Reggio Emilia Vs Montessori: 4 Similarities and Differences

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In the world of early childhood education, the Reggio Emilia vs Montessori debate has been ongoing. Explore the similarities and differences between these two renowned educational approaches, and determine which one aligns best with your child’s learning journey.

Pay attention. Acquire knowledge. Engage in practical exercises. Apply what you’ve learned. Repeat. 

Most of us have been educated in a traditional system where we listen to lectures, learn facts, and then practice and apply what we have learned. 

This system can be effective for some people, but it can be limiting for others. 

The Montessori and Reggio Emilia programs offer alternative approaches to learning that are more child-centered and focused on development.

The Montessori method is based on the idea that children learn best by doing. 

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    Montessori classrooms are set up with materials and activities that allow children to explore and learn at their own pace. 

    Teachers are there to guide and support children, but they do not do the work for them.

    The Reggio Emilia approach is also child-centered, but it places more emphasis on the social and emotional aspects of learning. 

    Reggio Emilia classrooms are designed to be beautiful and inviting, and teachers are seen as co-learners who work alongside children.

    Both the Montessori and Reggio Emilia programs have been shown to be effective in promoting learning and development. 

    However, they are different approaches, and it is important to choose the one that is right for your child.

    Reggio Emilia Vs Montessori

    Reggio Emilia Schools Approach To Learning

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    The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education was founded in the early 1950s by Loris Malaguzzi and a group of parents in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy. 

    The goal of the Reggio Emilia approach is to create a nurturing environment where children can learn and grow in a safe and supportive way.

    The Reggio Emilia approach is based on the following principles:

    • Children are born with a natural curiosity and a desire to learn.
    • Children learn best through hands-on experiences and interactions with their environment.
    • Children learn best in a collaborative environment where they can share their ideas and work together to solve problems.

    Teachers are partners in learning and work alongside children to support their development.

    The Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes the importance of documentation, which is the process of collecting and reflecting on children’s work.

    It has been praised for its focus on child-centered learning, its emphasis on creativity and innovation, and its high-quality standards. 

    The approach has been adopted by schools around the world, and it continues to be an influential force in early childhood education.

    Key Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach

    Key principles of the Reggio Emilia schools to early childhood education:

    • Same age groups

    Children are grouped together by age, which helps them develop strong relationships with their peers.

    • Relationships

    The Reggio Emilia  emphasizes the importance of relationships between children, teachers, families, and the community. Parents and community members are often invited into Reggio Emilia classrooms to share their knowledge and expertise with the children.

    • Interactions

    Children are motivated to work in groups and learn through social collaboration. They develop knowledge by communicating with others and by working together to solve problems.

    • Project-based learning

    Children’s curiosity and questions lead to the teacher initiating projects that allow for naturally-evolved learning. Children are encouraged to explore their interests and to work on projects that are meaningful to them.

    • Self-guided and collaborative learning

    The lessons are planned to be adaptable and flexible, with students encouraged to steer towards subjects of interest. Children are given the freedom to choose their own activities and to work at their own pace.

    • Children have many languages

    Children explore the various aspects of communication through speech, art, and play. They are encouraged to express themselves in a variety of ways, and their teachers value all forms of communication.

    The Concept Of 100 Languages

    Describing a “typical” lesson in a Reggio Emilia-inspired setting is challenging because there is no standard lesson structure. 

    Instead of adhering to a rigid curriculum, Reggio-inspired education prioritizes flexibility and child-centeredness.

    The physical environment of the classroom is intentionally designed to be inspiring and nurturing. 

    It often includes elements such as framed pictures, comfortable chairs, and attractive area rugs. 

    Materials are thoughtfully organized and easily accessible to the children.

    Dr. Malaguzzi’s poem titled “The Child Has 100 Languages” encapsulates the belief that there is no singular correct way of learning. It portrays children as naturally inquisitive, capable, and competent thinkers. 

    Embracing this belief is fundamental within the Reggio Emilia classroom.

    The essence of the poem lies in the understanding that beyond traditional written and verbal expression, there exist numerous ways for self-expression and learning. 

    The concept of the “100 languages” symbolically encompasses a wide range of forms, which include but are not limited to dancing, drawing, painting, sculpting, playing, construction, music, role-playing, expressing emotions, listening, and movement.

