“From Under Our Big Tree” Newsletter #13: The Acorns (5 to 7 Class)

Weekly Newsletter #13 – 5 to 7 Class
All Together - 5 to 7 Class
“Play flows out of friendship and friendship flows out of play.  The relationship works both ways and equally well, but the children are not convinced that this is so, a suspicion that grows stronger as they grow older.”
Vivian Gussin Paley

All You Need is Love

I’ve been carefully watching our children at play and reflecting on what I think they are learning or working toward. Part of that reflection is trying to understand how I can support them to expand their thinking and deepen their exploration.  In order to gain practice in stretching their thinking, we began our “intentional gatherings” during Personal Project Time.  Here is a glimpse of how a provocation (my idea/scaffold) is designed to spark their interests during Project Time:
  • Tuesday: finish painting the barn – for our play!
  • Wednesday: potion experiment plan where students measured and documented their plans in a new log book
  • Thursday: hermit crab floor time where students can see the hermit crabs we are pet sitting up close and have some “play” time with them
  • Friday: challenge the book making group to add words or details to their pages…
Coming up next week, we will add a scooter board plan where students can measure how far they go, and document important information like how they work, ways to create force and what makes them stop.
But still, there is something missing…This is a something big they are all working on and it is something that WE are all working on (and I say we here because it is not just the students or the adults, but society as a whole):

Young people may call it FRIENDSHIP, adults may say INCLUSION or SOCIAL JUSTICE.  Now this is nothing new to the 5-7 class, or children in general as many teachers and child experts will tell you that being left out or leaving someone out is natural and part of navigating social life, and we can support them along the way.  Yes and yes.  I’ve been reading books, playing co-operative team building games, supporting disagreements, and encouraging ways to find the yes.

However I’m feeling empowered to do something more this year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been deeply reflecting on my personal values, our school values, and what is alive in the world today (refugees, racism, bullying, exclusion, fear, etc.) and I feel that it has to stop and it begins with our children.  We can lovingly support our young people in finding ways to include and be their kind, vibrant, loving selves with all people so they may feel empowered to create a socially just world as they move beyond the classroom walls.

Knowing that this is nothing new, and there are many resources on ways to support an inclusive classroom I chose to reread Vivian Gussin Paley’s You Can’t Say You Can’t Play this weekend and it’s resonating with me even more this time around. I am encouraged to go deeper in how I support.  Year after year Paley noticed the same social patterns and was compelled to find another way, just like me.

“We vote about nearly everything in our democratic classrooms, but we permit the children to empower bosses and reject classmates.” (p.22) and later “Thinking about unkindness always reminds me of the time-out chair.  It made the children sad and lonely to be removed from the group, which in turn made me feel inadequate and mean and – I became convinced- made everyone feel tentative and unsafe.  The emotions show up in a variety of unwholesome ways depending on whether one is a teacher or child.  We are all cut from the same cloth.  The time-out chair was my means of punishment.  “You can’t play” is the child’s way.  If it is wrong for me to exclude, then it is equally wrong for the children.  Another classroom trap has been eliminated.” (p. 95)

In TKG style, Paley does not implement this rule herself, she begins with discussions in her class as well as with the older grades and teachers.  She poses this question:
“Is it fair for children in school to keep another child out of play?  After all, this classroom belongs to all of us.  It is not a private place like our homes.” (p.16) and “Is it (the rule) fair? Will it work?” (chapter 2)

I am inspired to bring these questions to our class beginning this week and build on the student created  Bill of Rights of safety, being loved, having friends, and playing.   I look forward to this journey and supporting our people along the way.

Please join me in this research project on discovering how can we honor individual relationships while simultaneously upholding our value of inclusion? How do we, as adults, not use our power to force children to “include” but rather recognize that when there is a pattern of exclusion, children need our help?  I have some ideas:

  • connections over the break
  • inviting someone who hasn’t been over for a play date
  • a carpool ride
  • a face time call
  • supporting feelings and emotions
  • writing books and playing out scenariosI
I look forward to hearing your observations, wonderings, ideas, thoughts as we explore how we can support together.
In the end Paley is convinced her rule will help, “It will happen.  It is happening. Because the children are learning that it is far easier to open the doors than to keep people out.” (p.118)

I am convinced too.  We have the power to make the world a better place, a place where race, class, gender, age, and religious believes do not determine how you are treated…and it begins with “everyone can join.”


