Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dear Self, I'll See You in Five Years.

 This is one writing project that I try to do every year, and that I highly recommend.  
Near the end of the year, I give all of my English class students an envelope and instruct them to write a letter to themselves, to put it inside the envelope, and to address it to themselves.  Then I tell them that I will mail it to them in five years, and I do.  
I always include a letter from myself telling them what is going on with our family, and I put that inside their letter as well.  It is so fun to see their handwriting once again after five years, and to read the funny things they wrote.  Sometimes they seal their letters. Then I just leave them sealed and put my letter in another envelope that I address to them.  
One of the benefits of this is that I always hear back from some of them. After I sent out the last group of letters, I heard from former students who were getting married, starting their own little business, or going off to the Middle East to learn Bible translation. That is exciting to hear about.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

8th Graders. End of School. The Sharks Game.

For some reason I began explaining to my students one of my favorite games to play when I was a child.  I called it "Sharks".  I would pretend that the grass all around my swing set was shark-infested waters, and that as long as I stayed off the grass, I was safe. I would pull picnic table benches over and use them as stepping stones so that I would not touch the grass.  
So, as I was telling my story, the idea occurred to me that we could do the same thing in the classroom.  The carpet could be the shark- infested waters, and we could walk around on the desks and stools using pillows for stepping stones.  I declared that Monday would be "Shark Day".  And so it was.  
The idea carried over into math and English as well.  I like to put something history-related on their math papers, so that Monday it was a picture of Laika, the first dog in space on the Russian spaceship Sputnik.  I had inadvertently copied their 8" x 11" math worksheets on 11" x 17" paper, so I told them they had to draw me a picture on the blank side.  One of my students drew "Sputnik Shark", with a shark riding inside a spaceship.  And, for their vocabulary word "permissible", one of the students wrote, "Playing sharks is permissible in Mrs. Swanson's room."  Absolutely it is.  

And, I might add, that even though we are being a little silly this last month of school, my students just got their highest grammar grades of the year on a quiz identifying and diagramming compound-complex sentences.  They also had to write compound-complex sentences on their amazing history essays, which they did.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Return of the French Horn Girl Along with Her Sister

The Anabaptist Orchestra has several groups of siblings which play in the orchestra.  Violist Chloe Byler discusses music with her sister Twila Heatwole, who plays both the viola and French horn. Chloe's husband Douglas is a percussionist for the orchestra as well.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Miss Jenna's Class

It is that time of year again.  The time when the weather gets warmer, the flowers bloom, the students get a little antsy, and their work gets sloppy.  This puppet policeman is encouraging the 2nd graders in Miss Jenna's classroom to be a little more diligent with their work, and that way they won't have to do fix-ups.

And this greeted me when I walked in the door one morning.  My husband informed me that Miss Jenna had her class practicing their math skills with sidewalk chalk outside.  It must be fun to be in Miss Jenna's class.   
(Jenna Martin is the 2nd grade teacher at Shalom Mennonite School.)  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Fabulous Field Trip to Colonial Williamsburg

I recently had the privilege and opportunity to spend an exceptionally wonderful day with my 8th grade homeroom students in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  We have spent this year studying American History, so it seemed the perfect place to visit.  

We sang Thomas Tallis's "If Ye Love Me" inside the Bruton Parish church and watered the vegetable gardens at a colonial homestead.  
We toured the Governor's Mansion and listened to colonial era (classical/baroque) music played on period instruments.  We also visited homes and shops, and heard speeches about many aspects of colonial life, slavery, the American Revolution, property ownership, church membership, and at least a dozen other history-related topics.  
We ended the day at Christiana Campbell's Tavern where we feasted on fried chicken, spoon bread, sweet potato muffins, veggies, and ice cream.
And, I am not allowed to put pictures of my students' radiant, smiling faces on here because of a school policy which I gladly support, but here is a picture of their beautiful feet.  

A special thanks goes to Miss Martin who graciously shared her photos with me.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hominy Anyone?

While learning about World War I and the United States Food Administration in our American history class, I pulled out my posters and discussed them with my students.  "What's hominy?" one of them asked.  That gave me an idea.

