Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hark I Hear the Happy Harps!

When I heard that my friend Sarah Mills was going to be in town again playing with the Lyra Harp Quartet, I asked if there was any way they would consider coming to school and playing for our students.  They said "Yes"!  

I made sure that the students were prepared and informed them about concert etiquette.  This wasn't going to be a basketball game, you know.
The students were attentive, asked good questions, and enjoyed the engaging sounds of four harps playing together.  It was lovely. 

If you are interested in hearing them play or would like to have them play for your school or event, the Lyra Harp Quartet can be contacted at lyraharpquartet@gmail.com

Photos and video courtesy of Caleb Martin

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why Just Study China When You Can Paint It Too?

Often when we are studying about cultures, I feel that it just isn't enough to read what is in the textbook and look at the pictures.  I usually want to actually do something as well.  (I think this stems from my Grand Canyon trip* about twenty-four years ago.) Learning by reading and looking at pictures is great, but there is so much more we can do.  So it was with our attempt at Chinese brush painting.  First, I found a simple tutorial here.  (It's super easy; all the pictures on this post were done by my 7th and 8th grade students.) 

   After watching it the whole way through once, I passed out large brushes.  Each student was given a little plastic bowl and found a partner.  One partner's bowl had paint; the other's had water.  Then I gave them thick water color paper and pushed play again.  The second time through I hit "pause" after each step and gave them time to complete that step.  I also gave them papers which had several of the Chinese characters on them including "faith",  "hope", and "love".  We also learned about Chinese porcelain making and I passed around a few pieces of that.  I hope to try paper making at some point.  And the guys want to try making Chinese rockets.  That could be interesting . . . .  

*After Jeff and I had been married about two years, we made a trip to the Grand Canyon.  He was playing in an orchestra out there, and I was about six months pregnant.  We kept driving around the Grand Canyon to the observation points and looking down inside the Grand Canyon.  I finally said to Jeff, "This is a great view, but I want to go down inside the Grand Canyon."  
Yes, I was six months pregnant.  Yes, there were danger and warning signs everywhere.  Yes, we put several bottles of water in a backpack and headed down.  It was fabulous.  It was nothing like looking down from the rim.  It was silent except for the sounds of birds and our footsteps.  It was beautiful, serene, and quite like nothing else I have experienced since.  And I'm glad we did it.  
Life shouldn't be lived just from the rim.  
Teaching shouldn't be just from the book.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Levi Scores Big

Levi did this yesterday while Jeff was at a staff meeting.   
A half-court shot is forty-seven feet.  
Not bad for a fourteen year old. :-)  

Monday, January 8, 2018

Passionate Teaching

One of my passions about teaching (and there are many) is that my students do well.  Usually, with a few rare exceptions, that means two forms of action on my part.  

1.  I should clearly present the material to them in a memorable, engaging way.

2.  I try to encourage them in many ways so that they will want to remember what I'm doing in point number one. 

One of my pet peeves (and there are many) is teachers who have the attitude of "It's in the book; I presented it; they are responsible for it," and then later say,  "Oh, look at the grades!  What slow learners we have--  most of them got C's and D's."  

                                     a "piece" of "pie"
This would be an example of number one.  I feel that it is my job to present the spelling words in a way that my students can remember them if they try.  I have them write and draw these on their papers to aid in remembering as well.  And the purpose is not just to do well on the tests.  It's so they won't grow up and do things like this. 

That was for real, by the way; it wasn't done as a joke.  
I checked, sweetly.

Some people say that if most of the students make good grades, then the teachers are probably being easy on them.  I say that most of the students will make good grades if the material is presented well and if they are motivated to do well.  And that's not being easy on them.  (Abeka grammar tests, spelling tests, and writing essays on history tests aren't easy tasks anyway.)

And this would be an example of number two.  Here is something close to what I said in class to go along with what I wrote on the board that day. 
"Okay my awesome, amazing students-- you did well on the test.  ALL of you passed.  Yay!  Great job.  Here is the break down of the grades.  We had eleven "A"s and EIGHT of those were 100s.  You guys are smart and I know you studied hard.  Good job!  Two of you got "B"s -- that's good.  That puts you on achievement party status.  Now, it looks like a few of you could have tried harder.  Everyone look at your tests and see what you got wrong.  Did you write five sentences on the essay question like I asked?  Did you have an introductory sentence, three sentences which logically supported your point, and a concluding sentence?  That is where most of you lost points.  I know you can do better next time.  Fix what you got wrong right now on your tests."

