How many writing projects per year should I expect for a 6th/7th grader and how long should the writing be?
Good question. Define “writing projects!” Do you mean all writing projects, or the ones done in addition to the regular writing that is part of the Waldorf curriculum?
Regular Writing in the Waldorf Curriculum
A student in 6th/7th grade should be writing all his/her main lesson book entries him/herself. This means no copying material composed by the teacher or anyone else, except for a poem or two every now and then. In main lesson blocks in English, history, geography, and natural science, the student should be composing written summaries of the material s/he learned. These summaries will range from a 1–2 paragraphs to 1–2 pages in length, depending on the topic. Use your discretion to determine the appropriate length for each summary.
Students in sixth grade start studying physics. They will need to learn to write a lab report for the physics experiments done in class. In seventh grade, chemistry is added to the curriculum, so there will be lab reports in both blocks. These lab reports are the equivalent of the written summaries students compose in the humanities blocks—they serve as a record of what the student is learning, and all the composing should be done by the student once the parent teaches the student how to write written summaries (see the Four Steps to Teaching Composition on pages 320–323 in The Roadmap to Literacy).
Additional Writing Projects
In addition to these written summaries for main lesson book entries, there are other writing projects:
- Reports: Students should be working on reports. There should be one book report per English block. There should be one research project in each history block, the geography block, and the natural science block (e.g., mineralogy). This project usually involves the student doing some research on a topic not covered in class and writing a report. The length of the report varies, but 1–3 pages is typical.
- Other Writing in English Blocks:
- Business letters: They should be studying business composition (business letters) in both 6th and 7th
- Compositions/Essays about Literature: In 7th grade, they also start studying literature more formally and beginning to write compositions and essays about the books and poems they are reading. The number and length of such assignments varies based on the skills you are teaching in the block (for example, students are also studying grammar, spelling, etc.). These essays take the place of written summaries. They are more formalized.
To summarize, there should be lots of writing (both regular writing and additional writing projects) in all blocks, excepting math blocks. The students should spend a considerable chunk of each main lesson class composing material based on what they are learning. Only some of that material will be recopied into the main lesson book, but everything that goes into the book should be the students’ own writing.