Question C: Does Steiner Education Use Strict Whole Language Approaches?

I acknowledge that some literacy specialists have criticised the Steiner Education approach to literacy development as using ‘whole-language’ or ‘blended-literacy’. But from what I can tell by my limited observation of Steiner classrooms, this isn’t exactly the case. To me, there seems to be some explicit teaching around syllables, onset/rime and compound words, followed by some phoneme segmentation and blending.

Every Waldorf teacher is doing it differently. Steiner Education is based on Steiner's advice for teaching literacy in German, which is much more phonetic than English. Steiner Education as articulated by Steiner is more “whole language;” however, a careful reading of Steiner shows that Steiner was open to using elements of all educational approaches to reading available in his day. He did not want teachers to get fixed on there being only one right way. That point has largely been lost in Steiner Education. It now identifies itself as “whole language.” Teachers who use other approaches often do so on the sly–or in addition to whole language. Remember, Waldorf teachers enjoy more autonomy in how they teach than their public school teachers do.

About the Author Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl