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Scout’s Report: February 2018 When you see our children singing, dancing, chanting, rhyming, building with blocks, discussing and negotiating, you are seeing not only play for play’s sake; you are witnessing active engagement in the underpinnings of literacy, math, communication, creativity and critical thinking. This edition of “Scout’s Report” underscores the importance of play at TCS, and how it builds strong, engaged members of the community with equally strong academic and critical thinking skills.

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Scout’s Report - February 2018

Language-Learning Through Play: Introducing Chinese (Mandarin) to Younger Grades

If you haven’t already heard the big news, The Children’s School is expanding the languagelearning program to include Chinese (Mandarin) beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Our youngest learners, age 3 – grade 2, will be immersed in the new language while grade 3 and up will continue on into a revamped Spanish program. We are very excited to develop an updated language-learning program that encourages a higher level of proficiency! We recently sat down with Krista Forsgren, a former TCS parent and world language consultant, to break down how the new language will impact children’s experience here at TCS Atlanta. Q: What (and how) would a 3-year-old learn Chinese? What aspects of our languagelearning program promote childhood and play? A: The way any toddler learns language is through listening, watching, and mimicking. If you watch babies and how they first learn to produce language, they are taking so much

in. Even if you think about a three-year-old jumping all over the place, they actually are attentive in a way that we lose very soon. The way they learn language is very intuitively, by absorbing a lot around them through listening and taking in more because their ears are really open to a lot more that’s going on around them because when we get older, we are distracted by lots more obligations and things we’re supposed to do. In China, I used to live nextdoor to a school, and I would hear the first thing they did every morning was recite poetry in a chanting way. By the time you finish kindergarten in China, you know hundreds of poems because you sing them and chant them. So, through singing, music, play, and not thinking too much, kids will learn a new language. Their brains are still wiring so they learn it more easily because they have more brain connections open to learning. Q: What advantages do our youngest learners gain from learning Chinese before Spanish? A: The reason that we decided to do this was because unfortunately, in the society that we live in right now, we don’t have enough exposure to non-Western languages such as Arabic, Chinese, etc. I’ve found in other programs I’ve started that if you can introduce Chinese language or another non-Western language earlier in age, children have built up fewer walls in their mind to “this is different/ hard/not comfortable.” Even if you go into schools where they don’t start teaching Chinese or Arabic until middle school, the middle school kids’ brains are already more wired, in general, for language learning so it’s harder to do something that’s very different from English. Their thought process is also a


Scout’s Report - February 2018

Language-Learning Through Play: Introducing Chinese (Mandarin) to Younger Grades (cont.) little bit more closed off to learning something that’s more different. Culturally, and for creating open minds and open hearts, it’s much easier to start something that’s a little more different at a younger age. Chinese language is much simpler than many people think it is, but we tell ourselves it’s not as we get older. So these kids won’t think that one language is harder than the other when they’re speaking it. Q: What other skills will children gain (or be able to bring to the table) through languagelearning? A: When you’re learning a language, you’re learning many of the concepts that you’re learning in the classroom. For example, I know that it’s very common for young students to come together on a rug, talk about the weather, the day of the week, the month, etc. You can do those things in other languages, too! Kids will learn how to say January in Chinese as well as in English. They’ll be able to talk about how cool/ warm it is today and all of the basic concepts that they’re learning to do as part of their day. The Chinese program will be structured in a way that will reinforce these concepts a lot of the time. They’ll do some new things too but the skills that they’re learning in other areas can also be reinforced and reviewed in Chinese language. When they get to third grade, they’ll do the same thing in Spanish. It’ll be a little more complicated because they won’t be talking about everyday things like the weather, but they’ll talk about related themes. Q: Where will second graders land when they finish the Chinese program? How is this change going to influence languagelearning across all grades? A: Our hope and our dream is that with regular,

active learning environments to learn Chinese, these children will be very comfortable and familiar with communicating in Chinese. For example, they might go on a trip to China and they’ll be able to communicate, get by, get directions, taxis, and be part of the process in a way; or they’ll even be able to host Chinese students or teachers. They’ll be part of the community in a different way when they have that Chinese ability. Communication is the main, overarching goal and each year we plan to have set content and skills for each grade. By the end of five years learning Chinese as a child, they should be able to communicate, listen, and get by. Reading and writing isn’t the focus because they are just beginning to learn how to read and write in English, and that takes a longer time. The influence will be more diversity in the world language program. Kids will be excited about learning Spanish and kids will be excited about learning Chinese in a way that’s targeted to build their confidence. Learning a language builds skills and confidence in a way that not many other subjects do. You have to fail, but it’s also so fun to be able to communicate with someone who has a different mother tongue than you. Q: How are we going to make sure that this new initiative will be effectively implemented with support for teachers? A: We’re really looking at the world language program in partnership with the [grade level] classrooms. Now, language is going to be a larger part of the weekly curriculum. World language teachers are going to be spending time with team leads to plan what they’re doing at each grade level, and they’ll be a part of that conversation in a way that hasn’t happened before at TCS.


