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!
I’m always wanting to keep my students inspired to read. I consider carefully before assigning a reader or recommending a book for them because I want to be sure they’ll come back for my recommendations in the future. If I suggest a boring read I worry that I’ll lose them forever!
I have used this book many times to find suggestions for my students. Though a few of the books are a bit old fashioned and won’t appeal to your most savvy readers, most of them are good timeless literature that most students will thoroughly enjoy.
The book is divided up grade by grade recommending books that tie in with the Waldorf curriculum and that will simply appeal to students of a certain age. I know many teachers who require students to read 2-3 books from this list per year, in addition to books that the students themselves choose and books that the teacher assigns as a class reader.
It’s nice to have a resource of books that you can recommend without question or concern (after all, we can’t read the entire young adult section of the library along with everything else we have to do.)
Currently, my students and I are reading Lloyd Alexander’s The Iron Ring and we’re loving it. The story is set in a land that is much like ancient India, so it ties right in with our current Ancient Civilizations block. Reading this book about a boy who is about the same age as my students has suddenly made the material of our India block much more accessible to the students and they’re getting a much stronger feeling for the culture.
Lloyd Alexander is an author I cannot recommend highly enough. My students and my own children have always been completely taken with his work. Even 5 years later my jaded and sarcastic 15 year old raves about Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series. I highly recommend all of Alexander’s books.
On my personal blog I’ll be posting this week about how my students and I worked with The Iron Ring, including comprehension questions and artistic suggestions. As a teacher with a strong language arts background, I am quite passionate about working with students on their reading and writing skills and I’m happy to share my work.
Okay, we finally made it! Waldorf schools are probably the only place where people still tell stories to eighth graders. My students loved a good story and I could still captivate them with a gripping tale right up to graduation. The history curriculum in eighth grade is “Revolutions” and traditionally the French, American and Industrial Revolutions are covered. Some teachers in the US have narrowed it to cover only US history in eighth grade. Though I think it is important to stick with the “revolutions” theme, I can understand the impulse to stick with just US history, as there is so much material to cover. One of the things I regret about my eighth grade year is that we only got through the Civil War in the timeline of US history. When I compare that to the breadth of US history I covered in my own education, I find it sorely lacking. But, we must make compromises, and my students will get a healthy dose of US history in high school.
So, what resources to use?
The Age of Revolution by Charles Kovacs — By now you should know that anything Kovacs gets my highest stamp of approval. Again, this book is great for covering the content in a succinct way. Following this book you could easily make your history blocks economical when it comes to time. It might even be possible to cover the Industrial, French and American Revolutions in one three week block, and then dedicate the second history block to the rest of American history. Hmmm, I might do it that way myself next time. The sacrifice, of course, is having the time to go into depth, but much depth is gained simply by working in blocks and immersing yourself in history for three full weeks. It could very well be enough.
1776 by David McCullough — This was another over-the-summer read for me that really helped me when it came to building a feeling for the American Revolution. It goes into so much detail that it’s hard to use as a resource for teaching directly, but there were definitely parts of it that I used for telling stories during the block. Looking back, if I had taken better notes during my reading of it I would have been able to teach from it very well, but instead I lazily read it by the lake during the summer, absorbing the feeling of the revolution, not so much the details. Still, I highly recommend it.
John Adams by David McCullough — Okay, I confess, I watched the mini-series. But it was so good, and you know when you’re teaching and you really want to watch a movie but you can’t justify spending the time? That’s what historical dramas are perfect for. Actually, watching the mini-series really helped in teaching this block. I took my telling of the Boston Massacre straight from the movie. Terrible, I know.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — You must, and I mean MUST, assign this to your eighth graders to read. It fits in so beautifully with American History but it is also such a compelling story. Every eighth grader should be presented with Atticus Finch as the representative upright human being. I noticed my students sit up a little bit straighter in their chairs after reading this book, and I myself stood before them with greater presence. Makes me want to reread it now.
For this block I also used countless resources from the public library. Great biographies to tell include Benjamin Franklin, Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Abigail Adams. . . . the list goes on. I found the biographies in the juvenile section of the library perfectly acceptable for these stories. AWSNA has recently put out a book on biographies to tell in 8th grade, but I’m not familiar enough with it to recommend it.
I just finished teaching an anatomy block in an eighth grade, my second time teaching this block (which almost never happens), and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good about determining which materials are the most useful.
The one essential item is a skeleton. Do whatever you need to borrow a skeleton to teach the block. Because the eighth grade block is not just about the skeleton but about how the skeleton interacts with the physical forces of the world, it’s pretty important that you work with something that you can observe moving, rather than a drawn picture of a skeleton.
Anatomy for the Artist by Jeno Barcsay is a book that I used extensively this time around, though I hardly used it at all the last time I taught this block. The drawings are incredibly well-done and it was quite handy to have drawings to refer to. It also contained much more information than I realized at first and I ended up using it as a resource for information, not just drawings.
Uprightness, Weight, and Balance is the Waldorf book on eighth grade anatomy. It does a pretty good job of outlining the block and sticking very close to Steiner’s recommendations for this block, but I did find that I needed to pull material from other sources to round out the block. I found that strictly focusing on the ways our bones interact with the physical forces of the world, without looking for other ways to engage with the material (like memorizing the bones or understanding how our joints and ligaments work together) made for a much less well-rounded experience of the block. It’s still a great book, but not enough to teach an entire block from.
The students and I also read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein together. It was great to read, it went well with studying anatomy and I thoroughly enjoyed the literary analysis the girls and I were able to engage in. Great book!
When I first began teaching at a Waldorf school I quickly found that there were resources for teaching that everyone used. Usually the not-to-be-missed resource titles were passed down from teacher to teacher, as each one of us shared with the teacher of the class behind us what worked, what didn’t, and what resources we couldn’t have lived without. All through I was so grateful for the benevolence of those teachers who shared the fruits of their labors with me and I was more than happy to share my experiences with the teachers who were behind me.
I wondered, though, if there might come a time when I would be undertaking an adventure through the grades again, perhaps this time without the support of a veteran teacher just one step ahead of me. Because of this fear, I made every effort to take detailed notes all the way through (sometimes more successfully than others) making sure that even if I wasn’t so good about taking notes on the exact content we studied, I at least had the titles of those few valuable resources.
In recent months I have become a part of a Waldorf homeschooling community that is composed not of teachers following each other in a neat little line, but of parents, doing their best, with limited resources, to provide this phenomenal education for their children. I’ve realized how lucky I am to have my little store of notes, however cryptic or sketchy they may be.
I’ve realized also, though, that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of really good information, and they’re all too willing to share.
It is with all of these thoughts in mind that I begin this blog. My intent is to post my own recommendations for books, toys and curriculum resources and hopefully to collect some of that worldly Waldorf wisdom that is out there into one place. I’d love for people to offer to contribute — writing up a little summary of their resources at the end of each block.
These will be real reviews written by real people who have real lives that have been shaped by the resources that we post here. Our advice is tried and true and it is offered to the community of Waldorf mothers, fathers, parents and teachers.