Heart to Heart
Embracing the Wonder
Embracing the Wonder
Sheryl Krayhulik, Preschool Teacher
God created children with an insatiable curiosity to learn about His Creation through exploration. Young children eagerly gather information through all of their senses and their brains are live-wired to connect that information into networks. At Sacred Heart Preschool, we delight in and embrace that curiosity and enthusiasm… and all the noise and messiness that comes with it! Preschool-aged children need to touch, feel, experiment, and discover… and that’s exactly what we encourage them to do! At Sacred Heart, preschool is a glorious treasure hunt into the real mysteries of the biological world, experiments with the laws of physics, escapades with phonics, and creative sensory experiences with art and sound media. Our students paint on the ceiling like Michelangelo, form clay pinch pots like the First Americans, and create stained glass art like Louis Tiffany. They experiment with fingerpaint, paintbrushes, playdough, and glue, because as Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist.” Through dramatic play opportunities, our students practice social interactions and the conversations of being kind, compassionate friends. They learn that a values-based community that consistently treats both adults and children with respect is integral to the definition of school.
We not only prepare our students for the specific academic skills of kindergarten, but we just as intentionally prepare their minds and hearts to embrace curiosity and love learning. We play with letters and sounds, as surprise visitors from Alphabetland lead us on surprise excursions. As we play games with our “letter friends,” lo and behold, they teach us to read! Movement is a planned element of our learning… because little bodies were made to wiggle and physical coordination is part of brain-building. Making your body in the shape of an R, drawing an R in the sand, and making the “rrrrrrrr” sound like the engine of a rrrrr…racecar while you rrrrrr….run around the gym all help build a solid phonics understanding of “Racecar R.” As part of playing with toys, we count them and sort them and compare quantities and graph. Our students raise their sweet voices in songs of joy and praise and learning… because if it comes with a tune, our brains remember it. On the teachers’ part, every activity is intentionally educational and engaging and from the child’s perspective, every activity is magical. 4-yr-olds are capable of learning incredible things… as long as we play to their God-given strengths. At Sacred Heart Preschool, our philosophy of education is to embrace the essence of how God made little children… their inquisitiveness, their wiggles, their messes, their noise, and their WONDER.
Is there a special child in your life who would delight in such a program? We offer Tues/Thurs classes for 3-yr-olds and a variety of class scheduling options for 4-yr-olds. For more information, see our website at www.sacredheartschlanc.org/preschool or contact Sheryl Krahulik at email@example.com
Separation Anxiety - Easing the Transition
Sheryl Krayhulik, Preschool Teacher
Young children love their mommies and daddies fiercely and cling to them for safety and protection... which is precisely how God intended it! As babies grow into toddlers who grow into preschoolers, and it is time to venture forth from under Mama's wing, both children and parents can experience some separation anxiety. The first day of preschool is a great big step in this journey, especially if the child has had limited experience away from Mom and Dad. Some outgoing children eagerly embrace the new experience, some quieter children tentatively step over the classroom threshold with wary eyes, and some children express a louder desperation in transitioning from their comfort zone.
The parent and the teacher each have roles in easing separation anxiety and facilitating this transition. The parent's role is in the weeks and days leading up to the first week of school. (1) Develop a good-bye routine, and give your child practice in saying "good-bye" to you and knowing that you will return. When one parent goes to work or runs an errand, leaving the child home with the other parent, always go through the good-bye routine when leaving, which should include "and I will be back." Upon returning, emphasize, "Here I am; I always come back to you." If your preschool-aged child has always been with a parent, try to set up some playdates where your child stays at a friend's house without you, or at Grandma's house for a few hours. (2) Talk about school with your child, and how excited you are for them that they will have this experience. Talk about siblings, cousins, friends, and neighbors who go to school. (3) Help them feel more control over the change. Help them understand when it is happening by crossing off days on the calendar until the first day of school. As the day approaches, involve them in decisions for their special day: your child can help you find their clothes and shoes for their first day of school, and decide what they will eat for breakfast that morning. Rehearse the plan: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, drive to school, say good-bye to Mom, have fun playing with friends and toys at school, and Mom picks you up. Be sure that the rehearsed plan for the day includes having fun at school and reuniting with Mom!
Often the most challenging role for the parent comes at the classroom door, when their job is to go through the practiced good-bye routine, transfer the child over to the teacher's care, and walk away. Sometimes the child walks right in, distracted by toys and friends, and the parent stands in the doorway, bereft. Sometimes the child cries and clings, and the parent feels they cannot possibly leave a crying child. Parents tend to panic when their child cries; after all, it is our job to protect them! However, remember that this is a transition. By definition, that means it is temporary and it is a change. By its very nature of being temporary, the transition will be over once the change has been allowed to happen. As long as the parent hovers in the doorway, the change is not happening; the painful transition is remaining in stasis. Please do not prolong the hard part! You did your job by preparing your child ahead of time. In order for the transition to be completed, the parent needs to leave so the child can focus on the teacher, the classmates, and the many enticing activities that the classroom has to offer. This is part of the preschool teacher's job description. This is what we do. 95% of the time, a crying child is contentedly engaged in an activity before the parent reaches the parking lot! Just give us a chance to work our magic!
Jane Lobeck, Kindergarten Teacher
As the U.S. Bishops and our priests guide us through this year of Eucharistic Revival, we will become prepared to accept the invitation to go out and spread the Good News. Consider this an invitation to you to join us on this exploration to know God, to love God and to serve God. Learn about the monthly theme and its components. Talk with your children about what they are doing each month. Follow the monthly events and challenges posed through the theme. Please accept the invitation to join us in our prayers and practices. Then, prayerfully consider how your family can join 80,000 Catholics in the Eucharistic Revival next Summer!
Uniforms, Highlighting the Dignity of the Human Person
Jane Lobeck, Kindergarten Teacher
Ann Weaver, Development Director
Throughout the week, teachers will discuss the following questions with their students: What if we practice positivity? What if we serve others? What if we don’t judge others by how they look? What if we stand up for one another? What if we have no excuses? The week will conclude with students wearing SHS spirit wear as we recognize that Kindness is contagious.
