I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how to make copper rods. You can order them but the price is so high. There is a reason for that! There is a lot of time and love that goes into making them. However, you can make your very own at home! Here’s how!
The Thinking Stage: Part 1 (Class 5 and 6) aka The Bridge Years
Welcome back for another round of Eurythmy! I would like to start off by talking a little about the bridge years. These years bring with it a lot of growth… along with confusion and uncertainty for the children as well as frustration for the teacher. However, if you come prepared with a few tools in your belt, things can be much easier. The years of about Grade 5 to Grade 8 are called the Bridge Years because they aren’t exactly in the Thinking Stage but they are beyond the Feeling Stage. They exist somewhere in between.
Fifth Grade: So this year, the children have finally figured out where they belong. They know what their many feelings mean and how to express them. The children are sure of themselves. They feel grounded and know where they fit in the world! They can show these many confident expressions through balanced, resolute steps. In fifth grade, the children begin to use their whole body for eurythmy. It has been a long journey from finger plays and clapping hands in kindergarten to form walking and gestures with steps in the fifth grade. These steps should be firm, strong, and earthy, yet loose and fluid. We should turn to the curriculum for creative ideas for eurythmy. For example, we study the people of Persia who were known for agriculture and cattle raising. What better way to express the concept of these people than with secure, grounded steps? And then we study the Egyptians with their precision and calculated measuring. We can express these people with perfectly symmetrical forms like the pentagram or hexagram. The Harmonious Eight is a symmetrical form where we can use firm yet flowing steps. This form is symmetrical yet movable. (I would explain how to do this exercise but it is very long. It is easy to follow and loads of fun. You can refer to the book Leaving Room for the Angels by Reg Down on pg 150. You can find his book at waldorflibrary.org for free!) Have fun and enjoy this age. Because next year you will experience many changes that bring another round of uncertain emotions!
Sixth Grade: I hope you enjoyed the fifth grade year. The children were so sure of themselves and just happy to exist! This year, their bodies are starting to change. This will bring an abundance of emotions brought on by hormones and self-doubt. All of a sudden, they don’t know themselves. Once more, they are on a voyage to rediscover where they fit in. And like before, we can use eurythmy to help them do this. And yet again, we turn to the curriculum to help us with ideas. Geometry is a big theme of sixth grade. Form walking is the best way to express these geometric shapes. We can walk the circle. We can shrink it, enlarge it, then reverse and move in the opposite direction, all while walking the circle. “We can also walk lemniscates, spirals, and diamonds, shrinking one side of the shape and then bringing it back. Geometrical shapes give purpose and meaning. It is important for the sixth grader to be reminded where he comes from by very concretely and unconventionally learning how to pray. We can express this in eurythmy by connecting with the sound of the musical scale or octave. The musical scale ascends upward, bringing us closer to God, and then descends downward, bringing those blessing down from above. So when we use moveable geometric shapes for form walking and gestures and sounds of the musical scale, we attempt to combine thinking, feeling, and willing, which is what we are trying to accomplish during the bridge years.” – Reg Down. I have included the pitch and scale exercise here:
1. First we play a scale and ask the children to show us what they heard with their hands. They will ALWAYS raise and lower their hands to show the sound. Next, ask them if they can come up with a gesture that shows what we just heard. The children usually show the correct gesture, but if not, ask questions that encourage them to give the correct gesture. It is always better if they can come up with it on their own. (The gesture is made by standing straight and tall and as the scale ascends, the arms are raised up from the side, elbows straight, to reach high above the head. Then as the scale descends, the arms are lowered back down.)
2. Next we teach the individual tone gestures by assigning each tone a specific height. (C scale so notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C)
3. When the children know the gestures well, we can pass the tones around the circle from child to child, each child holding their tone until the scale is complete.
4. The next step is choosing 8 children and lining them up one behind the other. Each child again has their own note which they hold until the scale is complete. When familiar with the exercise the children can execute the scale with great speed and precision.
- The children who are not doing the exercise stand directly in front of the eight doing the scale. From this vantage point the tones unfold in a beautiful manner. Point out to the students that a picture arises within them when they watch the scale unfolding from this vantage point. Often they give the answer themselves: “It’s like a growing plant!” There is something wonderfully plant-like to the scale when it unfolds in this way, and the children often make a point of standing in front to admire its beauty.
5. Once the children completely understand these gestures, chose a geometric form and assign certain points in the shape where you will change tone gestures when the child reaches that point.
