Developmental Picture of the Child
Grade Two serves as a bridge between the playfulness of Grade One and the dramatic birth of the individual in Grade Three. At this age children still have some of the imaginative consciousness of early childhood but are becoming more aware of themselves and of the values and perspectives of others. Each child has a deeper sense of his or her ability to grow and learn.
How the Curriculum Meets the Grade Two Student
Solid bases continue to be laid on three primary fronts: language arts and the ongoing preparation toward strong reading and writing skills; mathematics through solid acquisition of a number sense, place value, and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills; and nature stories and outdoor play. Grade Two continues to be structured around daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms, such as the alternation of quiet focus and active movement within a lesson; the weekly subject lessons; the monthly change of the main lesson block; and annual festivals and celebrations.
“In a society that may be nudging children prematurely into adulthood, Waldorf schools try to preserve the magic and fairy-tale wonder of being a child.”
Importance of Movement
Every day includes a variety of movement activities as our movements facilitate greater cognitive function; our entire brain structure is intimately connected to and grown by the movement mechanisms within our body. The healthy functioning of the senses, particularly the sense of self-movement (or proprioception), sense of life (or well-being), and balance (or vestibular) is paramount to learning. When one of these is not fully functioning or developing, learning cannot take place to its highest capacity.
The Grade Two curriculum continues with the formative work begun in Grade One, with the emphasis on developing the will forces of the child to make it possible to move from imaginative play to purposeful work. Rhythm, imitation, the use of images rather than abstract concepts, and the idea of a beautiful world provide the primary framework for learning. Classroom routines serve to strengthen will capacities such as managing impulsivity, developing patience, and deferring gratification.
The story curriculum embraces and validates this experience in order to support the children through this developmental stage. Stories of extraordinary people, who are good, kind and strong, speak of our highest potential, whereas fables and trickster tales show how low and cruel human beings can also be. Saint stories emphasize our potential for transformation. Through these powerful moral stories shared by people all over the earth, the children begin to understand that the potential for good and bad, which lives in them, is part of being human, and that their own struggle is universal.
Grade Two is a recapitulation and solidifying of the knowledge students learned in Grade One. They read short stories made up of CVC words and recall digraphs (“letter teams”) and the sounds they make. They continue exploring the six types of syllables and how they help read even very long words. The children refine their printing ability, using proper upper and lower case letters, and also their cursive. Special emphasis is placed on the proper pencil grip and posture as a necessary condition for effortless and enjoyable cursive writing. Students progress in reading and writing using the skills they have gained in word games and storytelling. In the process, they reinforce phonemic awareness and the rules of phonics, explore more difficult spelling patterns, and also spell sight words. Second graders begin to look at different parts of a sentence, creating the first awareness of grammar, work on formatting sentences correctly, and practise reading as a class, in small groups and individually.
The class play gives the children a chance to experience the characters they heard about as a part of the story curriculum. It is not only an opportunity to develop and improve recitation and drama skills, but also an invaluable source of developing feelings of community, unity, and synchronicity, feelings that are so important for the children’s healthy social engagement and feeling of security — conditions necessary for successful learning.
Students continue working on fluency with counting up to 100, starting from any number, and progressing to numbers up to 1000. Building upon the skip-counting skills they began last year, they work on times tables and explore the geometrical patterns that arise on the 10- and 12-division circles. Through simple math problems, the children continue to familiarize themselves with the four processes and their relationships.
During the study of festivals and time, students become more at ease with the days of the week, the months of the year, and terms like “tomorrow,” “yesterday, “noon,” etc. They also begin to tell time with analog clocks.
In Grade Two, the main goals of teaching French are to continue to familiarize the children with the different sound systems, to create the experience of being able to understand or guess what is said in another language, and to develop a level of comfort with using French within the space of the classroom. Through verses, songs, and stories, the students explore their immediate world by learning about the classroom, body parts, clothes, animals, and nature. The children review and expand their vocabulary, learned in Grade One, and strengthen their knowledge of the colours as well as numbers up to 100. Most of the active speaking is done as a group, based on the imitation of phrases, poems, and songs, illustrated through gestures, games, and drawing.
In Grade Two, nature themes continue along with songs of the seasons, animals, and the natural world. Traditional folk songs, particularly those using the pentatonic scale, are introduced in the Morning Lessons as well as in Music class. Children continue to develop a pure head tone in singing and the ability to sing in tune individually and as a group.
Work on the recorder continues in Grade Two. A variety of songs help to deepen the understanding of tone, rhythm, beat, and articulation. The students continue to learn to play with good posture and breath support in order to produce a clear and beautiful tone. They also advance their knowledge of musical notation.
The children continue to explore the realm of colour, at times through imagination from a story told. Through colour exercises using the whole colour spectrum, the children further explore the wet-on-wet painting technique, where colours blend and create new hues out of the primary colours. In painting themes based on nature gestures, fables, and stories of righteous people, the colours now suggest something, such as a mood or event from a story.
Form drawing in Grade Two reflects the polarity of human nature in mirror forms and strengthens the students’ cursive handwriting through a variety of running forms. Form drawing strengthens eye tracking, fine motor control, spatial awareness on paper, endurance, and flexibility of thinking. It engenders an experience of harmony and symmetry, and it is a prerequisite for Geometric Drawing.
In Grade Two, the Handwork curriculum continues to support the development of the children’s creativity and imagination, together with an emphasis on the gradual cultivation of their personal relationship to colour. Children learn to purl and form a stockinette stitch. They also learn to decrease the number of stitches to shape their project and to make a stand-up puppet. Through knitting and associated skills, the children grow in creative willpower, the capacity essential in any intellectual development. In the second part of the year, children typically learn to crochet. Crochet projects reinforce the use of a dominant hand, together with advancing in pattern recognition, ability to shape the projects to the desired form, and independent work. The practised activities are chosen to encourage growth in observation, thinking, counting, spatial perception, aesthetic feeling, development of personal relationships with colour, sense of beauty, attention to detail, and perseverance.
Crafts for Grade Two draw from seasonal inspirations, festival celebrations, and appreciation of learning new techniques. They offer the children the opportunity to create objects of beauty while expanding on the fine motor skills, imagination, and creative will developed in Grade One. The children continue to develop these capacities through cutting, folding and ripping paper, applying glue, stringing beads, and weaving. They work with clay to explore shape transformations through intuitive play with the material in their hands and to strengthen their connection with both their hands and inner will. They may also create a classroom set of natural wood blocks by sanding found wood pieces. Crafts classes help students to develop an awareness of others and their needs, as well as the ability to follow instructions and think sequentially.
Gardening lessons offer an opportunity to explore a variety of life forms in the garden and provide the children with specific, physically demanding tasks where they are challenged individually to build their will, such as working the soil of a garden bed, planting bulbs and potatoes, recognizing and removing invasive plants, and spreading wood chips on paths and plantings around the school.
Through structured games, the children develop their capacities of patience, listening, proprioception, a sense of boundaries, fairness, and sportsmanship. This class focuses on the joy of play and its benefits, particularly related to working with the larger group of their peers. Because of its physical demands, Games class brings children into their bodies and gives them the opportunity to develop their gross and fine motor skills. Resilience, cooperation, spatial awareness, teamwork, and the joy of childhood are just a few gems we polish along the way!