Sacramento Waldorf School’s core curriculum and the subject classes are aligned with the students’ development as they grow.
Core curriculum in first grade is pictorial and phonetic introduction to letters; reading approached through writing; letter blends and word families; qualities of numbers; introduction of the four processes in arithmetic; multiplication tables; and form drawing. Beyond the core curriculum carried by the class teacher, first graders also receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, and music.
The motif of the first grade is fairytales and nature stories. We begin the first grade by bringing the form of the individual letters to the children through imaginative storytelling. Traditional tales are chosen from a variety of multicultural sources. The teacher tells stories to foster the children’s auditory memory, their capacity to create mental images, the development of a rich vocabulary, and a love of spoken and written language.
The students retell the stories through speech, drama, art, and as the year progresses, writing. Stories are the vehicle for the teaching of language arts.
When they are well-acquainted with the letters and their sounds, the children begin to write words, sentences, and verses in their main lesson books. The content comes from the stories they have heard, or from experiences they have shared, such as walks in nature. Students read aloud what they have written, together at first and later individually.
Our campus offers ample opportunities for nature study at every age. Students take walks regularly and observe the change of seasons. We acknowledge these changes by celebrating seasonal festivals and collecting nature objects for their nature table and crafts. In this way the children experience the rhythm of earth, stars, and planets as an integral part of life. This wealth of sensory experiences develops capacities for scientific observation and theories. When the teacher tells first graders simple stories that convey the world of nature, the physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences that will be taught in the upper grades are introduced through imaginative images. The students’ exposure to the use and conservation of our natural resources lays a foundation for later environmental and ecological study.
In math, images and stories encourage a love of numbers, enhanced by rhythmic and counting activities. Multiplication is learned in rhythmic sequence, based on song and movement activities. The children learn all four operational processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with emphasis on the relationship between the processes, presented in a story form that includes problem solving. The approach is multi-sensory, and the children are led through imaginative pictures and practical applications, including manipulatives, in the exploration of mathematics.
In second grade the child seeks new challenges and the tone of the classroom changes to meet their new capacities. Work expands from the base that has been established in first grade, the pace quickens, and the school day becomes longer. Core curriculum in second grade is reading; writing (introduction of independent composition); arithmetic; multiplication tables. The motif of the second grade is fables from around the world, and legends including stories of saints and heroes. The fixed, predictable qualities of people portrayed in fables contrast with the high level of selflessness and courage revealed in the legends of saints and other important historical figures. Beyond the curriculum carried by the class teacher, second graders also receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, gardening, and music.
Writing continues in main lesson studies, with content from the legends and fables as well as from nature studies. By second grade, the students read printed material together as a class and in reading groups. Children copy the teacher’s writing as a model and also construct sentences in group work as a class. They also begin to compose sentences individually. A strong emphasis is placed on letter formation and handwriting practice.
In math, the students continue to work on their times tables, alternating factor multiplication and division sequences. Arithmetic lessons include regrouping multi-digit numbers for borrowing, and carrying and division with remainders. The children work with the four operational processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), exploring the relationships between the processes. The approach continues to be multi-sensory and based on solving problems introduced through stories and practical applications, including manipulatives.
Detailed nature stories reflect the child’s growing awareness of the world. Children begin to participate in the gardening program, and the seasons and the calendar are introduced.
The third grader transitions from the imaginative early childhood years into the concrete experiences of childhood. At this time the child’s confidence might decrease and fears about the world increase, just as the child is beginning to question the authority and competence of adults. The children are leaving the dreamy, imaginary world of early childhood and becoming more aware of the real world.
The third grade core curriculum includes reading, spelling, writing, original compositions, grammar, punctuation and parts of speech, cursive writing, multiplication tables and long division, measures, weights, and money. Old Testament stories address the children’s experience as they leave the protected world of early childhood. The stories provide context for a wealth of practical activities including cooking, farming, clothing, and study of shelters (houses of the world).
By the end of third grade, the students are familiar with lower case and cursive writing. Most of the students read independently at or above grade level. They are able to retell stories in complete sentences and compose simple summaries of main lesson material. They exhibit an understanding of the use of the capital letter to begin sentences and proper punctuation to end a sentence. Games are played in which the children act out the different parts of speech and functions of the period, the comma, the question mark, and the exclamation point. Grammar is further introduced as the students learn to identify naming words (nouns), doing words (verbs), and describing words (adjectives).
