Essential Waldorf

Know What. Know How. Know Why.

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The Online Special Subject Teachers Conference
for Grades 5-8

Click here to Register for the Conference

Lecture and Presentation Topics
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 ten days that you choose. You may listen to or view them in any order and as often as you wish during the 14-day conference period. Topics in
black are audio sessions; topics in teal include video or slideshow sessions. Topics are subject to change.

Note: This general description of the Conference contents will be revised and fleshed-out as lectures are recorded. Check this page once or twice a week for more detailed descriptions!

Table of Contents

Grade Five
1. The Fifth Grader
501a: 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
502: 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. History
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]

4. Language Arts
510a: 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]

5. Botany
512a: 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]

Grade 5 Slideshows of Student Work

Natural Science: Botany

Ancient Cultures: India to Mesopotamia & Assyria

Grade Six
1. The Nature of the Sixth Grader

6.4: The Sixth Grader, Part 1 (10:36)
Changes wrought by the astral body. The “Twelve Year Change.” The streaming in of forces from the future. Parental karma and individual karma.

6.5: The Sixth Grader, Part 2 (19:49)
Relationship of birth horoscope and freedom. Astronomy. Perfection of the starry world. Sixth grader’s response to inner and outer changes. The “Terrible Twos” and the “Terrible Twelves.” Rejection of parents and parental relationship to their teacher.

6.6: The Sixth Grader, Part 3 (14:26)
Age Twelve in the life of Jesus. Steiner’s “Fifth Gospel.” Grade Six and puberty are often overlooked.The product of fourfoldness (Temperaments) and twofoldness (Personality). Fixation on etheric, rather than understanding of astral.

2. Astronomy

6.25: Why Do We Teach Astronomy? (11:00)
Is Astronomy a 6th or 7th Grade subject? The Seven Liberal Arts. The reawakening of medieval memories. The starry world and the script of Destiny.

6.26: The Content of the Astronomy Block, Part 1 (15:00)
Books by Hermann v. Baravalle, Norman Davidson, H. A. Rey. Constellations -- or Inspiration? Reports on Greek myths. Extrapolation and Thinking.

6.27: The Content of the Astronomy Block, Part 2 (15:50)
Apparent movement of the stars. The Pole Star and its relative positions. The phases of the Moon. The complementary nature of the Moon and Sun. Eclipses. Tears and triumphs.

Astronomy: Slideshow of Student Work (42:20)

3. Language Arts

6.28: Watch Your Language! Part 1 (15:10)
Speech Formation and Grammar. Muscles and skeleton. Relaxation of standards in teacher training. Dearth of examples of good usage. Common errors of teachers. Lie and lay.

6.29: Watch
Your Language! Part 2 (15:40)
Latin and Latin Grammar. Fading away of “case” in English. Pronouns after “than.” Weakening of understanding of “I” as subject and preference for “me” as object. Present Perfect and Past Perfect. Teacher’s usage must become more grammatically complex in the upper grades.

6.30: Why Do We Teach Language Arts? (15:40)
Why teach Language Arts as a separate subject? The interplay of the etheric and astral bodies permeates everything done in 6th Grade Language Arts. Will a Language Arts specialist help? Examples of student writing in History and Physics blocks.

6.31: Narrative and Expository Writing (10:20)
More samples of student writing in Physics block. “Out there” and “In here.” Etheric supports narrative experience (inward) and Astral stimulates expository presentation (outward). Structure of the Physics demonstration report.

6.32: Triads of Tenses, Part 1 (16:35)
Tense at ages 10 and 12. Interplay of physical/etheric and astral/Ego. From simple tenses to “perfect” tenses. Past Perfect and the penetration of the physical world.

6.33: Triads of Tenses, Part 2 (13:31)
Present Perfect tense. We “have” our past experience with us in the present. The Hermes/Mercury forces of the higher astral body. In Present Perfect the astral body reflects upon itself. From Saturn evolution to Earth evolution.

6.34: Triads of Tenses, Part 3 (13:47)
Future Perfect Tense. We “will” the future, or we “are going” to the future. The astral Mercury forces look to the Ego, and the future takes on great specificity. Like Aeneas carrying Anchises on his shoulders, Future Perfect carries the past and the present into the future.

6.35: The Subjunctive Mood (24:35)
Verb tense and verb mood. Moodiness and the 6th grader’s perception of reality: “Through a glass darkly.” Indicative and Imperative moods. Wishes, hopes, dreams. The Subjunctive as a portal into the world of becoming. “Gearing down” verb tenses in “as though,” and “as if” clauses. The power of clauses beginning with “if.” Subjunctive only introduced in Grade 6, and examined with greater depth in Grade 7.

