Friday, September 05, 2014

BAREFOOT RESEARCH - Three occasional working papers by members of the SWAS advisory team

Teaching Geography in the upper school

As a child I grew up in the country, it was my play ground, I was one with the earth on which I stood. On top of that I was fortunate enough to be sent to a Steiner Waldorf school where it was the main lesson that developed in me a way to look at the world.  On leaving school and reading my leaving report I found the statement “Jon loves the open-air life, and is fond of geographical studies connected with it”.
When I started teaching I looked back to my geography main lessons and remembering how much I enjoyed those lessons wanted to bring that same feeling to the pupils in front of me.  To me teaching is telling a story about whatever the subject is, in my case geography.  I loved walking into a landscape and using all the senses, wait and then see what story it would tell me.  I was also lucky enough to be able to see maps in 3-dimensions and these two aspects enabled me to stand in front of a class and tell the story of a landscape.  To be able to do this all the elements that formed it had to be brought in, Tectonic movement, erosion and weathering, the air and sea.   To tell the story and then for a pupil to ask “Have you been there?” and me to answer ‘no’ meant that the I had built a picture that they could see.  The next step was to take them out into landscape around them.
Geomorphology, the study of landscapes, is a class 9 main lesson were all the processes in shaping the land have to be brought in with one other very important element time; here we are talking about vast amounts of time.  Pupils are very much into the here and now with time not so important but were landscape is concerned it is important.  By telling the story of a landscape ones imagination has to come into play and at the same time encourage the pupils to use theirs.  Having got the basics I would take them to the upper Neath valley and walk alongside the River Neath taking them through layers of rock spanning millions of years.  Stop – look – ask and then try and work out what is happening.  River erosion is quick compared to deposition of rock.  Here they experience time differences.  Having been given an imaginative picture of rock they now experience the real thing, it under their feet, they can touch it and bring to bear all the other senses.
The Oceanography/Meteorology main lesson in class 10 is basically one about movement and rhythm, the sea with its tides and currents; the atmosphere with air movements, temperature changes and clouds.  My experience over the years is that pupils in class 10 rarely notice what is happening in the world of nature around them.  For me it is important to build the picture of the ocean and atmosphere in the class room.  Build it by introducing them to all the factors and elements associated with the sea and air and then how the interrelationships in each and with each other produce what we experience around us.
The Hereford Steiner Waldorf School lies many miles inland from the sea.  I needed to find a site where land and sea meet in a specific way hence Gower Peninsular in South Wales.  Here pupils can experience movement in the sea and air, as well as from the  sea passing over land and the changes that occur.  Taking a class here means that they first have to become active in climbing to the top of Rhossili Down, a high ridge with water on both sides.  As they settled down at the top they would first become aware of the rhythm of their own breathing and how it changes perhaps even relate that to the waves coming in on the beach.  If the weather is kind then we can look down on the sea from a height of 200m and experience the waves coming into the bay.  I will ask them to sit quietly and watch.  After a few minutes ask them to say what they see, any answer was acceptable and from this we could build a picture of what was below us.  In doing this they were answering most of the questions that arose.  I wanted the pupils to use what they saw, what they had learned in the classroom and put the two together and to bring in the process of thinking.  Notes and drawings would be used the following day.  Later we would walk down to the bay and look at the waves and currents close at hand and go through a similar process.  We were also able to explore ripples in the sand, the hollows made as water moved round an object and how waves break.
Either on the ridge or even down in the bay I would set the next task, to look at what was happening in the air above them.  What I hoped for was that there were no clouds at the horizon but closer to the land they would start to form and become bigger over the ridge.  Again the same process would start observe, what do you see, analyse by using what has been learned in the classroom and then ‘think’, make it your own.
Back in the classroom through the process of recall we would go through everything that was done out in the field using their memory, notes and drawings to arrive at an answer to the phenomena they had seen.
Jon Syed        1st April 2014


A personal research project for 2013 - 2014
Erika Grantham asked me last year if I saw lyres still being used in our kindergartens.  I thought I would follow up on this and find out if this is happening.  If lyres aren’t being used regularly, why is that? 
1.   Do you have access to a lyre in your kindergarten?
I have one at home
2.   Do you use it daily, or weekly?
No or n/a
3 - for birthdays/festivals
3.   Do you know how to keep it is tune?
No or n/a
2 - almost – working on this

