The Reggio Emilia Approach


The Reggio Emilia Approach derives its name from its place of origin, Reggio Emilia, a city located in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy. Shortly after the Second World War, Loris Malaguzzi, a young teacher and the founder of this unique system, joined forces with the parents of this region to provide care. The layout of the physical space in the school encourages encounters, communication, and relationships. The arrangement of structures, objects, and activities encourages choices

The educators of Reggio Emilia view the school as a living organism, a place of shared relationships among the children, the teachers, and the parents. The school produces for the adults but, above all, for the children, a feeling of belonging in a world that is alive, welcoming, and authentic (Malaguzzi, 1994, p. 58).

The Environment as the Third Teacher

The teacher is a researcher guiding children's experiences. Each child will bring a unique character and personality to school. This will play a major role in how the child interacts with the teacher and interprets learning experiences. Therefore, the teacher acts as a learner alongside the child. Teachers carefully listen, observe, and document children's work. In the classroom, teachers provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking as children work on projects. 

The Teacher

The Reggio Emilia philosophy believes children have a natural curiosity to learn with unlimited potential. Children will make their own theories in an effort to explain how the world functions. Reggio Emilia practitioners believe that each child creates his or her own learning experience through direct interaction with his or her environment. Allowing children to build their own foundations means that intelligence is not memorized but created.

Children are challenged with trying to communicate their emotions and expressions of how they understand their surroundings. They are individuals with their own thoughts, emotions, and expressions. These expressions are represented in the children's many languages: drawing, painting, sculpture, shadow play, dramatic play, and music.

The Child

for young children. Their focus was dedicated to respecting the rights of children.  This was accomplished by listening to the children and observing their interactions with their surroundings. 
, problem-solving, and discoveries in the process of learning. In preparing the space, teachers offer the possibility for children to be with the teachers and many of the other children, or with just a few of the children, or even alone. Teachers are aware, however, that children also learn from their peers, especially when they can interact in small groups (Gandini, 1993, p. 6).


One of the highlights that often first attracts educators to the Reggio Approach is its emphasis on complex, long-term exploration of projects. The projects undertaken by Reggio educators may derive from both children’s and teacher’s ideas and interests, from the thoughts and theories on things worth knowing about from both groups. Teachers often work on projects with a small group of children while the rest of the classroom continues to involve itself in other self-selected activities and explorations.

The Importance of Documentation

Documentation is a key element in the Reggio Approach. Documentation serves many purposes; most of all, it is used as a research tool for studying children’s learning processes. Documentation concerns what children are doing, learning, and grasping, and the product of documentation is a reflection of interactions between teachers and children and among the children themselves. Documentation, because it is done on a daily basis, is a medium through which teachers discuss curriculum, keeping it fluid and emergent, and develop a rational for its course. It provides a growing theory for daily practice (Seong Bock Hong, 1998, p. 51).

Documenting children’s daily experiences and ongoing projects gives meaning and identity to all that the children do. It is through the documentation that the teachers are able to gain insight into the thoughts of the children, determine further investigation for working on topics, create a history of the work, and generate further interest.

Reggio teachers are skilled observers of children. If a teacher observes closely, she can see the intelligence on a child’s face. On a daily basis, teachers collect data via notes, recordings of conversations between children, and video taping of events and activities related to project work or  during classroom time. She watches what children are doing and saying and how materials are being used. The documentation is then used to analyze children’s understanding and thoughts; it is revisited by the teachers and children together. This revisiting process provides children with the opportunity to discover their own questions and problems and to determine, together, what the next steps could be. In the process of revisiting, children's theories and understanding grows. Also, in the revisiting process they collect more data and information which enhances the work. Documentation of work in progress is made visible on large panels throughout the classroom, thereby keeping the memory of the work vivid and alive.   


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