The Founder of Anthroposophy

To Diana

 

From: Patrick
Date: Thu Apr 8, 2004 10:19 am
Subject: To Diana

Dear Diana,

I'm still curious why you never replied to my post....

Patrick

-----Original Message-----
From: Patrick
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2004 4:12 PM
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: The Founder of Anthroposophy

Dear Diana,

It is not true that most of first grade in a Waldorf school should be spent learning to copy the alphabet.

<snip>

It is not true that most of first grade in a Waldorf school should be spent learning to copy the alphabet. If the teacher is doing this he or she is not well-trained or is idiosyncratic. The children should receive: (1) an artistic introduction to the 26 letters of the alphabet -- children of course copy the letters in order to make them correctly; (2) the presentation of each letter must include the sound that the letter generally makes and this sound symbol relationship must be rehearsed and reviewed in order that the children make the connection; (3) the teacher then makes or chooses a little verse that contains the letter and sounds being recognized or rehearsed and the process of discovery and learning of symbols and words begins; (4) words and sentences are not taken out of context-- the children learn a sentence or verse by heart, see it written on the board, hear it spoken as they follow the words with their eyes, read it together, and copy it. This process of relating to the symbol and sound with active human feeling, a learning to recognize the gestalt of the word, the phrase, and the sentence through writing and reading what you have heard and learned by heart is the basis of the Waldorf approach to reading. This is done over the course of a year. We also work with phonetics as we help children learn to spell. The group writing technique that you mention is done not in order to keep the children from learning to write on their own, but just the opposite! It encourages the children to be active in oral composition, to discuss and discover different ways of expression, and to learn from each other. Done repetitively and with enthusiasm, this method helps children to learn to write on their own. There are, of course, subsequent steps. The next step, having modeled it in group composition exercises, is to form smaller groups and so on until individuals are writing on their own. By the end of first grade it was Steiner's intention that children could write simple sentences on their own. Of course, not all children will achieve this: but many can and do. Children are always encouraged to do as much as they can do. Waldorf education trains the thinking; it merely avoids abstractions and definitions while doing so. Any Waldorf teacher with a good training and good mentoring works in this manner. I know this because I have been a Waldorf teacher for 20 years and now, for the past seven years, also train teachers.

Sincerely,

Patrick

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From: Patrick
Date: Thu Apr 8, 2004 3:02 pm
Subject: To Diana

Dear Diana,

I'm still curious why you never replied to my post....

Patrick

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: The Founder of Anthroposophy

Dear Diana,

It is not true that most of first grade in a Waldorf school should be spent learning to copy the alphabet.

<snip>

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From: winters_diana
Date: Fri Apr 9, 2004 5:30 am
Subject: Re: To Diana

Patrick, I must have missed it first time around. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt you did not mean to post this THREE TIMES to me within a couple of hours.

I notice that a couple of posts from me appeared during that interval, so perhaps you thought I was online and could be induced to respond immediately. Or perhaps it was just a mistake. My posts to this list, on a regular basis, go to other places and people, show up hours or days after I send them, and sometimes never show up at all. I have no idea why, as I do (Tarjei) send them the same place every time. I don't really care.

Anyway, I was not online when you wrote to me THREE TIMES requesting a reply to the post below. This is a busy list and I don't read everything and whenever it was that you wrote about this originally, I missed it.

Frankly, glancing at it briefly, it doesn't seem to say anything new. Everyone knows Waldorf first graders spend most of the year copying the alphabet. It's a big topic with me but my time is better spent than replying point by point to yet another standard, tired old Waldorf jargony explanation of how spiritual and wonderful it all is, how they learn with "human feeling," etc. I have done so elsewhere many times, search the critics archives if you want details on my views of reading instruction in Waldorf.

Diana

P.S. I would, however, be interested in your source for the statement that Steiner wanted children to write simple sentences on their own by the end of first grade. Not saying he didn't say this - but elsewhere he says it would really be better if children did not write at all until after age 14. IMO the standard Steiner statements about the dangers of hardening and dead abstractions etc. etc. associated with reading and writing, damaging children, go much further to explain the Waldorf approach to reading and writing in the early grades than your justifications below.

You seem to be describing the old "look-say" reading approach in New Agey jargon. Waldorf isn't the only place with poor reading instruction, though they do seem uniquely removed from any interest in the ever-raging debates about reading instruction, since professional development for Waldorf teachers is often just reading more Steiner. (And Steiner's views haven't changed recently) :)

It is not true that most of first grade in a Waldorf school should be spent learning to copy the alphabet.

<snip>

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From: Patrick
Date: Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:38 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: To Diana

Dear Diana,

Yes, it was indeed as you said, I made two posts that did not appear for some time, so I reposted and you have the three posts. No, I didn't think you were online. I quite understand your situation as it is the same as mine. I have other responsibilities and cannot stay online all the time. You will note that I do not post that often.

Thank you for finally answering. I thought that you would read my answer because it was a thread you were continuing and would likely read any replies to your posting on that thread. Please allow me to comment on your statements regarding my post.

