Alternative Education – Steiner Schools' Lesson Structure

Steiner schools alternative teaching system, follow anthroposophy and use a different approach to teaching children. The school’s philosophy, teaching training and the school curriculum are somewhat different to state schools. The general outline is a follows:

Steiner Lesson Structure

According to Yeuhdit Angres, author of, Impressions from Waldorf’ Education: Pedagogical Diary, 1990, usually, the day consists of three parts. In the morning the class remains together. During the first two hours frontal lessons are used to teach the main subject as children are more willing to listen and absorb in this period. Just before noon practising and drilling are the main elements of the lessons in which playing instruments and eurhythmics are included. Arts and crafts are left until the afternoon when concentration is at its lowest.

Steiner Pre-school – Lots of Copying

Until age 5/6 the school day blends structure and freedom in the form of creative play in an atmosphere comparable to a second home. The child learns respect for the natural world and one another and for his environment through healthy repetition. Copying is the main characteristic of this period of development; therefore, teaching subjects such as grammar are ineffectual. As copying is at the forefront, Waldorf teachers use it as an educational tool; for example, for disciplinary purpose, instead of reproof the children are taught through emulation. (Rudolf Steiner Waldorf Education.)


Steiner Lower School – Imaginative Thought

Around age 6/7 children enter the “Lower School”. At this stage of their education Steiner recommended children remain with the same teacher until the age of 14, since, continuity enables those responsible to follow and evaluate each child’s needs through the important developmental stages of childhood and youth.

During this period, development and encouragement of imaginative thought is at a premium. Much of the lesson is conveyed through the spoken word allowing the pupils freedom to exercise their imaginations. They make home-made textbooks in preference to commercially produced books, encouraging active rather than passive involvement in their education. (Rudolf Steiner Waldorf Education)

Steiner Upper School – Childhood into Young Adulthood

During the ages 13-18 great developmental changes occur and the child has to contend with the metamorphism from childhood to young adulthood. The teacher’s main task is to help the student adjust to the new demands of this period with the help of the sound base built in the formative years.

Steiner School Subjects

Following is a brief look at a selection of subjects taught in Steiner schools.


According to Angres, the ideal age for introducing musical instruments is between 7 and 14 when children need to fulfil their senses. In addition, music enhances listening and studying abilities. The recorder is a good instrument to begin with because it’s notes emphasise the contrast between sound and silence.


Angres mentions that since Steiner educators view language as the foundation of freedom and expression, therefore, children are exposed to foreign languages from class 1. For the first two years they learn mostly through songs, rhymes, and movements.

Reading and Writing

As mentioned above, until around the age of seven children are great imitators and copiers; however, in order to learn to read there has to be understanding. At this stage the child cannot relate words to pictures, therefore, Steiner education suggests that artistic aspects such as writing should be developed before the intellectual aspects of, for example, reading are focused upon. As children can only absorb one item at a time, anthroposophic teachers teach only one letter at a time. The child learns by repeatedly copying the letter and experiencing it in different ways. (Angres)

Painting and Drawing

Since the natural world is full of colour, anthroposophic painting and drawing deepens the understanding of form and colour. Pupils use a lot of water colours and learn the characteristics of each colour and shade evoking emotions and enhancing perception. Around age 13/14, the beginning of the adolescence, sketching becomes very important. At this stage emphasis is placed on contrasts between light and shade, in preparation for the contrasts and conflicts the teenagers may face. (Angres)

Daily Story

The daily story plays an important part in education as they help develop the imagination. There are different stories for every age group, for example, between age 8 to 10, The Bible, Vikings, and Greek mythology help children relate to the world and see things in proportion as they illustrate ways of dealing with difficulties and torments. (Angres)


One of Steiner methods of teaching maths is by using movement. For example, walking around and counting steps. Another way is to take a large number and reduce it to it’s components. This is useful for the future as it teaches children to face problems holistically and encourages analysis and investigation. (Angres)

Alternative System Focusing on the Child

Many of Steiner schools methods are based upon the child’s stages of development and use a different approach to learning that pays more attention to the develomental needs of the child. However, parents should check thoroughly any education system they are interested in before enrolling their children.