6. Next, chose a text (verse or poem) that can be recited while walking the form and gesturing the scale. Thus completing the exercise and combing thinking, feeling, and willing. This should be done over a number of weeks. We want to make sure they internalize each step before moving on.
(This exercise was built upon from the scale exercise in Leaving Room for the Angels by Reg Down. Some of this wording was taken directly from the book on page 181.)
So this is just a tiny portion of what is experienced in Fifth and Sixth Grade. My desire is that this gives a little clarity and insight into their minds and feelings. Welcome to the Bridge Years! Just remember that there may be times when they cannot accomplish an exercise or task that they were once perfectly capable of doing. This is a part of the ever-changing child! Don’t worry, they will once again, be able to connect to themselves and be physically and emotionally grounded. Until then, take things lightly, remember to laugh… humor is key in eurythmy!
(UP NEXT: The Thinking Stage: Part 2 (Class 7 and 8) a continuation of The Bridge Years. Awkwardness at its max and how we can push through it!)
-Image from Waldorf Homeschoolers
Eurythmy for the Holidays
Greetings to all! It has been a while since you last heard from me. It has been a weird couple of weeks, but all is well now. The Holidays are here and we can’t ignore it! This post is a little long, but stay with me! It is going to be lots of fun and I guarantee you will be catching your children doing these exercises outside of “schooltime!”
So let’s talk a bit about how we can bring these festivals to eurythmy. Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever it may be, there is a place for it in eurythmy. The star is a major symbol this time of year. For Christian religion, it represents the birth of the Savior, the light of the world. For the Jewish religion, it represents a shield of protection for King David. Whatever your religion or purpose may be in celebrating this season, find out what the star means to you. It will help you and your children internalize the following exercises.
The Pentagram or Five-pointed Star: This is an exercise taken directly from Leaving Room for the Angels by Reg Down. This exercise is good for grades 2 and up. For those that have moved beyond the 9 year old change, they can walk this while always facing the front of the room, which means they will be walking backwards at some points! This is great for spacial awareness! Start by asking them (the older kids) if they know how to draw a five-pointed star. They will demonstrate it quite well. Then ask if they could walk what they just drew. They will demonstrate it well again. Then ask it they can do it while facing the front of the room the whole time. They may hesitate. Some won’t. This can act as an introduction to form walking in the proper way for these older children (while always facing front). It is best to have 6 children for these exercises, but if you do not, you may want to use a bean bag or something else as a place marker. So take one child up front, or to the center of the room and start by telling this story as Reg does: “Dear children, there was once a star. It was a beautiful star. It lived high up in the heavens with all the other stars. This star, with all his star friends, glittered and shone and played all night. But this one star shone brighter than all the rest. It sent out rays in all directions. It sent out a ray in this direction (with my foot I indicate that the child must open his right leg), and then in this direction (I hold out his left arm), and a ray shone in this direction (I hold out his right arm), and also in this direction (I indicate he must move out his left leg), and finally, to crown everything, it sent [a ray straight up through the top of his head (I straighten the head nice and tall)].” The child is now standing in the pentagram stance. You can hold his arms as you tell the rest of the story so they do not tire.
“One night, when it was very clear, the stars heard voices calling from the earth. All these voices were calling for the star children. Then they turned and began to float gently down to the earth. But our one particular star was in a real hurry and leapt from heaven, and fell, and fell, till he landed, bump, on the earth.” As the star is falling, I gradually lower the child onto the floor, carefully maintaining his star shape and adjusting him so that he is a perfect star. “In fact, he landed so hard, that it quite knocked the wind out of him. He was a little dazed and completely forgot that he had fallen from heaven. But his star friends, who were not quite so silly about jumping down from heaven, found him, and one came and stood at his
head.” (I crook my finger at one child to come and stand at the head – but not too close, or the pentagram will be too small in the end.) “And another star friend stood at this right leg, (I get a child to stand at this right leg) and another came and stood at his left hand, (ditto) another stood at his right hand, (ditto) and another came and
stood at his left leg, (ditto). All his friends now stood in a star shape around the poor little star, and as soon as they did this, he was able to get up on his own two feet.” (I have the child get up and stand at the head position.) “First, he thanked the head star; then he went and thanked the right foot star; then he thanked the left hand star; and he thanked the right
hand star; and he thanked the left foot star, and, lastly, he went back to the head star and thanked him again, because the head star is the one who starts everything.” (While thanking each star friend, I lead the child from place to place so that he moves the pentagram.)
