Tag Archives: Reggio Emilia

Last Week on the Light Table: 3

2015-09-15 09.34.36 I’m slowly letting the light table take over a small area in our living room. I now have out several baskets and trays that allow many of our materials to stay out longer than a week or a few days.

Last week we had: 

I added some slotted translucent builders. This is a similar set on Amazon.

2015-09-15 09.34.42We also have straws and play dough out for building. As a side note, those Play-Doh containers are damn hard to open. I wish I knew of a better way to store it so it doesn’t dry out, but Cam could get into it by herself. 

Update: Cut the straws in half. Long straws are floppy and slippery and were really hard to build with. Narrower ones might be better too. 

Hundred Languages Read Along: Introduction

Hundre LanguagesIntroduction

I don’t usually read introductions. They tend to summarize what’s going to be discussed in each chapter and if I’m going to read the book, I can discover that for myself. The introduction here literally introduced the reader to Reggio Emilia, the city, and the surrounding area. It also did what introductions do and summarize each of the chapters. I did see how, if you did not plan on reading the book in its entirety, that could be useful. More information was provided than the chapter title so it would be easy to use this as a gauge for which portions would be most relevant and useful to you. They also explained why several of the chapters take the format they do, specifically why they are in interview form.

The chapter does go into a bit of detail about the title of the book, which stems from the famous exhibit that has been traveling the US for decades now. (Sadly I missed it when it was in a city a few hours south from where I live when Cam was tiny.) The authors wanted, after the exhibit opened, to elaborate on it and study it more fully. This was simply not possible in the exhibit format so they decided on a book. 

While all this information was interesting and marginally relevant, the introduction really shone in the last 8 pages or so where it gives an excellent historical overview of the educational and child care system in Italy.(They have high quality, state funded child care available to families from four months up! The US needs something like that.) It starts in the early 19th century, and without getting too dry and involved, covers political and social movements and reforms that shaped the system and allowed the Reggio Emilia approach to emerge and flourish. This was absolutely fascinating, but again not essential to understanding how the approach works or how to apply it (although I think they would argue differently). Certainly it gives a great foundation and at under ten pages it’s well worth reading. 

I do wish I could find an overview like that about American education. I think it would be very informative and would allow educators both a sense of how all the pieces of our educational system fit together and how to go about changing them for the better and adapting something like the Reggio Emilia approach to our schooling. In my own research I have come across the idea that our idea of school comes from an imagined ideal of the 1950s and it would be interesting to see both how that emerged and how it is changing. 

One last thought, I have an older edition (I believe the third edition is out now. It has a green cover.) which makes this one a bit dated. I suspect with the much more recent economic downturn and European economic crisis things have changed more, at least on an administrative level, and I would be extremely curious to know how that has impacted these schools and the services available to families. 

Last Week on the Light Table: 2

The light table has remained really popular. Cam uses it at least once a day, which has really surprised me. She especially liked the stencils so I have left them out. I also added a couple new activities and put Blokus away. 

Last week we had:

2015-09-10 07.20.12Stained Glass Coloring Sheets and loose parts: Dover makes these coloring sheets that are meant to go in your window once they are colored. I bought a small kaleidoscope patterned booklet and an Arabic patterns which has a lot of geometric patterns. I paired them with tiles, jewels, and translucent beads. 

2015-09-10 07.19.16Transparency sheets and overhead markers: A few years ago the school my husband and I work for switched to digital overhead projectors and other technologies. They ditched all the overhead projectors and a lot of transparency sheets and markers. At the end of the year we rescued a bunch from going into the dumpster. I put out markers and cut down the sheets into smaller squares/rectangles. I also drew patterns on two sheets and set them on the light table with some glass jewels. 

Last Week on the Light Table: 1

So at the beginning of September I set up our light table, a hulking wooden box with a glass top, on the floor of our living room. It used to be in our classroom, but Cam wasn’t particularly interested in it so I put it away. I don’t know if the change in scenery or her being a little older has made a difference, but Cam is all about it this week. I cleared out her play food shelf (putting it with her play kitchen) and set out a few transparent and translucent loose parts jars for her to use with the other pieces I put out throughout the week. 

