Elements of Waldorf: Circle Time

Night DanceI look out our picture windows and see the neighbor, who is walking his dog, staring in and laughing. I don’t blame him. He’s probably never seen a mom dancing and skipping around the front room. I laugh too – not out of embarrassment, but out of delight – delight that is intensified as I look into the sparkling eyes of my daughter as she dances around with me. Circle Time may be our favorite part of the school day.

In a Waldorf education, Circle Time does not end in preschool or even kindergarten, but continues through elementary school. It holds an important place in the beginning of the school day, as a transition from free play or outdoor play into more focused school time. But it is more than  simply a method of transition – it is important to the Waldorf philosophy of learning. 

circle-1Why do Circle Time?

  1. Brain Development – Science has proven that the development of the body is in direct correlation with the development and ability to learn academically. Like any other body part, when the brain is exercised, it developes and can more easily be used to learn new information.
  2. God’s Word. What could be more important for raising children who are passionate pursuing God than a love for His Word. Circle Time is the ideal time to memorize verses and passages of scripture – that God will use to sustain and ground your children throughout their lives. Psalm 119: 11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
  3. Language – both foreign and native. Through poems and songs children acquire enunciation, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and language comprehension as well as a love for the flow and sound of language.
  4. Math Facts – Children move from counting to skip counting to multiplication tables in daily recitation, song and movement – making the facts hard to forget. Mental math and verbal story problems are also added into circle time as the grade progress.
  5. Memorization – Days, months, seasons, grammar facts, historical timelines, scientific information – anything that can and needs to be memorized can be done with a song and a dance.
  6. Music – Through singing, playing rhythm and wind instruments, and rhythmic movement children’s brains are being exercised. Numerous studies show there is a direct correlation between music and speech, language, reading, larger vocabularies, and the ability to memorize.

circle-2How to create a Circle Time?

  1. Establish a rhythm. Just like daily rhythm – circle time has a rhythm – breathing in and out moments. Breathing out includes big motor, movement, dance, rhythmic instruments, loud recitation. Breathing in may include the lighting of a candle with a verse, sitting on the floor doing finger plays, and quiet voice recitation. For best results – alternate breathing in and out.
  2. Establish goals and move towards specifics. Start by setting up what you want to memorize (Skip counting by 7s, Months of the Year, Greetings in Spanish.) Then find poems and verse to fit what you want to teach. Then add the detail of movement, rhythm and song that you will teach each with – keeping in mind the alternation of breathing in and breathing out. 
  3. Establish a base. Use two or three verses for the entire year. Change a couple seasonally. Switch 3 or 4 for each new block. The idea is to progress through the learning of new facts, but new facts are learned within a safe, established, comfortable rhythm and verse. – Keep in mind that the 2 or 3 verse you use as your base are more likely to be remember for life, so make them count.
  4. Establish a time frame. Think 20 – 40 minutes for circle time depending on the age of your child and the amount of material you want to recite.

circle-3

Let’s not over-intellectualize Circle Time. It is fun! It makes learning fun – and this is a good thing. A 2012 German Study  found that 85% of Waldorf students had a positive attitude towards school and and were enthusiastic about learning. The students in the study reported that school was “fun” and “not boring.” (Jiménez, Fanny “Wissenschaftler loben Waldorfschulen”, Die Welt, 27 September 2012). I know that on the top of my list of “Why I Homeschool” is “To create a love of learning” and “To create lifelong learners.” Circle Time helps do this.

 

 

circle-4

So, I may look silly twirling circles with my daughter in my living room – but I’m so glad we do it.

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Let Me Move You

movement 13Out of mothering instinct – I did a few things right. Two out of three of my children probably would have been on Ritalin if they’d been in the public school. They just couldn’t seem to sit still to learn. So, instinctively, I used their wiggles for them instead of against them. We ran and played, or swam every day. We skipped rope or hopped up and down stairs to memorize spelling words. We wrote math problems with sidewalk chalk in the driveway. Before I had even heard of Waldorf Education – I was doing instinctually what Waldorf does intentionally, and what modern science has deemed beneficial to education.

movement 2

Waldorf emphasizes movement. In early education (before age 7) kids move through free play and games, whereas elementary teachers organize it and make it an integral part of the educational process. During circle time, children move to music and beat – reciting literature, math facts and foreign language. In the Waldorf classroom, students may march around the room spelling words, or toss bean bags to recite times tables. To learn to “write” student’s learn hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity by learning to knit and modeling with bee’s wax, as well as reciting finger plays in circle time. Even high schoolers are encouraged to move and exercise in a Waldorf setting. If a child has special needs – he gets “extra lessons” – which are taught almost completely through movement.

movement 10What Waldorf teachers have been practicing for a century, scientific studies (mainly conducted in the 1990s) have proven to be beneficial to the educational process. Scientists have connected the dots between movement and education – physical activity and the ability to learn. Studies have proven the link between physical movement and vision, physical movement and the development of language, physical movement and memory, physical movement and the ability to pay attention.  Researchers have also found that as well as improving academic performance, exercise improves behavior and social skills. And movement dramatically improves dexterity, reading, speaking, and comprehension in children with learning differences and special needs. In a study done in 2003, children who spent a larger portion of their day in physical activity scored higher on standardized tests than those who learned traditionally by sitting at a desk.  One of the coolest things I’ve learned is that physical movement can regenerate the brain – for one’s entire life! As an adult, the more I exercise the more learning my brain will be able to accomplish.