    The Montessori Schools Approach To Learning

    The Montessori method was established by Dr. Maria Montessori, a physician and educator. 

    In 1907, she opened her first school called Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome. 

    This program aimed to encourage children to explore and learn from their immediate environment.

    The Children’s House was initially established as a childcare facility serving the San Lorenzo community, which was a disadvantaged neighborhood in Rome. 

    By 1912, the Montessori Method had made its way to the United States, and some educators began experimenting with it. 

    Shortly after Dr. Montessori’s passing in 1951, Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch, an educator from New York City, attended the Tenth International Montessori Congress in Paris. 

    Her purpose was to learn how to incorporate the Montessori method into her own teaching practices.

    Reggio Emilia approach vs Montessori: Key Principles of Montessori Learning

    The philosophy underlying Montessori education is centered around the belief that children naturally absorb and retain knowledge from their environment. 

    Through self-directed exploration, students take charge of their own learning process.

    A typical Montessori lesson incorporates multiple stations, enabling students to fully explore a given topic. 

    Each station is thoughtfully organized and provides easy access to relevant learning materials. To illustrate, let’s consider a language lesson as an example.

    At one station, kinesthetic learning is facilitated through the use of sandpaper letters that allow students to feel the shape of words. 

    Another station is dedicated to spoken language. It incorporates books and artwork for discussions on the parts of a whole and their meanings. 

    A third station offers various phonetic activities to further enhance language skills.

    A fourth station focuses on a specific theme, such as vertebrates. It includes classified definition books that enable students to practice reading while learning about different aspects of the theme. 

    The fifth station is an independent reading area. It may be set in a cozy corner with dim lighting, a comfortable chair, and an appealing area rug. Books, suitable for the students’ age and reading level, are provided and regularly updated to match their evolving reading skills.

    Montessori education is a child-centered approach to education that emphasizes hands-on learning, a focus on the whole child, and self-guided learning. 

    These principles have been shown to be effective in helping children develop into well-rounded individuals who are prepared for success in life.

    The fundamental principles of Montessori education encompass the following:

    • Mixed-age groups 

    Montessori classrooms consist of mixed-age groups spanning a range of three years. Younger children have the opportunity to observe and learn from older peers, while older children can take on leadership roles by assisting and caring for the younger ones.

    • Hands-on learning

    The Montessori approach emphasizes the use of self-corrective learning tools that engage children in hands-on experiences. This approach allows children to make mistakes, learn from them, and discover the correct methods independently.

    • Holistic development

    In addition to academic learning, the Montessori curriculum values the development of practical life skills. This includes fostering social etiquette, respectful behavior, and consideration for others.

    • Uninterrupted work time

    Montessori classrooms provide uninterrupted blocks of time for children to engage in their chosen projects or activities. This extended work period promotes independence, concentration, and sensory stimulation through everyday tasks and experiences.

    • Self-guided learning

    The Montessori philosophy emphasizes giving children the freedom to select their own activities within a prepared environment. This approach encourages natural learning through play-based experiences, allowing children to follow their individual interests and curiosity.

    Reggio Emilia vs Montessori: Main Similarities Between Montessori and Reggio Emilia

    So what are the main similarities between Montessori and Reggio Emilia? Early childhood education, Reggio Emilia and Montessori approaches share common principles and goals. They both focus on student-centered learning, offer flexibility in curriculum, promote student interaction and collaboration, and emphasize the role of teachers as facilitators.

    This part of our Reggio Emilia vs Montessori post will explore the similarities between the two, highlighting their shared focus on flexible learning, individualized curriculum, student interaction, and the important role of teachers. Understanding these similarities can provide valuable insights for you as a parent or educator so you are able to improve your child’s development and support their learning journey.

    1. Flexible learning

    Montessori and Reggio schools share a common characteristic of providing students with significant freedom in their learning. Under the guidance of teachers, children have the ability to choose their own work and activities. They are also encouraged to move around the classroom, work independently or collaboratively, and progress at their own pace.

    1. Individualized curriculum

    Both Montessori and Reggio schools move away from standardized curricula. Instead, with assistance from teachers, students in these schools have the opportunity to pursue tasks and activities that align with their personal interests and motivations.

    1. Student interaction

    Promoting student interaction is a shared focus in Montessori and Reggio schools. Both classroom environments are designed to encourage collaboration and group work among students. Additionally, there is often an element of peer-to-peer teaching present in these educational settings.

