Reggio Emilia Approach
Reggio Emilia Approach: A Brief Summary
"The Reggio Emilia inspired/influenced approach to early childhood education is based on over sixty years of experience in the Reggio Emilia Municipal Infant/toddler and Preschool Centers in Italy. It places emphasis on children’s symbolic languages in the context of a project-oriented curriculum. Learning is viewed as a journey and education as building relationships with people (both children and adults) and creating connections between ideas and the environment. Through this approach, adults help children understand the meaning of their experience more completely through documentation of children’s work, observations, and continuous teacher-child dialogue. The Reggio inspired/influenced approach guides children’s ideas with provocations—not predetermined curricula. There is collaboration on many levels: parent participation, teacher discussions, and community."
Source: One Community Website
Reggio Emilia Approach Overview
Reggio Emilia Approach: Info
The Reggio Emilia Approach: A Brief Overview
Source: Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange, vol. 3, no
Summary of Basic Principles of Reggio Emilia
Source: Inspiring Inquiry/Reggio Emilia
Image of the Child(Click/tap to View)
Reggio Emilia principles view the “image of the child” as being: curious, creative, competent, full of wonder, rich in ideas, keenly interested in the world, able to construct and co-construct their own learning to fulfill their dreams. If purposeful learning is to take place, we need to validate each child’s curiosity, challenge their thinking, and facilitate their pleasure in connecting with the world and constructing understandings. This will result in children who are able think creatively and critically, pursue lifelong learning, and contribute positively to the global community.
Education today faces a huge challenge in equipping children with the concepts, skills, strategies and knowledge to successfully navigate the challenges posed by an ever-changing complex, technological and multi-cultural global society. While having a well-articulated written curriculum is a must, it in itself will not automatically ensure that purposeful learning takes place. What matters is how the written curriculum is taught and assessed. It is the quality of teaching that has the single largest impact on the effectiveness of learning.
If purposeful learning is to take place in every classroom, it is important for teachers reevaluate and articulate their “image of the child”. When teachers view children as being capable of creative and critical thinking and able to construct/co-construct their own learning they will be more receptive to discovering the knowledge, skills, behaviours and strategies that underpin current best practices in teaching. For example, exemplary teaching is more likely to occur when teachers understand the importance of concept-based learning to promote deep understanding; the “workshop model” for crafting, composing and reflecting on concepts and strategies taught in all subject areas; and the gradual release of responsibility model to promote mastery of learning. As teachers embrace this image of the child in their mind, heart, and actions, the children they teach will eventually assume this image for themselves and grow as active inquirers and constructors of personally meaningful information.
The natural outcome of honouring the image of the child is that it will lead children and teachers to develop their "sense of agency". What is sense of agency you may be wondering? Here is the definition:
"Experiencing oneself as an active, self-directed agent who can, individually and in-collaboration with others, formulate personally meaningful learning goals, figure out strategies to achieve them, engage the world to pursue them, construct understandings, and communicate the newly developed understandings to others."
(Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting, pg.130
Reggio and PYP(Click/tap to View)
Since most teachers have been taught traditional teaching approaches, their development toward Reggio/PYP ideas requires them to undergo a major "paradigm shift" regarding the nature of teaching and learning. In the traditional paradigm, the main focus is on the child's acquisition of pre-established knowledge in which there are clearly right and wrong answers. In the Reggio/PYP paradigm, the primary emphasis is on children learning how to construct their own knowledge and understandings. The rightness or wrongness of the answers that they generate is less important that their engagement in learning strategies and processes through which they constitute, re-examine, critique, and communicate their ideas about the world.
Broadly speaking, the difference is between a predominately content emphasis in traditional methods and a predominately process emphasis in the Reggio-inspired/PYP methods. In the former, the teacher's primary role is to be disseminator of knowledge. In the latter, the teacher's primary role is to be a facilitator and researcher of the children's construction and co-construction of understanding stemming from the children's own interests. It is often difficult for teachers to make this shift in emphasis. it requires an accompanying shift in their identities as teachers.
While the predominate emphasis in Reggio-inspired/PYP methods is on process, there is still a concern with content. However, the content of learning is realized through the Reggio/PYP process described above.
(Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting, pg.131
Documentation: Transforming Our Perspective
This short documentary--created as an introduction to the Documentation Studio at Wheelock College--is a conversation with several leaders of Reggio Children and the municipal infant-toddler and preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy about the practice of documentation and its role in teaching and learning.
Principles of Reggio Emilia(Click/tap to View)
Image of the Child
“Curious, creative, competent, full of wonder, rich in ideas, keenly interested in the world, able to construct and co-construct their own learning” is a phrase frequently applied to children in the Reggio Emilia Municipal Preschools, in contrast to a view of the child as weak, dependent and limited in capability. The image of the child is an integral part of the teacher-child relationship, in which the teacher’s aim is to empower children to explore the world and create meaning. As teachers embrace this image of the child in their mind, heart, and actions, the children they teach will eventually assume this image for themselves and grow as active inquirers and constructors of personally meaningful information.
Teachers listen to and observe children’s actions, intentions, conversations, statements, emotional expressions, and representations. They listen and observe in order to discover the children’s interests and ideas, curiosities, strengths, feelings, and meanings. They reflect on what they have heard or observed, and respond by providing learning opportunities, challenges, and facilitative structures to children. (See more details below)
Documentation is an aspect of listening and observing. Teachers record moments in children’s learning by writing notes, taking photos, making and transcribing audio recordings, videotaping, taking dictations, and collecting children’s work. These records provide a focus for teachers’ interpretations of children’s interests, feelings, and ideas. Documentation is brought to teacher planning meetings, often posted in the classroom or in accessible binders as an ongoing point of reflection for teachers, children and parents. In time, some of the documents is integrated into formal presentations (portfolios, posters, PowerPoint presentations, etc.)
Co-Construction of Understanding
People construct understanding together through collaboration and dialogue (e.g., teachers with children, children with children, teachers with teachers, etc.)
Children and staff are encouraged to share and consider multiple points of view in relation to a question or object of inquiry. Doing so expands the range and/or depth of their understanding. A Reggio example in this regard would to have one child observe an object from a ladder and another from a position on the ground. The two children compare their perceptions and discover that their descriptions of the object are significantly different.
Children represent and communicate their observations and ideas both during the process of engaging the world and from memory. An important aspect of children’s representations is their use of multiple symbol systems (modes of communication) in their acts of representing; for example, communicating through some combination of verbal language, drawing, clay, wire, painting, gesture, and so on. Hence Reggio’s use of the term “The Hundred Languages if Children."
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting, p.3-5
Principles of Reggio Emilia(Click/tap to View)
Children revisit and re-examine their experience and object(s) od study. They also revisit representations and those of others. Revisiting invariably stimulates children to make further sense of their previous experience, to make new observations and to observe understandings and to evolve understandings and representations that go beyond the previous ones, utilizing additional perspectives and/or materials. Teachers revisit when examining and interpreting documentation of children’s learning or when re-examining some aspect of the classroom process or environment in order to listen and observe more closely.
The Learning Environment
The emphasis on the learning environment in the Reggio Approach starts with the classroom space, which is constructed carefully by the teachers to invite and guide children’s explorations, to promote small-group collaborations, to encourage the making of representations, and to feature the children’s ideas and identities prominently. The learning environment also includes other classrooms, common areas in the school building, the school grounds, the neighbourhood, and use of the city to provide rich opportunities for children’s explorations. (See more details below)
Teachers reflect together and with other staff on their observations and documentations, then plan their responses to children and hypothesize possible outcomes. They also collaborate in implementing activities and the overall management of the classroom. This includes ongoing profession development for teachers. (See more details below)
Emergent curric ulum is a joining of the nine previously stated Reggio principles. It is an extended learning process that is propelled by the children’s interests, ideas, discoveries, and a sense of wonder as they explore a particular area of inquiry, guided by teacher scaffolding. The focus and the form of the learning process are emerging constantly as teachers take cues form observing and documenting what children are pursuing and representing, and from how children are experiencing what they are doing. Although the emergent curriculum may be guided by a broad set of teacher objectives (such as introducing literacy skills), it does not involve a predetermined set of activities or predetermined outcomes because it is evolving constantly from the children’s expressed learning energies and motives. It is made possible by teacher reflection and facilitation based on taking the child’s perspective, and connecting these with the teacher’s interest in children’s learning.
