Robinson University–1st Grade Style!

Our school has begun a really great program that we run on 1/2 days called Robinson University.  Somehow I participated in it all last year and never wrote about it, though.  Ugh.  Basically the big idea is that all the adults at our school offer a variety of classes to the 2nd-5th graders, giving them the opportunity to try out things that they may not have the chance to participate in during their regular school day or even in after school activities.  Last year I taught a sewing class with Mrs. Uhles, and there were many other exciting things available otherwise.  The ones I can remember (and surely I will forget some good ones, so I apologize in advance!) were things like coding, cooking, gardening, art, outdoor adventures, dodgeball, chess, yoga, card games, board games, The Olympics, Rig-a-Ma-Jig, crab soccer, LEGOS (lots of LEGOS!), 3D animation, and even a musical!  This year there are many amazing offerings again and we’ve added geocaching, jewelry making and loads more–all based on kid recommendation and adult expertise!

Needless to say, these days are super motivating and pretty much EVERYONE comes to school to participate with HUGE smiles on their faces. 🙂  Ok, that’s like most days at our school, but it’s especially true on 1/2 days. 🙂

Well…on RU days, though, kindergarten and first grade do their own version of exciting adventures, but geared more towards a early elementary lens, and without so much ado (the big kids go to all different classes with different teachers and different kiddos and rotate to more than one class!).  We have had great opportunities to plan amazing experiences for our kiddos so far, too, and have used our 1/2 days to extend the learning that is going on in our classrooms at the time.  For our first 1/2 day in September, we spent time exploring with scientific tools in the Robinson woods, learning and applying knowledge about light and sound.  For our second go-round (which was just before Veterans’ Day), each teacher worked with their small group to teach about a branch of the military.

For this last one of the semester, we decided to give our kiddos a sneak peek of what the big kids are doing, and even get them ready for when they’ll be making their big choices in 2nd grade.  After the team talked it over, we agreed that we’d still do rotations so that kiddos could get a variety of options, and that we each wanted to do something that was our passion.  We each offered something so different and it was so much fun!

Kiddos had short rotations of an engineering challenge with Mrs. Mafigiri, play and improv with Mrs. Marks (she had costumes and toys and puppets!), an introduction to coding with Ms. Turken and I offered a couple of great read alouds.  I know, you’re surprised by that, right?  Ms. Mimlitz, our more than amazing TA was also in the loop, and took kiddos out for some fresh air and play time.  Luckily it was a beautiful day!

I know that the kiddos had a SUPER time in all the other stations, but since I was really on in my session, it’s the only one I can share details about.  Sorry. 😦  Promise I’ll make them good. 🙂

Since the other teachers had a theme in their stations, I wanted to make sure that my read alouds and our activity was around a central idea, too.  We had found a great list of picture books that promote a growth mindset from weareteachers.com and knew it would be a great place to use as a resource!  Since growth mindset is a BIG DEAL in our Robinson community (and is even in our Robinson Mindset we recite every morning) so it’s the direction I went with our stories.

I ended up choosing two great stories that I knew would allow for great conversations and would fit into my time frame.

Before we read, we reviewed what we knew about having a growth mindset and I shared with them some words that one might use if they were using a growth mindset–things that they might hear in their heads when they were using their self-talk.  I had these sayings on speech bubbles stuck on popsicle sticks and we made the characters “say” them at various points in the story (I didn’t get a good picture of them individually, but you’ll see them in our final product later on in this post!).

Once we had read and discussed, we worked to create some visuals to help teach the REST OF ROBINSON about using a growth mindset.  We had gotten the OK from Mrs. Sisul to use an empty bulletin board in a downstairs hall where everyone walks, so we were excited to fill it up with first grade faces.  I had each first grader (and then lots of Robinson adults!) choose either a saying that they used a lot to remind them to use a growth mindset OR one that they struggled with using and wanted to try to use more often.  Either way kiddos posed in front of my book-covered classroom door with their speech bubble and CHEESED!!  Let me show you. 🙂

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Pretty great, right?  Yeah…and the first time we walked by, of course we had to stop so everyone could say “that’s me!” or “there I am!” 🙂

Here are the sayings, up close:

And now, since I know you want to see all of those cutie-pie faces a little closer (so you can say, “Hey, that’s my kid!” or “Hey, I know her!”), here’s a quick slide show of all of the pics on that board.

