The first grade is a bridge between the kindergarten and the grades. The year begins with the discovery that behind all forms lie two basic principles: the straight and the curved line. The children find these shapes in their own bodies, in the classroom, and in the world beyond. The straight and curved line are then practiced through walking, drawing in the air and sand, on the blackboard, and finally, on paper. These form drawings train motor skills, awaken the children’s powers of observation, and provide a foundation for the introduction of the alphabet.
Through fairy tales and stories the children are introduced to each letter of the alphabet. In this way the children experience the development of language in a very concrete yet creative way: instead of abstract symbols the letters become actual characters that the children have a real relationship with. The children’s first reading experience comes through reading what they themselves have written in their main lesson books. This may be a short verse that helps them review a letter sound, or perhaps a simple retelling of one of the tales they have heard. In this way the children experience the way written language actually developed over the course of human history.
In a similar way, the children first experience the qualities of numbers before learning addition or subtraction: What is “oneness”? What is there only one of in the world? The four processes may be introduced as four gnomes who are helping the king. Mr. Plus always tries to carry more jewels than her pockets will hold; Miss Minus, on the other hand, is always losing her jewels. Stones, acorns, or other natural objects are used to introduce counting. The written symbols for these operations are introduced through practical use of the gnomes (buttons, suspenders, a belt etc.) Rhythmical counting by ones, twos, threes, and so on provides the basis for learning the times tables.
First graders enter the world of music through the pentatonic scale. In this scale all the notes have a harmonious sound in any order they are played. Songs are based on seasonal themes; the playing of the pentatonic flute develops finger coordination, concentration, and breath control. Painting in the first grade is intended to give the children an experience of working with color rather than attempting to create formed “pictures.” The children’s feelings for form are encouraged through beeswax modeling and crayon illustrations. In coloring the children imitate the teacher’s work, attempting to draw whole shapes rather than filling in outlines.