You can then tell the child to move the pentagram without you leading them. Then have one or two more children come and move it. To put your holiday twist on it, have the stars be Christmas stars or Winter Solstice Stars and the children are calling to them from earth to help them celebrate. In subsequent lessons, after they have learned to walk this proficiently, you can have the head star walk to the right leg star, then the right leg star walk to the left arm, etc., in sequence. Another step further is to have them wall moving at the same time. Then you could have only one child moving the pentagram alone from point to point with no other stars. You can make another addition by adding the vowel gestures at each point on the star. Other ideas are having them skip from point to point, or stepping in beat or rhythm to a piece of music. A fun challenge or game to play with the pentagram is to have the children try to get from point to point in 5 steps. Then once you have made it all the way around the star, have them try it in 4 steps, then 3, then 2, then 1! This brings some humor into this exercise and the kids love the challenge! You do not need to tell the story every time you do a lesson. And if the children insist, you can change it up a bit each time. This story and the pentagram has a healing effect on difficult children and especially for boys! This is really fun to tie into the holidays!
The Hexagram or Six-Pointed Star: This form is meant for grades 4 and up. So anyone learning this form will have already gone through the 9 year old change; therefore, they should be walking this form while always facing the front of the room! With this exercise, it will be brought to the children in a similar manner as the pentagram. You start by telling some clever story. I will not give you a story here, but I will help you get started. You could say that each star in heaven is given special jobs, and this little star was given the special job as guardian of the earth. Since this star had 6 points, that meant he could reach a lot of areas other stars couldn’t. He took his job very seriously and every morning before the sun would rise and every evening right after the sun went to bed, he would walk all the paths of the earth. (Then proceed to walk the form of the six-pointed star.) OR to put a holiday twist on it, you could say this six-pointed star was assigned as Santa’s helper and he was given the job of checking on all the children in all the corners of the earth. So he had many paths to take, then proceed to walk the form… or you could say, he checked on all the children in Korea (walk the first line) then he checked on the children in Canada (walk to the next point), etc. Or this star could be the helper of Jack Frost and he had to see which parts of the earth were cold enough for snow… This is just a few examples. Be creative. I would love to hear some of the stories you come up with!
Walking this form is a little different than the pentagram other than the extra point. As you can tell from the picture, there is a “P” and a small circle. The “P” represents people in your audience, or the front of your room. The small circle represents your starting place. So you begin at that circle. You then walk the right side of the first triangle. Then follow the line across to the left, then walk that final line of the first triangle back to your starting place. Then you walk straight down the middle, to the beginning of the second triangle. From there, you follow the line and walk to the left side of the second triangle. Then you walk across the back. Then back to the front of the room to the starting point of the second triangle. This is a complete rotation of the hexagram. You would then walk back up the middle to the starting place of the first triangle and do this over and over to a piece of music. Your music could be ¾ time signature or to the beat of a drum in ¾ time. This means each line of the hexagram in made in 3 steps, bringing the feet together very briefly before stepping to the next point. The feet being brought together represents a bar line in music (only get into that if you are studying that at the time; otherwise, don’t even make mention of a bar line, just bring the feet together very briefly).
Additional versions to this is to have six children at each point and walking to the next point. Another is to have 2 children walking this, each at the starting point of a triangle. Another challenging exercise is to have the children always moving while walking this. Instead of bringing the feet together briefly, have them walk a very small circle around each point and then proceed to the next. If you were to draw out this exercise it would be a very pretty form drawing! Another challenge that we used with the pentagram, is to walk each line in 5 steps, then 4, then 3, etc. They love this one! There are some complicated variations to this form in the book that I will not get into, but I recommend you reading it and giving it a shot!
I hope these two forms will help to bring some holiday spirit into your eurythmy lessons at home or co-op! Form walking is one of my favorite things to do. And the kids I work with are always challenging me to try it “this way.” I love seeing what they can come up with! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! Happy Form Walking!!
The Feeling Stage: Part 2 (Class 3 and 4)
Onward March! Today we are going to talk a bit more in depth about Grades 3 and 4. Remember, the children in this age group dwell in the plant kingdom. They look to us and rely on us, as their teachers, to create an environment that will allow them to grow and develop in their proper stages. They will take what we present them and internalize it.
