Welcome to Primary Iris - The Children's House

Home / Family Portal / Classroom Pages / Primary Iris

Welcome to Primary Iris

A Montessori environment is unique in many ways. From the child-size furniture to the art hanging just at their level, it is a truly special place. With such gratitude, I look forward to the year ahead getting to know each of your children and families, and watching them learn and grow. My goal for each child is to feel at home, empowered, and inspired to follow his or her own unique interests. Your partnership is so important in this journey and in building our classroom community!

I look forward to a wonderful school year! 


Kristi Johnson


"That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child open himself up to life." - Maria Montessori


Room Parents
Katie Short
Claire Olio


Back to School Parent Letter

Kristi Johnson, Primary Guide
Kristi Johnson, Primary Guide
Bnnar Taymour, Primary Support
Bnnar Taymour, Primary Support
Anna Foulkrod, Primary Support
Anna Foulkrod, Primary Support

Classroom Highlights


Dear Iris Families,

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone for their unwavering support, love, and kindness. A special mention to our dedicated room parents, Katie Short and Claire Olio. Their tireless efforts in organizing a week full of surprises for Teacher Appreciation Week not only left us all in awe but also brought our school community closer. Their commitment is a shining example of the spirit that defines our Iris Community. The little notes from the children were a touching reminder of the love that permeates our school.

It is hard to believe it is already the end of May! The next two weeks will fly by, but each day, I remind myself to stay present and enjoy every moment, connecting children with new work, skills, and experiences.

Our environment is always full of stories shared. Some of those stories come from a book, while others are true stories shared from our own personal experiences or retellings of those who came before us. Storytelling is a significant part of a Montessori environment. The children practice this skill daily; we adore sharing these moments with them.

As an adult, this comes with an appreciation for the little things and a joy for sharing moments with the children. I would say one of the most requested stories this year revolves around “Bubba Oarbie” and the Piggies. Today, though, I shared a story about our family's discovery while gardening last night. Under our mulch, we found baby bunnies. Many children shared their own stories of baby animals! (Side note: we did not touch our mulch-dwelling bunnies. We covered them back up and respected their need for space).

With the end of the year upon us, there are many dates and details to remember. Please refer to the family calendar for further details.  



Good afternoon, Iris Families!

I want to thank many of you who responded to our email concerning our nut-free policy. It is a lot of fun learning new things about parents! This week's topics are Social/Emotional Literacy, Positive Discipline, and upcoming dates/events.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to receive training in the Zones of Regulation. Here is a link if you are interested in learning more: https://zonesofregulation.com/what-are-the-four-zones-of-regulation/.

Zones of Regulation is a program that helps children learn and understand various emotions, feelings, and energies experienced throughout life, how to categorize them, and how to use appropriate coping tools. With children this age, we spend a lot of time naming and learning about the wide range of emotions one may experience. This part has been a lot of fun as we practice making the faces associated with certain emotions. This can be helpful both for being able to name what they are feeling and also for being able to identify what someone else may be feeling. Eventually, we will spend more time talking about things we might feel in our bodies to identify what emotions or feelings we might be experiencing. The children caught on quickly, and we started categorizing those emotions into four zones: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red.

Here is a quick rundown on the four zones:

Blue: lowest energy. Tired, sick, bored, sad. What a child might notice in their bodies: heaviness, slow movements, slow heart rate, brain fog.

Green: neutral energy. Happy, calm, content (we call this ready to learn). What a child might notice in their bodies: relaxed muscles, focus, and neutral body temperature.

Yellow: higher energy, stronger emotions. Anxious, overstimulated, Stressed, Worried, Silly. What a child might notice in their bodies: tenser muscles, elevated heart rate and temperature, rapid thinking, fidgety/wiggly.

Red: Loss of control. Highest intensity. High energy and high emotions. Angry, Devastated, Terrified, Overexcited, Panicked. What a child might notice in their bodies: rapid heart rate, feeling hot (maybe even sweating), flushed skin.

The Hand Model of the BrainOne of the most important things to remember about feelings/emotions is that none are “bad” or “good.” We experience them in response to the world around us. There used to be a trend called “get to green”; however, research showed that this puts judgments on experiences, and rather than trying to change how we feel, it is important to accept and validate them and find tools to help us meet our intended goals. Another aspect that is important in this training is that children (and adults) need to practice coping skills in neutral states so that when they need to access them, they already feel comfortable and confident in using them. We also know that when we are in the red zone, we are not available for reason and need time before any level of conversation can be effective. I’ve heard it described beautifully as a “flipped lid.” I will attach a visual for this.

