Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Holidays at The Mann

     Over the past few weeks, the festive winter holidays provided a cheery background for all the usual things that happen at Horace Mann Elementary School.  Early in the season, there were toy and food drives with amazing student participation and K-Kids leadership.

     Recently, the Morning News--under the direction of Mrs. Kathy Ott, Library/Media Assistant--got into the mix.  The Project Wisdom Daily Messages took on a holiday tone and following the broadcast, holiday music and children's artwork were displayed for a few minutes each morning.

     Many take-home decorations and parent gifts were created in the children's classrooms, ranging from gingerbread houses in kindergarten to 3-D snowflakes in 5th grade.  Who says kids don't get to have fun in school anymore?

     The staff at The Mann had some great treats this week, too.  Thank you to all the parents who provided baked goods for the cookie walk--our busy staff members appreciate the work that goes into making those items!  We also had a generous donation of Bruegger's Bagels (and 7 kinds of cream cheese) for the staff on Thursday morning--thank you Bruegger's!

     It all culminated with the terrific Winter Concert on Friday.  The children performed for each other in a morning dress rehearsal and then for families in the afternoon.  They were adorable, funny and talented :-)  Thank you, again, to all the music teachers (Mr. Waryk, Mrs. Tabaj, Mr. Griebel and Ms. Mallchok) for directing the performance, as well as to many behind the scenes adult helpers (especially Mrs. McCafferty and Mr. Vargas) who made it all run so smoothly.

   It has been a wonderful 2014, and I look forward to so much more in 2015!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Focus on Close Reading

 What is close reading?  Trust me, it is NOT what is happening in this picture!

     As defined by Fisher and Frey (2015), close reading consists of:

  • Short, complex passages
  • Repeated reading
  • Annotation ("reading with a pencil")
  • Collaborative conversations about the text
     Additionally, the same authors suggest there are four phases of close reading that "begin with establishing the literal meaning of a text and ends with an exploration into the deeper meaning and a plan as for what should occur as a result of the reading" (p. 7).  These phases, or umbrella questions, are:
  • What does the text say?
  • How does the text work?
  • What does the text mean?
  • What does the text inspire you to do?
     In grades K-5, all elementary students in Lakewood are being instructed in strategies for close reading.  It is the focus of our Continuous Improvement Process this year and is expected to expand reading skills for ALL readers.  Some learning goals within the area of close reading include:

  • Asking and answering questions by citing evidence in the text
  • Determining central themes and summarizing key details
  • Analyzing the how and why of the development of ideas, characters, events and relationships in text 
  • Interpreting words and phrases to determine their meaning
     At Horace Mann, teachers are participating in a year-long book study related to close reading.  We are reading and discussing--with the help of Mrs. Brenda Budzar, Coordinator of Teaching & Learning--Text -Dependent Questions:  Pathways to Close and Critical Reading (Fisher & Frey, 2015).  Through this professional development, we hope to expand our common knowledge about the important topic of close reading, not only through reading the book, but also by talking with one another.  

     If you have any questions about close reading or any other aspect of curriculum and instruction, please contact me or your child's teacher.  What can you do at home?  Keep reading to and with your child...and be sure you do some reading of your own!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tech Talk

     In Lakewood City Schools, one of the "Top 20 by 2020" goals set out by Superintendent Jeff Patterson is for technology to be integrated into the teaching and learning in every classroom.  Here at Horace Mann, we are utilizing ever-changing resources to do just that.


     One neat example of using web resources for education is the Glogster Virtual Field Trip poster created for 4th and 5th graders by Mrs. McCafferty (our Speech/Language Pathologist, also known as Mrs. Mac).  Mrs. Mac not only provides speech services for students with speech difficulties, but she also does classroom lessons for all students to help them develop their language and communication skills.  Click the link to see poster she created using Glogster related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:

     As families know, most of our students are very interested in technology in all settings.  It is exciting to learn about and try the new applications and tools available.  At the same time, all of the changes in technology can be overwhelming.  If you ever have questions about how to access or use technology for your students' education, please contact me or your child's teacher.  If we don't know the answer, we will find someone who does!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Horace Manners Helping for the Holidays

      Generosity is running high at Horace Mann!  Heading into the holiday season, Horace Mann students, families and staff showed they care about others with not one, but two, charitable drives.

     First, big piles of canned/boxed food donations came in to support the work of the Lakewood Charitable Assistance Corporation.  I talked to the two guys who came to pick up the donations, and they were really impressed by the sheer number of donations (they were spilling out of their container)!

