Main Lesson & Subjects
English & Language Arts
First Graders are introduced to the upper case alphabet, simple phonics, and the writing of sentences. This is all done through a “language experience” approach to reading. The students are given an imaginative experience of a story that is told by the teacher; they retell the story verbally; and then an abstract concept or symbol is derived from an artistic rendition of the story. This is how all of the letters and subsequently written stories are introduced. The story material includes, but is not limited to, fairy tales and simple folktales related to nature. Through poetry and alliterative verses, the children partake in the spoken word on a daily basis. Stories from classic literature are read to the children. These may include: Charlotte’s Web, fairy tales, Winnie the Pooh, stories of Tim Rabbit, Wind in the Willows, etc. Toward the end of the year the class performs a play derived from a fairy tale or a nature story, which includes mostly choral speaking.
Second Graders are introduced to the lower case alphabet, more complex phonics, formal reading, and the actual writing of stories that have been told by the teacher. Together with the teacher, the class composes abbreviated stories from folktales, saint stories and fables. In the composing of stories, the students are introduced to a variety of skills such as learning to write from dictation, spelling, correct penmanship, simple grammar, punctuation, and correct use of English. All stories are interwoven with artistic renditions from the story such as drawing, painting, beeswax modeling, and poetry. About mid-year, the students begin reading books that are carefully chosen for aesthetics and content. Reading groups are formed, and the students develop at a variety of paces. Writing from the story experience continues throughout the year. The students are read to from a variety of classic literature such as: Heidi, The King of Ireland’s Son, Stuart Little, Wind in the Willows, etc. The class performs a play, derived from saint stories or folktales with choral speaking and some individual parts.
The Third Grade curriculum’s story content is drawn from the Old Testament and the legends of the Hebrews. The students continue to listen to and retell stories and now begin to engage in class discussions on their response to the story material. Poems and verses recount the seasonal changes, the work of farmers and tradesmen, and may include psalms from the Bible. The class play, often dramatizing a Bible story, has some choral speaking, yet most parts are now individual. Cursive handwriting is introduced. Children write short paragraphs and begin to create their own sentences and short descriptive passages. Spelling is improved through work on word families, phonics games, and dictation of simple sentences. Reading groups are offered twice a week with non-readers and emerging readers getting separate work with the resource specialist. Reading books may include Hay for my Ox, Henry Huggins, and books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The students are read aloud such classics as The Good Master, The Little Princess, and The Little House books.
Fourth Graders are immersed in Norse mythology, Local Geography, and History. The students recite longer verses taken from the Nordic traditions, Native Americans, and early Colorado History. The play that students will perform is usually inspired by these themes, and most students now have an individual speaking part. There is more emphasis on the students’ own writing and an increased focus on grammar and punctuation, especially learning parts of speech and tense usage. The students proceed from development of the sentence to narrative writing and letter writing. Outlines and paragraph form are introduced. The first short research report is written on an animal of the student’s choice and based on information from one or two books. Reading groups continue once or twice a week with books such as Stuart Little, Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte’s Web.
From stories and mythologies of ancient civilizations, Fifth Graders engage in active recall including question and answer and class discussion with emphasis on sequence and detail. Poems and verses come from ancient India, Persia, Egypt or Greece, nature study, and American tradition. A longer class play drawn from Greek mythological sources is presented. A third to a half of the written work is now student composed following clear paragraph format. There is a greater emphasis on spelling skills, and use of the dictionary is introduced, while grammar work intensifies. One or two reports on a state further expand the writing and research skills as do letter writing, longer narratives and poems. The students do assigned readings from class reading books and are given comprehension quizzes. They present book reports on individual reading in written, oral, or artistic forms. Class reading books may include books such as Sign of the Beaver, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Number the Stars, and My Side of the Mountain.
Topics are introduced in an imaginative way and at a developmentally appropriate age. Studying Mathematics plays a central role in developing the students’ thinking and also helps the students to develop a feeling of trust in the world through the order, regularity, and clarity found through numbers and mathematical laws. Mental math, which is emphasized in the first eight grades, works on mental quickness, memory and concentration. Form Drawing, unique to Waldorf education, and Geometry cultivate spatial imagination and visualization abilities. The students keep notebooks that are divided into sections and develop crucial organizational skills through writing homework problems in a neat, sequential manner. Integrating history into the math lesson awakens an awareness of the interconnectedness of various subjects. Review is important in order to maintain solid skills and is done every year. The Math Department endeavors to graduate students with solid skills, a healthyimagination, and enthusiasm for learning.
