Saturday, January 20, 2018

2nd Annual Horace Mann PBIS Carnival - A Big Hit!

For the second year in a row, Carnival Coordinator Kristy Gibbons and her amazing team of parent volunteers created a fun-filled event for Horace Mann's student body.  This party is well on its way to becoming a tradition at The Mann!

In order to celebrate students' safe, respectful, responsible, and kind behavior throughout the 2nd quarter, they have 45 minutes to enjoy a wide variety of activities in the gym:  face painting, ring toss and other "games of skill", sack race, popcorn stand, crafting with beads, and, of course, the wildly popular balloon animal/sword station. There were also quieter activities in the gym hallway if the gym got too loud (Legos and wall art), as well as bowling and other activities downstairs for students who are most successful with modified, staff-supported play.  The last act?  On Monday we'll find out who guessed the number of pieces of candy in the jar with the greatest accuracy...and of course they'll win the candy.

It was so rewarding to see our students from grades PK-5 having a blast with these wholesome, simple games.  I'd love to thank each and every parent volunteer individually for their generosity of time and patience, but there were so many I'd be afraid to miss someone.  So, a hearty group thank you to all--you know who you are :)

At the end of the 3rd quarter in March, we'll have a fun science-centered assembly that is sure to have kids laughing and learning in spite of themselves.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Horace Mann 4th Grader Honored for Poetry

Poetry comes in many forms and serves many purposes.  Most people have a strong reaction when considering poetry, conveying its unique place in the world of written expression.  Our district's reading and writing curriculum has units on poetry across grade levels, and there are many books of (traditional and non-traditional) poetry in the Horace Mann library.  Thinking about poetry and writing like a poet are unquestionably valuable skills for children and adults, alike (even though it can be really hard)!

In addition to writing about poetry, HMann students are, of course, writing about all kinds of topics:  fiction, nonfiction and perhaps personal journaling, too.  Writers are encouraged to write with their audience in mind.  Regularly, we share pieces of writing with peers in class, sometimes across classrooms at the grade level, and once in awhile we share within our school or other Lakewood Schools.

But sometimes, student work is shared on an even grander scale.  Recently, Horace Mann 4th grader Rian Fetting was listed on the Honor Roll of Stone Soup Magazine ( for his poetry.  Rian submitted three poems he wrote a couple years ago after a pet passed away.  They are all thought-provoking, but I'll share this one:
I'm different on the outside.
I almost always look bored.
But on the inside
sometimes I'm sad and miserable.
You say,
Are you having fun?
I say, yes.
I can tell you believe it
But it's not 
always true.

Congratulations to Rian on his recognition in Stone Soup.  I wonder if other Horace Mann students might be inspired to send their writing out into the world?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Joy Filled Holiday Gesture at Horace Mann

As you can imagine, the atmosphere was brimming with excitement during our last week before winter break.  We had terrific fun with spirit week, made keepsake crafts for parents, enjoyed holiday themed work and culminated with a beautiful concert and art show. 

Amidst all the activity, I experienced a small gesture with the potential for big effects.  The clever parents of a sweet--but somewhat shy--childdeveloped a routine where they sent him to school each day with a $1 scratch off lottery ticket.  The boy approached different familiar adults at school, presenting them with the ticket and having short, fun conversational exchanges while the ticket was scratched. 

While I was lucky enough to have the interaction and see the boy's grin, I, alas, was not a monetary winner (our secretary Barb, on the other hand, claimed $10!).  I was, however, fortunate to contribute to the growth of this child's broader confidence and his joy in giving to others. 

Thank you to all parents for the creativity, generosity and love you give your children every day.  We here at Horace Mann benefit by extension, and you are making an immeasurable difference in our community and our world.

Have a safe and joyful holiday, and we'll see you in 2018!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Spotlighting Horace Mann 5th Grade and CHAMPS

Horace Mann 5th grade teachers Kelsey Robinson and Allison Martzolf got a jump-start from CaTT Julie Ferrone for their students' latest work.  As a culmination of the recent non-fiction reading unit of study, students learned how to create GoogleLinks.  Then, they used their GoogleLinks to give 3-minute class presentations, showing off their newfound expertise.  The graphics below show  two student GoogleLinks  (web links provided if you want to click and learn).  Thanks to Jane W for the Army/Police Dogs exemplar (Dogs), and  Isaac C. for the one on Pearl Harbor (Pearl Harbor).

