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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Waldorf Methods to Use in Your Classroom

Six tips to spice up the day.
Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Former senior editor at Edutopia.
Credit: Bart Nagel

This how-to article accompanies the feature "Waldorf-Inspired Public Schools Are on the Rise."

Waldorf can appear to be a mystifying educational method that doesn't connect to traditional practices. Still, there are aspects of this educational philosophy, used to engage students, that can be applied to any classroom. Here are six suggestions:

  1. Greet. Shake each student's hand, and make eye contact as each enters class. This strategy allows the teacher to check in on each student at the start of the day. Students will line up at the door, eager for a one-on-one moment with the teacher.

  2. Relate. Create a buddy system with students in an older grade. The cross-age pals at the John Morse Waldorf Methods School meet once a month to learn about building solid relationships with both younger and older students.

  3. Draw. Let students illustrate their own workbooks. Having students draw out math and reading lessons is a great way to integrate art into the curriculum. The students will take pride in their books, and learn in a new way.

  4. Plant. Get students outside through nature walks and gardening. Weekly nature walks in a local park or natural area will become science lessons as the teacher answers students questions about the natural world. A school garden can allow students to connect with nature and learn how plants grow.

  5. Play. Practice musical instruments during class transitions. Give each student a recorder, and have the whole class follow the teacher by playing a few notes at class breaks. The students will enjoy mixing short music lessons into everyday learning.

  6. Move. Allow kids to be active during lessons. Moving can be a great way to help kinesthetic learners. Your whole class will enjoy getting out of their chairs to do physical activities such as stomping their feet and counting out numbers to begin learning multiplication.
Malaika Costello-Dougherty is a senior editor at Edutopia.

Comments (14)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Alaa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I found the article interesting. I have heard and read some about this method, but your article provided more insight. In your attached article, Waldorf Methods to Use in the Classroom, the first three suggestions are very effective. I used them in a multilanguage classroom and by the end of the year all students had attained a high level of verbal and reading skills. Ownership and place play a very important part in a child's education. Belonging helps them to feel secure and reduces any stress or nervousness, thus optimizing learning.

Malaika Costello-Dougherty's picture
Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Staff comment:

Thanks for the feedback Alaa. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Sincerely,

Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Senior Editor

Karen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I've been subbing in some Colorado public elementary schools for
a year now, and am very concerned about what I see.
For starters, what happened to allowing for childhood, developmentally?
It feels as if intellectual skills are being introduced way too
early, and that nurturing we are, more than ever, creating
curriculum that shortcircuit the development of the ability to
immerse oneself in learning.

Thank you so much for encouraging public schools to take a fresh
look at models that might be more developmentally sound for children and that appreciate a child's natural intelligence and
creativity...Brave, Edutopia! I'll be sharing this article with
a lot of local educators and parents.

KAREN, LONGMONT, CO

Zanada Maleki's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As I worked on my Masters in Education degree, I used the Waldorf model for problem solving. It was so on target with solving problems with curriculum delivery when the students just are not "with it". The problem I had to examine amounted to post recess fatigue, the after recess temperments fallout that became like a negative ritual. Steiner was far ahead of his time when he envisioned a curriculum based on the child's natural rhythms of the day. The Waldorf approach made all the difference in the world in my classroom. I teach in a public school that serves high risk students, most of which are from dysfunctional backgrounds. My classroom became a safer haven for my students. To anyone who is curious about how Waldorf methods would work in the classroom without being a Waldorf teacher, I would say venture into it. You will see and experience far better results with your students, emphasizing with not for your students.

The students learn accountability as a natural reaction to their lessons. You learn how to become more accountable to yourself and your students. You learn how to make the work day a wonderful day of play! Worksheets take a back seat! Authentic thinking, feeling, communications must come first. Communicating with each other, learning how to think before speaking, how to listen to ones self, these are extremely important skills.

Using the least expensive instrument to funnel creative energy as with the recorder is another advantage to teach the students. They learn now to feel music before reading notes. You awaken their sense of musicality as you lead the way to bridging into the musical arts. The visual arts develop when you show them how to use art as a too of expression, how to freely use color and so forth.

I have to stop writing now because just the topic is so liberating as I continue to practice in the Waldorf style as much as one can in a public education setting, and as the "lone ranger" in doing so. As a dedicated teacher, my work needs to be as fulfilling as play, so I set myself up along with my students to have wonderful days of "play". (Please pardon any typos! This is such a compelling and exciting topic.)

Stephanie Eastwood's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for drawing our attention to Waldorf schools and encouraging teachers in non-Waldorf programs to learn more to our students' benefit.

Your superficial description would be powerfully enhanced by link to video of a Waldorf classroom in action. Are there any?

Now I'd like to suggest you raise readers' awareness of
1) The Project Approach (Prof. Em. Lillian Katz, UIUC) and
2) the Reggio-Emilia approach to early childhood / primary education.
UIUC sponsors a *wonderful* listserv for people practicing and interested in Reggio.

A few resources:

book: *The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education* Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini, George Forman. Ablex. 1993. Includes interview with co-founder Loris Malaguzzi, teachers, and chapters describing projects that clearly convey how the philosophy is realized in practice.

Website from Reggio-Emilia, Italy (English version):
http://zerosei.comune.re.it/inter/nidiescuole.htm

The Hundred Languages of Children touring exhibit: http://zerosei.comune.re.it/inter/100exhibit.htm

Reggio-L - Here is just one very thought-provoking example of the high-quality exchange going on on this list. I've learned a ton from these teachers! Anyone who feels like they're going it alone as a developmental, play-based EC or K teacher needs this support community (This page accessed from the archives, where I searched on "dramatic play")
https://listserv.illinois.edu/wa.cgi?A2=ind0907C&L=REGGIO-L&D=0&1=REGGIO...

Malaika Costello-Dougherty's picture
Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Hi Stephanie,

Please check out the top right of this page that has navigation to the entire package, including a video.

Sincerely,

Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Senior Editor

Dr. N.N.Naydenova's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am compared the studens results from russian waldorf school with traditional schools.

Renee Miller's picture

In your article, you describe a lesson where a first grade class draws honeycomb and counts by sixes. These "count by" numbers are called MULTIPLES of six, rather than FACTORS of six as you write in your article.

Six is a factor of 72. 72 is a multiple of six. The factors of six are one, two, three, and six.

Being a math teacher who stresses the importance of using accurate math vocabulary with students, I couldn't help but point this out.

Malaika Costello-Dougherty's picture
Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Hi Renee,

Thanks for writing in. I went by the dictionary definition of factors and multiples. I should have confirmed with an expert like yourself! I will correct the reference online. I appreciate you pointing this out.

My best,

Malaika

Robert Erdman's picture

Malaika, I will be a teacher new to the Waldorf system. I am teaching Chemistry in a High School classroom. In addition to being aware of visual aesthetics would there be any benefit to playing classical music during the block? Would there be any problem with this? Thank you to anyone who chooses to respond. I really appreciate it.

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