4. Roman History: Aeneas to the Republic
6.44: Why Do We Teach Roman History? (16:50)

“Touching the Earth,” more cliché than reality. Greeks embody the health of the etheric body, Romans the disarray of the astral body. Polarities as the key to Roman history Astrality and sclerosis, the hardening of the earth. America and the “ghost of Rome.” Roman culture and history and its influence on American life.

6.45: Overview of Roman History (17:20)
From myth to history. The essential and the non-essential. The Aeneid as preface to Rome. Greek and Roman gods. Threefold structure of Roman history: Kings, Republic, Empire. The Roman City. Civitas, civility, citizen, citizenship. Architecture and engineering, the Roman army. Noble Romans. The failure of the Republic and the life of Julius Caesar. The Empire and its Emperors. The life of Jesus. The christianization of Rome, and the romanization of Christianity. The decline and fall of Rome.

6.46: The Origins of Rome, Part 1 (16:00)
Aeneid, the Latin Odyssey. The poet Virgil’s importance for medieval culture. Aeneas as the bridge between the old clairvoyance and Roman materialism. Romulus and Remus, sons of Mars. The ravenous wolf forces flow into the life blood of Rome’s founders. Aggression and fratricide set the scene for the nature of Roman life.

6.47: The Origins of Rome, Part 2 (13:40)
The “maleness” of early Rome. The Sabine women. Patricians and Plebeians, the prototype of Rome’s political polarities. The Seven Kings. Tarquinus Superbus and the throne of blood. Horatius and his sister. Brutus and his sons.

6.48: The Roman History Main Lesson (18:50)
How many History blocks should be teach in Grade 6? The teacher’s ambivalent relationship to Rome. Rhythms of incarnation. The importance of Rome to today’s student. The structure of the main lesson blocks. The structure of the daily main lesson.

5. Early Medieval History

6.57: Why Do We Teach Medieval History? (19:00)
Rhythms of incarnation. Some souls on the Earth today are drawn to millennial transitions. The “shock-wave” of Golgotha and the “Dark Ages.” The death of old clairvoyant forces. Estrangement from the spiritual world. The Age of Faith. The Monastery and the Castle, the Monk and the Knight. Understanding Aspergers and ADHD.

6.58: Overview of Medieval History (11:05)
Arthurian Legends. The rise of Feudalism. King and Pope. The Life of Mohammed and the rise of Islam. Charlemagne. The First Crusade.

Grade 6 Slideshows & Videos

Geometric Drawing, Part 1: Slideshow of Student Work (16:00)

Geometric Drawing, Part 2: Slideshow of Student Work (21:20)

Geometric Drawing: A Guide for Teachers, Part 1 (1 hour)

Geometric Drawing: A Guide for Teachers, Part 2 (45:00)

Grade Seven
1. The Seventh Grader

7.1. The fourfold human being. For a Waldorf teacher to work with this concept again and again is like a musician going through the scales. The superficiality of our understanding of this forcefulness. The necessity of looking at life after death and before birth to understand the bodies of the human being. Waldorf schools often fail in their work with adolescents because the deeper aspects of their nature or not studied. [15:00]

7.2. Life after death. The separation of the four bodies of the human being. Each makes its own journey into different realms of the spiritual world. The physical body unites with the substantiality of the earthly, physical world. The affair body expands into the world of formative forces and cosmic memory. The astral body leaves in the world of the planets, and comes to understand the consequences of uncontrolled feelings. The ego works with spiritual beings on forming the body for our next earthly life. Only with such a physical body can we fulfill our karma. The power of the sense of touch. The essential human task of fulfilling karma is deeply felt by the adolescent. [15:50]

7.3. The physical body. The spiritual world looks with wonder at human beings were able to live in a body composed of minerals. It is as though the soul and spirit were imprisoned in a stone from their point of view. Yet the physical body is the highest and the lowest aspect of our being. It is the most perfect, and it is most prone to the hardening forces of the physical world. The mystery of the “model body.” Parents must prepare their child to live in the physical world by lending him a body that is not yet his own. The struggles of adolescents, the emotional ups and downs, and the rejection of the adult world are all connected with the child's need to possess her own physical body. [15:15]

7.4. The etheric body. The etheric body which was the dominant aspect of the child that we talk in the primary and middle grades is now withdrawing from its outer manifestation. With every growth spurt, the adolescent reveals the work of the etheric body through her fatigue. But just as often the etheric pulls back, the astral dominates, and the child becomes wildly active. We rarely utilize the full forces of memory that the etheric  has bequeathed to a child of this age. But they will not be as strong when the astral body becomes dominant. The twilight of the temperaments, and the unfolding of forces of personality. [14:50]

