Tales of a Fourth Grade Something

This year, for my #ShadowaStudentDay, I became a fourth grader. Once again, being a student was exhausting and incredibly rewarding at the same time.

I stopped by the fourth grade classroom the afternoon before my visit to check on my homework so I was prepared for the day. I had to read the first two chapters of Moby Dick (Junior Classic), complete some addition of mixed number math practice, and prepare some spelling materials.  I was excited about the reading since the students were just getting started on a new book.

I also got a sneak peek at the 4th Grade’s Thursday schedule. I thought to myself — I better get a good night’s sleep!


Here are some observations/highlights from my day:

1) Having a clean and organized desk in fourth grade is absolutely necessary for the multiple transitions throughout the day. Students were given 10 minutes to tidy up and organize at the start of the day. I had some helpful classmate give me some tips! It set me up for success!  


2) Our morning meeting and greeting was calm and set a great tone for the day. We did some word puzzles to get our mind working. The fourth graders were very welcoming to their new ‘classmate’ and asked if they could call me Lorri. I thought it best that we keep it at Mrs. Carroll.  They were super cute about it. 🙂

3) I loved Reading class!  Digging into new characters (“Call me Ishmael!” ), making lists of character traits, inferring what the author meant in his writing — I miss this and it made me want to join a book club. What a great discussion about how unfair it is to judge people by the way they look. This time FLEW by!

Side note: I had a hard time stopping after two chapters the night before. I can imagine this is even harder as you get deeper into the book.

4) Fourth graders are trusted to work with matches! And, they did so responsibly in science class. We completed an awesome lab on gasses. The students loved it.

5) Time is tight in fourth grade and there is no time to waste! After science, we had a “working snack,” where students navigated stations. This was planned masterfully by my teacher, Mrs. Dixon. She called off different groups giving them the direction of what they should be doing:  illustrating character traits from Moby Dick, working on spelling, working on vocabulary, or reading to self.  During this block of time, Mrs. Dixon worked on personalized, directed spelling lessons with two of the groups. An impressive fete, for sure!  Each group of students had different spelling words that met their needs, including me! For the record, I had a very hard list from the Derivational Spelling Stage.  I had to sort these words and do some activities with them. I still can’t spell bureaucracy.

Then, I moved to the vocabulary activity.  I was bummed that I didn’t have time to read my book of choice but Mrs. Dixon reminded all of us that we would have more time for stations later on.

6) Energizers are less popular in fourth grade. I got the sense that all the students really wanted to participate in the movement activity but didn’t want to look “uncool.” Only 6 or 7 did. Very interesting. It made me a little sad. Of course, I didn’t care and jumped around with SpongeBob and it made me feel refreshed and ready to work again.


7) Writing is fun and most kids loved it! During Language Arts, students got right to work on revising their opinion stories or adding an introduction/ conclusion. Students seemed to know exactly what they needed to work on. Mrs. Dixon conferenced with students who needed some additional support. I enjoyed getting started on mine!


8) While I am not the best artist, I still enjoy drawing and coloring! Our assignment was to illustrate a silly poem/song in preparation for Alan Katz’s visit to our school next week. I chose the one about a student who had a very overdue library book. I liked how we were asked to discuss our work with a classmate and offer compliments and suggestions.


9) During Social Studies, I had a flashback of being in 4th grade with Mrs. Ross in 1979. Students were in the midst of a unit on government. There was a quick review of the three branches but then we watched “How a Bill Becomes a Law” and completed a fun, group activity with it.  So awesome that “Schoolhouse Rock” is still as loved now as it was back then!  

10) Listening to the little conversations between peers during math was awesome! That’s where you can tell learning is happening. “Wow. This seems easy now.” “I can’t believe I couldn’t get this yesterday.”



Even after the desk cleaning/organizing earlier in the day, it was amazing how many students misplaced materials in what seemed like the bottomless pit of a fourth-grade desk!  This is an important skill and we need to keep having students work on it. 

After my 3 days of soreness after last year’s 2nd grade PE class, I was smart enough to pick a day when 4th grade didn’t have PE.  It was interesting, though, that on a “normal day” for me, I usually have about 10,000 steps by 3pm. When I was a fourth grader, I had 6,045 instead. Need to find a way to add more activity!

Desks are still uncomfortable to sit in for extended periods of time and I was grateful for the movement around the 4th-grade classroom. Students made use of all the spaces with ease and comfort. Need to keep working on options.

This was the easiest year to be without my phone. I took it out to take a few pictures but resisted all urges to check and answer email.

Once again, I cannot stress the valuable experience of walking the walk of a student for an entire day.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day and I thank all my teachers and classmates for welcoming me!


