Essential Waldorf

Know What. Know How. Know Why.

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The Online
Grade Five

The Online Grade Five Conference

Click here to Register for Grade 5

Begin every session by singing along with Meg Chittenden
Click here for Meg’s Grade Five songs.
Click here for notes on the songs.
(We cannot publish lyrics and scores due to copyright restrictions.)

Click here for Meg’s biographical sketch.

Table of Contents

1. The Fifth Grader
Introduction to the Conference

5.1: The Four-Fold Human Being
How the physical, etheric, and astral bodies interact with the human being, and the role of the Ego in their integration. Child development as the interplay of body, soul, and spirit. [14:48]

The Nature of the Fifth Grader 1
The Janus figure in Steiner’s colored glass window; accelerated physical development of today’s fifth grader; the forward and backward look a necessity for the teacher; etheric memories. [13:45]
To view the “Janus” figure to which the lectures refer, click here.

The Nature of the Fifth Grader 2
Heartbeat and breathing; seeds of adult emotional life; the final contraction of the etheric body; the “Grecian” nature of the fifth grader. [18:42]

2. The Main Lesson Block
5.4: How to Prepare for Main Lesson blocks in Grade 5
8 to 1 Law; preparation is more than reading books; central importance of teacher’s relationship to the subject; “Magic File Box,” with eight grades of folders. [31:38]

3. Geography
Why Teach Geography? 1
Misunderstood and under-utilized subject; encourages the child to say, “Yes” to incarnation; look back at Fourth Grade Local Geography, and the “Angel-eye” view of the world. [13:44]

Why Teach Geography? 2
Fifth Grade Geography provides “Archangel-eye” view of the world; much wider perspective; building of social groups through archangelic forces. [11:53]

Approaches to Geography
Regional poems, songs, and Tall Tales; America’s lack of a “classical period”; Tall Tales and their mythological antecedents; Pfeiffer’s approach to “The Earth’s Face and Human Destiny”; polarities of mountains and plains; focusing on an engaging “part” to teach the “whole”’ cultural geography. [23:44]

Geography Theme: Transportation
How do we bring unity and cohesion to the vastness of the North American continent? Transportation is one approach. We look at Indian trails, “improved” roads (and their tollbooths), railway tracks, and modern highways. Pedestrians, horses, wagons, steam engines, and automobiles all play their part. [20:45]

Geography Theme: Communication
From Ben Franklin’s “invention” of the modern postal system in Philadelphia, PA to the iPhones of Silicon Valley, CA, North America has overcome its spatial challenges with ever-changing modes of communication. [16:10]

5.10: Geography Theme: Mining
Any number of industries that depend on geographical features and geological resources can help us unify and diversify our study of the continent; we will look at mining. [21:10]

North American Geography: A Student Work Slideshow [38:30]

4. History

Visit our Grade Five History Timeline. View it in 2 or 3 dimensions.

Why Teach History? 1
“Those who forget the lessons of the past . . . “ “Relevance” and the erasure of history [14:42]

Why Teach History? 2
Human and Cosmic Memory; the unique configuration of etheric forces in the fifth grader; intimations of past lives and the possibility of bringing old karma to closure. [9:54]

Why Teach History? 3
Steiner’s description of “young souls,” and their interaction with “old souls”; for the latter, history is a reminder, for the former an introduction. [17:34]

What to Teach in History 1
The Cultural Epochs; the stark contrast between Steiner’s “Occult History” and conventional history; Waldorf approach is somewhere in between. The first and second Post-Atlantean cultural epochs. [16:25]

What to Teach in History 2
The third and fourth cultural epochs are the beginning of “history;” before that time humanity did not need to symbolize or embody the divine world; Norse mythology is “younger,” while the fifth grader needs the stronger “memory culture” of the Ancient Cultures. [15:26]

What to Teach in History 3
Archetypes in all mythologies; triads in time and hierarchy; the ascent of the human being; myths as initiation pictures; the importance of reverence on the part of the teacher during the Ancient Culture blocks; cultivating “the mood of the myth.” [9:19]

5. Ancient Cultures: India to Egypt
Ancient India 1
The triune gods as a picture of thinking, feeling, and willing; Vishnu’s Avatars; the epics: Krishna and Rama; Mahabharata and Ramayana; gods and human love; reincarnation and karma; the caste system. [24:31]