In the first grade, Mathematics is brought through pictures from a child’s world. The quality of numbers, as a child experiences it, is explored: one sun, two hands, four seasons, six points in a snowflake, etc. The concrete representation of three fingers in the Roman numeral III becomes the abstract number 3. Rhythmical work with clapping, stomping, and songs enhance the child’s multi-sensory experience in counting, number patterns, and multiplication tables. From this foundation, the children are introduced to all four processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), each one brought through enlivened stories, imaginative pictures, and movement. Flexible thinking is of utmost importance. For example, 6 is explored as 5+1, 2×3, 8-2, 1+1+1+1+1+1, and as two triangles.
Second grade builds upon the foundation laid in first grade. The major step taken in second grade is place value, which leads to carrying and borrowing (with addition and subtraction). Multiplication and division are further developed through the use of number patterns in geometric forms. By the end of second grade, children are capable of performing in any of the four processes, and have started to become firm in addition and subtraction facts up to twenty.
In third grade, the students further solidify the concepts of borrowing and carrying. Multiplication as a vertical process is introduced, leading to multiplying with two and three-digit numbers, where carrying is a part of the process. Emphasis is then placed on rhythmical counting as a means for learning the times tables. Division is then taught, beginning with short division and then long division. A key new theme in third grade is measurement: linear measurement, weights, and volume. This leads naturally to the study of our monetary system and then to time, including years, seasons, months, weeks, days, hours, etc.
By fourth grade, the students go from doing practice sheets that involve a single process to doing sheets that mix the four processes. This is the year to solidify knowledge of the times tables first through rhythmical counting and then by quickly recalling any multiplication fact at random. The unity of number is now broken with the introduction of fractions. The work with fractions includes all four processes, thereby reviewing all previously learned skills and giving a sense of relevance to earlier lessons. Further work is also done in the fifth grade with multiplication (with numbers up to four digits), and with long division (with divisors up to three digits).
In fifth grade, the introduction to decimals satisfies the students’ ever-growing desire for more precision. The students also further develop skills learned in previous grades. Fifth grade also marks their first formal introduction to geometry as they freehand draw and identify various angles, polygons, and other geometric forms.
Waldorf science education emphasizes a phenomenological approach in which scientific concepts are based on sense experiences. Throughout the grades, students use sensory experiences as the entry point into an exploration of the science topics. As students progress through the grades, their scientific work culminates in the development of a scientific approach that includes keen observation, detailed mental picturing of the phenomena, and a meeting of the phenomena with clear, logical thinking. Their scientific knowledge is based on experience and logic.
The science curriculum reaches the students from two directions. One is by addressing content that falls into three main categories: science in the human body, science in industry and technology, and science in nature. The other is in the development of critical thinking skills. These skills include both direct analytical skills such as observation and quantification, and concept building, such as seeing relationships among observations. Types of critical thinking styles addressed are divergent, convergent, predictive, sequential, associative, and affective thinking.
Lower School Science
The Science curriculum in the first five grades help the students become acquainted with and aware of their environment as well as their relation to it. The students gain awareness through hands-on activities and experiences. This wealth of sensory experience helps to develop capacities for scientific observation and forming theories. These lessons are primarily auditory in nature and an emphasis is placed on kinesthetic experiences.
In grades one through two, students participate in nature walks where they experience the complexities and richness of plant and animal relationships. Stories heard in these early years emphasize transformation, a necessary concept for later studies in chemistry, physics, biology and the other sciences.
Through farming and gardening, third grade students experience how the farmer and gardener work with the forces of nature. In textiles and house building, a similar preliminary sense for geometry and the lawfulness of structural integrity is instilled.
Fourth Graders study the bridges between animals and humans. This begins with a study of the human body. Later, zoology is studied, and the two are integrated. Students study the geography of their home surroundings and local, city and state geography. The geography lessons are integrated into the zoology lessons about animal habitats and dwellings.
The fifth grade students study Botany, and the lessons journey between the pole and the equator, exploring the climate zones from sea level to beyond the mountain tree line and through the plants (from fungi to ferns to conifers, etc). The study of Geography expands on the fourth grade geography curriculum to include all of North America.
