The Reggio Emilia philosophy, which inspires our Early Childhood program, contends that essential skills are best learned when students are genuinely engaged in what they’re learning. Sounds simple enough. But what if your school encouraged three- and four-year-olds to literally decide what they will study?
Below are some of the ways a Reggio Emilia program will change your thinking about the traditional classroom, the art of teaching, and the role your child can play in their own learning.
1. A Different Image of the Child
Reggio begins with the premise that children are competent and active participants in their own learning; that they naturally make meaning of the world around them; and that they are keen observers, full of curiosity, who seek to express their understanding in a variety of ways. In a Reggio classroom, learning is a shared enterprise between students and teachers.
2. An Emergent Curriculum
It all begins with a unique collaboration between teachers and students. Instead of a traditional classroom in which teachers try to engage children in a series of lessons, the curriculum emerges from careful observations of our students. The teachers’ role is to identify and guide students toward topics that have the potential for sustained interest.
3. Teaching as Collaboration
A Reggio-inspired curriculum is more than “free choice.” Teachers must provide stimulating materials and experiences that promote active learning—through children’s questions, conversations, stories, fantasy play, art, music, building, field trips, and other means of expression that Reggio calls “the 100 languages of children.”
4. The 100 Languages: Teaching Children to Think
While many three- and four-year-olds are at the early stages of literacy, Reggio recognizes the many “languages” in which children make meaning of the world and express their understanding of what they’ve learned. Creating stories, songs, fantasy, art, and even outdoor play with a beginning, a middle, and an end is more than just fun. It’s a powerful way of learning how to think creatively and sequentially. In this way, the Reggio approach provides a captivating form of learning that encourages children to investigate things themselves, and identify and reveal their interests with the confidence that they will be taken seriously.
5. Environment as Teacher
In Reggio programs like ours, careful attention is paid to designing a classroom space that is both aesthetically compelling and supportive of students’ independent and purposeful work. The environment allows for independent, small group, and large group work, as well as areas set aside for designated activities. In our classroom, students can draw or paint in the art studio, write and perform their own songs in the conservatory, or sit quietly in the mindfulness corner and breathe. Of course, there’s always a place for imaginative play, messy science experiments, or large construction work. All these activities engage students while enlarging their understanding of the world.
Documentation is an integral part of the Reggio Emilia approach. It allows parents and children to follow the progress of the classroom. More importantly, it shows children how we value them, their thoughts, their words, and their work. At Waynflete we use cameras, video, laptops, and iPads to document our students’ work. Their learning also comes alive in our daily class journal, song recordings, videos of curricular work, and on our classroom webpage.
Reggio-inspired programs share the view that spontaneity is key to deep learning. Reggio programs are informed by the place they inhabit, the teachers who teach, and the children who come. The style of instruction, the materials, the environment, and the curriculum are shaped by each group of students. The approach always begins with the child.