Parent participation emphasizes the pursuit of relationships with parents devoted to the development of the children and is characterized by dialogue and collaboration. Just as the image of the child is the propelling force in teachers, relationships with children, the image of the parent as competent, interested, and rich in ideas is at the center of the school’s establishment of relationships with parents. (See more details below)
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting, p.3-5
Reggio Emilia Approach: Getting Started
Reggio Emilia Approach: Presentation
Listening, Observing, Reflecting, & Responding(Click/tap to View)
"When children feel they are not being listened to, they don’t have anything to say."-Sergio Spaggiari, Director, Reggio Emilia municipal preschools from a talk given at Reggio Emilia in 1994
Teachers listen to and observe children’s actions, intentions, conversations, statements, emotional expressions, and representations. They listen and observe in order to discover the children’s interests and ideas, curiosities, strengths, feelings, and meanings. They reflect on what they have heard or observed, and respond by providing learning opportunities, challenges, and facilitative structures to children. (p.4)
Listening, observing, reflecting, and responding are aspects of a cyclical process that promotes DIALOGUE. For example, the teacher responds through her understanding of what she has heard and observed, and the child responds to the teacher’s response and thus gives her the opportunity to listen to the child and/or observe the child further. The child’s meanings are not always expressed verbally; they may be implicit in actions, gestures, or facial expressions. But the process is a dialogue nonetheless. (p.17)
Teachers have learning agendas for children that come from their own school and family experience, from their training in education, and from requirements of the school’s learning expectations. The agendas tend to be expressed as “shoulds.” The crux of the agendas issue is that the teacher’s primary focus on her own agenda can seriously interfere with her being able to listen and respond to the child’s agenda (i.e., the child’s interests and learning motivations). Teachers are encouraged to set aside their own agendas when those agenda interfere with listening to the children. However, this is not to say that teachers should not have agendas. Karen Haigh (director of Chicago Commons) speaks to this distinction:
There is nothing wrong with the teacher having an agenda. It’s just a matter of understanding that your agenda may not be the child’s agenda. To assume that it is, is going to leave the child not being very interested in pursuing anything. If teachers only follow their own agenda, the child can become disinterested in learning. The learning becomes too disconnected from the child and his life. We want to support children’s investment in learning, and there is a great danger in destroying motivation to learn when the interests being pursued are only the teacher’s and not the child’s. I want to say that this is much easier to talk about than it is to do. (p.18)
The key here is that it natural and appropriate for teachers to have learning agendas for children. The important thing, however, is that the teacher not assume that the child’s agenda is the same as hers and that the teacher not let her own agenda interfere with listening to the child. (p29)
“The importance of listening is the key. Listening gives value to the person who is speaking. Unfortunately few people listen to the children…To listen is to go through the adventure of research that leads us to a new road. We have to be willing to discover something new. We have to be ready to notice a signal, a change taking place. We have to be ready for the unpredictable. (Sergio Spagiari, director of program at Reggio Emilia) (p.144)
Listening is a reflective process…because when you are listening you are asking questions and you are questioning yourself. The more you listen, the intrigued you get and the more questions you can ask….When you are asking questions you are getting into a dialogue…Listening gives value to the other person….Listening has a purpose. It’s going to be used somewhere within your classroom, or as a way to change or a way to grow. (p.144-145)
Documentation is listening. Listening legitimizes the other’s point of view. If we don’t listen, then we are only valuing our own point of view. (p. 147)
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting.
The Learning Environment & Classroom Design(Click/tap to View)
Also see: Learning Community/Learning Environment
The classroom environment sometimes is referred to as "the other teacher." A carefully designed classroom greatly facilitates the implementation of Reggio, PYP and workshop model principles. In its role as "the other teacher," the classroom environment has five major goals to meet:
Promote learning processes in which children are engaging with another and with objects of interest, exploring in a focused manner, constructing and representing understandings
Communicate the identities of the children and the image of the child
Invite children to take multiple perspectives and make multiple connections
Promote a sense of well-being in everyone
Encourage parents to engage with the life of the classroom
Once a classroom environment has been constructed with these goals in mind, teachers make ongoing changes in it for a variety of reasons; for example, because children's interests or ideas are moving in new directions, because the teachers see
new possibilities for stimulating children's interests, or because they see a better way for the environment to serve one or more of the five goals stated above.