First of all, I think you have misinformation, and I, too, must ask you for a reference. What is your reference for Rudolf Steiner's supposed statement that children should not write before 14? Did you mean read before 14? In either case I must express my astonishment! I think I have read everything that Steiner wrote on education, have worked in Steiner education for 20 years, and I have never heard or seen anything remotely similar to either of those statements. My reference for Steiner's comment that children should be able to write simple sentences in the first grade will be found in the volumes, Meetings with Rudolf Steiner. You also say, and I quote:

Frankly, glancing at it briefly, it doesn't seem to say anything new. Everyone knows Waldorf first graders spend most of the year copying the alphabet. It's a big topic with me but my time is better spent than replying point by point to yet another standard, tired old Waldorf jargony explanation of how spiritual and wonderful it all is, how they learn with "human feeling," etc. I have done so elsewhere many times, search the critics archives if you want details on my views of reading instruction in Waldorf.

Frankly, I don't care if you respond to my post point by point. I do care that you get your facts straight. I did not say that "Waldorf first graders spend most of the year copying the alphabet." In the classroom of a competent Waldorf teacher, the letters of the alphabet will all have been introduced by January. And as I tried to point out, during the introduction an equal amount of time is spent in recognition and auditory discrimination. The rest of the year is spent writing sentences and words that have meaning and practicing and learning digraphs and blends. Yes, part of what we do could be compared to the "look say" method. The other parts of what we do are included in two other common methods known colloquially as "phonics" and "the spelling method". Steiner outlines these methods in two books entitled, "A Child's Changing Consciousness" and "Soul Economy and Waldorf Education." I realize that you are entrenched in your position and have a lot of emotion invested in it, but it might behoove you to reconsider. In addition, you might consider, that at the Sacramento Waldorf school at least, reading comprehension scores on standardized tests showed that on average, our classes rank in the 80th percentile or above. That is, by the way, not the highest scores in the class but the class average! It is simply not true that our methods do not work. It is my experience, again from 20 years of teaching, that children who have early reading instruction may tire of reading and find it uninteresting after grade 5. Not all, of course, but a significant number. I have not found this phenomenon in our students. On the contrary, we have a few students in our classes who may not "click in" to reading until third or fourth grade but who show a steady ascent in reading competence and enjoyment from that time on. My own son did not read until third grade and regularly has scored his highest percentiles in reading and reading comprehension, generally from 95 to 99th percentile. My other son taught himself to read at 5 years old while sitting on his daddy's lap and watching the words as daddy read to him. He also scores in a similar range. I don't know who you have heard from or talked to, but what I say is the norm.

Yours, in hopes of understanding,

Patrick

-----Original Message-----
From: winters_diana
Sent: Friday, April 09, 2004 5:30 AM
Subject: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: To Diana

Patrick, I must have missed it first time around.

<snip>

Reading and writing: do early readers burn out?

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From: Tarjei Straume
Date: Mon Apr 12, 2004 8:32 am
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: To Diana

At 21:38 10.04.2004, Patrick wrote:

It is my experience, again from 20 years of teaching, that children who have early reading instruction may tire of reading and find it uninteresting after grade 5. Not all, of course, but a significant number. I have not found this phenomenon in our students. On the contrary, we have a few students in our classes who may not "click in" to reading until third or fourth grade but who show a steady ascent in reading competence and enjoyment from that time on. My own son did not read until third grade and regularly has scored his highest percentiles in reading and reading comprehension, generally from 95 to 99th percentile. My other son taught himself to read at 5 years old while sitting on his daddy's lap and watching the words as daddy read to him. He also scores in a similar range. I don't know who you have heard from or talked to, but what I say is the norm.

I think we should pay attention to the word "instruction" here. I could read at age 4, having nagged myself into it from age 3 by having my parents read out neon advertising signs to me and get me an ABC and so forth, and then later, asking them to help me spell when writing. I experienced great pleasure in reading novels and what have you from the fifth grade onwards into adulthood, and my spelling and grammar was always pretty good.

My math was another story, perhaps because my paternal grandparents, who were both retired schoolteachers, decided to instruct me in algebra when I was still a preschooler, which made me experience it as a laborious chore, and throughout my schoolyears, the math teachers had to nag me into doing my homework, which was a drag to me.

It's the "instruction" I think. Another thing to notice is that Rudolf Steiner had a preference and knack for mathematics, but hated spelling and grammar and couldn't write without mistakes before he was into his late teens. If he had been like me instead, perhaps he would have suggested that the Waldorf kids wait with math and start reading at an early age.

I believe there's always a problem with inflexible or fixed theories or methods or curricula that supposed to be perfect for everybody. Learning should be a joy, not a chore, and the kids should have some freedom too.

Tarjei
http://uncletaz.com/

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From: winters_diana
Date: Tue Apr 13, 2004 5:27 am
Subject: Re: To Diana

Tarjei:

I think we should pay attention to the word "instruction" here.

Agreed. And to be fair to Patrick, he referred not to "early readers" but to kids who have had "early reading instruction" and in a later post clarifies that he is not opposed to "early reading" per se. (Steiner was, though.) What we can say about "early reading instruction" depends on what we mean by "early," "instruction," and even "reading."

Another thing to notice is that Rudolf Steiner had a preference and knack for mathematics, but hated spelling and grammar and couldn't write without mistakes before he was into his late teens. If he had been like me instead, perhaps he would have suggested that the Waldorf kids wait with math and start reading at an early age.

An interesting point, except that the curriculum and pedagogy are supposed to come from Steiner's clairvoyant insights and are supposed to represent a universal sequence of fixed stages in every child's spiritual development paralleling the development of the consciousness of humanity. Hm – does make more sense that it was just Steiner's own bias.

Diana

 Accreditation
 Reading and writing: do early readers burn out?
Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

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