next thing that they do is they begin to speak speech comes through vocalizations speaking babbling and along with the vocalization are gestures and smiling and they're imitating your gestures as well so that's all part of the picture so listening and speaking on the very first to language arts that the human child engages in what do you suppose the next thing is and that's hugely important they start to speak they're listening to you they're comprehending the world around them what else they're getting a little bit older what are you they're starting to talk they're starting to question the world and what's one of the things that they listen to so often every night you probably do this with them what are they listening to yeah they're listening to singing they're listening to stories and they're comprehending it they're imitating it what might they want to do with some of those stories they might want to act them out they might want to draw them we're not at our word yet in human development right so the oral tradition in the history of humanity as it goes through the centuries it was an oral tradition nothing nothing nothing was written but there were stories there were songs in the Irish tradition in the Greek tradition in South America in Russia so after your child's listening to you and speaking to you and doing all of these things they're putting together a story in their heads so the next thing that what will happen with your child also happened in humanity if a story's really good enough somebody wants to preserve that story if it's worth telling they want to hand it down and for the longest time in human history how were stories handed down orally and eventually what did people start to do what's in the caves in France the pictures pictures artistic expression is the next thing and so what your child is going to do is pick up whatever implement of writing is in your home a crayon a pen a marker piece of charcoal from the fire and they're going to draw on any available surface the wall a piece of paper there a dinner plate so the next thing in human history and the next thing that children will do is they'll want to start expressing the stories that they've heard that's the next thing artistic expression gradually people wanted to preserve these stories while preserving it in sand or in the cave walls got to not be so practical as humans civilization began to develop some that's where the pictograms came in so we went from artistic expression and drawings to pictograms hieroglyphs and that eventually turned into what that's right the alphabet and then finally with the alphabet we were able to take everything that we had heard as stories and preserve it in a way we put it to sleep kind of like when Sleeping Beauty gets put to sleep when it's written down and we haven't said the R word yet we're going listening speaking artistry alphabet and so finally we come into modern writing and there are different kinds of alphabets all over the world those are the language arts so far we have something in writing we've put the stories to sleep but then we need to wake them up again what is it that we have to do to writing to wake it up again reading and reading finally is up here above water level all the rest of this in the iceberg that starts with listening as its basis is underneath the water you can't tell it's really there one two three four and five six things way before we get to the r-word but in the West were in such a rush we want to go straight for reading never mind all this other stuff never mind the way human development over centuries has just naturally come about Language Arts naturally come about listening speaking writing reading listening comes first speech comes second right in comes third readings the last language art to come about so think about the significance of that for instruction for learning do we actually really have to teach a baby to listen and speak really it comes naturally they learn by imitation they love to draw they love to mess around with symbols they want to write so writing has to happen before reading and if you think about it just as common sense you could not possibly read anything if nobody had written it down first so why in the world we start teaching at the top of the iceberg and ignore all the rest of this that is clearly obvious to anyone watching a young child engage in language and every baby learns its mother tongue it learns to listen to it it lands to speak it it wants to express it artistically and it wants to write it it wants to you almost can't stop it so in the Walder school we take the course of human development through the centuries and the course of child development in the young child's life and we just flow with the stream if you're flowing with the stream it's a lot easier to get where you're going then if we just want to start at the top just we have to start at the top we're going to start at the top and we never mind with all that other stuff that's peripheral and then we wonder why reading doesn't happen and so the walther school teaches reading but we teach it from the bottom up we teach it the same way that the child naturally learns it the same way that it happened in human development and modern brain science neurology is starting to explain to us that what we know is common sense is actually true in the way that the brain works so one of the things in this article there's a no it's not in that one one of the things I want to talk to you out of this book called smart moves why learning is not all in your head by a neurophysiologist named carla Hannaford she talks about the eyes and what eyes have to do with reading and this might surprise you little children see peripherally they don't see on focus it's called foveal vision and that foveal vision doesn't mature until around eight years old you can make a child do