Main Lesson

What is a Main Lesson?

The Main Lesson constitutes the first two hours of each day in classes 1-8 and for the first hour and 20 minutes for the Upper School classes. During the first part of this lesson in the younger years, the class are led through Movement Exercises, Games, Singing, Recitation and Flute/Recorder playing. This work is frequently connected to and prepares the class for work on the main theme of the Main Lesson, which changes every three to four weeks. Recall, bookwork and the presentation of new material, focussed on a particular aspect/theme of the curriculum for that year, allow the classes to immerse themselves in a feeling way and penetrate the content in an age appropriate way. The theme may well be re-visited later in the year when the content has had a chance to settle and the child a chance to digest and take hold of it in more than in just an intellectual manner.

Curriculum Chart Main Lessons safety lightened black Writing

The Main Lessons in Lower School, Classes 1 - 6 (age 7 - 12)

From the first day in Class 1 the building blocks of writing and numeracy are practised, with the early skills of reading, writing and arithmetic being embedded in the world of the fairy tales. Rhythmic work is continued from Kindergarten as are other daily, weekly and seasonal rhythmic patterns. Form drawing is worked on in order to develop fine motor skills and spatial awareness.

These skills are built upon in Class 2 though the medium of stories from nature, fables and legends. Students represent the richness of these in the form of drawings, retelling stories through recall, form drawings and some written work. Numeracy skills are developed through main lesson work using stories alongside active and physical number work in the rhythmic part of the lessons. Children develop their skills during these years from, for example, counting, sequencing and the first stages of mental arithmetic to multiplication and weights and measures in Class 3.

In English, storytelling helps to provide the foundation for an appreciation of language and the oral approach stimulates the child’s interest and imagination. Speaking, listening and recitation support the development of writing which began in Class 1 and develops through to Class 3 where children are encouraged to write longer, more complex pieces based around their own experience and the main lesson material. In Class 3, the main lessons cover many aspects such as Bible stories, house building and farming. Children spend part of their day in the grounds harvesting, juicing, jam and bread making and constructing building projects in order to support their development.

The overarching theme of these years is the ‘multiplicity of the world’. The natural world is explored through zoology and botany, social pantheistic cosmologies, topography of local surroundings in the details of highs and lows, river courses, coastlines. In numeracy one addresses fluency with whole numbers developing into an understanding of fractions and decimals.

The Main Lessons in Middle School, Classes 6 to 8 (age 13 - 14)

In these years the limbs begin to lengthen and the child starts to experience a 'fall' into gravity. Physiologically, pupils enter into puberty and the first birth pangs of individuality are felt. The child experiences a yearning for independence together with underlying anxiety, emotional vulnerability and mood swings. Authority is openly and critically questioned and parents and teachers are challenged accordingly.

In terms of the child’s readiness for teaching, one sees the faculties of scientific, abstract, causal thinking come to the fore and the child develops a growing appetite for factual knowledge about the world around them. The child evidences an emerging potential for self-reflection which becomes a new teaching opportunity.

During this period the teachers have several key aims and objectives. They need to direct the pupils' interest and attention strongly into the world and provide the pupils with new perspectives and opportunities to explore different ways of seeing the world. They are increasingly called upon to take greater initiative and responsibility for self-directed learning and individual judgment. Their powers of observation are developed through a variety of media, and work throughout the curriculum cultivates a sense for social responsibility.

The Main Lesson themes are:

  • The physical sciences: electricity, magnetism, sound, heat and light, followed by
  • Simple mechanics and elements of organic chemistry
  • Human science including nutrition, health and hygiene, the organs, bones and muscles
  • The introduction of geology, astronomy, and regional geography
  • History: the Romans, the middle ages, the renaissance up to the present day
  • Maths: alongside continual mental arithmetic there is a focus upon percentages, negative
  • Numbers and algebra
  • English: writing style and individual creative expression
  • Art: black-and-white drawing, perspective and veil painting

The Main Lessons in Upper School, Classes 9 and 10 (age 15 - 16)

It is part of the Upper School task to enable students to acquire differentiated powers of judgment. This is supported in Class 9 as broadening horizons are brought to the students from a variety of specialist teachers, with subjects often being encountered for the first time.  In Class 10 the education supports the development of theoretical judgment by enquiry into where things come from (e.g. from myth into literature).

Class 9 is classed as the year of the will where the pupil strives to seek boundaries within contrasting emotions (hate to love, enthusiasm to boredom) in their journey towards independence. Class 9 sees a more contrasting emotional response to life’s challenges.

Class 10 is classed as the year of the feeling where one sees a gradual harmonising, objective and critical perspective.  Students become self critical and acutely aware of their own and others’ weaknesses. Through this year there is a growing ability to focus with clarity upon this issue and with this comes an increasing social awareness and eventually a movement towards greater inner harmony.

