Teachers trust themselves to respond appropriately to children's ideas and interests, they trust children to be interested in things worth knowing about, and they trust parents to be informed and productive members of a cooperative educational team. The result is an atmosphere of community and collaboration that is developmentally appropriate for adults and children alike.
Reggio Emilia's tradition of community support for families with young children expands on a view, more strongly held in Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, of children as the collective responsibility of the local community.
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Community involvement is also apparent in citizen membership in La Consulta, a school committee that exerts significant influence over local government policy. Parents are a vital component to the Reggio Emilia philosophy; they are viewed as partners, collaborators, and advocates for their children. Teachers respect parents as each child's first teacher and involve parents in every aspect of the curriculum. It is not uncommon to see parents volunteering within Reggio Emilia classrooms throughout the school. This philosophy does not end when the child leaves the classroom.
Some parents who choose to send their children to a Reggio Emilia program incorporate many of the principles within their parenting and home life. The parents' role mirrors the community's, at both the school-wide and the classroom level. Parents are expected to take part in discussions about school policy, child development concerns, and curriculum planning and evaluation.
In the Reggio approach, the teacher is considered a co-learner and collaborator with the child and not just an instructor. Teachers are encouraged to facilitate the child's learning by planning activities and lessons based on the child's interests, asking questions to further understanding, and actively engaging in the activities alongside the child, instead of passively observing the child learning. Some implementations of the Reggio Emilia approach self-consciously juxtapose their conception of the teacher as autonomous co-learner with other approaches. For example:.
Teachers' long-term commitment to enhancing their understanding of children is at the crux of the Reggio Emilia approach. They compensate for the meagre pre-service training of Italian early childhood teachers [ citation needed ] by providing extensive staff development opportunities, with goals determined by the teachers themselves.
Teacher autonomy is evident in the absence of teacher manuals, curriculum guides, or achievement tests. The lack of externally imposed mandates is joined by the imperative that teachers become skilled observers of children in order to inform their curriculum planning and implementation. While working on projects with the child, the teacher can also expand the child's learning by collecting data that can be reviewed at a later time. The teacher needs to maintain an active, mutual participation in the activity to help ensure that the child clearly understands what is being "taught".
Teachers partner with colleagues, students, and parents in the learning process. They discuss their observations with them, as part of an ongoing dialogue and continuing evolution of their ideas and practices. This allows them to be flexible in their plans, preparations, and teaching approaches. Often, teachers listen to and observe children in the classroom and record their observations to help plan the curriculum and prepare the environment and teaching tools to support the student's interests. Using a variety of media, teachers give careful attention to the documentation and presentation of the thinking of the students.
Rather than following standardized assessments, the teacher inquires and listens closely to the children. By making learning visible, the student's thinking and feeling can be studied while the documentation serves to help with evaluation of the educators' work and refinement of the curriculum.
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Malaguzzi believed the physical environment to be of fundamental importance to the early childhood program; he referred to it as the "third teacher", alongside adults and other students. The importance of the environment lies in the belief that children can best create meaning and make sense of their world through environments which support "complex, varied, sustained, and changing relationships between people, the world of experience, ideas and the many ways of expressing ideas. Physically, the preschools generally incorporate natural light and indoor plants.
Classrooms open to a center piazza , kitchens are open to view, and access to the outside and surrounding community is provided through courtyards, large windows, and exterior doors in each classroom.
Entries capture the attention of both children and adults through the use of mirrors on the walls, floors, and ceilings , photographs, and children's work accompanied by transcriptions of their discussions. These same features characterize classroom interiors, where displays of project work are interspersed with arrays of found objects and classroom materials.
Always Stay in the Loop
In each case, the environment informs and engages the viewer. Other supportive elements of the environment include ample space for supplies, frequently rearranged to draw attention to their aesthetic features. In each classroom there are studio spaces in the form of a large, centrally located atelier and a smaller mini-atelier, and clearly designated spaces for large- and small-group activities.
Throughout the school, there is an effort to create opportunities for children to interact.
An Encounter with Reggio Emilia: Children's Early Learning made Visible
The single dress-up area is in the center piazza; classrooms are connected with telephones, passageways or windows; and lunchrooms and bathrooms are designed to encourage community. Cohorts or groups of students stay with one teacher for a three-year period, creating consistency in environment and relationships. The curriculum is characterized by many features advocated by contemporary research on young children, including real-life problem-solving among peers, with numerous opportunities for creative thinking and exploration. Teachers often work on projects with small groups of children, while the rest of the class engages in a wide variety of self-selected activities typical of preschool classrooms.
The projects that teachers and children engage in are different in a number of ways from those that characterize American teachers' conceptions of unit or thematic studies. The topic of investigation may derive directly from teacher observations of children's spontaneous play and exploration.
Project topics are also selected on the basis of an academic curiosity or social concern on the part of teachers or parents, or serendipitous events that direct the attention of the children and teachers. Reggio teachers place a high value on their ability to improvise and respond to children's predisposition to enjoy the unexpected.
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Regardless of their origins, successful projects are those that generate a sufficient amount of interest and uncertainty to provoke children's creative thinking and problem-solving and are open to different avenues of exploration. Because curriculum decisions are based on developmental and sociocultural concerns, small groups of children of varying abilities and interests, including those with special needs, work together on projects.
Projects begin with teachers observing and questioning children about the topic of interest. Based on children's responses, teachers introduce materials, questions, and opportunities that provoke children to further explore the topic.