it but it will cost them it will stress them and tire them out and Karla Hannah verts says by seven or eight as the frontal lobes of the brain mature fine motor coordination of muscles throughout the body naturally develop before then we have good peripheral and depth vision but it's only when the frontal eye field of the frontal lobe matures that accurate enough eye teaming is possible for two-dimensional focus I team occurs when the dominant eye tracks across the page of writing and the non-dominant eye follows the movements exactly and blends into binocular vision so I bet most of us never really thought of reading as a motor skill but it's the eye muscles that have to be mature enough to have the eyes track left to right together it's the eye muscles that have to mature enough and the brain that has to mature enough should be able to move the muscles of the eye from seeing in the periphery to seeing on point in focus in the middle that foveal vision on a two-dimensional flat piece of paper when they're living in the three-dimensional world so one of the things that we find with young children is that if you can teach them this way teach their listening skills first teach their speech first and you don't really have to hardly teach it you just have to give them what the early childhood teachers in a world of school gives them it gives them rich rich language soup poetry versus singing puppetry drama and storytelling not necessarily read aloud so that's in there too but in storytelling there's no barrier between the one who's telling the story and the child and you can just see the child their jaw drops and they're completely one with the story and what's happening there is one of the most important things in learning to read and that is that in wordly in their minds eye they are visualizing everything the story teller is saying and if there's puppetry to help it along if there's drama to help it along if they're singing to help it along and if there's movement to help it a lot you'll see circle time in the early childhood and all the way up to third grade in the world of school every story goes along with movement so any theater person can tell you the way they learn lines is they walk the lines and that's how they learn it because there's something in the muscles that when you move the muscles it turns on the brain like this Carla Hannaford book that I should send around smart moves the body builds the brain learnings not all in your head it's in your body so the Waldorf early childhood classrooms are teaching reading the most important part of reading working with what children naturally do they work with visual imagery inside their own self and if they're not watching visual imagery from Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney and whoever is producing spongebob if they're not watching minecraft they can develop their own visual imagery because they want you they love it they love to express it through drama and through coloring and drawing and painting so that's how the early childhood teaches reading they work with the natural flow of the child giving the child quality literature to listen to teaching the children to speak big words beautifully and in that way not only do they develop visual imagery inside them that they can hold on to they learn auditory discrimination they learn to hear that parts of words they learn to hear beginning and ending sounds they don't know that's what they're doing but if you give them this rich language and literature that our early childhood give them that's what they're getting they're also learning they're turning on the right-hand side of their brain which controls the left side of their body the right-hand side of the brain thinks in pictures drinks thinks three dimensionally they're also working the inner ear with the listening which helps develop their balance and their balance this helps along by the movement which then improves listening so speech vision auditory memory visual memory all of that is specifically taught in the early childhood and most of us don't realize that when we go into a world of a classroom because it's so beautiful and we're lost in the beauty of the nature table the beauty of the puppetry the creativity of the colors around you and yet the language that's given to them in early childhood is richer than any initial kindergarten basal reader with a controlled vocabulary why limited the children to that plus it turns out the International Reading Association which is international yeah and it's a mainstream teachers organization every I get the reading teacher magazine every single month in every single month without fair fail they're deploring the state of reading in the world and they say we the children they can decode they're learning to word call but they're not comprehending what their word calling what's wrong why can't they do it the visual imagery is lost and without visual imagery there is no comprehension that's not a waldorf thing that's just biology so this is where we start in early childhood listening speaking this artistic expression and reading comprehension the hardest thing to learn to do in reading is comprehension and that's where the kindergarten teachers be can't begin in first grade I can't do a thing without the early childhood teachers and without our eurythmy teachers and our physical education teachers and our hand teachers because they get the children moving and the body builds the brain so once we get to the grades then what should we do how do we teach reading then we lay the foundation in early childhood with reading comprehension auditory discrimination building up the muscles in the eye trying trying as best we can to help people understand why media is an obstacle to academic success because if you think about it this inner visualization is relatively new in the