Limited Choices graphicAnother training I had the opportunity to go through is called Positive Discipline; it was life-altering. Many of you have heard me talk about this book written by Dr. Jane Nelson. This incredible book offers realistic tips on respectfully navigating interactions and behaviors experienced throughout childhood! Our trainer is the one who first explained to us about the flipped lid. Years ago, I was gifted a deck of cards from the Positive Discipline program that consists of “52 cards to improve your parenting skills”. There are helpful tips that many of us use in the classrooms and at home. I hope you all find them as helpful as I have over the years! The first one is about limiting choices and is helpful during transitions. I will also add that the more you use humor (within reason), the easier it can sometimes be!


Happy Friday, Iris Families! 

One day last week, we shared joyful moments from our day. Many children shared that their favorite moment for that day was “waking up.” However, one kindergartener shared that their favorite moment was cleaning the guinea pig cage. The children love to observe while I tend to the piggies, and after being asked so many times if they could help, I finally came around to putting together a plan. It went incredibly well, and now the Kindergartners rush in, hoping to get their first to help! A few children even got a chance to hold Poppy.  

We have observed such a hunger and love for work! There are times when there is hardly any floor space because all of the puzzle maps are out (It always makes us giggle with our adult brains when we hear a child announce the continent they are working on or stroll across the environment with Italy in hand to show Anna.). Golden beads are being added, subtracted, or multiplied. Children are counting chains. Children are writing with the movable alphabet. There are times when navigating through the environment takes a professional. 

The leadership in this community of children is what it is all about. When someone is stuck on an aspect of their work, there are children just waiting to use their acquired skills to help. The children have also learned that it is easier to zip a peer’s jacket than their own! Some of those zippers are tricky! There are times, however, when we have to hold those eager to help children back, allowing the stuck child adequate time to discover the answer themselves potentially.  

The children have done beautifully with caring for our bells, and for that, we are all grateful because the sound of the children carefully striking them and playing the scale up and down with precision is a joyful sound. Some children have worked endlessly matching the pitch of the bells or grading them from highest to lowest and have since moved on to learning the names of each pitch. With this knowledge comes the writing of music and then eventually reading music! The little ones observe this work with such fondness and eagerness! We remind them daily that they will one day have this same opportunity, and that day will be so special.   

A few weeks past, we had the privilege of watching a percussion performance by the Associate Director of Music for Classical Performance at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Keith Aleo. He is also the father of an elementary student here at TCH. One of his students wrote the performance based on the Martin Luther King Jr. speech “I Have a Dream.” It was moving and educational. We heard bits and pieces of the speech through part of the performance. Following the performance, he offered a demonstration of all the instruments he brought. We learned about the Udu clay drum, shakers made from shells, cymbals, the snare drum, and the vibraphone. We also learned that percussion can be defined as striking, rubbing, or shaking something.  

Tea is a new but exciting addition to the practical life shelf. Only a few children have had the lesson so far, as they practice inviting peers to tea. During this time, the children learn what being a host and guest means. The host does everything from extending the invitation to setting up the table and serving the tea to cleaning up and thanking their guest for joining them. It is an honor to witness this come to life. 

I am grateful to everyone for all you do behind the scenes to make this possible. Thank you for your trust and endless support! Have a wonderful weekend! 

Kristi, Bnnar, Anna, Poppy, Pepper and Dinghy  


Good morning, Iris families!

What a week it has been preparing for today! The children have been practicing for weeks and are excited to share their hard work. The entire program is well thought out and beautiful. 

Here are a few things to remember about today:

Pajama Day for primary communities!

11:30- Holiday Sing (please join us in the gym)

Following the holiday sing, we will dismiss children within the gym. We invite you to come to us to retrieve your child. Once you find our group, please physically check in with the adult holding the iPad (Anna or Bnnar). 

Your child's belongings will be packed in their cubbies and ready to be taken home. Please collect it following the Holiday Sing so we can deep clean their cubbies over break. This is an excellent opportunity for you to ensure their extra clothes are season-appropriate and still fit. 

