As a Reggio-inspired school, we tend to use a lot of lingo!
I’d like to use this space to share what we mean with some of the words we use, and along the way shed some light on our teaching practices. I hope this helps better digest the information our teachers share and informs you a bit on what happens in our classrooms.
100 languages of children – This eponymous poem was written by Loris Malaguzzi, considered the patriarch of the Reggio approach. The poem speaks to the “hundred languages” which children communicate in. In our school, we “listen” to your child by considering their stories, watching their play, observing their paintings, inquire into their block building, honoring their physicality, appreciating their silence, reciprocating their facial expressions, respecting their emotional outbursts – in short, we de-privilege the “narrow” literacy of spoken language in order to more broadly and robustly listen to what children are contributing to the world.
Provocations – These are typically tangible artifacts, but can also be abstract ideas, that quite literally “provoke” the child’s curiosity. Think about walking along the beach and stumbling on an exquisite shell that you can’t resist picking up and running your fingers over. We replicate that feeling in our classrooms by putting out interesting and unusual materials – and also “regular” materials in novel ways – to provoke children’s explorations. We want children asking questions such as: How does this work? What is this? How did this get here? What can I do with this? What does this feel like? What does this smell like? To provoke those questions we need objects that are not all primary colors, not all right angles, and not all common in the child’s life.
Environment is the third teacher – You are their first teacher, our teachers are their second teacher, and the world around them is their third teacher. We use the physical environment of the classroom to promote curiosity and learning. Materials are intentionally displayed on low shelves, rich textures are preferred over plastics, elements of the room such as lighting, flooring, and partitions are all carefully planned out. Particular spaces in each room are designed to be loud and boisterous and others soft and soothing. Learning is not solely an internal process, it involves engagement with the physical world; the tangible environment is implicated in learning.
Investigations – This refers to threads of inquiry – the ongoing projects – that children are involved in. Typically one investigation will emerge in the Fall and take over the classroom for the remainder of the year. Consider the line from Where The Wild Things Are, as Max’s bedroom turns into a jungle: “…and the walls became the world around him.” Your child’s classroom will be consumed by an investigation at some point this year. We use the word “investigation” (as compared to other possibilities such as “project” or “curriculum”) because it implies an ongoing quest, a search for meaning, an active stance as a learner. Within investigations, children are not being “taught” discrete modules, rather, they are exploring a topic in depth and establishing meaning and context as they go. Three crucial ingredients in Investigations are: social collaboration, a common purpose, and cognitive conflict. When we have all three, authentic learning occurs.
Small groups – Investigations then branch out into small groups, typically three per class (each with one teacher). The small group is tasked with researching a particular niche within the investigation, becoming experts in their area, and bringing their knowledge back to the rest of the class. Small groups give children an identity in the class, a cohort they are intimately involved in, and allow for multiple entryways into a common body of knowledge.
Studio groups – This is a group of 3-6 children who work with an atelierista (studio teacher) and/or classroom teacher on exploring new and difficult material, such as clay, woodworking, or sewing. The goal here is for children to master different “languages” to use in the classroom and, ultimately, within their small groups and investigations. This stretches children’s material competency by ensuring their exposure to artistic mediums beyond the standards of writing, drawing, and painting.
Open-ended materials – These are materials that must receive their purpose from the child rather than offer a script for the child. Clay is a good example – it lies dormant, purpose-less, until a child picks it up and gives it purpose through the child’s creativity, inventiveness, and imagination. Consider the contrast to a jig-saw puzzle, which is completed in an “appropriate” manner and has a finite goal. Our classrooms feature a balance of open- and closed-materials. We appreciate open-ended materials for their proclivity to invite children’s imaginations to be expressed throughout the classroom.
Documentation – This refers to the capturing and displaying of children’s lived experiences within the classroom. Documentation should “tell the story” of what is happening rather than offering still, static moments. You won’t only see the finished block structure – you’ll see the idea that sparked it during a read aloud, the tense child-negotiations over how to accomplish their plan, pictures of the trial and error along the way, and the class reflecting on the building once complete. You’ll see the story of how the structure came to be.
Daily Reflection – In Daily Reflections (themselves a piece of documentation) this year you will notice a few common elements: pictures of children, excerpts of child-conversations, teacher-reflections on the happenings, and teacher-planning for what they will do next with the ideas captured in the Reflection. We encourage you to look at the Reflection with your child, and, importantly, to give your teachers feedback and ask them questions. We want to hear from you what your child is talking about outside of school, we want to offer ideas for how to extend learning into the home, and we want to hear at a basic level what is working and what is not from our Reflections.
I’d love to hear any questions you have about how we “do” Reggio in our school, and any feedback on the topics above. This concise overview of Reggio-principles is also a helpful document, or for a deeper dive, check out these two scholarly articles.
Coffee Chat: Join me for our first coffee chat of the year this coming Friday, October 5, 9:00am in my office. I bring the coffee, you bring the agenda (or don’t bring the agenda and we’ll just schmooze!).
Research study: Our school is participating in a study being conducted on potential links between “mindfulness training” and skill performance, conducted by a PhD student at Fordham University. We are hoping that a few dozen students will participate (must be 3 or older). Please read the very brief study overview; you can submit the parental consent form directly to me to have your child participate. I will be coordinating the visit by the researcher and sending her your consent forms.
Grandparenting program: Much has changed since we were young parents. Our discussions will focus on the latest research on child development from birth to eight years and how you can support your grandchild's learning and well-being and foster strong relationships with your grandkids and adult children. Of course, we will spend time sharing the joys and dilemmas of grandparenting from near and far. Six Thursdays, Fall 2019. Details and registration here.
As a Reggio-inspired school, we tend to use a lot of lingo!