Sunday, October 15, 2017

HMann Staff Spotlights: 1st & 2nd Grade

The 1st grade team at Horace Mann is a lively one, with two homeroom teachers (Patti Cramer & Julie Harkness), a shared intervention specialist (Jen Frank), shared educational assistant (Marie Banak) and shared student teacher (Samantha Vidnovic).  Throw in collaboration with CHAMPS teachers, Ellen McCafferty (SLP) and other related service providers, and you've got a party!  In particular, this team stands out for their teamwork.  Not only do they plan and TBT together, but they also co-teach everything from math to reading workshop book clubs (yes, book clubs in 1st grade!).  Their efforts have a phenomenal effect on student learning, and lead to satisfaction and fun for adults all the while.  Check out this recent book club video of Farouq, Elliot, and Brigid:
Moving on to Grade 2, the spotlight shines on long-time teammates Anne Carney and Patty Wynne.  Their conscientious work ethic shows in the gains their students make in all subject areas.  Additionally, Horace Mann students are succeeding behaviorally in 2nd grade, and their teachers consistently make time to allow students to access privileges on our PBIS reward menu.  Here are pictures of Leom reading to his first grade teacher's class (in the comfy chair, of course) and a Violet reading to our therapy dog, Stan (he comes to school each Thursday).

Keep up the great work, Horace Mann :)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spotlighting Our Staff - Preschool & Kindergarten Mann welcomes a new preschool teacher to our staff.  Jonathan Davis as the general educator is a great addition to the integrated PK class team of Michelle Zahursky (intervention specialist) and Tammy Viserta, educational assistant.  We also welcome student teacher Samantha Vidovic to the same classroom this quarter.  Kids recently made self portraits, often needing to check the mirror!

After a smooth orientation and screening process, kindergarteners at Horace Mann are in the good hands of Mandi Sloan and Cassey Rini.  These teachers are avid users of the Seesaw app, and parents report they feel very in touch with their young scholars when they receive the social media updates throughout the day. It has also been inspiring to watch our kindergarteners take to mindfulness practices, such as yoga and mindful breathing.  Here is one student using a Hoberman Sphere (or “breathing ball”) and his friend making a ball with his hands.

Our teachers are second-to-none, and we are grateful for the expertise and care as they facilitate development of the whole child. We are ALL IN at Horace Mann!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

New Math Assessment - iReady

As we work with students, we should use many lenses to understand their skills.  When we understand their skills--and their traits as learners-- we can provide instruction that meets their needs. 

Many Horace Mann families are familiar with AIMSweb as the assessment tool the district has used for many years to benchmark students' reading skills, both decoding and comprehension.  In recent years, we've also added the "running records" as part of Reading Workshop that tell us what level book (that is, letter) is appropriate for each student.  Teachers use these assessments, in addition to daily observations of student work and other tests, such as the KRA for kindergarten and the AIR tests for grades 3-5, to guide their planning for reading instruction.

When Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards several years ago, it necessitated a significant change to instruction for many subjects, especially math.  Responsively, Lakewood adopted Eureka as our curriculum, and we've used the assessments for each module--as well as daily "exit tickets"-- to see how students are doing.  While those tools have worked well, we've been lacking the overview of student skills that AIMSweb provides for reading.

After careful research, the district decided to try i-Ready, an adaptive diagnostic math assessment for students in grades 3-5.  This online tool provides a custom assessment for each child by giving an easier or harder item based on student performance.  Thus, no two students have the same test, and the experience yields highly individualized information.  Since it is built on the Common Core, the test explores exactly what we need to know about student skills and is expected to provide a roadmap for planning instruction.  If you are curious to learn more, here is a link to the iReady website:  i-Ready.

While we still have plenty to learn about using i-Ready, I feel optimistic about its potential.  After all, when we need to make changes, the worst thing to do is nothing at all.  By adding this simple, kid-friendly assessment to our toolbox, we are making good on the district's commitment to actively engage students in their learning.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Doughnuts with Dads 2017

Wednesday, September 20th was a special day throughout Cuyahoga County:  it was Fathers Walk to School Day.  At Horace Mann, there was an extra incentive for the "big guys," doughnuts, juice and coffee...and extra time to hang out with their kids.