3 – others do it for me or help
4.   Do you know about the value of music in the Mood of the Fifth?
3  - a little/vaguely
·         Covered in depth on early childhood training course
·         When I use it the children become ‘angel-like’
·         I could not explain it to others
·         I don’t find it easy to know if I am using it
5.   Do you choose to use some Mood of the Fifth songs in your group?
Sometimes or accidently
·         I choose songs that are simple and keep them fairly high
·         Included indirectly through choosing suitable ring time songs
6.   If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the above, can you say briefly, why that is?
·         Have requested a lyre and hope that the budget with accommodate this soon
·         Would like more lyre practice including how t0 let the children use it
·         This needed to be brought to my attention
·         Would like to learn to tune the lyre and need more experience playing it
·         Using pentatonic glockenspiel at the moment for a different experience
·         I never built up confidence and facility with the lyre
·         I have been given a lyre and once it is tuned I shall use it every day at story time
·         We don’t really have a part of the day in which it feels appropriate.  Also, not playing myself I would be relying on others which I find tricky
·         Would love more knowledge about tunes, have more lyres in the KG, have a ‘lyre day’ as I have observed in Michael Hall.
Concluding thoughts from me:
I had 11 responses to include in this report.  It was hard to get people to fill it in and return it.  Nevertheless, I feel that this a probably a useful snapshot of the situation in the UK Waldorf kindergartens as it includes new and older settings and more and less experienced colleagues..
 I know that ‘Mood of the Fifth’ and lyre playing are included on both the training courses and I am slightly surprised not to see more use of the lyre but pleased that everyone at least thinks that Mood of the Fifth is a ‘good thing’.  Personally I feel that this kind of pure musical experience is becoming more important to include in kindergarten as the children’s experience of music gets more undermined by how it is used in the world today.  After all, their sense organs for hearing are being formed by what they hear, which is frightening when I think about the prevalence of electronically produced music with its lack of richness of tone and the limited kinds of music to which a modern child may be exposed.  The lyre is a sure and easy way to bring this into kindergarten.
Perhaps we could include lyre workshops in a future SWEYG conference where people could bring their dusty and out of tune lyres and be inspired and given the confidence to look after them and play them.  It is not difficult.
Jill Taplin July 2014   

Guidelines for the provision of eurythmy within a Steiner Waldorf school.

Over the last few years I have observed eurythmy lessons in a number of schools, and I have become aware of the necessity to document a complete list of criteria that should be in place to ensure the best conditions for teaching this subject.

The ideal situation would be a dedicated space in which only eurythmy is taught. For some small schools this is not an option, but if other subjects are taught within the space allocated to eurythmy, it should be noted that eurythmy requires the space to be clean, ventilated and warm, and clear of all equipment required for other subjects, therefore time should be allowed to fulfil the above mentioned criteria.
I have seen some settings where the space allocated for eurythmy has been a space through which pupils and staff are walking during the lessons in order to gain access to other classrooms or facilities. This is not at all satisfactory from many points of view; it will undermine any concentrated work taking place during the lessons and compromise the cleanliness of the space.

It has been noted that in some schools such spaces have been used as a temporary measure until the school can provide a more suitable space that will be purpose built but in other large schools this has not been the case, and the eurythmists have been forced to tolerate such unsuitable conditions that are directly undermining to the lessons.

For those schools who are aiming to build spaces for eurythmy teaching it will be important to provide the following requirements.

The space should allow a 10 metre diameter circle to be formed with space around it. This size will permit whole class teaching throughout the school. When the pupils reach the upper school their spatial requirements are critical to facilitate a lesson in which freedom of movement is ensured. Anything less than a space of these dimensions would necessitate split class teaching which would make the overall provision of eurythmy for the whole school very expensive.
The height of the room must be a minimum of 4 metres, with no beams or light fittings hanging down into this space.
In addition the space should be adequate to house a piano that is in good condition and tuneable, ideally at the front of the space and off to one side.
There should be wall mounted or free standing black or white boards.
There should be a separate shoe changing area, in order that the pupils are ready to move on entering the teaching space, and will not risk injury by tripping over bags and shoes that are left lying within the space. There would need to be adequate space for the storage of shoes for the whole school, and a stock of new shoes.
There would also need to be an additional space to store costumes for performances, a table for sewing, an ironing board and iron. In some schools the pupils wear costumes for their lessons, in such cases storage space for these must also be provided.
There should be some form of seating, chairs or benches, in order to allow pupils to watch each other during the lessons.

Lessons per week:
Kindergarten should have lessons within their own space, and the teacher and any assistant should play an active role within the lesson.
Classes 1 to 3 should have 1 lesson per week.
Classes 4 to 12 should have 2 lessons per week.
All lessons within the main school should have a piano accompanist. All the lessons need a good balance of speech and music for a healthy breathing in the structure of the lesson. A lesson without music places an unhealthy stress on the teacher as his/her voice is the sole moving force for the entire lesson.
Some schools have introduced a eurythmy module during main lesson time for upper school classes. Although this in itself is a good opportunity for the pupils to have an intensive experience of the subject, it should not replace the weekly practice lessons. All disciplines require regular ongoing practice if skills are to be developed.
If the school provides eurythmy therapy prescribed by a school doctor it is recommended that there should be a smaller, more intimate space which is dedicated to therapeutic activity.