 

movementI recently sat on an airplane next to a woman who had taught kindergarten for 30 years. When she started, the kids went for half a day, in which they played, read a couple of books, learned to cut, tie their shoes, sing the alphabet, and count to 20. She said, kids used to have fun – they wanted to come to school. Then she told me about the changes – how now the kids come to school all day and have a 20 minute recess. If they are “bad in class” – although they need the recess more than other kids – recess is what is taken away as punishment. The kids are expected to come into kindergarten knowing their letters and numbers and to leave reading and doing simple arithmetic. Kids no longer enjoy coming to school. She was planning to retire – because she didn’t enjoy coming anymore either.

 

movement 11Maybe I’ve been doing a few too many jumping jacks, because I’m putting all the facts together. I’m excited that my instincts and natural inclination are backed up by science – and that there is a proven educational philosophy, which at its very core, implements these practices.

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movement 12

Sources used in article (and for your own personal research)

“High physical activity levels in a Waldorf school reflect alternative developmental understandings” by Elisa J. Sobo

http://sheu.org.uk/x/eh311ejs.pdf

“Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition” Chapter 4, by Eric Jensen

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104013/chapters/Movement-and-Learning.aspx

“Practical and Ethical Considerations: The basis for a school-wide, all-students approach to learning foundations” by Jeff Tunkey and Amanda Boyler

http://www.movementforchildhood.com/uploads/2/1/6/7/21671438/remedial.pdf

“Remedial Education” by Mary Jo Oresti

http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/remedialeducation.pdf

“Games, Gymnastics, Sport in Child Development” Rudolf Kischnick, translated by Edeline Le Fevre

http://www.movementforchildhood.com/uploads/2/1/6/7/21671438/kischnick_pt1.pdf

Fairy Circle

 

Fairies R 10We are the sunshine fairies (Twirl clockwise)

And with our sparks of light (flick fingers as sparks – right hand flicks left side/left hand flicks right side)
We shimmer and glimmer in the air (Twirl counterclockwise)

Hugging flowers with colors so bright (hug self and rub hands up and down over folded arms)

 

 

 

 

 

fairy 2

Aquella hada* (flap arms like fairy)

Que va por el sol (Hands over head as sun)
En cada ramita (Arms out as tree twigs)
Que lleva una flor. (ballet arms above head, spin in circle)
(like presenting self at court)

Viva la gala (Right arm from left side body stretched out to right side of body)
Viva el amor (Left arm from right side of body stretched out to left side of body)
Viva la gala (both arms crossed to open up at sides of body)
De aquella hada (curtsy)

This fairy (flap arms like fairy)
That goes in the sun (Hands over head as sun)
On every twig (Arms out as tree twigs)
That bears a flower. (ballet arms above head, spin in circle)
(like presenting self at court)
Long live the elegance,
(Right arm from left side body stretched out to right side of body)
Long live the love (Left arm from right side of body stretched out to left side of body)
Long live the elegance (both arms crossed to open up at sides of body)
Of this fairy (curtsy)

* caracol/snail

(“Aquel Caracol” Rhymes from Mexico – http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=3374)

Fairy Edmond 2

(From Big Voice to Tiny Voice)

I am the giant. (Stomp march – very big steps)

When I mumble and grumble,

The whole earth doth rumble.

I am the gnome. (Shovel like movement)

I dig in the ground

That gold may be found.

I am the witch, (Gallop – pretending to ride on a broom)

And I spit, and I spat

With my skinny black cat.

I am the King. (Stand with hands on hips)

I hold in my hand

The laws of the land.

I am the Knight. (Move like riding a horse)

I fight the King’s foe

With battle-axe and bow.

I am the Queen (Twirl/dance holding “gown”)

In my shining crown

And silvery gown.

I am the Lady. (Wave self with “fan” while step-ball-change from side to side)

I primp and I preen

And I follow the Queen.

I am the fairy. (Fly and flitter)

I fly in the air

And live everywhere.

I am the elf. (Hop, skip, leap)

I whisper and peep.

I hop, skip and leap.

