The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 7

Notes and Lesson Plans

Wonder, Wish, and Surprise
updated October 17, 2021

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

Wonder, Wish, and Surprise
for Class 7

Mission Statement - Consulting Services - Lending Library

This is a new block for me and I am really excited about teaching it in the 2017-2018 school year! Below are my notes as I prep for this topic.

Main Text

    The Art and Science of Teaching Composition

    by Dorit Winter

    Dorit Winter is the one who calls this block "Wonder, Wish, and Surprise" instead of the more common "Wish, Wonder, and Surprise." Her book is organized into five chapters:

    • Chapter One - The Foundation of Writing
    • Chapter Two - Wonder
    • Chapter Three - Wish
    • Chapter Four - Surprise
    • Chapter Five - Conclusions

    She writes on page 8, "Turning now to seventh grade, we find a unique main lesson, one that has moods of soul as its explicit content: wish, wonder, and surprise. Why should moods of soul be part of a child's education? And why especially in seventh grade?"

    Her first chapter, Chapter 1, answers this question. Please take a minute and read it now.

There are lots of other resources for teaching creative writing. I have the following:

Misc. Assorted Resources:

I strongly strongly recommend using The Art and Science of Teaching Composition by Dorit Winter as your main text for the Creative Writing block! It is short (51 pages), explains the how and why of the entire block, and is available online for free. What more could you possibly ask for?!

Please also see my other page on The Language Arts Curriculum for Class 6, 7 & 8.

As a Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project, I was trained to give students 10-15 minutes of daily silent creative writing time every morning. We have been doing this for years, and I've used many prompts and introduced many mini-lessons on grammar, word study, author's craft, etc. over the course of that time. The Wonder, Wish, and Surprise main lesson block is not the be-all and end-all of writing lessons, or of creative writing lessons. It is, however, a chance to carve out a sustained period of time for students to focus on this type of self-expression.

I blended this with the use of some Montessori resources for teaching geography, thereby allowing the children to create an entire imaginary world. This was inspired by the fact that we had our first literature circle of the year on Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson. As that story was concluding, we were transitioning into the WWS block. Doing a review of landforms and water features early in the school year also seemed like a good foundation for the Age of Exploration and World Geography blocks.


Dorit Winter suggests two possibilities: "My Heart Leaps Up" by William Wordsworth or "Cargoes" by John Masefield.

The Imaginary Island Project

    Week One: Wonder

    Dorit Winter writes on pp. 21-22,

    "In our kindergartens and the early grades, we can still directly address the child's sense of wonder. For some children, it is a sense already badly wounded. Through the imagination it can be healed. The tales we tell our little children are wonderful. In fourth, fifth and sixth grades, we have to begin to evoke that sense of wonder less directly. By seventh grade, if we address the sense of wonder directly, we will be laughed out of the classroom. For the seventh grader is donning the heavy armor of adolescence, and the more complete it is, the more s/he fears exposure of the tender soul which still enjoys the golden sky. The golden sky is in the past for seventh graders; they are turned outward, toward the uncharted future. Any hint of inwardness makes them explosively uneasy, and rightly so, because now for the seventh grader is the dawning epoch of the consciousness soul. (As perhaps we might say that now for the eighth grader is the twentieth century, and now for the ninth grader is today, whereas for the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grader, more and more of tomorrow creeps in.)"

    I am using the Imaginary Island Project as a way to get my seventh graders to access their sense of Wonder. As she writes on page 22,

    "In that dawning, where the blue and the gold are both present, there are unexpected new joys. One such new joy is the discovery of the power of keen observation, whether in a chemistry experiment, a geometric proof or in a preliminary exercise for a writing assignment. For "WISH, WONDER and SURPRISE" ought to be inwardly experienced activities, evoked by an active imagination through the means of written compositions, and the compositions that most scientifically evoke the inner mood of wonder through an outwardly oriented scientific method are based on exercises in observation."

    Because we are using an outwardly oriented scientific method to help students get to the inwardly experienced activities of the soul moods, the Montessori material comes in handy here. My notes reflect my use of the Montessori materials which I already own.

    I am going ahead with calling it the Imaginary Island Project, although she argues on page 23 that "Creative Writing" is a possibility for this block. She is firm that it should not be called "Wish, Wonder and Surprise" to the children.

