Now that we reach fourth grade in this progression from first grade, we find that the wholeness has separated into parts. The fraction is an archetype for fourth grade. The teacher leads the child to experience the fraction and return it to the whole. Just so, woven forms provide the same journey. Woven forms are perhaps the most recognizable elements of Waldorf form drawings, though the woven form has been an artistic theme in various cultures for millennia.
Fourth grade forms
With the woven form, we take the line and fold it back onto itself, perhaps even with multiple lines. We create a beautifully ordered knot. We weave a fabric. To render this in a drawing requires us to fragment the whole line into many different line segments so that we give the impression that the line has indeed woven itself over and under, over and under. We take the one line and divide into many fractions, but we arrange those fractions so that there is a new one-ness realized. Whether these woven forms are arranged in circular, triangular, or rectangular fashions, there is almost always an inherent geometric foundation evident in the whole.
Likewise, we can also take basic geometric shapes and explore an ordered division of their spaces so that we create equivalent fractions that are both beautiful and true. Each of these free-hand form drawing activities bring us ever closer to an experience of pure geometry. It is important to allow the student to struggle with the realization of these forms with the freehand approach first. Allowing the child to struggle with crawling, standing, and walking builds valuable will-forces that serve the human being throughout life. So too the struggle with geometric forms is a valuable learning experience that builds powerful inner faculties.
Rudolf Steiner urged the first Waldorf teachers to awaken “what will become geometry later—but first, one should keep it all in the realm of freehand drawing.” (Lecture 10, Practical Advise to Teachers).
The drawings and activities of these fourth grade form drawings have their own intrinsic value and can fill a lifetime of exploration in and of themselves. However, as a step on the curricular path, they are also leading toward the fifth grade year of freehand geometric drawing.