Essential Waldorf

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The Online
Grade Four

The Online Grade Four Conference

Click here to Register for Grade 4

Lectures and Presentations

Participants will receive links to all of these lecture/presentations on the first day of the conference, along with a Password that will enable you to access them for the 14 days that you choose. You may listen to or view them in any order and as often as you wish during the conference period. Topics are subject to change.
This contents page is a work in progress. The final conference will include about 60 lectures and 15 videos. Check in every week to see new lecture topics as they appear online!

Grade 4 Contents
(All lectures are between 15 and 20 minutes long)

Part 1: The Fourth Grader

4.1: The nature of the Fourth Grader. A conversation with the buildings and grounds/maintenance person in the school. Constructive and destructive forces in the fourth-grade child. A new level of energy. The Fourth Grade class as the barometer of the school. For the first three grades children are at the receiving end of the teachers capacities. In Fourth Grade, they begin to give back and reflect what the teacher has given. Odd and even-numbered grades. The unique placement of Grade Four in Steiner's original seven year plan. [15:10]

4.2: The necessity of understanding the fourfold nature of the child. Childhood illnesses: why would they come so often in the third and fourth grade years? The 9 to 10 year change-it's not over yet! Working out of Rudolf Steiner's picture of the human being at a time when the physical body is seen as the be-all and end-all of human existence. Waldorf education is more and more removed from the educational mainstream with every succeeding year. Pointing to changes in the brain as a means of justifying Waldorf education cannot really take us very far; we need to penetrate the fourfold human being. [14:30]

4.3: The interplay of the etheric body and the astral body. Forces of health and well-being versus forces of destruction and illness. It is not a matter of having one overcome the other, but finding the healthy balance and harmonization of these polarized forces. The four to one proportion of heartbeat to breath is a sign that a degree of harmony has been attained. Dreaming consciousness as the balance between etheric sleep and astral wakefulness. [15:10]

4.4: From temperament to personality. The temperament manifests in a fourfold way, but the astral body manifests in a twofold way. The blending of a etheric and astral forces results in an eightfold division in the classroom. Now every temperament has its introverted and extroverted side. In the midst of this greater complexity a more mature social life is born in the class. The problems of cliques and the severance of once secure, now broken friendships loom large in the fourth grade. [15:50]

4.5: Future Shock 1: The premature primacy of the astral body in the life of the fourth-grader. The intentions of the higher spiritual beings who created us were that we would remain like automatons for the first 35 years of our life. The astral body was meant to be incorporated much later than it is in our time. This is an important aspect of the 10-year-old. [16:30]

4.6: Future Shock 2: The higher spiritual beings had to accept the rule of Lucifer in the first half of Earth evolution. Along with this came Lucifer's intervention in human development at the time of the Fall of Man. We are not constituted to be able to handle the power and speed of the astral body at age 10, yet this arrangement in the spiritual world necessitated the coming of the astral body at this time. The astral body is quintessentially social in nature, so good deal of our work in grade four is teaching children how to be social beings. The challenge of social media and computer games. [16:45]

4.7: Future Shock 3: Lucifer and Ahriman. Both have their place in Earth evolution. Lucifer opened up the early incorporation of the astral body: in our time Ahriman is able to work on this body as well. Children not only need to learn how to be social in one another's presence, but how to be social via technological means as well. Waldorf schools don't necessarily want to accept this, but it is a growing necessity of our time. [16:35]

4.8: Future Shock 4: The child's future is streaming towards him or her in grade four. This is a good year in which to honor and celebrate something more mature that will flash up now and then. Drama can be very helpful here. This is the year when a big and spectacular class play is a necessity. It is also good if you can create shorter plays drawn from material in main lesson blocks that are performed every two months or so. Ask your colleagues to be forbearing, because fourth-graders need to appear in public more often than other grades. This grade is like a Boot Camp for you, the teacher, in learning how to deal with the more complex social needs of the astral body. [15:10]

Part 2: Working with Parents

4.9: Working with Parents 1. Grade Four is the year in which you get a better of which families constitute the core of your class. Just as braided drawing only gets challenging when we bring in a third strand, the "third strand"of the parents becomes an important part of the weaving of the teacher with the children. Many concerns, gallops, and uncertainties that have remained quiet with in the parents in the first three grades begin to become outwardly expressed in grade four; in this respect it is a real fulcrum. [14:55]

