Friday, 9 August 2013

How is your third teacher teaching?

Having been in Boulder and visited both Boulder Journey School and The Acorn School for Early Childhood Development it has brought the third teacher to the forefront of my mind. 
 The educators of Reggio Emilia view the setting as an intregal part of the learning process, a place of interactions with the children, the teachers, and the parents. The third teacher lets the children know about how they can use the room - and sometimes its not always in accordance with what the human teachers are thinking... this means you have to work with the third teacher so that you are working together to support the children in their play and development.

The preschool needs to feel welcoming so that the children and adults feel a part of the preschool community - being beautiful is not enough if the preschool is to belong to the children and the educators working there... it has to meet practical needs of both children and adults, there has to be space for play in all its forms, there has to be space for the educators to create and to store and to be a part of the process and for the adults who drop off and pick up their child/ren - how do parents fit into the arrangement of the preschool, are they also included?

Boulder Journey School - a welcoming little corner, a place to feel safe when you are small, but not cut off - windows onto the corridor to see who is coming and a wondow into another groups to see what they are up to - and yet the space is still open to their own room to invite interactions with their group.
If children feel they are welcome they will feel safe. Children who feel safe can get on with their play. Children who are playing are learning and discovering.

Look round your setting... what parts of your environment are welcoming... for the children, staff, parents? Is there anything that needs to be changed to include ALL the participants in your learning community?

What about celebrating each child's uniqueness, each family and educators identity? If we are to make everyone feel welcome then we also need to communicate the importance of acceptance and tolerance.
By including cultural elements in the setting layout we allow opportunities for the children to take pride in their own sense of identity.
A sense of identity leads to a greater self-esteem which is essential for learning - not only about themselves and where they are, but about others - the known and unknown, allowing the children to develop understanding, empathy, respect and acceptance.

seeing children's ideas on the wall supports their sense of identity too... inspired by the story "Oh, the place you'll go!" the children of Acorn School shared their ideas with each other.
INTERACTIONS are also important. How is the setting allowing the children to interact with each other? Is it supporting the children to work collaboratively and create a spirit of community? Does it allow the children to feel competent and feel responsibility?
Does the setting allow the children to see their ideas being taken seriously?  Can others tell what the children are interested in, working on, playing - what their current theories are when walking into the setting?

Setting up provocations - not just to allow the children to interact with new materials, or revisit old materials in a new way - but also to allow children to interact with each other - sharing their experience and learning from each other's processes. BJS
What materials and resources have you chosen to make available to the children? Are they just there on the shelves? or are they chosen and positioned to allow the children to deepen their learning through play... that everything made available to the children is there to not just play with, but is a reflection of how the children are playing and learning and their interests and is added to in order to EXTEND or CHALLENGE their play... as well as opportunities of provocation. 
Are the resources open-ended or do they have a specific goal? How does this affect how the children play and learn?
 Have you provided a variety of play/learning opportunities for children to experience a projects using their different languages? For instance if you are learning about the forest do you have images of the forest up, stories about the forest, role-play opportunites about the forest, art opportunities, building opportunities etc - as well as going out into the forest - so that all learning styles are given the opportunity to discover the project.
Is there a mix of materials for the children to explore - texture, weight, size, colour - even wonder...?
an opportunity to experiment... a variety of materials on a table with paint - the provocation to try and recreate the colour of the objects. This is an extension of the children's interest in colour and paint. This provocation was set up for us teachers attending the conference - so we were given other challenges - to see the mathematics in this activity for example. This comes back to creativity... creativity is not just art... creativity is our approach to the everyday... BJS

Are you allowing the children to experience sensory activities - to use all their body - all their senses? Are you including smell, sound, touch, sight and taste into the design of your setting?
a feast for the eyes... there was also a fan directed at this - so it was in constant movement... provoking thought and understanding. BJS

How is creativity supported in your setting? Is it just in the atelier/art studio? or are you providing materials throughout the setting that will allow the children's creativity to bloom? Have you discussed what is creativity? Understanding what we mean with this word can be a good place to start if we are to try and support children to be creative. Read my post about creativity if you are interested to find out more...
reflection room - a room for teachers to use to sit and reflect alone or in groups - also a room to reflect together with small groups of children. BJS