     Also, our thriving K-Kids Club organized a new toy drive for children who might otherwise go without presents over the holidays.  Again, the boxes were overflowing with toys, representing the kindness and consideration of the children and adults at Horace Mann.

     At their club meeting, the K-Kids and their advisers sorted the toys according to the age of the student who might like to receive them.

     Finally, for those who may be interested, Cops for Kids raffle tickets are available in the main office.  This raffle (with a big screen TV as first prize) provides funds for the Lakewood Police Department to adopt families for the holidays, providing a range of presents.  Tickets cost $1 apiece. This is just another great example of how this Lakewood community comes together to take care of its own!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Data Meetings & Severance Hall

 The Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTII) process for the elementary schools in Lakewood includes the use of brief reading assessments through AIMSweb.  Children in grades 1-5 were assessed at the beginning of the year and small group interventions began for students who were not meeting the benchmark.

While the entire group of students will not be assessed again until January, students receiving interventions have been reassessed on a weekly or monthly basis since the interventions began.  The point of this is to monitor whether or not the intervention is moving students toward being on track in reading.

In order evaluate the progress of students, Horace Mann teachers met in small groups last week to analyze the data, discuss the interventions and determine whether to make any changes or keep things on the same course.  These were valuable meetings, and the evidence shows that nearly all students are making strong gains as a result of the reading interventions in place.  If you have any questions about interventions or these periodic assessments, please feel free to contact your child's teacher or the principal.

Horace Mann 4th graders had the good fortune to travel to University Circle this week, where they took in a performance of The Cleveland Orchestra.  Based on staff and student comments, the pieces performed were enjoyed by all, and Horace Mann's students conducted themselves appropriately (pun intended :-)

Our music teacher, Mr. Waryk, helped students prepare to appreciate their experience with lessons before the performance, some of which used the SCORE publication provided by The Cleveland Orchestra.  Future lessons also will tie into this significant common experience of our students.  How lucky we are to live in a city with a world-class orchestra and for all students to have the opportunity to hear it!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hooray for Veteran's Day

     For many years, it has been a tradition at Horace Mann to honor veterans of the U.S. military with a program on Veteran's Day.  Before her retirement, music teacher Mrs. Hildebrandt played a lead role in developing the all-school assembly.

     Music continues to be featured in our Veteran's Day event, and current music teacher Mr. Waryk is carrying on many of the ideas of the past, while also introducing new ones.  For example, everyone listened to the theme songs for each of the five branches of the armed services, and we all sang God Bless America to close the program.

     Many 5th grade students exhibited leadership as part of event.  and Mackenzie Moraco taught us the history of Veteran's Day, and Mia Condosta and Charlie Ditchman read Veteran's Day poems.  At the end of the program, they also handed out certificates to the 30 veterans in attendance.

     A color guard comprised of Horace Mann Girl and Cub Scouts made the ceremony special.  The flag bearer was Bridget Severino.  Other uniformed Scouts included  Isabella Fallon, Darcy Hogg, Grace Hoppel, Claudia Irwin, Nathan Kocsis, and Ryan Smith,  Several students also brought in photos of family members who served in our nation's defense.

     Thank you to many families who attended this important event, the students and adults who produced the show, and the K-5 Horace Mann students who behaved appropriately.  Most of all, we thank the veterans--those who joined us and those who could not be here with us.  We are free because of you, and we are grateful for your service.

Mr. Waryk and the color guard

Everyone sang God Bless America

30 veterans attended the assembly


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Two Kinds of Theater

 The big news at The Mann this week was the end of the quarter reward activity:  Popcorn and a Movie.  As part of the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) Star program, students who show expected behavior at school participate in a school wide activity to acknowledge their effort.  

     We can't share the name of the movie in print (due to copyright laws), but it was enjoyed by kids in grades K-5 according to post-movie interviews :-)  

     Parents were invited to attend--and about 50 parents came to enjoy the movie with their children! We hope parents joining in on   our quarterly events will be a successful replacement to traditional class parties.  

     Thank you to the Horace Mann PTA for providing bags of popcorn and small bottles of water for the students.  Star Students of the Month from September and October did a great job helping each classroom know where to sit!  We were very proud of students' attention during the movie and their help in cleaning up afterwards.  


