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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday morning letters with Michelle....

Can you believe it's time for Sunday Morning Letters already?! I just have to get some things off my chest, which clears my mind and heart for the things I am so grateful for. Thanks Michelle for giving us this opportunity!

Dear Person in the Community:
Apparently you feel that your service to the community is so grand that you have the right to judge others. I m appalled and more than a little put out that you would think belonging to your organization is more important than providing for my family. And I am flabbergasted that you would allow that attitude to overflow to your students and find it somehow acceptable to treat my baby-girl as less-than. In one fell swoop, all the good done by your organization in our life last year has been undone by your treatment of us and worse, by allowing your members to treat a 10 year old girl that way.
a disenchanted parent who formerly had a child in your organization

Dear Mother Nature,
Thank you for bringing fall to our part of the world. The weather the past week or so has been ideal. I am in love with every thing fall.
your devoted human

Dear God,
I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how much I appreciate the breath-taking sunrises of late. The brilliance of the reds, oranges, pinks and purples lighting up the skies are spectacular and I am in awe.
With Gratitude,
your humble girl, Carrie

Dear Teachers:
You cannot possibly know the feeling of triumph and gladness I feel when you share products for free.  Thank you for sharing your talent!
One who does not create games or products

Dear Wonderful World of Web:
I love cruising blogs and drinking coffee and entering other worlds from the comfort of my couch. I love planning in my pj's and reading about everyone's week. Thanks to you for making this all possible. And thanks for the ladies that host weekly and bi-weekly linky parties that have brought me to this blogging community.
Thanks again,
one grateful web surfer

Head over to Big Time Literacy and read everyone's letters! Happy reading!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Six for Saturday

I missed my Five for Friday linky.  But I thought I might write six things that happened this week and call it 6 for Saturday. That way I don't have to apologize for being late. lol. Hop over to Doodlebugs and read about everyone's week!

1.  Working on our Coffee House Project. Students are involved with one of four different committees. Not every student got to be part of the committee they chose as their first pick. But everyone got involved and together. We put plans into place for our Coffee House on October 2nd. So if you live near Mount Hope, Kansas, come on out at 7 p.m. on the 2nd and watch some talent, enjoy some drinks and snacks and see what these students put together.

Hospitality committee researching recipes

Collaboration between committess: Hospitality and Decor needed
to work together and share ideas. 

The public relations committee deciding what public announcements
need to be taken care of first. 
2.  This is what my 3rd/4th grade girls have been working on at recess. Here they are doing the splits. ;)

 3. Indoor recess. This is actually the follow up to the beginning of recess. We started with Just Dance. I found a Just Dance to You Don't Know You're Beautiful. I just like the implication in the words. But after we finished students could play games, play with math manipulatives, or on their computers.

They were working so hard, it was hard to tell it was recess! 
 4. Haikus. We are integrating our apple unit, with poetry, and we are in the process of writing poems to perform for our coffee house. This was the one we drafted together. More to come on this front....

5. Guess who's home from college?! So exciting!
We picked her up in Salina for the weekend....  
The name of this pizza is called Crazy Garden.
It was rich and tasty and overwhelmingly good.  
Gluten-free cheese pizza! Yum! 
6. Bonus.... Okay, I can't figure which other one thing to add. Here are few "random" pics and a thought or two.
Public relations group figure out how to incorporate art work
that the younger students did into the invitations. 

Life cylce of an apple. These are from Stacy Yates:

Oh how I have missed this... my girl, her friends, our couch, movies, late nights.... 

The whole house feels cleaner when the bathroom is tidy. And I
love my bathroom... 

Johnny Appleseed Day. Loved it because of so many things. One reason was that I saw grade level differentiation at it's best and in one lesson that started out as a reading lesson with lots of math in the middle covered history of famous Americans and of America and math and reading and science on levels from Kindergarten up to Third grade. Loved it. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Five for why-oh-why-do-fridays-disappear-so-quickly Saturday....