Michelle Goldbach-Johnson, Lead Teacher 5 to 7 Classroom/Founding Teacher
Dawn Smith, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Lena Garcia, School Builder/5-7 Class Mentor and Collaborator
Trish Valdez, School Business Manager
Monica Evangelist, Board President
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TKG Info

Tending the Garden

Holiday Celebration – Fri Dec 18th 9-11 am: Join us for our latest learning presentations and then share community time at a Holiday Brunch (did you get the Sign Up Genius)! Check with James (room parent) for more information.

Parent Support Group – Wed 9:30am: Facilitated by Renee @ her studio. Take some time to reflect and restore as part of our unique school resources.

Holiday Break Meet Ups – Please post any holiday fun invites on our Private Facebook Page (contact Trish for access) and keep our TKG connections crackling!

TKG Principles
  • CONSTRUCTIVISM: teachers and parents support relevant learning & creativity
  • WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY: cognitive, physical and social/emotional health is valued – families & caregivers are our partners
  • BRAIN SCIENCE: we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice positive learning experiences
  • CAPACITY BUILDING: nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
  • COOPERATIVE LEARNING: small groups, low ratios, mixed ages
Parent Teacher Info

Parent Teacher Toolbox

PTs This Week
FRIDAY – Jennifer Ceci

How to Talk to Children About LAUSD Developments: You may find some helpful tips from Ruth Beaglehole. Watch this video.

Mindful Moment – Mon 4 Jan (time tbc): Facilitated by Lori, please enjoy this time to ground yourself and breathe deeply.

NEW PARK LOCATION (when we return on Jan 4th): Our new location (until further notice) will be Ernie Howlett Park, a 35 acre park boasting: handball courts, big athletic fields, basketball court, volleyball court 3/4-mile running track and a bike path! The address is: 25851 Hawthorne Boulevard between Palos Verdes Drive North and Rolling Hills Road.

PT RESOURCE: Being a PT Helps You Practice Mindfulness
So, how can you learn to have “an awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” as mindfulness pioneerJon Kabat-Zinn explains? Should you download an app? Take a class? Perhaps. Another option: spend time at TKG. Read more @HuffingtonPost

Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

Admin Office Hours, Thrs 9:00am @ TKG: We are hosting a resource workshop on Relationship Building – come join for the first 30 minutes! After that, we’ll be giving a tour of our school to prospective families!

End of Year Appeal (Tax Donations): Please count us in for your tax deductions. Appeal forms are located on the Green Monster.
$20 covers one field day MEAPS kit.
$50 will help us add ride-ons to our outdoor classroom
$200 guarantees a co-teacher for one day

December Holiday (No School): Dec 21 – Jan 1

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best
Resource Of The Week – Whole Child


Rigor and Kindergarten. At TKG, we know that those two words go together when children (or an individual child) are asking for it. We will encourage our students to engage academic rigor, as their developmental capacity (ZPD) expands. Want to see how it works? Come visit the 9 to 11 Class sometime (contact Trish to make an appointment)!

*   *   *
by KATHLEEN COSTANZA/Fred Rogers Institute
It seems every week, there’s another story about the benefits of early education or how investing in high-quality early childhood programs pays off. And President Obama’s recent 2016 budget proposal included a 10-year, $75 billion universal preschool request.

But as a recent story in Education Week explained, there’s no real consensus on what a regular day in a kindergarten classroom should look like. Teachers face increasing pressure to focus on academic content in the early elementary grades, often at the expense of art, music, and time for free play. At the same time, researchers continue to find the brains of children of this age are wired to learn through the very types of activities being pushed further to the side.

Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told Education Week that in the last 15 years, there’s been a revolution in how we understand young children’s minds. Read More @MrRogers Center

The Role of Rigor in Kindergarten

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