Our teaching style is influenced by the Reggio Emelia approach
The Reggio Emilia approach to educating children takes its name from a town and surrounding district in Italy, where it was founded after World War II. Their approach has since become quite famous, with educators from around the world visiting the area to learn about their unique educational philosophy.
In Reggio Emilia itself, this educational approach is deeply woven in to the society. It applies to all levels of schooling (not just early years) and even the local council is involved in sorting and recycling materials for re-use by the schools and nurseries.
It is not realistic to claim to be a "Reggio School" if you are not from within the Reggio Emilia district, but there is much that all educators can learn from their philosophy and approach.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:
- Children must have some say over what they learn; and that the senses play a big role in the learning process.
- Children engage with their senses to help them learn and fully process something.
- Children are encouraged to interact with other children and explore the world through material items and relationships.
- Children should be encouraged to always express themselves and be given infinite means and opportunities to do so.
At Acorn we consider ourselves to be "Reggio-inspired" - we fully subscribe to the above Reggio Principles and incorporate them within our teaching. For example:
Children must have some say over what they learn
Teachers loosely plan each day in advance, but remain flexible over timings. Children are not told to stop doing something they are engaged with and learning from. Instead, the planned schedule for the day is adjusted so this activity can be built upon and expanded. This gives children some say in their programme, and makes the most of every learning opportunity.
Each class has several activities underway at any one time, with children choosing which groups to join.
Children engage with their sense
Children are encouraged to be hands-on, and fully involved - exploring and learning with all their senses.
For the babies, this can be something as simple as "Treasure Baskets" - bags or baskets full of items with different textures, that babies love to select, pick-up, and experiment with.
For older children, this can involve blind-tastings of foods, painting with feet, cars or balls, and much more.
Children should interact with each other
We are big believers in children working in small groups, learning to share, negotiate and socialise with their peers.
Early years children should not be sat at desks, being given tasks by their teacher. Learning Through Play is shown to be a more effective approach, where they have some say over what they are doing, and have to constantly communicate and negotiate with others to achieve their aims.
Meal times are another good example of social interaction. Children eat as a group and actively talk amongst themselves and learn from each other.
Children should be encouraged to express themselves
This is a reference to developing the imagination, creativity and artistic ability within every child.
We are great believers in open-ended play - activities where there is not a "correct" answer, but endless creative opportunities. Children are quick to learn from each other in these situations, with each extending and developing what they have seen done by others. A good example of this is Loose Parts, where a collection of objects can be counted, sorted, stacked, arranged in to shapes - whatever comes to mind.
Why give a child a worksheet to colour in, where is the creativity in that? Far better to give them a blank piece of paper, and an object to draw.