Reggio Emilia Conference

October 26-28 I attended a Reggio Emilia conference in Denver, CO. I work in a Reggio Emilia inspired preschool and attended the conference to visit a well-established Reggio inspired school in Boulder, CO and an exhibit. (For anyone unfamiliar with the Reggio Emilia approach, the idea comes from the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Much of the approach focuses on “The Hundred Languages of Children” or the many ways children can express thoughts and ideas and explore their world. Marjorie helped me make the connection between Dyson’s work with multi-modal literacies and The Hundred Languages of Children. If you are interested in more info on the Reggio approach, I have a couple of great books.)

The exhibit I visited, “The Wonder of Learning-The Hundred Languages of Children,” was made in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and began its touring of the US in Boulder, CO, early in the summer. The exhibit documents several inspiring projects completed by children in Reggio schools. As I looked at each project, I really began to connect much of what we have read and spoken about in class to the Reggio approach. Each project included many modes of learning. For example, one portion of the exhibit documented children’s exploration of sound. The children noticed sounds their shoes were making as they went down a stairwell. The children described the sounds to the teachers. Then, the children drew the sounds they heard as their friends went down the stairs. The children then recorded the sounds made by their shoes. They downloaded the recorded sounds to computers and composed a piece with all their recordings. It was amazing to me that what started as a simple task of going down stairs, generated interest and many different ways to explore sound.

Another portion of the exhibit documented one group of children’s writing. The exhibit showed several papers with one letter written on each. Each letter was written in a different way (size, shape, color, and font were all different). Next to each letter was a description of what the child said after writing the letter. For example, one paper had a fancy looking ‘A’ with a scrolling base and gold and silver dots forming the letter. The description next to it read, “It’s an ‘A’ in a wedding dress getting married.” Another paper had one very tiny ‘s’ written in the center of a paper. The description next to it read, “It’s a shy ‘s.'” As a pre-k teacher, it was amazing to me the stories and thought that went into the formation of the letters.


4 responses to “Reggio Emilia Conference

  1. I love the idea of personifying letters. As a kindergarten teacher, I do a lot of work with children around the alphabet. We have made alphabet books with pictures that start with that letter (A/apple, etc.) but it would be so much fun to make alphabet books where the children give characteristics to the letters!

    I typically teach children the “standard form” of writing a letter. But in children’s books, different authors use a variety of different fonts. Children need to be able to recognize letters that may look a little different. One example that comes to mind is a lowercase a. Children are taught one way of writing a lowercase a, but while reading leveled books, the letter a is usually the one that appears on our computer keyboards. Another example that comes to mind is in fairy tales. My students always point out the large first letter of a fairy tale story.

    In my classroom, I often give my children the font sorts that are found in Words Their Way. Children sort two or three letters that are written in different fonts.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! This sounds like such an interesting conference and approach to teaching pre-school children. Both the sound and alphabet projects seem to encourage children to be observant and thoughtful in their wonderings about the world. For example, the analysis and recording of the footsteps brought the children’s attention to everyday details such as footstep sounds. Also, by exploring the alphabet through artistic expression, the children were attending to the details of each letter.

    On a different note, the alphabet art project reminds me of the poem “Vowels” by Arthur Rimbaud who wrote in French and lived from 1854 to 1891. Although this poem is not necessarily for children, it connects each vowel to interesting imagery. Here is an excerpt of my favorite images from “Vowels”:

    E, candor of steam and of tents, / Lances of proud glaciers …

    U, cycles, divine vibrations of dark green oceans, / peacefulness of pastures dotted with animals, / the peace of wrinkles…

    O, supreme trumpet, full of strange harsh sounds…

  3. That sounds like it was an interesting conference! Having been inspired by the Reggio Approach for many years myself, I always imagined how amazing it would be to actually attend one of their exhibitions (rather than just read about them). I’m sure you enjoyed every bit of it.

    I too noticed many connections between Dyson’s writings and that of Reggio’s approach to multimodal representation. This is a topic of great importance to me since I come from an education system that leans heavily on standardized tests that are biased towards students with better reading/writing skills. In fact, I am currently in the process of designing a curriculum for rural India that incorporates an approach towards multiple modes of representation, in line with the ideas of Dyson, Reggio and Gardener.

    Apart from this, reading your posting made me think about the teachers at Reggio and how they have brought the act of documentation down to an art form. The seriousness with which they take their role as researchers can be seen in exhibitions and conferences like the one you attended. I think this is an important piece of learning for us to take from them, as teachers.

    Finally, I have always wondered how the Reggio Approach, with its heavy emphasis on an emergent curriculum, might work in a school that is required to meet specific standards and guidelines set by the State. Is your school accountable to meeting such requirements? If so, how do you balance an emergent curriculum with the State requirements?

  4. thecapablechild

    I realize this post is a few years old, but I thought I would ask anyway. I might be moving to the Denver area this year and am looking for a Reggio-inspired preschool for my daughter. I taught at Evergreen Community School in Santa Monica which is a really brilliant constructivist school and I am very eager to find something at least along the same lines in Denver. You mentioned working at a reggio-inspired school, can you recommend it?

    Thanks so much,

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