The above criteria provide a good possibility for the teaching of eurythmy, and any compromises of these criteria will undermine the quality of lesson that the practicioner is able to deliver.
e.g. if the lesson is to take place within a classroom surrounded by desks that have been stacked around a central space, the lesson will be of necessity more static, and movement amongst the pupils would not be possible due to risk of injury from falling furniture.
If a piano accompanist is not available, another instrumentalist would be acceptable for a time.

Mary Watson.

How can teachers in SW settings give children sufficient whole class & individual challenges so that they are busy working indeopendently & feel they can engage in problem solving

The following is based on classroom observation.
My question when observing: are the children challenged and working hard or is the teacher doing most of the work?
What we can observe?
Children working hard
good self image
less time wasted
Learning faster
Listening better
More concentration
Not phased by high expectations
Feeling they are learning and progressing
Children not challenged
Bored children
Silliness and misbehaviour
Time wasted
Lack of motivation when work is too easy
Poor levels of work, sloppiness
Poor standards achieved

My experience is that many first time teachers struggle to get the balance right:
• Too much time is spent on whole class activities and many children are not acknowledged make
no individual contribution during any one ML
• More time spent on rhythmic part of ML than needs to be
• Element of ‘breathing’ in lesson out of balance: not enough time for children to do individual work
or focus on activities in pairs or groups
• Children waiting while a few only do the work
• expectations too low from day 1; we disappoint the children
• New teachers have incorrect perception of what Waldorf means; working slowly through
curriculum, (we don’t want to wake the children up too quickly) lots of lovely stories and images,
(they need to dream into these, this is the most important factor) we mustn’t demand too much of
children (they are still young children; we don’t want to shock them into thinking too much)
• Lots of pressure to ‘get it right’ and so common sense can go out the window
• Misconception of intellectual challenge versus stimulating challenge that children want in terms of
discovering for themselves; seeing how many sums they can do within a given time; “you did this
last time, can you do more or differently”? “who can think of another way to do…”, all of which
have awakening, enlivening, fun elements

Generally it can be observed that teachers taking on a class for a second time round, have:
• More confidence, often more authority
• have higher expectations, keep the pace moving, go through content more quickly (notable with maths and literacy particularly)
• Expectations are clearer, teachers know where they are going with curriculum, know what
learning they want to have achieved by end of year
• know the value of stretching the children
• Are clearer about setting good work habits from the outset
• are experienced in classroom management
• are not worried about giving the children too much content, rather see it’s value

Examples of good practice:
  • Measurement, class 3: explore aspects as group with emphasis on own deduction; then share ideas of how they came to what they did
  • equivalent of class 4/5 in state school (doing Waldorf ML) times table square, timed; all childrenknew tables and were happy to go through the hundred square in their own time, without feeling pressure
  • Class 1 ‘game’; following a sequence of directions, (stand up, go to Amy, tap her on the back, walk to the blackboard, knock 15 times on board, go and sit down) (ultimately leading to beingcompetent in following directions in maths, science, etc)
  • Class 2: phonetics: flibble the fish; how many claps in flibble? Take word, forest: how many claps? listen to first clap; count sounds; write down these sounds
  • Recall in class 2: jumbled single words (from previous day’s story) Make sentences on floor related to yesterday’s story (in groups); go round and read sentences; put them in the correct order (of story); read out loud (leading to writing)
  • Paired work (leads to more children involved at any one time)! !
What to do:
Clearer directives in teacher trainings re: classroom management; paired work; teacher

Share good practise in teacher’s meetings, especially when new teachers have joined!
Student teachers to observe in class 1
Student teachers to be enabled to do TP in class 1
In an ideal world all new teachers to be classroom assistants for a year before taking on a class! !
Change mindset in planning from what must I teach, to how to I get the children to be active in the
learning process?
Teachers to prepare so that they ask questions, such as -
• What can children be doing as an independent contribution in this activity?
• How can I step back and orchestrate the work so that I am giving clear guidelines but doing less
of the work, children more?

To this end bring in paired work for:
• recall
• practising times tables
• revising spellings to be tested
• correcting/giving suggestions to desk partners’s English composition
• Discussing ideas/issues leading to debating
• Discussing the findings of science experiments
• Comparing maths answers
… the possibilities are endless! !
Formative Assessment in Action by Shirley Clarke!

The above is work in progress and needs to include ideas on differentiation and probably much
Angela Querido
July 2014