Save a Little Christmas for Christmas
Jane Lobeck, Kindergarten Teacher
Christmas is a wonderful season for our Church. We recognize it as the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah, who God’s chosen people had waited for. Because we recognize the significance of this event in the history of all of creation, we prepare for the remembrance of it with a solemn period of waiting. We spend the season of Advent, which occurs at the beginning of the new church year for four weeks, in preparation for the coming of our Savior. While the memorial of Christ’s birth is a part of the celebration, the more important focus is our allowing Jesus to be born in our hearts again and again and again each year. Due to our fallen nature, we need to awaken our minds and hearts to the reality that Jesus wants to live in our hearts and we are the ones to let Him in. So we spend four week, praying, meditating and contemplating the opening of our hearts to Jesus through acts of sacrifice and love, culminating with the big celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas. And then it is all over...everything goes away and stores begin to prepare for Valentine’s Day?
Not so fast! Maybe this year, as we are forced to slow down a little due to the pandemic, we take a look at the whole of Christmas. Simply put, God does not ask us to fast for a month in preparation for one day of feast. Like Easter, we are given a long period of celebration but we rarely take the time to enjoy it. The Christmas Season is full of mini celebrations within the overall period of Joy which help us to linger in the beauty of the season. From the vigil of December 24 until January 1 we celebrate the Octave of Christmas, the eight days of rejoicing the birth of Jesus. Within these eight days we remember St. Stephen (12/26), the first adult martyr for the Faith, the feast of the Holy Family (12/27), as first witnessed by the shepherds in Bethlehem, and to finish December, the feast of the Holy Innocents (12/28), the children killed by King Herod in his attempt to rid the world of the newborn King.
Christmastide, or the Christmas Season, next moves into the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, as well as the Feast of the Circumcision and naming of Jesus. We return for mass on January 1 to celebrate Mary, who gave her human nature to the child so that He would be both God and man. This is a wonderful opportunity to recall the virtues of Mary and look to her to set our resolutions for the New Year: obedience to God, love of neighbor, care for the sick, patient suffering. Our twelve days of Christmas continue to January 5 with Twelfth Night, the night before the Epiphany, the coming of the Three Kings to worship the Baby Jesus. Many Christian traditions save gifts and large celebrations for this night, recognizing it as the saving grace of Jesus extended to the whole world. There are many different ways this feast and the Epiphany can be celebrated, allowing for the full celebration of Christmas to continue.
Many see this as the end of Christmastide and decorations and trees are taken down and put away until the next year. The Vatican, however, as well as some Catholic churches keep the trees up through the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, which moves but is traditionally celebrated on January 13 or the Sunday following the Epiphany to the last Christmas celebration for the year happens on February 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. On this last feast of the infant and His Mother, Jesus is presented in the temple as was the Jewish Law for all firstborn male children and Mary was presented for purification, although due to her virginal birth she did not need to be purified. It is often referred to as Candlemas, seeing Jesus as the light of the world living in the darkness of sin. With the Canticle of Simeon, “Now, Master, You can dismiss your servant in peace; You have fulfilled your work. For my eyes have witnessed Your saving deed displayed for all the peoples to see: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, the glory of Your people Israel” Lk. 2: 29-32. What a splendid way to end our Christmas season, in a dark room, lighting a candle to signify the recovery from blindness!
While we may not be able to keep all of our Christmas decorations up until February, keeping them up a little longer or keeping the manger set up and taking time to recognize the pathway of God’s plan for salvation through these special events is a way to bring focus to the faith we put in our loving God. Wait, I put my decorations away already, now what? Go ahead, get out your Nativity or the Holy Family and put them back out in a place of prominence. This year, especially, when we experience so many challenges and concerns, let’s resolve ourselves to a more meaningful experience of God, in our history and now in our time, by saving a little Christmas for Christmas.
The pictures below were taken pre-coronavirus which is why students and staff are not socially distanced or wearing face coverings.
Small Acts of Awareness
Karen Dorsey, Teacher Grade 5
We've all heard about small acts of kindness, but during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we are also working on small acts of awareness. We need to be aware of our physical health, our mental health, and our social and emotional health and of caring for the health and wellness of all around us. Managing all of those can feel overwhelming, which is why showing small acts of awareness towards yourself and others can make that task easier. Here are some small ways our SHS community is showing awareness.
Physical Health: Make sure to be aware of how you are feeling and of any changing symptoms, education about the benefits of exercise and good nutrition, encouraging good sleeping habits for physical and mental health
Mental health: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It is very important to stay informed, but hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and we all deserve breaks. Students are enjoying lessons with our guidance counselor on a variety of topics.
Social and Emotional health: Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy even if only for a few minutes. While we can’t be with each other as much, connecting with others is still important. Our Home and School Association has planned opportunities for virtual connection and fun.
Small Acts of Awareness are ways we can respect each other in this heightened time of stress and realize that everyone is trying to get through this new experience. We never know what another person is going through, so showing awareness of that and approaching the world with some kindness and understanding is vital. When we look back at this time in our lives, we should be able to say that we didn’t let it stop us from treating each other with kindness and we did our best to hold up others and get through this as a team.
“We must show charity towards the sick, who are in greater need of help. Let us take them some small gift if they are poor, or, at least let us go and wait on them and comfort them.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori
The pictures below were taken pre-coronavirus which is why students and staff are not socially distanced or wearing face coverings.
They Discovered SHS!
Ann Weaver, Development Director
This week is Discover Catholic Schools Week! Here at Sacred Heart, we've had a number of new parents discover an education for life! What did they find?
"Having changed from a different school, we are new to Sacred Heart this year. I initially had some reservations about changing schools, but the very first conversation I had with a Sacred Heart staff member put my mind at ease. I was greeted with professionalism, kindness, and an attitude of acceptance. I have since realized that this kind of communication is the standard at the school."
"As we learned more about the school, its mission, and the plans to re-open, we felt confident in our decision to partner with Sacred Heart."
"Because of its exceptional leadership, Sacred Heart has opened (and stayed open!) safely and effectively. The students learn in an environment of faithfulness and joy rather than one that is fear-based, and this is so refreshing. I know that my child is getting a high quality education that includes individualized learning and lots of opportunities for fun. She has been welcomed by her classmates, and the staff has been intentional about helping her to adjust. Also, apparently the school lunches are delicious!"
"We have not ‘looked back,’ and we feel very grateful to be a part of the Sacred Heart community."
Amy, parent of a 4th grade student
"Deciding the path forward for our children for the 2020-21 school year seemed like an impossible task. We knew the options being offered by our public school were not the best for our family. We were welcomed by Sacred Heart with open arms. They answered our questions and respected our family needs. Our children are excited about school, and we know they are safe. They are learning every day and we couldn't be happier with our choice."