(An English Manual for Elementary School by Dorothy Harrer)

Fairies R 7

Deep in the kingdom there spreads a great forest, (Stand like a tree)
Deep in the forest a mountain soars high; (Pointed arms above head – like mountain)
Deep in the mountain a high vaulted cavern, (Arms straight in front of body with hands above head)
Secret and solemn, where fools may not pry. (Arms made like X over body)

Deep in the cavern there stands a great granite, (Arms form circle in front of body)
Solid and silent and strong as the earth; (Stand strong with arms at sides)
Deep in the granite there glistens and gleams (Bend down and scoop up jewel)
A radiant jewel of wondrous worth.  (Hold jewel in cupped hands in front of body)

(Hidden by Paul King)

(From Standing to sitting – Use silky – as magic carpet & picnic blanket to sit on floor)

Fairies R 8
A little magic carpet came sailing through the air (Run around with silky waving)

With some little fairy folk a sitting on it there*

Each had an acorn basket with a picnic lunch inside (Skip –silk in one hand – “basket” in other)

They stopped and ate their goodies (Lay silky on floor as picnic blanket)

On a stone – I sat beside it

They had frosted, tiny cookies – as round as that (Sit on silky and pretend to eat)

Some sandwiches of bees meat

And they sat and sat and sat

Lo, when the fairies flew away

A crumb could not be found (Crawl on the ground looking for crumbs)

Then I looked and looked and hunted

Over ev’ry inch of ground

*With some little pixie people

(“The Magic Carpet” from Rhymes for Little Hands by Maud Burnham)

Fairies R 6

Once I thought I heard some fairies (Cup ears)

And I looked the garden through (Hand over eyes – looking)

I peeped in every flower cup (Bend fingers slightly, keep hands together)

And in the wee buds too (Curl fingers into palms – hands still together)

I looked beneath the toadstools (On had top of toadstool other stem)

And the tufts of stripped green grass (Fingers up like grass)

Then I just sat down quietly (fold hands in lap)

To let the fairies pass!

(“In the Garden” from Rhymes for Little Hands by Maud Burnham)

Fairies R 2

Way up in the sky the fairies* fly,(Connect hands to make a fairies fly upward)
Down, Down in the flowers the fairies rest (Fly your hands downward)

With a wing on the left, (Show only one hand open to the left)
and a wing on the right, (Show the right hand open to the right)
We’ll let the dear fairies dance through the night. (Fingers wiggle and “dance)

*Little birds

(Way up in the sky – Traditional children’s verse)
Fairy 3One, two, three, (Slowly rise to feet from sitting)
The garden is growing.
Four, five, six, (Hoeing movement)
Now it needs hoeing.
Seven, eight, nine, (Pick weeds)
Down go the weeds.
Ten, eleven, twelve, (Water Garden)
Water it needs.
Thirteen, fourteen, (Hands make rain  – full movement from ceiling to floor)
Here comes a shower.
Fifteen, sixteen, (Full movement – from floor to arms above head – flower grows)
A fairies very own flower!*

*Changed line from “A carrot and a flower!”

(http://www.canteach.ca/elementary/songspoems72.html)

Spring Rhythm

We’re walking to a slightly faster beat than we did last semester. Here’s our new weekly rhythm:

Weekly

Mom Time

Breakfast

Walk Dogs

Circle Time

Daily Chores

Snack

Art

Monday: Wet-on-Wet Painting

Tuesday: Clay/Modeling

Wednesday: Drawing

Thursday: Nature Craft

Friday: Seasonal or Holiday Craft

Fairy tale Story time

Lunch

Bible Study (Drawing pictures from Psalms)

Daily Focus

Monday: Farmers Market

Tuesday: Cooking

Wednesday: Handcrafts

Thursday: Outside

Friday: Gardening

Snack

Outside Free play

Dinner

Family time

Yoga

Snack

Bath

Read Aloud

Prayer

Bed

Mom and Dad Time

Mom daughter forest

Forest Day

*Every Thursday is Forest Day – We drive to a nearby forest after breakfast and spend the day. We do circle time, crafts, story time, lunch, and Bible study outside. We also have lots of free time to explore, collect, and play.

Night Dance

Circle Time (6 Week each)

January – Mid February: Dragons

Mid February – March: Fairies

April – Mid May: Mermaids

Daily Chores

Clean one room a day, as well as general pick up. Rose helps with the cleaning.

Fairy Tales (3 weeks each)

Dragon Theme: The Dragon of Ghent, The Reluctant Dragon

Fairy Theme: The Fairies, Sleeping Beauty

Mermaid Theme: The Little Mermaid, The Golden Mermaid

*Fairy tales are modified to be age appropriate, but as close to original as possible.

