Students in the Bay School’s elementary school program enter an ascending spiral of experience and knowledge. Year-by-year, under the guidance of faculty, they cultivate their own curiosity, imagination and creativity in service to their growing intellectual competence.
First graders have an imaginative consciousness that allows them to see pictures in everything. Main Lesson stories featuring folk tales and fairy tales offer the visual imagery used to introduce writing. This approach to teaching the alphabet is modeled on how humankind learned to write, moving from pictures to symbols, from the experiential to the abstract.
The child experiences straight and curved lines through movement activities in Morning Circle and through form drawing. Straight and curved lines are joined into pictures and through these images the shapes of the upper case letters are introduced: mountains for M, waves for W, a swan for S, a valley to unveil the shape of V. The imaginative letter picture accompanies a story. Group recitation allows the sound, feeling and spirit of the letter to be taken in by the child. Thus the symbol/letter acquires meaning and the child develops a connection to it.
Reading follows writing in a sequence repeated throughout the Waldorf curriculum, where a “will” activity such as writing precedes the more “head-centered” activity of reading. Intellectual activity ideally follows rather than precedes the experiential.
The world of numbers is introduced primarily through the experiential, activities which foster a sense of connection, joy and mobility of thought. Arithmetic operations are brought to life by personifying them through stories. For example King Plus accumulate and counts his wealth, Queen Minus dispenses her wealth to help those in need, Prince Times like to figure out the easiest and quickest ways to do things, and so on.
Grade TwoIn the simple sentences and paragraphs employed to retell Main Lesson stories, the teacher brings attention to the form of writing -- the correct use of upper and lower case letters, spacing between words, margins and borders, and simple punctuation. Emphasis is placed on neatness and artistic presentation in the writing. Main Lesson blocks include animal fables and saint stories.
Skills work focuses on learning to differentiate between types of sentences -- exclamatory, interrogative, and declarative, the concept of singular and plural, simple present and simple past. The children learn to form contractions and identify syllables. Group recitation and drama help develop sense of language, increase vocabulary, and promote good diction, self-confidence, and a sense of participation and belonging.
Reading practice takes new forms. Before reading printed texts, children read only texts that they themselves have written. In this way they come to see that the printed word arises out of the spoken word and becomes alive again through reading. In addition to reading their own words, an ever-expanding list of sight words is practiced regularly, and, as readiness allows, easy readers are introduced.
In second grade math is movement. Along with daily movement activities in Morning Circle, math is tied to the images in class stories; from the kinesthetic and imaging arise mathematical concepts. Math skills for Grade 2 include understanding simple place values and counting by 3’s, 4’s etc., adding and subtracting two digit numbers, telling time, and form drawing.
Grade ThreeMain Lesson blocks such as an Introduction to History through Old Testament Stories, Maine Geography, and practical studies in Farming and House Building offer grounded subjects to honor the students emerging sense of self as separate from the world. The children formulate together the re-telling of their Main Lesson stories and the teacher puts their words on the board for all to copy, with attention given to punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. Main Lesson book pages as well as many practice pages reveal the children’s efforts to find the flow and rhythm of each letter. This activity meets their need for activity that engages their will and they enjoy this practice as at no other age. Children eagerly shift from print to cursive writing.
Group recitation work continues as a class centering activity, with a view to nurturing the children's appreciation for beautiful language. In choosing poems for the children to learn, the teacher looks not only for rhythm and melody but also for poems that touch the children's feeling life. The third grader is growing more inward and is receptive to inner beauty. Third Grade is usually the time when a child's ability to read "takes off", when the effort to decipher and decode gives way, the words flow together, the pieces form a whole and children experience the story and content behind the words. To ensure that children are given enough practice time to achieve fluency, the class is divided into small reading groups, each with its own teacher-guide.
Mathematics includes an introduction to division and weights, time, hand’s on work in money and measurement, strengthening of basic proficiencies in the four processes, and multiplication tables through 12.
