I’m looking to populate my sidebar with links to other great Waldorf resources. If you’ve got one that you love leave it in the comments below!
It’s August which means time to get serious about planning for the coming school year. Thusfar in the summer I’ve done lots of thinking and reading about the next school year, but the year doesn’t feel like it’s taking shape until I’ve got my lesson planner and I start filling it in.
I received my planner from Amazon about a week ago, and now I’m busily filling it in.
Over the years I’ve used a couple different types of planners. Usually I have a weekly lesson plan book as well as a regular calendar. And though I’m pretty good at the computer and my phone and I sometimes use the calendar features on them, I really like the feeling of a solid paper calendar. Here are my favorites.
The At a Glance Teacher’s Planner is definitely my favorite planner. It is set up vertically (the days of the week are listed across the top of the columns) which somehow feels more intuitive to me and it has plenty of record keeping pages in the back, as well as a couple of seating charts. It’s thin but has a substantial, sturdy cover. It definitely makes it through the school year with minimal damage. This year I bought the undated version (I didn’t find a dated one anywhere) which works pretty well, as it allows me to just leave out weeks for school breaks.
The other planner I have used is this one created by Stephanie Embrey. I like the arrangement of this book. It is similar to the At a Glance planner except that it is set up horizontally (with the names of the days of the week down along the left side of the page.) This was a change for me after using the At a Glance calendar, but I adjusted to it quickly enough. It also has lots of great features. There are plenty of record keeping pages, a couple of seating charts, a couple of maps, a chart for figuring percentages quickly, and a place for logging parent communication. It also has folder flaps on the insides of the front and back covers for holding loose papers, which was really useful until the glue started to come loose at the end of the school year. This is a much thicker, more substantial planner, but it has so many features it might be worth carrying around the extra bulk.
My main complaint about this planner is that it is definitely not as durable as the At a Glance planner. As I mentioned, the folder flaps came loose at the end of the year, the cover edges became frayed and I sometimes worried that papers that I had stuck within its covers would not be protected and might fall out. It just doesn’t seem strong enough to keep all of that extra bulk in tact. Still, it serviced me well over the course of the year. If you appreciate extra features and don’t abuse your plan book too much this is probably the best book for you.
As I mentioned, in addition to carrying a teacher’s planner, I also carry a regular academic year calendar. A few years ago I found my absolute favorite weekly academic year calendar and it’s made by a company called Mixed Role Productions. I love this calendar because it is compact, comes with a little bookmark to mark the current week and it is an August to August calendar. I also just love the typeface that is used which has a sweet handwritten look. It also comes in several fresh, bright colors — I used the orange two years ago, the green last year and this year I have the “grape” color. I’ve bought this book for the past five years and I love it so much that I’ve had my mother buy it for me since I moved away from the town where I originally found it. Now that I know it’s on Amazon, next year I’ll be able to get it myself.
One of the things that I love most about Waldorf Education is how teachers are trained to not take things simply for their surface value. The person-house-tree drawing is a really good example of the Waldorf teacher’s impulse to see the deeper meaning behind all that we do.
Audrey McAllen’s Reading Children’s Drawings is a great resource for interpreting children’s drawings.
She goes through the best way to set up a drawing experience for the child so the end result will be a good picture of the child’s developmental stage. Following her explanation of setting up the environment she goes through different aspects of the drawing and how we might use them to understand the developmental stage of the child. I have always used my intuitive sense when it comes to understanding these drawings but McAllen’s book is a wonderful resource for deepening our understanding of our students drawings.
If there is one book that has been referred to most on the various online Waldorf resources I try to keep up with it is Rhythms of Learning by Roberto Trostli.
Trostli wrote the Waldorf science bible called Physics is Fun — a book that I am very familiar with — so though I haven’t read Rhythms of Learning myself, based on the recommendations of others and my familiarity with Trostli’s other work, I have no qualms recommending it.
From the book description:
In each chapter, Trostli explains Steiner’s concepts and describes how they work in the contemporary Waldorf classroom. We learn how the teacher-child relationship and the Waldorf school curriculum changes as the students progress from kindergarten through high-school. This book will serve as an excellent resource for parents who want to understand how their child is learning. Parents will be better prepared to discuss their child’s education with teachers, and teachers will find it a valuable reference source and communication tool.
Definitely a must-have resource.
