Blog Archives

Beauty and magic lie at the heart of Waldorf curriculum.

Each day, the children are greeted by beautiful chalkboard drawings that deepen their connection to the curriculum. Gasps are often heard as the children walk into the classroom and see a new drawing!

“One of the tasks of the Waldorf elementary teacher is to present the curriculum in such a way that it stirs the imagination and feelings of the students, creating a context in which they can experience sympathy and antipathy, joy and sorrow, anger and tranquility, and much more.” Further on she states: “Through mythologies, great stories, and stirring biographies, the children’s own moral impulses are awakened, and an idealism begins to grow in them that will flower in adolescence.” -Joan Almon in “Educating for Creative Thinking: The Waldorf Approach”

Here are some drawings from the 1-5 grade classrooms at City Garden.

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A Week in the Local Geography Block

The third and fourth grade class began the year studying local geography.  At City Garden, we start the study of geography right where we are, in our classroom and at our school, places that the children know very well.

To begin our study, we took a walk around our building and made some detailed observations.  I prompted the children with some questions like, “What is our church made of?” “Does it look like it was all built at the same time?” “What is the building used for?” “Why do you think they decided to build a church here?” These questions help the children learn observation skills. They noticed lots of details about the building and made many guesses about why things were done the way they were!

Then we came back and drew a beautiful picture of the front of the church. As we drew, we talked about the different building materials and uses of the space.

The next day, we completed a piece of writing that we created together as a class about our building and our observations.  We wrote 5 sentences!  We write together in third grade and at the beginning of fourth grade for many reasons. This writing process allows me to work on and talk about spelling and grammar with the whole class.  It also illustrates the writing process and how we can make creative, refined sentences!

Another important aspect of our local geography study is to introduce the “eagle eye perspective” … the perspective that maps are drawn from and one that children are not able to really grasp until third or fourth grade. To further their understanding, they all stood up and made a “map” of their desk from the eagle eye view.

As the block goes on, we continue to move outward and upward. The children worked on a beeswax model of our classroom.  Then we drew a map of our model and made a composition about our experience.  Many of the children mentioned how difficult it was to draw from above instead of from straight ahead!

It was a wonderful week of observing, exploring, and creating!

February and March Math Block in First and Second 2018

As this is our last large math block of the year, we have many goals to accomplish in these 4 weeks.

In first grade, I want them to be very familiar and comfortable in counting and working with higher numbers. I want them to recognize these numbers and be able to write them. I want them to be able to do addition and subtraction up to sums of 24 on their own, which means they need to be able to hold a number within and count up from that number. I want them to be familiar with multiplication and division and to be able to complete some of these problems with help. I want their rhythmic math work to be refined, so that hand clapping and counting by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s and even 3’s are coming along. And lastly, I want them to begin to memorize their math facts under 10.

In second grade we are bringing many things together. We will be solidifying our understanding of place value, we will be working heavily in the times tables, writing all of them up to our 12’s and seeing the geometric shape they create on a circle of 0 to 9. We will be reviewing rounding numbers to different place values and we will be adding and subtracting higher numbers horizontally and working with different strategies we use in order to so do, trying to create fluidity, ease, and flexibility with these numbers.

In week one, first graders began on the ground with our mining gnomes, putting 10 gems into a bag and counting by 10’s. For example, each of them “mined” 16 gems, then we put all of our gems together, counting by 10’s up to 50 and then adding our 6 extra gems together with everyone else’s. As soon as we get to 10, we put them into another bag and add them to our 10’s. We did multiple problems like this and then had to do some on our own for book work. If you have 3 bags of 10 and 7 extra, how many gems do you have? We wrote our 10’s up to 100 and then wrote a few of these problems. The next day we did the same thing but counted by 5’s forward and backwards and we wrote our 5’s up to 80.  Following this, the next day we had a new story of a shepherd and his sheep and we counted by 2’s over and over again to try to get these memorized. We wrote our 2’s in our books this day. On Thursday we remembered Happy Addy and May and we did some addition work with sums above 10. Now we can’t use our fingers in the same way, so we learned how to hold one number in our hearts and count up from there. We did some problems on our own in our main lesson books.

In week one in second grade, we went straight to the times tables, practicing them by counting aloud and hand clapping, and then by getting on the ground in a circle and throwing a ball of yarn to the numbers as we count them. We worked on our 10’s, 9’s, 4’s & 6’s this week, drawing a beautiful drawing and then writing the times and division tables – so that we start to learn that they have a clear relationship to one another. I usually write half of them, and the students have to copy this and write the rest up to 12.

In this photo you can see that if you count by 6’s, a pattern emerges – 6, 2, 8, 4, 0. If you place this pattern on a circle of 0 to 9, the pattern creates a pentagram. Inside the pentagram, there is a pentagon. We look at all of these things! It is so exciting to see what beautiful geometric shape will arise from each times table. There are many guesses each day as to what shape it will make and then surprise when it might be the same shape of another times table. For example, the opposite pattern emerges with the 4 times table – 4, 8, 2, 6, 0, and so the same shape appears!