Justification 4

Read Aloud Books

Dragon Theme: Chapter Book –My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett,  Picture Books – The Land of Long Ago by Elsa Beskow, The Knight and the Dragon by  Tomie dePaola

Fairy Theme: Chapter Book – The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, Poetry/Picture Book – If You See a Fairy Ring: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Poems Illustrated by Susanna Lockheart

 Mermaid Theme: Chapter Book – Mermaid Magic by Gwyneth Rees, Picture Books: Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell, Can You Catch a mermaid? by Jane Ray
What does your Spring semester look like?

 

 

 

 

Dragon Circle

Dragons are too much fun to bypass just because we don’t celebrate Michaelmas. So we are starting the New Year with a Dragon Circle theme – and reading about Dragons, and storytelling about Dragons. I for one am looking forward to it.

dragon 6

This is the day

The Lord has made

I will rejoice

And be glad

(Psalm 118:24)

Each week add new motion

1) Stand Still – Move Arms

2) Do 1 + say as March

3) Do 1, 2 + Clap Rhythm

4) DO 1, 2, & 3 + March & Clap together

Dragon 13Fairies are flying,

Elves are skipping,

Dwarfs are dancing,

Giants are tramping,

Hunters are galloping,

Dragons are prancing,

And the children tip-toe

(Follow the Leader by Dorothy Harrer )

dragon 11

I’m tired of being a dragon, (March)

Ferocious and brimming with flame, (Stomp)

The cause of unspeakable terror (Stomp louder)

When anyone mentions my name. (Stomp louder)

I’m bored with my bad reputation (March but drag the beat)

For being a miserable brute, (March lower to ground still dragging)

And being routinely expected (March lower to ground still dragging)

To brazenly pillage and loot. (March – Hands grabbing imaginary things off floor & out in pouch)

I wish that I weren’t repulsive, (Stomp in Place)

Despicable, ruthless, and fierce, (Making Fists – show strong arms)

With talons designed to dismember (Show Claws)

And fangs finely fashioned to pierce. (Show teeth)

I’ve lost my desire for doing (Sigh)

The deeds any dragon should do, (Slump shoulders, shake head)

But since I can’t alter my nature, (Snap to attention – shrug shoulders)

I guess I’ll just terrify you. (Run Around Room Roaring & Tickling)

 (A Dragon’s Lament by Jack Prelutsky)

Dragon 10

Turn around once (whee)

And Swing your dragon tail (wiggle bottom)

Turn around twice (whee, whee)

And flap your wings like sails (flap arms)

Turn around three times (Whee, whee, whee)

Then Stomp your foot and roar (Stomp & Roar)

Jump up high, then sit on the floor. (Jump, sit)

(1,000 Fingerplays & Action Rhymes by Barbara Scott)

dragon 12

 Dragon, dire and dreadful beast

Deep in darkness dwells.

The evil deeds he does and sees

None dare ever tell

(http://thewaldorfconnection.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Waldorf-Academy-Verses-Lesson-8.docx)

Pounding on the floor with hands to rhythm as you chant – 2 or 3 times get faster each time.

dragon 2

 One little,  Two little. Three little dragons

Four little, Five little, Six little dragons

Seven little , Eight little. Nine little dragons

Ten little dragons roar

Ten little. Nine little. Eight little dragons

Seven little. Six little. Five little dragons

Four little. Three little, Two little dragons

One little dragon snores

Finger play –  counting fingers

Now in Spanish

Uno, dos, tres Drogones

Cuatro, cinco, seis Drogones

Siete. Ocho, nueve Drogones

Diez Drogones rugido

Dies, nueve, ocho Drogones

Siete, Seis, cinco Drogones

Cuatro, tres, does Drogones

Uno Dragon ronca

Count Fingers again

dragon7

 (Act out:)

All curled up in my small little shell

Rolling around in this place which I dwell

Wondering what the world will be

I’m ready to break out – I’m ready to see.

I knock and I scratch, I push and I shove

I hear the shell crack and I see blue sky above

I bust out and shake the dust off from inside

I stretch my bones tall and spread my wings wide

I leap to my feet and breath my first fire

To soar through the air is my greatest desire

(Dragons Coming Out Party by Joyce Pinero – my first attempt at writing a verse)

dragon 5

 Good job my courageous one

Now our circle’s almost done

To be brave you must see

God is always with you and me

(Give child a hug and squeeze)

dragon 14

Jesus, help my eyes to see
All the good Thou sendest me.
Jesus, help my ears to hear
Calls for help from far and near.
Jesus, help my feet to go
In the way that Thou wilt show.
Jesus, help my hands to do
All things loving, kind, and true.
Jesus, may I helpful be,
Growing every day like Thee.

(Little Folded Hands, Prayers for Children) 

Face you child, Hold their hands and say prayer together

Dragon 15

For Storytelling I’ll be telling the tale: The Dragon of Ghent

Read Aloud Book: My Father’s Dragon,