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting. p. 71
Questions to Ask When Designing Your Classroom
Here are some questions that may be helpful to you when designing your classroom
In what ways does your classroom environment invite children to collaborate in their learning activities?
Does a visitor have a sense of who lives in this classroom and something of its history?
Where is the "colour" in your classroom? Does it come from the children and their work?
How do you use wall space in your classroom? Is there a rich array of children's work voices, and ideas? Is there a balance between display of past work, recent work and ongoing work?
How do you maintain a balance between open and furnished space in your classroom? What might you do to simplify and open up more space, or utilize space in more meaningful ways?
In what ways do you sort and display materials so they are visible, accessible and interesting to children?
Is there a flow to the classroom that respects children's motivations?
What messages do classroom furnishings send? Do you have unique and interesting furniture? Does it remind children of home? Does it enrich children's experience and deepen their awareness of different meanings, uses, and possibilities?
What connections to home are visible in this classroom?
How are parents represented, or present, in the classroom?
Does your classroom invite children to take different perspectives?
In what ways is the classroom environment connected to other classrooms, to the "outside" world, and to the local community?
In how many ways has nature been incorporated into your classroom?
Are there places in the classroom that respect children's different states of being? can a child find a quiet, comforting, private place, a stimulating place of sounds, places for dramatic action, physically challenging places?
How and why might you use different qualities of light in your classroom?
How does the classroom environment greet visitors and parents, teachers and children when they enter? What implicit and explicit messages does the environment send? What changes might you try, and why?
In what ways do the building and grounds engage the interests of the children and parents, encourage meaningful interaction and dialogue, stimulate wonder, provide opportunities for exploration, and offer safety, warmth, and comfort?
When you take your children on neighbourhood or city field trips, how do you scaffold the learning process? How do you document children's observations and experiences? In what ways do children revisit these experiences? When and how do you record your reflections on the trip?
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting. p. 84.
Podcast: The Reggio Emilia Educational Project
"Your image of the child is where learning begins" Loris Malaguzzi
In this podcast, Jan Millikan shares her extensive knowledge about the Reggio Emilia Educational Project. Jan provides a very good overview of the Reggio Emilia inspired/influenced approach and discusses the principles that underpin the Reggio Emilia Educational Project such as values, beliefs, collaboration, documentation and children's voice. And how can they be applied in an Australian context? - well worth listening to.
Source: The Early Education Show - Australia
Parent Participation - Pt1(Click/tap to View)
Instead of the traditional approach to school-parent relationships in which the school is designated as the expert and tells parents what to do, Reggio Emilia principles suggest that schools engage parents in a duologue thorough which the parents' own perspectives, values, goals, interests, and strengths emerge. This new relationship is informed by an image of the parent as competent, rich in ideas, and interested in communicating with staff and other parents.
Once the image of the parent is embraced, there are many ways in which parents can contribute to creating an environment where the image of the child is celebrated. The following are but a few ways in which parents can be invited to become partners in their child's learning.
Hopes and Dreams Interview
Prior to the beginning of the school year or during the first month of school parents, with their child, are invited to come to school for a "Hopes and Dreams" interview. There are three facets to the interview
The Hopes and Dreams interview in which parents are invited to share their hopes and dreams for their child as the teacher takes notes and a picture of parents and child.
The teacher's explanation of the school's approach to education.
Questions that teachers ask to update the information required by the program
In the "Hopes and Dreams" interview, the teacher asks the parent(s):
What are your hopes and dreams for our child in the future? or
What kind of person do you want your child to be when he/she grows up?
In subsequent years the questions the teacher asks the parent(s) changes. For example:
What is your family's favourite activity?
What was your favourite activity as a child?
