Advocacy

100 Languages of Children: The Beauty of Reggio

The Hundred Languages

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

Reggio by far has been one of my favorite progressive genres.  I love that it serves as a model for reflecting the children and community into its methods.  Respectful relationships, beautiful environments, and child centered practices are just a couple things that sell me on this genre of education.  The above poem sums up a lot of what is crucial for every child on a daily basis.  Children deserve to be heard and it is all to often that their needs and desires are neglected for an adult agenda.  When is the last time you let a child share one of their hundred languages?

For more Reggio resources check out:

http://www.reggiochildren.it/identita/reggio-emilia-approach/?lang=en

http://reggioalliance.org/

http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Studio-Learning-Childhood-Education/dp/080774591X/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1411279979&sr=8-10&keywords=reggio

http://www.branchesatelier.com/

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Childhood Joy and Preservation

Getting My Mind Into Studio Work (Part I of Studying Implementing “Studio” in Preschool)

ALPOE 257

My absence in blogging often happens when I am in “Seeker” mode.  You know, looking and learning about a particular topic.  Well I am in deep seeker mode… hence the hiatus.  I feel as if I am in this deep learning curve of how to manage, how to grow as and EC educator, and what can I learn from those rich and intense topics such as war play, social dynamics, partnering with families, and studio work.  Then it occurred to me “why am I not writing about this!”.  After all it would help me learn and reflect.  So here it is!  My first series of “seeker” mode blogging.  I don’t have the thumb on these topics.  I might not have the answers.  I am exploring!  I am perfecting my practice and journey.  I am sharing my highs and lows.  This series of “studio” work was inspired by me looking for help with ideas for growing as a “studio” practitioner and realizing nobody has anything out there!  In defense of that, much of the practice of studio comes from Reggio and Reggio honors that children’s work comes from the community of the children, school, environment, culture, and families.  Rock on!  I believe that too!  So I have the same fear!  What if I post a picture and someone says “I want to copy that!”  even if it has no context in their environment?  But, I am letting go of that fear.  Copy away!  But when your studio crashes and burns and the root source of why is because the children were not interested I do not want the blame to fall here – that is on you – do not copy the ideas that come from my community!  – be inspired not blue printed by these posts!  And finally ………………………….. We start:

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Putting My Mind into Studio Work (Part I of studio study)

PREGAME

Selecting a topic and group:

I know that it is time for me to plan a studio with a specific group of children when I find myself wishing I could go deeper with a concept or stage a better provocation for the children when working with them in the classroom or play yard. ALPOE 025

 Example:

While playing with the children and the water sprayers by the river the concept of what “water pressure” is came up.  This is a deep and complicated concept that they were very interested in.  However, they were asking what was making the sprayers hard to pull for filling when it was not that hard to push and spray them.  Some of the children understood that it was the water pulling up into the device that made this tricky.  After gathering many language clips of what they thought it was and why they were curious about this (as well as the children asking what it is called when this happens) I shared that it was called water pressure.  I also realized that this is a concept that needed more hands on exploration.  This marks for me that a studio is needed.

 

Sometimes I may not find that the idea for a studio comes while working with the children but later when I am reflecting upon my notes from the day.  If I find a reoccurring interest in my book from several children that could be expanded upon I know that it is time for a studio.

 

Example:  While looking through my notes I discovered that many children were pretending to make soup in the play yard and at the play kitchen.  They were discussing flavors, helping serve fellow playmates, and debating ingredients.  This prompted me to stage a soup making “Language of Food” studio with these children. 

 

When selecting my “Language of Food” children I also was attentive to who I was mixing into the group; I wanted to allow this to be a chance to build friendships and practice social skills.  Sometimes this will be a secondary purpose to studio and other times this will be my primary reason for staging a studio.  

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When choosing children for studio I am aware of the balance of children.  A studio must be intimate and staged for deep exploration.  I will choose 4 to 6 depending on how many are interested and who is in the mix.  The “who” is important – I need the balance to allow for social growth and problem solving so I may choose children that would benefit from working together more, even if they seem to have conflict in the play yard or classroom.  However, if this is going to hinder studio from having any positive forward movement and my whole time will be spent in management mode then I know I need to choose a different mix.  It is not to say that it is important to bring all children into studio – of course that is a must!  But I can make sure that the opportunity for conflict in a studio will provide growth the children and not unrest.

