Inspired By Reggio Emilia: Part 2

April 10, 2022

Since we have begun implementing the strategies and philosophies of Reggio Emilia in the classroom, my partner and I have started to undo some of the biases we were taught about how children learn, and how we as educators can cultivate a love of curiosity that will hopefully continue to grow. The following (which I have broken into two parts because it was getting to be too much text to go through) are some of the basics that I have taken away from my reading. Of course there is always more to learn!

View children as collaborators, not just telling them what to do and learn: This idea of children being their own teachers has been a game-changer for us. Instead of just telling the kids information, or deciding what we are going to learn based off of an old curriculum, we have started having the children answer their own questions and consider what they think the answer may be if they are unsure.

I have come to understand that preschoolers already have a lot of information about the world, but because they are often provided the answer by the adults in their lives they continue to look to us almost as if to confirm something that they already know: when my partner leaves for the day, someone might ask where she went and I respond with "Where do you think she went?" (don't read that with sarcasm) and they will come up with the response of "She went home for the day" or "She went to the bathroom". We confirm their answers, but encourage them to come up with their own ideas.

In most instances, the children are come up with some great responses to the questions that we ask them, or that they ask themselves and we prompt them to think about what the answer might be. We often do some probing if we are looking for a specific response beyond what they have already come up with, and we will provide our thoughts and ideas as well, but we want them to think about it first. 

I'm really enjoying this aspect of the approach because it is making the children more thoughtful in their responses, more inquisitive with their questions, but also comfortable with helping each other and working together to come up with ideas. We have explored some interesting topics, and they have shared some incredibly powerful thoughts that I never would have expected from people their age.

Documentation and collaboration work together to form the curriculum: Observing children as they play, and creating unbiased documentation makes the collaborative process that much easier. Through documentation you are able to understand what is important to the children at the moment, and what themes, ideas, and questions keep popping up.

At one point, my partner and I started to notice a lot of play surrounding death, so we asked the children what they knew about death. The responses that they came up with were incredibly beautiful and thoughtful. Children are aware of more than we think, and they are watching and understanding more than we realise. 

After our initial discussion about death, my partner and I were then able to source books from the local library to make it a part of our Circle Time, or morning meeting, with the children. Since then, we haven't noticed as much play around death, and when it does come up we can use some of the talking points we discussed during Circle Time.

Documentation can also be used as a way to communicate with families about what is taking place in the classroom. Sharing your findings can show parents and caregivers what the children are interested in, how they explore and use the space, and what they have been learning from their explorations.

This approach is less about sitting down and learning the alphabet, and more about expanding a child's curiosity and understanding of the letters and numbers that we see in everyday life. The way you set up the experiences and environment offers lots of opportunities for early literacy and math without sitting down and doing worksheets.

The environment should be ever evolving: One thing that really stood out to me while reading about the Reggio Emilia Approach this time is that you should be open to changing what is in the environment and how it is organized and arranged based on the group of children that you currently have. 

This is something that I have always unconsciously done after noticing that a space is not being used at all, or the way an area is being used has changed drastically, but now I am much more aware of it and how the power of observation can support learning. 

Documentation and collaboration can help a lot in this area as well. Once you know what the children are interested in and curious about, you can adapt the environment to reflect the areas of interest, adding items or taking away items, or even switching areas and making something completely new.

Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Part 1

Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Part 3

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