Educating the Whole Child – Verbal and Linguistic Learning

Waldorf educators aim to teach children proficiency in each of nine intelligences while recognizing individual children’s gifts in these areas.

Verbal / Linguistic Intelligence

Many of us remember that feeling, sitting in the first grade circle, waiting for your turn to stand up and read a page from a book. You listened as Suzy read as fluently as the teacher and Jimmy stuttered over every word. During the spelling test an hour later, you struggled to remember that word you memorized the night before with Mom.

In Waldorf schools, this is not how children learn verbal and linguistic skills. In an effort to be more effective and foster a love of learning, children learn to read by writing and learn to write by copying teacher lessons from the board.  The teachers use whole, rich language in their lessons with the children.  This provides the more advanced reader with challenging words while allowing a newly emerging reader to be successful with more common sight words.

Child-created Textbooks

Copying notes from a chalkboard is not a new idea, but at Waldorf schools, this is not typical Chalk and Talk learning.  As children copy the teacher words, they create their own textbooks. Each child’s handmade lesson book has room for colorful drawings and children are encouraged to be creative as they copy and absorb the lesson from the board.  Every textbook becomes a unique representation of the individual child as they move through the grades.

Oral Traditions: Story, Myth and History

Another important component in verbal and linguistic learning is the circle time start to the morning. Every class, in childhood and lower grades, begins with students and teachers reciting poems, singing songs and playing games together. The complex vocabulary and imagery found in the poems and songs, and later in the stories of myth and history, bring verbal language to life and give depth to a child’s understanding and desire to engage written material.

Story topics begin with fairy tales and then move to Hebrew Scriptures, Roman history, Medieval times, and the Renaissance and the as the material progresses the children in the upper grades are brought into modern times and current events.   Interaction and expectations for students to be critical thinkers about the material being presented is encouraged and enabled during this process.

Foreign Language

Finally, a child’s ability to imitate and learn new language starts young and so two foreign languages are taught beginning in first grade.  To learn more about the foreign language teaching methodology, click on this great article by Sonrisas Spanish School.

In our next post we’ll look at how Waldorf approaches teaching math and fostering logical and mathematical intelligence.



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