Linking up for Five for Friday! (Yes, I know, it is Saturday). I am that teacher, the one that stays at the school all hours of the day and night. We got home late, I will leave it at that. Punky was asleep before we had driven 5 miles. Here are five random not-so-random things from our week!
 1. Staying true to PBL. Okay, let's be honest, I an NEW to PBL, so "staying true" might be a stretch, but I am learning and one important component is once you reflect on what to do differently, students should get the chance to put their theories to work and make changes. Well folks, I was ready to move on from the marshmallow math, but I decided to give them the chance to make the changes we discussed. To be honest, my motives were not pure. I had some students that felt like they didn't need to participate in learning time. So I needed to figure out a way to reward my hard workers. So, if students needed to work on the peanut butter project, they did that, and those who worked hard on that project got to revisit the marshmallow project.

One thing they suggested was making the marshmallows bigger on the bottom level to make it more stable.
2. A couple weeks ago, we read a book about Peanut Butter and Jelly. I mentioned it here: Students wanted to know more about peanut butter. Some even wanted to know if we could make it to market and sell. We have been working on this part of the project for what seems like an eternity now. But we are reaching the end. We have a few loose ends to wrap up, but we got to the good part: actually making the peanut butter and tasting our own peanut butter and jelly (or honey, or banana) sandwiches. 
Starting out, I know it's hard to see, but see how full the processor is here?
Now a change has started to happen, but keep watching.... 

Here is where we starting to have our mouths gaping open in wonder as the dry chunks started to change
to a creamy, smoother texture.

Making our sandwiches.

 3.  We started studying apples and poetry. What a great combination. :) We started with acrostic poems this week. One day we split into four groups and wrote acrostics that I downloaded from this unit: apple-language-pack which was a free download at So far I have LOVED what I have downloaded from them. I printed and laminated 4 acrostics: APPLE, APPLE PIE, LADDER, and BASKET. Students brainstormed their descriptives and practiced their speaking and listening skills presenting their poem to the rest of the class.

We also did apple fractions this week and tasted apples. We divided the apple first into 2 equal pieces, then divided those pieces into halves. Then divided those pieces into halves. We kept going until we had 16 equal portions of 4 different kinds of apples. Somehow I don't those pictures on my phone so we are photo-less here. Think on this for a moment: we concluded our peanut butter project (okay, not completely finished here, but we reached the culmination, the making of the peanut butter), we ate peanut butter sandwiches as a reward for all that math, figuring costs of sandwiches, we revisited our sweet treat-- the marshmallow project-- and you can't really build with them without eating a few, and we introduced apple fractions by tasting our fractions! What other logical conclusion is there than that Math is delicious?! Well, the other conclusion is this: talking about math makes me hungry! 
 4. Our next project is the Coffee House project. We chose four leaders from the upper grades and the rest of the students had to apply for a job on one of the four committees: hospitality, tech, public relations, and decor. We will be having a Coffee House to showcase our school to the community and family members on October 2nd. Whew. We have a lot to accomplish and not that much time!! My partner created applications for jobs while attending a PBL professional development this week, and K-1 had forms where they circled what their interests/strengths are, and then drew a picture of themselves performing those tasks.  2-4 completed a paper application/resume that they filled out.  And the upper grades created a resume on their computer.
Ms. Ronni helps students fill out the 2nd through 4th grade application

K-1 students working hard to draw their pictures

The interview process: Allison (in blue) is in the "hot seat" being interviewed.

Here a 1st grader tells why he would be the best choice for the job
5. Have y'all discovered JustDance on youtube? Nothing wakes up your brain faster than a little movement! We are trying to do the moves to: Just Dance 4: One Direction: What Makes You Beautiful. Not participating is not an option. Why? Because.... movement and exercise are proven to make your brain more alert. Students who take tests after 10 minutes of exercise score better. Not to mention all the added benefits: elevating your mood, being a part of our class family, and so on. 

That is a snapshot of our week.
I leave you with this: this small town has a delightful little pizza place that we love to frequent. It is called LMNO Pizza. And here is the little slice (slices actually) of heaven that I called supper last night as I stayed WAY TOO LATE at the school trying to organize my chaos.
my mouth just watered.... again. Deliciousness.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Morning Scoop

Whoot! I just discovered a new linky party, and y'all know how I love linkys!
 The Sunday Scoop. It is self-explanatory.

