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The Reggio Emilia Approach, a Constructivist Approach

Ana Paula Lima da Rocha, Teacher at the International School of Curitiba in the early childhood department.

“Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive processes of children than to the results they achieve in various fields of doing and understanding.” ― Loris Malaguzzi

The Reggio Emilia approach tends to move the focus from the teacher to the students. The classroom is no longer a place where the teacher is the only one who knows everything, and children are not seen as an empty vessel ready to be filled. In the Constructivist Approach, the students are actively involved in their process of learning; the child will construct knowledge based on personal experiences. Teacher and students have the ability to discover in a dynamic, ever-changing view of the world we live in, having the opportunity to explore, play, create — not just having a teacher presenting facts to be memorized.

As teachers, we need to learn how to listen to the child; but how can we teach if we are only just listening? According to the Reggio Emilia Approach, listening means being able to interpret what the child wants to learn. If he/she brings a flower to the school and does not know if it is going to grow or die, there begins a project. A project will be born from a child’s curiosity, and in that process we will be able to explore the many languages of the children, such as, art, language, music, math, fine motor skills, science and social behavior in order to listen to the child. The teacher can use different aspects:

  1. To listen means to have the sensitivity to connect to others;

  2. To listen is a sensory movement: The teacher does not only listen with the ears, but with the whole body;

  3. To listen does not produce ready answers, but constructs questions;

  4. To listen requires that we show ourselves the value of the unknown, so that we overcome the sense of precariousness that takes over us whenever our certainties are put in crisis;

  5. To listen demands time: a time full of silence and long pauses;

But as teachers, how can we put what we listen to into practice? The child has autonomy, the teacher is a participatory observer, and the school is a safe territory, which favors exchanges and learning opportunities. The so-called “documentation,” for example, is one of the main tools for the constructivist schools and demands that teachers closely look at how daily school life can be so rich in details. How to document? Here are some things to contemplate when documenting, as well as some helpful tips:

  1. Take a photograph from the play time of the little ones in order to document their processes of research and exploration of things;

  2. Every form of registration is valid: videos, audios, notes, etc.;

  3. Understand that the child is a developing brain, but it is also a learning body;

  4. Take care of space, so as to favor autonomy and ease of locomotion, to minimize as much as possible the teacher’s interventions, such as “do not go up there”, “do not touch that;”

  5. Provide materials that stimulate thinking and allow the child to explore them as they are available and are shown a smooth way to learn;

  6. Provide activities that establish connections, both of the children with the world and of a child with another. Working issues such as diversity, respect, otherness, social injustice, class issues, race and freedom are welcome in this regard;

  7. Before you propose your own questions as an education professional, listen and listen to the children’s own questions.

Documentation wall from age group of 3 to 4 years old

To document goes beyond the teacher’s expectations when we start to see the child as a whole. According to Loris Malaguzzi, “Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, carefully observe what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” (Malaguzzi, 1994). Think outside the box, have the child be the protagonist of their own story, observe little details and always listen to what they have to say and do.

As a Reggio Emilia inspired school, the program should include the principles of respect, creativity, a sense of community, exploration and discovery through a self-guided direction. The Reggio approach asserts that young children develop their personality during the early years. Enriching the “one hundred languages” by Loris Malaguzzi, the children will explore in many ways such as drama, painting, sculpturing and more; the importance of learning through experience is one of the languages of the child. The children are the protagonists of their own learning. If they are well confident with themselves, others, and the environment, they will be able to learn their own way using their heads, hands and hearts.


What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?

The Hundred Language of Children. by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Forman

Working in a Reggio Way. by Julianne P. Wurm

Ana Paula Lima da Rocha

Teacher at the International School of Curitiba in the early childhood department.. Bachelors in Pedagogy with post bachelors in Early Childhood, and also a Reggio Emilia Inspired educator.


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