Grade FourBetween age 9 and 10 is a time of great change, as the child leaves early childhood behind and looks at the world in an increasingly wakened state. An underlying theme in Fourth Grade is that of grounding the child to feel at home in time and space. The study of local geography, of the human being in relation to the animal kingdom and the natural world, addresses the child's inner questions of, “Who am I?” “Where am I?” By learning the physical forms of the animals, their habits and way of life, students come to understand more fully the nature of human beings and their responsibility to care for all earth’s creatures.
In grammar, the study of tenses further fosters a sense of grounding, helping shape notions of being through time. The children also learn to recognize different parts of speech and understand the quality that each part brings to form the whole. Students write their own pieces during Language Arts class, writing on themes that are often from the Main Lesson.
In reading, the advent of proficiency leads students to read for fun, for information, for understanding. Students move from learning to read to reading to learn. Students refer to encyclopedias and other sources to gather information for their first research reports, usually on an animal in conjunction with the Man and Animal block. Vocabulary naturally grows out of the Main Lesson blocks and the new vocabulary associated with each new study. Reading is experienced through each child having his/her own reader and class books. Students also read main lesson teacher-generated texts from the board.
Grade 4 begins studying mathematics as a specialty skills class as well studying mathematical concepts presented during Main Lesson blocks. Math studies include computation involving multi-digit numbers in the four basic operations in a vertical format and expanded work measurements, money, estimating and rounding, and fractions.
Grade FiveFifth graders have an active interest in the people and the world around them, and the Main Lesson curriculum supports this through studies in the various regions of the continent. Geographic descriptions, map-making projects, reading assignments and reports highlight our world’s physical, economic and cultural conditions, adding to students’ appreciation of the diversity of human life on upon the earth.
The focus of language arts work in grade five is learning to write good paragraphs. Indeed, with a fifth grader’s awakening sense for the logical, it is now possible to begin to work the principle of paragraphing. Drawing upon main lesson stories for their content, the children learn how to arrange their own ideas and how to develop a logical sequence to create a whole piece. By the end of fifth grade, students are expected to be confident in their understanding and application of capitalization and punctuation rules, as well as the use of apostrophes and quotation marks, so that their writing at a technical level is increasingly accurate. This paves the way for a formal introduction to the study of grammar in sixth grade.
Reading continues to hold a central place in the fifth grade language arts curriculum. Fifth grade reading skills include: making appropriate book choices, reading aloud and silently, responding to literature orally and in writing, and figuring out the meaning of unfamiliar words through context clues or decoding.
Mathematics studies include using fractions and working with common denominators, long division with three digit multipliers and dividers, freehand geometry, and an introduction to graphing.
All fifth graders participate in a regional Olympiad, modeled on the Greek Pentathlon. After months of preparation, students compete in long jump, dash, wrestling, and the like, representing city states made up of combinations of students from other Waldorf schools from Maine, New Hampshire and Canada. The event focuses on form, effort and sportsmanship as elements found in healthy competition.
Grade SixMain Lesson blocks in physics, geology and geometry introduce the formal study of science. Students learn to observe accurately, account for their observations, and draw conclusions, and as they learn basic constructions and concepts and draw and shade geometrical forms, they become better able to bring order into their feelings.
By 6th grade students are well on the way to developing a good writing hand and can turn their attention to other matters implied in the phrase a "well-written” text. With neatness, legibility, and overall presentation now happening almost automatically, the attention of the students is brought to methodical proofreading. By the end of 6th grade, "informed" proofreading is expected to be an integral part of each student's writing habits.
Grammar lessons begin with a review of the parts of speech and continue into the parts of a sentence. They also learn to distinguish between the active and passive voices and direct and indirect speech. Literature class features in-depth discussion around class readers, and students are encouraged to not only understand the details of the plot, but also to consider writing techniques and styles used by authors.
Poetry study provides occasion for discovering literary devices such as alliteration, simile, and metaphor. Weekly spelling and vocabulary work includes a focus on suffixes, prefixes, roots, and origins of words.
New mathematical concepts include work with decimals, exponents and fractions, multi-step problems, prime factorization, expanded geometry using a compass and ruler.
Grade SevenIn Main Lesson, history begins with the ancient eastern cultures and progresses through the great ages of civilization. History is largely taught through biography. Students learn about the lives of significant men and women, subsequently finding reflections of their own growth and development and becoming better able to understand themselves. As seventh graders actively begin to challenge the world around them, they study cultural and social revolutions, which often closely mirror their own inner growth.