2015-09-01 15.40.22Last week we had:

Blokus: It’s this nifty game that requires spatial thinking skills and strategy, but the pieces are colored and translucent. Cam has always loved putting the pieces out on the board in different patterns and arrays so I t2015-09-01 15.41.08hought I would give them a try on the light table. My only disappointment is that the board itself is opaque and it has a grid on it that the pieces fit nicely into. 

Stencils: Cam had these Tupperware stencils out in one of her quiet boxes and she was all about them. Plus it’s great fine motor practice. I thought since they are also translucent I would put them out with some thin paper. 

For Your Bookshelf: Loose Parts by Lisa Daly & Miriam Beloglovsky

Loose PartsLoose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky, photographs by Jenna Daly

From GoodReads: Loose parts are natural or synthetic found, bought, or upcycled materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change within their play. Alluring and captivating, they capture children’s curiosity, give free reign to their imagination, and motivate learning.

The hundreds of inspiring photographs showcase an array of loose parts in real early childhood settings. And the overviews of concepts children can learn when using loose parts provide the foundation for incorporating loose parts into your teaching to enhance play and empower children. The possibilities are truly endless.

I came across this book through a couple of Australian blogs that I follow. I had recently read Beautiful Stuff and wanted to learn more about how to employ the loose parts theory. I was surprised to find, once I got a copy of the book, that it was written by two professors here in Sacramento. They used the child care center out at the community college in Fairfield. Small world. 

The book was incredibly inspiring and had tons and tons of high quality pictures. The text is short, but deals with the theory of loose parts and then discusses different areas that are developed by using them, i.e. sound, creativity, and action. It’s easy to read and understand and doesn’t have a lot of jargon or overly academic language. I know right now I appreciate that in a book. I just don’t have the mental capacity to read something dry and technical at the end of the day.  

I did keep going back and forth wishing there was a bit more writing and discussing of the theory of loose parts and simply appreciating that there wasn’t much direction. I think I was hoping the pictures would be more like a documentation panel. I struggle getting Cam to engage with the materials. They can sit out for months and she won’t touch them. Then one day she’ll pick them up and find something to do with them or I’ll need to direct her. And I don’t want to direct her, I want it to come from her. On the other hand, having too rigid a set of documentation might not have helped me find good materials and set ups. Part of the point of loose parts is that they can be used in open ended ways and should be tailored to the interests of the child and to the environment. And often the pictures spoke for themselves. 

All in all, this is a worthwhile book both for the information on loose parts and why you should use them and for the pictures that will give you unlimited inspiration for materials to try out and how to set them up in provocative ways. My copy is riddled with sticky notes directing me to provocations and to loose parts I want to set out. I think a second reading of the book is in order to review the theory behind the materials. 

Activity in the Hive: Sound Wall

We recently bought several large bales of straw and when the feed store loaded it into our truck they included the pallet with it. My husband wanted to use it for something and I had just recently asked him to build a sound wall for Cam so he decided to use the pallet for that. 

Sound Wall 1

Pallet sound wall

A sound wall doesn’t necessarily have to be a wall, but it is a space where children can explore the different sounds objects make when they strike them with their hands and with various mallets. We bought all out items at the thrift shop and my husband attached them in various ways to the pallet which is now mounted on our fence in the swing area. 

Included on the wall:

  • pot lid
  • metal bowl
  • loaf pan
  • ribbed plastic tube
  • small oven rack
  • plastic bin
  • metal muffin cups
  • two threaded rods with stacks of washers on them (seen on the right of the wall and in the detail picture to the right)
  • whisk (for whacking with)
  • metal spoon (also for whacking with)
Threaded rods and washers

Threaded rods and washers

At some point I would like to add some metal flatware bundled together and some canning jar rings tied together. I think those would add another little element. If you are interested in making on there are tons of ideas on Pinterest. It doesn’t necessarily require a pallet (we just happened to have one) and can be as small or large as you want it to be. Just be mindful of your neighbors who will have to listen to the “music” played by your child. :)

Cool Stuff: Vol. 2 Issue 2

A few good articles to share this time:

From The Mindshift blog from KQED, an article looking at how unschoolers turn out once they hit college/adult life. It’s a small study, but the results are interesting. There’s a mix of outcomes, but overwhelmingly positive. How Do Unschoolers Turn Out? Certainly worth a read if you are thinking about unschooling or are curious.