Third Grade: The children in this grade are open to learning as long as it is brought to them imaginatively. However, doing gestures dreamily will not cut it with this crew! The inner life wants to be expressed outwardly. They are more energized and demand more independence. They need a creative challenge. This is all a result of the 9 year old change that they will experience this year. We can peak their interest by telling them we have taught them a secret code (or will teach them a secret code). Most children will know how to read by this time and will therefore know phonetic sounds. We can tell them the gestures we have been learning (or will learn) represent sounds we make when we speak. We can spell things out with our secret code! Right away, they will want to know what you are talking about! Show them how each of the gestures represent a letter. Then you can have them guess whose name you are spelling. They will beam with pride because during this year they will find a reconnection with their names. (I will show how to do this as soon as I can get my Youtube channel figured out… remember, I am not technologically savvy. It might take me a minute).
Keeping along the same path of needing things to be the same but more of a challenge, we still do exercises in a circle, but the circle has transformed. It will not always be done in a traditional, geometric shape. They can shrink, grow, and multiply the circle. They can walk triangles, squares, spirals, diamonds, all in a circular fashion (going around and around). The pentagram can be introduced; it’s just a circle in a knot. We can walk the sliding figure eight (peanut shape), crossing figure eight, double the circle, etc. All this can be done in an exercise specifically made for grade 3. Again, referring to the curriculum, we can walk the form of the Days of Creation! Let’s take Day 1 for our example from Movement for The Elementary Grades by Francine Adams:
In the beginning God created (stand still)
Heaven and Earth. (expand and contract one step)
And the Earth was without form and void.
And darkness was upon the face of the deep. (begin walking slowly in a circle)
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (faster in sliding figure eight)
And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good. (crossing figure eight)
And God divided the light from the darkness. (divide into 2 circles) And He called the light, day and the darkness He called night.
And the evening and the morning were the first day. (return back to one circle)
Fourth Grade: The children have gained a little independence, but now in this grade, they will also demand attention. We have to give the children in this grade careful, healthy attention, so as not to have an opposing effect of independence gained in grade 3. This year, the transition into the Thinking Stage begins. It is our job as their teachers to present opportunities to them for connecting their Will to their Thinking. It is crucial that this connection is made. If this connection truly happens within the child, then new possibilities and willing readiness emerges. They desire to know that what they are doing is important and fitting. They desire to make those important things visible. If we can help them accomplish this, they will begin feel that Eurythmy isn’t just for little kids. It is true. How can we achieve this? By teaching grammar and syntax through Eurythmy. And how can we do that? Let me show you some examples:
• Nouns – we look for spacial forms that express something concrete, like and house or mountain. A spiral that opens in front is a good example of a form that fits the word for house. Then we use gestures to help us express what we are trying to say.
• Verbs – If it is an active verb, we walk it backwards. This takes much more strength and Will to do, just as an active verb does. If it is passive, we walk it forwards because it doesn’t require as much effort. For example: “I sleep” is straight forward. It doesn’t require much effort on our part to sleep. It just happens. Therefore, it is forwards. “I work” is walked backward. It takes a lot more effort to work our bodies and is done purposefully. But what about “I live”? Life is long, so this movement should be long. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes its smooth sailing with little effort. So if we put all this criteria together, we should walk from front to back, and in the distance. If you were to get up and do this form right now, it would lead you to walking the horizontal line. A new direction of walking!
• EXAMPLE: So let’s put an example together. Let’s take the Brave and True verse.
Brave and True I will be. (It’s hard work to stand true when the world is doing otherwise, so let’s walk that backwards. And maybe do a B gesture and T gesture for brave and true.)
Each good deed sets me free. (Let’s walk a small, personal circle where we stand to represent that concrete noun of deed. And let’s throw a G gesture in there so everyone knows it is a good deed we are doing.)
Each kind word makes me strong. (Sometimes it’s easy to talk nicely and other times it’s hard to find something nice to say. So let’s put our horizontal line from back to front in here. And let’s do a W gesture for Word).
I will fight for the right, I will conquer the wrong. (This is definitely not an easy thing. We are fighting here! So we must walk backward. And let’s put a big, strong R gesture for Right and then a W gesture for Wrong.)
This is a very simple example of creating these Eurythmy sentences using grammar and syntax, but it provides a clear example of how this should be done. Of course, you can throw more gestures in there if you so please. But the simpler the better; at least when you are starting out. Once these gestures are learned, you can add more and more until you have almost every word represented! It can become a very beautiful verse to move!
