Since the 2016-2017 school year, we have collaborated to bring Reggio-inspired* teaching and learning to the Kindergarten students in Jen’s class at Bensley Elementary School. We have instituted time for open exploration, inquiry and learning through play, as well as a daily Writer’s Workshop. We are also exploring ways of sustaining and growing the children’s sense of ownership of their learning, children’s use of symbolic languages like drawing, painting and constructing, to support verbal language (and vice versa), and students’ positive disposition toward inquiry throughout the day while meeting state and district assessment requirements. The children in this pilot program have shown remarkable progress not only in the usually-assessed skills and content but also in the less quantifiable but lasting qualities of learners. The children in Jen’s class want to come to school. They form a caring community of learners with members that support each other without prompting. They learn what feeds their intellects and make decisions every day about how to spend their time. They develop the executive functions of planning, following through, reflecting, and controlling impulses so that important work can continue. They learn how to engage in dialogue for problem-solving and co-constructing theory about how the world works. They use multiple languages to make their ideas visible, from paper construction to collaborative murals. Those visible languages support the children's verbal language.
Our collaboration is continuing and expanding into this school year to deepen the practice and to expand outside the walls of Room 201. Though this blog began as Jen’s documentation of the children’s process, it has recently evolved into a collaborative effort, for the sake of teacher research as well as involving parents, teachers, and administrators in the teaching and learning that goes on in Room 201.
Who We Are
Jen Miller, M.Ed., has been teaching since she was 21 years of age. After graduating from James Madison University, she returned to Falls Church where she had grown up, to teach in her community. At the time, she knew that she needed more tools in my book bag of knowledge to help each of her students reach his or her fullest potential. So, she returned to get a Masters Degree from George Mason University in Multicultural Education (ESOL) and from The University of Virginia in Reading. During her time in Falls Church, she was fortunate to be trained in a year long program through Ohio State called Literacy Collaborative under Fountas and Pinnell. Literacy is where her passion lies. She has taught Pre-K through 4th grade and no matter the age, reading and writing is what sparks creativity and conversation and change. At every age, it is exciting!
She had experienced a Reggio-inspired education first-hand when her daughters were in Junior Kindergarten and she read about their experiences in the daily blog post. She loved how and what her children learned and, when she moved to Kindergarten in 2016-2017, she vowed to bring it to the Bensley Kindergartners as well. When Pam, newly retired from the classroom, offered to help out during the first days of school, she asked if she would also help me learn about teaching using the principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. The collaboration grew and evolved into what is now a full-blown pilot program to benefit the children at Bensley Elementary School.
Pam Oken-Wright, M.Ed., was a teacher-researcher with four- and five-year-olds at a local independent school for 36 years. She is now a pedagogical consultant and author who has been studying the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood education for over 25 years. Pam travels nationwide to consult and give workshops and keynotes about teaching and learning in a social-constructivist context. She is a peer reviewer for Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange. She has contributed to Teaching And Learning: Collaborative Exploration of the Reggio Emilia Approach; Next Steps Toward Teaching The Reggio Way; Choosing the Right Educational Path for Your Child: What Are the Options;Taking The PYP Forward: The future of the IB Primary Years Programme; Insights and Inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of Teachers and Children from North America; and Early Childhood Education: An International Encyclopedia . She has published articles in Innovations in Early Education and Young Children. Her most recent work is published in her blog for educators, “The Voices Of Children: Lessons Learned While Listening” and in ebooks on pokenwright.com *Click the link, below, to see a slideshow that shows the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach and how they align with the Chesterfield County Public Schools’ Design For Excellence 2020.