The Main Lesson is a two-hour period each morning in which a subject is taught intensively for a period of 3–4 weeks. During this block, the whole subject is explored, allowing children to learn deeply.
Each morning, new information is presented using a variety of engaging and stimulating methods that relate to the children as individuals. Subjects presented in this way are no longer Geography or History lessons that must be studied and learned, but a sensory journey through a world full of experiences, enlisting curiosity, excitement and a desire to know more. In this way, traditional subjects are entwined throughout the children’s journey, as real live examples with meaning.
A series of Main Lesson subjects are presented over the course of a year. This allows each to be studied thoroughly and brought to life for each child. In Main Lesson subjects such as Ancient Greece, children are immersed in stories of human culture and history, engaging in a rich tapestry of human experience, attitudes, values and beliefs. This will include, folk tales, myths and history of the ancient civilizations, coupled with tales of geographic exploration and scientific discovery. Whatever the subject, the challenge and skill for the class teacher is to present it in such a way that it lives and speaks to a child’s experience.
Information and experiences are presented through a wide range of learning methods and disciplines, which are used to balance cognitive, aesthetic and experiential learning. This may include performance, painting and storytelling, alongside writing and drawing. This approach offers children a variety of styles in which they can understand and remember in a way that best suits them as an individual.
Each Main Lesson is carefully and rhythmically structured to ensure that the children listen, work independently, participate and think. Every piece of the journey and the environment and manner in which it is presented, has a purpose.
For example, a Main Lesson on Ancient Greece may be accompanied by the performance of a Greek play, the playing of sport in the Greek Olympics, the making and tasting of Greek food or study sky phenomena of Luna and Solar cycles.
Class 1 (age 6/7)
At this stage, children are full of imagination and live in a world of colour and pictorial thinking. They are capable of sustained periods of concentration with activities that engage their imagination.
Main Lessons typically begin with a morning song and verse. A seasonal song or poem followed by lively circle time with rhythmic stamping, clapping and movement-based games. This ensures that children come to deskwork with heads, hearts and hands already enlivened.
The first Main Lesson is Form Drawing, which lays the foundation for writing both upper and lower case letters. Letters are introduced through fairy stories, with letters emerging from the stories’ illustrations. The children walk the letters, then draw them, playing with sounds and names. It is at this stage that they write their first sentences, drawn from a favourite story or verse. They make their own books and read from their own writing. Reading is taught through a multifaceted, contextual approach, with a strong phonics foundation. As an example, nature stories, which are imaginative in presentation but accurate in content, lay the foundations for the Science Main Lessons of later years.
We start by introducing the qualities of the numbers, initially using Roman numerals. This leads onto simple number bonds, number games rhymes and rhythmic counting, which in turn leads to the four processes of number – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, which are, introduced as pictures through stories.
The Number Gnome stories are infamous at Kamaroi!
Class 2 (age 7/8)
Children continue to live in a vivid world of pictorial imagination. By Class 2, they have extended their period of concentration and are now capable of remembering greater amounts of information and in sequential order. They are also able to develop their own images and so rise from perception to concepts.
Building on the work they learnt in Class 1, form drawing leads naturally to the curved forms of the lowercase letters and later, to ‘joined-up’ writing. The story telling continues with wise, or wicked talking animals of fable, form the stories, whilst legends of the saints encourage aspiration. Celtic tales, Aboriginal animals, as well as nature stories, provide a rich language base for talking and listening, reading and writing, drama and creative art activities.
Young memories develop with the recounting of the previous day’s story. In Mathematics, multiplication tables are practiced in action with skipping and other games. The four processes of arithmetic continue with larger numbers — hundreds, tens and units, and the concepts of carrying and borrowing are introduced through picture and story.
Class 3 (age 8/9)
At this stage, children experience a greater self-awareness and consequently a change in their perception of the world. Less is taken on trust; doubts and fears can show themselves in criticism, disillusionment and the testing of boundaries. The curriculum in Class 3 helps the children through a series of Main Lessons that offer reassurance. Study and hands-on experience of farming and gardening, house building and measurement connect the child securely with the real world. Stories from religious history provide a supportive moral and cultural background.
Grammar is introduced — nouns, verbs and adjectives, each with its own character and quality.
In Mathematics, children learn to measure, linking the abstract world of numbers to the dimensions of the real world. Maths and literacy skills continue to be reinforced outside the Main Lesson in practice sessions.
Class 4 (age 9/10)
Usually, during their tenth year, children begin to leave early childhood behind. They become curious about the world with increasing enthusiasm. They begin to stand as individuals with vigor and to test authority.
At this time, they revel in the hot-blooded Nordic myths, enjoying mischievous Loki, the bumbling giants and the ever-wise Aesir, or gods. They learn about the local area, Aboriginal heritage, the animal world and the way in which writing developed. The themes we use are interesting, stimulating, adventurous, awakening – yet sensitive, evoking and compassionate. Children recount stories through role-play, writing and discussion.
The Class 4 child is ready to delve further into the realm of fractions. Brain twisters, mental arithmetic and problem solving extends their mental dexterity and the tables are practiced with increasing ability. Complicated number and movement rhythms can be stepped, clapped and skipped, whilst free-hand geometrical forms can echo ancient Nordic and Celtic Designs.
Class 5 (age 10/11)
Now children are able to look back into time and space. They are ready to study the ancient cultures through myth and legend and learn about Ancient India, hearing stories of the epic ‘Maharabata’ or ‘King Pandu and his Five Sons’. Ra and his children bring to life Ancient Egyptian culture, along with learning about how pyramids were made and their mathematical construction. During this year, children participate in the ‘Olympics’ Sports programme, and hear about the great god Zeus.
Local history and geography is explored with imaginative accounts and visits. The subject of botany, the study of plants and their care, allows children to develop a conscious connection to the earth. Continuing their study of Aboriginal heritage, they explore local plants, bush tucker and then plants from around the world.
Information skills are developed and group work tasks become more involved.
The power of speech is intensified through choral recitation and music, as well as drawing, painting and modeling. Children become skillful in their presentation of the early cultures, through projects. The child also recounts, describes, narrates and creates poetry about these rich and powerful themes.
Class 6 (age 11/12)
At the threshold of adolescence, Class 6 children begin to experience the power of their own thinking, the ability to reflect and to question.
At this stage, they prefer facts — historical accounts, biographies, and more understanding about the earth and its environments, to myth and legend. Imaginative pictorial thinking still inspires them and images of the world help to internalize information.
Main Lessons provide a rich foundation in the study of animals, plants, ancient history and science. They will include; Aboriginal studies, Early Australia and the ancient civilizations of, Greece and Rome. The existence of cause and effect becomes real for the 12-year old child who loves to debate like Romans in the Forum.
Sound, light, magnetism, electricity, astronomy and geology are covered in the Studies of Science Main Lessons. During Biography, children meet great figures of history and write their own biographies. Craft, art, drama, music, are integrated into these Main Lessons to enrich, engage and promote deep learning.
The children study more formal geometry using compass and protractor.
Perspective, proportion and dimensionality are brought into form drawing, specifically in relation to the human form as portraiture. Many of these elements form the basis for handcraft designs, such as string and nail pictures, the embroidery of ancient Roman columns and mosaic design. The Astronomy Main Lesson extrapolates the geometrical order of the natural world and star forms can be used as a basis for geometrical quilting blocks in handcraft.
For more information on the Australian Steiner curriculum, please visit the Steiner Education Australia.