Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Christmas Boxes

We have an amazing high school student council at our school and this year they arranged for us to participate in Operation Christmas Child. While most events they organize are for our upper grades, we in the elementary do get to be included as often as is possible and reasonable. This was one of those times. 

For the past few weeks, the student council has been collecting supplies to fill boxes. Our school family sent donations of toys, hygiene supplies, clothing, money etc. Today, we had an all school assembly to pack the boxes. The kids (K-12) were divided into groups of about seven and went to three stations- packing the boxes, writing letters, and prayer groups. 

It was truly an amazing thing to watch our high school students take charge leading in prayer, organizing the younger students, and making this a successful event. As a school, we were able to pack over forty boxes! 

We wrote in our journals about our experience today and here is some of what we had to say.

"Today as Operation Christmas Child day! In my box I packed markers, socks, and soap but the one I liked most was a Teddy Bear. The box was so full it almost didn't close. On a card I wrote "Dear Friend, Merry Christmas!"

"Today I did Operation Christmas Child. We packed socks and clothes and crayons and more. It was fun but most of all is I hope she is okay. I hope she loves God."

"Today was Operation Christmas Child! I wrapped presents and wrote a card. It was fun but the most fun thing of all was helping others."

"Today we packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It was very fun. I hope the child that gets the present will be very happy. It was a girl. I was very happy that we could do this."

"Today I helped Operation Christmas Child. I helped pack boxes. I helped make cards. I'm so glad I got to help. I am so happy! This is going to be great. It was very fun. I prayed for the box to get home."

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." -Matthew 25:40

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Our reading unit for the past few weeks has been themed around communities. We have been talking about community helpers, how to contribute to a community, what makes a good community, and learning about different types of communities. 

This week, we teamed up with our kindergarten and first grade friends to teach each other about three types of communities- rural, suburban, and urban. Our class was tasked with learning and sharing about urban communities. So we got to work!
We worked together to make a huge city on a roll of paper. We drew streets, buildings, and a parks. Then we added some little toy people and cars to our scene.  

We also made a city diorama in a box. Everyone drew a building to add to our city and we made little cars out of play dough. We made a night scene complete with twinkling lights. 

We memorized a poem by Langston Hughes called City and recited it for our friends when they came to see our projects. We wrote the poem on poster board and decorated the posters to match the words of the poem.

Throughout the week, we read a number of books together about life in the city. We found one book about a city that I started to read but soon stopped because I don't know any Spanish and it appeared on almost every page. I asked one of our favorite seniors to come down down and read to us during study hall and he happily obliged. 

After finding and reading city books, a few of our friends filmed a "Reading Rainbow" style book review, complete with the Reading Rainbow sound effect (for my own enjoyment). We shared those books reviews with our friends to encourage them to be great readers. 

After our presentation, we visited first grade and kindergarten to hear what they learned about rural and suburban areas. It was a great end to our community unit and fun activity to share with our friends. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

First Quarter ✔

       We have finished a quarter of our school year. These seventeen crazies are reading books, learning to do two-digit addition, begging to spend more time on our Christmas program scene, loving our artist of the month activities, and singing non-stop. They are full of ideas and wiggles and non-stop excitement and are so kind to one another. They love the attention of the high schoolers they know and look for them in the halls and on Fridays in the lunchroom. 
       This crew learns best by doing. We are constantly on the move in our room saying Bible verses while jogging around the room or standing on top of our desks to read our sight words. The love our hands-on science labs and work together to get things done. 
        They are imaginative and creative and love to dress up or be a character. They read with great expression and love to make one another laugh. They love to play and to play together. 
        We have one quarter of the year left down and lots more to learn, do, play, sing, and create this year. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Summer Drama Camp

         I have often expressed my feelings about the beauty of a K-12 school and the benefits of interacting with kids of such a wide age range. If you haven't heard me talk about that, feel free to read about it here. We did something new this past summer that really gave us the opportunity to take advantage of this. I am in charge of our school's high school drama department and this summer the high schooler students hosted a summer drama camp for some of our elementary kids. 

         It was a week long camp that took place at school in the mornings. Each day we worked on various theater skills including acting, singing, dancing, and set design. Each morning also included a mini lesson taught by one of our high schoolers on topics like back stage etiquette and theater vocabulary. Our high schoolers filled the roles of directors, choreographers, music directors, and scenic artists as well as shoe tie-ers, snack passer-outers, hug-givers, and all the other jobs that come with working with kids. 

          We only do two shows a year at our school and we do not give our high school students opportunities to direct, so I loved to see their creativity and talents shining through as they worked with these excited learners. It was fun to see who excelled at handling a large group of kids and keeping them focused and interested, and who patiently worked one-on-one going over the same lines or notes until they had it just right. I heard our big kids be encouragers and cheer-leaders and promise to be right there if anyone forgot a line or wanted someone to sing with them. They well deserved the the trust and admiration they earned from of our young thespians. 

