First Grade Language Arts: the Alphabet
We began our first language arts block last week: the alphabet. I have done a lot of research on the hows and whys of this block, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention right away that my number one, invaluable resource has been the newly published book The Roadmap to Literacy: A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 1 through 3. You can find all the information about it on the authors’ website, Waldorf Inspirations. I would love to give my review of it at some point, but for now it’s suffice to say that most days I carry it up and down the stairs with me like a cradled baby.
So, before planning the details of our LA block, I read over a few sections in the aforementioned book. Through my own assessment I was able to determine which stage of literacy my daughter is in. I read through the chapters on the alphabet and handwriting. In the schools, the alphabet work is meant to either introduce or solidify the sounds that the letters make, depending on which stage each child is in. Now, because I am homeschooling and I only have one first grader, I have the privilege of tailoring it exactly to her needs. I know through every day interactions and through my stage of literacy assessment that my daughter is far beyond what the traditional curriculum prescribes for this language arts block. When I was planning the year out last summer, I was not expecting her to be where she is today. So now what do I do?
The most important thing to note here is that nothing in Waldorf stands alone. No matter where a child may be academically, there are still the soul nurturing aspects of the curriculum that match to the age of the child, not the intellect. So even if my daughter was reading Shakespeare independently this fall, nothing changes the fact that she is a six-and-a-half year old child. The main source of soul food for this age comes in the form of fairy tales and folklore. And in this first language arts block, the images of the written letters emerge from these tales. So right away I have two aspects of the block that will fit beautifully for my child: fairy and folk tales, and letter imagery.
After reading over the curriculum that I had purchased, I decided to forego the entire thing and start from scratch. In the block I have designed, the pace at which the letters are “introduced” is quicker, there is a little more writing, uppercase and lowercase letters are presented together, and I did a complete overhaul on the vowel work (I will save my reasoning of this last point for another time, but I feel pretty strongly that the formal introduction of the vowels needs to be in line with how they actually function). We will complete the whole alphabet in a five week block, finishing just before our Christmas break.
I have broken the alphabet up into three lists: consonants that have strong imagery which can be pulled from a fairy or folk tale; consonants that will be introduced with anchor words at a quicker pace; and vowels, to which I have assigned each their own week. Examples of the letters with imagery are presented in the photos in this post, such as the Golden Goose for G /g/. An example of an anchor word instead of imagery for a letter is Turtle for the sound /t/ (the image does not show the letter, but the beginning sound does). Some of the letters with anchor words may have short stories to go with them and some may not. The vowels each have an anchor word as well, which start with the short sound for each letter, for example apple for short /a/.
I have created an outline of this block for myself that I will share here. It has my weekly rhythm and lists the stories I will be telling plus the imagery/letter for each story. I have not included sources/authors because I know what they are, but if others want to know I will find time to list them all in another post. Last week I also introduced knitting, and my daughter will be working on a scarf for her doll as a Christmas present. We are both very happy with how the block is going so far, and eagerly looking forward to next week’s stories.