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Thanks for reading about Robinson University!  We’re excited for our next 1/2 day when kiddos will get a chance to choose two of their favorite activities from this first try to spend more time exploring!  What a great day that will be. 🙂

Winter Cultural Celebration!

This year I was inspired to do something a little different with our winter “party,” that normally comes after our all-school sing-a-long.  Rather than have a sugar-crazed, action-packed time right before I sent them home for two weeks with their parents, I decided that we’d just use our end-of-the-day time to relax together and enjoy a movie (or a book!) together and quietly send them on their way.

That didn’t mean, though, that I didn’t want to include families, or that I didn’t want to celebrate the family that Rm. 202 has become.  As I started to think about who best to do this in a meaningful way, I remembered the stories that families told about our names at the beginning of the year, the stories I’ve heard from kiddos when we read together and the traditions we’d been talking about over the last month or so of school.  I knew that I wanted to take some time to incorporate all that makes each of our families and cultures special and share those things with each other!

I started by sending a survey to everyone, asking some basic things about how our families celebrate winter, holidays, and what some specials traditions/foods/languages/etc. from their cultures that they might like to share with our Rm. 202 community.  My hope was that I would get information that would help me better craft a fun, festive, family time together for our last day together before Winter Break.

I got lots of responses, and these helped me decide how to proceed.  And it was super great timing that our class had just redone our learning zones, because the ideas were then incorporated into each area of our room.  This gave families a great opportunity to come and see them in action!

I didn’t really want the celebration to be too formal or over-planned, so we kept it simple and fun.  Here’s what we decided to do in each zone:

Zero Zone: Mara’s mom shared the story of La Befana (from their Italian culture) and kiddos worked on a coloring sheet featuring La Befana.

Reading Zone: Josh’s and Keira’s mom shared some of their families’ favorite winter/Christmas stories (you know Rm. 202 kids LOVED this part!)

The Kitchen: This area was perfect for cookie decorating (thanks to Callahan’s mom and grandma and Robbie’s grandma, too!) as well as sharing a couple of family traditional snacks.  Ella’s mom brought fudge (yum!) and Aadish’s mom shared an Indian snack called vada, which was spicy and so good!  I shared apples and oranges, partly to add something fresh to the table, but also because oranges are a traditional addition to Christmas stockings in my family!  Needless to say, this was another popular area during our celebration! 🙂

Hands-On Zone: Many families mentioned that they have the tradition of decorating gingerbread houses together, and this was the focus of this area, too.  Kiddos had the choice of many different mediums to create a gingerbread house of their own–they could create it out of Legos, blocks, paper, or using something on their iPads (like Scratch Jr., Educreations, or other drawing app).  The point here was to have fun and be creative!

Partner Zone:  This zone celebrated another family’s culture as Aadish and his mom told a story from a Hindu epic.  It is a collection of 1000 stories (hope I’m getting this right!), and is called Mahabharatha.  They acted out the story of Arjan, the archer, and even had a bow and arrow for everyone to try (it was a NERF one, so no worries!).  The story focused on the importance of focus and concentration and was very interesting!  We were impressed by the traditional Indian clothes they wore, too!

We were in small groups and kiddos rotated through each station, enjoying spending time with their friends and family for a bit after lunch.  We had so much fun and the smiles and energy in the room were amazing!  This is definitely a new Rm. 2o2 tradition that I hope to continue with new families for years to come.  Thanks to this year’s group for making it extra special and being willing to jump in when I have a crazy idea, and thanks to all the families who were able to join us in person to celebrate!  For those who we not able to come, we missed you, but were thinking of you fondly! 🙂

What a great way to end an AMAZING first semester and head into a relaxing Winter Break! Here’s to an even more amazing 2nd half!  Happy New Year!

