A Provocation A Day Keeps the Classroom at Play!
Listening in on a collaborative planning meeting between teachers in a classroom at Pinnacle Presbyterian Preschool, you would undoubtedly hear the term “provocation” used in the discussion. Provocations are an important part of our learning at PPP, but what is a provocation exactly, and how are they used?
The Reggio-Emilia approach follows the idea that there are three primary teachers in a young child’s life: the parent, the classroom teacher, and the environment. It is this focus on the environment that forms the basis for the importance of provocations in a Reggio-inspired classroom. A provocation is very much what its name infers: It is an invitation, a generator of ideas and creativity, and a prompt to ignite the children’s thinking.
In the classroom, you will see various types of provocations, all with the intent to scaffold an activity, offer intention to a set of materials, or prompt new levels of thinking from the children. Provocations also serve a purpose to the teachers, as well, reminding us of our intentions as we engage with the children. Provocations can be:
-A question or prompt written and displayed at a particular table or area of the classroom. For example, “We wonder what types of lines you can create with these charcoal pieces?”
-A picture, photo or book displayed at a particular table or area of the classroom. For example, on a recent exploration of lines and shapes, students were introduced to the artist Miró. One of his works was placed in a frame on a table that included collage materials made up of lines, colorful shapes, glue and paper.
-An actual item or set of items arranged thoughtfully to elicit certain activities or outcomes by the children. Examples might include a beautiful display of flowers in the center of a watercolor station, the addition of a new material or tool to a familiar set up (adding rolling pins and stamps to the clay table after children have become familiar with manipulating the clay using their hands), or the subtraction of a familiar item from a set up that elicits problem-solving strategies (removing the scissors from a collage station…will the students begin to rip the paper, or fold the paper in new ways to fit it onto their page?).
-A verbal question or challenge given to a large or small group at the beginning of an activity by the teacher. For example, during Kiva a teacher might tell the class, “We have seen some amazing creations in the block area this week, and they seem to be getting taller and taller! I challenge you to measure your towers with this measuring tape and write that number on this chart!”
Once we shift our minds to see a child’s environment as an important teacher, it is easy to see provocations all around us. Now we challenge YOU to create your own provocation for the children in your life!