I Survived Second Grade! #shadowastudent Challenge 2018


For the second year in a row, I participated in #ShadowaStudent Challenge to gain insight and perspective on being a student at Hamden Hall. What a great surprise to feel so welcomed into the 2nd grade classroom with my own desk, laminated name tag, book bag, and cubby!

Here are some reflections of my day:

1) 2nd grade desks are SMALL! Even for me. It’s a good thing we didn’t have to sit in them for too long.

2) Morning meeting truly set a positive tone for the day. (just as Responsive Classroom intended). So many important skills were reinforced during this time – takingIMG-1240 turns, eye contact, speaking clearly, self reflection, listening…I could go on and on!  Loved the dice greeting.

3) Read to Self was so awesome! I curled up with a good book (literally, with pillows on a comfy rug) and was able to read 47 pages – the classroom was THAT quiet and focused! (OK. It was a third grade book but it was still quite an achievement!) Yes, some kids were less engaged than others, but overall, it was a very calm and productive time for all. The 10 minute mini-lessons in Vocabulary and “Writer’s Workshop” were just the right amount of time for students to sustain attention and grasp the skills that were being taught.

IMG-12424) Choices are good and the kids really embraced having them. “Word Work” (my choice) wasn’t your boring 2nd grade daily spelling activities from 1978!

5) Carefully reading each question on a math assessment is still very important. I got one wrong because I didn’t do this! (Oh, and my “classmates” loved calling me out on it.) I was super impressed with the higher order thinking skills required to answer some of the questions on the Money/ Time Assessment. Ending the math block with TIME BINGO was super fun. (and I liked winning two rounds.) I was glad to see that the kids who didn’t win dealt with it just fine and were happy for others.

6) Energizers work! After the Daily 5, Snack, and Math block, I was fried! But, a little Go Noodle really helped. Check out the schedule for the day! WOW!


7) While I still can jump rope forwards and backwards, I cannot do it for 2 Tom Petty songs continuously! (I thought I would die.) Flag tag was a lot of fun but after jumping so much, I was a slow target.  Note: I am still sore 3 days later. 

8) 30 minutes for lunch was just enough! Kids have interesting eating habits. The swings are still my favorite on the playground.

9) Waiting for water to boil is hard for adults and even harder for 2nd graders. We learned all about the water cycle in Science and the kids totally got it!

10) Ending the day with a collaborative STEM challenge was perfect! We had to set up an Alpine Downhill Ski course and get our lifesaver to make it through all of the gates (made out of pipe cleaners). A lot of great planning and communication skills were required and my fellow 2nd graders were awesome at it.
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Once again, the #Shadowastudent Challenge was a very valuable experience and worth every moment I spent out of my office.  I highly recommend it for all teachers and administrators. There is no better way to see life from a student’s perspective.

Thank you to Erin Correa, Cait Murphy, Mark McEachern, Nally Sahin, Steve Jewett and the second graders for welcoming me and making my day so enjoyable! We have amazing things happening at Hamden Hall, and I am so proud to be a part of this learning community.

P. S. Remind me not to #shadowastudent on the same day as the Science Fair next year, though! I was EXHAUSTED!



Hamden Hall Lower School 2013-2014 ~ What a year!

Here are my remarks from the Final Lower School Assembly:

This year will always be a memorable one for me– my 20th year at Hamden Hall and my first one as Director of Lower School. Thank you for an amazing year! I can hardly believe that this is our last time together! It seems like yesterday that we were sitting here learning all about how to behave in assembly (remember Kathy and Fab’s bad manners!?) and then we heard a “Pep Talk” from Kid President about the difference we can make in the world… and guess what? We made a difference!

  • we provided socks for homeless and less fortunate people
  • we gathered food for the hungry at Thanksgiving
  • we provided gifts for families in need at the holidays
  • we sent our love through Valentines to soldiers in Afghanistan, including an alum, Matt Peterson
  • we made almost 500 rainbow loom bracelets for displaced children in Syria
  • and we sent over 200 cans of soup to the Hamden Food Pantry

If we haven’t made a difference… I don’t know who has!


We have had some guests in assembly including:

  • our lightening fast rubiks cube solver
  • Chinese Dancers
  • the Hamden PD canine unit
  • jugglers
  • poets
  • our Upper School Jazz Band
  • Taekwondo masters
  • the Jungle Jamboree
  • and much more!


And we have had some amazing performances from all of you!

In addition to our concerts and band performances we had….

  • 6th Grade in Schoolhouse Rock
  • 4th and 5th Grade Whaling Skits
  • 3rd grade in Little Red Riding Hood
  • 2nd grade at the May Pole
  • 1st grade danced through the decades
  • Kindergarten in their Halloween Assembly/ Soup Drive Commercial and Valentine Bake Sale Assembly
  • PK in the Halloween Assembly, First Thanksgiving and Valentine Bake Sale, as well!