Jen, 1st and 4th Grade Parent
"When looking into our options for school we were searching for stability, consistency and structure for our son in a time where there is so much uncertainty. Sacred Heart School has provided our son with the confidence and necessary skills needed to grow. As a parent, this year is more difficult since we are unable to volunteer in the classroom due to covid-19. However, the consistent communication and support we receive from the teachers and staff is impeccable. The weekly newsletter keeps us up to date with all of the activities in the classroom and it is so fun to look at the pictures of the kids working hard. There is a family atmosphere at Sacred Heart School that is warm and inviting and has truly helped pave the way for a seamless transition."
Allie, 1st Grade Parent
The pictures below were taken pre-coronavirus which is why students and staff are not socially distanced or wearing face coverings.
Practicing the Virtue of Humility
Samantha Corvino, Art/Music Teacher
As the art teacher at Sacred Heart School for the last 10 years, I have said to my students many, many times, “Show me your best work, if it’s good enough for God it’s good enough for me.” The virtue of humility has two sides. We are called to see ourselves as God sees us, no more and no less. Every day we see people who we may perceive as “less than” or “better than” us and we make comparisons based on outward appearances. Perhaps one has a nicer home or more expensive shoes. Perhaps we look down on someone because of the neighborhood in which he or she lives. Maybe one has a more beautiful singing voice or amazing artistic talent that we can’t equal. Or, maybe, they appear to “have it all together” while we feel like we are falling apart.
Surely, Mary was looked down on as an unwed young woman expecting a child; however, in her humility she recognized that she was doing God’s will. As the Mother of Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, Mary certainly had much to be a boastful mommy about! But, of course, she was humble in this way also, quietly accepting God’s role for her and the joy and suffering that came with it. Mary reminds us through her model of humility that in God’s eyes we are ALL wonderfully made. It is not to the standards of others that we are called to conform, but to God’s will. If we show Him our best, do all that we can to serve God with the gifts we have been given, that is all that is asked of us.
As we approach what will surely be a strange and lonely Thanksgiving holiday for some, we may be reflecting on what we are missing this year as well as the many blessings God has given us. May we look to Mary for an example and to God for strength to be truly thankful for all that we have and all that we are.
Jane Lobeck, Kindergarten Teacher
Galileo Galilei said, “ Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.”
Math is everywhere in our universe. It is with us as we sleep, in the pattern of the sun and moon; it is in our time to get up and go to bed; it is in our meals as we compare, measure and sort; it is in our transportation schedules and speed. Math is everywhere in our lives and it is really important.
So if math is everywhere, why does just the mention of math trigger extreme emotions of love or hate, and not much in between. Many times parents will tell their children that not being good at math runs in the family but that does not need to be the case. Even those who think they are terrible at math are using it very successfully in their lives every day. That is something to explore and talk about.
Mathematics problems, in our lives, range from simple questions like, "if Aunt Suzy stops by for dinner will there be enough potatoes for everyone?" to the more complex calculations scientists use to try to get a vehicle to Mars and back safely. We all encounter problems within these parameters on a daily basis and it is unusual for us to stop to say, ”I can’t do math!’ Why? Why are we able to confidently calculate our investment funds or purchase enough materials to build a deck but stop dead in our tracks when we hear the word math? I believe it is time for a change in our collective mindset!
How do we begin to share a love for math with those who seem to have had it all along, from the beginning of their lives? It seems as if the lovers of math have a 6th sense, a number sense, that the rest of us do not have. But as the Recovering Traditionalist, Christina Toldnvold (https://www.therecoveringtraditionalist.com/number-sense-essential/) says, “Number sense is caught, not taught.” That love is not lost to the rest of us, it just has not been fostered yet.
This brings us to the questions of how do we catch that number sense and how do we help our children develop it? Just like anything we learn to love, some of us jump in head first and others just stick our foot in to test the temperature. Either way, if we get our hands and heads in and we wade through the shallow part, slowly and carefully, we will eventually catch the desire to go deeper and spend a little more time with it. One of the easiest ways to catch number sense is to notice it in our everyday life and talk about it with our kids. Make a sandwich and talk about how can we slice it so we both get the same amount. Watch a sunset or sunrise and then discuss the pattern of a day and build a pattern with blocks. Plan a vacation as a family, discuss the options for transportation and which would be the best choice for your family to get there and why. All of learning becomes strong by beginning with what we know and moving out from there.
So there, I introduced the elephant in the room, math. It is unavoidable no matter how hard we try and it really does matter. Let’s learn to love math by catching number sense! Our universe is full of math stories so gather the family around, begin a math conversation and watch the love bloom!
Professional Education: A Teacher's Reflection on the Education Conference
Julie Hartman, First Grade Teacher
As you may know, I have been teaching at Sacred Heart School for many years which means I have attended many Educational Conferences through the years. When I was asked to write about this topic, I began to think back and remember the Educational Conferences of years ago. The children were delighted to have a day off from school, of course, but for the teachers it was a full day allowing for camaraderie, spirituality, learning and even some educational shopping! We would see teachers from other Catholic Schools in the deanery that we rarely see and chat about how wonderful things are with our new students! The vendors would set up their wares to lure us into buying a new, exciting program for our classrooms. Of course, it was always something "you couldn’t live without" and you would have to convince your principal it was worth the price! There were always religious articles, books, stickers and fun things to buy for your class. There were plenty of free samples, too. Some edible, some not.
We would arrive bright and early to check out all the “good stuff." A light continental breakfast was provided for us as well as a lunch. The day would always begin with a keynote speaker, who was usually awesome and very motivating so much so that this teacher couldn’t wait to get back to school to see her kiddos. We would participate in Mass celebrated by the Bishop. That was indeed very special. After Mass, the Bishop would be standing by to shake hands and say a kind word to the teachers.
After Mass, we would be able to choose 2 or 3 religious or educational classes of interest that were being offered. For the most part, these were excellent. I was always happy to learn something new!
Today I attended the educational conference virtually. This was very different indeed but did not disappoint. I had no idea what to expect. There were no interactions in person with teacher friends, no free samples, no sales pitch, no fun things to purchase but definitely a good day. The day began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Gainer. It was the feast of St. Jerome and the Bishop talked about St. Jerome and the great things he did including opening a school for children and he taught the children 3 languages - Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Pretty impressive! The Bishop focused on a quote by St. Jerome, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” His message focused on Catholic Schools and that we are all about encountering Christ and sharing his teachings with our students and parents. He stressed the importance of teachers encountering Christ in all the subjects we teach and having an intimacy with Jesus Christ.
