Lego Challenges With Mrs. Sisul

We had an amazing 1st-day-back-from-Spring-Break today!  Our principal, Mrs. Sisul, has been learning about engineering and STEM with Legos, and volunteered to come set us up with some Lego challenges if we were interested.  Well, yes, of course, Rm. 202 friends were interested!  Luckily she was free this afternoon and came on up with her big ‘ole box of Legos!  Check out what happened! 🙂

She started with a quick reminder of what STEM means (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and then introduced what we would be doing: every kid would get a card with a challenge and they would work to do that challenge with Legos.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Well, they she led us through a great line of thinking about how we work best, and how kiddos would have the choice of how they tackled the challenge: alone, with a partner, a group of 3, a group of 4–whatever worked for each kiddo.  She shared her example that she knows that as a learner she likes to be able to bounce ideas off of another learner, and so she’d focus on finding another person to work with.  She asked me to share my strategy, and I talked about how I knew that that plan would DEFINITELY not work for me.  I am the kind of learner who needs to process and plan by myself first, and then I might want to work with someone else to blend ideas, get a critique or ask a question.  I know that if I went with a partner right off the bat, I wouldn’t have anything to share with them–so if I was Mrs. Sisul’s partner, I wouldn’t be a very helpful partner!  Right off the top I could tell that Rm. 202 kiddos were thinking about what would work for them, and they knew what would be best.  We had all sorts of groups–singles, partners and groups of 3.  Some kiddos worked alone, but right next to another friend so they could get feedback that way.

Ok, once teams were developed, Mrs. Sisul gave the guidelines for how kiddos would get their Legos.  She walked them through a planning session where they were to really think through what kinds of Legos they’d need.  She would call names of kiddos 3-4 at a time, and they’d have 30 seconds to “block shop” and then get started.  Once everyone had an initial visit to the pile, they were free to come back for more.  And since it would be virtually impossible for me to explain the amazingness with which these kiddos followed this protocol, I had to record it.  Check out what it was like when Mrs. Sisul dumped the Legos:

Once we got started, I roamed around and got some footage of them working. I know, kiddos wanted me to do the challenges, too–but I couldn’t document it to share with you if I did that!  Maybe next time. 🙂

Here are some videos that share more of their thinking while they got started:

This one has some great thinking about what happens when things are hard (which this was for some of us!):

There’s one more, and it’s really the one I’m the most tickled about.  It’s an example of what happened in our room when we put 20 kids and 2000 Legos together.  I want you to think about what you see first, but then I’ll tell you why I liked it:

As I watched this video, I noticed these things:

  • quiet voices
  • pleases and thank yous
  • kiddos finding pieces for others
  • sharing
  • everyone just taking what they needed
  • no one grabbing, hogging or arguing
  • kiddos respectfully letting others into the circle
  • focus
  • engagement
  • motivation
  • laughter
  • encouragement
  • respect for self, learning, others and the environment

What did you see? (Please leave us a comment and let us know–Rm. 202 kiddos would LOVE to hear what you thought and would LOVE to know you watched their super hard working!)

Ok, I know you’re wondering what some of those challenges looked like, and how they tackled them.  Here are some examples.  And yes, they told me I could. 🙂

This was definitely one of those touchstone moments in our classroom that we will return to for many days and weeks to come (darn, I only wish we’d done it earlier in the year!).  I know that we walked away with many things (and I hope to share what those were in THEIR WORDS soon), but one of them definitely was that there is not one way to solve a problem.  We could each access each of these challenges in our own way, and use whatever skills, ideas–and Legos!–that we wanted to in order to achieve our goal.  One friend even decided to do the same challenge twice to make it even harder for himself!  We are builders and thinkers and problem-solvers in Rm. 202 and this was definitely right up our alley!  Come back any time, Mrs. Sisul!

So I Have This Thing…

So I have this thing where I can’t write about something on the blog until after it’s finished.  Like the whole thing.  Even if it’s a Writing unit, a Social Studies project that takes 6 weeks or a Math investigation that is 10 days long.  I guess part of the reason is I want to make sure I have all of the parts to tell the full story–the beginning, middle and end–as well as to make sure that I’ve figured out the angle, the focus or the Big Idea I want to make sure to highlight.  I want to have identified the problem and then share the solution.  I want to have taken all the right pictures (which I have now learned the hard way have to be compressed before I upload them!) and figured out just the right words to write so that the most people want to read–and then comment on!–the post.  You get it the idea.  I want it to be perfect.