What was your favourite story as a child?
As soon as possible after the home visit, the parents' hopes and dreams statements, along with the parent-child photographs and children's drawings based on the photographs, are mounted for display in or near each classroom. The display establishes the presence of each family in the school and is a way for parents' voices to be heard.
The advantages of the "Hopes and Dreams" interview are several:
It starts the dialogue between teacher and parents in a way that is comfortable, thought provoking, and highly meaningful to the parent.
The interview communicates the teacher's belief in the parents as partners in dialogue.
It casts the discussion of goals for the child in a frame that is much broader than the ABCs.
The parent's contribution to the dialogue broadens the teacher's framework for thinking about goals for the child.
The exchanges that take place in the interview serve to strengthen both teachers' and parents' commitments to developmental goals for the child.
Finally, it provides teachers with a way to represent parents' voices in the school.
It is important to take time to speak with parents when they drop off or pick up their child each day. Making parents feel welcome, will encourage those parents who may be reluctant to speak with the teacher more open to discussion. Possibly having a space just outside or in the classroom where parents can sit and look at children's work is recommended. Student's portfolios could reside there.
Not all parents come to school every day so using a reflection book (agenda) to inform parents of their child's activities, classroom needs and home support. The reflection book is used for two-way communication between parents and school.
Teachers are also encouraged to use email and to develop a website to communicate with parents.
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting. Chapter 9
Parent Participation - Pt2(Click/tap to View)
Student Led Conferences / Portfolio Review
Once or twice a year parents are invited to listen to their child talk/show about their learning. This could take the form as a Learning Journey - where the child leads the patent(s) through the stages of an in-depth study. Stations that reflect aspects of the program (literacy, math, PE, the arts, etc.) can be set up and students lead parents through activities at each station. Part of the student led conference is the review of a student's portfolio...this is a celebration of the student's growth and accomplishments over the year. For more information you can download guidelines for Student Led Conferences and Portfolios
Monthly Community Discussions
Monthly Community discussions are meant to provide a place for parents and staff to come together, share perspectives, learn from one-another, and deepen their understanding about the program (Reggio, Literacy, PYP). It is conducted by teachers, the principal, and the PYP Coordinator and consists of a brief talk about the topic, followed by activities and or discussion.
The meeting format generally includes:
A short presentation about a chosen topic (PYP, Literacy, Reggio) by teachers, the principal, and/or the PYP Coordinator
Discussion of presentation
Presentation of children's work (PYP, Literacy, Reggio)
Whole group dialogue
The meeting should include:
Prior information about the topic that is sent home before hand
Try to provide translators
Food/snacks is always welcome at the meeting
Appoint a "parent liaison" who will take notes and report about the meeting in a school newsletter and at the next meeting
Some topics for discussion are:
Image of the child and or image of the parent
How we teach emergent curriculum
How we observe/listen - reflect - respond
How we plan - collaborate - document (reflect - action - reflect...)
Traditional vs. Reggio inspired approach or PYP or workshop approach
Review a student project
Review a Unit of Inquiry
Demonstrate a workshop lesson
What does inquiry-based learning look like?
Explain reporting, documentation, portfolios
Talk about "agency"
Discuss proficient learner strategies
Discuss the classroom being an additional teacher
Involving Parents in Children's In-depth Studies
Involving parents in children's in-depth studies will allow them to understand the program better, transfer what they learn to a home setting and become more supportive of the program. It means that parents will need to be "taught" how to interact with the children, ask questions, observe, and listen. The challenge for the teacher in these situations is to engage parents in ways that encourage them to foster the children's sense of agency.
Parents Collaborating With teachers in the Classroom and on Field Trips
The challenge for the teacher in these situations is to engage parents in ways that encourage them to foster the children's sense of agency. Such parent collaborations could include:
Documenting children's activities by taking photos or videotaping.
Reading books with children
Participating with the teachers in the planning and construction of display panels.
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting. Chapter 9
Using ‘Image of the Child’ in Your Classroom
Source: Edutopia Website
Any preschool teacher can use this concept to help build strong connections with students and create authentic learning experiences.