history of humankind it's done with the neocortex this new part of the brain but when you're watching an image on a screen Joseph Chilton Pearce who wrote magical child and evolution end and talks a lot about grant brain biology he talks about when we watch a flat-screen it could be National Geographic all day you're watching it with the same part of the brain that we share with the reptiles and that's this back here when we're doing this I'm here through puppetry through singing through movement then you're developing visual imagery and you're seeing it inside yourself and that comes naturally to young children so when you want to teach reading why not use what comes naturally build on their visual imagery and then they'll have comprehension so in the grades then the next thing that we do is the important concept there in grades is teaching from the whole to the parts so there's this idea you've heard the word analysis right you'll take a big idea and you'll analyze it into its smaller parts and that smaller parts and its smaller parts right and then after a while you want to take the smaller parts and synthesize them put it back together so analysis is taking something apart into its pieces synthesis is putting the pieces back together into its hole so we work with analysis in the grades to start with before we synthesize it back together when we work hold two parts what was the most important thing here someone was listening to something spoken listening and speech was the most important part and then there was a story and this story was so wonderful that somebody wanted to record it they wanted the meaning of the story to last forever and so they expressed it artistically they invented alphabets and they wrote it down because the meaning was so important so in the grades we start with a story and the meaning of the story because that's what a child wants give me something that means something meaning versus a word calling and when I was in college I visited a friend of mine in law school I'm a really good reader I could read every word in that law book I didn't have a single idea I couldn't tell you what it said couldn't tell you what it meant and for so many of our children we start at the top of the pyramid and forget what's underwater and forget about meaning and story and the whole in the big picture it's dry it's Dulles just simply mechanical decoding what's the points of that so we write first we take a whole story the teacher tells it the children picture it inwardly there's a beautiful drawing on the chalkboard to help the children along they'll make their own drawings F the next day after I tell a story then the children will tell the story back to me and their memory is exceptional there's sequencing as exceptional first this happened first a pap then this then this and then there was this one in this one wait a minute they left out that that happened between this and this and there is this lively discussion their memories are so strong especially if they move a lot in their life they go to playgrounds the stronger is their body the better is their memory memories related to body strength and welder feel and you might see the term the etheric body all that means is you're healthy and strong and you move a lot and your memories strong as well so the children tell me back this story I collect everything they've stepped said I'll distill it and I'll write it out on the blackboard now I've been teaching them how to write the letters their words are on the blackboard the next day they will draw a picture in their book and then the next day after that they will write what I have written on the blackboard and then the next day after that they will read what they have written their motor skill their motor activity was there in the writing and their memories wrapped up with that and so they put their hands underneath each word and they read it back to me and we sing and we memorize poems and songs and verses and as we go through first grade in second grade all those get written down and then they start to read those and they start to read those and they start to read though and that Mister is when are we going to learn to read and by then they've read at least ten books that they themselves have written you start with listening speaking the story the artistic expression and then the writing that happens it's so easy it's just there before you know it but if you want to rush and start up there with reading and ignore the rest of it it will be a struggle because there won't be good listening there won't be auditory discrimination the muscles of the eyes won't be mature enough to use foveal vision they won't be able to picture it inwardly and they will develop an antipathy to reading and you don't want that to happen so isn't it worth it to start this way might take a little longer but suddenly when they get to reading it happens so easily they don't even notice it has happened and then the first thing they'll do is pick up a novel and read it and back in the 70s and 80s that it was also called the language experience approach and a lot of people thought you had to choose between language experience and phonics but in a Walter school it's never in either/or they can do choir and chemistry they can have language experience and phonics because what you take apart from the whole you have to put back together again right what goes up must come down right so writing comes first meanings more important than word calling we do this synthesis take it apart we call in their memory we call in their speech to be able to retell what they have recalled they read their own writing they draw about it and then we have to put it back together again Jeff every child takes something at home apart and you've got pieces all over the floor alright this is the part where most Americans start teaching reading