In these challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers are forced to come to new and different ways of teaching and meeting the needs of their students and the families they serve. For most of us, this is a very difficult task, as we are bound by what the schools are telling us we must do, what we cannot do, what we need to learn and what we are used to doing. Truly, what is needed is a new, imaginative way of teaching that engages the child(ren) in non-traditional, creative ways. Being a Waldorf trained teacher, I have found the essential elements to my lessons to be rhythm, incorporating artistic work, and incorporating movement. These same core elements hold true in the classroom in and online/digital learning experiences.
Throughout my many years of teaching, I have found that a rhythm to the lesson is what makes things flow almost effortlessly. I start the lesson with a greeting, a reminder of the day and date, and asking students to be prepared for our lesson (materials needed, homework or project from a previous lesson, and so on). Next, we move into an activity that helps calm and focus the students and me. To accomplish this, I use speech work, including poetry recitation. At times I might use a moment of silence, or even some gentle movement that encourages quiet and focus. These latter two items have been especially effective with middle school students. Next, we engage in some movement exercises to get us warmed up and ready for more formal learning. Typically, I combine movement with speech or times tables for optimal priming for learning. Next, I move into a review of the last lesson and what we are going to do today, which then leads us into the bulk of the lesson. Depending on the academic focus of the lesson, we could be drawing, hearing a story or a presentation from me or other students, working on a math problem, a group project, or anything that helps us more deeply engage with our topic and with each other. Toward the end of our time together, I might present something new for the students to ponder or “sleep on”, something that we can come back to with some eagerness the next day. I might “assign” some homework, something to discover or investigate, a challenge or something that might keep the student engaged in a fun, creative manner without any help from parents. Students write down this assignment in a special journal or pad of paper, and this sharpens their executive functioning skills. We end with a short closing verse, I say goodbye and thank you to the students, and the students reciprocate the gesture.
Of course, there are many more elements to the lesson, but the main point is that the lessons are as much face-to-face as possible, always have the same rhythm or flow, have some imaginative or creative component, and some movement experiences. Something artistic, such as speech, drawing and/or story, depending on the age of the child(ren) is important, as it engages more than just intellectual learning. Finally, physical movement is important to keep students energized and focused (often I have the students move multiple times throughout the lesson to keep things interesting). There are many more things to consider for a well-rounded, well-run lesson, but these are just a few items that seem to constitute a successful and satisfying lesson(s) for me and my students.