We talked about how we wanted students to interact with our classroom. We didn’t want them to come in and know every day what the block area or the writing centre for instance contained . I want the children to arrive in class and wonder what they will come up with in each centre. the environment must be dynamic and evolve on a regular routine. Don't you agree that thanks to such a classroom, the children's interest and curiosity will grow? I have never put all the materials out at the beginning of the year. I gradually add, remove etc.. depending on the children's learning pace and their interests too. This is another aspect of creating a dynamic teaching environment. I have learnt that each year bring us a "bunch" of different kids who love doing things completely different than the past pupils. What Reggio teachers often do as well is add a new game/toy/apparatus etc.. and let the children discover it themselves.
From what I have studied so far, one of the most important concepts of the Reggio Emilia Approach is the "provocation". What I understand (and please correct me if I am wrong) is that a provocation could be an image, an object, a group of images or a group of objects. It could be a sound, a series of sounds, a piece of music. It could also be any event or experience that leads to more discussion, curiosity, excitement... Provocations can be pre-planned, structured and arranged while some of them are more open-ended.
So, I have been re-thinking activities in our classroom. I want them to be about exploration and discovery through their senses. I want the activities to prompt the children to ask more questions, to plan and to think deeply. To do so, I have to observe what the children are interested in or at least guess. I have to take into consideration what they already know and then plan the activity.
Here is the 1st provocation I set up. I had noticed the children looking at themselves in the various mirrors in the classroom. They have also been quite drawn to the writing centre to colour. I assumed that exploring a new art medium would be a great idea and I presented a mirror in the writing centre. I sat at the table beside a child and observed. It didn't take the child very long to start making faces in the mirror and start laughing saying : "look, this is another me and it is doing all what I am doing!".. So I prompted the child a bit further and asked him to describe himself. When he said he had brown eyes, I asked him if we had the same colour in our crayons basket. When he said he had dark yellow hair, I repeated the question. We moved on to the skin and the lips colour. Finally, I asked him what shape was his face? His eyes? His mouth? And the rest followed:
And funny enough, once we were finished, we had a group of children waiting for their turn to "draw themselves"!! Brilliant!
At circle time, I reinforce the concept of identity and we talked with the children about how there are things about each of them that are the same and there are things about each of them that are different. We had all the preschoolers with blond hair to stand up ,all preschoolers who have brown eyes to stand up. And we also read:
- I'm Glad to be Me by P.K. Hallinan
- I Know What I Like by Norma Simon