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Exercises to Support Reading and Writing: Part 1

Download the article: Exercises to Support Reading and Writing - Part 1: Painting Handwriting
by Jeff Tunkey

Published in the Association for Healing Education Newsletter, September, 2013

In June of 1921, when the first Waldorf tenth grade was about to begin, Rudolf Steiner gave eight lectures to the teachers of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart (now collected in “Education for Adolescents”). The first six of these provide a wonderful review of Dr. Steiner’s guidance for teaching the elementary grades. In other words, before taking up the topic of teaching adolescents, he went back over with the faculty, what children between 7 and 14 need in order to be well prepared for the next phase of school.

During the fourth lecture, Rudolf Steiner stated: “We really ought to get people to write in a way that is akin to painting. Writing in that way is far more hygienic. ... We should cultivate this painting-like writing. It pushes the actual mechanical activity into the body, and the writer’s connection to the writing is brought to and beyond the surface.” By this, I believe he was probably indicating a ‘painterly’ style of handwriting – i.e. with a pen or pencil, not the use of a brush per se.

Audrey McAllen, a student of Rudolf Steiner’s work, authored the book titled “The Extra Lesson” and was thereby the founder of Extra Lesson teaching in Waldorf schools throughout the world. In a chapter titled “Reintroduction to Formal Work in Reading and Arithmetic”, Mrs. McAllen stated: “In view of the reading methods which some children have experienced before coming to us, it is essential that a new child of any age should experience the letters as pictures.” Then, under the heading “Writing a Story”, she suggests painting writing–with a brush, in Copperplate style–as a valuable exercise for activating the lifting system, hand and eye, and recapitulating the Waldorf first grader’s introduction to the beauty of written language.

I have worked with the above indications with Grades 1 through 8 at my school (Aurora Waldorf, near Buffalo) and have found that much can be accomplished and enjoyed, by progressively working with every grade on the art of painting handwriting. Painting handwriting can be used for its own sake as a whole-class developmental exercise; and as a beautiful enhancement for Main Lesson books. Of course, it can also be used in lessons with individual students.

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