The Class 9 teacher is required to provide form through clear and fair processes in order that the middle ground can be firmly held whilst students develop an understanding of the contrasts within their emotional life. Teachers need to engage the students’ will forces and harness their enthusiasm, through both practical and academic challenges. During this period it is important that students are awakened to the world outside themselves in order to balance their internal turmoil.

In class 10 the teacher is required to employ great sensitivity and awareness to the intensity of the students’ inner journey where, through their feeling life they can begin to bring balance and harmony. Over time, the processes set for them in Class 9 evolve through debate and discussion, to enable greater scope for students to take responsibility for this form from within.

The teaching aims to foster and support this inner journey through a variety of competencies, skills and abilities. In particular, social awareness and increasing self-motivation to enable independent working and learning. Encouragement to be aware of the world beyond themselves is important in order to find balance with the intensity of their inner life. Students begin to develop structure and a sense for causality in their thinking which becomes increasingly objective.

To summarise:

Class 9 Aims

  • To develop independence and harness will
  • To move towards independent and critical thinking
  • To have a responsibility for self-learning and motivation
  • To explore the space between the polarities

Class 10 Aims

  •  To further develop independence  and balance
  • To find a balance in thinking AND feeling
  • To independently meet deadlines and external disciplines

Content

Class 9 and 10 have weekly subject lessons in Eurythmy, music, crafts, free religion, and gym and games. In addition to the Waldorf curriculum students are encouraged to take core GCSE’s of English, Maths and Science and then choose another three options which are usually accredited with GCSE status but not necessarily so. In Class 9 the timetable is collapsed for three weeks to enable the students to undertake a three week work project.  In Class 10 they go out of the school into work experience of their choice.

Class 9, main lesson themes include: English: the narrative tradition; Maths: the golden ratio; modern History; Science: Chemistry, Ecology, Biology and Physics; History of Art. In the craft rotation students take a variety of crafts that include basketwork, black and white drawing, metalwork and modelling.

Class 10 main lesson themes include: English: Myth into Literature; History: Ancient Civilizations; Maths: Trigonometry: Science: Chemistry: the nitrogen cycle; Biology: genetics; Physics: gravity; History of Art: the renaissance.

Main Lessons - Upper School, Classes 11 and 12 (age 17 - 18)

In Class 11, the education serves to support the pupil developing their emotional judgment, emotional intelligence and insight. Students are encouraged to travel beyond the visible and observable phenomena into an examination of ways of thinking about this phenomena thus encouraging and enhancing their powers of imagination.

This supports greater harmony within the student as they can stand outside themselves and utilise greater balance and objectivity in their will and feeling life.  They also develop skills in their independent responses to matters such as social tact and taste. In Class 11 greater social responsibility develops and the social practical /industrial tour enables them to experience the interconnectedness in society with compassion and humility.

In Class 12 students seek an overview in which to reconcile the tension between the needs of individual and global consciousness, and to reveal their own position in the world they are about to encounter. They begin to develop a sense of experiencing an overview of the world and ask what their place in that world will be. The curriculum supports this process and further develops the students’ ability to think independently with social responsibility and insight into the implications of judgment.

Class 11 aims

  • Objectivity in their feeling life in order to bring increasing capacity to form judgments as to their personal taste, style and social awareness.
  • Self directed sense of social responsibility.
  • Increasing objectivity and an ability to bring together and organize their thinking in a balanced and harmonious understanding of both finite and non-sense perceptible phenomena.

Class 12 aims

  • Think independently and act from their own insight in an engaged and interested manner that shows good understanding of social responsibility.
  • Ability to stand independently and attain an overview in a cross-curricular manner, and to form ideas and opinions with creativity and insight.
  • To develop good levels of social awareness and competence.
  • To stand with confidence and openness in the world to show an awareness of the ‘whole’ and be able to articulate the ideas that live behind the processes.

Content

The curriculum balances a more traditional Waldorf education with examinations in order that students may move into the world with support for their own development alongside the qualifications that will allow them to journey in their chosen direction.

Within the main lesson programme topics are chosen that support an understanding of the journey from ‘what is my question’ to ‘how may I begin to fulfill that task’?  An overview is brought of the relationship of the individual to the world around them through, for example, studying Economics; Politics and Philosophy where through debate and discussion, differing ways of the world may be explored. Students continue their appreciation of the History of Art, English poetry and Music in order to strengthen their cultural and personal understanding of the consciousness of our time. They also develop their scientific and mathematical understanding in order to ensure ‘literacy’ in all areas of the curriculum.

These skills come to fruition in the major performances of Eurythmy and the Class 12 play, that bring together the social, artistic, creative and performance skills that have developed throughout their education.  In addition, students continue their craft programme through to class 11 (ceramics, silversmithing, bookbinding and stone carving) alongside Music, Eurythmy and Gym. They also prepare for their year-end Italy Trip through the study of Art and Music in order that they are ready to appreciate the role of the renaissance in the human being and in their own stage of development.