Preview The Roadmap to Literacy:
Renewal of Literacy Edition
Question: Why is there a Renewal of Literacy® Edition of The Roadmap to Literacy?
Answer: To help the Steiner-Waldorf movement renew the language arts curriculum—and by extension, the entire Waldorf curriculum grades 1–8—for the 21st century and beyond.
Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl shares:
I am a remedial educator who decided to get a degree in Waldorf education to balance my background in Lindamood-Bell reading and math remediation. However, I graduated Waldorf teacher training without understanding the curriculum created by Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education. I had two questions: What exactly am I supposed to teach? How am I supposed to teach it? After graduation, I worked with remedial students at two Waldorf schools rather than take a class. Within a year, I was alarmed: all the students I assessed had the same academic weaknesses.
Why was their spelling so bad? Why couldn’t they apply basic grammar? Why did every student miss the same reading comprehension question (i.e., the one that asked them to apply common knowledge rather than just regurgitate facts)? . . .
Like Rudolf Steiner before me, I was startled by how little these Waldorf students knew and how little they could do (Steiner 1998b, 404). It was one thing to see academic weaknesses in students whose IQs tested in the 70s and 80s, but I was seeing students whose IQs tested in the 120s. Something was clearly wrong. (Militzer-Koppel 2020, 2)
It seemed I was not the only teacher struggling to understand the Waldorf curriculum. I began to suspect that a not insignificant number of Waldorf students might be struggling with academics in general and with reading in particular.
1. A WALDORF PROFILE
My suspicions were strengthened a few years later when I began to assess reading skills in all second graders at one of the Waldorf schools as part of the school’s accreditation process. For six years, I gave the same tests created by an educational testing group to all second graders (i.e., CORE assessments modified to reflect a later start to reading). Each year, a significant percentage of the students presented with the following profile:
- weak reading fluency—first-grade text
- weak letter knowledge—but only for lowercase letters
- weak sound-symbol knowledge—but only for vowels
- weak decoding skills
- weak phonemic awareness
I had spent several years working with remedial students at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes® (LBLP), a private remedial company specializing in teaching remedial reading and math, and had never encountered this profile, yet here it was in significant percentages of Waldorf students year after year. I nicknamed it a Waldorf profile. I was looking at the roots of the problem.
I asked myself these questions: Why did the Waldorf curriculum tend to produce these particular weaknesses in student reading skills? And more importantly: How could the Waldorf curriculum be improved? My answer was to combine aspects of Lindamood-Bell and Waldorf education. I created workshops including one called “How English Works” and offered them to faculties. I began writing a book on teaching literacy in Waldorf schools but set it aside.
3. THE OPENING
In 2012 a third Waldorf school that I was affiliated with began conducting reading fluency testing. It assessed all students in grades 3–8, and it discovered that one third to one half of each class qualified for remedial reading instruction. Janet Langley, a mentor teacher, was working at the school at the time, and she pulled me aside to ask why so many Waldorf students were struggling to read.
I think it safe to assume that Janet had asked this question to others before me—she and I barely knew each other. I think it safe to assume that the others gave unsatisfactory answers. I summed up the cause of the problem in four words: English is not German. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, spoke German—thus, his indications are for a foreign language. To fix the problem, someone would need to revise the Waldorf curriculum for English. Janet shared my idea with a visiting dignitary (Christof Wiechert), he asked me to demonstrate, and he charged the two of us to get the word out (see chapter 1.1 #1).
4. THE STUDY GROUP
Janet convened a study group dubbed the Literacy Project and invited a colleague to join. The three of us met approximately once a month over a year and a half (2012–2014). We studied Trostli’s book Teaching Language Arts in the Waldorf School: A Compendium of Excerpts from the Foundations of Waldorf Education. We each wrote a few mock-up drafts for chapters for a book. All the drafts were unusable—they went in different directions and read like articles in a magazine. A different approach was needed. The colleague quit the study group, and Janet and I decided to co-author a book on literacy together, as originally charged.