     In other news, Horace Mann kindergarten and 1st grade students recently traveled to Playhouse Square to see the play, Stella.  Being the wonderful organization they are, Playhouse Square provided on-site follow up sessions to extend the learning (and fun) of the experience.  Below, check out a picture of the two actors having some fun with the kids in Ms. Sessin's kindergarten class.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

J is for Jump Rope, K is for K-Kids!

    Although it was the last week of the 1st grading period and students completed math units and put final touches on their personal narratives, we still found time for some fun!  It is an important life skill to find a way to stay in balance, right?

In partnership with the Lakewood Kiwanis, we are so pleased to offer a K-Kids Club here at Horace Mann.  K-Kids is the elementary version of Key Club, a service learning club for high school students.  We had our first meeting last week and had an astounding 44 students in grades 1-5 participate!  Students got to know one another, learned a little bit more about the mission on of the club, and began planning their upcoming projects.  We are grateful to Mrs. Bringman, Horace Mann's Family Resource Coordinator, and Mrs. Bocho from Kiwanis for bringing this club into reality.  Thanks, too, to the teachers and parents who joined in the fun.  Parents are encouraged to accompany their student to this club if interested in taking part in community engagement activities. 

     Under the direction of Phys Ed teacher Mrs. Anderson and Speech-Language teacher Mrs. McCafferty, the 4th and 5th Grade Jump Rope Club put on quite a show on Friday afternoon.  the whole student body, as well as plenty of the performer's parent, really enjoyed the tricks performed by the kids. Crowd favorites were when students did unique combinations like two kids jumping in the same jump rope :-)

     Thanks for a great show everyone.  With Mrs. Anderson headed to Lincoln for the rest of the school year, maybe we'll see jumping rope continuing on the playground during recess... 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Events in the Cafetorium

     Neat things happened at Horace Mann this week, and some of them took place in our cafetorium.  By the way, for those who think  the word 'cafetorium' (cafeteria and auditorium combined) sounds weird, I agree with you!

     Last Monday, the Lakewood Board of Education held their meeting in the Horace Mann Cafetorium. Thanks to a great performance by the Horace Mann 4th and 5th Grade Choir, the room was packed!  Since the H2O's Pumpkinpalooza took a year off, this was a perfect venue for the choir to perform two Halloween numbers:  Scarin' Alive (think Stayin' Alive) and Doin' the Igor (think about the play/movie Young Frankenstein).  The students, under the direction of 2nd year HMES music teacher Mr. Aaron Waryk, not only sounded and looked terrific, but demonstrated their best respectful behavior during the National Merit Scholar recognition ceremony that preceded their performance.
The Horace Mann Choir

     At the same board meeting, longtime Lakewood Intervention Specialist Mrs. Pat Schiazza was honored.  Mrs. Schiazza is retiring at the end of this month.  She has only been at Horace Mann since the beginning of this school year, and yet, we will miss her so much.  Thank you for all of your work with our students, Mrs. Schiazza--we wish you well!

Mrs. Pat Schiazza with Board President Mrs. Linda Beebe
     Finally, on Wednesday evening, the students who attend the aftercare program run by St. Peter's presented a play as part of the national Lights On After School movement.  The play featured students in a self-written production where they showed what could happen if kids went home alone after school instead of being in a safe aftercare program.  We are glad to have St. Peter's at HMES before and after school to help keep our kids safe and productive while their parents are at work.
Miss Courtney and some of the HMES actors

Sunday, October 19, 2014

PTA Mini-Grants Excite Staff

     Taking a cue from Harding Middle School PTSA, the Horace Mann PTA started a new tradition last year:  Mini-Grants.  Mini-grants are designed to help provide funding to enrich the school experience for students by allowing access to resources that would otherwise not be available.  The grants were a big success last year, resulting in purchases of technology to connect iPads to Promethean boards, books to support the Common Core, a visit from the Western Reserve Historical Society and other neat things.

     This year, Horace Mann PTA--through the skilled leadership of Mrs. Heather Facaros--is again offering the mini-grants.  Staff members (both teachers and support staff) who are also PTA members were invited to submit applications to fund a special project or event.  Ten grant applications were received by the deadline of Monday, September 13th.

     Creative and interesting ideas ranged from books to a Play-a-Day series to  Lego Story Starters to a proposal for gifted 8th graders to come to The Mann to teach science to our 5th graders.  Here is a link to the site (which includes videos) about the Legos if you're curious:

     All ten applications were approved by the principal and then passed to a PTA mini-grant committee to choose the winners.  Mirroring last year, the committee plans to decide soon in order to put the resources in kids' and teachers' hands as quickly as possible.