The City of Reggio - The Boys' City
This visual essay by educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy depicts a small group of boys working and learning together as they create a graphic representation of their idea of a city.
Sample Reggio Inspired Classrooms
Example: New School Year Brainstorming: Things to Do
Source: Nagoya International School Early Childhood Center 2014
Reggio Emilia Related Resources(Click/tap to View)
Just Because it Looks Nice Doesn’t Mean Learning Can Happen |Barr Kinder play website |December 7, 2022
An Inquiry Through Clay: Exploring a New Language |The Sharing PYP Blog - approaches to teaching |February 1, 2021
The Building Blocks of Dramatic Play | Edutopia Article | January 5, 2021
Blog: Curating Resources about the Reggio Emilia Approach | Technology Rich Inquiry-Based Research
Blog: Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Emergent Curriculum in Relationship-Driven Learning Environments | NEAYC
Etsy Website: Some Materials to support a Reggio Emilia Classroom
Let's Call it Heroic Play |Zeroci Project | December 20, 2021 - Could my child’s pretend play be a cause for concern? On a few occasions, we witnessed and share the unease feelings of parents and educators concerning what we like to call ‘heroic play’...
The ZeroSei Project Professional Learning Opportunities
The aim of the Zerosei Project website is to enhance educator’s understanding, and to support schools in the implementation of Reggio Inspired practices, as well as support their work on projects, developed from the children’s interests. The ZeroSei Project Professional Learning site allows educators to sign up for very reasonably priced webinars. The platform allows webinar participants to sign into their paid course, watch the videos of the seminars, rewatch past webinars, and view their course work.
Collaboration and PD(Click/tap to View)
Goals for Teacher Professional Development
The fundamental goal for teachers' professional development is teachers growing into a new relationship with children based on listening, observing, valuing, and responding to children's expression of interests, feelings, and ideas. This relationship is informed by an image of the child as competent, keenly interested in the world, rich in ideas, able to think and make connections, wanting to grow, and wanting to communicate with peers and adults. Teachers and children are partners in dialogue. Through that dialogue, they co-construct understandings about the world and their relationship with it.
Growing into this relationship with children involves deep levels of learning by the teacher. it involves experiencing and valuing children as a separate source of consciousness with their own motives, ideas, and perspectives.
Seven Teacher Development Goals
The above relationship with children, based on listening/observing, valuing, and responding, is the reference point for seven specific goals of teacher professional development:
Listening/Observing, Reflecting, and Responding and Co-constructing of Understandings: Leaning to engage in moment-to-moment dialogues with children that build on their interests and involve the co-construction of understandings.
The Emergent Curriculum: Learning the skills and understandings involved in carrying out emergent curriculum cycles, involving listening/observing, documenting, interpreting, projecting/deciding, planning, hypothesizing, and implementing.
The Classroom Environment: Learning to design and construct classroom environments that promote small-group learning, communicate the children's identities, invite children to take multiple perspectives, promote a sense of well being, and encourage parents to engage with the life of the classroom community.
Teacher Collaboration: Learning to participate in collaborative dialogues with other staff to co-construct understandings and teaching strategies.
Parents: Learning to engage in dialogues with parents that connect the perspectives of parents and teachers to support the development of the child Daily communication portfolios...).
Researcher: Learning to be a researcher. The idea of a teacher as researcher is akin to the notion of teacher as "learner." Being a researcher means infusing a research perspective into all that one does as a teacher: experiencing curiosity and engaging the object of one's curiosity, formulating questions, hypothesizing, gathering and analyzing pertinent data with one's questions in mind, coming to conclusions, reflecting on the application of the conclusions, and pondering next steps in the research. teachers usually do not think of themselves as "researchers," yet this aspect of their role is vital in the Reggio, PYP and Workshop approaches.
Agency: The development of a sense of agency for the teacher as well as the child is a development goal the Reggio, PYP and Workshop approaches. Agency is defined as: "Experiencing oneself as an active, self-directed agent who can, individually and in-collaboration with others, formulate personally meaningful learning goals, figure out strategies to achieve them, engage the world to pursue them, construct understandings, and communicate the newly developed understandings to others." (p.130)
Source: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting. Chapter 10