4.10: Working with Parents 2. The back to school parents morning. This is an important way to inform all of your parents, all at once, altogether about what year will look like. Organize it like an evening meeting but give yourself more time to develop everything. Be very clear with your parents about the necessity of their presents at parent evenings and other events.[14:50]

4.11: Working with Parents 3. The Parents Evening. Give parents advanced notice about the evenings agenda and give them a clear schedule of the evening, so they know exactly when it will begin and precisely when it will end. The structure can be basically the same as the Saturday welcoming meeting that I spoke of in the previous lecture. The biggest warning: watch out for the tyranny of parents who want to make announcements. Find ways for them to announce things by paper, email, anything but the parent evening. And be wary of the tyranny of the parent who asks an important question at the very end of the meeting. Advice on how to work with this. [16:50]

4.12: Working with Parents 4. Parent conferences. In fourth grade is especially important that we meet twice with individual families: once in the fall and once in the spring. We must recognize how much of the child's future is prefigured in the fourth grade year and we want to share these insights with parents. The experiences that Eugene had giving parents advice based on such insights: a cautionary tale! [16:40]

4.13: Working with Parents 5. One of the tasks of Waldorf education in the 21st-century is to strengthen the bonds between teachers and parents. This spiritual strivings of parents increasingly are what draw them to the Waldorf School; Waldorf teacher should not disappoint parents by holding back on the spiritual foundations up for work. The importance of parent education grows every year, yet the economic problems of Waldorf schools are diminishing the educational opportunities available for parents. [14:00]

4.14: Working with Parents 6. The Parent Conference continued. Ground rules for the parent conference: both parents must be present, show examples of other children's work to get parents an idea of where their child stands in the class. Whatever decisions are reached in this meeting should be written down, and send hard copy to the parents. Be sure that you are speaking to the father as well as the mother. Suggestions for winning over fathers.

4.15: Working with Parents 7. Three Children A Day: the most valuable piece of advice given in the entire conference. [16:50]

4.16: Working with Parents 8. How to write year-end reports in a more efficient, effective, and even enjoyable way. The rise and fall of the written narrative report. The ascendancy of rubrics and metrics to make report writing easier for teachers. The written report as story and drama. [15:00]

Part 3: The Fourth Grade Curriculum

4.17: The Grade Four Curriculum. [11:00]
Norse mythology
Local geography
Language arts and grammar
Arithmetic and Fractions
Form Drawing
Class Play
Class Trip

Part 4: Form Drawing

4.18: Form Drawing. The most important subject in Grade Four. Learning how to draw knotted and braided forms is more than just a skill. It is an active and creative means by which the child harmonizes the etheric body that has sustained them for the first three grades and the powerful, dynamic forces of the astral body. [16:30]

Form Drawing Teacher’s Guides:

1. Part 1: Knotted Drawings [35:10]
2. Part 2: Braided Drawings [38:00]
3. Drawing with Pencil [8:00]
4. Student Work in Form Drawing [22:40]

Part 5: Mathematics

4.19: From Arithmetic to Mathematics1. The etheric body is able to master skills but we need the astral body to grasp concepts. The movement from arithmetic to mathematics in Grade Four is about the challenging task of grasping concepts. I have included some instructional videos from our grade 3 conference concerning expanded notation in arithmetic. This may be of great help for children who were still struggling with the four operations. It is also essential to review measurement that was covered in grade 3. Because fractional measurements play such a large role, this will be a great support for the children in learning fractions in a more abstract way. Codes and name reversals as pre-fractional experience. [15:45]

4.20: From Arithmetic to Mathematics 2. Working with slower math students - and working with your faster math students as well. The studies done by Carol Dweck concerning students for whom the early grades come easily. Keep an eye on those faster students, because they may meet their match in working with fractions. The powerful asked realities streaming towards students can submerge all that the etheric body contains as memories of working with numbers. You may have to go back to reviewing the most basic aspects of arithmetic. [14:10]

4.21: The gift of Time. A Saturday class for children struggling with numbers. This is a sacrifice for the teacher, but it is almost a guaranteed way in which to help children who are slow in math to gain some traction. [16:35]

4.22: Each one teach one. Faster math students often like to learn new concepts and techniques ahead of time, and then in turn they are ready and often able to help slower students and their math work. This may be of greater value to a child than anything that a special subject mathematics teacher can give, and it may be more valuable than what the class teacher can give. [12:45]