Ancient India 2
Indian geography and landscape; the outbreathing experience of Indian culture; children’s growing self-reliance reflected in the quantity and quality of their main lesson book content. [15:55]

Ancient Persia
Turanians and Aryans; Agri-Manu and Ahura-Mazdao; the life and achievements of Zarathustra; the end of nomadic times and the beginnings of agriculture. [16:09]

Mesopotamia and Assyria
Star science and the mercantile impulse; trade compensates for poor resources; navigation and astrology; Gilgamesh and city culture; the first epic written from an earthly standpoint; the loss of clairvoyance and the threshold of Death; the origin of materialism. [21:00]

Ancient Cultures Part 1: A Slideshow of Student Work [42:50]

Ancient Cultures Part 1: PDFs of Student Compositions

Ancient Egypt 1
The enigma of Egypt; Sphinx and Pyramids, “concepts” given architectural form; the centrality of Isis, Osiris, and Set in Egyptian life; the Priest-King, now the only human who can directly enter into the spiritual world; cosmetics and spiritual sight. [24:17]

Ancient Egypt 2
The age in which we live as a reflection of the Ancient Egyptian epoch; though dedicated to the afterlife, Egyptians lived lives of grace and elegance; bringing architecture, painting, and engineering to the class; the cultural crosscurrents of India, Persia, and Egypt are still of central economic and political importance in our time. [22:59]

Ancient Cultures Part 2: A Slideshow of Student Work [33:00]

6. Ancient Cultures: Greece
Ancient Greece 1
An approach to Greece; begin with Greek myths very early in the year; narrating both the Iliad and the Odyssey in the winter, long before the Greek block; will students be confused? The literary and cultural centrality of Greece. [12:43]

Ancient Greece 2
The Illiad and the Odyssey; the transition between sentient and “mind” soul endowments; Achilles and Odysseus; the strange link between party invitations and cosmic battles. [16:17]

Ancient Greece 3
The diminishing role of the gods in the Iliad; the withdrawal of the gods from the battlefield, an epochal event described Homer; Hector’s farewell, the first depiction of family love, at once tragic and lighthearted. [12:36]

Ancient Greece 4
The Odyssey, named after an individual rather than a battle or a place; a story of ancient initiation; the “Poem of Force” gives way to the “Poem of Thought.” Might and power give way to cleverness and foresight; Odysseus sees the gods but fleetingly, and only realizes it later; he takes on many “persona” before he is able to find his true nature in Ithaka. [14:33]

Ancient Greece 5
Teaching a one-week block about Ancient Greece; finding the whole in any one of the parts, e.g., the Parthenon; study its columns and pediment, its statuary and its purposes; its relationship to Egyptian architecture; all of Greek life can be derived from such a building; a look at Greek dramatists or philosophers can also serve this purpose. [16:59]

Ancient Greece 6
Teaching a two-week block about Ancient Greece; a block for a class with many boys: “War and Peace in Ancient Greece”; the two Persian Wars, and the role played by Sparta and Athens; Themistocles, the trireme, and the birth of military strategy; the rebirth of Athens; the Peloponnesian Wars, and the end of the Golden Age; the life and conquests of Alexander the Great. [17:09]

Ancient Greece 7
Teaching a three-week block about Ancient Greece; recapitulation of the gods and goddesses; Athens and Sparta; the Persian Wars; a closer look at Athenian culture, particularly sculpture; the pre-Socratic philosophers; Thales and Pythagoras; Socrates and Plato; Aristotle and Alexander the Great; Alexander’s travels through the cultural epochs. [24:51]

Ancient Cultures Part 3: A Slideshow of Student Work [43:50]

View excerpts from a performance of the Fifth Grade Class Play, “Themistocles,” Part One.

