Wednesday 7th of May, 2014
In an emergent programme like ours, children are always in charge of their education journey – they decide what they’re interested in, and together with teachers, co-construct their knowledge experiences. Of course, with an unorthodox approach to learning (i.e. without a standard curriculum), parents are always concerned of their children’s progress.
Over here at The Garden House Preschool where we adopt a Reggio-inspired teaching methodology, getting our children ready for big school is a priority and as counter-intuitive as it sounds, children don’t need a formal curriculum to learn fundamentals like their alphabets and their numbers! Although these concepts aren’t directly taught in an emergent curriculum, the skills are learnt and encouraged through experiences like water play, garden play, storytelling, and even role play.
The Reggio environment (i.e. our school) is set up in a way that always encourages the natural curiosity of children. We carefully construct our space to resemble a ‘third teacher’ – as a place that will inspire and engage exploration. For instance, we incorporate literacy props like alphabet blocks in all our classrooms. Writing and reading utensils like letter stamps, crayons, and stencils are available for children to use at all times, and we have labels throughout the school (on cubby holes, artwork on walls etc.).
Recently we’ve also implemented some other ways that encourage literacy among children, like signing in and out with their names when they arrive and leave. We have story-telling everyday where children develop an understanding of how phonemes make words. This way they learn their alphabets meaningfully rather than through a sequential approach.
Other ways of using the Reggio approach to literacy include using books to direct experiences, like writing invitations to a pretend party, or providing dramatic play opportunities and props that are literacy-rich. At home you can pretend to go grocery shopping with a shopping list or write and mail letters within the house.
Numeracy is another important concept that we introduce to our children through authentic experiences. Water play allows children to explore measurements by experimenting with different-sized bottles, which they can fill or empty to learn about liquid measurements, or group and arrange by shape and size for their first encounter with geometry. Similarly, gardening can be used to develop an understanding of shapes, sizes, and patterns (with leaves). Children discover length measurements through activities like digging e.g. “how deep does the hole need to be to plant this seed?” Even playing with sand can help with the learning of division when children divide sand equally between different containers.
Our teachers are strong believers in the Reggio approach, so they have experience in documenting the learning progress of children, which helps us understand where a child’s interests lies and how we can use that to further enhance their knowledge experiences. Like all good things, learning isn’t an overnight thing, but learning through these ways will help ensure a lifelong love for learning too. All the better to tackle those teenage years!