Sometimes studio happens just to bring the children in and let them try out an area.  If there are a group of children that have been asking to build then maybe they need some time in the construction area.  Sometimes a child is running behind my group and wanting to come in and if I can allow for the set-up of materials to include them then I go for it!  It makes me nervous because it was not in my plan but it leaves room to grow for me and the children – and often surprises me to see what happens. 

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Staging:

When staging my studio I think of every aspect.  Each choice I make is with intention.  Things I consider when staging:

·         What provocation will I use? (a story, a book, a picture, etc).

·         Is the provocation meaningful or real enough?

·         How many materials do I want out?

·         What is the purpose of my studio and do my materials fit this purpose?

·         Are there enough materials for everyone?

·         Do I want my materials to inspire collaborative work or individual work? 

·         If my materials are for individual work what language and open ended prompts will I use to encourage social connections?

·         How many of the materials are REAL objects (e.g. tools, natural, foods, etc.)?

·         How many materials allow for independence and how many will need my assistance? (I want few to need me unless I am teaching them to use a new prop or tool.  I want the ideas and work to be their own).

·         Does my set up look organized, inviting, and aesthetically pleasing?

·         Are there multiple purposes and open ended opportunities?

·         Is the studio set up in a way that the children can lead the experience and not single purposed?

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Before I bring the children over I look at my set up and try to play out the potential scenario in my head.  I think about whether the set up will work for this potential and if there is everything needed in the area (this is when I might catch an oops! – I guess I need some water for soup making).  This play through allows me to consider things that will trip me up when working with the children. 

I take a deep breath before scooping the children up and realize that not every studio will be a success.  The staging may not work for the children, the mix may not work like I thought, and the provocation may not fit the interest as I thought…

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Kick Off

During studio I introduce the provocation and materials.

This is also when I set expectations for safety and what some choices might be.

 

Questions I may ask during studio:

·         What is your idea?

·         What is happening?

·         How do you feel?

 

·         Tell me more about…

·         What do you notice about…

·         What is your favorite… (and tell me why)

·         What do you think about…

·         I wonder…

·         Sometimes I just play off of their wonderings by repeating what they asked or asking a follow up question about one of their observations (e.g. Wow!  Johnny noticed that this tomato was orange, I thought we just said tomatoes were red?). 

 

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I try to keep the conversation open ended and continuous.  I want the children to share as many ideas they have and go deeper with their seeking of answers.

I try not to give the answers to them but put questions back at them with another question:

          I don’t know.  What do you think?

          Corey wants to know how the seeds got in the tomato.  Does anyone have an idea?

 

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Post Game

When documenting a studio I remember that the experience is most important.  I know it is more important how they come to know something than what they know.  The information they can share is important but how did each child come to know something is true is more important.  Process comes before product. September ALPOE 2013 203

I find it best to keep my hands free (so that I can help and engage with the children) with a recorder or live-scribe pen for audio.  I also have a notebook handy for quick notes and my camera.  I know that I will need to revisit these documentations so that I can reflect upon what the children explored, discovered, and want to know next. 

Studio is a process and I invite every educator to join the joyful journey of engaging children in the rich and intimate experience of studio work.  Join me in my blog series of studying preschool studio work.

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Childhood Joy and Preservation, The How To Dos, What is progressive?

Not because I said so…

classroom 148Standards, checkpoints, milestones, learning objectives, etc…  Our education system is framed around goals and expectations that children are pushed to meet at certain age/grade levels.  As educators we are told to scaffold development and differentiate instruction to meet children’s needs.  However, there is also a push to ensure a child meets a set of standards by the end of a school year – despite the fact that meeting a learner on his or her level is important.  When asking No Pro followers what is challenging in the teaching arena – the response is clear “fighting the urge to do xyz because kids who are six are supposed to do xyz”.  But, who defines XYZ?  As educators we need to find resources that guide us to accurately define what XYZ should be.  This is difficult because our surrounding teaching peers, traditional teaching arenas, and state/federal recommendations may send the message that a child should be able to perform at a certain level along a certain timeline.  The first step to feeling comfortable about allowing children to grow at their own pace (no matter what XYZ states) is to back yourself up with research.  Research allows educators to feel confident about the decisions they already know are the right ones – and back these decisions up with powerful evidence.  Decisions made based on Developmentally Appropriate Practice and educator based research is more solid than following XYZ because the standards and cookie cutter assessment tools said so.