Mathematics Teacher’s Guides:
1. Patterns and Predictions [24:50]
2. Secret Numbers [24:00]
3. Factors [19:10]
4. Fractions 1 [18:20]
5. Fractions 2 [12:45]
6. Fractions 3 [21:10]
7. Etheric & Astral Currents in Grade 4 Math [17:30]

Arithmetic Teacher’s Guides:
Two Arithmetic Guides from the Online Grade Three Conference
1. Expanded Notation [30:00]
2. Time and Measurement [22:10]

Part 6: Norse Mythology
4.23: Norse Mythology 1. Norse mythology is one of the most memorable of all subjects Waldorf students learn. Powerful awakening forces contained in the minutes. Steiner's insights concerning Norse myths are often revelatory. Direct experience of the gods as opposed to dream like recollection. The nature of the Norsemen, and the experience of their myths. [16:30]

4.24: Norse Mythology 2. Myth and history. Be cautious about spending too much time on the Norsemen and the Vikings. It is the mythology that works most strongly on the children. "The Dreamsong of Olaf Asteson" and "The Kalevala": great works of art, but are they are appropriate for grade 4 students? Misunderstanding about the relationship of common geography and the appropriateness of subjects. [17:10]

4.25: Norse Mythology 3. The Germanic myths and the Niebelungenlied. Siegfried, the human hero, eclipses the gods in importance. This epic may be better taught in grade six, as part of Medieval History. Monotheism and polytheism. Rudolf Steiner's vision of the Spiritual Hierarchies. [16:30]

4.26: Norse Mythology 4. Who are the "gods," particularly the Norse gods? Angels, Archangels, and Archai and their path of evolution. "Fallen" beings and beings who choose to hold back their own evolution. Lucifer and Ahriman. [16:35]

4.27: Norse Mythology 5. Vanir and Aesir. What is conveyed by "families" of gods, with parents and children? More developed gods are "parents," e.g. Odin, and less developed gods are "children," e.g. Thor. The "Human" stages of spiritual beings. [15:25]

4.28: Norse Mythology 6. Source materials. Three very wonderful retellings of the Norse Myths are available. The most poetic one is from the first third of the 20th century, the most visually delightful one is from the second third of the 20th century, and the most scholarly is from the last third of the 20th century. Any one of them can be your single resource, but it would be good if you could work with two or even three to see which one is most suited to your narrative style. [14:15]

4.29: Norse Mythology 7. Presenting the stories. Two blocks are sufficient, but three blocks would be even better because of the triadic quality of the myths. Try to really digest these stories over the summer and before you teach, so that you can make eye contact with the children as you narrate them. The main purpose of the Norse Myths is to introduce the child's astral body to the child's physical body. [14:10]

4.30: Norse Mythology 8. Creation and the Nine Worlds. Steiner's cosmology and earth evolution. The transition from warmth to light to fluid and finally physical substantiality. The Norse creation story. [15:45]

4.31: Norse Mythology 9. The “casting-off” aspect of creation. The giant has to come first so that the beautiful creatures have cast off all that is crude about their physical nature. But that which is cast off tends to live on. The battle between the gods, who represent the astral world, and the giants, who represent the physical/etheric world, constitutes one of the great dramas of these myths. [13:55]

4.32: Norse Mythology 10. Yggdrasil, the World Ash. The Norns. The tree as the all encompassing symbol of Norse mythology. The destructive forces of the Dragon and the tremendous sensory powers of the Eagle with the squirrel mediating mischievously between them. [18:20]

4.33: Norse Mythology 11. The Nine Realms. The interplay of earlier stages of Earth evolution, Lemuria, and Atlantis. Dwarves, Jotuns, and gods represent the physical, etheric, and astral forces in ceaseless interplay. [17:45]

4.34: Norse Mythology 12. The Aesir. From temperament to personality. The four major gods and the four temperaments. The power of the astral body in the Norse Myths. The need for more drama in teachers renditions of these stories. [17:40]

4.35: Norse Mythology 13. Attributes of the gods. Odin and Idunn. [15:15]

4.36: Norse Mythology 14. Attributes of the gods. Loki. [14:00]

4.37: Norse Mythology 15. The Wall of Asgard, a retelling of the story. [22:00]

Norse Mythology: A Slideshow of Student Work

Part 7: Language Arts
4.38: Language Arts 1. Quotes from Rudolf Steiner:
“....for at this stage the child must find the transition towards his ego-development. He must now learn to do everything more consciously than he has done hitherto. One therefore needs to introduce an element of thinking into the teaching of the language with which the child is already familiar, though in a feeling way. He now needs to discover and recognize the rules in exercises which are stimulating but never pedantic.”
“Up to the pupil’s 9 and 10 year he will deal in a sensitive and artistic manner with the formative part of language which lets one take an active part, and thereafter, without however neglecting this formative part, he will add the descriptive part of language.”
(From Soul Economy and Waldorf Education)