7.5. The astral body. The astral body brings tremendous disruption into the child's life. It is the "problem child" of the four bodies. However most importantly it is also the body that bears are individual karma. Before we or 12 or 13, our karma is carried in the womb of our parents. But by the time the child is in seventh grade, his or her own karma is beginning to arise. This will lead to many profound changes, and many inner struggles. The etheric body moves at the speed of sound. The astral body moves at the speed of light. When the astral body hits you, you feel it. [17:00]

7.6. The Ego. There is great potential for confusing the Ego's image in the astral body with the Ego itself. We must understand that two streams of time to which Steiner pointed in order to comprehend the true nature of the astral body and the Ego. [14:40]

7.7. Working with the Ego. Waldorf schools are too often known for their successes with the astral bodies of their children, e.g. the tearful graduation speeches in which students and parents talk about nothing but class relationships. The growth of Waldorf alumni societies is also based on the astral relationships that students have built up over the years. They want to go back to that rather than forward into the future. Waldorf education will not remain viable in the future unless we are able to touch the ego just as clearly and just as successfully. How do we help children move forward? The importance of laboratory sciences in the upper grades. The necessity of laboratory sciences being taught by the class teacher in the upper grades, not by an expert. [14:40]

2. Curriculum and Preparation

7A. The Seventh Grade Curriculum, Part 1 [15:50]

7B. The Seventh Grade Curriculum, Part 2 [15:50]

7C. Preparing for the Year, Part 1 [18:20]

7D. Preparing for the Year, Part 2 [13:00]

The Integrated Seventh Grade Curriculum:
A Dynamic Diagram

3. Language Arts 2

7.19 Language Arts 7. Conjunctions. Of the three types of conjunctions-coordinating, subordinating, and correlative, we will only work with coordinating conjunctions. The primal nature of coordinating conjunctions. How to form a list. The importance of the rule of parallel structure. Developing an "ear" for what is correct in the use of coordinating conjunctions. Punctuation when using coordinating conjunctions. [14:25]

7.20 Language Arts 8. Coordinating conjunctions. Two independent clauses are joined. Special attention must be paid to punctuation. Polarities and the seventh grader. The comma as fulcrum for the balance beam of a sentence. The semi-colon and the pregnant pause, the colon, and the period. Punctuation and breathing, the nature of the astral body. Developing “style” through grammatical construction. Conjunctions bring meaning to a sentence. [9:10]

7.21 Creative Writing 1 [15:40]

7.22 Creative Writing 2 [10:25]

7.23 Creative Writing 3 [16:35]

7.24 Creative Writing 4 [16:10]

7.25 Triads of Tenses 1.
Tense at ages 10 and 12. Interplay of physical/etheric and astral/Ego. From simple tenses to “perfect” tenses. Past Perfect and the penetration of the physical world. [16:15]

7.26 Triads of Tenses 2. Present Perfect tense. We “have” our past experience with us in the present. The Hermes/Mercury forces of the higher astral body. In Present Perfect the astral body reflects upon itself. From Saturn evolution to Earth evolution. [13:30]

7.27 Triads of Tenses 3. Future Perfect Tense. We “will” the future, or we “are going” to the future. The astral Mercury forces look to the Ego, and the future takes on great specificity. Like Aeneas carrying Anchises on his shoulders, Future Perfect carries the past and the present into the future. [13:50]

4. Renaissance History 1

Before listening to these lectures, click here to download the Timeline PDF

7.36 The Renaissance 1: A Spiritual Perspective. Rudolf Steiner's teachings about the unfolding soul forces of humanity. Like seeds or medicines that are encapsulated, the soul forces have been predetermined to come to life and activity at certain historical periods in humanity’s development. The sentient soul characterizes ancient cultures from India through Persia through Babylonia to the end of Egyptian culture. The intellectual soul or mind soul comes to birth in ancient Greece and lives on through Rome and the Middle Ages. [16:10]

7:37: The Renaissance 2. The Consciousness Soul. Steiner is very specific about the birth of the consciousness soul in the year 1413. The astral body awakens in the physical body and self-consciousness begins. The birth of the consciousness soul is well-documented and leads to the growth of powerful individualities. We cannot understand the times in which we live without understanding the times in which the consciousness soul was born. The grave importance of the seventh grade curriculum. [18:00]

7.38: The Renaissance 3. Heredity and Individuality. The role of the Archangel Gabriel at the time of the Renaissance. Gabriel focuses on birth and early childhood, heredity and family life. Gabriel's mission is to serve as a counterbalance to the powerful individualizing forces of the consciousness soul. The discovery of the reproductive system of the human being. [14:35]

7.39: The Renaissance 4. A Chronological Overview. We look at the Renaissance Timeline PDF. We are going to focus (for the most part) on a period of only 150 years, but it is filled with drama and historical transformation. [12:50]

