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The Third Teacher

The Reggio Emilia Approach: Creating a Student-Centered Classroom 



When thinking back on my experiences in school, there are a few classroom environments that are memorable to me and these were always the classes that I felt most welcomed in. One classroom setting that especially sticks out to me is my high school English classroom. The teacher had glow in the dark stars on the ceiling, a wall of fame where we could write inspiring sentiments or a kind act that one of our classmates did and there was a reading nook with cozy chairs. Additionally, the teacher always had inspirational quotes, lines of poetry and images of inspirational artists and authors hanging on the walls. I remember feeling so at ease in the classroom and like I was truly part of the learning environment. Although the factors that made this environment welcoming may be slightly too mature for a primary or junior classroom I can take the main ideas and format them to meet the needs of younger students. I want to have warm, welcoming lights, inspirational images and quotes, a wall of fame and students’ Artwork hung all over the room to make the environment as welcoming as possible.


Prior to my experiences at teacher’s college I did not realize the immense impact that the outdoors has as an extension of the third teacher. The outdoor classroom is just as important as the indoor classroom and can be used for meaningful learning, not just play. On my upcoming placement as well as when I have my own classrooms I hope to take the children outside as much as possible to see how life grows, to use the scenery as inspiration for Art or poetry and to get exercise and fresh air. 


The Reggio Emilia approach has also taught me that a welcoming and effective classroom environment goes far beyond aesthetics - it is also about active learning, collaboration, relationships and reciprocity. I am excited to make a classroom environment that encourages student curiosity and includes many sensory experiences but also one that changes and grows as my students progress in their learning. I want to create opportunities for my students to have a voice in how their classroom looks, which will empower their learning. One challenge I may face when creating the classroom environment is the finding a balance between pleasing the students and their guardians while also setting the room up in a way that functional and practical for me as an educator. The Reggio Emilia approach has taught me that the classroom needs to reflect the value of the educators but also the students and their community - I am sure I will face challenges in this aspect, but with experience I will definitely be able to find the perfect balance.

Before entering teacher’s college I was unaware of how important the classroom environment is to students’ learning. This video on the Reggio Emilia teaching approach opened my eyes to the importance of a child-centered classroom (especially in early childhood education). I will certainly carry many of the ideas from this video with me as I create the environment in my future classrooms. The environment as the third teacher means creating a classroom where learning is enhanced by visual thinking and through student interaction with their environment. Students should feel comfortable and safe in the classroom and most importantly should be able to learn through the materials in the classroom without teacher intervention. 

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