I hope this helps you understand bit more about Grades 3 and 4, and what they need. These examples I have given are just a small sample of what can be done with these children! I will be posting more exercises and games to do with these younger grades so stay tuned! More fun to come!
Image from barbarawilliamson.org
The Flow of Eurythmy Lesson – Overview
I know we’ve talked a little about some of the exercises that we can do for certain ages (there will be more to come). But let’s talk a little about what a full lesson looks like. I know some of you are screaming, “Wait! We didn’t talk about my child’s age group yet!” I know. Hold tight for just a bit. We WILL get to all the other grades, I promise! I just want to give this simple run down of the lesson flow before things get more involved and detailed with the older grades. So, for a homeschooler, the lesson can be a bit shorter if needs be. But no matter whether you are doing a shorter lesson or longer, the Eurythmy lesson will always have it’s own in-breath and out-breath. I will break it down further for you, but it looks something like this:
1- Call the lesson to order.
2- Some type of warm up.
3- Main Eurythmy Lesson (as the classes get older, there will be a thinking, feeling, and willing sections added)
4- Some type of closing
5- a quiet moment of reflection
Now for more explanation as to what this all means. So the first thing we do is call the children to order. In a Waldorf school, as the children come in to the Eurythmy classroom and change their shoes, the teacher calls them to order by having some sort of opening. It might be a verse or a song that when the children hear, they know it’s time to get into position (whether they make a circle or whatever you want them to do). I try to keep this the same all year long so the childten know exactly what is expected of them when they hear it. No surprises! For my classes I sing a song and have the children gather in a circle. The older classes, I start the song, which they finish singing as I go around the room and shake hands with each child, calling them all by name with a short comment.
Next is a warm up. This either wakes their limbs or focuses their limbs, depending on what they were doing before Eurythmy lesson. Do they need to be awakened or do they need to bring in their focus? I like to do the warm-up exercise(here) with my older children, or something like the Left-Right Activity (here) for my younger children. I have also done hand slapping games or bean bag activities. I use waldorfteacherresources.com a lot for my warm-ups.
Then we do our main Eurythmy lesson. This is where you will apply all those exercises I have been talking about in my other posts. This is geared directly to their age group and what they are needing at the time. This is the section where thinking, feeling, willing is applied. Thinking could be a story with gestures for first graders. Feeling could be second graders learning beat with Nanabush game. And willing could be form walking or learning with copper rods. These are just a few examples. If you have a lot of active children, you will want to move between a lot of activities very frequently to keep their attention. A lesson I learned the hard way! They will not want to concentrate on something for too long.
Then we have some type of closing. It could be a song or a verse that signals to the children what you would like them to do (gather back in a circle if they are scattered) and that the lesson is drawing to an end. Again, you might want to keep this the same all year long so the children know exactly what is expected of them, no excuses. And again, waldorfteacherresources.com is a great place to not just get verses and songs, but you can hear them too!
Now for a moment of quiet pondering. All age groups are expected to do this. I make it fun for the younger children though. I have them see if they can make their ears magic. (from Eurythmy by Sylvia Bardt). For the older ones we do Yoga Nidra (sleep mediation). This is so good for children to have this quiet moment. Not only does it bring peace and calm to their bodies but it has a healing effect on their minds and ears. It’s especially good if the children are TV damaged! They need this healing so much!
When the quiet moment is over, I either signal this with a short song or verse, and for older classes I shake hands with each child as they leave, for youngers I lead them out with a circle and song and give them back to their teacher (or if at home lead them to the table for painting or music or whatever is next).
So as you can see, it has it’s own in-breath and out-breath. It is better to keep these lessons shorter at first. You can build on them with time, but it is better to have a short successful lesson then have a full long lesson planned out that falls to pieces because no one knows quite what to expect yet. From start to finish lessons will should only be about 15 minutes for up to age four, 20-30 minutes for ages five to six, 30-45 minutes for ages seven to nine, and 45-60 minutes for older ages. Like I said though, it would be ok if, for example, your 9 year olds only had 20 minutes to start. Tell them what is expected with each song or transition and have them practice. Once they seem to know what is going on, start adding exercises to the lesson. This will assure success and fun and the children will want to please you! I hope this helps a bit to get you started in planning those Eurythmy lessons. There will be more detailed activities to come in future posts. I just wanted to lay it out for those of you that have younger children with exercises that are ready to roll! Good luck and remember to breathe and have fun. Because that is what matters!
art by Marie Hall