understand the learning involved in self-chosen play and the components of a
curriculum shaped around children’s perspectives. Looking closely, we can see
the influence of cultural patterns. This helps us learn more about ourselves,
our preferences, our biases, and our blind spots. Discussing our observations
with coworkers and children’s families helps us to see things from different
perspectives, allowing each of us to transcend the
limitations of our own points of view. We create a
collective context for mutual respect and learning
from each other.
Gathering observation notes and other forms
of documentation and sharing them as stories of
children’s pursuits gives the children and their
stories more visibility, meaning, and respect. The
learning process is enhanced for the children as
well as the adults. College professor and author
George Forman puts it this way:
We know that making children’s ideas vis-
ible is an important goal. It helps children
convert an activity into a learning encounter.
Therefore, if documentation helps children
make their own feelings, patterns of behav-
ior, theories, and rules more visible and
explicit, then documentation could become
the primary means of educating young chil-
dren. (Online dialogue on Reggio listserv
Where can we see this pedagogy in action?
Many would point to the schools of Reggio Emilia
in Italy and in the schools they have inspired around the world, including
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. We can see the seeds
of this approach in the teaching and writing of Karen Gallas, Elizabeth Jones,
Vivian Paley, Gretchen Reynolds, and Carol Anne Wien. Their books are rich
with descriptions of children’s play and teachers negotiating their roles in it.
Teachers can turn to these writers’ works again and again for reminders and
inspiration about how children’s lives can be valued and our differing perspec-
tives on them can be negotiated.
Several practicing early childhood teachers have also written books, giv-
ing us a firsthand, vivid picture of how this pedagogy has been developed in
their classrooms. Ann Pelo worked as a preschool teacher/author in a full-
time child care program. Her teaching is featured in a series of staff train-
ing videos: Children at the Center, Setting Sail, Thinking Big, Building Bridges