          Throughout the week, they were working on Pirates Past Noon: Kids, a Magic Treehouse musical. They learned songs, sang solos, learned dances, wore costumes, and painted a set. It was a lot to do in a week but the kids were excellent workers (fueled at times by popsicles in our hot auditorium!). On Friday evening, parents and friends came to see the performance. It was a great evening. Parents were impressed, kids were thrilled, high schoolers were proud, and everyone had a great time. Our headmaster asked that we perform for the school body once the year started, which we did. 

           All of this happened a number of weeks ago but I am still seeing the lasting effects. Our elementary kids are still singing the songs, but that doesn't surprise me. But I am also seeing confidence in our young thespians when they stand with their class in front of the elementary school for memory time. I am hearing clear articulation and loud volume when practicing Bible memory in the classroom, and I am seeing more excitement about the upcoming Christmas program than I have seen in a while...and we've only had one year of camp. We've had little kids, parents, and big kids all express excitement about the camp next summer. They are excited for the fun of the activity, but I'm excited to see the confidence and skills that our kids will learn after a few years of summer drama camp. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Exploring King Tut's Tomb

Last week, two teams of explorers entered the Valley of the Kings competing to discover the treasures of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. After eight years of exploring, one team emerged famous and the other was forgotten....

We spent four days last week playing an awesome game together as we learned about the exploration of King Tut's tomb. We split into two teams of explorers (boys and girls worked nicely for us) who competed to explore the tomb and become the most famous exploration team. On each turn, the team spent wealth to make an exploration and find an item from the tomb. The items gained the explorers wealth, which could be traded for fame. Sometimes, an event occurred and the team had to decide what course of action to take. The teams had to work together to manage their wealth and make decisions that would lead to their team getting the most fame and winning the game. 

The boys team was in the lead for most of the week, but not by much. The girls team found a lot of very valuable items including the mummy's mask, but they also got cursed by the mummy. On the last day of play, the two teams were neck and neck and the final scores ended 50 to 51 points with the boys the champions. It was so close! 

The items from the tomb and the events that happened were displayed in a powerpoint and we played two Senet games using our Senet board. Each team had a giant die to roll which was a ton of fun. This was a fantastic way to look at and learn about the items in the tomb of King Tut and the kids loved playing the game. It was like Choose Your Own Adventure meets National Treasure. Sometimes, it was difficult to get through our days because they couldn't wait until it was time to play more! They took the game seriously, thought hard about each decision, did a great job working together, and learned a ton about the exploration of King Tut's tomb in the process. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hidden Learning

"Miss Sarah, it sure seems to me that lately we are doing a lot more fun stuff and a lot less learning stuff..." 

There was a combination of judgement and orneriness in this comment that was loudly announced in my classroom this week. I couldn't help but laugh, partly at the comment itself, but mostly at the fact that they actually thought that. Silly kids. They missed that all these recent fun activities were full of learning! 

They never realized that making a giant Thank You banner for our office lady as she moves to a new job was teaching us to appreciate what others do for us and to be encouragers. 

They missed that playing with dry ice bubbles taught us about the states of matter and carbon dioxide. 

They didn't recognize that when we went to the ninth grade cultural fair, we learned about the geography, food, and games of other countries around the world.  

They didn't catch that when we finger painted all over our desks, we were learning about primary and secondary colors. 

They didn't even know that when we spent the day working in the local park, we were learning to be good stewards and to serve our neighbors.  

They never noticed that when we did an egg drop, we were learning to work as a team to make a plans and execute them. 

 They didn't grasp that seeing the play The Adventures of Nate the Great was an opportunity to learn about theatre etiquette, characterization, and story elements.

They weren't aware that the time spent running and playing on the playground at a local park was time learning to play together, to include others, and to be imaginative.

We've been doing a lot of learning lately. But not all learning involves paper and pencils. Often great learning happens in the midst of chatter, running, paint, or dirt. It may not feel like learning and sometimes it may not look like learning from the outside, but there is so much to learn through play. Second grade minds are anxious to devour information, invent things, come up with ideas, and figure things out. So if you find us eating pancakes, playing in a creek, or dressing like an Egyptian in these last few weeks of second grade,  don't worry. We're doing a lot of fun stuff, but we're also learning!

Saturday, April 8, 2017


We are experts on seventeen different famous man made pieces of architecture and we made the really cool projects to prove it. We spent time in this past few months working on doing research and writing reports- a big task for second graders. Then we learned how to give an oral presentation, and at home, made an awesome project to go with our report. These projects were totally amazing! 

We were so happy with our projects that we invited our kindergarten and first grade friends to see them. They walked around our room and checked out our projects and we had a chance to tell them some things about them. 

We finished our projects a couple weeks ago but I love to hear the lasting effects of that work. Yesterday for our science lab, we were were building structures using toothpicks and marshmallows. This was a very free and creative lab and I loved hearing them collaborate, compete, and discuss as they worked. As they were building, they were attempting to recreate may of the pieces of architecture we studied, including the Eiffel Tower and Atomium. 

They worked so hard on their projects and learned a ton- how to do research, how to take notes, how to write an informational report, how to give a presentation. But they also now have knowledge about a large number of famous places around the world and those places have become a part of their vocabulary and their play.