    Activity #1 - Our new poem (the Wordsworth one), listening to John Masefield's poem "Cargoes," and then I really like starting this block with Dorit Winter's lesson on describing natural objects (pp.24-25)

    Activity #2 - As she writes in the remainder of Chapter Two, "You cannot spend the entire main lesson writing" and "This raises the frequently-asked question of what to do during the rest of the main lesson, when the children are not writing." She even says on page 26, "Some teachers have found it practical to work on a play, or even on something more remote, like arithmetic, during the time when the children are not writing or working on their main lesson books."

    My plan is to use the remainder of this time by allowing students to create their own individual imaginary worlds, starting with reviewing the nomenclature for landforms and water features, then combining landforms and water features of their choice in a unique way to create the geography of their island.

    Mandala Classroom Resources:
    Land and Water Forms: Set of 38 - $49.00

    Activity #3 - Dorit Winter, p.27, suggestion on a field trip to the park
    we did this at Dayempur Farm, where we spend every Wednesday

    Reviewing the biomes and having students decide on the biomes on their island. They should create a 2D map (introducing the gelatos as a new art material will make this even more special), and then come up with the plants and animals which would live there. These can be real or imaginary.

    Love these cut paper imagination habitats!

    Waseca Biomes:
    An Introduction to the Biomes with Curriculum - Elementary - $50.00
    Biomes of the World Mat - $75.00
    Complete Set of Control Charts for the Biome Puzzles - $25.00
    Biomes of the Continent Labels - $25.00
    Complete Set of Biome Cards for the Continents - $270.00
    Map Legend Stamp - $30.00

    Activity #4 - Reviewing the Fundamental Needs of Man (Key Lesson after the Third Great Lesson) and asking students to decide on the people(s) who live on their island. Describe how they meet each of their fundamental needs. Let the children begin to know their future short story characters.

    ETC Montessori:
    Fundamental Needs of Humans Chart - $48.00

    Activity #5 - Continue with creative writing activities daily.

    Dorit Winter, p.27, suggestion on describing a still life in the center of a circle of desks
    My younger group was doing the Jataka Tales block at this time, so my older students participated in their Still Life with Figs activity (for "The Monkey and the Crocodile").

    Dorit Winter writes on page 28,

    "The point, to reiterate, is to get the seventh graders to look carefully. Once you have managed to improve their observation skills and their ability to articulate their observations, you might want to read some gems of descriptive writing to them. (If you do this first, the clever students will try to be "copy cats," while the rest get discouraged.) John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Lewis Thomas, John McPhee, for instance, are all fine nature writers.

    "Later, perhaps even after this main lesson block is over, you might read aloud to your class some accurately imagined landscapes, accurately imagined characters (Dickens!). For imagination is the result of careful observation. You can inspire your seventh graders to new heights of clear prose once you have fired them with the challenge of careful observations. In this way, you will be training the imagination, which is the basis of true thinking."

    Read to the class her two examples of student creative writing in Chapter Two:
    "At the Mouth of a Tidal Creek" on page 29
    "A Moment on a Mountain Stream" on page 30

    Week Two: Wish

    Activity #1 - Dorit Winter suggests beginning this week with a biography "in which a child's wish (or dream, as this sort of wish is sometimes called) determines the destiny of an individual." She suggests Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy.

    I picked High as a Hawk by T.A. Barron. This is the story of the youngest girl to ever summit Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Colorado, in 1905. She was eight years old.

    Then give the children their first WISH composition

      1. State the wish.
      2. Describe in detail what you would do if the wish were granted.
      3. Conclusion: Why do you think this is an important wish?

    Activity #2 - Have students complete the Short Story Planning Guide for a story of their own, a story where a wish plays a crucial role.

    Dorit Winter writes in Chapter 3,

    "The more integrated the entire week is, the more thorough the mood you can establish. Just remember, all of this has to be happening on a seventh grade leve. There has to be plenty of blue in the mix, otherwise the children will rebel. So you must work hard on the science of writing itself. That is the marvelous secret of this main lesson block. The content is truly compelling; if properly harnessed, it will not lead to never-never land. Instead, it will carry you and your class into hitherto unapproachable realms of soul experience.

    "I say 'hither-to unapproachable' because hitherto the children were still entirely in this soul realm, and thus could not approach it, and now that they can begin to approach such depths, they will not approach it unless coaxed. But in the seventh graders, 'the wishes of the soul are sprinting' already, and already 'life grows more radiant... more arduous... more abundant...." Seventh grade souls are longing (wishing) for an excuse to be serious. That is part of the explanation for their frenetic behavior; it is a masquerade. Under the masks of silly, rowdy, gnawing behavior, is a soul, in need of something filling, something grand. Your weakest writers may reveal astonishing depths of soul under the influence of a scientifically conceived incentive."