I’m currently in a North American Geography block with my class and I am loving this book. It is so full of good old classic tunes that everyone knows. Just perfect for sitting around a classroom (or a campfire) and singing. On our recent trip my students and I sang Let It Be, This Land is Your Land, Edelweiss and lots of other great classics. For my work with the class we’re singing Home on the Range, This Land is Your Land and today we even tried out Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys. So much fun!
Now, a disclaimer — this book is great for songs you already know. It gives the chords and the lyrics, but there are no notes for the melody. This why it’s great for the old classics and for singing along with guitar (or ukulele).
This is the time of year when many of us are looking at preparing for the next year. For many people this means lots of intense preparation over the summer. There are many ways to go about this and I’ve tried out a few different ideas.
- Summer Intensive at Rudolf Steiner College. Every summer Rudolf Steiner College offers a week-long course on each grade called “The Art of Teaching.” In the past I have found these intensives incredibly informative and hugely valuable. The Art of Teaching Grades 7 and 8, for example, are simply not to be missed. Every time I’ve gone I’ve come away feeling completely prepared to teach the next grade.
- The Center for Anthroposophy offers similar courses that they call “Renewal Courses.” These courses are less focused on a specific grade. Instead, they offer an opportunity to gather with other teachers and focus on a particular subject matter. The one I attended a few years ago was about art in the middle school. Given that artistic work is my greatest challenge, I found the course just perfect. “Renewal Courses” is the perfect name for these seminars because they are definitely rejuvenating. The courses at Rudolf Steiner College can feel quite rigorous as the schedule is incredibly intense. Rare is the teacher who attends every class.
- This year I’ll be “attending” an online intensive put together by Eugene Schwartz. I am reluctant to weigh-in on the value of this training quite yet, but I’m definitely finding that the price is right and it sure is convenient. I look forward to finding out if it is all that it is billed to be.
Though there are a lot of great Waldorf math resources, I sometimes found that I needed a little more than what I found there. Waldorf resources are great for detailing how to go about explaining a concept holistically, but when you just need a whole slew of problems for practice, mainstream resources are the way to go. Here are my recommendations.
Elementary and Middle School Mathematics by John van de Walle — Okay, so this isn’t a mainstream book with a whole slew of problems, but it is an incredibly good book that takes a holistic, sensible approach to math, unlike anything I’ve seen in other mainstream resources. It so clearly builds upon knowledge and content that the children already know, helping you, as the teacher, to increase your students’ number sense, rather than simply increasing their dexterity with juggling numbers. As a result, they’ll know why a certain “trick” works, as well as how to implement it with ease. It’s pricey, but it will take you from the very beginning, right up through algebra, so it’s worth it.
Key to Fractions by the Key Curriculum Press — The “Key to . . .” series is really wonderful. Though it does not focus on the content in a holistic, developmental way, it does break down the information in very easily digested chunks and it provides A LOT of practice with each concept. I had my students complete the Key to Fractions series, as well as the Key to Decimals series. We did this work not in the midst of the block but waited until the following year, using these books as review. This way the fresh, imaginative approach to the content held sway during the block while the sometimes tedious practice came later. I used the Key to Algebra books for my own preparation in teaching Algebra in 7th grade. For students who struggle with a concept, these books just can’t be beat. They’re also quite affordable (a little more than $3 per book, there are usually four books in each series.)
Saxon Math — The Saxon Math series of books are great for practice. Each book covers a wide breadth of material and gives LOTS of practice problems. One of the best things is that within each lesson practice problems from the previous lessons’ material is incorporated so your students will not learn something one week and forget it the next. I do sometimes wish these books gave more problems that dealt exclusively with the new material for each lesson, but for staying in practice with many different types of problems, Saxon is great. I have experience with the Saxon books for the older set — from about 4th grade and up. I understand that there are books out there for younger children, too, but look at them carefully. To me, there is nothing more important in those younger years than building strong number sense. Saxon does not do this very well, in my opinion, so I would not use it for presenting new material, particularly with younger children. But this does not discount it’s merit for providing a wealth of material for practice problems.
I guess music is on my mind these days. I’ve been going through my music resources a lot these days and having a lot of fun finding songs I had never discovered before.
This week I was asked to bring some activity to our school’s Parent Council meeting. I taught them one of the songs and dances in this great book.
Singing Games and Playparty Games by Richard Chase — This book has fabulously clear instructions for dances and games that you can do to music with a group. Tonight I taught the parents the first song in the book called “Turn the Glasses Over.” People always enjoy getting together, moving and singing in a coordinated way (even if they may seem reluctant at first.)