5. Physiology 1

7.62: Physiology 1. Varying approaches to this subject. Is it more of a “Health and Hygiene” course, or does it belong in the “Natural Sciences” stream that began with Zoology? Proceed cautiously with the “Threefold Human Being.” Beware of passively repeating whatever other teachers have done without understanding what Steiner meant by “threefoldness.” States of consciousness in our body. [19:50]

7.63: Physiology 2. Each of the three major bodily systems carries the imprint of the other two systems. Digestion as an example. The “sensory” and “rhythmic” aspects of digestion. [15:10]

7.64: Physiology 3. More on the mouth. The threefold structure of our teeth. Orthodontics. The stress caused by cold food. Artificial flavors and aromas that “give the lie” to our digestive system. The severance of the sensory and metabolic systems. The need for ever stronger flavors. [20:10]

7.65: Physiology 4. The stomach and the intestines. Polarities of acid and base. The spleen as “the heart of the digestive system.” The transformation of fats. The role of bacteria in our digestive system. Eating disorders. [14:15]

7.66: Physiology 5. The “Rhythmic” (Respiratory/Circulatory) System. Eugene in court, undergoing interrogation by lawyers concerning the nature of the human heart. If “the heart is not a pump,” then just what
is it? The hydraulic ram and the phenomenon of water that moves upstream. The “new” heart that the adolescent receives. Awakening to our rhythmic system. [23:20]

7.67: Physiology 6. The embryonic heart and the rushing mountain stream. Ice formation and congealing blood. The hearts of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals compared to the human heart.[19:20]

7.68: Physiology 7. What is “cardiac muscle”? The voluntary/involuntary nature of the muscles of the heart. The beats-per-minute of the human being compared to smaller and larger animals. The astralization of the heart through athletic activity. [16:40]

Student Work Slideshow: Physiology [17:00]

Perspective Drawing:
Three Instructional Films with Eugene Schwartz

1. Introduction. Single Point Perspective [50:45]

2. Two Point Perspective. The Box [35:45]

3. Buildings. Roof and Steeple. Windows. Interiors.

Perspective Drawing:
Student Work

Student Work Slideshow: Perspective Drawing [42:40]

Grade Eight
[Note: The Eighth Grade segment is still under construction.]

The Nature of the Eighth Grader
The hidden resonance of Grade Two and Grade Eight. Polarization in the second grade and eighth grade curriculum. On the threshold of high school. Confusion of “personality” and “individuality.” Social dynamics.

Aligned with the Octave – or Behind the Eight Ball?
The essential differences between the 7th and 8th grader. Where did all the parents go? The loneliness of the long-distance teacher: collegial strains and stresses. Do language specialists, math specialists, science specialists, social-inclusion specialists etc. make the class teacher a figurehead? Will my colleagues want me to return after eighth grade? Will I want to return?

Don’t Get Manic About Academic Panic
How did I not notice all the children still adding with their fingers? At what grade level are my students reading? (Are my students reading?) Will a heavier homework load help them make the quantum leap? How about more tests? Letter grades? Textbooks? Projects? Most of your parents and many of your colleagues will be in a state of panic over the 8th graders’ academic shortcomings. We will take a good, hard look at “The Basics,” and proffer advice on keeping your head on your shoulders (at least until you teach the French Revolution).

The Subjects (and their Objects)
We will look at the Grade Eight curriculum from an unabashedly anthroposophical point of view. If any subject does not strike a chord in the adolescent heart and soul, (no matter rich its content) it is a waste of time, and eighth graders will respond accordingly. How to bring life to our subjects – and how to bring life back into our teaching.

Grade 8 Student Work in History: Copernicus and Galileo
To understand these two titans of the modern scientific worldview, eighth graders must exercise their powers of analysis and critical thinking. And to present what they have learned requires the ability to synthesize a number of subjects in the Waldorf curriculum.

Grade 8 Student Work in History: The Reformation
The dramatic change in consciousness that characterizes the Reformation is embodied in individuals such as Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. As students experience biographies of increasingly complex human beings they also delight in reproducing their portraits and learn the ways in which the outer form reflects the inner nature of the subject.

Grade 8 Student Work in History: The French Revolution
From the grandeur of the Court of Louis XIV to the horror of the Reign of Terror, the French Revolution has something to hold the interest of everyone in the eighth grade classroom. Unlike the relatively tame political reform that characterized the American colonies’ dispute with the British, the French Revolution marked a true turning point in world culture. It is one of the most perfect of all subjects to teach in this year.

Grade 8 Student Work in History: American History
Although relatively tame when compared to the French Revolution, the American Revolution has its share of heroes and villains, near-disasters and triumphs. We will see two interesting student perspectives on the subject.

Click here to Register for the Conference