Book Review: Second Grade Development, Observation, and Assessment March 06 2017

Over the decades of developing and deepening of Waldorf Education, teachers have come to recognize the need for attention as children approach the change in consciousness that occurs around nine years old. Much has been said about this change. Waldorf Publications’ book Rubicon, is a collection of everything Rudolf Steiner said about this significant moment in a child’s development.

Readers might have a strong memory of this time within their own development when the discovery came that there is no Santa Claus, no tooth fairy, no mysterious magic.

Children often notice at this time that their parents have faults and are not perfect.  They notice that adults do not always keep promises. They might notice we have crooked teeth or think our noses big or that our ears stick out.  These things have always been present of course, but the child before the age of nine usually does not see this. They accept parents and teachers as the best, the smartest, the most beautiful, handsomest in the world.  When the change comes, this has been called the “crossing of the Rubicon,” a term taken from the legend of Julius Caesar, indicating that there is no turning back. The curriculum in Waldorf schools changes significantly to meet this change in perception, this new awareness, this new independence and attendant loneliness.

Just before this change sets in and the child “wakes up” to be more in the adult world, losing the childlike trust in being part of the whole, good world, teachers have understood that it is good to take stock in how a child is learning so that preparations can begin.  By the middle of second grade, children have given ample information to teachers and parents of how they will be as learners. The vestiges of little childhood should be all but gone (infantile reflexes, baby teeth) and levels of capacity in gross and fine motor skills can be identified as “in place” or “still not in place.”  The manifestation of every child as a learner informs the preparation and planning of the class teacher in collaboration with the special subjects’ teachers.

Jumping, running, hopping, skipping, clapping in rhythm, crossing the horizontal and vertical mid-lines, the settling of dominance (right or left handedness), eye-hand coordination, eye tracking, auditory processing, and many other capacities are worthy of investigation, evaluating, and recording by mid-second grade.

Second Grade AssesmentMost Waldorf schools have inaugurated what has become known as “the second-grade assessment” with different approaches following the needs in each school. Waldorf Publications just received from Mercurius back stock of a booklet they published a good decade ago entitled Second Grade Development, Observation, and Assessment: Background and Manual by Els Gottgens.  Some may remember Els as a good friend to Waldorf Education in America. She led the training of mentors through the Pedagogical Advisors’ Circle and she was guide and mentor to many schools and teachers in America. After her career as a class teacher in the Netherlands, she made the long journey to North America again and again, well into her 80s. Dearly beloved to very many here on this side of the Atlantic, Els patiently and warmly helped teachers and schools stay true to the vision of Waldorf education as informed by child observation and collaboration.
This booklet is now available for purchase while the supply we have received lasts. It holds clearly explained pathways with both exercises for assessing second grade children, and also for tracking the results of the assessing. One can read in the lines of the 28-page offering all the warmhearted attention Els brought to everything she did.
Every class teacher should have one of these booklets — twenty-eight pages is all it takes Els to explain how to do and to track a thoroughgoing evaluation of each student. Faculties could use this book for study to discuss all the aspects of child development, at any age, to build a community picture of expectations and accomplishments at different ages. Parents will find the content rich with insight into the unique approach taken in Waldorf schools to evaluating the learning patterns in each child. The book is a gift in a succinct booklet!

The booklet can be purchased for only $10 at  This booklet is a powerhouse to have and a helpful training manual for all teachers — parents, too! — to understand how to assess and follow the needs of each child entrusted to his or her care. Look for this invaluable little gem of a resource. In schools soon and available now for $10 at