 

Pumpkin Pie Plans

If you’ve been here much this fall you’ve read many posts about pumpkins.  We’ve read lots of books about pumpkins, planned and created amazing Literary Lanterns out of pumpkins, and then, because of a super lead from Mrs. Meihaus, returned our pumpkins to the wild depths of the Robinson Woods from whence they came.  Ok, not really, but we did take them out to see what would happen next, with our fingers crossed that we’ll grow a pumpkin patch. 🙂

Well, over Thanksgiving, while I was working on dessert with my own family, it seemed to just make sense that our Rm. 202 family needed to make, bake and ENJOY a pumpkin pie together.  I mean, come on, right?  PERFECT!!

And of course, true to 20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher form, this story is going to SUPER LONG because I kept the whole story to myself until the very end.  Apologies–I’ll try to save as many words as I can and instead use pictures and videos of my kiddos instead of lots of teacher words from me!

1.) We used the 3 Act Task that I had learned about a couple of weeks ago to start our thinking about what would be the best way to cut our pie and therefore how many we might need to bake to feed our class.  I showed them these images and asked what they wondered…

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They came up with these questions:

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We decided to tackle the last one:  Which is the best shape of pie to make for all of us?  But even before we could figure out the answer, we had to determine what we meant by the word BEST.  We agreed that it was the pie that fed the most people with the least amount of work and the biggest piece!

We worked in small groups to try out triangles and rectangles to see how we could make those shapes and sizes work.

We eventually agreed that triangles would give us a bigger piece of pie, as well as would be much easier to cut all the same way (so it would be fair for everyone), and so another group got busy working with the recipe.  We used this one, from The Minimalist Baker.  It’s vegan and so perfect for all of the allergy concerns we have in our room (and which was why I tried it for my Thanksgiving, too–everyone could eat it!!).

We did some quick multiplication and figured out we’d need to make 3 pies to get enough pieces for all of the kiddos plus two teachers, and so then we had to look at the amounts of each ingredient we’d need to have (that way I’d know if I had enough of everything at home already like I thought I did).

With some moments that reminded me of the Feast Week work we did in 5th grade several years ago, some of my first grade friends helped me triple the recipe.  Wow!

Once we had the details figured out, the kitchen ok’ed to use (thanks Ms. Barbara!!), and all the ingredients brought to school, we got busy!  We carved out the morning to make and bake our pies so that then we could eat our pie for dessert after lunch.  I have to say THANKS  A MILLION to my Rm. 202 friend Rachel for taking care of pictures for us while we made pies, and man did she take a lot! I cannot decide which ones to share so I’ll just play a slideshow here so you can see her great work and the smiles on all the faces of the Rm. 202 bakers!  Plus I love how things look so different when someone else takes the pictures instead of me. 🙂

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We got a little surprise when we took our pies to the oven to be baked–Ms. Barbara gave us a tour of the kitchen!  What a treat to see where the lunchtime magic takes place and it definitely gave us more of an appreciation for what those ladies do for us every day!

We cut our pie (using our super smart thinking from math earlier in the week!) and then plated it, topped it with whipped cream (well most of us did!) and then chowed down.  Some kiddos were worried that they would not like the pie, so we agreed that they didn’t have to eat the whole thing, but just take a “thank-you bite,” which is a way to say you appreciate the time and energy it takes to make a great dessert.  We got mixed reviews on the pie, but I think the thumbs-up have it with this one.

I’d say these three were the happiest about pie.  Could have probably eaten the whole thing themselves! Love their smiles!!

Ok, I will be done now, and will leave you with this picture.  It sums up what I wanted to happen at that old kitchen table in my classroom and kind of reminds me of what Thanksgiving looks like at home.  Only this one was celebrated with my Rm. 202 family. 🙂  I am definitely thankful for them!

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Rm. 202 Room Tour!