I really love how this blog post shows how to use books in the early phases of provocations and projects. They pique interest, spark ideas, and introduce topics. The children in this classroom didn’t gravitate toward the bird watching provocation (binoculars and guide book by the window) until reading a book about birds. Of course, as a librarian and bibliophile, I love this and it’s certainly a default for me to turn to books. I’m glad to get a little validation seeing others do this too. Becoming a Birder on Searching for Sparks blog. 

I know I link a lot to Racheous, but I often love what she has to say. Here’s a great post about unschooling and how it means not worrying about ensuring kids learn specific facts. It’s Not All About Learning. As she puts it:

“I don’t care if my child doesn’t learn about certain arbitrary facts associated with a life cycle we’re observing or specific elements of numeracy we’re exploring through play. That specific, testable knowledge is no longer the endgame. It happens regardless – but it’s no longer the top desired outcome.”

It’s not that she doesn’t want her kids to learn information, it’s simply that any given information and the emphasis on it’s necessity to learn it is totally arbitrary. The endgame of education is to learn how to learn and enjoy it. 

Activity in the Hive: Home vs. Classroom Provocations

Between setting up provocations for Cam and constantly reorganizing our play spaces so that Cam can easily get to things she is interested in I came to a realization. I’m like a lot of moms, I read mommy blogs and scour Pinterest. I like to see what other people are doing and get inspiration and ideas for things to do in our home- organization, activities, etc. I also happen to see and follow several Reggio teachers and greatly admire many of the things they do. I wouldn’t necessarily copy any of their provocations, since Cam may not be interested in what the programs are specifically about. However, I do like to adapt them.

One thing I started noticing, primarily with the school provocations, is that they are designed to take up a whole table and stay out on that surface. That’s great, if you have a lot of tables and/or space. But, we live in a post-WWII track home. We’ve done a lot to open up the house, but the rooms are still small. We don’t mind, we love our house, but it does mean that when we organize and set up furniture we have to get creative. Moreover, we live in our house everyday and do other house related things like eat, sleep, wash clothes, and shower. These are all activities that are, by and large, not done in a classroom and they create some other limitations on setting up a classroom-like setting. So bringing the classroom provocation into the home is requiring some of that creativity and a flexibility that allows for things to be put away at the end of the day and rotate onto our two work tables when the mood strikes. 

Here are some things I’ve learned so far about designing provocations for our home. They may change and develop as Cam gets older and more capable and as her interests change, but for the time being they work well. 

Tips for provocations at home: 

  • Use the Montessori principle of everything on a tray or in a basket: This makes for easy portability off a shelf and onto a work surface
  • Make sure things fit on the tray or basket well and that your child can actually move it: No flimsy trays, no tall jars that require extra balancing, nothing hanging over the edge waiting to fall off mid-move and try to keep it light enough that they can move it without assistance (this last part may not always be possible). 
  • Less is more; make sure there is white space: There are tons of awesome provocations you can set up for your child, but if there are too many options they won’t be able to get them off the shelf or they’ll just plain be overwhelmed. Be sure to space the trays out on the shelf too for easy removal and to help draw their eye to each one individually.
  • You can also go bigger: There are a lot fewer kids in your home than in a school, so you don’t have to have nearly as many seats and stations set up. This can allow you to add a few more materials, or even more expensive materials, that there may not have been space or money for in a classroom.
  • Keep clean up in mind: In a classroom you might be able to have a stack of paper and tray for the used paper and a jar for the pens and a sign and a picture and a book, etc, etc, etc. In a classroom all those things stay out on the table, though. It’s fine to have all those elements at home, just be sure cleaning up the provocation (putting it back on the tray and back on the shelf) doesn’t turn into an ordeal. It should be relatively easy to clean up to encourage them to actually clean it up. You can get creative and have a few items such as books stay out on your work table or you could have them sit on the shelf behind the tray to be picked up when your child is interested or carried over separately. 

