Category Archives for Ask the Waldorf Guide Question Form

Reading Material for Third Grade

I have been using the Jakob Streit books to introduce variations of Old Testament stories. I am working through And There Was Light. I am planning to use Journey to the Promised Land and We Will Build a Temple for Language Arts blocks after the holidays. 

Since I last wrote, I am wondering if it is better to use And It Came to Pass to have my daughter practice reading and do a picture and story summary based on those stories rather than me telling a story from the Jakob Streit books. I don't know how And It Came to Pass compares to the reading level in The Secret Pet as per the next paragraph. I am not familiar with And It Came to Pass and would love your input?

After reading Set 1 from Shelley Davidow, I had my daughter start the books I borrowed from the Rudolf Steiner College Canada. She was able to get through Lazy Jack; however, Sylvain and Jocasa was too hard for her. So, we switched to The Secret Pet chapter book by Shelley Davidow. It is going much better as my daughter uses what was taught in Set 1. My daughter is able to read with a few challenges; however, is gaining confidence and building her decoding skills. 

I'd like to weigh in on your question about whether to have your daughter read or listen to Old Testament stories in third grade. It is a good one, and it can be approached from two angles: 1) academic; and 2) developmental.


Based on your description, your daughter is probably at the beginning of the Pattern Phase. (You would need to assess to confirm.) If so, her reading should be to practice basic skills (i.e., decoding and sight word skills), not to learn new academic content. If she is reading Davidow's The Secret Pet, she should continue books at that level with an emphasis on improving her basic skills. It is only when she cracks the code that you can expect her to read academic material and work with it. Again, this would argue for telling Old Testament stories as you have been doing.


Steiner intended the Old Testament stories to be told by the class teacher. They are part of his storytelling curriculum. He was very clear that these stories could not simply be read–they were to be told as stories. Therefore, I would continue to tell the stories, as you had been doing. 

However, Steiner did have a caveat that some Old Testament stories could be read by the students after the teacher has told them. If you wanted to try it as an experiment, it might be worth your while. However, it would need to be in addition to (not instead of) having the student read The Secret Pet and other leveled booksOtherwise, it would slow down her progress in reading.

Good luck!

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Handwriting Part Two

Thank you, Jennifer, your response was very helpful. I actually wasn't thinking of telling a whole story for the writing of each letter, but more like the descriptions you included for the letter M: “We start at the top of its first peak, which touches the sky and draw a straight line down to the earth.” I suppose I will need to get creative in connecting the formation of the letter with its anchor picture, or maybe I can just describe the formation as I see it? (My creativity feels like it's at an all-time low these days.)

Let’s see if I can help provide some additional advice: 

You don't connect the description to the anchor picture but to the letter formation chart and whatever elements you used to describe the three zones on the paper with dotted midlines (e.g., sky, ground, below ground). (See figure 3.2.10 on page 120 for another image.)  It is just a coincidence that the anchor picture for M mountain happens to coincide with the image for the dotted midline! : )

So, for the capital letter S, you might say you start up high up, swoop up to touch the sky, blow to the left, then to the right, come back to the center land on the ground, and then swoop up to the left. Thus, the key elements to use in the image are the sky and ground. You would use the same for all the other letters. Each letter will be described based on these three zones made by the dotted midline.

Thus, the description of the formation of letters requires no need for a teacher to create new imaginations or images–just an ability to use the letter formation chart and describe how to make each line in relation to, say, sky, ground, and below ground. Keep it simple–the goal is for the student to realize that there are three zones on the paper, and s/he has to use these three zones to write a letter.  Once the student has that idea, the image has served its purpose. (Ironically, if you keep changing the image for each letter, it could take the student longer to learn handwriting–and tax your creativity and lead to long hours of lesson planning in the process.)

It can be even easier. Once students get the idea that there are three zones, some children do not need/want this description of how to form the letters. They just want to see the diagram of the letter and try forming it themselves. (That is how I was when I was learning the alphabet–by the middle of the school year, I tuned my teacher out while she described how to write a letter. I just wanted to see the diagram and try forming the letters myself. Occasionally I made mistakes and my teacher helped me correct them by describing what I did wrong and then describing how to form the letter correctly while pointing to examples of each. Then, her descriptions were much appreciated because I needed them!) 