After Mass, Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. talked to us about the rising tide of unbelief in young people starting at age 13. He developed 7 Essential Modules that focus on presenting a compelling case for our Catholic faith in today’s world to help with those questioning our faith. These modules can be taught in our middle schools and high schools.
Although the Educational Conference this year was different, I think it was well worthwhile and certainly gave me a lot to ponder upon. I am blessed to teach in a Catholic School. And this teacher left the conference feeling excited to see her students the next day!
Spiritual Growth While Anticipating First Holy Communion
Cindy Bomberger, Third Grade Teacher
For our current Third Graders, the pandemic has caused not only a disruption in their regular schooling, but also a delay in their receiving the sacrament of First Holy Communion. Normally, they would have received this sacrament last spring. Our switch to online learning in the Spring also meant the postponement of many planned family get-togethers and celebrations to celebrate this momentous event, receiving their First Holy Communion.
For most students, much preparation to receive this sacrament had already occurred. The children spent most of their time last year learning about the holy Eucharist and receiving our Lord’s most precious Body and most precious Blood. They took part in lessons and activities to prepare them to receive Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist.
We have been telling the children that sometimes it is hard to wait for something we really want, but we need to have patience in these times. The good news for them is that as much as they have been waiting to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, Jesus wanted to give Himself to them even more! As we continued to prepare, we prayed together for the grace of patience and growth in virtue before finally, the third graders were able to receive First Holy Communion on September 20.
St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us to pray to Jesus about this. “Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be and becoming that person.” It is with that mindset that our third graders, who have had the extra gift of time to prepare themselves in their hearts and become the best version of themselves, were able to receive the gift of the Eucharist with much love and joy in their hearts.
Congratulations, Third Grade! May you always remain close to Jesus through the reception of His Body and Blood and by staying close to His Most Sacred Heart!
Note - No one is wearing masks in the images above because they were taken during the 2019-2020 school year, before the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Student Leadership at Sacred Heart
Karen Dorsey, Teacher Grade 5
I hear about the days in education where students came to school, sat in their chairs, all received the same lecture, and were then sent home. I am glad to say that is not the experience I had, or that the students at Sacred Heart have. Education is about not about content alone, but about encouraging and assisting each student as he/she grows as a whole person. Many opportunities for this growth come in the form of student leadership.
Leadership gives the students a chance to find a voice and use it; an opportunity to have an impact on the world around them. Our students spend 180 days a year at school. Every student has something to offer by having a voice regarding our school community, but only some choose to express it. Leadership breaks the idea of the old ways and gives students a chance to take ownership over their learning.
As teachers, student leadership can be a way in which we learn about our students. Seeing students organizing, public speaking, problem solving, or any of the other skills that come from being a student leader can make clear the abilities and potential of a student. You can get to know a student by seeing how they lead others.
Overall, I think student leadership can help mold students into becoming leaders as adults; and what this world could use is some strong, young, Catholic leaders.
A Safe, Successful, and Super Start at SHS
Ann Weaver, Development Director
The start of a new school year always brings up many feelings. Are you ready? Are you looking forward to structure? Up for the challenges? Hope to make new friends? This year was no different, but everything was heightened by Covid 19, and lots more preparation was definitely required.
Administration, faculty and staff spent most of the summer planning for a safe return to school in the fall. Sister Danielle, as a member of the Harrisburg diocesan reopening committee, worked with other school leaders to develop safe protocols. She was able to efficiently implement those ideas at Sacred Heart so that we could achieve our goal of fully reopening on schedule on Monday, August 31.
Per usual on that first day and every morning, Sister Danielle was in front of the school at 7:30 a.m. welcoming the students. It was a bit of a challenge recognizing everyone with their face shields and masks/gaiters, but you could see a glint in their eyes that they were smiling. After a last hug, students went to their designated entrance as parents happily waved good-bye. The students were greeted at their classroom door by their masked and shielded smiling teacher with a squirt of hand sanitizer, words of welcome and directed to their desk. Per usual, the students happily chatted with each other as they waited for the next instruction.
We have now been open for eight days and everyone is settling into the routine….checking temperatures in the morning before heading to school, shields and masks/gaiters on, gallons of hand sanitizer prominently displayed, eating lunch in the classroom, having art in the classroom, having music in the classroom. Basically, being in the classroom all day, but no one is complaining. Everyone is just happy to be in school; ready to learn with their teachers and classmates.
A few observations from the first week….
Several students were eager to enjoy their snack and completely forgot they were wearing their protective gear. An amusing reaction when they tried to reach their mouth! Perhaps they are getting used to it??
Mr. Asso, our sanitation engineer, is conscientious about his responsibilities. The stair rails, door knobs and other frequently touched surfaces have never looked so good!
There is a strong community feeling as parents/teachers/staff are asking each other, “How can I help?”
Father Metzgar popped in with popsicles and one of the students exclaimed, “This is going to be a fun year!”
And yes, we are going to make it a fun year! Some things may be a little different at Sacred Heart but, our Catholic identity, joy, love, community, smiles, and learning will be the same!
Reopening: A Parent's Perspective
Melissa Crognale, SHS Parent
At the end of our first week together, Sacred Heart Parent Melissa Crognale, shared her feelings about the reopening plan.
"The ability to make something difficult look easy is usually only accomplished with a ton of behind-the-scenes effort. The ease with which faculty, teachers and students reopened the Sacred Heart community this week demonstrated how well trained everyone had been in the new procedures and guidelines. From what I observed, that preparation enabled our students to let go of fear, and instead approach the year as they usually do: with excitement, anticipation, and joy. It is indeed a unique year, with everyone wearing masks and shields, but there is also comfort and familiarity in their traditional routines. I personally was thrilled with how well the reopening went. I look forward to a wonderful year for my daughter. "
We look forward to a wonderful year too filled with fun, safety, love and faith! Our parents are our partners and together we will make this a fantastic year!
Taking the Hassle Out of Homework
Cindy Bomberger, Third Grade Teacher
For some children, completing their homework after school is no big deal. They come home and they dig right into their work and "tadaa!" They are done without their parents even blinking an eye. But the reality is that for most kids, this simply is not the case, and getting them to sit down and even get started can be the part of the day that their parents dread. Why is homework such an ordeal, and what can be done to make it a productive, learning experience?