What research is out there that supports children growing at their own pace?

Developmentally Appropriate Practice

In the 3rd Edition of “Developmentally Appropriate Practice” Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp define excellent teachers as educators whom recognize that “learning goals are usually identified for groups of children within a given age span.  But, teachers must determine where each child is in relation to a goal and
adjust their teaching accordingly” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).  As educators, we know our children best.  We can gauge what experiences a child is ready for, asking for, and interested in.  A manual or checklist of standards can not tell us what capabilities each individual child is ready to achieve or not.  Cookie cutter checklist leave out critical contextual factors such as environment, culture, and emotional development.  Developmentally appropriate practice is having a knowledge of how typical whole child development progresses and combining it with the ability of individualizing it to each child and classroom.

Language of the Wolves

Lisa Murphy the Ooey Gooey Lady provides educators with a document “What to Say When the Wolves Come Knocking” (http://www.ooeygooey.com/handouts/generalwolf.pdf) that empowers teachers with vocabulary that helps defend play practices.  This document will provide a tool box for sharing how play is learning.  Sometimes meeting a child where they are is about taking what they choose to work on – documenting it and translating that documentation into what benefits, developmental stages, and standards are being met during their explorations.

Children Know What they Need

Alfie Kohn shares the importance of considering what children know and want to know:

Taking kids seriously: In traditional schooling, as John Dewey once remarked, “the center of gravity is outside the child”:  he or she is expected to adjust to the school’s rules and curriculum. Progressive educators take their cue from the children — and are particularly attentive to differences among them. (Each student is unique, so a single set of policies, expectations, or assignments would be as counterproductive as it was disrespectful.) The curriculum isn’t just based on interest, but on these children’s interests. Naturally, teachers will have broadly conceived themes and objectives in mind, but they don’t just design a course of study for their students; they design it with them, and they welcome unexpected detours. One fourth-grade teacher’s curriculum, therefore, won’t be the same as that of the teacher next door, nor will her curriculum be the same this year as it was for the children she taught last year. It’s not enough to offer elaborate thematic units prefabricated by the adults. And progressive educators realize that the students must help to formulate not only the course of study but also the outcomes or standards that inform those lessons -(Kohn, 2008).

The following link provides more information from Kohn about how progressive education caters to learning with children and not pushing them to be a part of a system that does not fit them individually: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/progressive.htm.

When the Time is Right

Take a page from Waldorf.  Waldorf education waits until about third grade to introduce academics in a structured format.  It is not to say that the children are not intellectually challenged but their childhood is preserved in their younger years.  Concepts are introduced through rich play, story telling, and artistically expressive experiences.  Whether you adopt the entire Waldorf premise it is important to consider that Waldorf has a large following and history.  If Waldorf’s school of thought supports children being children and allowing children to be introduced to concepts “when the time is right” and these children have grown successfully as a whole child ( including academically) in society then why are public schools removing play from the early years?  Why is the focus of elementary education (and now pushing into early childhood) on XYZ by a certain age?

What are you trading?

Finally consider – If you are pushing your child or student to achieve XYZ what ABC are you sacrificing.  In other words consider that some children are great readers at 4.  A rare find.  But, most fluent readers at this age are lacking something else.  Often they are not internalizing the story and lack comprehension skills.  But, even more prominent in young prodigy readers we see a need for social skills to be more developed (cooperation, empathy, socialization).  So these young readers can translate the text into speech but they fail to be able to work in a reading group.  This is only one example.  But, stop and think if XYZ is pushed before its time what ABC is being sacrificed – what part of childhood are we asking children to give up so that they can be academic superstars.