Four aspects of Language Arts. Past, present, and future tenses of verbs. Learning to spell. Different kinds of written letters (personal and business). Composition writing, independently of the teacher. [15:00]

4.39:Language Arts 2. Verbs and their tenses. Letting the Norns help us conjugate verbs. Regular and irregular verbs. [14:45]

4.40: Language Arts 3. The use of suffixes in verb tenses and comparatives/superlatives. Pronouns. First, second, and third person echo the triads of tenses and comparisons.the Grammar main lesson book. [14:30]

4.41: Language Arts 4. Four types of sentences. Letter-writing: is this still relevant in a digital world? [18:20]

4.42: Language Arts 5. Fourth Grade Writing: Main Lesson compositions. [17:20]

4.43: Language Arts 6. Fourth Grade Writing: Journals, creative writing, and the written report. [20:40]

4.44: Language Arts 7. Fourth Grade Reading. The increasing differences between faster and slower readers. The opening and closing of the literacy “window.” Strategies for helping slow readers. [27:50]

4.45: Language Arts 8: Fourth Grade Reading, Part Two. Reading to and by the class. Age-appropriate reading for fourth graders. [14:00]

4.46: Language Arts 9. The Class Play(s). [26:25]

Thor Triumphant: Excerpts from the Class Play

Part 8: Local Geography
4.47: Local Geography 1. The spiritual significance of Geography. Themes of this block: the Four Cardinal Directions. Extending the nature walk . Making maps and reading maps. Local terrain in time and space. Local history. [14:10]

4.48: Local Geography 2. The map of the child's room and the fourth grade classroom. The route to school. [14:10]

4.49: Local Geography 3. Mapping the school building and the school grounds. Recapitulating the multiple perspectives of the earliest cartographers. Using a compass. [16:45]

4.50: Local Geography 4. How big is "local"? The school's township? The county? Demarcating the borders. [19:05]

4.51: Local Geography 5. Creating a papier-mâché or plaster of Paris relief map with the class. [17:50]

4:52: Local Geography 6. Local history. Native American tribes and myths. Understanding “cultural geography” and the inevitable impact of the human being on the environment. [16:40]

4:53: Local Geography 7. Visits from "old timers." Field trips and "explorations." Saying “Yes” to incarnation. [13:15]

Part 9: Zoology
4.54: Zoology 1. This block not only serves as a culmination of Grade 4 but also lays the foundation for future Natural Sciences blocks. Like all of the natural science subjects in the curriculum, it is deeply connected to Anthroposophy, whether we know it or not. [10:50]

4.55: Zoology 2. Why is it called "Man and Animal"? Evolution? Creationism? Intelligent Design? Upon what foundation are we building this main lesson block? Darwin and Haeckel. "Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny." [17:10]

4.56: Zoology 3. Steiner's imagination of Earth evolution. The natural world and its sacrifices. The earth as a classroom. The challenging quality of Steiner's evolutionary worldview. [19:50]

4.57: Zoology 4. Epimetheus and Prometheus. The price of perfection in the animal world is one-sidedness; the compensation for imperfection in the human world is versatility and inventiveness. [14:40]

4.58: Zoology 5. Human teeth and animal teeth. The teeth as an imaginative picture of the nerve-senses, rhythmic, and metabolic-limb spheres in animals and humans. [16:25]

4.59: Zoology 6. Animal childhood and human childhood. The dramatically different “schedules” in which endowments and capacities arise. [18:00]

4.60: Zoology 7. Resource materials. The tidal change in the way in which the Zoology block has been taught over the past century. [17:50]

4.61:Zoology 8. Reports by children. Cautionary words concerning a venerable “tradition” in most Waldorf schools. When asking a sensible question is equated with mounting an attack. [20:25]

4.62: Zoology 9. Further comparisons of humans and animals. The sea and the air. Skeletal systems and the horizontal and vertical planes. [20:00]

4.63: Zoology 10. Rudolf Steiner’s threefold classification of the animal world; a framework, not a bed of Procrustes. The animals as expressions of human temperaments. Four types of birds. [15:50]

4.64: Zoology 11. Drawing and modeling animal forms. Drawing animals from life. Crawling and understanding the significance of the upright posture. [10:10]

Zoology: A Slideshow of Student Work [54:15]

Part 10: The Inner Path of the Teacher
4.65: Inner Path 1. Anthroposophy’s relationship to Waldorf education: the most vital question for the Waldorf Movement.