     This is just one more way PTA makes Horace Mann a great school.  If you are already involved--thank you!  If you have yet to join in with this friendly, supportive group, maybe this post will prompt you do consider it :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Day of Fire Safety and a Recap of the OAA

     On Tuesday, October 7th, the 3rd graders applied themselves to the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) in Reading.  It was the "old style" test using #2 pencils and paper booklets. Happily, every student who was expected to be in school and take the test that day was here--no makeups!  Good job 3rd graders!  We'll see the results in several weeks.  Then, students will have additional state tests in reading in the springtime.  Which test they will take is complicated, so more on that later...

     Friday October 10th was all about Fire Safety at Horace Mann.  Fifth grader Riley Griffiths won the district-wide award of Junior Fire Chief based on her essay and a perfect score on the fire safety test.  Way to go, Riley!  We also had a fire prevention assembly Friday afternoon, presented by Fire Marshal Tim and Fire Inspector Mike of the Lakewood FD.  Fifth grader Tyrel Thompson was the videographer for the event.  There was also a guest appearance by Seth Andregg, firefighter and father of Horace Mann 4th grader Addy Andregg.  Thank you for teaching us about smoke detectors, Lakewood FD :-)  We also enjoyed cheering Seth on as he climbed all the way to the top of the ladder:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Busses, Books, and Bow To Your Partner

     In addition to the engaged learning visible in the classrooms last week, students prepared for upcoming field trips with the annual K-3 Bus Safety Program.  Karen and Lisa joined us for a morning to teach students about riding the bus safely to and from field trips.  They even practiced emergency evacuations out the rear doors!  The first field trips of the year are the Kindergarten and First Grade students visit to Playhouse Square at the end of October.

On Friday, October 3rd, while Lakewood High School's "big kids" had their Homecoming game, our Horace Mann-ers enjoyed the Scholastic Book Fair and Family Dance in our gym.  Attendance was great and, as usual, our square and line dance-style DJ kept things lively and fun for all ages.  

The Book Fair did a brisk business, which is good in two ways.  First, it means that our students will have plenty of high-interest material to read.  Second, it helps our PTA collect some funds which are folded right back into beneficial programs and resources for our students.  Thank you to all the PTA members who helped out with the event.  Special thanks to Family Dance Committee Chair Anne Schleicher and Book Fair Committee Chair Wendy Hoppel.  

Here are some pictures of the dancing:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thanks for the Ice Cream, PTA!

     It was a perfect night.  Clear skies, good friends, a freshly-mowed lawn, and ICE CREAM!

     The Horace Mann PTA provided another terrific opportunity for the school community to come together and enjoy one another's company with the annual ice cream social.  Attendance was strong from grades K-5 (and even a couple alums who now attend Harding Middle School).  

     Thank you to Ice Cream Social Chair Federica Pasquali and the other PTA volunteers who had tables for various fundraisers such as Market Day, Target Red Cards, Coke Points, etc.  Thanks, too, to our assistant custodian, Kathy Pandos, for helping with set up and tear down.

    In my mind, gatherings like the ice cream social are critical to the success of our students.  While we may show up for the ice cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles, we gain so much more.  With greater familiarity with Horace Mann staff and a chance to bond with each through casual conversation, we are building a bond of trust and camaraderie.  I believe that these fuller relationships will allow us to succeed as a school community beyond our wildest expectations.

   So, please continue to attend the PTA events at Horace Mann.  And if you know of families who were not able to be with us for ice cream, please encourage them to attend the Family Dance next Friday (October 3rd from 7:00 - 8:00 pm).  Here are a couple photos of the fun:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Doughnuts for Dads and a Math Resource

The Horace Mann PTA continued the tradition of Doughnuts for Dads this year with events on Thursday and Friday last week.  Especially with the Cuyahoga County Father's Walk on Thursday, we had an excellent turnout for this social time.  It was wonderful to see father figures connecting with their kids and with each other, strengthening the relationships that make the Horace Mann community the great place it is.  One dad said, "We should do this every Friday!"

Many thanks to Laura George, the PTA Committee Chair for this event, as well as to her helpers, Federica Pasquali, Wendy Hoppel, Anne Schleicher, and Nora Katzenberger (not pictured).  If I missed any other helpers, my apologies!