 Wednesday, while last names M-Z were invited on Thursday.  Both days had a strong turnout with a total of about 60 adults attending.

While the name "Doughnuts with Dads" is catchy and has been around a long time, we recognize that lots of men are involved in kids lives, and we want to convey an inclusive tone in the name of the event.  What should we call it next year?  Fathers and Friends?  Dudes and Doughnuts?  Please share your thoughts with me or any PTA board member.

Speaking of PTA, big thanks to them for hosting the event again this year.  If you enjoyed it, please consider becoming a member at the bargain price of $6!  Special thanks to Amy Lardi, Anne Babson, Kate McBride, and Kristy Gibbons for serving up the goodies :)  Thanks, too, to The Doughnut Pantry on Madison for the group rate on these popular pastries!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tremont Scoops at Horace Mann

One of our awesome annual traditions at Horace Mann is our PTA Ice Cream Social.  The front lawn--too infrequently used, if you ask me--comes alive with sticky-faced kids eating dairy deliciousness (usually with sprinkles), lots of chasing games and parents catching up with each other.  In short, it is community-building at its best.

This year, the community spirit went even higher as a result of neighborhood connections.  The first connection comes from having Tremont Scoops ice cream (yes, of course there was Cookies 'n Cream and Superman).  Big thanks to brand new Horace Mann family the Weinzimmers for making that possible!  The second link was the flash sale of Lakewood Black Label-designed Horace Mann t-shirts.  T-shirt sales continue for the next week or so, so please be in touch with our school if you are interested.  We love to support local small businesses!

Big thank you's to everyone who put this event together.  I've captured two photos, but be sure to check out the  Horace Mann PTA Lakewood Facebook page for lots more pictures.

It is events like these that make school an even more inviting place for kids to be, a place where they feel comfortable and joyful.  And that is exactly what we want, for it supports the academic and social growth we strive for Monday - Friday 8:45 am - 3:05 pm.  🙂

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Last Kids on Earth

It is so fun to watch kids get really excited about and engaged in a learning activity.  Last week, our librarian, Ms. Jen Johnson, was given about 30 minutes to be with our combined 5th grade class.

First, she gained their attention with a personal story about her brother preparing for the imminent threat of Hurricane Irma, activating their minds for what a person might face in a crisis.  Then, she prompted them to think about what important things might need to be addressed in the event of a flu epidemic.  Finally came the irresistible part: what would happen if there was a zombie apocalypse?!

Ms. Johnson explained this idea is the theme of a series of graphic novels by Douglas Holgate and Max Brallier written at the intermediate reading level, called The Last Kids on Earth  (  The publisher describes it as "Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Walking Dead."  As you can imagine, the 5th graders were hooked.

They worked in small groups to devise what they would need/do in such a situation, and I've captured two work samples as evidence of their efforts.  The teachers and librarians have been glad to see their enthusiasm for the activity...and that these books are now flying off the library shelf and have a wait list to borrow.

If only reading could always be this exciting?  How can we get ourselves interested in something to read and make a habit of passing that on to our kids?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Repairing Bricks and Growing Our Learners

Recently, there has been much ado about the new school buildings all around Lakewood, including the newly dedicated high school.  We are so fortunate to have a community and district that appreciates the importance of solid, attractive schools.

Our beloved Horace Mann school building is 95 years old (originally constructed in 1921).  While it is in beautiful shape after the full interior restoration about 10 years ago, it is only natural for there to be periodic blemishes to repair.  We noticed a shifting in some bricks on the front steps and eventually a few bricks came loose (Photo #1).  

When the contractors came to repair the problem, they needed to carve away quite a bit of deteriorated material (Photo #2).  While I didn't snap a picture of the completed project, I invite you to stroll by the lovely West Clifton entrance to see how they quickly completed the work with skilled craftsmanship. 

This repair to our building seems an apt analogy to our August/September Habit for Happy Kids,  Be Proactive:  You're in Charge.  By taking initiative and using the right talents and materials, something that needed attention was made better than new.  We see this principle in action at school every day--teachers notice what needs to be done with students when they have a "gap" in their learning; students respond with applying themselves to goals and challenges.  At the end of the day, we hope there is real growth in what kids know and can do, not just on the facade, but at the structural level, just like our building.