Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori

While the Reggio Emilia approach and the Montessori philosophy have many similarities, they differ in some key areas. In this quick guide we will outline and discuss both in more detail.

1. What is the Reggio Emilia approach to learning?

  1. History
  2. Key principles
  3. The role of the teacher
  4. The concept of 100 languages

2. What is the Montessori approach to learning?

  1. History
  2. Key principles
  3. The role of the teacher

3. FAQs: Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori: The key differences

  1. Is Reggio Emilia the same as Montessori?
  2. Is Reggio Emilia play-based?
  3. What does Montessori say about play?
  4. Is Reggio Emilia a curriculum?
  5. What does a Reggio Emilia classroom look like?
  6. What does a Montessori classroom look like?
  7. What is the difference between Reggio Emilia and the project approach?

4. At a Glance: Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori

What is the Reggio Emilia approach to learning?

  • History
  • Key principles
  • The role of the teacher
  • The concept of 100 languages

History | When was the Reggio Emilia approach founded?

The educational project of Reggio Emilia was founded in the mid-20th century after World War II in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The driving force behind the concept was Loris Malaguzzi, and he and other locals were keen to develop an educational approach that would better provide learning concepts for children born into a town ravaged by the effects of World War II.

Key principles | What are the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach?

The Reggio Emilia philosophy not only focuses not only on the education of children in the preschool years, but also the importance of the education of infants and toddlers. The approach supports learning through play, discovery, interdependence and socio-cultural learning. This is achieved through a balance of self-guided and peer or adult-led learning.

The key principles of the approach are:

  • Collaborative, self-guided learning: Teachers plan lessons, yet use a highly adaptable approach in real time. This allows learning to be achieved through flexibility, honing in to what inspires each individual child. This involves watching and listening to discover their interests and allowing this exploration to guide the educational process. Together the children and the teacher direct classroom learning, with all students being encouraged to steer towards whatever subjects pique their interest.
  • A project-based approach: Utilising information gleaned from observing their pupils, the teacher initiates projects that extend and scaffold children’s learning. This is a key aspect of an emergent approach that allows the learning to evolve naturally, while being directed by the children’s curiosity and questions.
  • Interactions and relationships: Relationships are highly valued in the Reggio Emilia approach, not only with other children in the class but with their teachers, family, the environment and community as a whole. Parents and other community members are often invited into the classroom setting, and families are actively encouraged to continue the learning ethos at home.
  • Age groups: Children are grouped and are educated along with those of the same age.
  • Active citizenship: Reggio Emilia is one of the first forward-thinking early childhood education methods that embraces a rights-based approach to learning. This unique element creates the building blocks of the importance of being a good person, a sustainable approach to life and promoting the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

The role of the teacher | What is the role of the teacher in Reggio Emilia?

The direction of education is guided though both adult and child-led learning. Teachers play multiple roles and are responsive to the context and needs of the learner. Sometimes they’re the teacher, other times they might be a co-learner or researcher. Listening and watching is an imperative part of the teaching role, allowing them to plan the child’s learning journey.

The concept of 100 languages | What are the 100 languages?

Hands on discovery is a hugely important part of the Reggio Emilia approach. This is symbolised by the ‘100 languages of children‘ – a metaphor that describes the infinite number of ways that children can express themselves.

Children are encouraged to use a variety of tools as they learn, such as dance, painting, stories and poetry. As well as this, using touch and getting hands-on with many different materials further evokes curiosity and encourages natural expression.

What is the Montessori approach to learning?

  • History
  • Key principles
  • The role of the teacher

History | When was the Montessori approach founded?

The Montessori philosophy was also born in Italy in the first half of the 20th century by Dr Maria Montessori. The first school was opened in San Lorenzo, on the outskirts of Rome, to offer quality education to underprivileged children.

Key principles | What are the principles of the Montessori approach?

The Montessori philosophy also uses a play-based approach to education. It extends beyond that of pre-school and is commonly used at elementary and middle school levels.