let's just work with a little pieces let's work with the consonants and the vowels and the grammar and the syntax and the sound symbol relationships the word analysis skills the decoding all the specific skills and mechanics of English usage which you have to have you can't just analyze all the time and spread parts all over the ground and never put it back together again well we also in the grades go both ways we teach phonics we teach grammar we teach decoding we teach sound symbol relationships we teach spelling but that comes up right around up here it comes in with writing and that's all these skills because once when you when you put language to sleep with writing well it's like the prince was to come along and kiss the princess to wake her up so all this reading comprehension and storytelling once you take the whole and take it apart you want to wake it up again and reading wakes up the writing in the first grade second grade third grade we're learning to read we're taking our time we're building a solid foundation this isn't Raghu this is your great-grandma spaghetti sauce recipe it's gonna cook all day long okay and another analogy I like to use I live in sunny California for a long time where strawberry season wasn't January in February so which farmers took the best crop to market the farmers that said the frost is coming well tough luck where you have to get out there and sell those strawberries we need to bring it a good test score and they don't bother covering up their strawberries but then there's the other former sis I'm gonna cover up my strawberries I don't care if we don't get to market that day we get a terrible test score but eventually who's gonna bring the healthier strawberries to market the farmer who covered their strawberries up so it's the same kind of thing in will door it goes a little slower because we're working on all this so what is reading exactly it's spoken language it's written language it's working with the oral tradition versus using Basel textbooks with limited vocabulary and you guys had it gestures questions smiling cooing crying inflection tone warmth emotion body language if that's not in the reading instruction antipathy to reading will develop because we're not human if we don't have those things see what good reading teachers you all are but we we kind of squish what we know because we're in such a rush to go to the top of the pyramid all right let me show you some pictures here about how once we've taken the whole the story we tell it rewrite it we read it back we've taken it down into all its little parts how do we go back to the beginning how do we take all the little parts and put them back together and buy the little parts I mean the phonics the spelling the grammar the syntax the writing we start with a story so here's Bearskin there's a story of a bear out of the bear comes the shape of the beast some teachers will use the butterflies some teachers will use a bee a bumblebee what letter D suppose comes out of that T and then there's a whole dragon story okay so we tell this story we put the picture one of the things in an older school that we want is that the children engage in real life real actual things in the world there are bears there are dragons and lots of stories that you hear everywhere and then one of the next things we'll do is we'll brainstorm this must be a tough page for the sound of tough and here's something really important families I tell the children the letters don't make sounds the human being makes the sound there's no letter that sounds I make the cent and when I want you write the sound took my symbol for that is the letter T so that's the sound symbol relationship I goat and if I want to write it down in a word instead of a picture I've chosen the letter T which is kind of it's not really an arbitrary picture so here's some Mort train Turkey etc that children love this because they're in the three-dimensional world turtled see a cup and they're calling out these words they can't wait for it to be sketched on the blackboard and here's more little words so here again we're working with initial consonant sounds we work with the consonants first because they're really earthly sounds the depth and we'll often introduce the letters in the order of how they're produced in our mouth so see it looks it's so pretty we're not teaching reading but look how much thought is going behind what we're doing in the classroom this is all reading but initial consonants are taught artistically with things from the real world so here's our farmer holding his lantern and they can't wait they come in I know what letter we're learning today all right here's our L this is one of my favorites the Nixie on the millpond what letter do you suppose is coming out of that story the letter N and then we'll brainstorm that and then we'll have zillions of words with each one of the consonants and we'll make little booklets and I can show you so here we'll do that and that is how we learn to write the forms of the letters the symbols that match the sounds so now we're starting to synthesize we're taking the symbol that came from a thing that's real in this story and we're learning how to write now so the learning how to make these but when they do it they know that that M comes from the shape of the mountain the B comes from the shape of the bear the P came from the pot of the porridge the D came from the dragon that she came from a tree I bet you know what that one is the valley even the children who come in and they know by Road ABCD you know they don't know what they're singing even the ones who come in in their reading they're decoding already this is so rich for them the artistic expression and this story and the vocabulary what letter dispose comes out of this the W for the wave the F out of the fish here's our V in the valley this