Where Are The Textbooks? The Use of Main Lesson Books in Waldorf (Steiner) Education

Article from Summerfield Waldorf School

Main Lesson books are unique to Waldorf education. While traditional schooling pairs lecturing with textbook references and worksheets, Waldorf students process and record lectures in notes and illustrations on large, blank pages of high-quality paper.

What are these books exactly and why do Waldorf schools use them?

What is a Main Lesson Book?

The creation of a Main Lesson book is an active, hands-on experience of learning that encourages both intention and creativity. Waldorf students record content of each subject of study, presented during a student’s main lesson class, in a Main Lesson book.

These creative, curriculum-rich books become the culmination of all students have learned, in depth, for the year about a topic. These topics, such as History, Science and Mathematics to name a few, are taught in blocks averaging 4 to 6 weeks, and the books serve as both learning tools and documentation of the work learned.

Every Main Lesson features daily work in the Main Lesson book. The student writes and illustrates the lesson’s content into their books. This content consists of relevant illustrations, stories, notes and summaries all written by hand. Children are given freedom within the creation of their books about both what they write and how they illustrate. This makes both the book and the content of the lesson their own.

What is Its Purpose?

The Main Lesson book serves many important purposes. On a practical level, it replaces the textbooks and worksheets seen in other schools. Instead of referencing a book as support material to what a teacher teaches, the teacher is the source material and the Main Lesson book becomes the creative, holistic recording of that imparted knowledge.

In this way, students learn through listening and re-interpreting the teacher’s lessons into useable notes and bits of information — both recording and processing the information as they go along. This is done alongside creative and artistic representations of the material. This brings personalization, beauty, joy and relevancy to lessons.

The goal is better absorption of the material on a deeper level as well as inspiring a joy in learning. Children in Waldorf schools are learning to learn and learning to love learning. Memorization for tests or temporary learning, to simply prove out rote work, is never the goal. Main Lesson books, over worksheets and text books, help ensure that children learn meaningfully and deeply each and every day.

Does A Main Lesson Book Help with Learning?

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Class 2 Main Lesson Book