Grades 1 - 8

Grade 1

Developmental Profile of a Grade 1 Child*

The seven year old child continues to develop independent and pictorial thinking. The child is eager to bring focused concentration to learning settings. Much learning is orchestrated through rich, imaginative pictures, activities, and imitations which lay the groundwork for future critical and conceptual thinking.

Educational Experience

First grade is the beginning of formal schooling marked by children's new interest in learning, inspired by the awakening abilities of memory and thinking. Waldorf School of Orange County meets the student's innate curiosity and desire to grow with a rich multisensory experience. Students sculpt, draw, move, listen, imagine and sound out — all ways to engage different learning styles — to stimulate the young mind so that the students become motivated eager learners. Students establish good habits of classroom life and work that will form the basis for all subsequent learning at school. The students and teacher build the foundation for an ever-deepening relationship while forming a socially cohesive group during this special year of "beginnings."

Waldorf School of Orange County

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 2

Developmental Profile of a Grade 2 Child*

The eight year old child continues to reside in a largely self-created psychological landscape. The events and experiences of the outside world are filtered through the child's imagination and rearranged to accord with the child's homogenous world-picture.

Cognitively, the child continues to be at home in an environment where content is presented in a richly pictorial way. Concepts are best understood when they are mobile and organic in quality.

Educational Experience

This year, children continue to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of arithmetic and literacy, further developing a repertoire of skills that were initially introduced in grade 1. The curriculum content for this age serves to cultivate a sense of breadth and richness of the language of the feelings and emotions. Teachers continue to use movement, rhythm and rhyme as a key instructional tool.

Waldorf School of Orange County

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 3

Developmental Profile of a Grade 3 Child*

Noticeable physiological, psychological and cognitive changes take place in the child this year. The nine/ten year threshold represents a very significant step in self-awareness. Children realize they are separate from their surroundings and meet the world as individuals, often resulting in increased questions, self-doubt and wonder.

A process begins to unfold through which the child experiences, with increasing strength, a sense of objectivity alongside growing subjectivity. Subjective inner experiences and objective world reality stand at odds within the child's soul. Questioning, doubt, aloneness and a dawning tendency to criticize are emergent feature in the child's psychological landscape.

Educational Experience

In this period the child empathizes with stories of the Old Testament, the fall from Eden and man's first struggles to live in social groups on the earth. At this age, children are very interested in the origin of things.

They want to discover new ways of doing things in the world and imagine themselves in very primitive conditions. The practical life is taken up in studies of house building, farming, gardening, cooking and finding out about the jobs people do.

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 4

Developmental Profile of a Grade 4 Child*

In grades 4 and 5, when the child reaches 10-11, the transition from early childhood is complete and the transition towards puberty has not yet begun. This second seven-year period is referred to in Steiner Waldorf pedagogy as the "heart of childhood."

In fourth grade the child feels very much separate from any of the security and comforts that previously were supportive. This is a time to look around and see how one stands in relationship to that which is near and to find security and uprightness through that relationship. Four is a sign of stability and strength and balance: the four winds, the four seasons, the four elements. Four represents a sense of steadiness and completion. It is this sense of four, in the midst of separateness and defiance, that is at the very heart of the fourth grade curriculum.

The fourth grader is at odds with the world. Questions take on a personal twist: "How do you know?" There is an earnestness stemming from a new awareness of just what they're up against in the world. Therefore, every possible opportunity is given to meet these oppositions in quite unexpected ways, ways in which the child can have the experience of crossing and, at the same time being led towards a wholesome resolution.

Educational Experience

The fourth grade student is eager to learn more about their world close to home. Through imaginatively presented lessons, the teacher meets the growing interest of the children in more concrete areas of knowledge and provides them with opportunities for more independence in their work. The curriculum helps the children form a sense of their relationship to their environment, in both a social and geographical sense.

In form drawing, Celtic knots are challenging tangles of skill and beauty. The feeling of separateness comes in handy here, otherwise one might get lost in the maze. The theme of separateness is further reflected in the mathematics curriculum with the study of fractions, introduced with concrete objects to demonstrate truths before forming mental concepts.

The fourth grade child is now introduced to string instruments — if not introduced in the previous grade — something delicate and yet powerful that will not answer endless questions nor oblige shortcuts to success. A new discipline and respect is called for in the child. There stands the player, and there the instrument, as separate as anything could be! The music is the bridge.

Throughout the year we hear and read stories of heroes. The hero emerges as someone to look up to, emulate, laugh at, respect. There may still be the miraculous feats and yet, the human qualities - the emotions, the struggles and the confrontations - are emphasized; the children understand more than anyone else the hero's plight to slay the dragon, to woo the maiden, to succeed in the three tasks. In the stories of the Norse Myths, the gods of Asgard are portrayed as individuals with distinct personalities; the children learn from Loki the consequences of amoral cleverness; Thor faces seemingly insurmountable odds, yet through perseverance is at last triumphant; Odin, ruler of the gods, gives his eye to drink of Mimir's well so that he may gain wisdom and spiritual vision to protect Asgard.

