Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori

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Providing our little ones with quality education right from their pre-school days involves making an informed choice of the early childhood education approach suitable for them. For many of us, this means researching educational philosophies and narrowing them down to those that are the right fit for our family. In this article, we compare two popular and effective approaches; the Montessori method and Reggio Emilia approach.
Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori

Table of Contents

Montessori and Reggio Emilia are two educational methods that are often interchanged. While they are similar, they do differ in many aspects. Let’s look at these two highly regarded early education methods and their similarities and differences.

History and Key Principles

Coincidentally, both Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies were developed in Italy. These are non-traditional education methods based on self-directed learning and constructivism.

What is Reggio Emilia Philosophy?

The Reggio Emilia method focuses on learning through inter-dependence, play, discovery, and socio-cultural learning. It stresses the importance of education for infants and toddlers, as much as for children in preschool years.

A balance of self-guided and peer or adult-led learning is essential to the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

History

What is Reggio Emilia Philosophy?

In the early 1950s, following World War II’s conclusion, Loris Malaguzzi, an Italian psychologist, collaborated with a group of parents from Villa Cella, near the city in Northern Italy – Reggio Emilia.

They developed this learning philosophy to create respectful, responsible citizens and to enrich the children’s lives born into war.

Key Principles

The Reggio Emilia approach has the following key principles:

  • Same age groups: Children of the same age are grouped and educated.
  • Relationships: Highly valuing relationships with peers, teachers, family, the entire community, and the environment, parents, and other community members are often invited into Reggio Emilia classrooms.
  • Interactions: Children are motivated to work in groups and learn through social collaboration, developing knowledge by communicating with others.
  • Project-based learning: Children’s curiosity and questions lead to the teacher initiating projects that allow for naturally-evolved learning.
  • Self-guided, collaborative learning: The lessons are planned to be adaptable and flexible, with students encouraged to steer towards subjects of interest.
  • Children have many languages: Children explore the various aspects of communication through speech, art, and play.

What Is the Montessori Approach?

Montessori schools use a child-led approach to education, extending beyond preschool to elementary and even middle school levels. It involves hands-on learning, self-directed activities, practical life skills, and sensory experiences. 

“Play is the work of the child” is the Montessori approach.

History

The Montessori philosophy was founded by the physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori in the first half of the 20th century.

In 1907, she opened her first school in Rome, Casa Dei Bambini (Children’s House). It was intended to offer quality education to the underprivileged children of San Lorenzo. Children were encouraged to explore and learn from their surroundings.

Key Principles

The key principles of Montessori education include:

  • Mixed-age groups: A Montessori classroom has mixed-age groups spanning three years. Younger children observe and learn from older children, who, in turn, can take care of the younger ones and help them out.
  • Hands-on learning: Self-corrective learning tools help the children learn better with the hands-on learning process. Children can make errors, revisit and work out the correct methods.
  • Focus on the whole child: Apart from the academic learning aspect, practical skills are also essential in the Montessori curriculum, including behaving politely and respecting others.
  • Uninterrupted work time: Children can spend extended periods working on the project of their choice and can move around and choose their activities. It instills independence and sensory stimulation in them based on general day-to-day activities.
  • Self-guided learning: In Montessori learning, children are given the freedom to choose their activities and encouraged to learn naturally through play-based learning.

Lesson Examples

There are considerable differences in how a lesson looks in Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori classrooms.

What Does a Montessori School Lesson Look Like?

What Does a Montessori School Lesson Look Like?What Does a Montessori School Lesson Look Like?

A Montessori classroom environment encourages students to explore self-directed learning.

Montessori toys, sensory materials, and learning and discovery-based activities are used in Montessori schools. The materials are arranged in a structured manner on low, open shelves.

Montessori schools have multiple well-organized stations for different subject areas – cooking, gardening, library corner, etc. Children can move around instead of staying at their desks.

For a lesson on language, one station may incorporate kinesthetic learning, using letters made of sandpaper to form words. Cut-out letters may also be included for manipulation by children into words and sounds. Also, books focusing on age-appropriate phonetics or rhyming might be present.

Another station for spoken language will include artwork and books for discussing the parts as a whole and the meaning. It will also include sound games, song lyrics, and poems. Another station will include many phonetic activities to help with language learning.

What Does a Reggio School Lesson Look Like?

Reggio Emilia schools or Reggio-inspired schools are based on providing children access to 100 Languages. It’s based on the assumption that children have 100 languages, including the language of play, song, dance, art, laughter, and more, used to understand the world.

Classrooms, considered the third teacher, have a wide variety of materials to encourage creative learning and expression. There is no set curriculum; instead, the teachers talk to the students about their interests or observe them and then support children to explore the topic of their interests.

The classroom setup reflects the children, families, and local community’s context and culture. Learning is made visible with displays of children’s artwork and projects. Children have easy access to all learning materials in Reggio schools.

Activities in different modes (kinesthetic, audio, visual) provide children with learning opportunities using the many forms of 100 languages.

Differences Between Reggio Emilia and Montessori

Montessori Reggio Emilia
History Established by Dr. Maria Montessori in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century Establish by Loris Malaguzzi and a group of parents in Italy, in the mid-20th century
Age suitability Children are involved from infancy through 18 years  Primarily designed for preschoolers and early elementary school, children aged 2 – 6 years are involved
Age range with classroom environments Multi-age classrooms, with children, grouped 0-3 yrs, 3-6 yrs, 6-9 yrs, and 9-12 yrs Children are sorted by the age of development
Curriculum Structure Structured curriculum; involves practical life skills and sensory experiences Flexible curriculum, with lessons that are child-focused and centered on students’ inquiries
Learning Style Independent learning Collaborative learning
Arts Focus more on academics than arts More geared towards pre-school aged kids; a lot of attention to arts
Academics More focus on academics; emphasize work over play Open-ended curriculum leading to long-term, open-ended projects to suit children’s interests
Technology Minimal use of modern-day technology, including computers, interactive whiteboards, tablets, etc. Quite a bit of technology is used, including cameras and video recorders for observation and documentation
Role of teacher Observe, guide, supervise, and assess children Observe, listen, document, and reflect
Training of teachers A credentialed Montessori teacher leads the class No formal teacher training, credentialing, and authorization process
Availability About 3,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. About 1,200 Reggio Emilia-inspired schools
Affordability The fee structure for Montessori schools ranges from $12,000 – $15,000 and varies based on the type of school (public, private, or charter) The fee structure for Reggio preschools and daycares cost about $8,000 – $10,300

Summary

Now that you’ve got a decent understanding of Montessori vs. Reggio Emilia, you might be able to finally take a call on which method you would prefer for your child. Remember, both focus on helping children develop as a whole and use tools and methods to help children grow into responsible members of society and exist in harmony. 

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