4.66: Inner Path 2. Two “preliminary exercises” given by Rudolf Steiner. The “seed contemplation” and the “backwards look” at the day.Their simplicity and economy of time and energy is typical of Steiner’s exercises.

4.67: Inner Path 3. The significance of these exercises for the classroom. One is particularly helpful in the teacher’s relationship with individual students, while the other brings consciousness to social relationships.

4.68: Inner Path 4. More on the “backwards look.” Steiner’s path always leads first to the etheric world. Liberating forces of life, memory, and healing. The work of the Angel. Meeting the needs of the children of today and tomorrow.

Part 10: Videos and Slideshows
Painting with Patience [40:00]
Although this instructional film was developed for the Grade Five Online Conference, it has been viewed by thousands of class teachers in all grades. The student paintings that appear in the Norse Mythology Slideshow were created using this technique.

Norse Mythology: A Slideshow of Student Work [1:05:15]

Thor Triumphant Part 1: Excerpts from the Class Play

Thor Triumphant Part 2: Excerpts from the Class Play [9:50]

Zoology: A Slideshow of Student Work

The Fourfold Human Being:
A Dynamic Diagram

The Nine/Ten-Year Change:
A Dynamic Diagram

Form Drawing Teacher’s Guides:

1. Part 1: Knotted Drawings [35:10]
2. Part 2: Braided Drawings [38:00]
3. Drawing with Pencil [8:00]
4. Student Work in Form Drawing [22:40]

Mathematics Teacher’s Guides:
1. Patterns and Predictions [24:50]
2. Secret Numbers [24:00]
3. Factors
4. Fractions 1 [18:20]
5. Fractions 2 [12:45]
6. Fractions 3 [21:10]
7. Etheric & Astral Currents in Grade 4 Math [17:30]

Part 11: Resources and PDFs

Songs with Meg Chittenden
Meg’s songs are now available on CDs, so that you can continue working with them after your conference time ends.

A website with more songs appropriate for Grade Four

A provocative article on Grammar

A Grade Four Block Rotation Guide

Thor Triumphant a class play by Eugene Schwartz

Music for Thor Triumphant by Karen Tallman

Spatial Skills and Intelligence

Part 12: Excerpts from the Rudolf Steiner Course

If you wish to go more deeply into some of the themes addressed in the Grade Three lectures, we invite you to listen to some lectures given by Eugene Schwartz in his course, Rudolf Steiner: The Man, The Age, The Path.

The Spiritual Hierarchies
Although the Hierarchies are a mainstay of Christian theology and iconography, Steiner spoke of them as active in all world religions. His expansive picture of the activities of the hierarchical beings portrays their intimate and dynamic relationship to human life and evolution.
The Third Hierarchy – The Angels, part 1 [16:17]
The Third Hierarchy – The Angels, part 2 [15:47]
The Third Hierarchy – Archangels & Archai [15:01]
The Second Hierarchy – Spirits of Form, Movement, & Wisdom [18:28]
The First Hierarchy – Thrones, Cherubim, & Seraphim, part 1 [17:21]
The First Hierarchy, part 2 [14:11]
The First Hierarchy, part 3 [15:06]

Evolution of the Earth and Humanity
Rudolf Steiner’s penetration of the concept of evolution lays the foundation for his teachings about history, Christology, and the genesis of evil. His metamorphosis of the evolutionary picture presented by Darwin and Ernst Haeckel led Steiner to a unique formulation of the way in which species, humanity, and the earth itself undergo ceaseless development and progress.
SC35 Introduction to Steiner’s Evolutionary Picture [13:32]
Perfection and Change; Saturn and Sun Evolution [23:22]
Light and Darkness [12:49]
Moon Evolution; Angels and Dragons [15:24]
Earth Evolution; Hindrance and Evil [18:57]
Densification, Lucifer & Ahriman [18:42]
Lemuria and Atlantis [29:28]
Darwin, Haeckel, Ontogeny & Phylogeny [14:24]
The Cultural Epochs [23:23]
Ancient Initiation Rites [29:46]
The Mission of the Israelites [23:10]
The Christ Principle in Evolution, part 1 [29:13]
The Christ Principle in Evolution, part 2 [33:26]]