Sunday, August 25, 2013

The 3rd teacher: our new Reggio inspired classroom

So if you have read my last 2 posts, you will know that I have  decided  to integrate some of the Reggio Emilia approach to my teaching methods. But so that we are clear,  I do not claim to be a Reggio teacher. I have, however, after a few months of study, learned to borrow bits and pieces from different Reggio-inspired teachers, blogs and from many books on the approach. It's not perfect yet.. There are things that I would like to change completely but time and resources were short so I had to do with what I had or what I could find at home (or in car boot sales).

 So where did I start? I transformed my classroom and started with a blank canvas. First, I moved all the furniture in the middle of the classroom. I removed most of the materials too and piled them up wherever I could! What a mess!!!

I studied many pictures of Reggio classrooms and I do love how they are designed to become the third teacher. If the environment is set up right, the children will be more likely to be actively engaged with the materials. I have made sure that the children are actively engaged and that they are  learning through play. I kept my Montessori areas (maths, literacy, science, sensorial and practical Exercises areas) but I made room for a block area and for a small world corner. 

Some of you may ask me why I didn't add a home corner, and why I chose a small world area instead. First of all, I don't have a huge space to play with. So my options were limited. Secondly, at this stage of development and with limited exposure to real life experiences, small children benefit a lot by having small world play clearly modelled to them. Contrary to popular belief, children don't always know how to pretend play, especially with imaginative toys promoting role-play; they do need guidance to show how they can re-enact situations they encounter. Why? Maybe because they have not yet either experienced the scenario for themselves in real life or watched the adult demonstrating what to do. Or because they haven't got the skills and maturity to do so just yet.  When I started my preschool, I did have a small home corner (despite what Montessori thought) but I had observed how chaotic it could become: children were not ready to engage in the early stages of proper imaginative play and the corner was usually a chaotic  and messy space where children felt they could go a bit "wild" . So I got rid of the homecorner as I found it unproductive and as I was eager to follow Montessori by the books. But after a few years of observations and work with the children, I can now say that in my books, Small World play is the stepping stone to homecorners. Let me explain:
  1. children start to learn how to use their imagination independently at first then with one other peer.
  2. They start to narrate their play and thus developing early story-telling skills
  3. They start to re-enact familiar experiences in a similar way to role-play
  4.  I found that small world play can be very cheap to set up if you really want to and easy to make from found, natural and recycled materials. 
  5. Small World Play promotes  creativity if you provide children with open-ended materials
  6. Engaging for all ages from 2 up until 10! Same scenes, different skills and outcomes. 

The children I teach in my preschool are aged 2.5 to 4.5 this year and I think the Small World Corner will address their needs much better. Here is a snap shot of our corner:

And here is our new construction area:
I really think blocks are the epitome of open-ended materials. Children express their creativity when playing with blocks, making designs, constructions and sculptures. In the construction area, a child needs to think, to solve problems, to negotiate and invent. And while they do that, they learn about Blocks require a child to think creatively, problem solve, negotiate and invent. They learn about balance, angles, height, perspective, stability and symmetry through trial and error as they construct their buildings. Magic!! And if you add a mirror, the child will learn  to think 3-dimensionally!!!! 

I have re-thought our reading corner and excluded it from our circle time area. It is more defined this way, especially as I have tried to turn it into a little cosy and private area with the help of a few cushions scattered on the floor and a little lamp (please note that I need to add an extension to the lamp and hide the lead as it is not safe the way I am showing it to you right now). I am hoping the children will find it inviting and will feel more enticed to come along and quick a book for quiet time.

Beside the reading corner is our circle time area. The calendar hasn't been changed and children will sit on the floor together.
Right beside our circle time area, you will recognise our jigsaw shelving unit (which happens to also serve the purpose of a desk - my desk!).

Right beside the jigsaws is now our nature table! I am hoping to use it a lot more than I have in the past and I will look for inspiration on all the wonderful blogs across the blogosphere. I wish I knew how to work with felt and make all these beautiful landscapes that my dear friend Karen creates (click right here to have a look at what she does! Amazing!). Unfortunately, I don't.. I have added mirrors to the table and in front of it to add another dimension to the display and to attract the children. I haven's set it up yet but I will keep you posted on our different types of nature/interest tables in the future.