In week two, we all worked on addition and subtraction together through the stories of Mrs. Bluebird and Mrs. Fox. These are simple spring stories I created in order to have something we are adding and subtracting, so that the work is more meaningful. First graders worked on adding such problems as 8 + 9, 7 + ____ = 15, ____ + 5 = 14, 16 – 8, 16 – _____ = 7. I used the same story to add higher numbers in second grade such as 25 + 3, 42 + ___ = 49, 85 – 4, 97 – ____ = 92, 23 + 10, 38 + 40, 52 + ___ = 92, 23 + 13, 25 + 16, 21 + ___ = 35 and their subtraction counterparts of the same. In second grade we talked a lot about the different strategies we used to find these answers – knowing that most strategies are not “better” than others. Though we did talk about how counting up on our fingers from numbers such as 52 to 66 we can do, it will not be plausible once we get to math such as 52 + 45, so we need to find other ways! We are adding the tens together and then the ones. We are changing numbers slightly, adding them together, and then changing the answer slightly to coincide with the change we made before we added. It’s always so fun to see all the ways the children can manipulate the numbers! It’s some great math.

In this week we also learned about greater than and less than through the story of an alligator wanting to eat cookies. His mouth opens to the greater number! They loved this and it was also a great way to review and recognize our higher numbers. Then on Thursday we finished up some of our math practice worksheets we’d been doing all week and we played BINGO with our times tables. It was great review for everyone on how to get the answers to our times tables. First graders did their 2’s and 5’s and second graders did their 3’s and 4’s.

Week three of this block brought the first graders to more addition and subtraction, but using a number line. This is another great way to show how numbers can be written. Eyes widened when I told everyone in the room that our number line could keep going and going and going and going – all the way around the room over and over again! We used Peter Rabbit to hop around our number line both forward and backwards.

Second graders did more times tables – we practiced our 6’s again – because we’d all forgotten we’d done them already! It was as if we were seeing it for the first time! Then we did our 7’s and 8’s.

Here is what your children have been seeing each day on the board, and stories continued in first grade for Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Bluebird and Mrs. Fox.

At the end of this week we painted some geometric shapes and then reviewed by doing Dictations, where I say something aloud and they have to write it down. It can be as simple as me saying a number and they have to write it or I say a math problem and they have to find the answer. I am seeing what they can hold in their minds and then write down and I’m also seeing what they know and can do. For some reason, they all love dictations! It’s a favorite! First graders wrote higher numbers, did simple addition and subtraction, and simple multiplication. Second graders wrote higher numbers that involved place value, did some rounding to the nearest tens place or hundreds place, and did some times table work and higher addition.

I am still reading, The King of Ireland’s Son to everyone at the end of our math lesson. This gives us a breather from all the work. During Reading time, we continue to work in reading groups and to partner read. We are all coming along in our reading skills!

This coming week we’ll continue solidifying these math concepts and will move forward with more complicated work!

Cooperative Games

Read below for a few updates from our Cooperative Games teacher, Mr. Wiles.

December 2017

Greetings City Garden Families!  I hope that everyone is excited for the Holiday Season, which is always a special time for our beautiful children and becomes even more meaningful to us adults as we age and experience further soul growth.  

Cooperative Games class has been such a blessing in so many ways at City Garden.  Playing games for their own sake and for enjoyment is much more fulfilling than playing competitive games that require a winner.  The children truly enjoy the opportunity to exercise their bodies and minds after lunchtime in this capacity and I am honored to be able to guide them through the curriculum as we familiarize ourselves with one another.

The goals of this class are to develop spatial orientation, awareness of our body geography, and equitable play while allowing the children time to process what transpires at the end. These objectives are met through varying left-right, above-below and forward-backward exercises; chanting rhythms or singing songs while skipping rope; circle or line games with an end goal to achieve and a debriefing conversation.  First and second graders are introduced to more basic exercises and games as they are still coordinating their eyes, limbs and sense of balance in addition to processing rules and outcomes.  I might ask them to mirror my movements in rhythm and we will repeat these steps several times as I observe their progress without correcting mistakes.  Third, fourth and fifth graders delve into more challenging movements and games that require greater attention to detail and deeper thinking upon strategy and emotions.  And believe me, emotions can run high during cooperative games!  We conclude games with a light discussion of what worked or didn’t work and how this affects our feelings.  On Wednesdays, first through fifth grades combine for exercises and games appropriate for all ages, often utilizing the school’s beautiful parachute!  It is such a joy to see their interactions in this culmination of the week’s progress.                    

All grades have memorized our opening verse and now enjoy varying the tempo and volume.  After a quick warm up activity to gather our attention, we are ready to begin games. These games generally consist of a vivid opening story that lays the groundwork for rules, rhythm, and piques their interest.  I’ve found that the children are often as interested in these stories as the games themselves and it certainly increases their attentiveness and desire to participate more fully.  Games that we have been enjoying in particular are:

Sharks & Octopuses – One person is the shark. The other children start at the opposite side of the play area as fishes.  When the shark gives the command ‘Come little fishes swim in my ocean’, the fishes try to reach the other side without getting touched by the shark.  If they are touched by the shark, the fishes sit cross-legged where they were caught, and become octopuses.  From a seated position, an octopus can try to touch the fishes that are swimming past every time the shark gives the command.  The fishes who are touched by an octopus also turn into octopuses.  The shark tries to turn all the fishes into octopuses.      

