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Lower Grades

Welcome to Portland Waldorf School Lower School!

Here are some of the ways that Waldorf education is different...

Class Teacher
Unique to Waldorf schools is the class teacher, who often remains with the class from first through eighth grade. The teacher presents the main lesson each day. He or she takes long-term responsibility for the students' academic education, as well as for their physical and social development. The relationship that develops between teacher and student over the years parallels the continuity in the curriculum and fosters self-assurance and confidence. The teachers work in partnership with the parents to guide, motivate, protect, and encourage the student.

Main Lesson
In the elementary grades, each class begins the day with a two-hour main-lesson period, the academic cornerstone for the day. The main lessons are planned in a block system. Each block lasts from three to six weeks, during which a specific academic subject is examined in depth. The students keep thorough notebooks of the main-lesson studies. They transcribe, amplify, and illustrate these notes in main-lesson books that become more than a means of recording and reinforcing learning: they are a primary stimulus to further study and an aesthetic creation in which students take great pride.

In practical and cultural activities, the teachers' objective is to present all subjects creatively to meet the students, needs at each stage in their development. Because the students are actively engaged by the participatory presentation, the lessons are alive and meaningful. Each students' imagination is stimulated and disciplined.

Two Foreign Languages
Beginning in first grade, we teach both German and Spanish. This provides the children with insights into two other cultures and facility with the language.

At PWS sciences are taught experientially; that is to say, the experiment is set up and students are called upon to observe carefully, ponder, discuss, and then  discover the conclusion,  law, formula, etc.  Through this process, rigorous, independent thinking and sound judgment are trained.

Music permeates and harmonizes life in a Waldorf school through a curriculum designed to develop the innate musicality in every child.  In the first grade students sing, and learn to play a simple wooden flute; both activities are practiced daily through the elementary school years.  In the third grade, a stringed instrument is introduced. In the sixth grade, a student may choose a wind or brass instrument instead.  Music is taught not only for its own sake and the joy it engenders, but also because it brings a strong harmonizing and humanizing force into the students' life, strengthening the will and capacities for the future.

Special Subject
The students' day continues with special subject classes including: Spanish, German, Physical Education, Eurythmy, Handwork, and Woodworking. Taught by faculty who are specialists in their respective fields, these classes are designed to broaden students' cultural, social, and practical skills and capacities. Two languages, Spanish and German, are taught from the first through the eighth grade. Eurythmy, a performing art of movement that incorporates music and speech, is also taken throughout the elementary years. Vocal music is part of the students' daily life at school, and everyone learns to play a flute beginning in first grade. Each child is encouraged to learn a second instrument beginning in the third grade. By the fifth grade each class has its own orchestra. Handwork begins in kindergarten and continues to grow in sophistication through the grades, from knitting to designing and making clothing. Whereas the young children have games and plenty of outdoor activities, the Physical Education program begins in third grade. The students learn folk dancing and gymnastics in addition to traditional sports. Woodworking is added in the fifth grade. Students learn about the quality of wood while working on designing and carving skills.

For further exploration of Waldorf curriculum, click to learn more about Grades 1-3, Grades 4-5, and Grades 6-8.