(Hand raise)  Me - "Yes, Fred?"
Fred - "Mrs. Swanson, I knew the answer to this question and I still got it wrong!"
Me - "Okay, let's work together and figure out why.  Were you going slowly and using your flea comb?"  (That's our term for picking carefully at everything on our tests.)
Fred - "I think I did well on the first part, but I lost my focus near the end."
Me - "Great observation.  Did some of the rest of you do that?"
Class - nodding heads

Me - "Okay, we figured out something here.  Next time, let's focus all the way to the end of the test.  Deal?"
Class - nods and smiles

I just affirmed them, encouraged them, and hopefully led them to figure out how they can do better next time.  And hopefully they will want to do better, too.  That way they can be above the squiggly line and not below it.  They do notice those things.  

Also notice the pronouns I used:  we and us.  It's not me pushing them, it's that we are working together.  I am on their team.  I want them to succeed, and I work hard to see that they do.
All of these will help us teachers have more successful students.

On the left is the secret code we made up for their last Bible memory --  "DOIST RPMs", as in you'll have good RPMs if you keep your engine moist-- only we changed the "m" to a "d" to fit the verse.  
I will point out that I'm not their Bible teacher, nor are they responsible to write or say their Bible verse for me.  I'm just their homeroom teacher and I care.  I know Bible memory can be hard for some of them, so I play the song and sing it with them every morning, and I make up silly hand motions and ways to remember the order and write it on the board for them to look at while we're singing.  

And on the right is the way we remember that direct objects and indirect objects follow action verbs, and that predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives follow being (which then turn into linking) verbs.  I tell them, "No car wrecks; pick a lane."

And, to remember the "c" in muscle, I draw a sideways "c" in the guy's muscle.   And then we pronounce it "mus - cull".  I have them point to their muscle, and they get it right on the test, usually.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Four Corners -- A Great Inside Game

January is always time to play Four Corners-- a nice, quiet, inside game that is actually very fun and does give students a little running-around type of exercise.  
Here are the directions on how to play, just in case you didn't know. 

1.  Tape four different colors of construction paper up on the walls in four different corners of whatever room you choose to use.  
2.  Choose an "it". 
3.  The "it" counts to twenty with "its" eyes closed.  While this is going on, all the other students choose a corner and go and stand near it.  (If they are not in a corner by the time the counting is done they are automatically out.)
4.  With his or her eyes still closed, the "it" calls out one color.  Everyone standing in that color's corner is out.  They may either sit in the middle of the room or in another designated space.
5.  The remaining students run around and go to another corner while the "it" counts to twenty again.
6.  Near the end of the game when very few students remain, the "it" can call out two colors.  

For an extra-fun twist on this game, use poster board or other materials and make a map on the floor of states or continents.  The "it"  may choose two or three states or continents to be out every turn or this version may take a very long time :-).  

Friday, December 29, 2017

Huge Map Project Made with Tablecloth Plastic Stuff

Right before the holidays and our poetry reading party, we finished our world history chapter on Oceania and Australia.  
And I had another idea . . . . 
I bought remnants of tablecloth plastic stuff for 1/2 off.
The students were put into groups of four and given a map.
They had to draw their assigned continent or island to scale (1 cm x 1.5 = number of feet) on the tablecloth stuff and cut it out. (We did Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tasmania, the Cook Islands where Captain Cook explored and Kon-Tiki landed, the Hawaiian islands, the Solomon Islands, and Antarctica.)
Then we played the game "four corners" with each student choosing an island or a continent to stand on instead of a corner.  
We learned geography, practiced our math skills, and had fun doing both.  

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

Papa Panov, Pajamas, Pizza, and Poetry

When I mentioned having a poetry reading while we were enjoying Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" in literature class, I knew there was no way I would actually do it as I'm way too busy teaching, being a mom, planning the next achievement party, and trying to reorganize my classroom and my entire house over the holiday; but, my amazing teacher's apprentice from Terre Hill Mennonite High School, Jiana Smucker (pictured above with me at the poetry reading), wasn't daunted at all.  "I want to do a poetry reading!" she told me.  I told her that I'd help decorate if she planned it.  And she did. Ingredients for a poetry reading: 

Enthusiastic teacher's apprentice - check 
Poetry books - check
Throws and pillows - check 
Candles - check
Cinnamon rolls and iced coffee - CHECK  

The students did a great job.  They found poems about dogs, cats, Chevys, Fords, serious stuff, and funny stuff.  Jiana found a poem the students loved.  It was about Rubik's cubes which have become quite popular with the 8th graders.  
She made iced coffee and her mother made caramel-iced cinnamon rolls.  Mmmmmmm . . . . We even did the poetry-reading finger-snapping thing instead of clapping.
I dressed up in my flannel pajamas ("and ma in her kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap") and read my poem.  Then, for our last poem, one of the students read the Christian version of that poem available here.
Although I like to have fun, I always want my students to think.  