Not much explanation needed today! Some of my students worked SUPER hard on Friday and some goofed off. So.... the hard workers get to re-do the marshmallow project and do "true PBL" in which they get the opportunity to implement that changes we discussed as we wrapped up our project while those who chose not to participate in the peanut butter project on Friday will be working on the project not as a team, but individually.

Because our school is so small, I did not think we would need Hall passes, but a couple of my students have been leaving the room and roaming the school. No more students out of the room without a pass. But the good new is that when I searched TpT for free passes, I found some super cute ones. I think I downloaded enough hall passes to use a different design every year for the next 10 years. Now to choose one....

I hope you all are having a great Sunday and I really am grateful for the privilege of my job. I believe that being a teacher is a high calling. I believe I am lucky and there is no greater career for me. I am so blessed. And thanks to the God of my universe that I have been given a new perspective this morning.

Now, head over and get "the scoop."

Letter time! 9-14-14

Sunday morning letters with Michelle at Big Time Literacy. I love because they can cover any and all areas of my life with humor, wit, sarcasm (usually the dripping kind), or grace and dignity, honor, or respect. They are just snippets, like a little dose of therapy wrapped up in letter.

Dear Fickle Mother Nature,
I love the weather the past few days. If fall could just linger awhile this year, I would be grateful. I realize that it could be 100 degrees again in the next few days, because apparently that is how it works. Just know that I, and the rest of the great state of Kansas, love the fall weather and the cool nights and reasonable daytime temperatures. I am inspired, I am ready to cook and bake and clean! The cooler temperatures have me at my best.
Fall frenzied Kansan

Dear Students,
It feels to me like all we do is practice rules, procedures and routines. But Friday there were no followers, just rebels. Rebellion does not become you. I cannot endorse any more incidents of anarchy rules.
your discouraged teach

Dear house,
If you could just clean yourself and encourage organization, I would really appreciate it. I can't live in this mess, and I don't have time to deal with it. Please call the cleaning fairies to come and work some serious magic.
Dirty Homeowner

Dear fellowship friends,
I miss you, I really do, but I am always exhausted and turning into a hermit. I miss Sunday morning coffee and Thursday night pizza. Not because of the coffee and pizza but because of the friendship, fellowship, and camaraderie. And did I mention sanity?
love and longing,
your not-so-anonymous friend

Dear family and friends,
I didn't die. But this really is just like my first year of teaching: long hours, lots of organizing, re-organizing, and planning.  If you see my hand waving above a sea of paperwork, please dive in and save me.
Overwelmed and out of oomph,
your child, sibling, and mother

Dear God,
Thanks for never walking away from me no matter what is going on in my life. Thanks for this job and these wonderful kids. Please help me to take my attention off of myself and keep the focus on you. Thank you for this epiphany that my focus is not where it belongs and the reminder to be grateful.
your faithless follower

I "write" this little letters in my head all the time.... while I'm driving, teaching, planning, exercising, etc., but on Sunday mornings my mind goes blank. Lucky readers, you get my momentary lapse of reason letters. ;)

Until next time.... Ms. Horn/Mom/teach/believer/skeptic/learner/sarcastically-fluent citizen.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Teacher Burnout? Growing Days.

