A colleague and I were recently discussing how to best set up a classroom based on the Reggio Emilia approach so that the environment truly becomes the third teacher. In all the planning templates that I had designed to support the Early Years Framework I developed, my thoughts had been limited to making connections between what mainstream, specialist, and support staff were doing in terms of creating a fluid learning environment between classroom spaces, so when my colleague suggested the idea of taking things one step further and connecting provocations within a classroom so that the room itself became a cohesive learning environment, my reaction was two-fold: first of all, mind blown and a little disappointed that I hadn’t thought of the idea myself, and second of all, how do we make this happen in the form of a planning template that would support teachers in this endeavor? Because it can be hard enough to think about having to set out materials purposefully without the additional worry of if each defined space interconnecting in some way, so here is a proposed solution.
The above Reggio Emilia Classroom Setup template allows any teacher following the philosophy to take control of their space and preemptively ensure that each area will connect, whether or not students choose to move materials and/or how they opt to engage with them. It begins with the teacher listing the basics – what the students’ interests are, inquiries that may transpire, and a checklist to remind to teachers of classroom aesthetics. From there, it moves on to planning defined spaces by subject area using the subsequent steps:
1. Subject Description:
The teacher will briefly describe the subject area content and list any possible inquiries that may transpire.
2. Curriculum Objectives/Skills:
In this column teachers will begin by listing possible objectives and skills that could be met that both relate to student interests and subject area. Then the teacher will consider any links that could be made with other subject areas – for example, if students were interested in exploring objects found in nature, and one was thinking of having students count objects set out in order to meet Math outcomes; one could also incorporate Language Arts objectives by having students talk or write about the provided provocations.
3. Provocations & Materials:
Based on the subject area and objectives the teacher would like students to meet, the teacher would brainstorm a list of required materials. In keeping with the theme of objects found in nature, a Math related provocation may include rocks, leaves, branches, etc., along with a question that would ask students to explore counting in different ways. Although this would be the main goal, pen and paper could also be set out should students wish to write about what they are doing or draw/record their observations. In this way both Math and LA outcomes could be realized in the same area.
4. Defined Spaces:
This is where things get interesting, and the teacher would be pushed to not only think about where to create the space for Math, but to also think about a situation wherein a student moves some of the provocation materials to another area … which is a very real scenario, especially when working with children in the early years. What if some of the rocks were moved to the Art area? What if some of the branches were used when building with blocks? Could any other outcomes possibly be met?
5. Plan it Out:
With all the information at hand, the teacher would need to plan the layout of the room in a strategic manner that would allow the defined spaces to flow together and allow the movement of materials so that subject areas and outcomes have the potential to flow together seamlessly.
It goes without saying that a classroom is always in a state of continuous evolution that matches the ebb and flow of student interests and inquiries. And because of this the final column has been added for the teacher to note observations and reflect on future changes for the room.
Although this planner has been designed with a mainstream teacher in mind, is it possible to share it and involve specialists and learning support staff who also use the classroom when teaching their lessons? Why not? It can only serve to enhance the children’s learning experience!