Scout’s Report - February 2018

Play is Serious Learning in TCS Atlanta’s Early Learning Program

Walk into any one of TCS Atlanta’s 3’s/4’s or 4’s/5’s classrooms and you’ll see students playing with blocks, acting out characters, and turning everyday items like paper towel rolls, ribbons, and cotton balls into amazing art pieces. There’s no doubt that the children are having fun, but there’s also some serious learning happening within all this play! “As an early childhood educator and advocate, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of play to a child,” said Emilie Brick, 3’s/4’s teacher. “Play is the way a child relates and makes sense of the world around them. Through play, children develop foundational math and reading skills, fine and gross motor skills, and, with the right support, a lifetime love of learning.”

TCS Early Learning Program teachers know that play is incredibly important to how children learn, and receive training on how to direct high-level play. When children engage in highlevel play – play that involves “pretending” that lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour and includes multiple roles, and symbolic use of props – they start to build abstract thinking skills which helps them make sense of letters, words, numerals and mathematical symbols.

sorting, math, or language. Children naturally begin to comprehend and apply concepts of math, science and engineering while they build teams, collaborate spontaneously, and think strategically, but all the kids know is that they’re having a ton of fun! “They are the simplest toys, but the opportunities for learning and fun are endless,” said Nitefa Pearson, 4’s/5’s teacher. “Blocks can be transformed into math or language toys by adding pictures, numbers, or words to them for the children to explore. In Early Learning, children use blocks to create structures, roads, furniture or simply to sort. While playing, they not only learn to manipulate the material, they get practice working with others.” TCS Early Learning Program teachers know how to facilitate play to achieve the high-level of engagement needed for skill building. They ask open-ended questions to encourage problem solving, use their Responsive Classroom training to make encouraging comments that build self confidence, and steer play so that it remains high-level, focused and productive.

“Play is such a natural thing for a child to do, and it is our job as adults to learn to see But abstract thinking skills are just the beginning the benefits of play,” said Emilie. “Play is a of the many skills kids pick up while playing, necessary and beautiful part of life that we These include: need to honor and treasure. We must protect • Gross and fine-motor skills a child’s right to learn through play.” • Language and communication skills • Strong social development skills like listening, collaborating, compromising, and negotiating • Better self confidence Teachers and students love the simple wooden building blocks because the learning opportunities are endless. Our teachers use the blocks to connect play to lessons about


Scout’s Report - February 2018

TCS Atlanta’s Early Learning Program Builds a Foundation for Learning in the Elementary Years

parents (who are both also educators), with learning about who our child was becoming and what kind of student we might begin to expect.

TCS Math Specialist Tom and his wife, Tara, are in their seventh year as TCS parents. Their son, Thomas, started with us in our 3’s/4’s program and is now a fourth grader. Here, Tom talks Thomas’s journey as a student, his journey as a parent, and how Thomas continues to use the lessons he learning from the Early Learning Program. One of the many benefits of having our child enrolled in The Children’s School’s Early Learning Program (back when it was called preprimary and pre-kindergarten) was transitioning from the half-day preschool program he’d been attending into a full-day program. The Waldorf “inspired” start that he’d had was a terrifically supportive and kind introduction to schooling, and pre-primary at TCS was a perfect next step. Our child’s first teachers at TCS helped him with things like making it through a whole day to being a part of a larger group of friends and transitioning, as a group, from building to building across campus. My wife and I still fondly recall hearing reports of our son lying down and “resting” while his teachers lovingly rubbed his back and eventually allowed him to look at books quietly, because he was done with naps. We also continue to be grateful for those same teachers who gently, but without backing down, helped him handle paint on the sole of his foot for the project they were all working on. Those first TCS teachers also helped us, as

During his second year at TCS, our son truly began to develop into an independent learner. His teachers that year were so deliberate about establishing a culture of respect for self, others, the shared space, and all the activities involved in learning and play. The second year of pairing of those little cuties with the oldest students on campus, known quite fondly as “Big Buddies,” served to further develop our son’s sense of being an important part of a bigger community. I think it was during this year that he began referring to TCS as “my school.” It was also during this year that I had the great pleasure of helping to chaperone the class on what was one of my favorite field trips ever: our neighborhood fire station. Performing with his classmates for parents and siblings in a specially arranged and choreographed celebration of Prince songs, continues to be an important family memory. In addition to preparing him to be a successful learner moving on, another important foundational impact of having our son enrolled in TCS’s Early Learning Program, for our family, is the collection of diverse friends and families that he has had the opportunity to grow up with. The teachers during those first two years made it a priority that we all learned about and accepted all structures of families, tones of skin, and traditions and celebrations. Our family is so glad that we were able to have our son in this particular, Midtown Atlanta school, for this crucial time.


Scout’s Report - February 2018

Benefits of the Big/Little Buddy Program at TCS Atlanta

Our big/little program sparks a transfer of learning that illustrates the TCS Way! Visit our YouTube channel at Leadership, responsibility, and mentorship youtube.com/c/TheChildrensSchool skills are nurtured with project collaboration, to watch a video highlighting all of the play/reading time, and other big/little buddy benefits of our big/little buddy program. activities every week at TCS Atlanta.

Scout's Report: Play is Serious Learning  

This edition of “Scout’s Report” underscores the importance of play at TCS, and how it builds strong, engaged members of the community with...

Scout's Report: Play is Serious Learning  

This edition of “Scout’s Report” underscores the importance of play at TCS, and how it builds strong, engaged members of the community with...

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