Once your child gets the idea that there are three zones, you can forego the descriptive element for some or all letters–or even challenge him or her to provide the description! (Some students love that–others dislike it.)

Play around with it a little bit. See what works best for you and your child. And please let me know if I can provide further information.

Good luck!

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Handwriting Part One

I am a homeschooling mom who is teaching first grade (yikes!) beginning this year. I am relying on The Roadmap to Literacy to help me plan my lessons and teach the material. I am wondering how to teach the proper way to write the letters, because I am not sure that how I write them is the “right” way. 

I read the Englishland container story intro but is there more (for all the letters?). If not, can you recommend a good resource for teaching formation of the letters?

I understand you have two questions: 1) You would like more information on proper letter formation so you can see if you are teaching correct letter formation; and 2) You would like additional resources for introducing the right way to print each letter (e.g., stories).

These are good questions.

Proper Letter Formation

A good letter formation chart should enable you to confirm that you are forming each letter correctly. 

An easy way to check your handwriting is to get a letter formation chart that shows the proper way to form each letter and then compare your printing against it. For example, in The Roadmap to Literacy, several scripts are recommended, including D'Nealian. I do not know which script you have selected, but I have attached a link that shows letter formation charts for D'Nealian printing (for both right-handed and left-handed writers). Just use the link below and scroll down.

As you scroll down through this link, you fill find several letter formation charts–one for right-handed students and one for left-handed. Use the letter formation chart to determine whether you are forming the letters correctly (i.e., make sure you form each line in a letter in the order and direction indicated). If you are not forming the letter correctly, be sure to correct your printing before you teach your child to print it. Once you have done so, you should be good to go.

Additional Resources for Teaching Letter Formation

There are many free and low-cost resources available online, depending on which font you have decided to teach. I have included a good resource for D'Nealian in the link above. However, I don't think this is what you are looking for. It sounds as if you would like a story from Englishland for each letter of the alphabet. If so, let me attempt to dissuade you. 

When you teach handwriting, you need only do the story from Englishland for the original introduction of handwriting. Then, for subsequent letters, you can show your child how to form the letters (with a little description based on the language from the story) followed immediately by a handout with a visual aid showing the letter and the little arrows indicating which line to form first, second, third and in which direction (see the handouts in the link above). That is all you need do. Follow up with lots of practice that involves handwriting such as Kid Writing, symbol imagery exercises, spelling, letter dictation, etc. 

There are many reasons not to give a story for each letter's formation:

1. Balance Memory and Imagination: The main reason is the need to balance memory and imagination. Steiner claims that having too much of one or the other is unhealthy for the students. This is a topic I discussed at length in the sequel, Continuing the Journey to Literacy (Militzer-Kopperl 2020, 81-84). Consult the sequel for a full discussion.

2. Avoid Story Indigestion: Another reason is story indigestion. Waldorf contains a lot of stories. Too many stories over the course of the week leads to story indigestion. Janet alluded to this concern in The Roadmap to Literacy (Langley and Militzer-Kopperl, 473). Avoiding overloading your child with unnecessary stories. Save the stories for the initial introduction of a topic.

3. Stories are Only for the Initial Introduction of Handwriting: Finally, a story for printing every letter of the alphabet is overkill. Once students get the idea, it is not necessary to keep giving them stories to introduce handwriting. They are ready to move on. Some students prefer to teach themselves how to write each letter by looking at the diagram on the handout. Others prefer to have you describe each stroke. Using both approaches is good for a class, but since you are homeschooling, you can see which approach your child prefers and tailor your instruction accordingly. (If your child prefers both approaches, use both. It will provide a bit of redundancy which can prove reassuring for melancholic students and/or those who are unsure of themselves.)  


After the initial introduction of handwriting from the story Englishland, students should have the general idea–especially if you use the original language of the story in your description of how to form subsequent letters. The three above-mentioned reasons are why it is good to do a story for the original introduction of handwriting but not for how to print each letter of the alphabet.

If you child is still struggling with learning to print letters in the middle of first grade, please let me know. That would be a red flag for one or more possible remedial issues. Some of the handouts Janet provided from Brain Gym could then prove especially beneficial, depending on what is going on. In addition, students may have immaturities in their hands that might make it difficult to hold a pencil. (See my website “Renewal of Literacy” for a video showing some exercises to do.

If you give more information, I would be happy to provide more specific guidance. Thank you for your questions. I hope this information helps.

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