So this is a hard blogging weekend for me. I didn't participate in Five for Friday. I can tell you five things about our week. I can even tell you five wonderful things from our week. But Friday was one of those hard learning days. Friday was the epitome of the day that looms in that infamous interview question: "How do you prepare yourself to come back and be enthusiastic again after those hard days?" Friday is overshadowing the learning this week that was good. Students were disrespectful, they didn't do their work, they didn't follow directions. I was appalled. I even raised my voice. And I didn't tear up in class, but almost. This is where the rubber hits the road. This week is when students had to dig in and work. It happens every time I teach and make them reach. I remember the day during student teaching when I went to my mentor teacher in tears and asked what I was doing wrong. Of course, being the great teacher that she was, she didn't answer me. She asked me what I thought I should be doing differently. Then she asked if it was okay for students to struggle with new concepts. I will always remember this. My first year of teaching, I had that moment, day, days. And my students not only recovered, but they overcame with a vengeance. They grew intellectually strong, they became deep thinkers, they learned to trust themselves, to believe that they really COULD do it. Whatever IT is. But right now, it feels heartbreaking. It feels messy. I feel inadequate. Is there more? Probably. I would be fooling myself if I didn't reflect and analyze and find out what I need to do differently.  I will reflect. I will analyze. I will figure out how to scaffold and support and help my students. And they will learn and grow and do some great learning. Here's to analysis and to new beginnings. Tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Five for Friday... a day late, feeling rich in learning, even if I am a dollar short

Time to link up with Doodlebugs for Five for Friday! Sorry folks, it just ain't happenin' on Friday yet. Maybe, someday, this calendar year..... *sigh* Some nights the Punky and I don't get home until bedtime (hers). I usually grade papers, edit/update plans and work on school stuff for a couple more hours when we get home.
Here is a glimpse at our week. Friday I forgot my phone (aka... picture and video taking device) and we missed some documentation of some great learning!

1. Our dragon story. We started a story last week and then had a guest teacher on Friday, so we finished and edited this week. Our original title, Hungry Dragons, didn't match our final product. So we brainstormed new names and changed the title.

We finished, revised, edited, and then read the story aloud while we video taped it. BUT.... my Photobooth and iPhoto skills are not that great. I forgot my phone on the day that we took the video. Anywho.... I am going to get some tech training from the 5th-8th grade class in the near future!!

2. This little learner went to Dallas on vacation last week. He missed some school. I asked him to keep a journal and report back to us. He brought a flashdrive with photos and gave an oral report.  It was awesome. He is working on hard on his presenting skills (speaking and listen standards in action folks....).

3. The marshmallow project. It all started with this same little learner. He was reading in a book about disasters. It showed a marshmallow model of a building structure that would be earthquake resistant. He wrote a persuasive paper about why we should build marshmallow towers.

After he did his part, I did mine and planned Marshmallow activities this week. I started with a story about Marshmallow Toes, by Melisa Clemens. I downloaded it on my kindle. I planned to watch it on the computer and project it onto the screen, but.... no internet access.  I say flexibility is the key to teaching and learning. 

Next I planned a little math.... here is what the 4th graders worked on:

First to do the math, then to build the building. Kinder and First made shapes. First 2D and then 3D. Then they connected the cubes to make a tube. They tried to turn it into a tower, but it did not want to but turned and lifted. Second and Third grade students were asked to figure out how many marshmallows and toothpicks they would need for a tower 12 stories tall if the bottom layer contained 9 marshmallows. 

making the 9X9 grids

before making squares and cubes, these little learners counted and graphed colored marshmallows

Trying to turn their structure to make it into a tower.

4th grade teamwork

"it's not staying together Ms. Horn!"

Kinder and First grade: final product

Finally, What went right? What went wrong? What will we do differently next time? 

 4. Ms. Ronni read Junie B. Jones: 1st Grader (at last) to students.  We are in love with Junie B. Jones. She gets into so much trouble, which leads to great character development conversations as well as comic relief.

We had to have a the sad conversation that no, there will not a Second Grade series of Junie B. We will miss you Barbara Park, Junie's antics touched our lives (and continue to do so).

5. Looking ahead. We will start our peanut butter project on Tuesday (teacher collab day Monday, no students). We ended the day on Friday looking ahead and brainstorming. Did I lead them a lot this time? Yes. Did they come up with great questions? Yes. They will continue to dig deeper and deeper as we explore what Project Based Learning is all about. How do we reseach? What is important information? Here we go.... I can't wait to see what this week brings.

How is the beginning of your year? What do you love? What do you wish was different? What routines are you establishing? What are your favorite read alouds? Comments are my favorite kind of love.