Thank you for such an incredible year! We are honored for the opportunity to guide your children. It is an incredible group of kind and loving humans. This half of 2023 in the Iris Community has been filled with learning, discoveries, growth (physically and cognitively), laughter, and friendships. None of this was possible without your continued support and trust. Thank you! 

Our wish for you this holiday season is that you all are able to rest and enjoy time with loved ones. May your time be filled with laughter and joy! 


Kristi, Anna, Bnnar, Poppy, Pepper, and Dinghy 


 Dear Iris Families, 

The past three weeks have been filled with joy in the Iris Community! We enjoyed Pumpkin Fun Day, welcomed a new member from one of the toddler communities, gathered for conferences, learned about Ruby Bridges, and now we are preparing for our Harvest Feast. Pumpkin Fun Day was a raging success. The children scooped out the insides of an enormous pumpkin. Some children were less than thrilled about this sensory experience, while others were lost in the slimy goop, anxiously awaiting their next turn to reach their hands inside! We roasted pumpkin seeds, made ghost toast, enjoyed a delicious snack from Katie Short and family, and participated in several fall-themed crafts! It was so much fun to see them interact with one another in a different routine. They were collaborative, helpful, and able to handle excitement while also keeping it under control.  

So far this school year, we have welcomed three move-ups from the various toddler communities. Let me tell you; we have such a kind and nurturing group of children. They have taken each young child under their wings, shown them the classroom expectations lovingly, and helped them with transitions. This same kindness and compassion has also been extended beyond the newer members, offering hugs or redirections when a child is experiencing big feelings or struggling with boundaries or impulse control. It warms our hearts to see such empathy and compassion toward one another. 

Last week, a group of Upper Elementary members visited us during our morning gathering to share information about Ruby Bridges. We learned that at six years of age, she was the first African-American to attend an all-white school in Louisiana. She was met with hateful protestors who were angry about the de-segregation of public schools. Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by four Federal Marshals. On November 14, 1960, when Ruby Bridges walked through the doors of William Frantz Elementary School, a mob of parents ran into the school and pulled their children out. That day, Ruby Bridges was the only child to attend school. As time passed and children returned to school, only one teacher was willing to teach Ruby. Her name was Barbra Henry—her class size was one child, Ruby Bridges. Not only did she learn alone, but she ate lunch alone and played at recess alone. Here is an article from The National Women’s History Museum if you would like to know more: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ruby-bridges. On November 14, we walked around the school property with our Elementary students, remembering Ruby Bridges' bravery! To support the children in understanding a little more about the importance of this event, we have been reading a book called “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race” written by Megan Madison (Northern Michigan native), Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas.  

I had the delightful opportunity to sit with many of you for our fall conferences last week. It was a pleasure getting to know you and your family better. While I know it is helpful to know what your child is doing inside the classroom, it is equally helpful for us to know what life looks like for your child beyond our doors. I learned new interests, strengths, areas of growth, and so much more. We laughed. Told stories. Laughed a little more and collaborated on various strategies to support your child’s development. Thank you for your trust, support, and partnership.   

Lastly, I am attaching many photos for you all to enjoy! Please, remember to send in winter gear *LABELED* as the weather looks like it is going to shift. Have a wonderful weekend!



Dear Iris Families, 

It feels like the past two weeks have flown by. So much has happened in those two weeks. On Monday, October 10, we recognized Indigenous People’s Day. A few of the older children attended a presentation by Eric Hemenway. He shared with the children what the word Indigenous means and that his ancestors were the first people to inhabit this land. Eric focused a great deal on pointing out how we are very similar. He also shared with the children a few artifacts from his life. The first was a basket that Eric’s mother weaved when he was ten years old. The basket came from a black ash tree. He referred to trees as family and how, before they harvested the tree, they thanked it for all it has provided and will continue to provide in the future. We learned that the black ash tree is in danger and needs our help. 

Other artifacts Eric brought to share with the children included a box made of birch bark and porcupine quills, as well as the remnants of a tool dating back over three thousand years. The children were especially excited to see this ancient hammer! It was an honor to share this moment with the children and to learn more about those who came before us. His visit with us also reminded me how important it is to talk to children about where things come from and all the hands that are involved before it makes it to our hands. This is a great dinner-time conversation to have as a family, especially surrounding food. Where did the food on your plates come from?  

Here is a poem we say together before we eat: 
Earth, who gave us all this food, 
Sun, who made it ripe and good, 
Dearest Earth and Dearest Sun, 
Will not forget what you have done.   