5. THE ROADMAP TO LITERACY
Over the next three years, Janet Langley and I co-wrote The Roadmap to Literacy. In 2017 after approximately 14,000 hours, Janet and I finished a rough draft, but the content was incomplete. Key pieces were missing in assessment, storytelling, and home surroundings. (Note: Home surroundings is environmental education that introduces Waldorf students to their locale in grades 1–3.) In addition, academic proof that The Roadmap to Literacy and Steiner’s indications align was not as robust as it could have been because the study group focused on a tertiary source rather than secondary sources (i.e., translations of Steiner’s lectures). For various reasons, Janet and I decided to go with what we had. In 2018, she and I self-published The Roadmap to Literacy and filed for copyright.
It was agreed that a book about teaching reading would be limited to grades 1–3, all the material would be published as one book (not separate books), and there would be a sequel to cover literacy in the later grades. However, Janet decided not to co-author the sequel with me. Therefore, I wrote the sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy: A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 4 through 8 by myself.
I thought back to my initial observations about Waldorf students and my Waldorf teacher training. Both pointed to the same truth: literacy is so much more than being able to read and write!
- Learning to read and write is only the beginning of the journey to literacy, not the final destination.
- Literacy includes both skills such as reading and writing and subject knowledge such as history, geography, science, etc.
- True literacy includes knowledge of the world and human beings, not just proficiency in reading and writing skills.
The conclusion was unescapable: to write the sequel, I needed to go beyond skills and consider subjects too. I needed to understand the entire Steiner-Waldorf curriculum. It was time to figure out what to teach and how to teach it.
I pulled my Steiner books on education off the shelf and began reading. I borrowed or bought titles I did not have. When I was done, I had read twelve lecture series by Rudolf Steiner and taken over 2,400 notes. I organized the notes into categories and began considering what Steiner had to say on each topic—as well as what was missing for English.
I meditated on my research and writing before sleep each night. My primary goal was to answer what to teach (i.e., to compile Steiner’s subject curriculum for grades 4–8 with an emphasis on language arts). My secondary goal was how to teach (i.e., to answer this question: How can Waldorf teachers remain true to the spirit of Steiner-Waldorf education while simultaneously bringing Steiner’s indications into the English-speaking world for the 21st century?). As I progressed, I added a third goal: why to teach the Waldorf curriculum.
The result is the sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy: A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 4 through 8 (Militzer-Kopperl 2020).
- It contains Steiner’s curriculum.
- It contains Steiner’s methodology.
- It explains how to teach language arts in a multi-disciplinary setting (i.e., Waldorf subject blocks for grades 4–8).
- It explains why Steiner asks teachers to teach the Waldorf curriculum in this way.
I have been told that the late Waldorf mentor teacher Else Gottgens used to say that every block is a language arts block. That explains why, in researching and writing a book on language arts, I inadvertently compiled the Steiner-Waldorf curriculum for grades 1–8.
I researched and wrote Continuing the Journey to Literacy in two years and self-published it in 2020. It contains Steiner’s curriculum with language arts updated for the English-speaking Waldorf world.
7. RENEWAL OF LITERACY®
I now had two books on teaching literacy in Waldorf schools: The Roadmap to Literacy and its sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy, as shown in figure 1.0.1. The Roadmap to Literacy’s focus is learning to read (grades 1–3) and Continuing the Journey to Literacy’s focus is reading to learn (grades 4–8). Together the Roadmap to Literacy Books comprise a language arts program for Waldorf schools grades 1–8.
I wanted to name the program I created The Roadmap to Literacy or Waldorf Roadmap, but there were legal issues, so I named it Renewal of Literacy®. The term Renewal of Literacy® contains my hope for the future of Waldorf education, pays homage to Steiner’s lecture series The Renewal of Education, and answers Christof Wiechert’s charge for Waldorf education (see chapter 1.0 #9).
