The Waldorf Class Play

Parents of Waldorf students get to see their children perform a play every spring. But why? Don’t tell the kids, but it’s not just for fun. Class plays are grounded in each grade’s individual curriculum and the appropriate developmental level of the students. Students act out what they’ve learned throughout the year in the language arts and bring their curriculum to life. This not only helps children truly remember what they’ve learned, but also gives students an opportunity to showcase other skills and employ teamwork.

Class plays incorporate music, recitation, memorization, acting, and visual arts (via set and costume preparations). Also, the play meets children at a place of their age’s unique social development — both in story and practice. The practice and performance of a play requires age-appropriate finesse in social learning and group dynamics. The play’s topic, or storyline, also seeks to address the struggles felt by the particular age group.

In grade 4, for example, a play about Norse mythology and the trouble making of Loki reminds children of the consequences of their own budding morality and of their choices as they emerge from early childhood into an expanded worldview.

The parts within a play begin mostly as chorus in younger grades; as the children grow, so do the expectations for bringing individual characters to life. Waldorf teachers, who have been with their students through all the grades, know them well and give parts that challenge or complement each student’s personality. Through plays, students can be guided to emerge or develop from a comfortable place within themselves or perhaps play a part of someone very different and challenging.

Perhaps most importantly, the children feel exuberance and joy bringing their lessons to life for their loved ones during the class play. It is a culmination and presentation of much of the hard work done that year for the students. And they are understandably proud of their work.

One thought on “The Waldorf Class Play

  1. I am so pleased to see this aspect of Waldorf schooling outlined so well, never having come across it in written form before. I have had the good fortune of teaching in several Steiner/Waldorf Schools in Australia since 1982 and retired at the end of last year, having taken almost five classes as their teacher – the last class to Class 4, having taught French, German, Latin,in the lower and upper grades and high school as well as other subjects too as one did ‘in the olden days’. I have mentored younger teachers and have always stressed the importance of advising the parents what class plays are about, as set out beautifully above, and over the years have seen so many opportunities wasted by teachers who didn’t understand that the play was not simply for the amusement of the audience but that it played an integral part in the development of the individual student as well as of the class as a cohesive social group.

    One thing I’d like to add which may be helpful for others, is that right from Class 1, before the performance began (and depending on the content of the play, of course) I would ask the parents not to applaud at the end but to allow the energy/space/mood created by the play to remain in the room; for example, if it were a Christmas play or Mid-Winter celebratory performance. The clapping would break the space and detract from what had just been created. The silence at the end is profound and lands deeply into the hearts and minds of the audience as well as the players as they walk off feeling full of/enriched by their accomplishment.

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