In mathematics, children study measurement beginning with body-based measurement and proceeding to modern, standardized measure. The third graders work on all times tables in random order and proceed to long division. Their arithmetic begins with concrete, practical activities and then progresses to problem solving on paper.
In nature study, work processes related to gardening and the processing of fruits and vegetables are consciously observed and described. The students study life science through hands-on work. Third graders also listen to creation stories from cultures around the world for a holistic image of the origins of the earth, plants, animals, and human beings.
In the farming main lesson, the children learn how the farmer works with the elements of nature. In addition to using the plow, sowing, and harvesting, the children fix fences, prepare garden beds, and weed crops. These activities build a feeling of competence and expose the children to materials, conditions, and processes that provide a basis for future formal science study.
Third graders also receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
The child enters fourth grade with new certainty, new capacities, and a willingness to test adults and peers as they investigate human dynamics. Children are interested in fairness and contrasts and want to be active. Fourth graders’ new energy and enthusiasm is met and channeled by their core curriculum: local geography and history; cartography; study of the animal kingdom; introduction to fractions and decimals; independent composition and letter writing. The curriculum meets the fourth grade child with the motif of Norse mythology, stories that offer great contrasts and clashes, telling tales of figures with colorful personalities and tremendous challenges, filled with action. These are figures whose deeds may have tragic consequences, yet offer the enduring hope of the human spirit.
Fourth graders learn past, present, and future verb tenses. Added to the study of parts of speech are prepositions, articles, conjunctions, and interjections. Students are taught the structure of paragraph development — a topic sentence, supporting examples or statements, and a concluding sentence. The students continue to retell stories in short summaries, both oral and written, building skills using descriptive language. Simple research, including book sources, is introduced in the context of animal study, with students characterizing animals first together as a class and later individually, in a report on an animal of their choice. Other opportunities for practicing descriptive writing include impressions of local landscapes in the geography block, accounts of individual historical journeys through California geography and history, and episodes from California history. The students practice personal writing in journal work and letter composition.
In math, basic arithmetic continues and expands to the study of proper and improper fractions, mixed numbers, and decimal fractions in all four operations, with an emphasis placed on multisensory, hands-on activities and manipulatives.
The science curriculum emphasizes comparative study of the human being in relation to the animal world. Animal studies include modeling, drawing, and written work. Local geography is integrated through the study of habitats and dwellings of the animal kingdom. Zoology lessons are supported by practical animal care on the farm.
Fourth grade is the year that their music curriculum expands to include strings class and the children choose their string instrument: violin, viola, or cello. Most students supplement the class with private lessons.
In addition to the curriculum carried by the class teacher, fourth graders receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
Fifth grade is sometimes referred to as the “heart of childhood.” During this year children tend to be balanced in expressing their feeling life, harmonious in their movement, and eager and enthusiastic in their learning. They feel comfortable and competent with their skills and are eager to expand their knowledge. They can move tirelessly and with grace.
Fifth graders study ancient civilizations including India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece; Greek myths and Greek history; geography of North America; cartography; botany; fractions and decimals; free-hand geometric drawing; composition, spelling, reading, arithmetic.
Fifth graders write two- and three-paragraph essays. They become increasingly proficient in using punctuation, which expands to the use of the colon and semi-colon as well as quotation marks. Fifth graders continue practicing identification of all parts of speech, and verb tense study now includes all perfect tenses. The fifth graders continue to apply their research skills to state reports and other reports related to geography.
In math the students begin work involving ratio and proportion, decimal and proper fractions, mixed numbers, and the conversion of values from one system to the other. The students continue to build basic skills and study ancient number systems in the context of their historical studies.
Fifth grade studies the earth as an organism with the plant world expressing the life of each region. The child’s expanding view of the world is supported by the study of North American geography and the making of maps in two and three dimensions with a variety of materials.
Our students gather with fifth graders from other Waldorf schools for a one-day pentathlon where they participate in Greek games. In music, children choose either to continue to study their stringed instrument, or take up the study of a wind or brass instrument.
And, fifth graders receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.