    Activity #3 - Another wonderful biography for this week is Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman.

    Activity #4 - Let students use stencils of human heads or faces, such as this faces in the crowd stencil to do artwork about their main characters' thoughts, feelings, and wishes.

    Activity #5 - Throughout the week continue to have students work on their creative short story. If they need a break, they can continue to do 2D artwork related to their island with their gelatos, or begin to work on creating their 3D model of their Imaginary Island to scale.

    Week Three : Surprise

    Activity #1 - Surprise the class!

    I planned two surprise field trips for this week. One trip was to the public library to see some exotic animals and hear a presentation from a naturalist. The other trip was to a pumpkin patch with a hay ride, corn maze, and so on.

    Dorit Winter writes on page 44 a few important reminders:

    "Should you decide to surprise them by, say, disguising yourself, simply do it. Do not talk about it, analyze it, explain it. Or there may be an unexpected visitor or happening in the classroom that day. Just let it be. Just give them the experience, and let the suspense around the event build. Even the next day, you need not return to the subject of yesterday's 'event.' Let the surprise be.

    "For the rest of the week, the challenge is: how to keep the surprises from being predictable. Again, it is important to focus on the writing. It will be easier to immerse the children in the mood of SURPRISE if you have managed to avoid calling the main lesson block 'Wish, Wonder and Surprise.' You may want to plan one or more surprises for the seventh grade. How wonderful it would be if a clown could visit the class."

    Activity #2 - Snowball Writing!

    Have the children write the beginning to a story of something that happens on their island and then, instead of providing the ending, have them trade stories so another child can devise an ending. Dorit Winter suggests, "Give them some guidelines. The ending must come out of the story itself; it must be a surprise; one new character may be introduced..."

    Activity #3 - A new composition assignment (where the author has full control over the story) such as a character finding something unexpected, doing something unexpected, or doing something that one of the other characters doesn't expect.

    Activity #4 - Share with the group a short story with a surprise ending. I put several in my eighth grade Short Story block. Perhaps

    Of course, any story you pick now you won't be able to do next year, because the ending will no longer be a surprise! (For this block, I chose "The Necklace.")

    Activity #5 - Students should wrap up this main lesson block by finishing their 3D scale models of their Imaginary Islands. Have a Parent Expo where the models, the 2D artwork, and the collection of creative writing pieces can be displayed.

    Writers' Workshops (Grammar and Word Study Exercises)

    Again, for this we have always had the Montessori material in our classroom for Grammar and Word Study, and so I will simply continue to use this material with students one-on-one as needed.

    Montessori Research & Development:
    Word Study Complete Set - $445.00
    Grammar Symbol Nomenclature - $38.00

    Plastic Grammar Symbols in Box - $90.90
    Grammar Pencil Black - Noun - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Light Blue - Article - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Dark Blue - Adjective - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Red - Verb - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Green - Preposition - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Orange - Adverb - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Violet - Pronoun - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Pink - Conjunction - $4.49
    Grammar Pencil Gold - Interjection - $4.49

    Waseca Biomes:
    Grammar Stencil - $5.00

    Mandala Classroom Resources:
    The Grammar Game - $99.00
    Booster Set: Regular to Advanced Grammar Game - $18.00
    Grammar Wall Chart Level 2 - $20.00

    Creative Writing Activities - my "wishlist" of activities I'd like to do from the wonderful book Sing Me the Creation: A Creative Writing Sourcebook by Paul Matthews.

    NOTE: This is enough work for 7th and 8th grade, if not beyond.

    A Personal Introduction

    How this book came to be written; Renewing the ancient hearth; Inhibitions; Permissions; Playing; How to use this book; Suggestions for group practice; The structure of this book; The four temperaments; Earth, Water, Air and Fire; Image, sound movement; The Logos

    The structure of this book: Exercise 1
    Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Exercise 4
    Image, sound, movement: Exercise 9a-e

    The Statement

    Statement, Epiphanies, Memory, Paintings and photographs, Phantasy, Wondrous sight, Lying, Paradox, Dreaming, Naming (1), Definition and characterization (1), Characterization through comparison, Simile, Synesthesia, Blazonning, Metaphor, Personification, Language as picture or sculpture, Uttering the inner, An ancient battle, Imagination, Our own names