is an interesting one the sound of now we start to get into the nitty-gritty of English spelling one sound can be represented by several symbols it's so easy to learn this way when we make our cup booklets we have a zillion pictures some of them start with K and I might put that in one color some of them start with a cat sound and some of might start with the sound of the queen whose umbrella always goes with her and there's a whole story about why she has an umbrella and there's a whole story about the king who needs to go to his counselor the cat because of all these other cuff things that are happening to him but they draw this in their main lesson book so we go through all the consonants that way and then we get to the end of the consonants and there they are mmm could olden but wait a minute miss truth that doesn't say anything something's wrong here there are more letters these are not so earthly these letters these earth these letters really do represent feelings the feeling of surprise the feeling of wonder the feeling of fear the feeling of oh let me hold you feeling of Oh the vowel sounds and then there are the pure vowel sounds and then there's the everyday work add a vowel sounds like the one that you hear an apple so here we go here's a little story for e we CH bee buzzing in the green tree please give me honey for my sweet tea and then there's a story about the prince who is an i and and and then again they're putting that in their book the Unicorn for you the kings sitting on it the the King on his throne of gold and the gnomes you know a secret that's so old and but then see we're working on auditory discrimination and pronunciation then we're going to draw it we're taking those parts that we took apart from the whole and now we're gonna learn to put them back together in writing now here's a first-grade rhyme we do as many and as they do in kindergarten learning songs and rhymes and verses they know them by heart they write them in their book they know this they can say it with their eyes closed in the heart of his seat very deep so deep dear little plant lay fast asleep wakes to the Sun and creep to the light the little plant heard so they know this they writing it they're reading it then this is first grade now I'll start with a letter a but one of the things we'll do as we want to put the parts back to work with the parts instead of the whole now we'll work the vowels down so I was happening to work with the sound of oh now a lot of teachers will start after the consonants after the vowels and they'll go right away to rhyming words ball call fall I don't start there because hearing ending sounds that are all alike if you don't have good auditory discrimination you can get away with so much because it all sounds alike but how do we develop that auditory discrimination with the ending sound let's make the beginning sound all the same and change the ending sound then they really have to listen so I'll start let's see if I can have a simpler one nope not a simpler one I'll start with just the see oh and we'll go through the whole alphabet let's but but at the end of car what do you get quarter the cob cob let's put what else let's a b c d d cod cut oh and then my little fisherman will say cod a codfish and then my mechanic will say oh it's a cog in a wheel and then my phlegmatic child who just wants to take a nap and have lunch we'll say cut you know and we're thinking of all these things too and so I'll just go through the alphabet really methodically really simple and systematically every single vowel through every single initial consonant and then they're all on the board and then in a few minutes I'll show you the pictures that they draw out of these because then they start to come to they hat and then they have to draw well we're going to draw an oboe these words are on the board drunk chef and once you want mr. rose I want to draw a rock which one up there says rock I'm not gonna tell them you can read it what do you hear when you say the first thing out of your mouth and you say rock or what letter stands for the sound of Earth are go up there and point to the are column and they run up and they put but mistress which one is rock well say rock rock what you hear when you're finished saying Rock I hear what did we say what letters stand for the sound oh I know the King and his counselor oh wait a minute it's that one ROC can see a mister and they run back to their table to draw it and write it could work you read that all by yourself I did I did and then you can just see the neurons firing and they're so excited and suddenly they go up to the board and there's all sorts of movement in the class or going back and forth and there's no ditto papers there's no pencils is just crayon in these colorful things on the board and wait'll I show you what they've written so this is another example of things they'll put in their valise book this is first grade this is all first grade does anybody say we don't teach reading in the older school if they say that to you just smile and go you poor misinformed person and now this is a little more typical then we finally do get to rhyming words no big pig wig but it can we call on their visual imagery their inner imagination and we tell stories so I'll sit there and I'll tell a story about my dog this is actually true story we had a pool in the backyard and he was just a little puppy and he went into the backdrop walk and walk straight to the pool he didn't know it wasn't solid and he caught a lot of water at him he was fine but I said we had to take him to the vet we had to take the wet pet to the vet and in that moment I couldn't myself think how to draw it half the time I can't think how to draw the things the children will say well it's draw it this way and I'm like all right raise your hand if you know how to draw that six of