The key principles of Montessori education are as follows:

  • Self-guided learning: Children have the freedom to work independently, making selections from a choice of pre-prepared activities and developing self-sufficiency. They’re given guidance from their teachers and encouraged to learn naturally through the art of play, which is considered to be their ‘work’.
  • Uninterrupted work time: Extended periods to work on their chosen projects allows the child to pace themselves, deciding when to interact with others, work alone or take a break. The educational environment is set out in individual areas, meaning pupils move from area to area within the classroom area to undertake different activities. This promotes the importance of movement, along with independence and sensory stimulation in general day to day activities.
  • Focuses on the child as a whole: In addition to the academic aspect of learning, the Montessori approach is dedicated to educating the child in all aspects of life. Practical skills are also an element of learning, such as cooking, as well as each child playing their part in taking care of the classroom. Behaving politely and kindly towards each other, along with a sense of community, are also an important focus.
  • Learning tools: Hands-on learning is actively encouraged, with age-specific ‘manipulatives’ being regularly utilised. These self-corrective learning tools, such as moveable alphabets, mean that if errors occur during the solving of a puzzle or game, the child can revisit and work out the correct method.
  • Age integration: Montessori classrooms often have mixed age groups spanning three years. This supports children to learn a their level of ability, rather than their birth age. Young children benefit from observing older children, and older children take care of their younger peers and classroom.

The role of the teacher | What is the role of the teacher in the Montessori classroom?

Montessori teachers play an unobtrusive role – one that sees them directing the education of their students without excessive interference.

FAQs: What are the key differences between Reggio Emilia and Montessori learning

  • Is Reggio Emilia the same as Montessori?

    While there are similarities, the two differ from each other in many ways. One of the key differences is that the Reggio Emilia approach has an emergent curriculum, whereas Montessori is more structured. The former is a kindergarten (pre-prep) educational approach, whereas Montessori schools extend from 3 years to adolescent age (12-15).

  • Is Reggio Emilia play-based?

    Yes, the Reggio Emilia method is play-based, allowing children to use hands-on exploration to discover and explore their interests. Using play as a medium, children are actively encouraged to use all five senses to explore the world around them. This allows learning to move forward in an emergent manner.

  • Is the Reggio Emilia approach a curriculum?

    The Reggio Emilia approach is a philosophy, not a curriculum and, unlike the Montessori approach, there is no accreditation process for schools to be inspired by. Instead, schools use the principles and philosophy of the approach and contextualise this to their context, with an ethos that each child plays a collaborative part in the direction of their education. To this end, there is no fixed curriculum as each element of learning introduces new subjects to be explored and discovered.

  • What does a Reggio Emilia classroom look like?

    Each classroom is different and is reflective of the culture and context of the children, their families and their local community. The focus is on pleasing aesthetics, a welcoming and warm atmosphere, learning being made visible through displays of the children’s artwork and projects, and is light and airy. Each child has easy access to all learning materials.

  • What does a Montessori classroom look like?

    Montessori classrooms are more structured, with areas dedicated to specific activities. Similar to that of Reggio Emilia classrooms, furniture is scaled to be size appropriate for the age-range. Children use tables or the floor rather than desks.

At a glance: The Reggio Emilia approach vs. The Montessori approach

  • Both are educational approaches that hail from Italy.
  • Both philosophies promote self-guided learning.
  • Reggio Emilia focuses on kindergarten (pre-prep) education, Montessori is also found up to schools of adolescent age (12-15 years).
  • The environment of a Reggio Emilia classroom is flexible and open-ended with Montessori learning areas being more structured.
  • Reggio Emilia teachers are considered to be co-learners. Montessori teachers act as directors of education.
  • The Reggio Emilia approach groups children in traditional age ranges (year by year), whereas Montessori sees children working in classrooms with those of multiple similar ages (typically within a 3-year range).

While both methods differ in many key features, both are focused on helping their pupils develop as a whole, using their tools and methods to create children grow into members of society who exist in harmony with those around them.

Nido Early Schools Offer the Ultimate in Reggio Emilia Inspired Education

Nido Early Schools have embraced the Reggio Emilia approach, offering a nurturing environment and talented educators who embody this highly effective philosophy.

Each Nido educator is passionate about providing children with the best early education for their future growth and development. The welcoming team will be delighted to discuss how this progressive approach provides the ultimate foundation for further learning, something that’s directly impacted by the quality of education in the first five formative years.