Figure 1.0.1: The Roadmap to Literacy Books Comprise Renewal of Literacy®:
A Waldorf Language Arts Program for Grades 1–8
Renewal of Literacy® includes books about literacy, reading, and language art (e.g., the Roadmap to Literacy Books). It also includes educational services, including online courses to support the books. The goal is a renewal of education, starting with healthy, balanced reading, writing, spelling, and grammar instruction and extending out to a renewal of literacy in the subjects: English, history, geography, natural science, science, and math.
8. THE RENEWAL OF LITERACY® EDITION OF THE ROADMAP TO LITERACY
While researching and writing Continuing the Journey to Literacy, I realized it would be necessary to make a new edition of The Roadmap to Literacy. There were three reasons: 1) to finish the areas Janet Langley and I left incomplete when we published the original edition; 2) to prepare readers to work with the sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy; and 3) to share Steiner’s indications and Steiner’s curriculum.
I asked Janet several times over the course of a year, but she never wanted to make a new edition with me at that time, so I wrote and self-published the new edition by myself. I named the new edition The Roadmap to Literacy: Renewal of Literacy® Edition: A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 1 through 3, or Renewal of Literacy® Edition for short. It is shown in figure 1.0.2.
Figure 1.0.2: The Roadmap to Literacy: Renewal of Literacy® Edition
There are six major additions to the Renewal of Literacy® Edition:
The Roadmap to Literacy is almost perfectly aligned with Steiner’s indications. The Renewal of Literacy® Edition provides the proof. It contains numerous new subsections providing textual proof.
When researching the sequel, I read Steiner’s indications in context (rather than in a compilation set). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that almost everything I added about teaching literacy skills and remedial education aligns with what Steiner said. Ironically, it is current Waldorf practices that deviate from Steiner’s indications. I found dozens of new indications that showed exactly where The Roadmap to Literacy aligns with Steiner’s indications and where it does not. The Renewal of Literacy® Edition contains new chapters and subchapters dedicated to Steiner’s indications to prove that Roadmap aligns with them and to document where the original edition of Roadmap diverges.
This level of academic research is included to provide incontestable proof that Roadmap is true to Steiner’s indications so that all Waldorf schools and teachers will feel comfortable using it. It helps striving Waldorf teachers, faculties, and the greater Waldorf movement study and discuss what Steiner’s intent was and/or how to interpret his indications because Steiner’s indications are confusing (see chapter 1.1 #4). It also empowers reform-minded Waldorf educators, administrators, and parents to pursue excellence in literacy instruction—and thus the entire curriculum. The goal is nothing less than a renewal of education.
2. Steiner’s Storytelling Curriculum (The 16th Aspect of Language Arts)
The Renewal of Literacy® Edition contains a new aspect of language arts: Steiner’s storytelling curriculum.
Steiner’s storytelling curriculum is a key element of the Waldorf curriculum. The Renewal of Literacy® Edition contains a whole chapter introducing this important aspect of language arts. It introduces Steiner’s original storytelling curriculum and shows how it differs from the traditions that have grown up over the years.
Steiner’s storytelling curriculum is the key to restoring inclusivity and diversity to the Waldorf curriculum.
3. Expanded Home Surroundings Curriculum (i.e., Environmental Education)
The Renewal of Literacy® Edition contains a whole new section: Section 7—Home Surroundings (Environmental Education). Section 7 includes my new research on home surroundings, which is Steiner’s form of environmental education. It shows how to set up the third-grade home surroundings curriculum so it can be used to introduce the new subjects taught in grades 4–6. The entire curriculum then emerges from the students’ backyards. (This idea is one of Steiner’s best practices, using local environmental education to introduce the subject curriculum in grades 4–6.) It also is important that teachers take a critical look at the current third-grade home surroundings curriculum so that they can take steps to rein it in and teach a robust language arts curriculum, such as the one recommended in The Roadmap to Literacy.
