At St. Augustine School, our fine arts mandate is complemented by a teaching philosophy inspired by the Reggio Emilia practice, which is an educational approach originated from Europe. As we live in a different culture, with a provincially mandated curriculum, we take the four key principles of Reggio and apply them to our teaching at St. Augustine School.
There are four main tenets of the Reggio philosophy that inspire our work:
1. Image of the Child
All of our work with students is based on our “image of the child”. Individually and as a staff, we need to continually examine and reflect upon ‘our image of the child’. We continually strive to have this image reflected in our teaching and learning, our space and in our relationships. At the core of our philosophy, we believe children are curious, intelligent, capable, imaginative, trustworthy, creative, investigators and constructivists of their own understanding. We also believe that children come to the classroom with their own knowledge, experience, beliefs, theories, cultures and wonderings. Each student is unique and has many contributions to offer to our school community. Our role is to fully KNOW our students in order to successfully engage them while facilitating the learning process. Some things to consider as you reflect on your ‘image of the child’:
- How do I define my ‘image of the child’?
- How do my beliefs about our students guide my interactions with my students, relationships with their parents and with my colleagues, teaching style, curricular planning, and assessment practice?
- If I believe that EACH child is unique, how can I differentiate my teaching practice to support my students’ individual needs?
Our school environment reflects the “image of the child”. The space in which we work is sometimes unchangeable, however, the ‘environment’ we create, is part of our work. It is the way we it dress up, live in, organize and define our space to best reflect the learning needs of our students. As teachers, we create classroom environments that respond to the needs of our students. Some things to consider as you create your classroom environment:
- Are there are tables or work areas with communal supplies to foster our collaborative work and sense of community?
- Depending on the classroom and students, could soft music be played to harmonize the senses and focus student attention?
- Are there displays of natural objects to bring the outdoors in and to stimulate the curiosity and senses of the children?
- Is there a pleasing, organized, uncluttered and calm aesthetic that helps create an environment conducive to the children working at their best?
- Are bulletin boards neutralized so that their purpose is to display and honor the students’ work?
- Is there space to display and document student learning so that it can be honored and shared with the community?
3. Make Student Learning Visible (Documentation)
Good documentation of student work begins with good observation of student work. As teachers, we are keenly trained to observe our students learning, to assess the process and product of their work. We document the chronological steps of learning by gathering student evidence and artifacts so that we can further reflect on their needs and inform our future planning. It can help us illuminate student thinking, content learned or not learned, the evolution of behavior, questioning, maturity of responses and opinions. How do we make student learning visible?
- Create documentation panels that capture the learning process
- Record student learning through videos, photos, scribing comments, etc.
- Reflect on and analyze the collection of artifacts from student learning
- Display student and teacher work with intent of honor and celebration. Documentation panels should be well organized, neutral (without colorful teacher-borders), with accompanying written observations and reflections, photos, etc.
The message to our students is that their work is valued and important.
4. Inquiry-Based Learning through the Arts
Inquiry learning is a reflection of the “image of the child”. We listen with intent to students and combine their interests and wonderings with the academic and fine arts curriculum to create inquiry-based learning. This type of learning is engaging, meaningful and purposeful. It can take considerable planning to weave the arts into core material, but research clearly demonstrates that this cross-curricular process enhances deeper understanding so that students construct their learning with greater meaning. Some things to consider when planning for inquiry-based learning:
- What curriculum concepts need to be addressed?
- Which strategies/techniques are most effective in teaching the students? Which strategies would engage their learning and help them with making meaningful connections?
- What aspects of the arts will be used for the cross-curricular learning and WHY?
- What are the BIG ideas and or questions for your curriculum area?
- How will you assess student learning and make it visible?
Children have one hundred languages (many ways to express their learning) and we are here to accompany them in their journey. Children learn in many different ways and we try to incorporate as many of those ways as possible.