Authentic Childhood

Experiencing Reggio Emilia in the Classroom by Susan Fraser

Collaborative Book Study and Collaborative Inquiry

Kindergarten - Theory of Action Statement

If we embed meaningful reading and writing opportunities into the play-based environment, then students will engage in more literacy experiences which will increase their self-efficacy and confidence as literate learners.

The Reggio Emilia Approach in our Own Classrooms

For a classroom to be "Reggio" inspired, the essential components include:

  • teachers who have an image of children as powerful contributors of ideas ~ competent, inventive, and full of ideas;
  • teachers who see their role more as partners with than as controllers of the children ~ moving away from the teacher-directed curriculum and towards the negotiated curriculum;
  • an environment that acts as a third teacher ~ co-created vs. commercially produced;
  • and documentation that draws everyone into the learning experiences; where thinking and learning is made visible and transparent

There were many others important components discussed in the text ~ What components resonated with you while reading?

Evolving a Shared Understanding of the Carberry Kindergarten Student

"Having a shared understanding of the Kindergarten child is essential in designing programs that are congruent with the values and beliefs of all the parents, teachers, and members of the community who are involved in the school." (Fraser, pg. 35)

We all come from different backgrounds and cultures. We all have different values. Our images of a child reflect our diversity. These differences make it difficult for teachers working with the same students to share a common vision of what a Kindergarten student is really like.

In an effort to have a shared vision, first individually reflect on your image of the Carberry Kindergarten Year 1 and Year 2 student. Create a list of characteristics that define this image. For example, are your students observers? Are they energetic? Do they investigate or explore?

Try something new! Record your ideas using a Tagxedo Word Cloud! Click on the link below. Or, use the silhouette of the child to record your ideas.

Share with the Kindergarten team, your image of the Carberry Kindergarten student.

Collaborate and reflect as a group to develop a shared understanding of the image of a Carberry Kindergarten student. List the commonly shared characteristics that define your shared and collective image.

With regards to your collaborative inquiry, do you consider the reading and writing opportunities that you have presented to your students to be applicable for the image of a Carberry Kindergarten student? Have you considered Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence theory in your planning? Moving forward, are there any changes you would make?

"Children from diverse cultural backgrounds can function very successfully in a group when the teachers hold an image of the child that values their differences and welcomes the diversity they bring to the class." (Fraser, pg. 61)

The Teacher's Role

Learning is a Shared Responsibility

Teachers collaborate with one another, with parents and their students to form a "mutual community of learners".

The Teacher's Role is to:

  • observe, document and research in an effort to bring students' thoughts and idea to fruition;
  • create an environment that acts as a third teacher in the classroom;
  • be a co-constructor of knowledge;
  • have a transparent partnership with parents;
  • provoke the students to think more deeply through provokation;
  • support social relationships in the classroom (e.g. the circle of "we")
  • listen attentively to their students and participate with students in conversations;
  • work with students as a group and support students to work together to achieve a goal;
  • welcome diversity and the variety of cultural backgrounds represented in a classroom.

Setting the Stage for Productive Communication With Students

1. Examine your physical space. Is it conducive for quiet communication or communication between small groups of students?

2. Do you make time to listen to your students' conversations and record them?

3. Do you enable children to make their thinking visible?

4. Do you make time to discuss observations with your team, reflect and plan for future action?

Evaluating Your Relationships With Your Students' Families

"The initial contact that families have with the school will set the tone for future relationships between home and school." (Fraser, pg. 84)

Reflect on how you have developed relationships with your students' families this year.

Ask yourselves:

  1. How do you make families feel welcome?
  2. How do you communicate clear expectations?
  3. How do you provide parents with information about their children in your program?
  4. How do you involve families in your program?
  5. How do you utilize the cultures and value systems represented in your classroom?

Discuss your experiences with your Kindergarten team. As you move forward, what will you rethink, repeat, replace, or remove with regards to fostering relationships with your families?

How have you communicated your Collaborative Inquiry to your students and their families?

The Environment as the Third Teacher

"A classroom that is functioning successfully as a third teacher will be responsive to the children's interests, provide opportunities for children to make their thinking visible, and then foster further learning and engagement." (Fraser, pg. 67)

With regards to your classroom environment, reflect on the values that are at the core of your work with young children (e.g. authenticity as a core value - using real objects in a kitchen vs. plastic models of food and utensils).

Make a list of ideas you value (e.g. aesthetics, safety, light) and feel passionate about (e.g. reading, nature, arts).

Share with your Kindergarten team. Do you have anything in common? Make a list of those values that you have in common.

Questions to consider:

  1. Does the environment support and honour our shared image of the Carberry Kindergarten student?
  2. How well does the classroom reflect the values we have identified as important to us?
  3. What overall messages does the classroom convey to children, parents and other visitors?

To create an environment that acts as a third teacher a number of principles must be addressed. They are:

  • Aesthetics - inviting, light filled, orderly spaces
  • Active Learning - stimulating environment, many choices, provokes engagement and exploration
  • Collaboration - allows for space to help children learn skills for working with others in groups
  • Transparency - the importance that light plays; how it is used in playful ways; a metaphor for communication in the form of documentation that informs others
  • Bringing the outdoors in - adding natural materials to the classroom
  • Flexibility - with space, time; where materials are no longer segregated
  • Relationship - objects are shown in relation to other materials; documentation demonstrating the relationship between what children are doing and theories that provide the rationale for the experience
  • Reciprocity - open to change and responsive to the students, parents, community

With regards to your collaborative inquiry, how effective is your classroom environment as the third teacher? Use the principles above to assess its' effectiveness. What elements of the environment would you repeat, replace, rethink, or remove?

Read Joanne Bablis' blog to understand how she captures her transformations in kindergarten programming, professional practice and the environment as the 3rd teacher. Joanne is a Kindergarten teacher with the York District School Board.


"Documentation is the visible trace of the process that children and teachers engage in during their investigations together." (Fraser, pg. 141)

Documentation makes student's thinking visible and the learning transparent. It allows teachers to keep track of the learning that occurs in the classroom through the use of written observations, photographs, conversations and representations. It allows students and teachers to revisit the learning. It provides teachers with a platform to discuss learning with other colleagues and to plan for further action.

"Pedagogical documentation provides educators with a forum for engaging in dialogue and negotiation about pedagogical work." (Fraser. pg. 142)

Documentation can take the form of a portfolio or a wall panel.

Final documentation identifies:

  • the topic
  • the purpose
  • descriptions of the process of learning
  • records of the experiences and voices of the students
  • student's work
  • analysis of the experience
  • future work ideas
  • concluding statement

The Documentation Process includes:

  1. Making Observations
  2. Interpreting Observations
  3. Analyzing the Documentation

Discuss with your Kindergarten team:

1. How do you make your students' learning visible in your classroom?

2. How have you documented the meaningful learning in reading and writing activities that have occurred in your collaborative inquiry work?

3. What tools and techniques will be needed to document the next set of observations and experiences? How will these be organized? How will the parents and community be involved?

Pedagogical Documentation, a new LNS monograph which speaks to "visible listening" or the pedagogy of listening and supports our observational practice in the Early Years.

Nikki Madgett, Early Literacy Teacher