Social Studies & History
Kindergarten – Grade 3
The foundation for the formal teaching of Geography, History and Civics is laid in kindergarten through grade three. In the first two to three years of school, students are taught through experience to live as contributing members of the classroom community. This socialization, although incomplete, becomes evident by the beginning of second grade. The kindergartener becomes familiar with his/her environment through the simple act of taking walks with the class. In grades one and two, a universal order and morality are expressed through fairy tales, nature stories, saints’ stories and Old Testament stories. In grade three, the children discover how, through developing the skills of practical living, house building, and making of clothes and farming, human life has been sustained.
With the fourth grader’s developing sense of individuality, we begin the formal study of geography and history. The typical fourth grade year will have two, three-week blocks of the history and geography of Colorado. Our emphasis is on how people have lived on the land from Native American times to the present day. Whenever possible, relevant biographies such as Chief Niwot, Kit Carson, Jim Beckwith or Horace Tabor are used to enliven factual material. The students engage in their first mapmaking experiences by drawing maps of their local surroundings, as well as the state of Colorado. This work is augmented with the reading of books containing stories of Colorado and/or western history and geography, such as Trails, Tales and Tommyknockers, by Myriam Friggens, Mesas to Mountains, by Sybil Downing and Jane Barker, the Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Truth is a Bright Star, by Joan Price.
In the fifth grade, mythology gives way to history. There are Main Lesson Blocks in the mythology and history of ancient India, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and finally ancient Greece, up to the time of Alexander the Great. Especially with ancient Greece, the students are shown how many of our ideals of art, education, and government are inherited from that ancient culture. Frequently, The Children’s Homer, by Padraic Collum is read. Fifth grade geography focuses on the United States. Each region of the country is studied, emphasizing the environment, its products, and the people and their livelihoods. Students memorize states, their locations and their capitals. We also include our musical and historical heritage through patriotic songs, poems, etc.
Music is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum. Rudolf Steiner said, “Everything that takes place in nature is permeated by a mysterious music: the earthly projection of the music of the spheres. In every plant, in every animal, and in the human body, there is incorporated a tone of the music of the spheres. All this the child absorbs unconsciously, and that is why children are musical to such a high degree.”
In the early grades, class teachers are responsible for music instruction and integrate music into many class activities with singing and playing of pentatonic flutes. Children learn the concepts of pitch and rhythm in an imaginative way. In the spring of 2nd grade, string instruments (violin, viola, cello) are introduced to the children so they and their parents can choose an instrument to begin the following year.
In third grade, diatonic recorder is introduced. Classes in violin/viola and cello are offered twice a week in third and fourth grade. After basic instrumental skills are established, music reading is introduced and enhanced through the playing of beginning string literature. Beginning in 4th grade, singing is taught as a separate class once a week, though morning lessons still include singing and recorder playing.
In fifth grade some students switch to brass or woodwind instruments, while string students begin to play in orchestra. Students participate in their instrumental ensemble and choir class twice each week.
SMWS offers German and Spanish in Grades 1-12. Grades 1-7 have three lessons each week in blocks. At the end of a block, students switch to the alternate language. In Grade 8 students choose between Spanish and German and continue with this selection in the High School. Beginning in Grade 9 each student has four World Language classes per week. The World Language teachers strive to integrate Morning Lesson topics into the World Language lessons in support of our interdisciplinary approach to teaching.
In the early grades, languages are taught largely through imitation, storytelling, verses, songs, drama, recitation, games, puppetry, and movement. The teacher places great emphasis on pronunciation and speech. We work to instill the students with joy and pride in learning the target language and culture. Comprehension rather than output is emphasized.
In Grades 4-5 writing and reading become a focal point. Beginning elements of grammar are taught. The language teacher uses dialogues, storytelling, verses, songs, tongue twisters, and small plays during instruction. Throughout these years, the students’ vocabulary comprehension increases,and they are able to say simple descriptive sentences, perform dialogues, and retell simple stories.
Eurythmy is the art of bringing speech and music into human movement. In 1st grade, the children imitate the movement of the teacher as they become the characters in the fairy tales. They move to different rhythms. The second graders’ story material is drawn from the fables and saints. They become more conscious of moving together on the circle, more aware of how they affect the others. Third grade material is drawn from the study of the Old Testament, and many forms are based on the six-pointed star. By fourth grade, the children begin to work with forms that face front, rather than being oriented toward the center of the circle and part of the whole. Frontal movement allows them to move right/left, up/down, laterally and back and forth. We incorporate material from the Norse myths, learning about major and minor in music, and work to establish good rhythmic stepping in the feet. In fifth grade the history blocks that include India, Persia, Babylonia, Egypt and Greece provide a rich background to enliven the imaginations that accompany the movement.