them will have fabulous ideas I had to draw it that I never had because I didn't go to older school I went to New York City public schools where I read at four years old my eyes are still messed up and I've really had to work hard to develop inner visualization not to mention draw but the kids so there tell me let's draw that let's draw that and then they're telling me what to draw and I'm putting it on there and what they draw on their main lesson books is a hundred times better than this and then they love this one this was a circle-time one missed and we did it with beanbags passing them around mr. Knox keeps his sucks in a pale pink chocolate box orange sucks with spots and clocks oh you candy mr. Knox and we'd say it over and over and over this is on the board and even the children whose foveal vision isn't developed yet whose small muscle motor coordination isn't developed yet those children are so into the rhythm of that that they know it by heart and they're up there gone and then I'll call them to the board and I'll have them read it aloud and then I'll have small groups and we'll take out their main lesson books that are you know at least two of them with verses like this and that's where the interventionist here will come in will take their books and they'll practice reading they'll sit down and read it to each other and they so enjoy it because it's so invested with visual imagery and laughter and then we're back practicing those little small parts putting them back into a whole again bag big big bog book I didn't get any of us out of any program you know I had to learn you know you as a reading teacher you had to know your stuff you don't want to say oh well on Tuesday I'm going to go to page 37 of the scott foresman language arts book that the school district says I have to use on Tuesday at 10 o'clock then I'm just a delivery system and they're not going to connect to it but if I really get it and I know how it works and I'm jazzed about it and I've got a story and they're engaged they they're they're good they love this they and they're not all as beautiful as this some are better handwriting summer let are beautiful and you get all levels of dip but they they're into it they're so into it and that's what you want you wanted to be engaged in it get the wet pit to the vet here's mr. Knox that these are children's work Kenny this is all first grade this is all first grade I do yes indeed I haven't followed their words with the finger and the right hand unless I know for sure that they're really left eyed left handed left foot and left eared and I'm told that it's really only a doctor who can diagnose that sort of thing but anyway with the right hand because it helps the eye-tracking even with older children I do that to help them with the eye tracking but remember we're on the vowel page and we had all the words on the board well folder page into four parts and draw whatever you want from what's on the board and they go to town can I put two words in a box why yes you can can I write a whole story no why yes you can and some so here's one look I've got suds in the tub and there's my duck and I'm gonna tuck the little girl into bed and give her a back rub so and there's it here's more of these things so this is another verse that they memorize and draw a picture spring is coming there's a kick so this is the children's worse so what you were seeing before is mine but the children learned to draw it this is done with the block crayons and here's another one sideways of course so what what vowel is this one about short II write short II and I call this the short vowels I say the grown-ups call them short vowels but we can also call them the workaday vowels there they're not the the law of their true name AEI oh and you are the true names of those letters and their sound that the letters that those long vowels stand for is also a e i o u how about that but the work of de names their nicknames are at a oh ah so I fell in the well my pet fell in the well help a red gem I fed the pet a pen so there's my igloo for a long I I like this one the light shines high in the sky it gives life insight a little of the light am i and so they're writing that this is all first grade that's first grade around second grade we start working with the diagraphs now so can you tell what initial sounds these drawings represent if you say the name of the picture the first thing that your mouth says is the sound for shirt Shh shoot thirteen pull for plow there's a blend in there with the diagraph check for chicken so here's a th the unvoiced and then there's also the voiced and we make that distinction as well so here are some booklets so we made a booklet for sure we made a booklet for thogh we made a booklet for ha we made it booklet for the same way we made a booklet for at it and ah the same way we made it booklet for cooked they're making their own textbooks you don't need all this stuff but think about how this is second grade think about all this that we went through starting an early childhood early childhood in first grade they're working from whole to parts they're working with comprehension and inner visualization they're working with feeling and joy and movement it's not till second and third grade we start taking those pieces the digraphs the blends the rhyming words the diphthongs the long and short vowels you don't need that until in fact it's it's counterproductive to bring that before you bring the comprehension so when in a walters will we teach from whole two parts first and then we go from parts to whole with the spelling and phonics and grammar and mechanics of English usage how weird is it when you go to tests in kindergarten for grammar and phonics has backwards it makes no sense it doesn't even correspond with the biology of the physiological neurology of child development and