    Memory: Exercises 18, 19, 20, 23, 27
    Lying: Exercises 39, 40, 41, 42
    Definition and Characterization (1): Exercises 49, 50, 54, 55, 56, 58
    Simile: Exercise 59
    Metaphor: Exercises 67, 68, 69, 70, 71
    Personification: Exercises 72, 73, 74
    Uttering the Inner: Exercises 79, 81, 82

    The Question

    Question, Wondering, Response ability, Conversation, Jeopardy, Letters, The divided game, Bragging, Contraries, Riddles, Jokes, Sacred dialogue, Oracles, Festivals

    Question: Exercises 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 93, 94
    Response Ability: Exercises 97, 98, 99, 100, 101
    Conversation: Exercises 102, 103
    Jeopardy: Exercises 108, 109, 110
    Letters: Exercises 111, 113
    The Divided Game: Exercises 114, 115, 117, 118, 119
    Contraries: Exercises 123 (Fortunately by Remy Charlip), 124, 125, 126
    Riddles: Exercises 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133

    The Exclamation

    Exclamation, Noises, New languages, Non sense, Alliteration, Rhyme, Tongue twisters, Tongue assisters, Naming (2), Sound sense, Vowels, Consonants, Fictionary, Translation, Chracterization (2)

    Exclamation: Exercises 135, 137, 138, 141, 142, 143, 144, 146
    Noises: Exercises 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155
    New Languages: Exercises 156 (Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis), 157, 158, 160
    Non Sense: Exercises 165 (Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll), 166, 168, 169, 170, 171
    Alliteration: Exercises 172, 173
    Rhyme: Exercises 175, 176, 177
    Tongue Twisters: Exercise 179
    Tongue Assisters: Exercises 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186
    Vowels: Exercise 190
    Fictionary: Exercises 192, 193, 194
    Translation: Exercises 199, 200 and 201 (with the Structured Word Inquiry teacher)
    Characterization (2): Exercise 204

    The Command

    Command, Magic, Fire, Movement, Grammar and gymnastics, What is a sentence?, Verse, Alliterative verse, Motion and emotion, Rhythm, Meter, Verse and the universe, Prose, Personal style, Sentenced by sentences?, Chance, The stream of consciousness, Free verse

    Command: Exercises 207, 208, 209, 211, 212, 214
    Magic: Exercises 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 222
    Grammar and gymnastics: Exercises 229, 230, 231
    What is a Sentence?: Exercises 232, 233, 236, 237, 240, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247
    Motion and Emotion: Exercise 252
    Rhythm: Exercises 253, 254, 256
    Meter: Exercises 258, 260
    Prose: Exercise 263
    Personal Style: Exercises 265, 274
    Sentenced by Sentences?: Exercises 275, 276
    Chance: Exercises 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282
    The Stream of Consciousness: Exercises 283, 284
    Free Verse: Exercise 285

    The Hearth

    Story, Fable, Tall stories, Dream, Fairy tale, The creation story, Before the beginning, In the beginning, The act of creation, The four elements, Ending where we began

    Story: Exercises 286, 287
    Fable: Exercise 288
    Fairy Tale: Exercises 292, 293, 294
    Before the Beginning: Exercise 295
    In the Beginning: Exercises 298, 299, 300

    The overarching structure of Sing Me the Creation: A Creative Writing Sourcebook is the four types of sentences: the statement, the question, the exclamation, and the command. In contrast, his second book, Words in Place: Reconnecting with Nature through Creative Writing is "structured around a nine-week full-time course, Working with Imagination," that he developed while teaching at Emerson College. He writes, "The shape of the book is basically a progress through the different realms of nature -- from mineral to plant to animal to human." The book is designed with nine weeks of writing activities for a group:

      Week 1: Opening Our Senses to Each Other and the World

      Week 2: Earth, Water, Air and Fire

      Week 3: Turning a New Leaf

      Week 4: The Flowering Garden and Our Responses to it

      Week 5: The Animals in Nature

      Week 6: Giving Voice to the Animals

      Week 7: Being Human

      Week 8: The Story We Belong To

      Week 9: Walking Back the Way We Came

    Both of the books by Paul Matthews are strongly anthroposophical.

Blog posts from when I was teaching this block in 2017:

Blog posts from when I was teaching this block in 2021:

Affiliate links through Amazon cover domain registration, web hosting, and website backup fees. This allows me to offer
my materials for free. Any extra revenue is used as our homeschool budget for the month. Thank you for your support!

Waldorf Curriculum Copyright ©2006-2024