Growing up in the South, we did eat hominy, and even grits, thank you.  (We prefer the latter with cheese, by the way.)  So the next day, my students got to sample hominy, which is corn kernels that have been soaked to remove the hulls.  Most of them were not too impressed, but they did learn something new.  


noun  hom·i·ny \ˈhä-mə-nē\
Popularity: Bottom 20% of words

Definition of hominy

  1. :  kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution (as of lye) and then washed to remove the hulls

  2. Definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Not in a Box, Not with a Fox

This has got to be my favorite history project of all time.  One of my creative, energetic 7th graders researched Henry "Box" Brown, a slave who built a box, got inside it, and shipped himself to freedom in Philadelphia.  The student then built the box to specifications and even got inside it to demonstrate as part of his presentation to the class.  It currently resides in my classroom.   He was also inspired to do his research paper for English class on the same topic.  

His sister made this dress similar to what a slave would have worn.  She even made it out of thick, coarse material.  Another student made a journal with entries by Harriet Tubman.  

One of my eighth graders researched one of the most exciting exploration stories -- Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance.  He recreated a scene from their camp on Elephant Island near the coast of Chili with upturned life boats used as shelter while they anxiously awaited the return of their faithful captain.  

Friday, April 14, 2017

Where Is Your Sofa?

Register for the Anabaptist Orchestra Camp at

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hittin' the Road with the Terre Hill Gospel Team

 We just spent four remarkable days with the energetic Gospel Team (the 11th and 12th grade choir elective), reliable chaperones, delightful friends, and gracious hosts.  
Pictured above is a flash mob at Walnut Creek Cheese in Holmes County, Ohio.
*All photographs were taken by Elvin Sensenig.  
The Sommers sisters treated us to a mini concert in 
Wayne County, Ohio.  
 The final evening included a concert with Maranatha Christian School in Sugarcreek, Ohio.  Each school sang a few pieces, then Franklin Miller and Jeff each directed a piece with the combined choirs.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

An Airplane and Travel Honor Roll Party

Caleb Martin of Italy, Hilary Martin of Germany, Kay Fisher of Mexico, Kaitlyn Zimmerman, Jeff & Deana Swanson of Shalom Supersonic Airlines, and Brandon Nolt (Jeff's 7th grade Bible teaching apprentice) of Switzerland.  
We began the evening scanning their luggage and stamping their passport invitations.  The students then stayed in the waiting area until we boarded the plane.  The teachers had made an instructional and safety video for the students to watch.  

We enjoyed appetizers in Mexico:  chips, salsa, and nachos.  We planned to have the students bring four items in their suitcases, one to use in each room with an activity.  While in Mexico, the students donned hats and learned the Mexican Hat Dance. 
After learning about the intercepted Zimmerman Telegram, we hurriedly left Mexico and dashed back to the plane.  The flight attendants served drinks, pretzels, and peanuts to very polite students.  (They had paid attention to the instructional video, perhaps?)
The next stop was Italy, where we enjoyed Olive Garden salad and olive, tomato and cheese kabobs.  The students then were put into groups and tried to see which group could get the tallest stack of luggage.  After hearing that Italy had joined Germany and Austria-Hungary in WWI, we left Italy and ran back to the plane.  
The cabin air pressure dropped too low on the next flight, and we had to secure our oxygen masks.  We took several pictures to put in the yearbook of the students wearing these.  
Our next stop was Germany, where we ate sweet pickles, cheese cubes, bratwurst, and sauerkraut.  Then we traded pieces of chocolate from our suitcases.  It was at this point that we heard the Nazis were coming (okay, a quick jump to WWII-- it is still history) and ran out the back door, up the hill around the school, and back into the airplane.  
Our last stop was neutral Switzerland where the students sat on sheep skin rugs and listened to yodeling music.  They pulled mugs and spoons from their suitcases, stirred their hot chocolate, and ate homemade apple strudel and real European chocolates. 

 Next we learned one of my favorite old campfire songs, "An Austrian went yodeling on a mountain top high . . . " and refined our yodeling skills.  (The students asked if we could sing it again the next day at school :-).

It had taken us over two hours to set up four rooms and an "airplane", but with the help of our students, we had it all cleaned up in about twenty minutes.  That was a real blessing to the very tired, but very happy teachers.