The Most Important Subject Our First Graders Learn

By Caitlin Costello, Class 1 Teacher

On the very first day of school, our first grade children were presented with the polarity of two kinds of lines - straight lines and curves. Throughout the year they will see the infinite variety of forms that can be created out of these simple elements.

In some respects, Form Drawing is the most important subject that the children will study in first grade, for it provides a good foundation for the letter recognition that is so central to reading, as well as numerical and spatial relationships that are so essential in arithmetic.  The drawings themselves could not be any simpler. All year we work with only two elements of drawing - straight lines and curves. 

Form Drawing  awakens several capacities in the first grader:

  1. Concentration: this elusive quality flourishes in Form Drawing. The forms we draw cannot be done well unless each child is focused and quiet.
  2. Eye/hand coordination: the “model” drawing on the board must be copied onto the child’s paper, and, as the year goes on, most children learn to trust their eye’s guidance. This ability to trust in one’s own capacities helps instill confidence that in turn shows itself in other subjects, as well.
  3. Understanding the relationship of the part to the whole: the harmonious nature of the form drawings we will do helps both the scattered child, who is drawn too far into the “whole,” and the overly-contracted child, who lives too strongly in the “parts.”
  4. Understanding forms that relate to numbers: the simple “geometrical drawings” the children encounter will help with numerical relationships and a whole range of geometrical concepts.
  5. Neatness and balance: a Form Drawing cannot be beautiful unless it is placed in just the right way on the paper!

The straight and curved lines that are the backbone of Form Drawing are also the basic elements of our letters. By learning first in Form Drawing the difference between a curve that “faces” right and one that faces left, or where a curve ends and a straight line begins, a child becomes better able to perceive and recollect the forms of the letters. This is how reading and writing begin in Waldorf Education.