You probably have heard this before, but the most important aspect of getting our children to do their homework is to establish some clear routines which they come to expect on a daily basis. When do you expect your child to do their homework? Whether it is right when they come home from school, after a play/snack break, or sometime after dinner, it is most helpful to establish a standard time frame and adhere to it on a daily basis. Your child needs to know your expectations about everything, especially when homework will be done on a regular basis. I found with my children that getting homework out of the way as soon as they got home from school was what worked best for our household, but every family is different and schedules need to be decided with convenience for all.
Another helpful practice is to designate a certain spot in your house for homework. Try to limit distractions away from T.V., games and electronics. Gather supplies your child may need ahead of time.
Tackling a long list of assignments may be overwhelming. Start by having your child set priorities with their work. What assignments should be completed first? Which are most important? It actually helps to tackle those difficult assignments first. If an assignment is too overwhelming, break it down into smaller, more manageable parts.
Make sure to have your child take short stretch breaks during long homework sessions. Have them take a break with a snack or a few minutes of movement time.
As the school year progresses, revisit your child’s homework goals and make new ones together. Try to build a framework of support for working through homework challenges. Ask for support from older siblings, relatives and friends who may be willing to help.
It’s a good idea to check in with your child’s teacher periodically to monitor homework progress. Express your concerns if your child is spending more than a reasonable amount of time on assignments, or if they breeze through work too quickly. Your teacher cares about how your child is succeeding with their homework and can be a good resource of ideas to help you make the process easier.
Most importantly, your attitude about tackling homework time needs to be positive, or children will also dread daily homework. Even if getting your child to complete their homework is like a tug of war, your child needs to see from you that homework is necessary and beneficial.
Here’s hoping all your homework experiences are successful this year!
Reflections on Reopening
Sister Danielle Truex, Principal
Mrs. Deborah Edmiston, Middle School Teacher
Marcie Brody, SHS Parent and School Board Member
This summer has certainly been a time to reflect, listen, learn, and discern as school leaders everywhere weigh the pros and cons of returning to school during the Coronavirus pandemic. Almost everyone feels that the right answer is clear, but no one has the same "right answer." In a time of such uncertainty, it is natural for us to want a clear answer to the questions:
What is the safest decision to make?
What model should every school adopt?
Who has the best plan?
The reality is that the "right answer" to these questions and more depend on a huge number of variables. School size, faculty to student ratio, the physical space available in the building, the professions of the parents of students, the communication infrastructure, and so many other factors need to be taken into account when planning for the "right" reopening plan. The "right" answer is different for each school, each community, and each family.
At Sacred Heart, we've reflected on these questions, on the scientific data, the CDC and PDE recommendations, and the reality of the variables unique to our school community to try to find the "right" reopening strategy for us with the objectives to:
Keep our families, staff, faculty, and students safe.
Provide a quality, affordable, Catholic education.
To support the best interests of each family and the common good of our school community.
Teachers, parents, outside professionals, and administrators worked together to develop a comprehensive plan to return to school in person based on all of the information above and as a result, our small community is happily anticipating reopening in person for the 2020-2021 school year!
As the principal of this wonderful school family, I am grateful to the teachers and parents who have banded together to build this plan and to continue our mission. Take a moment to read what one of our parents and one of our teachers has to say about our reopening plan.
Marcie Brody, SHS mom and member of the school board says, "As a parent of two students at Sacred Heart, I was anxious to learn the school's Back to School Health and Safety plan for this fall. I was quickly relieved as I listened to Sister Danielle's thoroughness and detailed plan, and knew that my children would be able to return to a safe and welcoming educational environment. Hearing the plan's importance on following all CDC and DOH guidelines and recommendations to keep the students and staff physically safe, as well as including a focus on social-emotional development and the learning impact this has had on children, eased any worries or anxiety about what this fall will look like even for our youngest of learners. By providing instructional options, parents were given the information they need to make a decision for what will work best for their family's unique situation and student's learning style. Thank you to Sister Danielle, the staff, Sisters, Father, and everyone who put so much time and effort into creating a detailed plan so families can once again come together as a Sacred Heart Family!"
Mrs. Deborah Edmiston, middle school teacher is similarly excited to begin again and says, "Sacred Heart is opening and starting their school year with a full day. I for one am thrilled for many reasons. I miss my students and truly cannot wait to see them in person again. I think it is the best decision for students. I think that our school is uniquely able to provide the normalcy our children need to feel secure at this time. There is much evidence to show that if schools open following appropriate guidance and procedures to mitigate risk, we can be successful in educating our students in person. I know Sacred Heart is able to do this and I feel absolutely safe returning to teach in person. Our administration, school board, and staff have done a tremendous job of putting safeguards in place. We are adhering strictly to all CDC guidelines such as social distancing, sanitation procedures, and checking for any illness. With the cooperation of our parents, students, and staff we will make this a safe and joyous opening."
We will be opening our doors for students on August 31, 2020 and are looking forward to providing them with the same safe, affordable, quality education for life as we were doing before the pandemic. Parents have the option to enroll in our in-person, full schedule program, or to utilize virtual instruction for however long they feel is appropriate. Our community and size give us the ability to put these necessary safeguards in place and offer our parents options for what will work best for them. We can't wait to see one another again on August 31!
Skills for Success - Ways to Foster Organization, Time Management, and Growth Mindset
Lisa Minney, Middle School Science/STEM/Religion Teacher
Several components come to mind when thinking about successful students. Success can be measured in a variety of ways, and it is imperative to students’ success to recognize those ways. There are several factors that aid students’ success - both in the classroom and in life. These factors include organization, time management, growth mindset, and collaboration and communication.
Organization is key to being successful in all areas of life. Organization looks different for each person, and this should be considered when supporting students’ ways of organizing. Organization is vital in students reaching success because it allows for efficiency and productivity and allows students to use time wisely when working through tasks. It also allows students to feel like they are aware of what is happening around them which leads to self-confidence and self-assurance.
Time management is another key component of success. Utilizing one’s time to his/her advantage is very beneficial. This, too, creates a productive, efficient environment and leads to quality performance and accomplishments. It allows students to recognize their capabilities and strengths and persevere. Organization and time management work hand-in-hand to produce successful students.
Growth mindset allows students to believe they can achieve through their hard work and dedication. Growth mindset recognizes that through motivation and commitment, students can become who they want to be; they can achieve the goals they set forth for themselves to be successful in any and all areas. This is an especially important component of success - belief in oneself to be able to achieve anything the mind is set to achieve.
