The “physical body” is an important consideration for first grade, as many markers for first grade readiness for academic work are dependent upon the development of the physical body laid in the Early Years.
The book, “The Extra Lesson” by Audrey McAllen, discusses the entering of first grade and how the child “should be six and a half years of age by the school entry date in the fall…With today’s increasing life-tempo and sensory impacts, children are less and less ready for school life at 6 years. They need another six months to fully complete the last stage of the kindergarten development.” For more on this topic, please see this back guest post regarding first grade readiness.
There is a list on page 88 of activities to ask the child to do in order to get a picture of the child entering grade school. I would consider looking at potential fall first grade child in the spring before first grade and screening them for developmental readiness.
Early Years children who display the following may need extra assistance and extra screening (from “The Extra Lesson, page 92):
- Floppy, flaccid limbs
- Behavioral problems in group situations
- An inability to listen and focus
- An inability to imitate
For the older child already in the grades, but perhaps still for us to keep in mind when we observe children (list from page 24, “The Extra Lesson”)
- A child who fidgets and disturbs other people continuously
- A clumsy child who stumbles and drops things frequently
- A child who runs about wildly and crashes into other children without stopping but cannot engage in play
- A child who always prefers to play with much younger children
- A child who stumbles in his speech, especially with omitting or adding extra syllables
- A child who cannot form sentences well and cannot find the words he or she needs
- A child who cannot write neatly and cannot hold his pencil comfortably (remember, this second half of the checklist is for children already in the grades)
(From “The Extra Lesson”, page 92)
I would add to this list to look at core strength of the abdomen, ability to walk distances, and the shoulder girdle/hand during activities such as kneading bread dough, stirring in cooking, cutting with scissors and look at specific retained reflexes that may interfere with writing and copying from the board. General posture also provides clues.
First grade should still be in a heart of movement. This includes movement in circle time/warm up, in reciting verses and poetry and in drama, in the rhythm of movement found in math, in being able to distinguish left and right and develop laterality of the hand, eye, foot. The four lower of the twelve senses of the human being include the Sense of Touch, The Sense of Life, The Sense of Balance, The Sense of Self-Movement are still being developed and built upon the foundation laid in the Early Years. Some remedial (Extra Lesson) Waldorf Teachers view excessive unruliness as stemming from a disturbed sense of life/well-being, excessive insecurity as a disturbed sense of touch, and a lack of inner understanding indicating a disturbed sense of movement and balance. For more about the twelve senses, please see this back post: musings on the twelve senses and the twelve senses in homeschooling