The songs in the book are simple, familiar melodies so they’re quick and easy to learn. The dances have really great, clear instructions with good accompanying illustrations. You’ll easily be able to follow them to lead a dance yourself. Bring one to your child’s next birthday party and have fun!
I just had to share my favorite book for songs about the seasons.
Sing Through the Seasons by Marlys Swinger — This book is full of great seasonal songs that can take you right through fourth grade. The melodies are not pentatonic, so the Waldorf purists would not consider them appropriate for kindergarten or first grade, but I have known many kindergarten and first grade Waldorf teachers to sing these songs with their students. The tunes are catchy, fun, and very readily suggest movements and dramatization. I’ve never listened to the accompanying CD, so I can’t attest to its quality, but I imagine it would be a great help in learning the songs. I have had no problem tinkering out the melodies on my recorder or piano, though, as they are pretty predictable. The illustrations in the book are also quite sweet and I could imagine using them for chalkboard drawing inspiration.
It appears to only come in hardback, and my quick peek at Amazon suggested it was pretty pricey, but for its long-term usefulness, the extra price is worth it!
I know it isn’t bright and sunny everywhere, but in my neck of the woods spring arrived a bit early and it has me feeling like getting outside and moving! As a teacher, leading games was never my strong suit, but as my teaching years went on I appreciated more and more the value of moving with my students, especially when a good (sometimes competitive) game was involved.
I often found the key to a successful games class was knowing when to bring a new and exciting game. With everything else that teachers need to do, the temptation to keep playing an old familiar game is strong, but there are some great resources out there with plenty of ideas for games, so it doesn’t have to be too difficult to come up with something new.
The New Games Book — A friend recently loaned me this book and I love it! It probably has about 50 different games, all with clear explanations and photographs to go with them. The photos really helped me because I often have a hard time visualizing games when they are explained with words. The book is broken down into sections determined by the number of players required for each game, which is an infinitely sensible way to organize the book. Waldorf teachers usually teach children a game with a story, or sometimes just a little image for the children to hold onto while they are playing the game. Many of the games in this book include an imagination along with them (catch the dragon’s tail, for example) but for others you’ll need to come up with your own imagination. Some of the games are old favorites that we all played when we were kids, and others are so new and different that I’ve never seen them played anywhere. You’ll have to use your intuition when it comes to determining which games are appropriate for the ages of your children. When in doubt it’s a good idea to stick with more collaborative games in the younger grades, increasing the level of competition and individuality as the children get older.
Games Children Play — This is one of the standard Waldorf games books, and it is quite good. If you’re not sure about trusting your intuition when it comes to determining appropriate games, this book can give you a guide. It follows the pedagogical decisions about appropriate games in a very logical way, even giving some explanation in each section. The book is broken down according to age, which makes it the perfect companion to The New Games Book. One flaw of this book, though, is that I found that it didn’t give enough games. My students and I ran through the games in each section and I found that they needed more new games. Still, this is a great book to have, and close to essential for helping to learn the pedagogical reasons behind choosing appropriate games.
Child’s Play 1 and 2 — I don’t have much personal experience with this book, but I’ve seen it on every shelf and it seems to be the “other” Waldorf games book. It seems that in my cursory glance through it I found that the games were most suited to the younger grades. If any of you have experience with it please post in the comments.
Have fun and get out there and move with your students!
Dear readers, thank you so much for bearing with me through my spotty posting record. Lots has been happening here — visiting schools, watching for the next adventure that looms on the horizon.
I’ve promised (for weeks) to post resources for 7th and 8th grade history stories, but before I do that I wanted to share a book that I absolutely love.
If you are someone like me, who has huge gaps in your own history education, this is the book to read. In about 300 easy-to-read pages it sweeps through the entire course of human history. It definitely has a European focus, which was something I appreciated as my own education included hardly any history of Europe. The chapters read like little stories and though it is often sparse on detail, it brings the major points of each epoch in a beautifully thought-provoking way.
Because of its lack of detail it is of limited usefulness as a teaching resource (meaning you likely won’t tell stories straight from it), but it is invaluable for summarizing and capturing the essential points of human history. For this reason I consider it my most essential history resource and I would not want to teach Waldorf history without it. I would recommend reading it at the beginning of your Waldorf journey, so you have a clear picture of where your history studies will take you as you travel through the grades. Then, reread it before beginning fifth grade when the study of history properly begins. Then, before each grade, read the section that pertains to the era of history you’ll be addressing that year. Gombrich’s voice will become a cozy and familiar presence. I found that this book positively shaped my teaching of history and I am infinitely grateful to have discovered it as a resource.