Provocations

For Your Bookshelf: Beautiful Stuff by Cathy Topal and Lella Gandini

Beautiful StuffBeautiful Stuff: Learning Wtih Found Materials by Cathy Topal and Lella Gandini

From GoodReads: Encourage your kids to express their creativity as they discover, collect, sort, arrange, experiment, and think with found and recyclable “stuff.” The real-life experiences of teachers and children will inspire ideas that you can try at home: choose objects and turn them into a display, transform materials into a face, build and glue wood scraps to make constructions. Appropriate for children four years of age and older.

At it’s heart Beautiful Stuff is a piece of documentation. The teachers at XX began by having students collect a small bag of materials at home and bring them in. They suggested recycled materials, broken jewelry and anything the kids were drawn to.

After bringing their bags to the classroom, the kids were invited to sort the materials. This went on for some time as they sorted by color, type, and various other attributes. It was incredibly fascinating to see how the kids viewed the materials and chose to sort them. Some of their distinctions were quite impressive. Shiny objects sorted out when sorting by color, for example.

After finding a good place to scale back on sorting activities, the materials were placed in a creation corner of the room. Sorting was allowed to continue, but not as a whole class project. The class went on to make several art pieces with the materials, self portraits and wooden structures. While working on these projects they moved from one language, or medium, to another, making a line drawing of their wooden structure for example. This really got the kids to think about their process and look closely at their work. 

The book details the process and thoughts of the children and teachers. The teachers offer thoughts on what they did right, what didn’t go as they planned, and how the project evolved over the year. There are pictures of the children working, the teachers interacting, and the creations of the children. And there are plenty of quotes and summaries of what the kids said. Each chapter ends with reflection of the teachers, their thoughts on what the kids learned and what they did. 

This could certainly serve as an introduction to what project-based, Reggio-style learning looks like and how it unfolds. It can also be a manual for how to do this specific project, although I would say you may have to tweak it for your child or particular group of children. I think this is a particularly good example of how Reggio teachers introduce topics to the kids and still let them run with where the project will go. Sometimes it can seem that Reggio has no curriculum and is completely student driven, which isn’t exactly the case. 

My only complaint is that the production quality of the book is so-so. I could have stood to have better design. Some captions and text blocks were, not exactly confusing, but distracting in their placement and didn’t help the flow of the text. The pictures were clearly all taken with a flash and were often grainy and dark. It think this was in part due to the fact that they were taken on film, but I think it speaks to the importance of taking better pictures. All in all, though, this was minor and the content was so overwhelmingly excellent.  Highly recommended as a guide and as an example. 

Cool Stuff Vol.1, Issue 7

I came across this post on Happiness Is HereWhat If They Ask to Go to School? I really agree with what she says and how she turns the question around from what if they ask to go to school to what if they ask to be homeschooled? I have yet to be asked any really obnoxious questions about homeschooling when I’ve said I want to homeschool Cam (actually I’ve gotten a lot of really positive responses) but I know these arguments are out there and it’s only time before I encounter them.

I came across this video, The Mobile: A Reggio-Inspired Kindergarten Project through An Everyday Story. It’s an amazing 20 minutes that explores how a kindergarten class designed and built a mobile to hand in their school entry way. The production isn’t especially good (the music is all over the place and I found the kids reading quotes to be superflous and often distracting) but the content is awesome. It’s amazing to see these kids observe the space, suggest and collect materials, and design and create pieces. It’s worth the time to watch it. 

Here’s a great blog post about how student creativity can’t be turned on and off at the whim of a teacher. I think this is part of why I love Reggio. It infuses creativity into every aspect and there is no need to worry about turning it on when it’s time to have your weekly hour of creative thought. There are also some great ideas for helping kids be creative, particularly in classrooms, but I think the advice is applicable in home classrooms and in general.