What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?
Named after the northern Italian town where it was founded, the Reggio Emilia approach was developed after the second world war. Inspired by the devastating destruction of the war a teacher names Loris Malaguzzi, along with local parents living in the town, decided that the educational system had to change to one that fostered more critical thinking and collaboration.
Malaguzzi believed that a child has 100 languages with which to express themselves; languages he wanted to use to support their learning and understanding of the world.
What are the ‘100 Languages’?
The ‘100 languages’ is a metaphor to describe the sheer number of ways that children express themselves. The Reggio Emilia approach doesn’t subscribe to just literacy and numeracy being the main, clear ways in which children show their understanding, thinking and learning. Rather, the approach emphasises the importance of the many non-verbal ways children communicate. These can include gestures, glances and emotions.
The approach is much more expressive than academic in its focus, encouraging children to use painting, sculpting, dancing, puppetry and many other activities to express themselves, their knowledge and their ways of thinking.
What does the approach look like in practice?
All settings are different and, with the flexibility of the Reggio Emilia approach, no two settings will follow it in exactly the same way. They will, however, all follow the same core values:
- Children are capable of taking an active role in their learning. The approach believes that every child understands how to construct their own learning, and that they have the ability to express their knowledge and understanding.
- Children possess multiple languages. Children should be encouraged to use a variety of materials, resources and strategies in both their education and their self-expression. All children learn and discover the world around them in unique ways and should be able to express themselves accordingly.
- Children should follow an emergent curriculum. The curriculum should be dictated by what practitioners and families know is interesting to the child and children should be closely observed to create strategies that allow them to build on their interests.
- Children’s progress should be documented. Documenting a child’s learning process through written notes, photographs or written wall panels, is fundamental as it gives structure to the theories and practices. It also creates an easy-to-evaluate visualisation of the earning process for both practitioners and families.
- Children should have relationships and community involvement. The Reggio Emilia approach believes that children learn by making connections between things, concepts and experiences through interactions with others and their surroundings. This encourages families to be an active part of their child’s learning, creating a link to the community outside their setting.
- Children partner with practitioners in learning. Instead of telling children what to do, practitioners are seen as partners in the learning process and guide the children through their activities - closely listening, observing and learning alongside them.
- Children learn from a ‘third teacher’; the environment. The approach believes the environment is a third teacher that influences the child on a daily basis. It provides numerous learning opportunities that encourages children to discover and problem-solve as they explore the resources and items in their classroom space or wider setting.
What do you think of the Reggio Emilia approach? Have you tried it before, or does your setting follow the approach? Get in touch using #mynurserylife. We’d love to hear from you!