then we think oh they're that school their kindergarten scores tanked they must not teach reading oh my gosh nothing could be further from the truth we are teaching the most important elements of reading and early childhood in first grade but we don't know enough to test for comprehension in kindergarten and how would you do it anyway how would you do it anyway we do teach reading and we teach it deeply and broadly and we take our time with it and we fully engage the children and we do it artistically not because we want them to be artists but because that's where they are in childhood with this visual imagery that is what draws them they like that so here they are you know this child is going on and on I love this one I take a shower I put shampoo on and the door shattered in its really sharp pieces I put on my shirt and my short in my shoes and I share the sheep because all these words were on the board and did you notice I don't have pictures on the board anymore just the words suddenly I moved away I moved away from the artistic expression I moved away into the alphabet and then writing and now they have to supply the picture and write it themselves with the capital in the right place and a period so it's because you need it no one could read it if you didn't use the proper mechanics of English usage and is that dull and dry and boring oh my goodness no can I see her what can I write that sentence to look at my sentence and then we got really into it then I you know I'm so grateful we have all these blackboards because we went to town with a chill I couldn't write fast enough misters I want to write about cheddar cheese in my chowder and I want ships with that where is it up that well come on you find it for me at this point I don't tell them anything they want to know what word that is the men they go back and they spell it for themselves there's no more reversals at this point and then and these are this was second grade now this was probably early second grade and they're not slide-based the way I wearing a good one and they share so one little boil on drizzle ghost addison help me draw it chipmunk I can't draw a chipmunk and she'll I know they'll teach each other how to draw a chipmunk because like I'm not I hope I next year I can draw a chipmunk but I like these are great these are great and these are just your average ordinary kids there's no again you're going to have a range you're going to have the ones who want to write the long novels and you're going to have the ones for whom writing one or two words is where they're at and now but look at the sequence now we're starting to sequence and then by the end of second grade and into third grade they're into the sequencing thing and now we'll have pages and pages what this happened first this happens second to 7/3 the seventh fourth fifth and sixth and seventh and there's a little you know now suddenly we're into the preparation for writing of reports what's the first thing what's the second thing what's the third thing what are the details what's the topic sentence so this is all I as a teacher I'm looking ahead to when they're starting to do research reports which start in fourth grade so I want to show you some more second-grade stuff and the blue and the yellow and the red the so them is so now when we're finally getting to lowercase the capital letters take go from the sky the top the top two lines then there's letters that only take the middle line and then there's letters that dig down into the brown earth and those that's the G so and this is this is a student's work and this comes from the the fables that come in second grade yeah so I and I and I'll very colors but when I first start I'm really careful the blue sky the gold in his sandbox and the dark brown earth and the capital letters come from the sky into the golden sandbox and here's another really important thing I do with the children from the stars to the stones if your children are writing bottom up stop them we go from top down every single letter top down same thing with the numbers top down don't let him do it from the bottom up don't let him do it right to left because we read top down and left right you always want to train the hand and eye top down left to right so then I get bored with those three colors and I just start flipping the colors around but they know by now G is a digging letter T is a tall letter L is a tall letter and now we were a lowercase and their handwriting is so so beautiful just beautiful okay this is one here's some grammar stuff so of course we do teach you know we teach spelling we teach grammar mechanics of capitalization and punctuation and adverbs and adjectives and verbs and nouns starting in second grade and then all the way through eighth grade at increasingly complex levels and I made this one up because you can tell somebody was whining in my class and I don't want to really just I didn't you know you sometimes with certain children you can't address it directly but certain children knew who I was talking about I start teaching cursive at the end of second grade I do two other you know some teachers wait till third grade but I find that I want them while they're still into this I want to write I want to write I want to write the cursive is so much easier in a certain way than printing and I want them to have the flexibility of both so I always start in second grade usually after Christmas and it's such a big deal for them to do cursive like the grown-ups upper and lower case at the end so so this is big debate for me in teaching in a welder I would always have taught an independent welder schools all through first grade I just just up her case that's it that's what I'm doing in here first week and second grade here's a low case letters I don't make a big fuss not a lot of stories not a lot of drawings here's our here's