I am SO excited about the changes that have recently happened in Rm. 202.  (In case you’re just joining the story, be sure to catch up here before you go on.  I promise it’ll help this video make more sense. 🙂  Or at least it will make you super happy because you read the stories of some super cute and super smart kiddos solving problems!) But beyond the changes we’ve made in our room, I’m even more excited that the room tour is finally finished so we can officially show it off to you–from a kid’s point-of-view!  With the help of Rm. 202 kiddos, my own kiddos Riley and Allie, and even Ms. Turken (our next door teaching neighbor), we created a video to show how each zone works and explain what we might do in each one.  It ended up a little long (almost 10 minutes!), but we promise it’ll be worth your while to watch it (and maybe even share it, too!).  Grab your popcorn and press play below when you’re ready!  Here we go!

I wanted to take just a second to put in my two cents about the positive changes I’ve seen in my students since we first started addressing ICEL and working to create a more engaging, motivating experience in Rm. 202. 🙂

One of the biggest positives that has come out of our room redo is the amount of time my students spend engaged and learning.  While I thought I was doing a great job of making things interesting, open-ended, giving lots of choice and opportunity in their learning, my students’ behavior was showing me that they needed more.  Or at least that they needed something else.   What I realized after our zone creation was that our environment previously offered TOO MUCH choice. Too much room for interpretation and too many things that were confusing to many kiddos.

Watching the way Rm. 202 students interact with both our room and each other now, I can see how much more confident and safe many of them feel.  Before, when I thought I was providing a place to be free and creative, for many I was creating a space that was unfriendly and unpredictable with too many unknowns.  I see now that, in many ways, I KNEW how things were supposed to work, but students were less sure.  Now that areas are clearly marked and labeled, and THEY HAD A JOB in creating these areas, students are never unsure about what is allowed and what is not, nor do they wonder where they should go to work on certain things.

Another thing I didn’t anticipate but that I LOVE is how clean our room has been over the last few weeks.  Partly this came about because when you move things around you end up throwing away a lot of junk, sweeping under things, decluttering, etc., but I know it’s always because now EVERYONE knows where EVERYTHING goes!  No longer is there a question about where the games are housed, or where the Lego shelf is supposed to be, whether or not you should have books or iPads in a certain part of the room, or where the art supplies go.  There are a couple of kiddos who have really taken it upon themselves to help keep this up, too, and this makes the whole thing so much easier.  We’ve begun teaching a couple of kiddos exactly what it means, too, when I say “clean up”–as this was a skill in which they were lacking.

I am SO GLAD that we did this, and am super glad that the benefits can be seen by all of us who live in Rm. 202–not just me.  I don’t know if you caught it, but I believe that in the video section about The Kitchen, Mara mentioned that zones help us feel more calm.  I can totally see now that my students needed more freedom within a  STRUCTURE with STRONG BOUNDARIES, not just freedom that came willy-nilly or with lots of breathing room.  There are some kids who can function in any situation, but there are some who have a hard time figuring things out when there is lots of “gray.”  This renovation, if you will, added a layer of black and white that we didn’t know we needed.  And the best part is that it all happened BEFORE we left for Winter Break, so now we can start the New Year fresh and clean in a brand new room, looking ahead to some amazing days to come!  🙂

Happy New Year, Rm. 202!

Before you go, can I ask you a favor?  If you’re a parent of a friend in Rm. 202 and you have a specific story to share about how our redo has helped your kiddo, will you share it in the comments?  We’d love to hear more about the positive ways our problem-solving has helped.  If you’re a friend of Rm. 202 and have a question, comment or suggestion for us, will you share it also?  We’d love to tell you other parts of the story that maybe we missed. 🙂  THANKS FOR VISITING!! 

Trying Out Our New Zones: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 5

The morning after Riley, Allie and I worked our magic, kids were greeted with this question on the easel:

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To watch their eyes as they came in and saw the changes was priceless (and no, I don’t have any pictures of it. Sorry!).  I think my favorite response, though, was Mara’s.  She said, “Wow–it looks AMAZING!!”

After kiddos had a chance to check out the new layout, we went through strict directions of how each zone was meant to work–at least the general idea of them.  I walked everyone around really slowly and explicitly showed them around, looking at the supplies that were in each space, talking through why we put it where we did and explaining the way Riley had thought through the process of building the new classroom.  I’m pretty sure this took at least 40 minutes.  I meant business.

