Sunday, May 22, 2016

A new title to our blog: The Guilletots Playful Learning

So, I have been thinking.... And thinking...

Those of you who read this blog regularly will remember when in 2013, I found myself wishing for more room to manoeuvre within the Montessori curriculum, wishing for more flexibility .... Wishing for more freedom!! I was not turning my back on the Montessori method of education. I still believed in its benefits and had no intention to get rid of it. I simply felt that the children 's experiences could be enriched further if I allowed for "transformation" and "adaptation". So, after observing the children closely, it became clear that there was not enough space in my setting for creativity, for adventure and for freedom. The children were getting frustrated and were wandering a little too much during our sessions, even if I always made sure to rotate the materials and activities all around the year.

My main question  at that stage was:  how could I reconceptualise my practice as a means to inspire a sense of wonder in the children I work with? I believe that truly reflective practitioners are always re-evaluating their work with children and looking for new inspiration from the world around them. If we ourselves can live with a sense of wonder and discovery then we are bound to foster children who are inquisitive and critical thinkers. Right?

Reggio Emilia Approach

Well, that's what triggered by attraction to a new approach : the Reggio Emilia approach. Very few people in Ireland would have heard about it. Professional practitioners would of course but not parents. So what am I talking about here?

The Reggio Emilia approach is known for regarding the environment as the third teacher.

Materials are easily accessible and uncluttered and inviting.  Every resource is carefully considered for it's purpose. Beauty, calmness, respect, comfort and tranquility are the key words for a Reggio inspired environment.

Materials are very important too
  • Not only must they appeal to the child, but they must stimulate his senses. In a Reggio-inspired classroom, materials must be inviting, natural and authentic (no plastic please, which Montessori also advocated). So, for instance, we use materials such wooden blocks and throw in pebbles, sticks, corks, scarves, corks, bottle caps, stumps, material scraps and ceramic tiles: children will see the potential in these objects and make the most of them.
  • Above all,  materials must be open-ended. That's what I like and this is what differs from the Montessori method. "Open-ended" basically means "that can be transformed". Open-minded materials are the ones that entice the child to use his imagination or his own experiences to shape them into something completely different. For instance, a wooden car can not be anything else but a car, while a wooden block offers a multitude of possibilities to the child when he uses his imagination (the block can become a car, a bridge, a road, a tower etc..

  •  Reggio-inspired teachers also use different types of mirrors as backgrounds, surfaces, loose parts, tiles for clay or other art experiences and investigations

What I really like about the Reggio approach, is that children are allowed to use many different ways to express themselves, to show their understanding of the world around them, to show their creativity, to discover and to learn: drawing, sculpting, painting, music and movement and finally pretend play.

Pretend Play

O lala.. Pretend play. Here is something that has bothered me a lot too..

Maria Montessori and her followers do not believe that a child aged 0-5 is capable of abstract thinking and that he is unable to know what is real and what isn't. Montessorian teachers firmly believe that a child needs to know and understand the real world before he can appreciate and participate in a made up world of fantasy. And this is why there is no home corner or dressing up area in a pure Montessorian classroom.

I have always struggled with this aspect of Montessori education. It has been proven by research that dramatic/fantasy play and pretend play are very good for cognitive development:
  1. Such type of  play requires the ability to transform objects into symbols: using pine cones and pretend they are potatoes for dinner, for instance.
  2.  Children learnt to develop their receptive and expressive language skills (our local primary principal has stressed numerous times during meetings that children nowadays are lacking the skills of listening and communicating). 
  3. Children learn how to deal with other children and create strategies to cope
  4. Children learn how to solve problems by themselves
  5. They learn more vocabulary and develop their speech
  6. They use maths concepts such as sorting, counting, classifying, analysing, building etc..
  7. They increase their attention and can concentrate over longer period of time
So, 6 years after opening my setting, I re-evaluated my teaching methods. I would have been a fool if I had kept on ascribing to a single philosophy, forsaking all others.  I love Montessori teachings but I fell under the spell of the Reggio approach. I have read a lot about it, compared information, taken notes and though there is actually no course I can take to be officially recognise as a trained Reggio teacher, I feel confident when I say that I have introduced the approach in my classroom progressively but effectively as I saw a positive change in the children's play.

And this is why I decided to change the title of my blog from "My Montessori Preschool" from "The Guilletots Playful Learning" (the Guilletots is the actual name of my settin here in Ireland).

You see now why I needed to change the title of this blog. This is no longer just "My Montessori Preschool". This is a teaching journey and I want to practice a mixed bag of Montessori and Reggio along with my own special "sauce" while teaching these kids who come through my classroom's doorstep. So here it is to new beginnings (keep checking the new few posts which will detail and picture every step I am taking to transform my classroom and my curriculum). And here it is too to "The Hundred languages of children - Montessori based and Reggio inspired learning and teaching ".... What do you think?


  1. Hello. I think i came about your blog from pinterest. anyhow, I do understand your thoughts relating to the Montessori teaching being a bit restrictive. I am a certified montessori teacher and i've always included 'play time' weather free or structure play in my classroom. It has worked great. I too got rid of the housekeeping or dramatic area/center. I was learning more about what when on im the homes or childrens lives than imaginary play. sometimes a good thing and sometimes a shocking reality. I've been seeing a lot about the Reggio E. don't know if I like it yet, but have been thinking of looking into it and now i might do so. so much is taken from Marie Montessori with a twist. I love your classroom decor and wish you a wonderful school year!!

  2. I hope you will find as much enjoyment as I am with the Reggio Emilia approach. The beauty of it is that like the materials it's using, it is open-ended and is left to all types of personal interpretations. There is not just one way to apply the approach. Each setting and educator can put their own stamp on it. Have fun!

  3. I hope you will find as much enjoyment as I am with the Reggio Emilia approach. The beauty of it is that like the materials it's using, it is open-ended and is left to all types of personal interpretations. There is not just one way to apply the approach. Each setting and educator can put their own stamp on it. Have fun!


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