Collaboration and communication also play a role in success. Students must be able to engage with others, successfully find common ground, and communicate effectively. When working together, students exercise their abilities to be creative and imaginative as well as experience a variety of roles. The opportunity to work with others and communicate efficiently will lead students to success not only in the classroom but in life.
How do we as teachers and parents foster these skills? It is imperative to work together as a team to discover where a students’ strengths lie and how we can monopolize on those strengths to help the student organize, time manage, achieve a growth mindset, collaborate and communicate. It is also vital to include every students’ thoughts and ideas as to how he/she sees himself/herself achieve success. Belief in our children and playing a supportive role will allow students to continue the development of these skills as they move through school. This, in turn, will provide a solid foundation for students’ future success.
Reopening School 2020: Our Commitment to Continuity, Community, and Catholic Identity
Sister Danielle Truex, Principal
Planning for the post-coronavirus closure reopening of school has brought challenges: conflicting guidelines, quick changes to suggested practices, and the struggle that separation has caused faculty, staff, and families. There are many unknowns as we approach the start of school, but one constant is our commitment to our mission and our community.
When our school building closed in March, our commitment to provide continuity of instruction, build supportive community, and live our Catholic identity shifted from an in-person, on-site experience to a virtual one. Now, we prepare to shift back into a new and uncharted journey in education with a sense of commitment to you, our Sacred Heart Family.
So, in the midst of changing directives and unknowns, what can we commit to right now?
Continuity of Instruction - SHS will be able to offer in-person instruction while maintaining social distancing. We will comply with all government orders requiring face coverings, and have already purchased and received face shields for all faculty and students. We know instruction is better when students are comfortable so every effort will be made to continue instruction in person in the least restrictive environment possible. SHS will also be offering virtual learning throughout the year. Parents can choose when and for how long students might attend school virtually and participate in live-streamed classes. Flexibility is key and we are committed to seamless movement from one mode of instruction to another.
Community - As a small, Catholic school, our students and families belong to a school community that is a family. Whether virtual or in-person, this community continues to be a source of social, emotional, and academic support for our students and families. Our caring faculty, dedicated guidance counselor, and staff are here to serve you. Plans for community building activities in the new year are under way so that we can safely socialize and support one another again!
Catholic Identity - Our faculty are spending this summer preparing for Consecration to Mary using the "33 Days to Morning Glory" book. Throughout the year, we plan to practice Mary's virtues with the students, learn more about Marian art, music, and literature from around the world, and celebrate special devotion to our Blessed Mother. We know that we have access to our Mother at all times, even when there are limits to our ability to gather together. While we hope, and are planning, to attend Mass in person, we will also gather our prayers and intentions together to ask Mary's intercession to bring us closer to her Son.
Although much has changed this year, our commitment is clearer than ever. We will open offering a full academic schedule including: specials classes for all grade levels, instructional support and instructional enrichment (gifted program), advanced mathematics, STEM, and much more! I invite you to learn more about joining us next year for in-person instruction by contacting our admissions team for a virtual or in-person information session. We look forward to making our commitment to you!
Preparing Your Child for First Grade
Julie Hartman, First Grade Teacher
Now that summer is here, it is time to start thinking about preparing your child for first grade. Research shows that children can lose as much as 1-2 months of reading and math skills over the summer.
In Kindergarten, the foundation was laid for basic reading, writing, and math skills. Now that these skills have been set it is important to keep learning through the summer.
Here are some key activities that you can focus on this summer:
Reading - Read everyday and read everything. Read stories to your child and have your child read to you. After reading a story, discuss the story. Ask your child to retell the story in sequential order. Have them tell you the setting, the characters, what happened in the beginning, middle and end of the story. While reading, have your child make predictions of what they think will happen next. Words are all around us. Have your child read signs on a walk or ride in the car, read things around the kitchen like the cereal box, and other packages. In the classroom, I tell the children to “read the room." There are signs and posters and bulletin boards that the children read to help them with things like number words, days of the week, color words, spelling words, and prayers.
Mathematics - Practice counting to 100 and practice skip counting by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s. Help your child with basic addition and subtraction facts up to 10. In first grade we will learn facts up to 20. Use everyday items to make a number story for example, there are 3 bananas, 2 pears and 4 apples in the fruit bowl. How many fruits are there altogether? Make story problems with animal crackers or goldfish. See how many ways you can make 10. Move the crackers around in various ways to make 10 for example, 8+2; 6+4; 5+5. Practice subtraction the same way. Put out 10 gummy bears, take 3 away. Count how many are left.
Writing - Practice writing your name correctly and stay in the lines. Keep a daily journal. In school, the children write in their kid writing journal daily. They should be writing complete sentences beginning with a capital letter and ending with a punctuation mark. Practice neatness in writing too.
Fine Motor Skills - Your child should be able to dress himself. Practice buttoning, zippering, and tying shoelaces. Practice cutting with scissors, holding a pencil correctly and coloring with crayons or colored pencils.
Establish a routine - Children need 10-11 hours of sleep. Get to bed early so your child will be refreshed in the morning and ready to learn! Eat a nutritious breakfast. Set up a workspace at home for your child to do his homework. If possible, this space should be a quiet area to work in with minimal distractions. This is the perfect time to start practicing habits for success that last a lifetime!
Exercise - In closing, it is important that your child gets plenty of exercise. Research has shown that exercise improves your child’s memory and concentration. So get outside, run around, play outdoor games, sports and take part in other outdoor activities. Plant a garden. Observe the world around you and enjoy these wonderful days of summer!
Finally, have fun! The fun will continue when we are back in school together at the end of August! I can't wait to see you again and continue learning together!
Our Catholic Faith - The Eucharist
Deb Edmiston, Sixth Grade Teacher
"If I am to answer the question, ‘How would Christ solve modern problems if He were on earth today,’ I must answer it plainly; and for those of my faith there is only one answer. Christ is on earth today; alive on a thousand altars; and He does solve people’s problems exactly as He did when He was on earth in the more ordinary sense. That is, He solves the problems of the limited number of people who choose of their own free will to listen to Him.” – G.K. Chesterton
Catholics know that the Eucharist is the center of our Christian worship and the body, blood, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Since it is the center of our faith it is also the center of Catholic teaching and the cornerstone of religious education in my fifth grade class.