In first grade, most activity takes place in a circle. Moving in a circle means being aware of others and of each person’s effect on the whole. Students come close together, then step apart, and go to a new partner. The children are able to move the basic form elements of straight line and curve, as well as expansion and contraction, by creating an internal picture of the movement and then to try to place the movement into the space around them.
First graders are also learning to listen and follow directions. We begin the lessons with an opening verse, followed by warm-up movements using finger plays, stepping, skipping, running or hopping rhythmically to music, or over the copper rods. We also use the copper rods to gain dexterity in the fingers, or rolling them up and down the arms and catching them before they fall. The main part of the lesson often includes an imaginative story that consists of moving forms and eurythmy gestures. The class ends with a closing verse.
In second grade the children continue to experience eurythmy through stories, poems about the saints and fables, and musical activities. Children are still learning through imitation and rhythmic repetition. Most of the activities are built on the circle. Moving in a circle means being aware of others and of each individual’s effect on the whole. The children learn the specific gestures for the consonants and vowels more consciously. Geometric forms are moved as a group and individually, in circle, square, triangle, spiral, and weaving forms. Gross motor skills are practiced with skipping, galloping, jumping, hopping, etc. Eurythmy with copper rods is introduced with simple exercises.
The third grade curriculum establishes firm ground on which to stand and a path into the practical activities of life. For example, there are blocks that deal with farming, housebuilding, and measurement. The eurythmy lessons echo and deepen these lessons with stories and verses that use those same themes. The main part of the lesson is usually an imaginative story that contains arm gestures and form elements of eurythmy. Some examples of the form elements are: spirals, squares, the Cassini curve, expansion and contraction, rhythm, beat and pitch, and learning about major and minor modes in music. In third grade, children learn that the gestures we are making with our arms are related to the sounds that we make when we speak.
In fourth grade, the children begin to come into more formed movement and exhibit strengthened spatial orientation. After the experience of the nine-year-old change, the child begins to transition from working mostly in a circle, with others, toward facing frontward with a greater emphasis on experiencing all the directions around oneself as an individual. Age-appropriate challenges, as well as understanding and observing rules become very important. At this point the class will work in many directions, including: stamping the consonants in an alliterative poem, building the walls of Asgard, learning a mirror-form, stepping rhythm and beat to music, copper-rod exercises or working on the crown form. We continue tone eurythmy with the C-scale and moving our arms with the rising and falling pitch in musical selections.
The fifth grade class learns the major scales and moving in different ways to the melody and baseline in various pieces of music. Rod exercises are used to work with the children’s posture and to help them focus their attention. We learned the eurythmy alphabet and used the gestures to interpret a number of poems. Geometric forms, like the five-pointed star, bring clarity to the students’ thinking and allow them to understand how to move together as a group. The main lesson curriculum is reflected through the ancient civilizations, for example, with the use of a Hindu verse called “Look Well to the Day” and two sacred dances originating from Greek culture called the “energy dance.”
In the handwork and practical arts curriculum at Shining Mountain, we consciously cultivate manual dexterity in order to further cognitive development. Handwork and practical arts are integrated at all grade levels – not simply to teach a skill, but to support every student’s unfolding as a well-balanced individual with self-confidence. We recognize that both simple crafts and modern technology are creations of the human imagination. Therefore, students receive fundamental skills and understanding to develop and evolve future technology. Mathematical concepts such as parallelism, mirror imaging, progression and geometric forms are implicitly experienced through a tactile learning process.
For first and second grade, children learn to knit and sew. In third grade they learn to crochet, and certain blocks in the curriculum involve basketry, spinning, weaving, and gardening. In fourth grade, the children take up cross-stitch. In fifth grade, children learn how to knit with four needles; woodworking is now added and continues through eighth grade. Sixth grade brings the opportunity to design and hand-sew an animal. Seventh grade progresses to hand-sewn dolls and doll clothing. In the eighth grade, while students are studying the Industrial Age, the Handwork curriculum involves sewing clothes on a treadle sewing machine.