7. Language Arts
5.30: Language Arts 1
The “golden age of writing”; most of the girls grow confident and capable in writing skills, while boys need help; composition linked to the development of etheric memory forces; the “essential” and the “non-essential”; assign fewer, but better compositions; creating the rough draft in the classroom; corrections as grammar lessons. [25:24]

Language Arts 2
Creating anthologies of students’ written work as an antidote to “reports”; importance of communicating your approach to Language Arts to colleagues and to parents; many schools give teachers little leeway in the way in which writing is taught; example of a Grade Five “Writing Test” from the Rudolf Steiner School in NYC; how can children’s love of expressiveness and joy in writing be supported and strengthened? [19:21]

Language Arts 3
Recitation, speech in class plays, and everyday discourse; Fifth Grade Grammar; “learning through usage” is key; the Class Teacher as a model of good grammar (and spelling!); teaching poetic recitation in Grade Five; working with the Class Play as a division of Language Arts. [27:58]

Language Arts 4
Necessity of frequent review of earlier grades; a “to-do list” of Language Arts topics to review and solidify; should Language Arts be taught by a specialty teacher in the middle and upper grades? Active and passive voices; direct and indirect quotations; how grammar meets the psychological experiences of the Fifth Grade child; helping your students connect to the Word. [31:04]

On Film: A Guest Lecture by Jamie York, “Introducing Grade 5 Mathematics”
We are privileged to have this 15-minute long lecture by Jamie in which he illuminates the fifth grade Mathematics curriculum. Jamie has taught mathematics and science in the upper grades and high school at Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder, CO and is the author of the Making Math Meaningful books. This lecture is a preview of what eventually will be a series of webinars on the teaching of Mathematics. Click here to view the film.

8. Mathematics
5.34: Grade Five Decimals, an Introduction
Moving from whole number fractions to decimals; an introduction to the video guides below. [14:30]

Grade Five Mathematics: Teachers’ Guides

5.35: Fractions Review Part 1: A Teacher’s Guide
Before beginning work with Decimal Fractions, be sure that your class is comfortable with Common (or “Ordinary”) Fractions. This video reviews Factors. [19:20]

Fractions Review Part 2: A Teacher’s Guide
Introducing Fractions. The Four Operations with like denominators. Reducing fractions using factors. Do not overemphasize manipulative;
fractions should become conceptual as quickly as possible. Reciprocals. [18:20]

Fractions Review Part 3: A Teacher’s Guide
Multiplying and Dividing Fractions. The challenge of the fractional division algorithm. [13:00]

Fractions Review Part 4: A Teacher’s Guide
Addition and Subtraction of more complex fractions. [21:05]

Introducing Decimals Part 1: A Teacher’s Guide
Money and the decimal system. Pounds and dollars. [21:25]

Introducing Decimals Part 2: A Teacher’s Guide
Common fractions and their decimal equivalents. Place value and decimals. [21:55]

Introducing Decimals Part 3: A Teacher’s Guide
Addition and subtraction of decimal fractions. [30:50]

Introducing Decimals Part 4: A Teacher’s Guide
Multiplication and division of decimal fractions. [46:05]

9. Botany
5.43: Why Teach Botany 1
The outer revelation of the etheric world; the fifth grader’s etheric body sympathetically resonates with the plant; the etheric body is the physical body upside down and inside out, and these images can help us teach Botany in a living way. [13:29]

Why Teach Botany 2
Importance of linking the plant to the landscape and then to the earth; Geography and Botany; gain familiarity with local plants, their names and “gestures”; children can grasp some concepts and typologies, e.g. forest, tundra, desert or root, leaf, flower, or fungus, algae, grass; complementary links of plants and insects; photosynthesis, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. [15:17]

Botany Lessons 1
The counterintuitive approach with which the block begins, starting with the most “evolved” plants rather than working from below up; metamorphosis, an often-neglected principle that characterized the work of Goethe and Steiner; the “helix” of plant growth; contraction and expansion; monocotyledons and dicotyledons; the mountain as a plant writ large. [19:06]

Botany Lessons 2
The role of the tree in the Earth’s household; the progression from less-evolved to more-evolved plants seen as parallel to a human life; the interplay of insects and plants; ants, bees, butterflies, and silkworms. [16:46]

Botany Part 1: A Slideshow of Student Work [26:20]

Botany Part 2: A Slideshow of Student Work [30:40]

Botany: PDFs of Student Compositions

10. Form Drawing
5.47: Freehand Geometry in Grade Five
Freehand Geometric Drawing is both a culmination of the preceding four years of Form Drawing, and also a preview of the rigors of Grade Six Geometric Drawing, when students work with drawing instruments for the first time. [13:29]

Grade 5 Form Drawing Part 1: A Teacher’s Guide [32:00]
In this video we review the students’ experiences in their Form Drawing classes in Grades 1 to 4.

Grade 5 Form Drawing Part 2: A Teacher’s Guide [34:10]
Introduction to freehand Geometry. The interplay of the straight line and the circle.