    1. Role of the teacher

    In Montessori and Reggio classrooms, teachers do not primarily rely on whole-class lectures, direct instruction, or memorization as methods of imparting knowledge. Instead, their primary role is to connect students with meaningful work and facilitate their learning journeys.

    Reggio EmiliaMontessori
    Flexible learningProvides students with freedom to choose their own work and progress at their own pace.Emphasizes student independence and self-directed learning.
    Individualized curriculumTailors learning experiences to students’ interests and motivations.Focuses on personalized learning aligned with each student’s needs and interests.
    Student interactionEncourages collaboration and group work among students.Fosters peer-to-peer teaching and collaborative learning.
    Role of the teacherActs as a facilitator and guide, connecting students with meaningful work.Supports students’ learning journeys and provides guidance when needed.
    Key similarities Montessori vs Reggio Emilia

    Reggio Emilia approach vs Montessori: Difference Between Montessori and Reggio Emilia

    So what is the difference between Montessori and Reggio Emilia? Montessori and Reggio Emilia are two well known educational approaches that offer distinct philosophies and methodologies. While both emphasize child-centered learning and promote holistic development, there are still differences between them. Here we will look at the notable differences between these two approaches Montessori and Reggio Emilia further.

    1. Education level

    The Reggio Emilia method is primarily designed for preschool and early elementary school education. In contrast, the Montessori program can be implemented in preschool, elementary, and middle school settings. Some proponents even suggest its applicability in high school.

    1. The arts

    Reggio Emilia schools place a greater emphasis on the arts compared to Montessori schools. They actively promote and encourage the use of various artistic mediums and forms of expression in the learning environment. On the other hand, Montessori schools generally allocate less time to the arts and rarely assign specific art projects.

    1. Academics

    Both Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools focus on academics during the preschool and elementary school years. However, Montessori schools tend to place a stronger emphasis on academics, prioritizing work over play to a greater extent than Reggio schools.

    1. Technology

    Montessori schools generally limit the use of modern technology within the classroom. In contrast, Reggio schools embrace technology to a greater extent. Reggio teachers, in particular, utilize various technological tools such as cameras and video recorders to observe and document the activities and experiences that occur in the classroom.

    Reggio EmiliaMontessori
    Education levelPrimarily focuses on preschool and early elementary school education.Can be implemented in preschool, elementary, and middle school settings.
    The artsPlaces a greater emphasis on the arts, actively promoting various artistic mediums and forms of expression.Allocates less time to the arts and rarely assigns specific art projects.
    AcademicsFocuses on academics, but emphasizes play and exploration alongside academic learning.Places a stronger emphasis on academics, prioritizing work over play to a greater extent.
    TechnologyEmbraces technology, using tools like cameras and video recorders to observe and document classroom activities.Generally limits the use of modern technology within the classroom.
    Key differences Montessori vs Reggio Emilia


    Reggio approach and Montessori methods are two popular educational philosophies that offer different approaches to learning. 

    Reggio Emilia focuses on collaborative learning and open-ended exploration, while Montessori emphasizes independent learning and structured activities.

    Choosing the educational philosophy that is right for your child can be a difficult decision. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the best approach will vary depending on your child’s individual needs and learning style.

    To make the best decision, it is important to do your research and visit both Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Talk to the teachers and administrators, and observe the students in their classrooms.

    FAQs: Reggio Emilia Vs Montessori

    Is Reggio Emilia the same as Montessori? No, Reggio Emilia and Montessori are two different educational approaches that originated in Italy but have distinct principles and practices. The Reggio approach is an educational philosophy that emphasizes the importance of child-led learning and active participation. On the other hand, Montessori is an educational method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator. 

    Is Reggio Emilia a curriculum? Reggio Emilia is not a specific curriculum in the traditional sense. It is an educational philosophy and approach that emphasizes certain principles and values. The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based on the belief that children are active constructors of their own knowledge and should be provided with opportunities for exploration, discovery, and self-expression.

    Which students typically do better between these two types of philosophies? Children who are self-directed, and who work well alone or in small groups will likely be successful in a Montessori environment. Parents are drawn to Reggio Emilia’s education because of how each child is treated as an individual. Children who don’t require much structure, enjoy expressing themselves in a variety of artistic ways, and will benefit from working in groups will blossom in a Reggio environment.