Later we went outside, made a big circle, and set a new record of volley ball hits without the ball hitting the ground.  We even added sound effects.  I love teamwork!  Then we had a pizza party and I read a few stories including Papa Panov's Special Christmas by Leo Tolstoy.  It was an absolutely delightful day, and I appreciate my students even more than I did before.  They are a wonderful bunch.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Grateful Leopards and Fasting During Armageddon

Here are a few more funny misspellings from students. 

I must note that usually when these kinds of things happen, it is because their thoughts and brains are ahead of their hands and their spelling.  Usually.

1.  Ten of them were healed, but only one leopard came back and thanked Jesus.  
2.  The Muslims fast during the month of Armageddon.  Really?  

3.  One of the five pillars of Islam is to give allamas.  

4.  If the bad outweighs the good, then they believe they get to go to heaven.  


Friday, December 15, 2017

Terre Hill Mennonite High School Christmas Program

The Terre Hill Mennonite High School Christmas Program will be held this weekend,
Saturday, Dec. 16th, and Sun. Dec. 17th, at 7 p.m.
1416 Union Grove Rd, Terre Hill, PA 17581
Everyone is invited!

THMH Christmas Program

Once in Royal David’s City (Ireland)...................................Alexander/Gauntlett
Soloists: Juliya Burkholder (Saturday), Annie Martin (Sunday)
Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella (France)........................................Parker/Shaw
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (Poland)........................................Reed/Psalter Hymnal

Sight Singing Classes Ensemble

For Me To Live Is Christ …………………….............................……..Larry Nickel
What Child Is This…………………....................…………….……..Dix/Traditional

Gospel Team

Carol of the Bells (Ukraine) ……….............................…...Wilhousky/Leontovich
Silent Night (Austria)...........................Traditional/Kaplan/Olusola/Bram/Emerson
Danke Shon (America)....................................................................Lyle Stutzman
In the Bleak Midwinter (England)......................................................Gustav Holst


Oba Se Je (Here Comes the King!) (Nigeria)..........................Christopher Aspass
Soloists: Joseph Burkholder, Austin Gehman, Jeff Martin, Sheldon Beiler


THMH Ladies

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional Appalachian)................Winter/Rose/Taylor
Trio: Briana Stoltzfus, Adrienne Gehman, Chelsey Horning (Saturday)
      Ariana Rutt, Adrienne Gehman, Mary Swanson (Sunday)

Gospel Team

Riu, Riu, Chiu (Spain)..................................Mateo Flecha the Elder/Greenberg
Soloists:  Austin Gehman, Jason Beiler
I Wonder as I Wander (American South)..........................................John Rutter
Soloist:  Mary Swanson
Feliz Navidad (Mexico)..................................................Feliciano/Dinzey/Manon


Lo Ere a Rose (Germany).........................................................Michael Praetorius
Rocking Carol (Czechoslovakia) ……………….............…………...John Kingsbury
Angels We Have Heard on High (France) ……………………………..Lyle Stutzman
Hallelujah Chorus (England/Germany)...............................George Frederic Handel

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Marvelous Maps

   As we studied European colonization of the New World the past two weeks, we focused mainly on South America, as the entire next year will be spent on North America.  For their project for this chapter, I asked them to make a map of South America, and told them that it needed to include all the countries (labeled, of course).  I gave them several ideas, found a huge printable maps here, printed out whatever sizes they wanted, and gave them some time to work on them in class.  Then I waited to see what would arrive in my classroom on Friday.  
(I NEVER have an assignment due on Monday.  It ruins family time over the weekend. I am a mom, too.  :-)

These are puzzles.  

We remembered the Treaty of Tordesillas by calling it the "Treaty of Tortilla".  No one missed that on the test, even though I spelled it correctly :-).  And, the Spanish pope did draw the original Line of Demarcation there, giving Portugal a tiny portion, and the rest of South America to the Spanish.