In a Waldorf elementary school, the curriculum is presented through extended “main lessons” which focus on one subject in depth. This approach differs from other instructional approaches that allot equal time to every subject. In a Waldorf elementary school, the approximately two-hour-long main lesson “ties one topic to as many disciplines as possible”.
The main lesson is not taught from a textbook. The teacher will draw a colored chalk drawing on the board to introduce the theme or subject. The structure of the lesson will include activities that “call upon the child’s powers of listening, of body movement, of thinking, and of feeling.”These activities could include mental math, hand clapping games and jumping rope, folk dances, poetry recitation, singing, and writing and drawing in unlined “main lesson books”. Teachers are free to include whatever activities they feel will work best for the children in the class.
In high school, students are taught by subject specialists rather than a class teacher. However, the “main lesson” structure remains. The entire curriculum, which is often discussed as an ascending spiral – or “spiral curriculum” – has been described in the following way
The year progresses with an in-depth study of, say, mathematics, tying it peripherally each day to allied topics- physics, chemistry, home economics and consumerism – each of which is studied separately in shorter classes later in the day. After a few weeks, one of the peripheral topics becomes the main topic…The result is that all subjects are studied in relation to all other subjects. Students learn what historic events were occurring as Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, what music Newton might have listened to as he made his discoveries.