Engage Your Early Learners using Provocations

Provocations – What and Why

Ever wondered what provocations are or how you can best use provocations in early education, in your daycare or preschool? The team at Educa have put this post together sharing some fantastic resources.  We hope it helps!!

Picture Source; Willow School: Provocations on the PlaygroundPicture Source:  Willow School:Provocations on the Playground

In early childhood teaching the term Provocation is derived from the Reggio Emilia Approach. They are fantastic opportunities for learning that many services incorporate into their suite of learning activities.

If you search Pinterest using the terms provocations ideas there are literally thousands of ideas for provocations. Also schools like the Willow School  (pictured) often feature provocations they are using on their blogs

But What Are Provocations Exactly?

For children a ‘Reggio Inspired’ provocation is an open ended activity that doesn’t have a prescribed outcome, instead it is designed to stimulate ideas, initiative and imagination for and amongst children, whether they choose to explore their ideas alone or in groups.

Journey into Early Childhood defines provocations as

“deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of the children. Teachers provide materials, media, and general direction as needed, but the children take the ideas where they want. This allows children to develop skills of creativity, inventiveness and flexibility in thinking, planning and reflecting.”

— Journey into Early Childhood

How do educators use provocations?

There is often discussion among educators about the balance between child-led and teacher-led learning. Differences between provocations and outcome based learning activities. Examples are highlighted by early childhood educators like Anna Golden . She compares provocations to “traditional” classroom set ups – for example:

Explicit activities such as literacy activity centers  or Instruction Based learning (eg worksheets, letter forms for tracing, word study, small group instruction)
Open ended style writing provocations which provide materials (papers/envelopes/cards and mark making implements) to ‘provoke thinking” without specifying a designated outcome although they are always designed with ‘intention’ by the educators.

Provocations use a range of items that can be linked together by children or provide a jumping off point for where their imaginations can take them. The focus is more on developing learner dispositions rather then teaching narrower skills. There is no “wrong” as a result of a provocation.

“In reference to right answers – Knowing is a process not a product ”

— Jerome Bruner

What does a provocation look like?

Educators use nature based elements, loose parts, tinker trays in a multitude of ways to inspire the kinds of creativity that small people excel at, given the opportunity – because there’s no magic formula for a provocation.

In fact the best provocations are created by reflective teachers who spend time evaluating whether their ideas work for their children.

Some suggestions for items to include when planning provocations:

See the setup for this flower provocation and more at An Everyday Story

See the setup for this flower provocation and more at An Everyday Story

  •  An interesting photo, picture or book,
  • Nature (e.g. specimens)
  • Conceptual (e.g. changing seasons, light)
  • Old materials displayed in a new way,
  • An interest that a child or children have,
  • An object (e.g. magnets, maps)
  •  New creative mediums,
  • Questions (from any source – i.e. What is gravity?)
  • An event (e.g. a presentation, a holiday)

List from – Racheous: Respectful Learning & Parenting

If you’re looking for more information on “Reggio Inspired” topics there is a great series of posts from Let the Children play

  1. Top Reggio inspired blogs

  2.  Reggio inspired learning environments

  3.  Reggio inspired outdoor environments

  4.  Reggio inspired learning materials

  5.  Reggio inspired learning experiences

  6.  Reggio inspired displays

  7.  Reggio inspired Facebook and Pinterest

For information and resources regarding the Reggio Emilia Approach contact the organisations below:

Reggio Children – Italy

Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange

North American Reggio Emilia Alliance

Reggio Emilia  – Aotearoa New Zealand