As we continue to explore the concept of teaching with a Reggio Emilia imprint, we are beginning to recognize that part of this exploration involves a sense of letting go of control. Today Ms. Lovett, my right hand, had to go home with a fever, and suddenly Choice time was of necessity much more open-ended. Usually our Choice time involves a choice or two that is teacher-directed, a task that we are asking the children to work through. Often this is an ABC clinic job (such as an activity to help the children to develop a recognition of sight words), or it could be a math activity that we want them to accomplish in small groups. Today, however, Choice time was, of necessity, much more student driven. There were several activities to choose from, including working on our Wampanoag village scene, drawing our pumpkin in detail, exploring the light table with black light materials from the show we saw at Imaginon last week, and creating a name tower to use in math workshop tomorrow. Magic happened, however, when one of our children asked if she could develop an activity.
This young friend asked if she could make a collage table for her friends. When asked what she would need, she was very clear—she would need paper, scissors, glue, and some of the tubs of “stuff” that we collected earlier in the year. We set up a table with all of her materials, and then set to work. Her table was full of creativity for our entire choice time, as children moved freely throughout the room with many of her friends selecting her table as an option during their time. Everyone did their “job” of creating a name stick with sticky dots labeling each letter in his/her name, Kate and Gabrielle worked on the Wampanoag village, Maggie and friends worked with the pumpkin, and Tristan and Amani were engrossed with the black light table. Back to the collage table, one child created the Eiffel Tower using puff balls and another used every material available to make a picture of her dog and doghouse. As all of this was going on, other children were writing books to give to their friends, making labels for their block buildings.
This feels like juggling, putting all of our balls in the air, hoping they will stay airborne but knowing that if one falls we’ll pick it up and keep on going. As teachers it can be hard to give up knowing exactly where each activity is headed, and we often feel the need to have a distinct beginning and ending to feel that we have had the impact we have hoped for. Often, however, the learning is a process that is evolving, and it takes more than one experience to develop a clear understanding. Much like our constructivist approach to reading and writing, this “letting go” provides the children with the same constructivist vision we offer in other activities in their days with us. As teachers we are watching, observing, pondering the ways in which we can stretch these children as learners of life. Just as we use the reading and writing of the children as we plan our next course of experiences, so we can use this close look at our children as they explore the world of choice time. When we look at our children’s writing following Writer’s Workshop, we may notice they need a closer look at how to leave spaces between words. During reading we may notice that our little ones need to check the beginning sounds of the words they are reading. Looking at choice time provides us with the same opportunity to shape the experiences of our children in ways that are beneficial to their growth. We can set the stage and then let the children explore, and often they will make discoveries that we haven’t even dreamed of. This is a part of Reggio, as we look for the interests of the children and do our best to help them as they fulfill their vision.
With our Science Buddies our vision is evolving. We have begun to announce the temperature each Monday at Greet the Week and are recording this on a bulletin board in the hallway. We have done rubbings of leaves and other signs of fall that we have observed in the courtyard. We’ll meet together on Thursday to plan our “wonderings” and things we would like to learn about life in our courtyard. This is a way for our school to explore our K-8 identity as well as to become careful observers of the life around us. Our job as educators is to document what we see as well as to provide these learners with the tools they will need to fulfill their vision.