Inline image 1  Inline image 2

The CHAMPS team at Horace Mann is a "school within a school."  The six teachers (Rita Axford, Maureen Crane, Caitlin Dukes, Erica O'Grady, Cristina Smith, and Cheryl Smolen) provide leadership and inspiration for the staff in their classrooms--and our entire school--on a daily basis.  Together and individually, the both spearhead and support innumerable initiatives for ALL Horace Mann students, always looking for new ideas.  There are too many accomplishments to list (and always something new on the horizon).  Two recent standouts are their use of yoga/mindfulness in their classrooms and starting a "helping hands" program.  Helping hands are 4th and 5th grade students from general education homerooms who volunteer in a CHAMPS classroom during recess 1x/week.  This engagement gives students authentic opportunities to practice kindness, compassion and playfulness, and is deepening relationships among students.  Who knows...maybe we are even growing some future special educators?!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lakewood History Comes to Horace Mann

The kindergarteners at Horace Mann experienced some history this week, as the Lakewood Historical Society brought a traveling trunk filled with items from an old school house (circa 1180s).  Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Cassey Rini wrote, "Students held books that were used 150 years ago, used slates with chalk and tried on clothing." 

Consequences for bad behavior were also shared, such as wearing a slate with the "crime" (as shown by Mrs. Rini) and standing in the corner in a dunce cap (Mrs. Mandi Sloan demonstrates below).

Students were highly engaged in this hands-on learning experience, and we are grateful for the Lakewood Historical Society for making it available to us. 

I'm sure many Horace Mann families are already aware of the Oldest Stone House and the other resources available, yet I've linked their website here in case it is time to take another look:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Light of Kindness at Horace Mann

During a recent classroom visit, I was lucky to hear our teacher of English Learners, Mrs. Noon Kim, reading aloud from a Newberry Award-winning picture book entitled, Last Stop on Market Street (LaPeƱa & Robinson, 2015).  Last Stop tells the story of a boy and his Nana on a Sunday afternoon.  The boy asks his Nana many questions about why they don’t have certain things and why they are doing nice things for other people (such as going to help others after church).    Although he pesters her, he also follows her lead, smiling and greeting others, and pitching in to assist people.  Of course, he learns that kindness to others is a win-win situation for everyone.  It is a touching book and is available in our school library.

This story illustrates a point I found recently in a more academic format.  An article in the journal Educational Leadership (Goodwin, 2017)  noted the differences between empathy (feeling what others feel) and compassion (becoming concerned for others’ well-being and wanting to help them, yet not necessarily mirroring their emotions).  So, while connecting with the feelings of others is a step in the right direction, it is often the action that can make a bigger difference.  

Acts of kindness abound in the Horace Mann community.  I see students and adults do special things to improve the lives of others every single day.  In this season of charity and gift-giving, this light of kindness at HMES burns even brighter.  Thank you for modeling and encouraging generosity with goods, talent and time throughout this holiday season.  As a result, our children are learning to be compassionate, which bring greater happiness to all!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Witnessing Acts of Kindness

As many of you know, we have "Five Bs" at Horace Mann:

Be Safe
Be Respectful
Be Responsible
Be Kind
Be the Best You Can Be

We are always looking for opportunities to encourage and reinforce students when they behave in ways that show those qualities. It is clear that Horace Mann families also value these behaviors. We feel fortunate to partner with you, helping our kids learn to overcome the obstacles.

This week's post focuses on kindness. Now, it is just common sense that when someone is kind to you, you feel good. It logically follows that the person who acted kindly also gets a boost to their spirits. Did you know that even just witnessing an act of kindness raises the level of seratonin in the brain--thereby giving us that warm, fuzzy feeling?

So being kind is good on a physical level, not just for the giver and receiver, but all who notice.  If you’d like a dose of seratonin (and that nice feeling in your heart that goes with it), watch this 3:05 video:  Acts of Kindness

As we enjoy our Thanksgiving break, let's make special efforts to be kind, because, as we know...our kids are always watching!