We have shared much good news in assembly, and I have looked forward to this time together each week! Hamden Hall prides itself in its core values of: Excellence, Support, Participation, Accountability, Respect. The Lower School has worked hard at being examples of these values every day and I am very proud of you!

I’d now like to share a photo slide show highlighting this awesome school year!  I hope you enjoy it!

Sixth Graders — our fearless leaders of the Lower School— you will be graduating this afternoon… please don’t forget us in the Lower School! We all love and care about you and we wish you well!

Fifth Grade— when we return in September, you will be our new leaders. This is a huge responsibility, one that I hope you will take seriously. I know you can do it, and you have big shoes to fill!


To those of you who are moving on to a new school, we will miss you! You will always be a part of our Hamden Hall Lower School Family. To the rest of you, I will see you in September!

Have the most awesome summer EVER!   READ READ READ!!!  (and do some math, too!)

and I’d like to leave you with one final message from Kid President


It’s that simple!


When a service project comes full circle

After a successful division-wide new sock drive in October (462 pairs of socks collected), a mega food drive where over 3000 food items were collected for a local food pantry in November, and a touching adopt-a-family initiative that supported families in crisis in December, we decided that January’s Lower School community service project should not involve a “drive” of sorts but instead something that Lower School children themselves could do without parent help or monetary support.

After searching for such a project, I stumbled upon “Hugs for Soldiers,” a program “dedicated to offering comforts from home and brightening a Soldier’s day with a care package, card or letter of encouragement.”

Here is an excerpt from a story written about this project:

A January community service project hatched in the Lower School has transformed into a school-wide initiative as students of all ages are beginning to craft and create valentine cards and messages for troops overseas.

From there it took on a life of its own – including the decision to earmark Hamden Hall’s cards and letters to Hamden Hall alumnus Matthew Peterson, who graduated in 2003 and is currently a captain in the U.S. Army. Matthew was deployed in early January to Afghanistan for eight months – his second tour in that country. He was also deployed to Iraq for one year. His mom, Cookie Peterson, is a former second-grade teacher at Hamden Hall who retired in June 2010 after 17 years. Many Hamden Hall faculty continue to keep in touch with Cookie, including Sue Bennett and Sandi Cunningham (with whom Cookie taught second grade for 11 years), who are helping coordinate the Hugs for Soldiers initiative.

So, after Sue Bennett, our Lower School art teacher explained the project to our students as assembly, students began creating the most beautiful and heartfelt cards and notes to be sent to Matt and his unit.  At the end of January, we accumulated over 150 cards and they were sent on their way through the Hugs for Soldiers organization.

In early March, we received this beautiful note along with pictures from Matt and his unit. We shared these at assembly with our students. It was an emotional experience for everyone in attendance and our students sat with wide-eyes as they saw their valentines in the hands of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. And it was so powerful to have a service project come full circle.

Pretty amazing!


Read more:

Warm Socks and Busloads of Food Foster Goodwill for Donors and Receivers

Valentine “Hugs” Project Send Message to Troops

April Community Service: Take care of our earth!

"Creative Commons Earth Day Poster" by Spacedust is licensed under CC

“Creative Commons Earth Day Poster” by Spacedust is licensed under CC

Part of Hamden Hall’s mission is to instill a sense of social responsibility. It is with this in mind that, since October, the Lower School has participated in a community service/ service learning project each month. The project, its goals, and follow-up information is shared with students at during our weekly assembly. These projects have ranged from school-wide food drives to grade level project such as this one. Our 6th graders have been true leaders throughout the year and have helped to promote and support  these initiatives. What amazing role models for our younger students!

Here are some ideas that I shared with Lower School teachers for April’s  Community Service, which focuses on taking care of the earth! Teachers can choose one of these or come up with their own project. They are encouraged to work with other grade levels and have students involved in the decision-making process. I thought others might find this information useful.

Used Book Collection
Run a gently used kid’s book drive to keep books out of the waste stream. Read to Grow!

Ronald McDonald House Pop Tabs Collection
“Collecting pop tabs is a great way to teach kids about philanthropy and the importance of recycling, and raise funds to help children and their families at the same time. Some of our Chapters raise thousands of dollars with their pop tab collections.”

Nike Reuse a Shoe Program
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe takes worn out athletic shoes and grinds them down to create a new material called Nike Grind, which is used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.

Nature Walk/ Clean up!
Walk to a local park and help clean up/ recycle any trash found along the way.