Next I had kiddos rotate through each zone, thinking through what the “rules” should be for that section of our room.  Each small group had a turn in each zone, and took time jotting their ideas on the chart paper placed in each area.

Next I let kiddos choose a place to begin and we practiced what it would be like to work in each new place in our room.  Ok, thinking about it now, we should have done this practice part FIRST so that they could better think about the “rules” part, but now I’ll know for next time.  It worked out ok the way we did it.

Kiddos chose the place they wanted to start, and then everyone spent about 10 minutes in each zone, trying it out, getting a feel for how it would function for us.  They had a choice of what to do there, but had to make sure that they followed the guidelines of the space–that they were silent in the ZERO ZONE, that they were reading in the READING ZONE, etc.  They were VERY excited about this.  As with the last part, this took close to an hour of very focused time as we learned to use our new room in an appropriate way.

The next day we thought through how the zones had worked for us.  I asked them to tell us what they liked and what they would change:

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So far I think I can say that this has been one of the most positive things that has happened in our community this year.  I know it is so because of work we’ve done along the way, but the instant changes that happened in the volume of our voices, the number of incidences of disengagement and the increased student engagement have been obvious.  The kiddos seem more at ease, more motivated and happier.  Who would have thought that could happen with just a little bit of a furniture switch-around? Ok, well I, at least, hoped it would have. 🙂

 

Riley Helps Out: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 4

The subtitle of this should add: “And Allie does a little bit, too!”

After kiddos left on Monday and we had our chart of what they wanted in our new room layout, Riley and Allie and I got busy.  And in case you’re new here and aren’t sure who I mean, let me show you my cutie-pie kiddos.  Riley is in 4th grade this year and Allie is a new kindergartner at our school.  It has been fun to have them join me at school, and is also great how often they help me in my teaching.  They have such great ideas and different takes on things than me–I like to throw things at them and see what they think I should do.  They are often the ones that help me come down off the ledge and keep me from doing things that are TOO crazy in Rm. 202.  Thanks, kiddos. 🙂

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And…this year Riley has become the superstar room planner of my dreams. 🙂  Because he has been in such a responsive and collaborative classroom this year, he’s learned a lot about how to really think through how your space works and how to fix things when they don’t work the way you wanted them to work.

So after reviewing the chart my class had made and thinking about how we could best use the furniture and room space available to us, we let the ideas fly.  I love that I could hear what the conversations had been like in his room as he said things like “Let’s just try it and see what we think” or “What about this?”  He had some great ideas for where each zone should go and gave conclusive support as to why they made sense.  My favorite part was when he used our cubbies to create the hands-on zone on one side of the room, explaining that the height of the cubbies would create a nice sound barrier as kids worked there.  It’s a place my cubbies have NEVER been and I had NEVER thought of putting them there.  The block box fits PERFECTLY into the corner of it and there’s plenty of floor space and table spaces for kids to work creatively and collaboratively without bothering each other.  Genius!

He suggested the corner be where we put the reading zone (again–a place I have NEVER put the library in the 5 years I’ve been in this room), because it allowed us to have a white board to put charts, share ideas, and it created a cozy space.  He wanted the shelves to face outward so we could put the soft pillows against them to provide a nice place to sit.  AND we found a way to use 3 cubbies to stack tall enough for a lamp to light the area.  It’s one of the only places in my room with an outlet, so again–genius move, Riley. 🙂

The rug is next to our ActivBoard now and is a nice, open space for our class to meet together, or for partners to work or even for kiddos to work alone with lots of space.  I have lots of favorite parts, but the back corner near the sink is now officially called The Kitchen, and has our big ‘ole kitchen table to work at.  I’ve always wanted a space like that in my classroom, to  help bring home to school, and I think it’s going to be just what I’d hoped for.

While I wanted to have a tour and some pictures in this post, I think those make more sense in later parts of the story.  In fact, my kiddos will be working on how to present how our room works as we begin this next week together.  I want them to tell how it’s changed our lives and explain the best parts of the new layout.  Stay tuned for that!

Also in the plans for next week is an invitation to Mrs. LeSeure’s class to come check out our space.  Without them and their expertise, I don’t think our space would have been so well-imagined.  You guys rock!