With regard to writing mechanics and skills, this year serves to ingrain the good writing habits. Diagramming is introduced to reinforce and consolidate their study of parts of speech and of the sentence. To the notion of systematic proofreading and "technical edits" is added that of the "second draft". Students work one-on-one with the teacher or in small editing groups to review their first draft text for more substantive changes than the minor technical errors, developing a new appreciation for "good writing" and interest in the editing process as their capacity to discern stylistic features and mechanical errors grows.
Students have their first experience with more in-depth research work and report, including from one to three entries on a subject of personal interest related to each Main Lesson block. Vocabulary is strengthened through weekly units in the Wordly Wise series provide practice on the new words through synonym and antonym exercises, multiple choice, and fill in the blank activities. While group recitation work in Morning Circle continues as means of developing confidence, and strengthening voice projection and articulation, opportunities are now provided for practicing solo public speaking through short speech-giving exercises, debates, and oral presentations. Diction, clarity of voice, and posture are addressed.
Literature class meets twice weekly, and the average pacing is a book about every three weeks. During class discussion time and through weekly study guide questions, students are called upon to reflect on what has been discovered and learned, summarize important sections, explain relevance of certain passages/sections to the story as a whole, identify specific literary devices an author uses to involve readers, identify author's purpose and point of view, formulate questions, defend opinions they form about what they have read, understand that people respond to literature in different and individual ways, as well as to make connections between their own lives and the characters, events, and circumstances represented in various works.
Seventh grade math students work on solving problems involving area and perimeter, simple percents, factorization, all operations with fractions and decimals, geometric shapes and operations, square roots, percentages, solving geometric areas, and calculating mean, median and mode for sets of data.
Grade EightA major component of Main Lesson curriculum is constituted by the sciences. By the end of eighth grade students will have received an introduction to all the earth sciences as well as physics, chemistry, and human physiology. Physical and chemical processes are not studied in isolation; the connections and relevance of these subjects to the human being is highlighted throughout. Observations of demonstrations and of natural phenomena involves becoming aware of the assumptions we carry and letting go often letting them, and only then truly thinking for ourselves. This method fosters in our students sensitivity to the world around them and a sense of responsibility for it as well as a developmentally critical confidence in their own powers of perception and thinking.
In writing, the focus is on the essay form -- a composition of three or more paragraphs, which develops a thesis statement clearly formulated in the introductory paragraph. Students learn to choose a focus, write a thesis statement, transition into succeeding paragraphs, and formulate a strong conclusion. Different types of essay forms are explored.
Opportunities continue to be provided within each block for short research papers, with use of various source materials, bibliographies, and footnoting. Other forms of writing practiced include newspaper reporting, reading responses, current events review and opinion pieces, editorial writing, summaries, creative writing -- short stories, memoirs, journaling, poetry, personal and autobiographical narratives.
The 2-3 times weekly writing of traditional main lesson "re-telling texts" for inclusion into Main Lesson Books continues, as it has through all the earlier grades, as the primary means of taking ownership over the material covered. Writing process steps -- prewriting strategies, first draft, revising, second draft, proofreading -- are emphasized for all writing assignments. Work with vocabulary, speech, and literature continues as described above.
Eighth grade math students solve a range of percent problems, operations with negative numbers, measurements of area, surface area and volume, the four operations with multi-digits, fraction and decimal operations. Probability and simple statistics is introduced. The overriding math curriculum for this grade is algebra, using equations, word problems, line graphs, and exponents in expressions.
Eighth graders are the school’s great ambassadors, whether through the sports program or inter-school events on the Blue Hill peninsula. They are natural leaders and strong models in the school community, interacting easily with the younger students at recess, maintaining comfortable and respectful relationships with their teachers and other adults, and carefully looking after their 1st grade partners. Eighth graders engage in a self-selected project, working with a mentor on a skill or subject of interest to them. Eighth Grade Projects are a highlight of the year, with each student presenting to the entire school as well as family and friends close to the end of the year.