But unfortunately what happens when I work like that is that often time gets away from me.  I wait too long and a whole list of things occur: a teachable moment goes uncelebrated and the story goes untold, I forget the best parts of the story because too much time passes, I lose momentum, or even worse I end up with SO MUCH to write that then I can’t do it.  And then my blog sits untouched since mid-December, with many amazing learning experiences not shared.  And the funny thing is it’s taken me what seems like FOREVER to figure out that maybe that’s not working.  Yeah, I guess I’m kind of a slow learner.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me then.  I could go back and (with the help of the pictures I’ve taken) catch up on the 1,000 things that have happened since a month ago (ouch!); I could just shared the “finished” things that have occurred this week and celebrate the amazing things my students are learning–as well as what they are teaching; or I could just start writing about things in a new way and not worry so much about making sure that every post, every “story” is complete before I tell it.  Often, it’s the middle, the messy parts, the while-it’s-happening stuff that is the most interesting anyway.  It’s the things I learn when I’m not expecting them that are the most enlightening.  It’s the lessons that don’t go the way their supposed to that often have the most impact, and it’s when I stretch myself out of my comfort zone and try things a new way that often I find I wonder why I didn’t do that a long time before.

I guess I just made the decision then.  I am resolving to try something new this year (but I still say I don’t make New Years’ Resolutions), and tell stories at whatever stage of completion that they are in.  I pledge to share the ugly parts of learning as well as the well-planned, perfectly-executed, went-just-the-way-I-wanted-them-to parts (yeah…there’s much more of the previous than the latter anyway, so it’ll give me lots more to write about!).  I guess I already try to share the whole story anyway, but I’ll try to make sure I am ok with just little bits at a time instead of just the final product.  It’s the process not the product anyway, right?

Thanks for listening to my rambling, especially if this is the first time you’ve been back to our blog in a while and were expecting something different (which makes me wonder–what do you expect when you come here?  I’d love to know! Leave me a comment. 🙂 ).  I hope to make this a time to turn over a little bit of a new leaf and start the year with a fresh commitment to share the amazingness that happens in Rm. 202 every day.  I hope you stay around to join us for the ride.  It will definitely be fun, and probably pretty messy.  Great combination, I’d say! 🙂

Halloween 2015 (a little late…)

Yep, I know.  It’s Thanksgiving week.  And you know what?  If I remember correctly, I posted about Halloween on Thanksgiving last year, too.  And this year, too.  Man.  Oh well, it’s true that it’s better late than never, right? 🙂

I don’t have much to say about it, except that we had SUPER 2nd grade costumes, a SUPER party thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Gordhamer (it even involved an obstacle course in our room that TOTALLY worked, even among the other stations with games and a snack.  Kiddos totally ROCKED being respectful and appropriate!), and a SUPER parade around the grounds of Aberdeen Heights next door.  The residents love to see our smiling faces and fancy costumes and we waved at SO MANY PEOPLE!

Yep, it was great!  I don’t have many pictures because I was too busy having fun, but here are a few:

Ok, and since this is my blog, and so I can be a little bit indulgent sometimes, here are two more from my own Halloween at home (you know you were wondering!!):

Hope yours was fun!  Here’s to posting Halloween pics in October next year! LOL

 

Pictures of the Day: April 28, 2015

Ok, I feel like I should give a warning before I start this one: this post will be a little bit indulgent.  And it will explain why I couldn’t post this update last night.  Here. Maybe this will help:

It’s been a long time coming, but I graduated with my Masters of Science in Education. The focus was on Curriculum and Instruction.  While in some ways I wish I could have finished this long ago, I am actually super excited that my kids and hubby got to share the night with me.  He shared the whole program with me, too, he’ll have his own graduation night later on. 🙂

Wish I could have gotten a better picture of me with this super smart guy (that’s a LONG story I won’t bother you with), but I had to post it anyway, because it means so much to me. This is my baby brother, who is in most ways smarter and wiser than me. I love that he’s proud of me, though, and that he was there to share this important night with me. LOVE YOU, CHUCK!!  