Teachers who use section 7 to inform home surroundings instruction in grades 1–3 will be well positioned to teach the language arts curriculum in Roadmap—and for Continuing the Journey to Literacy in grades 4–8.
4. Steiner’s Best Practices
Steiner gave lots of indications for best practices in education that researchers from other educational disciplines are now verifying as highly effective ways to teach. Many of his ideas have been forgotten in whole or part over the last 100 years. The Renewal of Literacy® Edition documents his advice, including all new uses of economy in teaching. (It includes making every minute of class time matter—and so much more!) This material is included to show “that there is no compromise between a good academic education and a Waldorf school education” (Sagarin 42). Waldorf has been in possession of best practices for over 100 years. The Renewal of Literacy® Edition encourages readers to become familiar with them and use them in class.
5. New Assessment Tools
The Renewal of Literacy® Edition contains three new assessment tools to help teachers get students reading and spelling at grade level by the end of third grade:
- DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills): DIBELS is a free online assessment tool created by educational testing groups that has the potential to help teachers get up to 95% of students reading at grade level. I have created a complete off-grade testing protocol for DIBELS to accommodate the fact that Waldorf students begin reading instruction a year later than their public-school peers yet are expected to be caught up by the end of third grade. It is included in the Renewal of Literacy® Edition so Waldorf teachers, homeschool parents, and students will be able to benefit from best practices in education—at no additional expense. Proof is given to show that Steiner would be in favor of this type of assessment to encourage its use.
- Renewal of Literacy® Skunk Test: The Skunk Test is a simple assessment tool I created for assessing phonemic awareness and spelling skills (encoding). It is a quick and easy way for Waldorf teachers and homeschool parents to estimate their students’ phases for encoding in first and second grade—and to determine if they have passed a key milestone and are ready to journey on. It is self-explanatory and can be given in just a few minutes to the entire class. (See Appendix 7.)
- Renewal of Literacy® Symbol Imagery Test: The Symbol Imagery Test is a simple assessment tool I created for assessing each student’s capacity to visualize letters for reading and spelling (symbol imagery). It is self-explanatory and can be given to individual students in just a few minutes. (See Appendix 8.)
These three assessments offer teachers and homeschool parents three additional ways to assess so they do not need to buy any additional assessment tools to work with The Roadmap to Literacy.
6. A Proper Index
Last but not least, the Renewal of Literacy® Edition contains a proper index. When Janet Langley and I self-published Roadmap, it exhausted my savings. I could not afford extras like an index, so I compiled a pseudo-index by hand. I promised myself that one day I would make a new edition that contains a proper index. That day is at hand.
These six new additions complete the book Janet and I started writing back in 2014. They prepare readers to work with the sequel Continuing the Journey to Literacy (Militzer-Kopperl 2020). They make The Roadmap to Literacy: Renewal of Literacy® Edition even more useful to striving Waldorf teachers, administrators, and homeschool parents. They also do one final thing.
9. THE RENEWAL OF LITERACY® EDITION SUPPORTS THE ZEITGEIST FOR STEINER-WALDORF EDUCATION
The Renewal of Literacy® Edition aligns with the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times, for Steiner-Waldorf Education. Christof Wiechert, former head of the Pedagogical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum, calls for a renewal of Waldorf education. He issues a challenge, a warning, and an invitation. In the article “Rethinking the Threefold Division of the Main Lesson: Christof Wiechert,” he writes:
It is important that we within the Waldorf movement examine and assess how we practice Waldorf Education. If there are elements that need to be changed or eliminated, researchers from outside the movement will sooner or later identify and criticize them. . . .
If the Waldorf movement does not examine and take a critical look at its own educational practices, science will do it instead. And it is already doing so. It would certainly be better if this capacity for critical dialogue would be exercised within the school movement beforehand.
