I would like to keep an open discussion going surrounding aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach to early education. If you want to join in this conversation I would love to read your thoughts too! Also, check out my other two blog posts so you can join in those conversations as well.
Children have a lot to express and they do this in many ways, however, one way in particular is their emerging ability to tell stories. Stories can be real life experiences they have lived through or upcoming events they are excited about. Stories can also be make-believe experiences based off of books that have been read to them, movies they’ve seen, or other people’s experiences they’ve listened to. Most recently a little boy was talking about how he had climbed a small tree and that he really wanted to climb trees that were taller. A little girl next to him was a bit younger and took the experience she just heard and reworked it to fit her own “story”. In essence, she took what she heard and made it her own. Now some may say she was copying and possibly lying, but that is not what she was doing. She was using a relatable experience to practice her story-telling skills and it did not matter if the facts in her version were the same or different. Retelling life events whether a child has experienced it himself/herself or ones they’ve heard about are all part of literacy development and a way for children to try out life roles they have yet to engage in themselves.
Do you provide areas where your students or your children can flourish in their creativity on writing projects? I call them writing projects because when I scribe for a child the story they are telling me continues to change shape. One day we will be discussing a dragon and the next day a bear. Sometimes my role is all about questioning because I start asking specific questions to keep the child thinking about the story they told me. What happens next? What color was the dragon? Where was the dragon going? Who is this bear you mention? Where did the bear come from? Does the bear live next to the dragon? I do not ask all these types of questions at once, but I rather listen and insert them when I see the child needs some support with this project of theirs.
Stories children would like written down can easily be turned into projects because they can be revisited as often or as little as a child’s interest in them happens to be. And sometimes through one of these creative stories the concepts are transferred to other interest areas. Then the story is no longer just one child’s, it becomes a part of the group and together we can meet and discuss how we are going to take elements of the story and make them “real”. Projects that emerge like this one take just as much time as any project that involves other children would.
Projects like stories the children come up with do not have to be long term, they can be short. Projects also can be for only one child, two, three or a group. It really depends on the interests of each child and what that child would like to contribute. How a project emerges changes from child to child and there are only a few elements or frameworks that I like to use as a way to organize and guide children when I see they need the support. And remember we want to stretch children’s minds, so they keep learning new information and building onto what they already know. So teaching children how to organize and plan their projects respects the capabilities each child has for learning. And yes, preschool aged children can and do work quite effectively in cooperative group situations. In some cases, the skills they have mastered prior to elementary school are more advanced due the children being enabled to act on their own ideas and abilities. Again, my role is that of facilitator, support, challenge, mentor and learner. My role changes to fit the needs of the children and that makes it possible for their learning to be uninterrupted and flow continuously instead of being stopped and started based on an adult’s ideas of what they should be doing at the ages of three, four or five.
When we take the time to listen, respect and cultivate a child’s interests amazing things emerge! The term “academic” is not used appropriately most of the time. Children are engaged in academic learning the moment they notice their surroundings. Concepts of math, science, literacy, art and social studies actually do enter a child’s mind in the early years; just not in such formal or rigid ways. The way those “academic” concepts actually influence children depends on if we as adults are listening, watching and being sensitive to young children’s desires to learn. If we allow children to tell stories, engage in their own projects and invite others to join, we are assisting young children during a time when they are most excited about life!
What do you think? Are you a teacher or parent that supports your young child’s desires to learn? Do you enjoy learning along with your students or children? Let me know and share your words! 🙂
Thank you for stopping by The Marigold School of Early Learning!