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Year By Year

The practical application of the Waldorf curriculum

The curriculum is designed with the growing child in mind. Year by year, following the different stages of childhood, the curriculum seeks to mirror the inner development of the child, to give the child the experiences that they need, and the learning to which they will be most receptive. This makes the lessons both relevant and satisfying.

All the important material in standard South African and international curriculums is covered, though not always in the same order. As far as possible, different subjects are taught as an integrated whole with one subject enhancing another.

The Waldorf curriculum also emphasises practical application of the subjects through physical activity, craft work and skills, drama, song and movement. That can mean building a wooden house in Grade 3, to spending six months immersed in producing and performing a Shakespeare play in Grade 9.

The Main Lesson is a key concept in the Waldorf curriculum. The first 2 hours of each school morning are spent exclusively on a subject - and each subject is tackled over a number of days or weeks. Through the course of the year the child meets their core subjects several times through focussed main lesson blocks.


written by Joan Sleigh

The Main Lesson, a period of two hours at the start of every morning, is a central feature in Waldorf Education. Subjects are taught in blocks of three or four weeks, thus enabling a deep engagement with one main topic at a time.

Each main lesson period is structured in a threefold way, consciously stimulating and developing the faculties of mental, emotional and intentional learning.

The teaching in a Steiner Waldorf school comes essentially 'through' the teacher and not via text books. The teacher chooses the material and presentation to suit the particular group of children. The fundamental mode of delivery for lesson content is the immediate and direct interface between pupils and teacher. (Rawson & Richter; 2005; 22)

The teacher prepares each lesson in depth, thus internalising the content so that he or she can present it in an imaginative lively narrative. Daily reflection on the success of each lesson and necessary adjustments to meet the pupils is a vital part of healthy teaching and learning. For this reason text books are used as preparation material for the teacher, whereas the pupils receive an imaginative and experiential presentation of the subject matter.

This process of personal, artistic and practical engagement with the content is reflected in the Main Lesson books, designed and created by each pupil. They write their own ‘text  books’, each one being a unique, individual and creative documentation of the work covered, reflective of the engagement and understanding of the ‘author’. The teacher uses the Main Lesson book as the primary tool of evaluation and assessment. The cognitive, artistic and personal involvement of each child becomes visible at a glance. This multi-faceted approach to learning takes time and effort, but ensures a deep involvement and internalisation of the subject.

This section provides a more comprehensive description of the curriculum as it is practically applied to each grade through the child's schooling.