After over ninety years of Waldorf education, we need to examine the way it has developed in order not to damage it, but rather to renew it and reinvigorate ourselves. I have formed the conviction through the years that the source, or spring, or renewal [emphasis added by author] lies in the original indications and intentions of Rudolf Steiner. If this spring begins to bubble up in us, we will become viable for the future. (https://www.waldorftoday.com/2011/01/rethinking-the-threefold-division-of-the-main-lesson-christof-weichert/)In addition to showing teachers how to teach literacy skills for the English language, Renewal of Literacy® Edition provides the tools to examine and assess how we practice Waldorf education. It seconds Wiechert’s warning (see chapter 1.0 #1) and amplifies his request for a critical dialogue within the Steiner-Waldorf school movement to discuss current Steiner-Waldorf practices. It contains original indications and intentions of Rudolf Steiner (pictured in figure 1.0.3), as they pertain to literacy. It outlines and explains the Steiner-Waldorf curriculum and shows where current practices diverge (and in some cases, how they developed).
Figure 1.0.3: Rudolf Steiner, Founder of Waldorf Education
Teachers who use the Renewal of Literacy® Edition can take up Wiechert’s call to renew Waldorf education.
CONCLUSION: AN INVITATION TO RENEW THE STEINER-WALDORF CURRICULUM
My journey has come full circle. It began with my questions about Steiner’s Waldorf curriculum and why so many Waldorf students were struggling to learn, and it ends with Renewal of Literacy®.
The Renewal of Literacy® program is designed to renew the entire Waldorf curriculum grades 1–8, starting with language arts skills in grades 1–3 and ending with subjects in grades 4–8. The Roadmap to Literacy: Renewal of Literacy® Edition shows how to teach and assess literacy skills in grades 1–3 and proves that both align with Steiner’s indications. Continuing the Journey to Literacy shows how to teach and assess both skills and subject literacy in grades 4–8 and provides further information about the original indications and intentions of Rudolf Steiner. The Renewal of Literacy® program has the potential to renew the entire Waldorf curriculum for the 21st century—but only if the wisdom contained within these two books is realized.
It is time to begin your journey. In the next chapter, Janet Langley, my co-author for the original edition of The Roadmap to Literacy, introduces the topic why teaching reading is hard by discussing her experience as a Waldorf teacher and mentor, and then she and I introduce roadblocks that make teaching literacy difficult in Waldorf schools. In the subsequent chapters of the first section, I build my thesis for The Roadmap to Literacy in preparation for laying out the literacy curriculum Janet and I created for use in the Waldorf classroom grades 1–3. As you read through the book, I provide proof that the curriculum contained therein aligns with the original indications and intentions of Rudolf Steiner.
Let the Renewal of Literacy® Edition inspire you to bring new consciousness to your teaching, reinvigorate yourself, and join those who are striving to renew literacy for the twenty-first century—and beyond.
 Correction for Renewal of Literacy® Edition: Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl and Janet Langley are the sole authors of The Roadmap to Literacy. The phrase “With contributions from Patti Connolly” was on the front cover of the original edition of Roadmap at Janet’s request in recognition of Patti’s involvement in the study group, but its presence proved confusing to the Copyright Office, Mill City Press (publisher), reviewers, retailers, and readers. Patti has since asked that her name be removed from the front cover. (See Acknowledgments Original Edition.)
 As founder of Waldorf education, Steiner is a key voice in any discussion about renewing Waldorf education. In addition, The Chicago Manual of Style stipulates that signaling phrases that introduce a quotation from an author be put in the present tense (e.g., Steiner says, not Steiner said). For these reasons, quotations from Steiner are in present tense. Readers who have preconceived notions of what Steiner has to say about education (or about the man himself) are asked to suspend judgment. Keep in mind that the source material is from a different era and culture and has been translated from a foreign language. Do not allow these things to be an impediment to considering the ideas behind the words. I provide help by translating Steiner’s concepts and descriptions into language that is more familiar to modern teachers.