Reggio Emilia, a city in northern Italy, is widely known for its approach to educating young children (Hendrick, 1997). Founded by Loris Malaguzzi (1920–1994), Reggio Emilia sponsors programs for children from three months to six years of age. Certain essential beliefs and practices underlie the Reggio Emilia approach. These basic features define the Reggio approach, make it a constructivist program, and enable it to be adapted and implemented in many U.S. early childhood programs.
Beliefs About Children and How They Learn
The Reggio approach focuses on each child and is conducted in relation to the family, other children, the teachers, the environment of the school, the community, and the wider society. Each school is viewed as a system in which all these interconnected relationships are reciprocal, activated, and supported. In other words, as Vygotsky believed, children learn through social interactions. In addition, as Montessori indicated, the environment supports and is important to learning.
When preparing space, teachers offer the possibility for children to be with the teachers and many of the other children, or with just a few of them. Also, children can be alone when they need a little niche to stay by themselves.
Teachers are always aware, however, that children learn a great deal in exchanges with their peers, especially when they interact in small groups. Such small groups of two, three, four, or five children provide possibilities for paying attention, listening to each other, developing curiosity and interest, asking questions, and responding. Also, groups provide opportunities for negotiation and ongoing dynamic communication.
Malaguzzi wrote a poem about the many languages of children. Here is the way it begins:
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts.
A hundred ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking.
The hundred languages Malaguzzi was referring to include drawing, building, modeling, sculpturing, discussing, inventing, discovering, and more. Teachers are encouraged to create environments in which children can use all hundred languages to learn.
Reggio Emilia teachers believe time is not set by a clock and that continuity is not interrupted by the calendar. Children’s own sense of time and their personal rhythms are considered in planning and carrying out activities and projects. The full-day schedule provides sufficient time for being together among peers in an environment that is conducive to getting things done with satisfaction.
Teachers get to know the personal rhythms and learning styles of each child. This is possible in part because children stay with the same teachers and the same peer group for three-year cycles (infancy to three years and three years to six years).
Adults play a very powerful role in children’s lives; children’s well-being is connected to the well-being of parents and teachers.
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