Form Drawing for First Grade

Note:  If you have a Kindergartner, a child under the age of 7, form drawing is too awakening for your child.  They do not need to start form drawing until first grade when they are seven years old.  This post is for those parents who have children ages 7 and older, or for those parents who have a six-year-old and are trying to understand form drawing for the following year.

Form drawing is one of the those subjects that is very special to the Waldorf school and Waldorf homeschool environment and completely foreign to the public school environment.  I have had many Waldorf homeschooling mothers tell me they do not like form drawing and this is unfortunate because it is such an important subject.  In fact, I would like to convince you today that form drawing is so important there should be at least 2, but preferably 3 blocks of form drawing throughout your school year in grades one through four, and also continue form drawing once a week throughout some of your other blocks.  Form drawing and numeral literacy should be a large backbone of the early years.

From the book “Form Drawing: Grades One Through Four” by Laura Embrey-Stine and Ernst Schuberth: 

There are many sound reasons which support the feeling that form drawing is good for children.  The simplest and perhaps most straight-forward reason is that it develops the fine motor skills as a preparation, and later a support, for writing.  It strengthens eye-hand coordination, giving the eye practice at being a coachmen for the horses, the hands.  Form drawing also works in the other direction:  the movement of the hand also educates the brain.  Furthermore, it is part of the evolution of art and, as such, develops the aesthetic sense and a feeling for form.  It also teaches thinking but in a non-intellectual way; it trains the intelligence to be flexible, able to follow and understand a complicated line of thought.  The more human beings are trained to think flexibly, the greater the world is strengthened in intelligence.  Finally, form drawing really supports the development of the whole being of the child, guiding it in a healthy way with certain types of  forms brought to the child which are appropriate for his age in the various grades.

Form drawing should be very active – it is not about putting the form on paper at first, not until the very end; it is about getting the form into the child’s BODY.  The form should be expressed in an imaginative way through a small and simple story and then you do everything possible to get it into the child’s body – draw it in chalk on your driveway and walk it, hop it, skip it, walk it backwards, draw it on each other’s skin and guess which form it was, draw it in sand and in rice, draw it with both hands onto two sheets of paper taped down, draw it with a crayon between the big toes on a large piece of paper, shape it with beanbags and walk it on the floor, model it  in salt dough or sand or  beeswax, draw it in the air with your nose, toes, elbow or chin, build the form out of sticks if it is a form conducive to that.  Then, at the very end, have the child stand and draw the form.

We followed this progression of forms so far this year:

  • We started with a line and a curve the very first day of school as per Steiner’s indications and went throughout the entire month of September with forms made up of simple  lines and curves.
  • We did free hand drawing of geometric shapes within our math block as we learned about the qualities of numbers.  For example, for the number one we practiced drawing freehand circles.  For number two we practiced making a yin-yang symbol.  For number three we drew triangles within circles.  For number four we drew squares and rectangles.  For number five we drew pentagons inside circles and for number six hexagons inside circle.  For number five we also drew five –pointed stars and for number six we drew six-pointed stars.
  • We then moved on to more of the simple curved lines and into spirals.  I highly recommend the progression in the book I mentioned above.  I made a series of very short (one to two paragraph stories involving either a little girl walking a very large dog and their adventures or the animal characters and the Merry Little Breezes from Thornton Burgess’s work).  After the simple curves and three types of spirals, we moved on to more complex lines and curves and the lemniscate.
  • Our last bit of form drawing is going to include closed figures/shaded figures and how a figure undergoes transformation to become a different kind of figure altogether. 
  • We will then end first grade with a series of running forms.  I think one mistake people seem to  make includes jumping to running forms too soon without doing all of these other forms.  In my very humble opinion, the other forms really lay the foundation for the running forms.  We will start mirrored forms in grade two in the fall.

Form drawing is a great therapeutic activity and an important component of Waldorf education. Please consider bringing it to your homeschool.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

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2 thoughts on “Form Drawing for First Grade

  1. I like your thoughts on form drawing, i went through all 12 grades at a waldorf school myself. My question is: is it too awakening for children who are six but beginning some first grade work as they turn seven at the end of march. My twins still seem young to me but i dont want to hold them back from things they may be able to accomplish while in the first grade. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated!!! Thank you!

    • Hi there, I would say honestly that I believe if they don’t turn seven until March of 2010, I would do Kindergarten in the Fall with them and perhaps start First Grade in January with a Form Drawing Block then….First Grade is the bridge between Kindergarten and the Grades, but it is still sawakening. I just personally feel strongly that Steiner would not want us to “cheat” our children out of the last bit of the dreamtime of the last year of the seven-year cycle. To me, a child should be seven for most of First Grade, eight for most of Second, nine for most of Third….
      Have you asked one of the national Waldorf consultants about it? I know some say if the child is six by the end of May or June, it is okay to start First Grade in the fall, and I know many Waldorf schools go by that, but I have heard time and time again from mothers of Children with March, April, May birthdays that their children really didn’t seem as ready as they thought and ended up burned out halfway through First Grade…Not saying this will happen to you or your precious ones, but it is something to consider!
      Probably too much babbling that didn’t help a bit :) Food for thought anyway!
      Peace,
      Carrie

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