Friday, June 1, 2007

Teaching the Alphabet

The following is an excerpt from an older post on my blog, Schooling from the Heart:

In Waldorf education, the capital alphabet is taught one letter at a time using the medium of story and art to really bring the letters alive for each child in a memorable, meaningful way. The letters emerge out of the story, usually a Grimm’s Fairytale (but it doesn’t have to be,) and come to life on the chalkboard and page. For example, to introduce the letter M many people tell Simeli Mountain and draw a mountain that resembles an M.

While it’s not the quickest way to teach the alphabet, I found it to be the most rewarding. Not just for Sunburst, but for myself, as well. Every bit of it seemed important. The stories engaged our hearts. The artwork (drawing a story picture and letter) engaged our hands, and the learning of each letter awakened her thinking. That’s what the lesson is designed to do, but really it did even more than that. It awakened my creativity and belief in my ability to teach my own children. It deepened her respect for me as teacher and storyteller, and it awakened this magic world between us, steeped in goodness, beauty, and adventure.

There are many ways to go about this lesson. Some people just tell each letter story as a separate piece, and others weave a larger story that incorporates smaller stories for the letters. The idea of a larger story really appealed to me, but in my searching none of the complete stories I found really seemed to fit Sunburst’s needs and my own. If I was going to make a story come to life, it needed to work for my child and had to be engaging for me as well. In the end, I made one up.

I combined ideas from Path of Discovery Grade 1, Genii of Language by Alan Whitehead, Christopherus First Grade Syllabus, postings on various Waldorf e-groups by other homeschoolers, and mixed them with my own thoughts and what we were emoting based on our own personalities and the season (we started the lesson in late Fall.) It turned out to be a huge success in my house.

Seeing how others go about a lesson always helps kick my own creative gears into motion. It’s my hope that a glimpse into our story will do the same for others.

Here is the list of letters and the corresponding stories/images or feelings I used to teach them.
We covered one to three letters a week.

J=Jug (Water of Life -Grimms)
~ O ~ (surprise)
T=(Three Little Men in the Wood - Grimms)
M=Mountain (Simeli Mountain - Grimms)
D=Door in the mountain
~ E ~ (fear)
H=House (Mother Holle - Grimms)
N=Needle (The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle - Grimms)
Q=(The Jolly Queen – own)
G=(The Golden Goose - Grimms)
C=Cave of Mysteries
----> Intro to Numbers ---->
Z=Zigzag of lightning
R=(Rapunzel - Grimms)
B=Bear (Masha and the Bear – Spindrift)
~ U ~ (concern)
S=Swan (Six Swans - Grimms)
~ A ~ (wonder)
X=X on treasure map (Pirate John - own)
F=(Fisherman and His Wife - Grimms)
Y=Yew tree (Birth of Christ)
~ I ~ (understanding of one's place in the world)

For the vowels I used the magical idea from Christopherus First Grade Syllabus of writing the letters on golden star paper from an art store. The vowels represented different feelings, and the Prince represented the kingdom. So when the Prince felt the fullness of these feelings along the way, in our story the stars fell from the sky. Each time a star fell, the light in the lantern would grow stronger. The Wiseman told the Prince to put the stars next to his heart, but at the end, when he reached into his pocket for the stars they weren’t physically there. There was only a happy warm feeling –they had become a part of him.

Here's letter G, The Golden Goose:

***The original blog post this entry was taken from is pretty lengthy. If you're interested in reading the story I told or seeing more images, you can find the original posting Here.

Also, for a great online list of Grimm’s Fairytales worth considering for your own First Grade lessons, check out David Darcy’s blog.


het lieveheersbeestje said...

Wouw, that looks great. Although my children all go to an christian school at the age of four-and-half, I did teach them a lot myself before they went. Two of them where reading at four years old. The teachers don't appriciate that, but it is a great benifit. This idea of learning letter by letter is about the way I teached them, but I never used stories with it. When my two year old becomes three, I will start learing him this way the alphabeth! Thanks for the idea!

Greatings from the Netherlands,
mama lieveheersbeestje

HerbalTonya said...


thanks for the repost.I think is the my favorite blpg entry ever...inspiring and useful I look foreward to zoe being old enough to begin the alphabet and I know we will refer to this post again and again!!!


Brie said...

Your way of teaching the alphabet is both creative and fun! It seems like it would keep kids active and excited to continue learning more and more letters. It is a great hands on way to learn. I think this lesson plan could be incorporated in a classroom and the students could work together to make a picture book.

Lisa said...

Your illustrations for the letters are so beautiful.

I am looking forward sharing the letters with my children.

Eric Allen said...

Remember that in Waldorf, letters aren't taught until 1st/2nd grade and reading 2nd/3rd grade.

Eric Allen said...

Sorry for a followup, but also that the early grades don't use textbooks-everything is done by the children in their own blank books...

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