To get the attention of fifth graders, sometimes you have to use shock value. One of my favorite ways to start the discussion of the Eucharist is to ask the question,” Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?” After a few blank stares, I tell them the answer is a resounding, "Yes, you consume Him every Sunday." When the shocking reality of this statement wakes up my fifth grade class, we go on to discuss why this is so true. Too many times the fact that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ is sometimes lost in wording that is not completely understood by children. Knowing you are actually eating your Savior is direct and to the point.
Of course we back up this point with the words of Christ in John’s Bread of Life Discourse. Christ says, “Amen, I say unto you, He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood has everlasting life and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:55)." Not only does Jesus say this once but continues for five verses reasserting His point. At the end of this discourse, he asks his disciples, “Does this scandalize you?” Jesus knows this teaching is not for the faint of heart. After Jesus gave this explanation, many of his followers walked away that day. I always like to remind my fifth grade students that at their first Holy Communion they did not walk away. They became believers in the Real Presence and become one with Christ every time they receive the Eucharist.
With this knowledge of the Real Presence, it is important that reverence and awe are a part of our participation at Mass. When we attend Mass, I want the students to realize the various parts of the liturgy and appreciate especially the consecration where bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Savior. As the priest raises the Blessed Host earth meets heaven, the visible meets the invisible, and Jesus is present with us.
Certainly, the importance of this moment has taken on new significance since we've not been able to receive the Blessed Sacrament during the closures because of the pandemic. We know that Jesus wants to be close to us whether we can physically be at Mass or not, and so we encourage our children and families to make an act of spiritual communion during this time to continue to receive the graces and love from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Benefits of STEM Education for Learners at Every Level
Lisa Minney, Middle School Science and STEM Teacher
STEM education is invaluable at every level, from preschool, to middle school, to high school and beyond. STEM education focuses on the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and leads students to utilize critical thinking skills, higher order thinking skills, collaboration and communication. You may ask why developing these skills is so important for our younger students as well as our older students. The answer lies in their futures... occupations and careers have shifted and require 21st Century Skills which include learning skills, literacy skills, and life skills fostered by STEM education.
Learning skills include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. How does STEM education support these skills? Students often are challenged to develop solutions to real-world problems and must exercise creativity when developing these solutions. Typically, students are not working alone when thinking outside of the box to solve these problems. Students work with one another, they collaborate and communicate the best methods to develop a solution.
Literacy skills include information, media, and technology use. We live in a world that revolves around technology. While this can present its challenges, it can be a huge advantage when seeking to find solutions to problems. It allows for research and further development of concepts, ideas, and theories. Technology also allows for continued development of collaboration and communication among people and groups working together to develop results.
Life skills include flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity, and social skills. All of these components are applied through STEM education at every level. Students must be willing to deviate from their own ideas to incorporate others’ ideas, to take on leadership roles for the good of the group, to take initiative in solving problems, and to be productive with their testing and solutions. Social skills allow for continued development of team work.
Whether your child is in preschool building a house that the wolf can’t blow down, or in middle school developing an amusement park that centers around Newton’s Laws of Motion, or in high school developing limbs that can be used by those who need them, 21st Century Skills are preparing their way for successful futures in an ever-changing world. And the path to developing those skills lies in STEM education - at every level of schooling.
Stauffer, Bri. “What Are 21st Century Skills?” Digital Curriculum for CTE & Elective Teachers, 19 Mar. 2020,
Jackie Muehleisen, Middle School Language Arts Teacher
As the Lenten season comes to a close, we anxiously await the holiest week of our Church year. We have been praying, fasting, and giving alms to more fully open ourselves to the presence of our Lord.
Now we begin our journey as we walk with Him on the road to Calvary by praying the Stations of the Cross; meditating on his suffering and death on the cross; and then triumphantly celebrating His glorious Resurrection. Our journey begins with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. “So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” ---- John 12:13.
The first several days of the week (Monday through Wednesday) we prepare even more deeply for the Easter Triduum which means “three days” (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). During these three days, we are shown the power of God’s love through the suffering of his Son, Jesus.
Holy Thursday marks the end of Lent and begins one long prayer that continues for the next three days. On Holy Thursday we focus on the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus’ call to serve others by the washing of his disciples' feet, and the gift of the priesthood. At the end of the liturgy, the Eucharist is transferred in a procession to an altar of repose. The altar is then stripped in preparation for the Good Friday liturgy as people leave in silence.
Unlike any other day of the year, there is no Mass on Good Friday. The Good Friday liturgy in which we remember Jesus’ death on the Cross is a very simple liturgy. It’s divided into three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross - a sign of reverence, and the Communion Rite in which people receive the Eucharist that was consecrated on Holy Thursday.
On Holy Saturday we celebrate the Easter Vigil in the darkness of night. At this beautiful liturgy, we begin in darkness and are led to the brightness of the Resurrection. We once again sing a glorious “Alleluia” and celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection of our Lord.
Especially now, it is important for all of us to set some time aside to recall and celebrate Jesus’ passion, death, and Resurrection in the celebrations of Holy Week.
Even though our Churches are closed we still share in the beauty of Easter together as a family in Christ. Could you take time to pray the Stations of the Cross together with LCHS, pray the Rosary asking for Mary’s intercession, pray the Stations of the Cross for Children , or make a prayer corner in your home or participate in a virtual Mass? However you celebrate this year, know that our school family is praying with and for you!
"How Was School Today?" Questions to Encourage More Conversation
Cindy Bomberger, Third Grade Teacher
If your children are anything like mine, when I would pick them up from school at the end of the day, the last thing they would want to do was talk about how their day was at school. If I was lucky, I would get a grunt, or a “fine!” or “it was good.” I knew that they spent at least six or seven hours at school, and that they must be doing something in that building. I soon came to realize that maybe it wasn’t what I was asking, but how I was asking that made the difference.
While it definitely is true that children can be tired at the end of the school day, and that they probably don’t feel like sharing every little detail of their day with you, you can at least get a conversation started if you try to approach it a different way. Being more specific in asking questions may help get your child started on opening up about their day. Try going beyond the, “How was your day?” and press for some more tangible responses.
Here are a few more direct questions you may want to try:
What was the best/worst thing that happened at school today?
What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
What part of school is your favorite?
If I called your teacher tonight what would she/he tell me about you?
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your day?
Was it quiet or noisy today in class? Which do you like better?
Tell me what you learned today that you did not know before?
