Employers and college professors lament that young people’s critical reading and writing skills are not up to what is needed in today’s world.
At Monadnock Waldorf School, critical writing skills begin in first grade with learning verbal recall skills. This early verbal work translates directly to superior writing skills in later grades – and enthusiasm for writing.
Waldorf education draws strongly from the oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout kindergarten and first grade. The oral approach is used all through Waldorf education: mastery of oral communication is seen as being integral to all learning.
Letters are learned in the same way they originated in the course of human history. Humans perceived, then pictured, and out of the pictures they abstracted signs and symbols. First graders hear stories, draw pictures, and discover the letter in the gesture of the picture. Throughout the grade school, children are engaged in phonetic work in the form of songs, poems, and games in addition to the more traditional speech and drama. This multi-faceted approach helps establish a joyful and living experience of the language. Additionally, texts from world literature provide material for reading as well as a foundation for the study and acquisition of grammar skills.
The Language Arts curriculum moves from the mechanics of reading to read to honing comprehension skills to creative writing. Letters and their sounds emerge from stories so that the “abstract symbol” has context and meaning. Comprehension is exercised through oral retelling of stories as well as by learning to write paragraphs and essays. Writing thus evolves out of the children's art; their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language. Students’ ability to pay meticulous attention to rich, sequential detail serves them well as they venture off into their own creative writing in the upper grades.
In addition to superior reading and writing skills, Waldorf students experience a broad and deep understanding of true literacy.