What are the differences between Reggio and Montessori?
You might be wondering what exactly are the differences between these two teaching methods and philosophy? Don’t panic I am here to break it down for you and show you what makes the Reggio approach different to Montessori. I am not one to say which approach to education is better or right or wrong, I think at the end of the day it is up to you and your personal preference.
Let’s first look at what is similar
Both Montessori and Reggio are non traditional schools. They do not use worksheets and they believe children are intelligent and full of potential. They follow the children’s interests and both encourage the child to learn and discover things in a practical way. They do not believe in the teacher holding all the knowledge and simply filling empty vessels.
Both approaches encourage creativity in children and recognize that there are different kinds of creativity. They both want to prepare children for the world equipping them with real life skills.
Both approaches also encourage inclusivity of all children from all backgrounds and abilities. Both approaches are focused more on the early years of school. Teachers working in Reggio schools and Montessori schools are both highly qualified and passionate about their work.
Both approaches are not in the public domain which means anyone can open a school and call it Reggio or Montessori but may not be very authentic. Therefore, if you are wanting to send your child to a certain school, learn as much as you can about the approach and have a look at the school and see if you can see the philosophy in action and ask questions. I believe schools should be open and honest as to how much they implement the philosophy. However, I do know that only schools in Italy are allowed to be called Reggio schools otherwise you are Reggio Inspired.
Now let’s take a look at some of the differences.
As I mentioned above, these approaches are based on a philosophy which means it is open to interpretation. However, Montessori schools will have specific ‘toys’ and activities for children to work with. “Montessori materials are not only beautiful and inviting, but ingenious. They teach only 1 skill at a time to allow the child to work independently and master the intended concept. The materials are also “self-correcting.” This means the child is able to identify if they have done an activity accurately and try again without intervention from a teacher. For example, if a large block is stacked atop a tower of shorter blocks, the tower will fall down. Working with self-correcting materials helps children develop confidence and self-sufficiency and promotes critical thinking. In a sense, they become their own teachers—a skill that will last for life.” *
In Montessori schools “Children are shown how to use the materials in concise, but very precise lessons, called presentations. Once children have had a presentation and know how to use a set of materials, they are then free to work with the activities and exercises aligned with those materials as often and for as long as they wish. Many of the materials have an inbuilt control of error, thus enabling children to learn independently with a minimum of adult help. As a result, from an early age, children in Montessori settings build confidence in their own abilities and learn to take responsibility for their own learning.” *
Unlike Montessori, Reggio does not have set learning materials which means you are able to use what is available to you. Reggio would encourage using natural materials open ended materials, anti-waste and loose parts. For example, in Reggio they would rather use Lego than a commercial pre-set toy that can only be used in a one way. They do advocate using clay and a light table. Find out how to make a DIY lightbox. They often work with natural clay as it is very open ended. Clay is most affordable and you can make your light table fit your budget.
What this means is when implementing Reggio, you can use what you have and do not need to spend a fortune on specific materials. I have worked with schools in rural areas that are able to implement the Reggio philosophy really well.
Documentation is one thing that sets Reggio apart from most approaches. Reggio teachers observe and document the children’s work to make it visible. They also use the documentation as a tool to research the children’s interests and drive their emergent curriculum forward.
“Dr Montessori outlined four consecutive planes, or stages, of development from birth to maturity, each plane
spanning approximately six-years. At each plane of development children and young people display intellectual
powers, social orientations and creative potential unique to that stage. Each plane is characterised by the way
children in that plane learn, building on the achievements of the plane before and preparing for the one to
follow. The timing and nature of the transition between planes vary from individual to individual.” Read more about these planes here.
Reggio follows an emergent curriculum. This means that there is not a set regimented curriculum with weekly themes but rather the teachers set out provocations and by observing and documenting, they follow the child’s interest. Teachers have weekly meetings to discuss what the children are interested in and how they can build on these interests. They do not follow weekly themes like traditional schools, they do long term projects.
Projects can last up to a year as it involves the cycle of setting out a provocation, observing, documenting, reflecting with teachers and then deciding on a way forward. And so this cycle continues in order to dive the project forward. While working on long term projects, children cover many skills and the teachers will also look at a project to see how they can incorporate any skills the children need to learn. One of the most amazing experiences I had was sitting in the international Reggio conference listening to the teachers present their documentation of the children’s work.
In Reggio they also have Ateliers. A ‘lab’ for learning and experimenting. There can be many different ateliers. For example in the Lois Malaguzzi centre (video) is an Atelier of light (video). There can be a taste or sound Atelier or even a clay or paper Atelier. The different Ateliers are set up for children and even adults to explore and learn more about the potential and possibilities of different media.
In Reggio they also use technology. They use webcams, projectors and the children also use photoshop on the computer. This is one thing that sets it apart from may other approaches is it’s constant evolution and keeping up to date with what is happening in the world. The teacher in Reggio and Reggio inspired teachers from all around the world are constantly learning and reflecting on their practice.
Both approaches have similarities and differences and which ever school your child goes to, they will learn. Personally as long as they’re not doing worksheets and silly stuff then I’m happy. I love the Reggio approach and implement it into my teaching and at home. Please let me know if you have any other questions in the comment section.