Friday, March 16, 2018

The Energized Guyz at Horace Mann

Through our Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) framework, we recognize students' safe, respectful, responsible, kind behavior with an end-of-the-quarter celebration.  We had a blast at the carnival put on by PTA at the end of the first semester, and invited the Energized Guyz (sponsored by the Illuminating Company) to entertain--and teach--us this quarter.

Riley and Jessie from the National Theater Company made us laugh with their silly costumes and corny jokes as they explained how energy is made, how it is wasted and how it can be conserved.  Between shows, the performers noticed that our audience included parents, and they thought that was pretty cool :)

We were able to have two separate performances, one for PK-2 and another for grades 3-5.  Here are a few action shots to give you a sense of the show:

Part of this performance is an opportunity for parents to receive a free energy saving kit from the Illuminating Company.  I hope you will take advantage of this resource.  Who doesn't like to save money and help the environment at the same time?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Building a Network of Neurons

Horace Mann Teacher Jennifer Frank is exploring two related neuroscience-based concepts this year:  The Growth Mindset and Mindfulness.  If you'd like to learn more about one or both of those things, read on (and feel free to Google them, too!)...

Last week, she found an opportunity to combine the two seamlessly with some 2nd graders. Students watched videos on neural pathways and neural connections, then made neurons out of pipe cleaners.  Together, they talked about how our brains can grow and be made stronger...and how putting in effort helps our brain cells increase and work better.

Students made their own neural pathways with black and white pipe cleaners, and then twined them together to make stronger, bigger neural connections.  Here are a couple pictures of their products:

It is thrilling to see advanced science come to life for young students, especially around a topic that can motivate them to try harder, experience success and feel better about learning. Thank you, Mrs. Frank, for finding a path to confidence and joy for our kids!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

All About Art

Although we have formal visual art class at Horace Mann during the 2nd quarter, our students continue to engage their bodies and minds in art throughout the year.  One simple way this happens is during indoor recess.  Students have many choices in the "game room," such as drawing with markers and building with Legos and STEM toys like Magnatiles.

Another way art lives on at Horace Mann is through the group lessons our Occupational Therapists do with students in CHAMPS homerooms.  While they create seasonal and cultural works of art, they practice skills such as following directions and using tools (such as scissors and glue).  Students' unique art decorates our halls and makes them fun!  We always make sure it is student art, and not something done by adults to be "right."๐Ÿ™‚Here are examples currently in the halls from Mrs. Crane, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Axford's classes:

Finally, a well-deserved shout out to the three Horace Mann artists who were honored by Lakewood Council of PTAs for their pieces entered in the Reflections contest Visual Arts category.  Our students (Helen Alcantar - 5th grade, Evelyn Lardi - 3rd grade, and Joanna Wright - 5th grade) were recognized at the Reflections program at Garfield Middle School on January 30th.  Congratulations, girls, and thank you for showing our community the great art happening year 'round at The Mann!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Comfortable Cafeteria is Changing the Face of Lunch at The Mann

When you close your eyes and think back to lunchtime in elementary school, what comes to mind?  Well, a lot has probably changed since then, but some things stayed the same...until recently, that is.

While lunch should be an enjoyable experience, there are times when lunch in the school cafeteria can be stressful.  Maybe it is too noisy, maybe the lights are too bright.  Maybe there isn't enough time to eat, or people aren't talking kindly with one an other.  In an effort to bring our positive behavior supports into the cafeteria, Horace Mann decided to implement a program called Comfortable Cafeteria (

Before we began, a team was created with our five lunch/recess supervisors, an occupational therapist, two PTA members and the principal.  We educated ourselves about the program, decided it was a good fit, and planned how to proceed.  We chose 3rd grade to start, and plan to expand to other grades after the pilot. 

Last week, we did the first of 6 sessions, teaching 3rd graders about noise levels in the cafeteria.  Over the last couple weeks, thanks in part to PTA, changes have been happening in the cafeteria that are improving the environment and increasing student responsibility.  For example, we have dimmed the lights with blue filters, divided  tables into smaller sections, and given kids the ability to throw away their trash and volunteer to wipe tables.  On Friday, a few ficus trees were added (the picture is PTA President Amy Lardi on her way in with the big plants).  One 5th grader commented being in the lunchroom was starting to feel like being outside ๐Ÿ˜Š

The vision of Comfortable Cafeteria is for our school to provide pleasant and positive mealtimes so that students will enjoy eating food and socializing with peers and adults.  We look forward to making this vision a reality, and welcome any feedback or suggestions.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The 5th Habit of Happy Kids: Listen Before You Talk

During the months of February and March, we’ll focus on the 5th Habit of Happy Kids:  Listen Before You Talk.  There are so many elements that contribute to this practice.  On the listening side, we need to focus our attention on the person who is speaking.  This means tuning out distractions and other things of interest.  It can be especially tough when we don’t like what the person is saying!  We also need to quiet down our own naturally-arising thoughts in order to truly hear what the other person is saying (rather than what we imagine s/he is saying).  Again, the challenge is greater when the other’s point of view differs from ours.  And it is so hard not to interrupt.  We must cultivate patience to listen until we’ve heard everything the speaker wants to say.  

On the talking side, we can do several things to promote others’ understanding.  We need to look people in the eyes when we speak (which as we know is also part of building empathy), unless there is a sensitivity that makes that very uncomfortable for one of the communication partners.  We also need to voice our ideas confidently, knowing we each are entitled to our unique perspective.  Watching the reactions of the people we’re talking with, being considerate of their emotions and needing another turn to talk, is another important skill to develop.

When I write about “The Habits”, it always makes me think about ways I can improve, too.   This month, I’m going to try and interrupt less often.  If I feel the need to interrupt, I’ll look right at the speaker’s face and remind myself his/her message is the most important thing in this moment.

Let’s encourage our students to be good listeners and confident speakers at home and at school.  We know communication skills are a key to fulfillment in life, and it is never too soon to start!

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?