 

The E in ICEL: Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Part 3

Our class has been doing some super work lately with trying to figure out how to be our best learning selves and problem-solving about how to do that.  I’ve been helping them by thinking through the ICEL protocol:

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An unexpected transition to the E in ICEL (which is the ENVIRONMENT in which your students are learning, the WHERE of learning) came when we were in Ms. Turken’s room on Friday morning.  As we were working on writing after visiting with Mrs. Marks’ friends, I noticed how differently focused, engaged and quiet my kiddos were.  I noticed the different ways they spaced themselves out,  as well as the people they were working with (along with the fact that many of them found quiet places to work alone).  I noticed that they were all writing, they were all productive and they were all using supplies kindly, efficiently and in the correct way.

We took a second before we left their room to have a chat about what they noticed.  I wondered if they felt the difference.  They mentioned things like the corner of the room where there were two low beach chairs and a low table where kiddos could read.  Callahan thought it was like the Zero Zone in our library. He and Kaiden found that to be a great place to work quietly next to each other.

We all noticed that there were many different kinds of spaces to use for work: places for singles, partners or small groups; places with chairs, and places to sit low and kneel on a rug.  Keira found a bench where she could lay down to do her writing.  Rachel was tucked away on a little bean-shaped table around a corner working alone, and Peter found a hexagon table on the other side of the room where he could work alone as well.  Ms. Turken’s room has a kidney table (or some kiddos call it the rainbow table) where there were 5 or 6 kids all writing and chatting together; Penny chose the rolley chair.  Even with that many kids all in the same place, they were focused on their work.  A low rectangle table looked similar to that on the other side of the room.

Even their rug was a mystery.  It’s the same rug that we have in our room, in generally the same part of the room, and has books on three sides of it just like ours.  But no one seemed distracted by the books, kiddos didn’t sit WAY at the back and everyone seemed to be focused on the teacher chair and the easel.

We agreed that there were some things that we could take back to our space and try to emulate in our room so that we could try to get the same results.  Maybe there were some things we didn’t know we needed until we saw them somewhere else.  Our next step was to have kiddos draw pictures/maps with their ideas for what our new layout could look like, but this was a little bit problematic because we hadn’t done much map work like that before.  I was able to see in their illustrations, though, what was important to them.  We all agreed the Zero Zone was a must, and that we could try different tables/spaces; all of our tables are round ones.

Since I knew the whole “zone” idea was a big one to them, I suggested another place they could visit that had zones.  I hoped this would give them another vision for what they might want/need.  I called on my friend Mrs. LeSeure, who is both a master at space planning and who I knew had already gone through many designs in her own room this year.  My son, Riley, is in her class, and with 27 students and an interesting room shape (it’s a small octagon I think), they have had to be very creative with how they put the people and the furniture in there for the best results.  Just like Mrs. Marks, she agreed to let us come over and learn from her kiddos.

The next school day, which was Monday, she sent some of her friends to take my first graders to explore their space.  The 4th graders were each in a different zone of their room, and groups rotated to each place, learning about how that space is used and how they decided it was an important place for them.  Half of my class went as a time, and then we came back together to share out what we had seen.

We talked and put together a chart of our thoughts.

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As students shared their reasoning behind what they liked about each zone and why they thought it would work for us, we decided if it was something that was possible for us to actually do.  We agreed that probably all of this chart was, except for the pet.  Mrs. LeSeure has a turtle named Javy, and kiddos thought he would help some of us be calm and focused while we work.  It’s a bit of a jump right now, so I assured them that when we get the worms from Mrs. Berger after the holidays and can work with them with their composting, it will work in the same way.  Crossing my fingers that that will happen. LOL

By that point, it was the end of the school day and we had to go home.  But I knew that my work wasn’t done.  I asked Rm. 202 kids if they trusted me (as well as Riley and my kindergartner, Allie) to do some work after school.  Then they could try it the next day and we could see what happened.  They agreed and left VERY EXCITED to come back the next morning.  And now I know YOU’RE very excited to come back and read about it in my next post, right?  I’m excited to tell you the next chapter. 🙂