Steiner through the Grades


The Prep program is primarily centred on the child’s inner need to play and their play is seen as the child’s work. The task of the teacher is to adjust work taken from our daily lifestyle so that it becomes suitable for the child’s play. The natural play experience is supported by a rhythmic programme, highlighted by the celebration of the changing seasons and other traditional festival celebrations. The environment provides a safe and secure space where creative play can be expressed. Natural materials, warm colours, a wide range of handmade wooden and soft toys used in an open play situation support the development of creativity and allow the children to follow their own inner impulses.

A day in Prep might consist of the children being involved in singing, rhythmic games, finger plays, movement, story telling, puppetry, domestic activities including cooking, baking, preparing morning tea, washing dishes, cleaning and gardening. As part of the art and crafts programme the children will experience the world of colours through painting, beeswax modelling, drawing, finger knitting and sewing.

The class one child lives in an imaginative world peopled with invisible friends, magic, creatures that talk, fairies, gnomes and Father Christmas – in other words, a world of wonder and magic. Bearing this magical culture in mind, the class one teacher uses many artistic and creative strategies to transform the curriculum content. The ABC’s and 123’s unfold before the child in picture and in verse. Stories link content with form in an artistic way, which then become prompts for drawing, painting, the beginnings of drama (as children recapitulate the story in action) and focussed speech (as they endeavour to retell their favourite parts).

In class two the enchanted world of infancy begins to fade. Children no longer experience a universality of magic and fantasy – they know or suspect that Santa and the Easter Bunny is really their Dad or Mum. On special occasions, or influenced by special moods and atmospheres, they can recall, perhaps wistfully, the universal enchantment of earlier years.

Because of this mood, Celtic enchantment tales, dances and songs are used within the class as they are suffused with the mood and atmosphere that class two children live within. In these stories the magic is only available to special individuals at special times in special places. This mood is used to inform the main contexts of this class.

In English, the children learn to write and punctuate sentences. They learn to spell through meeting many of the phonic word families. Both of these skills open the door to the new, exciting skill of reading. The children begin by reading what is familiar to them, sentences that they have written and poems and verses they know by heart.

In Maths they explore the basic geometric forms and their relationships to number. They are immersed in a world of pattern, which they experience through many of their senses. After experiencing and consolidating counting patterns through rhymes, rhythms and movement, the children move to their multiplication tables. Daily recitation with clapping and gestures helps the child internalise these number facts. Once known, children begin to apply this knowledge in maths tasks.

The local environment forms the basis of social studies. Children explore their school and neighbourhood, meeting the plant, animal and landforms found there. The children come to understand the nature and habits of the animals they encounter through observing, discussing and listening to stories. The children experience nature and all her different moods and colours in the seasonal changes around them.

The third grade is often called “the turning point” of childhood. The children go through a profound change in their relationship to the world around them. Like chicks emerging from under Mother Hen’s wing, the class three children step out in to the world. The children are now aware of their separateness from the world and realise that they are citizens of the world where not everything is perfect. Bad things happen, even to them. They seek knowledge, and studies take on a more realistic, practical character. This transitional stage is sometimes referred to as “the crossing”.

The Steiner teacher responds to this emergence of self-doubt and vulnerability by providing a milieu of scrutiny and authority, the mood which permeates Hebrew myths (the stories of the Old Testament) is an ideal example of the mode required. The notion that all is well with the world, that is filled with order, and purpose, permeates the contexts of Class Three.

In Class Three, the children are helped to form new relationships with nature and people through farming and gardening experiences, learning how the kingdoms of nature mutually support one and other. They learn how man and nature can work harmoniously and the joy of working with sweat on your brow.

Their relationship with others is reinforced through arithmetic applied in a practical, real life way, as they are able for the first time to really experience time and space. This is why measurement is the theme of Class Three mathematics.

This is also a time of accelerated physical growth for the child. Contrasting their home with those of other times and peoples and climates, house building is explored, as they too build for themselves a new body with which to meet this new awakening world.

Their relationship with themselves is renewed through drama, music and grammar. The children write their own account of stories and new expression develops with a qualitative difference in work and sentence structure. Through drama and music they hold their voice against others in harmonies and solo speaking parts.

Now is when third graders require more understanding, guidance and companionship from their responsible parents and teachers.

In the previous year we saw the children begin to look outward from the security of the home and school life. Now, however, the shift is greater and the children feel very much at odds with the world, and indeed separateness has occurred.

The Class Four child looks at the authority figure in their lives as separate people with foibles and the possibility of making mistakes. At this age they delight in criticising the habits and appearance of their parents and love to identify mistakes made by their teachers. Put simply, the invisible bond between child and adult is now severed and they “see each other”.

Norse mythology is full of pictures of the authority world making mistakes; the gods mess up. Class Four teachers infuse this mood of distanced critical separateness through the contexts of the class.

At the very heart of the fourth grade curriculum is a search for a sense of self within the newly awakening personality, and the fostering of a deeper awareness in the class studies together with harmonious social relationships within the world.

The Class Five student stands astride the boundary of the “objective” world outlook of contemporary thought and the imaginative world of the child. Like the Greeks, they are comfortable with one foot in either camp.

Class Five is often seen as the balance year, the “Golden year”. Beauty helps channel the child’s changing challenges expressed in their emotions and thoughts, by giving worthy images as a guiding light.

Botany will express a myriad of soul qualities. Geometry takes the form of pictorial concepts vivifying the thinking. Geography broadens the horizons from the local to include all of Australia.

History covers huge epochs through India, Egypt, Babylonia and finally Greece. Language words become empowered to begin personal expression within the content of the curriculum.

Science is beautiful. The teacher strives to unite factual studies with art, and infuse artistic activities with principles.

Now the child will turn aside from the imaginative world of early childhood times, even disparaging as childish the stories they loved in previous years! The child enters into a more adult thinking consciousness; more easily able to grasp cause and effect relationships in History and searches for scientific concepts.

They seem to demand of their teachers the “real world”. A Steiner Stream responds by providing a curriculum which focuses strongly on the material outer world.

The studies of Geometry, the physics of sound, light, electricity and warmth are commenced. Now they look at world Geography. They also begin Geology and Mineralogy.

Historical studies lead away from the glorious harmony and beauty of classical Greek Art and Culture, to the more legalistic and militant minds of ancient Rome.

They glimpse the truth of the gradual rise of the individual to new freedom, powers of mind and a new ability to love their neighbour-truths which emerged as Christian values for humanity.