I haven't moved our science shelves. They are fine where they are and the materials can be used on the round table placed right besides them. On the left hand side of the science area, we are back to the construction corner.

As you enter the room, the first corner you meet, right on the left by the window is our Montessori literacy area (writing and pre-reading). I have a mirror displayed on a small easel for the beginning of the year: I guess you can consider this as my 1st Reggio provocation. I am hoping the children will look at themselves and feel like drawing a self-portrait using the markers/crayons, and googly eyes at their disposition on the table and shelves.

Montessori insets and markers/crayons

Reggio provocation?

Tracing tray

Montessori sandpaper letter and my phonics booklets

In the centre of the classroom, you can see our Montessori Practical Exercises shelving units.  Here is a quick look at what I have put on our shelves for the start of September.

spooning and tonguing

nuts and bolts, key sets and salt pouring

fine motor skills (pincer grasp and hammering, play dough) and our tray of table mats

opening and closing bottles, and transferring activity from one jug to another

Using pegs

Catching fish ( magnetic game) and lacing activity

More lacing as well as balancing game
On the right hand side of the PLE area, you will find the Montessori Sensorial corner, right in front of the reading den.

By the Sensorial area, you can see our Montessori maths shelving until and our Geography/History corner.

And of course, our little art corner with the sink right beside it.

So what do you think? Any suggestions? As I explained, it is going to be a progressive transformation. There are so much more to do !! Stay tune for our next post on all the new materials I have brought in following the Reggio Emilia approach..


  1. Hi Aude, I have been a follower of your blog for a while. I am Irish living in Canada and I run a small preschool. I have Montessori training and I mix some Waldorf ideas with Montessori. I have read a little about RE and find it intriguing. Last year I went straight Montessori. The children did really well academicly and the parents were much impressed but I really missed some of the fun and rhthym of our Waldorf mix. This year I have gone back to a blended curriculum. I was really interested in your comments about a "home" area in your classroom. I too am limited by space. I have a lovely wooden kitchen centre and table but I find as you said that chaos tends to reign when the children play there. I will be interested to follow you this year to see how things progress. My children so far this year are not really interested in too many Montessori presentations; they are all busy playing. I miss doing the presentations. I do think the children are happier though. I guess it is all about finding the happy medium. Thank you so much for sharing. It is great to know someone else is out there trying/blending different methods.


  2. Thank you Sharon. I had a quick look at your blog and your children are definitely getting great early years experience, whether you use Waldorf or Montessori. I think that mixing curriculum and approaches is the best way to go as it is bound to suit the individual needs of each child who walks through our doors! I am one of your followers now and I will follow your journey with great interest. thanks Sharon

  3. Hi Aude, my name is Scheila and I just found your blog and have to say...I'm in love! I live in Killenard, CoLaois, Ireland but I am from brazil and my partner is irish,we have a 22 months old boy , Vincent is his name and he attent to a creche just behind our house. as I am not happy with what I see there, I always do activities with him, Montessori inspired. I wish your classroom was here and would love to go there to meet you one day,or if sometime you decide to come to Laois, please send

  4. Hi Aude, my name is Tara and I recently opened a little Montessori School in Kildare. We are following mainly Montessori and trying to incorporate Aistear into our curriculum too. I too was interested to see that you have taken out your home corner and I agree it can be chaotic and take away the opportunity for the children to become engrossed in other activities which may be of more benefit at this stage in their development. I too have a log cabin and we love it. Will keep following your blog as I too am interested in the Reggio approach and just love natural materials for the children to work and play with. Your school is absolutely gorgeous. The children are very lucky to have you!

  5. Thank you Tara. Have you removed your home corner? And if you have, what have you done with the space instead? It would be interested to see how you solve the problem... Thanks for posting..

  6. very nicely done. I just retired from teaching the 3 year old autism class and it's just about enough to make me want to go back another year, LOL

  7. Beautiful classroom. As a fellow Reggio-inspired teacher, I would encourage you to think about more art materials: clay, wire, beads, all types of writing tools (sharpies, colored pencils, chalk, etc.)


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