Make Homemade Bird Feeders
10 Bird Feeders Kids love to make
Remember: no peanut butter (Crisco is a substitute). Be mindful of seed allergies.

Plan a Lesson/ Activity for a younger grade about Earth Day
Teach others about taking care of Mother Earth! Create a lesson/ read a story/ do a craft from recycled materials.

Educate our Community!
Make flyers to hang around campus to educate others on how to take better care of the earth! Check out these tips from Time for Kids.

Letter Writing
In celebration of Earth Day, have your students research some environmentalists who have made major contributions to our planet. A good starting point would be to view the people listed on the Ecology Hall of Fame. Have each student choose one person. After researching the person’s achievements, students can then write letters to the environmentalists asking for their opinions on a current environmental issue or to share ideas on how to protect the earth. Students can write a friendly or business letter using the Letter Generator. After printing the letters, have students turn their letters into letter poems using the Letter Poem Creator, which will help them change their letters into poetic form. Once the poems are finished, host an Earth Day poetry reading-outdoors if possible. (from Read Write Think)

Early Childhood Service Learning Curriculum for the Environment and Earth Day
There’s some ideas here for some of the younger grades including:

  • Turning Trash into Treasures

  • Creating Recycling Bins

  • Recycling Superheroes

  • Recycled Bird Houses

  • Transportation & Pollution

  • Musical Instruments

  • Cut the Pollution Card

  • Green 100 Lesson & Project Ideas

Encourage children to write and perform an original skit about caring for the Earth. Let each child or group choose their own topic which can range from not littering to preservation issues. Video the performances and let the children watch their own skits to reinforce the ideas they shared. Students can even perform it at assembly!

Also, here’s a link to Earth Day Books for Kids.


If you have any additional ideas, please share them!

No longer “Acting!”

I’ve never been good at acting anyway!

I am so excited that it’s official.  I feel privileged and honored to be able to continue to work with such an amazing faculty, awesome students, and their families in our Lower School. Sometimes life has a funny way of sending you down a path that was not originally planned. The result for me, in this case, has been life changing on many levels. I am looking forward to all that lies ahead! 🙂


#NAISAC14 “Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?”

Here are my notes from this amazing session led by Peggy Campbell-Rush, Director of Lower School at Gill St. Bernard School (Gladstone, NJ). Every minute of this session was filled with great advice!

My favorite tweet from this session:


Here are the rest of my tweets:

Hamden Hall’s #HourofCode

There is nothing like the expression on a students face when they solve a problem or achieve a goal they have been striving for. This is one of the many reasons I was very excited and proud that Hamden Hall participated in Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code!

I presented this video

 at a Technology Committee meeting earlier in the fall and we unanimously decided that participating in the Hour of Code would be an exciting experience to offer our students.  After digging a little deeper and exploring the wide range of coding apps and programming options out there, we were eager to begin to organize the event across all three divisions. (I need to be honest– we were also a bit overwhelmed). Thankfully, our librarians took the bull by the horns. We scheduled a follow- up meeting, and decided that weekly library class would be the best place for our Lower School students to have a coding experience.  Martha Djang, our Lower School Librarian, researched many options and decided to focus on two apps–  Kodable and Cargo-Bot . Kathy McNeiece, our Head Librarian, worked on the plan for our Middle and Upper Schools.   The librarians worked with the tech department to organize optional times (during lunch and study hall)  in the library for students to code with Light Bot and Scratch. We got the kids excited to sign up by showing a video at assembly and by pushing out messages through OnCampus and via email. Some classroom teachers even jumped in to give it a try.  There was definitely a buzz around campus and it caught on even more as the week unfolded!

I took the opportunity to utilize two days of my pre-algebra class to explore Hopscotch. We used our school set of iPads and followed along with this video:

Having had experience flipping the classroom, I know that students usually stop watching after about 7 or 8 minutes. I have to admit, I was a little concerned that this was 25 minutes. I went for it anyway… and sure enough, the kids were completely engaged and didn’t want to leave when class was over. Many students who had their own iPads downloaded the hopscotch app and completed the project that we were slated to work on the following day without being asked! I thankfully had some of these additional projects to challenge those students. We had a blast!

According to Computing in the Core

Computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate field of study or occupation.

Anyone with personal experience in coding at any level can completely agree with this. And can also agree with the indescribable feeling you get when your program finally works. 

So, even though the official week is over, there’s plenty of projects and ready-made lessons waiting for you. I encourage you– give coding a try — whatever discipline or grade you teach! Why would you not want to provide an authentic learning experience where students are excited, creative and collaborative?    

Note: If you don’t have technology readily available in your classroom, you could even try some “unplugged” options listed on this page.

Here’s a photo gallery from our Hour of Code week!