What made you happy/sad today?
What do you like most/least about school?”
Try to focus on various parts of their day. You could ask, “What did you read about in class today?”, “What did your teacher read to you?”, or “What questions did you ask today?” Delve into their social life with questions like: “Who did you play with at recess?”, “How were you a good friend today?”, “Who would you most like to sit next to?” or ask about a particular friend in your child’s class.
While there’s no guarantee that your child will respond more to these direct questions, it’s worth giving it a try to encourage some discussions where your child actually shares some meaningful information about their day. Good luck with after school sharing!
STEM in Kindergarten to Grade 2
Jane Lobeck, Kindergarten Teacher
You may have heard the adage, “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.” The point of that adage is to show the importance of providing someone with lifelong skills to care for themselves and others rather than satisfying a need and leaving the person in need of that same help over and over again. We can apply that same principle to using ST(R)E(A)M (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, Math) in the classroom. The lessons we teach our students, especially at the younger grade levels, are meant to be built upon as the student progresses through school and throughout life. When we engage more senses in our learning, we retain more of that learning and can apply it to other ideas to expand our knowledge for a lifetime, not just to pass a test or complete a paper. STREAM lessons give us the opportunity to engage many senses with hands on experiences in order to strengthen the foundation of learning.
Young children learn naturally through play. In K-2 classrooms, we have many opportunities to explore ideas throughout all curriculum subjects. In Language Arts, we read stories to our students to discover the author’s main idea or theme but it doesn’t need to stop there. We can explore ideas or problems found in those stories and test solutions or discover new solutions. Rather than just reading fairy tales, such as the Three Little Pigs by James Halliwell-Phillipps, we can explore the houses built by the pigs to understand why some were not as sturdy as others by building structures with the materials mentioned and trying to blow them down. In Math, when we learn measurement, we can use materials to demonstrate the concepts of taller/shorter, heavier/lighter or how much is an inch. When we encounter a problem in the classroom or at home, we can apply a STREAM lesson to try to find solutions to the problem, such as a pet escaping and we work to find out what is needed to build a better enclosure.
Young children naturally have wonder. We can encourage thoughtful exploration of those questions by using the components of STREAM in order to investigate their questions and eliminate false ideas. Giving young children the opportunity to explore builds more executive function skills like problem solving, perseverance, and curiosity. Exploration builds social-emotional skills as well, such as cooperation, self control, positive mistakes and confidence.
With the benefit of a little extra time spent and some basic household materials, STREAM lessons can not only develop important concrete skills but also encourage whole child learning, physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. And ultimately, we hope to develop an exploration for truth.
Handwriting, Grammar, and Diagramming - A Language Arts Education Rooted in Tradition
Joan Tremblay, Fourth Grade Teacher
Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Yet it serves at least two purposes. Physically, handwriting engages one’s eyes to direct and control his or her hand. Although they do not realize it, our students are improving their hand-eye coordination while learning. The other purpose of handwriting is the acquisition of a unique skill which is becoming rare in our digital world. Haven’t we all been touched by an actual handwritten note which conveys so much more than a text ever could?
One valuable and beautiful way to enhance our hand-eye coordination is in each of our student’s desks. It is our writing workbook, "Writing Our Catholic Faith." Each day, students in all grades practice the art of handwriting. It is a practice and skill that quiets minds and returns student focus to the classroom after breaks and transitions.
Another important part of our language arts program (and another disappearing art) is instruction in grammar. Why is writing so important for our young students to learn? One simple answer is that it will prepare them for the real world as they advance through the K-12 academic years. However, writing is more complex than that. Students need to have grammar skills that will lend clarity to their writing that is required in writing essays in middle school, high school, and beyond.
Where does this process begin? In the elementary grades we begin by writing clear, simple sentences. Every day I ask my students, “Who or what is this sentence about?” Here, we are identifying the subject of the sentence. Then I ask, “What is the subject doing? Now we are identifying the verb. Every simple sentence must have a subject and a verb. A simple sentence is also one complete thought." This is where diagramming sentences becomes an important tool in the writing process.
Diagramming sentences helps students identify parts of speech, write clear and logical sentences, identify subject verb agreement errors, verb tense errors, and it prevents students from writing run-on sentences.
Catholic education at Sacred Heart includes rigorous instruction in handwriting, grammar, and writing skills. While new technologies help us continue to improve instruction, we also focus on those reliable methods of teaching important skills like writing. These traditional methods continue to provide our students with an education for life at Sacred Heart School!
Flexible Math Groups- Supporting and Challenging Learners
Deborah Edmiston, Sixth Grade Teacher
When providing instruction in mathematics, meeting the different needs of students can be a challenge. If work becomes too easy for students they will get bored and lose interest in the subject. If the work is too challenging for students they might feel defeated and lose interest in the subject. This is why I use flexible math groups to meet the needs of individual students and keep them interested and excited about math.
The key to forming groups is using formal and informal assessment to determine individual student learning needs. Assessing students lets me know what skills each student possesses and which skills they will need to spend more time practicing. Assessments can include ITBS sores, benchmark assessments, unit pre-tests, and classwork/homework assignments. Together a variety of assessments provides a fuller picture of the skills students know or still need to know.
I always give a pre-assessment to all students before beginning a new unit. From this assessment I can usually place students into three or four groups. The first group will be the largest and will include all students who have not already mastered the new concept being taught. These students will have a good command of the subject for assessment by the end week. The second group will be those students who may have mastered some of the newer concepts of the unit, but not all. This group sometimes changes from day to day depending on the skill. These students will work on homework in groups, so that if there are questions they help each other. The third group will be the advanced students which is determined by passing the pre-assessment with an A. They mostly work independently using google classroom and instructional videos posted on the assignment for that day. I will meet with them to make sure they are understanding the newer, more advanced concept. My final group is determined by mid week. This group is determined by assessment of homework. Homework helps to pinpoint what skills that continue to be difficult for students. I will meet with these students individually or in smaller groups to reteach concepts.
While meeting in small groups I utilize programs such as IXL, Reflex, and Math 24 for the larger group of students to review skills independently. I individualize these programs to meet the unique needs of each student. Some days math class looks like typical whole group classroom instruction. Other days math class sometimes looks like a hodgepodge of things with some students on the computer, some watching instructional videos, some working with partners and others in small group instruction. With a routine and some prep time, flexible math groups create a very successful math class. To an outsider, it may look like structured chaos, but it works!