As the children become more aware of the world, the challenges of life may seem overwhelming. The Norse stories give the children the strength to face these challenges.

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 5

Developmental Profile of a Grade 5 Child*

This age marks the pivotal point between childhood and puberty and the child attains a certain ease and grace of movement intrinsic to the age. Movement that is coordinated, balanced and harmonious is a key-note of the developmental stage. Cognitively, the children are more able to understand questions and phenomena in a realistic and reasoning manner.

Out of the growing memory powers, a sense for time has developed. Memory allows for looking back and planning for the future and, combined with deepening feeling, for the emergence of conscience and responsibility.

Intellectually and morally, the child is ready for new challenges. Foundations for the basic skills in numeracy and literacy have been set down in the tenth year. Elementary notions of personal responsibility and a faculty for understanding "right from wrong" in a "reasoning spirit" may be grasped from this age.

Fifth graders are enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges and capable of hard work and creativity. They still have openness to the world, and a level of confidence that makes them easy to teach. They stand perfectly balanced at a point in their development that places them at ease in the world, harmonious in themselves and in their environment.

Educational Experience

The children now feel secure enough in their sense of self to begin the exploration of the world in ever-widening circles of time and space. In geography, they study the United States and its neighboring North American nations. In history, they meet the ancient civilizations of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece through the study of mythology and culture.

Plant life is the focus of science, and decimals are introduced in the mathematical lessons. Instrumental music, singing and artistic studies continue.

Waldorf School of Orange County

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 6

Developmental Profile of a Grade 6 Child*

In the sixth grade, the harmony and balance often experienced in the previous year fades, and pre-adolescent struggles begin to appear. Physically, the child's limbs are suddenly growing. Emotionally, the child is at times feeling critical, uncomfortable and longs to be part of a group. The 12-year-old witnesses what may be described as the death of childhood and the birth pangs of the individual.

At this age, the teacher aims to work with the children's growing orientation towards the outer world. As new capacities for thinking emerge, the children can be led to understand causal relationships at work in the world. The students can be challenged and are capable of high standards in their school work.

Waldorf School of Orange County

Educational Experience

Sixth grade is the gateway to preadolescence and idealism. The curriculum serves to ground the students, to inspire them to venture out toward the unknown and to offer an introduction to their quest in life. This year is both an ending and a beginning.

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 7

Developmental Profile of a Grade 7 Child*

In grade 7, the pupils turn 13, become teenagers and enter puberty. The visible physiological changes and rapid growth are accompanied by psychological upheaval at least as disorienting and often more so. In both realms, the child loses whatever balance and tranquility they have acquired in the heart of childhood.

An appetite for knowledge of, and about, world phenomena, mingles with an emerging capacity for reflection and the first promptings of self reflection. The physical changes which establish sexual identity and capacity begin to manifest more clearly. These physical changes tend to appear in advance of the psychological development. While a feeling and yearning for independence and solitude may be experienced, a certain anxiety, emotional sensitivity and embarrassment can run alongside. Sporadic bursts of energy and an appetite for expanding outer horizons compete with periods of lethargic heaviness and subdued introspection.

Teachers and parents come up against the limit of their abilities to directly influence the children. Much of what has been adopted in terms of behavior, attitudes or habits is lost or becomes ambivalent.

Educational Experience

Through the exploration of an unknown world, the seventh grade curriculum challenges the thought processes of the young adolescent, leading him/her to discovery, understanding and discernment. They learn, as the Explorers did, that going one's own way means leaving behind the familiar territory of security and stability.

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher


Grade 8

Developmental Profile of a Grade 8 Child*

At 14, the pupils are "into" adolescence: bodily and psychological changes are well under way, so that in general, the young person seems more robust and the tenderness of the previous two years has lessened somewhat. Growth in height and sexual development are clearly established, with the onset of voice change in boys and the establishing of the menstrual cycle in girls. At this age, the world of ideas begins to take on meaning for the young adolescent and the critical faculties of the 14 year old are noticeably sharper and parts of the accepted framework—particular rules for example—are subject to questioning scrutiny. Counter balancing this critical tendency is the emergence of reasoning or a "reasonable" side in the child.

Educational Experience

A Waldorf eighth grader experiences a gradual but significant shift from the presentation of a subject solely from the teacher to the class, to the mutual consideration of a subject by teacher and class together. A sense of community develops, in which speaking becomes more thoughtful, listening more attentive.

The result is a greater sense of self. The students expand their sense of place in the world. More importantly, they leave with compelling questions that will continue to fuel their love of learning in the years ahead.

Waldorf School of Orange County

* Reference: The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, - Edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Ritcher