What important life event in 2015 isn’t documented with a selife? Pretty sure they all are. So we had to do the same. There is something that I LOVE about this picture. Mostly the people in it, but also because we are all so happy, and also just the fact that it’s a little off-center (because I probably am a little like that, too). 🙂

Why I Blog

As I was rereading my copy of Classroom Blogging by David Warlick today in preparation for work this week with my class, I came across a suggestion I could not resist trying: write about why you blog.  I am have written many times (on this blog!) about why I write, as well as facts about me as a writer, and even what I write about in the summer, but I had never thought to share the reasons why I’ve spent so much time and energy (and I’d say a generous dash of love!) on keeping this blog for the last 3 1/2 years.  I think it’s a great idea and I’m excited to share my thinking!  Hope you enjoy reading it! 🙂

Reasons Why I Blog…

1) REFLECTION

Writing in general is a way to slow down, step back and reflect on how things are going.  For me, my blog allows me a venue to do that with what is going on in my classroom, just like I might do in my Writer’s Notebook about something in my personal life.  I find that as I am planning posts, and am thinking about how best to share my story, I figure out the parts that went right and the parts that could use some improvement.  And honestly, it’s the “not-so-right” parts that I value–it’s in these that I learn the most and grow for the next time.  Plus, as I share them in a public forum, I am hopefully sharing them so that someone else can learn from them, too!

2) INFORMATION

Originally I started my blog for myself, and maybe to share with a few others who could care (probably members of my family! LOL).   Very quickly, though, I began to see it as a tool to highlight the things going on in the little slice of heaven called Robinson School.  And since the families of my students don’t get to be there with us every day, the blog would (and did!) become a sneak peek into what we were learning–and also how we were learning it.  See, more than just the what, I strive to include the thinking behind the why of what we do.   I am hoping to share the methods to my madness and help parents (and other interested readers) understand why I make the educational choices I do.  I have heard from MANY a parent that these tidbits I share with them are priceless and useful conversation starters with their students.  Rather than just asking “What did you do at school today?”, the question can become, “Tell me about….” or “What did you learn when you were…?”  For 5th graders who chose not to share, and for 1st graders who sometimes have already forgotten what to share by the time they get home, the benefits are clear.

3) COLLABORATION and CONVERSATION

Aside from desiring to share information with families, I use my blog as a platform to share information and reflection with other teachers.  I strive to write in a way that is both interesting and inviting, and in a way that will spark a conversation.  It doesn’t always happen, but my hope is that a thoughtful conversation can be started in response to something I write, and that knew knowledge or understanding can be gained by those involved.  I am pretty active on Twitter, and have been throughout my blogging journey, as well.  Honestly, some of the greatest lessons I have learned as a teacher in the last 3 1/2 years have come through collaboration and conversations that stemmed from a connection made either on Twitter or through comments on this blog.  Reading others’ blogs inspires me to try new things or think about something in a new way, and I strive to be that same catalyst for change for others.  I am energized by working with and learning from others, and I especially love when I can add something to a conversation that might result in a new or improved learning experience for both a teacher and their students.

4) RELAXATION

Like I mentioned in the post about why I write (in general), writing is fun for me!  When I started my writing journey as a teacher in 2005, it was to be able to have a resource with which to teach my student writers (i.e. using my Writer’s Notebook entries as mentor texts during mini-lessons and conferences), and to better understand exactly what the act of writing entails from a learner.  What I found out along the way is that I really like it, and it is kind of my go-to stress reliever.  Everyone has that one thing they do when they are worried, stressed or uneasy–for me it’s writing.   And just like the words I put in my Writers’ Notebook, I enjoy writing the stories I tell here.   For some, the idea of spending countless hours outside of school writing about what they did while they are at school seems crazy.  I’ve had many teachers tell me they don’t even think they’d be able to find time to do it anyway.  For me it’s a necessity, and actually makes the work I do while I’m in my classroom a little better.  Well, and ok, I’ll admit that I’ve been called crazy before, so maybe there’s a little bit of that thrown in there, too. 🙂

Thanks to @dwarlick for the inspiration for this post, and for you for reading it!  Now I ask you–why do you blog?  And hey, if you don’t, why not?  I’ve love to hear from you and start a conversation! 🙂

 

 

 

Ten Black Dots

One of the great things that happens at the beginning of first grade is a series of Kingore lessons that Mrs. Berger comes to do with all of our classes.  We gather together 6 times, doing a variety of different types of thinking over the course of the lessons.  The first one was related to the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews.

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In short, the lesson asks kids to think outside the box, and create a picture using 10 black dots (or in our case they were red or green circles!).

