Writing comes before reading in Class 1 as it is more concrete, practical and less intellectually demanding. When we work with writing, the whole being of the child is involved. The child not only sees the letter but they also hear it, move it and write it.
The form of letters is emphasized and the children come to grips with the differences between straight and curved lines which together make up the shapes of the letters. Many of the consonants are taught first and are brought to the children through story and imagery – this connects to the imagination. Through the recall of the story the next day an alliterative verse of that letter is found and is said with a movement or Eurythmy gesture so that the children are really experiencing the letter. The children will hear the sound of the letter through the alliterative verse. Before the letter is finally written neatly into their books, I had the children practise creating the letter in big and small movements, writing it on chalkboards and in the sand and also using their bodies to create the letter in small groups or as a class.
Later the vowels are taught and are known as the Angel Letters and when they come down the rainbow bridge to earth they not only give us their vowel letter/sound but also bring with them a lesson or a moral. The vowels bring the letters together to form words.
Once most of the letters are taught, including the vowels, we put them together to form words which the children will write, sound out and read. That will be the beginning stages of the children beginning to read.
What is truly wonderful about the Waldorf approach is that the children will learn to read from their own writing. They would be writing verses that they have been saying in class, that way the children are seeing what the words look like that they have been saying – they are words that the children know and so this builds up their confidence during this process. They would copy these verses from the board and practise reading through them every day. In the end, the children would create their own reading books that they have carefully written and illustrated themselves. This gives the children a sense of pride, achievement, enthusiasm and confidence because they have made their own special reading books.