Dr Rudolf Steiner
15 Aug 1924, England
When you have successfully led the children to complete the simple drawing, you can then increase the level of difficulty.
You can draw this image (see left half of Image b), after you manage to convince the children that the image is incomplete, you may guide them to complete the other half of the image (see right half of Image b). Through this teaching approach, you can sensitise children to shapes and also help to cultivate a sense of symmetry and balance in them.
This teaching approach can be explored further, for instance, you can make them realize the inner order of images. You can easily guide them to see that some lines in Image c meet at certain parts and separate at other parts.
You then draw the next image (see Image d), this time, you straighten the curvy lines so that they form angles. Then they need to draw the image in such a way that the inner and outer lines are well matched. This task is a difficult one for 8-year-olds, hence it is considered a great accomplishment if they are able to make all the images look complete. It does not matter if they are shown the complete images beforehand. You should allow the children to draw the inner lines on their own, this Image d is actually quite similar to Image c, except for the straight lines and angles.
This is how you should teach children so that they have a real good sense of shapes, symmetry and balance. From this, you can further discuss the symmetry of things. If this line is the surface of water (see Image e), and the image above this line is an object, you must guide the children to imagine how this object reflected in the water. Through this method, you can further guide them to appreciate the symmetry of things found in this world.
Such way of thinking taught through imagination of images, will enable your child to become more skilful and capable. You can say, ‘Touch your right eye with your left hand! Touch your right eye with your right hand! Touch your left eye with your right hand! Touch your left shoulder from the back with your right hand! Touch your right shoulder with your left hand! Touch your left ear with your right hand! Touch the big toe on your right foot with your right hand!’ etc. You can let the children do all kinds of strange exercises, such as telling them, ‘Use your right hand to draw a circle in the anticlockwise direction! Use your left hand to draw a circle in the clockwise direction! Use both hands to draw two circles that overlap! Use both hands to draw 2 circles with the hands moving in different directions. You have to draw faster and faster. Now move the middle finger of your right hand quickly, now move your thumb, and then move your small finger!’
The alert children will be able to think quickly and do all kinds of exercise. What benefits does this activity have? For an 8-year-old child, this form of exercise will make him ‘think’ about this future for the rest of his life. If the child only learns how to use his head to think, he will not be able to perform this type of thinking throughout his lifetime and he will eventually get tired of thinking one day. On the contrary, when a person is trained to perform actions that require him to be very alert and think before he acts, he will become an intelligent and thoughtful person in the future. There is a strong correlation between activities that 6- or 7-year-olds carry out and their levels of intelligence when they are 35, 36 years old.
When you understand such correlations better, you will have to try harder to teach what you ought to teach. Similarly, you can guide the children to be sensitive to the use of different colours. Suppose you let the children do this activity, instruct them to colour a red patch (see Picture f), then make them realize that by adding green border round the red patch, the final picture will look very good. You should be able to achieve better results if you use colouring materials other than the type that I am using now. Now you have to explain to the children that you are going to do the activity again the opposite way. You say, ‘I am going to colour a green patch first (see Picture g) which colour would you add to this green patch?’ Then the children will add red to the green patch.
Through this method, you will be able to slowly guide children to be sensitive to the effects of different colour matches. The children first observed that I have a red patch at the inner portion and a green border surrounding it. If the red patch is being changed to green, then the green border has to be changed to red. It is very important to let children who are around the age of 8 to appreciate the interplay of different colours and shapes.
Hence to deliver our curriculum effectively, you must use a teaching approach that has clear inner formation. To succeed in doing this, we need to abandon the normal way of planning timetable. In Wardolf schools, we do not plan timetable the way other schools plan, we allocate instructional time according to modules. One theme can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to teach, i.e., within this period of time we teach topics related to only one theme. Unlike other schools, we do not teach Maths from 8am to 9am, then teach Reading from 9am to 10am and later teach Writing from 10am to 11am. Instead, we teach the children a single theme for 4 weeks in the morning classes and when the children have acquired sufficient knowledge and skills, we will then move on to another theme. We never teach a subject for an hour and another subject for the next hour and so on. Instead, we will focus on Maths for many weeks and change to a new theme depending on the situation. However, we do have some themes which have to be taught every week, I’ll elaborate on this later. The rule of focusing on a main subject for a certain period of time is one that we adhere to strictly. Even though we teach only one theme for a long period of time, we do include other topics related to the theme. Through this approach, the children are saved from the harmful effects of having to absorb what is delivered in the current lesson and at the same time digest what has been introduced in the previous lesson. Through this modular approach, they no longer need to go through this painful process.
Many people are doubtful whether children will be able to retain most of the knowledge acquired through the modular approach. This will only happen to particular themes like Maths, but this problem can easily be solved by teaching the particular topic again. Even if they do forget, this disadvantage is insubstantial as compared to the benefits gained from the modular approach.