In preparation for the Early Childhood moving into a multi-million euro Reggio Emilia inspired building we were joined by Elena Giacopini and Matteo Bini from Reggio Emilia to further our understanding of the Reggio approach.
I was coming into this training with little of what Reggio Emilia looks like and how it would affect my practice. Reggio is an approach and not a method and therefore it is a philosophical framework and does not provide any standards or outcomes. Reggio is an inquiry based approach that recognizes that learning is transdisciplinary, based on the theories of social constructivism, and should be student centered, whilst placing a great importance on the environment.
Elena and Matteo constantly provoked and made me question a variety of aspects of how I approach my role in student learning. I do believe that students learn from one another and that they are more engaged when they are not being ‘taught’ at. Upon reflection, there are times when instead of focusing on the students experiences and letting this shape the learning. I sometimes impart my knowledge or funnel students into my way of thinking. Are there times when this is ok? How could some specific skills be taught otherwise?
Documentation of students learning is key at Reggio Emilia, this can be seen through the portfolios which are made and follow the students through the school, to how the day is organized and through teacher meetings and discussions. The challenge that I have been contemplating recently is how do we document the process of learning within PE, I have previously recorded a dance routine that students have done at the end of the unit, placed this within student portfolios, but how did they move through the creative process to this end point. Whilst ‘doing’ is a fundamental part of learning, is it enough? Students and teachers must document and reflect throughout the process.
One of the key focal points of Reggio Emilia is the 100 languages, which Loris Malguzzi, founder of Reggio Emilia, described as the ‘Infinite ways in which children can express, explore and connect their thoughts, feelings and imaginings.’ The Reggio Emilia approach recognizes and appreciates children as competent and naturally curious learners who can express themselves, and we as teachers need to recognize and document how their learning is developing. Jay McTighe highlights the multi-faceted aspects to learning and how we should consider this when assessing ‘An important concept in assessment lies in our understanding of learning and the learning process and a recognition that learning involves much more than just taking in conversation and giving it back. It involves constructing meaning and making sense of things, seeing things from a different perspective and truly developing an understanding of what students are learning’ so if as an inquiry teacher we are hoping to develop students understanding of key concepts we need to design tasks and ask questions which takes students learning from knowledge to understanding.
Here KG students are drawing themselves after climbing a tree, self and peer assessing work. Students talk about body positions/movements/key features whilst considering point of view and use of different materials.
Whilst I regularly observe, question and provoke during PE lessons, how do I document this with each child? Making thinking visible routines having proved extremely useful, but this is only one ‘language’. How often should I conference with students? How is this information stored and shared with other teachers and can other teachers comment on what they have seen? How do I document children reflecting on the process, as this constitutes learning. These will be the questions I will be taking forward, documentation should show the process of student learning, showing both the student and the teacher how their learning developed.
Just before our winter break, our KG students started their Movement Composition unit, with the three weeks before the holidays we used this time for students to work on a dance that they would perform for their parents during their winter show, which showcases their work for the year to date, specifically in music, art and PE.
I teach KG with another teacher, Mr. Sota, and we had decided to use 'A night before christmas' as our provocation for the dance, we read this story to the students two times, the first time was for the students to familiarise with the story. When we read the story the second time we asked the students to raise their hand if they heard an action word, or a word that sounds like a movement and Mr Sota would note the word down, after discussing this with our students we ended up with the image below.
Students worked in small groups, pairs or individually to show movements that came to their mind when they heard or saw the action word, the book that we had read to the students was also beautifully illustrated which also really helped the students. Alex and myself set the music for each section and students started to put their movements that linked with the action words to the music. As teachers we helped students with linking their movements or providing feedback throughout the process. Students looked at different ways of travelling, changing their levels and speed dependent upon the music. This process lasted two weeks, in the third week, we practiced in the performance space with the other classes. At the end of week 3 we presented the final performances, to the KG teachers, families and other classes as part of our winter show. The students performed with confidence, matching their movements to the music and also communicating expression.
This was the first time that we had run this unit, looking back we were pleased how the students interacted with each other and the book and the created some really pleasing work in a relatively short space of time. For this unit next year, we have discussed how when we present at the winter show we would like to show the process more, instead of just having the final dance and story. We would also like to give the students the opportunity to try different roles that go into a production for a winter show. Although everyone performed during the show, it's hard to think that some students wouldn't have preferred to try different roles, such as creating masks and hats for the dancers, or assisting with the stage production/directions, all of which would have had a beneficial impact on the performance and more importantly for the students involved.