Have you heard of LearnZillion?  It is a fantastic, free video-based resource to help kids, teachers and parents build their content knowledge in math.  So many parents have found it useful that  LearnZillion just designed a promo  aimed specifically at parents:

Check it out!  Your child's teacher and I would love to know what you think.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review of the Week of September 8, 2014

Safety Patrol Badge
This week, the new brigade of the Horace Mann Safety Patrol reported for duty.  Fifth grade students who are good citizens of our school are eligible to participate in this time-honored program.

Mrs. Kelsey Robinson is the advisor for this club, and she has trained the group on their role in guiding younger students to be safe during arrival and dismissal.  She also assigns and rotates their posts around the school (both inside and out), as well as helps problem-solve when younger students may not respond to their requests to follow the rules.

Please support our 5th Grade Safety Patrol by asking your children to follow directions from them just as they would an adult.  By all means, if your child ever expresses a compliment or concern about one of our Safety Patrol members, please let us know right away.

P.S.I was in Safety Patrol at Edison Elementary School in Willoughby, Ohio, back in the day.  Do you have any Safety Patrol memories?

On the academic side, this was fall benchmarking week.  What is benchmarking, you ask?  Well, it simply means teachers use brief screening tools that take from 1-3 minutes to administer that give us a quick snapshot of each child's reading and math skills.  The scores on these screeners are then compared to national norms--and especially when combined with other data we have gathered in the classroom--allow us to see whether students are in need of enrichment or intervention.

In the past, Lakewood has used the Diagnostic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS) for reading screening.  This year, based on better features available, the AIMSweb system will be used not only for math, but also for reading.

Data team meetings will take place next week.  At these meetings, teachers and specialists (and I) will review the assessments to determine interventions to be provided to students.  This is all part of the Response to Intervention (RTI) model with which you may be familiar.  Importantly, it helps us make sure that we are providing additional research-proven instruction to students who need something extra.

While parents do not receive their child's benchmark scores, you will be contacted if your child is recommended for small group intervention during the school day.  This intervention takes place during Intervention/Enrichment Block (also referred to as I/E Block) on a daily basis.  Then, several times per year, we re-screen (winter and spring benchmarking) to be be sure the right interventions are provided.

Please feel free to ask your child's teacher--or contact me directly--if you have any questions about AIMSweb benchmarking or I/E Block.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Class of 2027 has arrived!

Following the lovely Labor Day Weekend, the big headline at Horace Mann:  The Kindergarten Students Have Arrived!  Following kindergarten screening during the last week in August, kindergarten teachers Ms. Sessin and Mr. DiFilippo (as well as intervention staff members Mrs. Phillips and Ms Suarez) helped Horace Mann's youngest stars get settled in their classrooms this week.  Even after just a few days, we can already see that they are catching on to the way to be successful schoolgirls and boys.  Thank you to all the parents who not only attended kindergarten screening, but also escorted their children into school on September 2nd and returned that evening for Meet the Teacher Night.

On Friday afternoon, a Horace Mann tradition had its first session of the year.  Book Buddies is an activity that takes place most Friday afternoons.  Fifth grade students pair up with kindergarten students to read favorite books.  It is a joy to watch our pre-adolescent students with the wee little ones, as it often brings out the softer side is sometimes camouflaged as the older kids experiment with their own identities.  Thank you, Mrs. Cali and Mrs. Robinson for working with the kindergarten teachers to continue this valuable social learning experience.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Everyone is a Star at Horace Mann

Welcome to the What's Happening at Horace Mann blog!

With so many fun and interesting things going on at our school, we feel inspired to share it with you.  Please check our blog each week to find out something we learned, saw or did.

We just completed our first week of school for students in preschool and Grades 1-5.  It was wonderful to have our freshly-cleaned building come alive with the energy of both staff and students.

In this first week of the 2014-15 school year--since understanding behavior expectations is a foundation of successful learning--students were introduced to our revised rules, rewards and consequences system.  We are using the star as our symbol adapted from the star badge worn by our awesome Lakewood Ranger Mascot).  At home, you will be sure to see and hear about star tickets, star students, and "something to think about" throughout the year as we continue to build our already-strong culture of behavior.  We thank you for everything you do at home that is supportive of learning and successful child development.  If we can ever be of assistance with any questions about child behavior, please know that we have ideas and are ready to assist (call 216.529.4257).

Otherwise, this first week of school was all about seeing old friends and meeting new ones, getting acclimated to new classrooms, and, of course, lunch and recess!  We look forward to welcoming our kindergarten students to school in the week ahead.