this here's this here's this here's when you use them here's when you don't use them and you go into all those mechanics right on beginning a second grade and then after Christmas I'll start with cursive so that by the after second grade they can print and write in cursive uppercase and lowercase that's me every teacher is different oh here's something so we had a reading in third grade with Little House on the Prairie farmer boy in third grade waver reading farmer boy and I had a very flag mattock class they just wanted to sit in each so they went through doughnuts apple cider oat the food in farmer boy it's so amazing so they made this list they sat there and they made this list and one little girl parsed it out okay Harrison your mom's gonna make the bread okay Andres your mom's bring into this okay so and so your mom's bringing that so and so your mom's bringing that and we had a form a farmer boy feast we're reading and the ones who are having difficulty reading that book you bet they read their little hearts out because they wanted to find the food they wanted so this is some sixth and seventh and eighth grade stuff working with grammar and in the older grades their main lesson books are going to have table of contents this is oh this is fifth grade those lily and the rose botany so how come how do we not teach reading when we were doing botany and ancient history you know how can that picture of the wizard be remotely related to this composition about New England which by then is their own words they're not copying the teachers words off the board anymore they're turning in a rough-draft they're learning how to proofread they're learning how to edit from there we start there and we end up there I mean it's just astonishing you know just in summary we work from whole to parts we work with all four all four basic language arts we actually teach it speech hearing listening and speaking then artistic expression as a medium not necessarily as an end in itself then writing and out of that we finally break through the water and then comes reading everything has to have meaning it's a story that has to be worth telling and as a story that's be worth reading and if you look at the books that we have on the tables in the back and we have thousands of the best of children's literature in our libraries and teachers professional resources up in Christie Smith's office they read the best literature here it's exceptional exceptional work but they have to care about it so we teach to multiple intelligences through movement through speech auditory visual there's a dancers intelligence there's the athletes intelligence there's the empaths intelligence we do it through using all of the senses so it's multi-sensory and we want to integrate those senses so each sense informs the other sense and we engage their emotions we engage their smiles their cooing they're crying their questions the comprehension is our foundation and also our aim the inner aspect of reading you know decoding that's the outer aspect that's the mechanics you have to have that but you don't want just word calling the inner aspect of reading the life of the imagination which is the ultimate ground of thought and the goal of literature remains vibrant and the love of language and the thirst for stories flourishes and that's what we're after with the way we teach reading in a world of school we want them to have that individualization and imagination not for fantasy oh the pig couldn't fly but we want them to grow up and be able to know what lives behind the Declaration of Independence what lives behind e equals mc-squared what lives behind calculus what lifts behind the westward expansion across the continent of North America what was that about what was the Russian and French Revolution about what's going on today all over the world the northern hemisphere the southern hemisphere what are those relationships there we want them to live into it and care about it and so we go after this imagination this passion this emotional engagement through the way we teach reading and if you ever talk to a welder school graduate you'll hear their questions you'll hear their passion you'll hear their engagement in life they don't care about the zombie apocalypse they want to know about new life life and that's what we want for your children that's why you are all here so these articles are over there this one by Barbara Sokoloff there's more to reading than meets the eye which she says in three pages what it took me just two hours to say she's really good and then the other one is over there is the one by dr. Susan Johnston who is the pediatrician in Colfax and it comes from a website that's free with lots of information about the medical aspects and developmental aspects of reading and writing and spelling so it's called teaching our children to read write and spell by Susan Johnson and she's got a great website I encourage you to go to it so there and other goodies are over there for you and thank you all for coming out on a Wednesday night like this when your children are at home I'm really grateful and thank you for making this wonderful mountain phoenix community and I'm so happy to be here with all of you

6 thoughts on “Teaching Literacy in Waldorf Schools”

  1. The most beautiful explanation I have heard of why we teach literacy the way we do in Waldorf. Thank you so much !

  2. I am a kindergarten teacher in a traditional public school. This talk caught my eye because my granddaughter has flourished in a Waldorf school, but her reading development has not followed the same path as the one my students take. I was wonderful to finally understand the pedagogy behind literacy instruction in Waldorf schools. I have a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and practice.

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