“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
― John Lennon
For the last three weeks, Michelle, Dawn, Yvette, Elle and I have spent much time reflecting upon and researching all the ways we bring learning to life at The Knowing Garden. How do we inspire developing readers to push further, writers to try new things and mathematicians in a way that fits their developmental levels and interests? How to scaffold, in the zone of proximal development, effectively? How do we facilitate freedom within the context of community? How to we keep nature integrated in our experiences? One of the great learning experiences of our school is the opportunity to put theory in to practice. Theory has given us foundation and the knowledge to establish the vision. Practice has given us proof that a collaborative and interactive approach to education is worthwhile, for all its wonderful and hard experiences, because it is manifesting students who value connection, want to learn more and take action. This experience is also giving us all the opportunity to grow, learn and stretch ourselves too.
Our goal this week was to enhance our open-ended, project based inquiries with more focused, skills based learning opportunities. Project-based learning is an effective and enjoyable way to learn — and develops deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career and civic life. We value open-ended learning because it removes the process of getting the “right” answer as prescribed by a didactic lesson. We also honor that there are many ways to get to the answer,a resolution or an understanding – the path can be different yet the values are common. Project time and skill building through instruction live in symbiosis. All project time and students struggle because they lack foundation of knowledge and skills (generally the guiding philosophy at a Free School). All focused instruction, students don’t get the chance to make learning meaningful (the industrial revolution model of education). At TKG, we intend to create the experience of academic progress through the balance of choice and guided instruction. We haven’t changed our commitment to social-emotional learning its just not the focus in this newsletter. You can always check in with us for social-emotional status at any time. In order to facilitate this differentiated academic learning at TKG:
One of the great benefits of our learning environment here at TKG is that children have the opportunity to learn in multi-age groups, where the opportunity to be the expert and the novice is always shifting through the interaction with a diverse group of peers. As we watch children in our classrooms, we take note of their cognitive, social-emotional, and physical developmental level. At the December parent meeting, we offered Yardsticks as a resource for understanding the developmental milestones at each age level. We know it is not a linear process across the board either within or between children so we take the information as a touch point and then look at the human in front of us. We think about developmental levels in order to help us match them with learning experiences that will most greatly benefit them. At the December parent meeting, we also talked about the zone of proximal development. The zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the space beyond what a student can do on their own and future knowledge. As teachers (and parents) we do our most important work is in this zone: we are most effective when we give children experiences that are within their ZPD, thereby encouraging and advancing their individual learning. From my conversations with students, they have defined it as that sweet spot that is not too easy or too hard, it is a feeling of just right with an element of challenge; A feeling of reaching, but attainable reaching.
So this week, for both classrooms, we enhanced our schedules that are already filled with opportunities for connection and creativity, play and pondering, to now include daily opportunities to meet in small, differentiated groups to focus on math. We thought about the school as a whole unit, widening even farther the value of a mixed-aged setting by having students mix from the upstairs and downstairs. Both classrooms now have a common time, from 12-12:30 where each teacher has a small number of students, grouped in order to best match their zone of proximal development.
This is how we zoned this week:
Dawn worked with A, C, and S to practice number sense and sequencing. They learned a card game called Garbage that supported and stretched their understanding of number order and lays a foundation for the ten-frame tool. Taking turns and working with a partner added to the real world skills they were practicing while playing. Want to learn? Ask them how to play!
Michelle worked with D, L, J, and T making clocks. Applying their understanding of clocks, skip counting by 5s, and fine motor skills they created their own clocks and are beginning to understand that the hour hand is read first, and then minutes.
Yvette and Elle worked with M, A, H, S, and A(T on Thursday) using the 100s chart and open number line to quickly jump 10 more, 10 less, 1 more, 1 less. This foundational understanding supported them in solving two digit addition problems and word problems.
Lena worked with M, B and T on number sense of numbers into the millions by playing a modified version of the card game War where you play 3 cards at a time. Jacks are worth 100, Queen’s 1000, Kings 10,0000, Aces 100,000 and Jokers 1 million. This group also worked on division.
Hopefully, in the description of the experiences your child/children had this week during this differentiated math time, it is clear that skills-based does not have to mean boring or tedious, just focused and intentional. For the time being, the groups will stay the same while each teacher and each child settles into the new schedule and students can have an opportunity to dive into concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
In addition to these skill building opportunities, this week was full of rich project-based experiences. Some highlights:
As one of our parents posted on Facebook this week, we do real-life learning here! Looking forward to sharing more of it here in this space. LV and family are bringing community snack this week!
Lena & Michelle
CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION
Lena Garcia, School Builder/7 to 9 Classroom
Michelle Goldbach-Johnson, Founding Teacher/5 to 7 Classroom
Yvette Fenton, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Elle Schwarz, Co-Teacher, 7 to 9 Classroom
Dawn Smith, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Saundi Williams, 5 to 7 Room Parent
Erin Levin, 7 to 9 Room Parent
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Resource Of The Week – Whole Child & Family
Getting Your Child Out the Door In the Morning
Now that we’re back in school, you must be settling in to the routine – and it is still challenging right?! Here are some timely reminders:
Wouldn’t it be amazing if all parents could have flextime, so there’s more time in the morning for small humans to have a more humane start to their day? But that’s not possible for many families.
So what’s the answer? Re-frame your idea of the morning routine. What if your main job was to connect emotionally? That way, your child would have a genuinely “full cup.” Not only would he be more ready to cooperate with you, he’d be more able to rise to the developmental challenges of his day. How?
1. Get everyone to bed as early as possible.
Read all the details at AhaParenting!