For the seven-year-old child the inner and outer world are still closely connected. “Magical” beings such as fairies and gnomes are spoken of as if they were truly seen. The child still sees the world with a somewhat dream-like consciousness, from which they slowly wake.
Thus, in first grade, the class teacher tells Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from various cultures, which offer the archetypes the child needs to meet the world. By retelling these tales in their main lesson books, the children not only develop a relationship with the material but also learn the letters of the alphabet and simple sentence structure.
The children also recite rhymes, poems and tongue twisters, which develop their ear for language as well as poise in public speaking. Often these poems are written and illustrated once they have been learned “by heart.” The children then learn to read from their own writing. This process by which reading is the natural extension of speaking and writing, is intrinsically motivating and inspires the children to become lifelong readers and writers. Spelling and phonics are integrated in this work and also practiced through word games and activities.
In addition to fairy and folk tales, the children hear nature stories, which awaken a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world. Nature walks in the surrounding parks and gardening activities develop the children’s observation and curiosity, building a relationship to their living environment.
Mathematics is taught in a multi-sensory way. Children have an inherent sense of rhythm, as demonstrated in their hand-clapping games and jump rope rhymes. Thus, the children gain familiarity with the number system, and with the multiples of the different numbers, by clapping, stepping, and jumping as they count. Visually, they become familiar with the different qualities of numbers. For example, they discover how four makes a square and can represent the four seasons. Through story and the use of manipulatives, the children learn the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and how they interrelate. One unique aspect of the Waldorf curriculum is the way in which arithmetic is introduced from the whole to the parts. There is only one answer to 3 + 9 =, but there are many was to define 12 =, (3 + 9, 6 x 2.). This approach builds the capacity for flexible thinking.