Crows & Cranes – Class is divided into two tribes and given names that begin with the same letter: e.g. Crows and Cranes.  Each tribe has its own territory at each end of the play area.  A drummer beats the drum and the first sounds of the names, (e.g. ‘Crrrr…’) is called out.  The tribes advance towards one another with the rhythm of the drum beat until the drummer calls out the full name of a tribe, e.g. ‘Cranes!’.  The Crows quickly turn round and run back to their territory trying to avoid being caught by the pursuing Cranes.  The captives are led back and ordained as members of the victorious tribe.  The process is repeated until all of one tribe has been caught.  

Wind, Moon, & Rainbows – One child is the north wind, one child is the moon, another the morning star.  The other children are shining rainbows who are scattered across the universe.  (The rainbows make an arc with their bodies on all fours.)  The north wind frees them by crawling through their arc.  With the help of the morning star, the moon finds each rainbow and touches it gently; then the rainbow sits down.  When all the rainbows are seated, the moon catches the north wind.                               

I am unable to express with words how blessed I feel to learn from the amazing teachers and students of City Garden.  I think we can all agree how special it is for our beloveds to be able to experience the fullness of childhood in this most nurturing environment.  Oceans of gratitude to you, City Garden parents, for your ardent interest in our children’s futures!      

February 2018

Hello City Garden families!  Cooperative Games class has been moving and shaking as we have gotten in a good groove together.  I’m impressed how the children have continued to improve with their body orientation and awareness, especially their ability to take on challenging movements that are new to them.  We are trying out a few new opening verses to keep things fresh and interesting, and everyone has adapted well as I expected they would.  We really enjoy the ‘Flee Fly’ verse; many of you may be familiar with, using a hand/thigh clapping rhythm to lyrics with increasing speed.  It imparts some fun word play that the children are naturally drawn to.  I have also introduced some new warm-up exercises such as leg crossovers, heel kicks, lunges, power skips and high knees.  They initially got a hearty chuckle out of watching me demonstrate these exercises, but then quickly realized the difficulty of moving all our limbs in such a coordinated fashion.  They still laugh hysterically when I do high knees with them!  As I mentioned, they have really begun to improve their ability to discern left from right and upper from lower in these movements and it’s great to see their confidence in these abilities bolstered as a result.  

Games have begun to take on more meaning and merriment now that everyone is more familiar with guidelines and expectations, and our closing discussions continue to give us greater insight and help us learn from our missteps.  An exciting new parachute game, Hair Dryer, is providing lots of laughs as it’s a real hair-raising experience!  I am so proud of your children for their continued progress and overwhelmingly positive participation in this class.  Please let me know if any of you would like to discuss games in further detail, come observe, or better yet, take part in a day of games with us.  The more the merrier in Games Class!  We’re looking forward to warmer days when we can take our adventures outside for more fresh air and larger boundaries!    


Heroes and Saints in 1st and 2nd grade

Part of a curriculum inspired by Waldorf education for second grade includes stories of saints and heroes from around the world. We tell these stories because they speak directly to a second grader, who is experiencing new intellectual development. Although they may have new faculties of thinking that they did not have in first grade, their minds are still far from mature. You’ll hear second graders have strong opinions such as “I hate that” or “I love this” and the following day, these same antipathies and sympathies have switched! While in first grade they wanted with all their being to please their teacher and be good students, now they begin to experiment with behavior that is naughty. However they still desire to be good. Just like their strong opinions, their behavior can change daily! And so we bring them stories that mirror their development. Fables so they can identify with the animals’ naughty behavior, and saint or hero stories so they can identify with people who have done good in the world.

This past week, our first and second grade class began a Language Arts block on Heroes and Saints from around the world. This week we heard the stories of Hiawatha, St. Werburga and the Geese, and Saint Odelia. We used these stories to draw pictures and write summarizing sentences together and also to begin lessons in grammar. I introduced naming and doing words (nouns and verbs) by looking at the sentences we had written together and picking out these kinds of words. Then we spent some time reviewing all the stories we’d heard, especially all of the kind, generous, and brave actions our saints and heroes have shown us, and we spent some time listing all of the good things we do. We will continue this next week, looking at all of the good things we do at school, at home, and around town.

Above is a chalkboard drawing the children saw all week.

We spent some time in beeswax this week, molding Hiawatha’s canoe while we listened to his story. Canoes will come home this week.

We also spent some time using our benches as balancing beams. We learned how to support each other as our friends walked along them too.

At the end of the week we painted St. Odelia, who had been cured of blindness, and in turn showed her father how he had been blind to his own faults.


Enjoy and see you Monday!