Grade 5 Form Drawing Part 3: A Teacher’s Guide [34:00]
More circles. Inscribing triangles in the circle.

Grade 5 Form Drawing Part 4: A Teacher’s Guide [33:20]
Geometrical terms.

Grade 5 Freehand Geometric Drawing: A Slideshow of Student Work [18:20]

11. Homework, Reports, Tests
Homework, Reports, Tests Overview
The power of tradition in the Waldorf school; need for clarity – how does a tradition begin? How economic factors trump pedagogy in private and public schools alike; “You’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . “ [19:57]

Need for economy and efficiency in main lesson time; after school, do children need time to digest content, or to eat more? Who decided that Waldorf students needed homework at an ever-younger age? “Interactive” homework as a compromise solution. [16:51]

Where did “reports” originate? No pedagogical basis, but plenty of public school precedents; patchwork of blocks that include reports for no special reason, while others do not; openness to the world vs. critical thinking; parental pressure and the need to educate parents. [17:35]

Another public school solution to a deeply pedagogical problem; private Waldorf schools claim to eschew testing, but many test at least as often as charter Waldorf schools; the teacher who needs to test her class doesn’t know how to observe children carefully; testing as regurgitation. [22:43]

12. Working with Parents
Parent Work 1
Teacher survival, spiritual responsibility, and self-development – three reasons for working hard with parents. Why bad things happen to good teachers. [17:19]

Parent Work 2
The Waldorf School as a Mystery Center; need for transparency concerning Anthroposophy. Parents are also on a path. The change in the child’s karmic relationship to the teacher. New and improved shortcuts to getting fired. [24:49]

Parent Work 3
Practical advice to enhance parent-teacher communication; making parent evenings worthwhile; writing reports that parents actually want to read. [29:25]

Parent Work 4
Parent conferences; the need to compare a child’s work to her peers’ work; importance of frankness in face-to-face meetings, as well as a written record. [15:57]

Parent Work 5
Parent evenings: how to get parents to attend in the upper grades; respecting beginnings and endings; should parent evenings be compulsory? Meetings must teach parents something new about their child; structuring the meeting; humor; winning over the fathers; the teacher’s “dress code”; avoiding making meetings “class business” only. [28:45]

The Other Two-Thirds of the Class is a parent/teacher workshop led by Eugene Schwartz
at the Susquehanna Waldorf School in Marietta, PA. View both lectures here. [2:30:00]

13. Our Colleagues, Our Selves
Colleagueship 1
Note: We suggest that you invite your spouse to join you as you listen to these lectures.
Rights, Associative, Competitive - Steiner’s Threefold Social Order and the Waldorf school; the Karma of Colleagueship. [39:16]

Colleagueship 2
Faculty Chairs and Administrators; It’s Only Money. [21:16]

Self-Development 1
The Waldorf School as a Mystery Center; Class Teaching as an Initiation path. [13:10]

Self-Development 2
The “Pedagogical Law.” [24:07]

Click here for Links to Resources

Three Important Articles by Ron Milito
Ron is a retired Math and Science teacher from the Kimberton Waldorf School
Homework as a Sacred Cow Part 1
Homework as a Sacred Cow Part 2

Testing, Tracking, and Grading: The Woeful Trinity

The most thoroughly researched essays concerning all that Rudolf Steiner really had to say about homework. Important reading!

Research about Homework . . . .
Although homework may not be an issue in your school at your grade level, it looms right around the corner. Here are links to cutting edge research about the value of homework.
Click here to download the article.

. . . . and Parent Involvement in Homework
One of the homework projects described in this article sounds suspiciously like a Waldorf school assignment.
Click here to download the article.

A Provocative Article on Math
Click here to read the article

Slideshows of Student Work

To view these slideshows click on their link.

Natural Science: Botany Parts 1 & 2

Ancient Cultures: India to Mesopotamia & Assyria

Ancient Cultures: Egypt

Ancient Cultures: Greece

Geography: North America

Form Drawing: Freehand Geometry

Teachers Guides Videos

Grade Five Painting

Grade Five Mathematics

Form Drawing

Rudolf Steiner Course Excerpts

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

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]

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.
For a PDF “hard-copy” diagram of the Hierarchies,
click here.
SC10 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]

Click here to Register for Grade 5