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First Mrs. Berger read the book to us.

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I had to try it out first. And man…it’s hard work thinking like that on your feet in front of a rug full of kiddos! She didn’t tell me she was going to ask me to do this, so the “thinking face” I have on is a real one!

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I started by putting my dots all in a group, and suddenly an idea came into my head.

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Mrs. Berger challenged me to add some details so that my audience could tell for sure what my picture was. I added some lines on my circle. Can you tell what it is yet?

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A few more details…

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My finished Ten Dot picture: a pizza! I know–kind of an obvious choice. This was a HARD job! Wait til you see what our kiddos came up with….:)

Kiddos were then asked to count out 10 dots from a bag, and get to work on their own Ten Dot creation.  I’m excited to share their CREATIVE thinking:

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How is that for a showcase of some AMAZING thinking?!  I’m trying not to be embarrassed that I made a pizza….:)  GREAT job, Rm. 202 kids!

Welcome to First Grade, Friends!

Welcome to First Grade!

I am so excited you’re here!

Please proceed with caution, and read carefully….

The following letter contains 2405 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long.  Sorry!).  You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade together.  You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

First Grade and Fabulous!

I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??

 

Let’s get started!

 

First a little bit about me. 🙂  I am going into my 14th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home–which is in St. Peters–I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Wentzville (isn’t that cool?).  He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  We have a 7YO son, Riley, who is in 2nd grade at Robinson, too.  We also have a little girl named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 3 1/2.  She is staring preschool soon, which will be new for us all.  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

Like I said, this is my 14th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Parents, I am excited to find out Who YOUR CHILD will Be!  Will they be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who……? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin first grade as the person we want to be.  Every deserves to be whoever they are and whoever they want to be!  Remember the saying: Be yourself!  Everyone else is taken!

Another wondering: What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you (and your child)?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU and YOUR CHILD!:   They’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick.  Who they are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: If you’ve been around Robinson for longer than 5 minutes you know that respect is a HUGE part of our culture.  It’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun.  In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love your child, but I love everyone else, too!

*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?”  And yes, to a point, that’s true.  But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading.  I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading.  I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together!  Read to them as well as with them.   Share your own reading with them.  Read in front of them.  Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text.  HAVE FUN and help them do the same!  I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well!

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them.  Yep, I said it.  I want things to be hard for them.  I want them to struggle.  When they need more than one try or lots more practice with a concept, they’ll get it.  When they need to show me what they know in a different way, then we’ll figure it out.  When they need me to repeat something or explain it in another way, I’ll do it.  If your child needs a big, fat challenge–watch out, they’ll get one!  No, I’m not crazy, I just want them to try things that may be tricky at first.  I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂  THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems (and because of this I am SUPER excited about our team of 5 really smart teacher this year!).  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something.  It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other!  Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂  Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom the other day:

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I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

* Questions: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question.  It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family.  In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to.  Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. 🙂

* Time is precious: So is your child. I don’t like wasting time and I especially don’t like wasting learning time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a ‘ruckus’ is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing – it is a beautiful sound).  I hope–and expect–that your child will come into our classroom every morning ready to learn, ready to work hard, ready to put their very best foot forward.  We only have so many days together, and we need to make the most of every single one of them.  We’ve got so much to do! 🙂

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You child be blogging, using Twitter and other sites, using iPads and laptops (yep, your child gets their very own iPad Mini VERY SOON!), working on the ActivBoard, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!  PLEASE let me know what–if any apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student.  This will be an important area for us to explore together. 🙂

* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet your child can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people’s stories. You (mom and dad) should be on that list. You are awesome. (Assignment one; help your child email me a List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don’t happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* Taking risks: I like to take risks.  I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?  (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! 🙂 )

HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rockstar. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that from last year’s class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This’ll get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our window sills, bookshelves, walls–wherever there’s room–so please bring a 3×5 or 4×6 framed picture with you to Open House or on the first day of school.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used about two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your first grade brain tuned up, I would love for your child to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.  An email, postcard or a good ‘ole letter via snail mail is great!  Even better–I’m excited to come see you when I start home visits later this month!

I look forward meeting you!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4214 (after August 15)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MrsBeardens5thGradeClass (this will take you to my updated FIRST GRADE page!)

Twitter: @jbeardensclass

Blog: feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya and Mrs. Hong for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**