This year, I have tried to follow the Reggio Emilia principles to enhance my children's learning . Now, there is no text book as you know and it is sometimes hard to figure out which way is the best. However, from what I have learnt so far, I understand that the materials I use are extremely important. This year, I have tried to select very carefully each materials I use for their potential to enhance learning and discovery. According to the Reggio approach, materials
must be picked for their aesthetic qualities. And this is why I love using open-ended and natural materials. With natural materials, you make learning active and fun, turning a whole activity into a positive experience.
In the example blow, a little boy decided he wanted to use the pebbles to draw pictures on our mat in the block area. I expected lines and curves.. Yet, I got a full pebble man. The little boy was very careful to details and of course, his achievement was then copied by several others! This was a great pre-writing exercise!
Another day, 3 little boys playing in the block area decided to build their houses and to make roads linking them to each other. Cute, indeed, but that's not all!! This is not just an exercise here using imagination. There was a lot of discussion involved: my road is longer than yours, I need more pebbles to finish mine etc.. The concept of more/less had to be used as well as comparison. When you observe the children and their play, you realise how much learning is at stake in a simple fun imaginative activity such as this one. This exercise required a lot of problem solving too. One little boy in particular ran out of pebbles. he asked for the others to share with him (which they did) but had to redo his road and get a "short cut" as he explained!
Here, a little girl had started working with the Montessori rods. She decided that it was not enough for her and went to get the basket of pebbles from the block area. She then placed a pebble on top of each unit on the rod, counting loud. And that's what I really love.. a mixture of Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Strict Montessorians might be pulling their hair right now if they can read this post, because I let the child use her own initiative and construct her own learning. Montessorian teachers would remind me that of the more traditional way to present and use this material. I find this too rigid. I like to direct children but why becoming an hindrance ? Why should I put obstacles in the child's way when what she is doing obviously work for her? Flexibility is a key word in my setting and I like to be progressive. I strongly believe the way this little girl used the materials work for her better.