A few other songs we have been singing are: 

Building Bridges 
Building bridges between our divisions 
We’ll reach out to you, won’t you reach out to me 
With all of our voices and all of our visions, 
Friends, we can make such sweet harmony.  

Austrian Yodeling Song 

Once, an Austrian went yodeling 
On a mountain so high 
When along came a cuckoo bird 
Interrupting his cry 
Oh-lee-ah koo-kee-ah oh-lee-ah cuckoo cuckoo 
Oh-lee-ah koo-kee-ah oh-lee-ah cuckoo cuckoo 
Oh-lee-ah koo-kee-ah oh-lee-ah cuckoo cuckoo 
Oh-lee-ah koo-kee-ah ay 
…When along came a skier (swish) 
…When along came an avalanche (rumble-rumble) 
…When along came a St. Bernard (woof-woof) 
…When along came an ambulance (wheeeeee…..) 
…When along came a bobsled (zoom) 

Beyond the visit from Eric and our time spent together reading and singing, the older children have been hard at work giving lessons to the younger children. They are working on learning the sounds associated with letters as well as matching rhyming objects. It has been a delight watching the older children grow into leaders while the younger children learn joyfully from their peers.  

Thank you to those who were able to come for Primary Up Close. It was fun getting to do Golden Bead Addition with all of you. For those of you who were not able to attend, I love showing parents lessons. If you have any questions, I am happy to schedule a time to show you the various materials. Additionally, a huge thank you to everyone who came to Parent Visiting Day this week. It was a huge success, and the children all commented on how fun it was to show off their work! 

I look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks with each of you at the beginning of November for conferences! If your family has a busy schedule, please be on top of scheduling right away for a slot that TCH and I have set aside for November 6-10. The link to sign-up will be available in Waypoints this afternoon. 

Quick Reminders: 

  • Please label all seed butter foods in home lunches, as we are a nut-free community. 
  • Label, Label, Label all clothing and gear. It helps us keep track of your child’s belongings.  

Thank you for your continued support!  



Hello Iris Families!

I want to start with a few housekeeping items. We are a nut-free community which includes both tree nuts as well as peanuts. If you send in something containing seed butter, please label it clearly so we know it is nut-free. Additionally, please remember to remain in your car during carline until we arrive with your child. This helps us keep our order as well as support our boundaries surrounding walking with a guide to their car. Thank you for helping us keep our community safe!

Sitting here today, reflecting on the start of the year, I am filled with gratitude for the children, the assistants, and, of course, all of you. Seeing how much we have accomplished as a community already has been a joy, and we are only wrapping up week three. The start of the year is a lot like getting many plates up in the air and spinning. It is humbling. Some of those plates fail to launch, some come crashing down, and some are a raging success as if you have gifted them a present they never knew they needed, and they cherish it and practice it with the utmost care and attention.

There is a beautiful buzz throughout the environment. The bells are singing, children are counting, tables are being scrubbed, snacks are being prepared, letters are being traced, and almost every child has their very own “letter book.” I can confidently say those letter books are the most significant item in the eyes of the children. When the children walk in the door, they rush to retrieve their letter books from their drawers to read to me or a friend. Let me explain.

Language in the Montessori community looks different from most other approaches. In our environment, we have something called sandpaper letters. These are cursive letter boards with individual letters that the children learn to trace with their fingers while also learning the sound associated with that symbol. Three letters are presented at a time, and once they have been presented, they are then written into a unique little book your child has chosen. Over that week, the children practice their new letters, and once they have “mastered” a letter sound, a little heart is added in the top right-hand corner to show they know it by heart.

Aside from the presentations with the materials that live on the shelves, there are the ones being given to create a better world, a world that is safe, supportive, nurturing, and inclusive for all. We have talked extensively about advocating for ourselves while being kind and respectful community members! This is a lifelong journey, but we are already seeing the difference. These conversations are being supported with beautiful children’s literature and songs collected over the years. Their favorite book so far is:

The Tale of the Unwelcome Guest: Nasruddin Teaches the Town a Lesson; A Circle Round Book written by Rebecca Sheir, illustrated by Mert Tugen

Each day, we see the children run in with huge smiles, and the day begins with all of the children checking in with one another. They are truly at home in their environment, and it is an honor to be part of their worlds.