The Progressive method involves a curriculum of learning that comes from the child’s own natural inner guidance and expresses itself in outward behavior as the child’s various individual interests are at work. Supporting this inner plan of nature, the method provides a range of materials to stimulate the child’s interest through self-directed activity. In the first plane of development (0–6), these materials are generally organized into five basic categories: practical life, sensorial, math, language, and culture. Other categories include geography ( a child’s perception of herself in space), history (a child’s perception of herself in time), and science (interactions with the natural world).
Practical life materials and exercises respond to the young child’s natural interests to develop physical coordination, care of self and care of the environment. Specific materials, for example, provide opportunities for self-help dressing activities, using various devices to practice buttoning, bow tying, and lacing. Other practical life materials include pouring, scooping and sorting activities, as well as washing a table and food preparation to develop hand-eye coordination. These activities also provide a useful opportunity for children to concentrate bringing about their normalization. Other practical life activities include lessons in polite manners, such as folding hands, sitting in a chair, walking in line.
The sensorial materials provide a range of activities and exercises for children to experience the natural order of the physical environment, including such attributes as size, color, shape and dimension.Many of these materials were originally suggested and developed by Seguin in his prior research with scientific education.
Examples of these materials are pink tower (series of ten sequential cubes, varying in volume); knobbed cylinders (wooden blocks with 10 depressions to fit variable sized cylinders); broad stairs (ten wooden blocks, sequentially varying in two dimensions); color tablets (colored objects for matching pairs or grading shapes of color).
In this area, materials are provided to show such basic concepts as numeration, place value, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. For numeration, there is a set of ten rods, with segments colored red and blue and “spindle boxes”, which consist of placing sets of objects in groups, 1–10, into separate compartments. For learning the numeral symbols, there is a set of sandpaper numerals, 1–9. For learning addition, subtraction, and place value, materials provide decimal representation of 1, 10, 100, etc., in various shapes made of beads, plastic, or wood.
In the first plane of development (0–6), the Progressive method language materials provide experiences to develop use of a writing instrument and the basic skills of reading a written language. For writing skill development, the metal insets provide essential exercises to guide the child’s hand in following different outline shapes while using a pencil or pen. For reading, a set of individual letters, commonly known as sandpaper letters, provide the basic means for associating the individual letter symbols with their corresponding phonetic sounds. Displaying several letters, a lesson, known as the Seguin three-period lesson (see below), guides children to learn the letter sounds, which finally blend together to make certain simple phonetic words like “up” and “cat”.
The Progressive Curriculum classroom may also include other materials and resources to learn cultural subjects, such as geography (map puzzles, globes, cultural suitcases containing country-specific materials), and science, such as biology in naming and organizing plants and animals. Music and art are also commonly involved with children in various ways. After the age of approximately six, learning resources include reading books and more abstract materials for learning a broad range of advanced subject matter.