Of course all of these ideas need to be appealing to the eye... as sight is one of our senses. A sense of aesthetic can awaken wonder. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... what is beautiful to an adult might not always be beautiful for a child and vice-versa (read my post about "what is beauty" if you are interested in reflecting more about this).
Having a good organisation of the materials and the setting can instill a sense of security... the children knowing where things are, where to return to continue with play. It also allows the educators to introduce new elements with the familiar.

when we are planning our setting it is not enough to just make each area aesthetically pleasing but to create a complete picture... to ensure that all these areas create a whole. BJS

Lighting is also an important aspect to think about, the use of natural light, and how lighting can enhance and change the mood of a setting. 

the use of natural light at BJS

playing with light

And finally - nature... I am a big believer in the soothing properties of nature - indoors and outdoors. Bring elements of nature indoors - for all the senses.


plants, wooden blocks, the wooden floor all add to the natural effect. There was also plenty of access to othe natural materials too. BJS

room for the teachers... a early years learning centre/preschool is not JUST about the children ... it is also about the adults that surround them... educators need to be continuously learning together WITH the children and for the children and for their own development. BJS
allowing children to experiment with familiar materials in a new way. BJS

creating space for play that is attractive - to adults and children. Displaying images of the children to make their learning through play visible to the children and parents. To allow the children to feel valued for who they are and what they are doing. BJS

interactions - a way for children to communicate with other children regardless of group. BJS

allowing the child to feel important - using tape on the wall to re-create a child's artwork. Not just building esteem but beautiful too! BJS

presenting the children's ideas in creative manners - that allows the children to revisit their ideas and reflect upon them... here the words the children used to describe wind has been displayed as a mobile - something that is moved by the wind. BJS

Paper Atelier - for children and teachers to visit and to be inspired. BJS

beautiful materials to create... allowing the children access to a variety of materials - and of course displaying their work in an attractive manner allows the child to see that we value their contributions, ideas, play and learning...

OK so now you have had words and images to trigger off some thought processes of your own. Return to your setting and see what interactions are available there and if there is anything you feel you need to add to/ change...

But I believe that as children grow and develop so the setting has to reflect this... its NEVER a fixed feature... just as the children learn and grow, and we adults learn and grow - so does the third teacher need to learn and grow...

How is your third teacher teaching the children?


  1. love it! love it! great post with wonderful examples! especially love "teacher education room"

  2. This was a very inspirational read...thank you for posting! I have been gathering information about the third teacher for a while, and trying to implement these ideas into my own classroom. I don't think I'll ever get over the beauty of Reggio environments!

  3. Thank you! I have always taped the children's artwork on the wall - lowdown for their view. Now I am getting ready to redo a large wall with a tasteful arrangement of picture frames that I can put their art will look a little more professional to include the grownups (teachers and parents) who visit the class. I will still keep art lowdown also for the children's benefit...I need to decide how to do both and keep in from getting too cluttered.

  4. The average child care center teacher has neither the time or the materials to implement these beautiful ideas. We have to solve the staffing and education issues of our ECE teachers before this can ever be the norm.

    1. although this was not the point of this blog post... to replicate these beautiful ideas - it is about finding the needs of the children, the educators and trying to meet them with the resources that you have...
      Having visited preschools in refugee camps in Palestine I am very aware that not all can afford the beautiful furniture that is shown in some of these images - the preschool where I worked at last year could not either... but we did check for second hand furniture and other items that we could creatively use to inspire the children in their play and learning... and also inspire the educators in their learning and teaching...

      I do agree that there needs to be much done to enhance ECE settings... the status and the curriculum to make it relevant, more meaningful and inclusive.


  5. Beautiful and inspirational. The spaces are inviting and the child is visually honored. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I have just read through this and i have found it very interesting and full of great ideas. I will certainly return to look at my room and see how 'the third teacher' can help us to help the children. So many lovely and simple ideas to work on. many thanks. helen

  7. I have for so long concentrated my Sensory areas and activities on Touch. The beautiful ideas demonstrated here have helped me, fairly easily and inexpensively to utilise the natural environment outside and bring the light into the room in a more meaningful way. Many thanks for sharing.