State Assessments Begin

On February 13th we will once again begin our State Assessment Tests.  Here is something that I think all of will find useful in preparing students to take these tests.  It is written from a teachers perspective, but I really feel there is some useful information for parents as well.  I often get asked by parents how they can help, well here is some sure-fire methodology.

Let's face it, standardized tests are a fact of life. They remain a mainstay in most districts largely because of the comparative information they provide - information that too often is used alone to judge school, classroom, and individual performance. Ideally, standardized tests would be only one part of the overall assessment system. But until that day, we must make sure our students have the skills they need to ace standardized tests.

Preparing kids for tests doesn't have to mean drills. In our work, we make explicit connections between good test-taking practices and good general-learning practices. Here, we share some of the strategies and ideas that have grown out of our efforts. In this article you'll find:

*  Reading Strategies                *  Math Strategies
*  Format Fundamentals            *  Six Ways to Ease Test Stress

Three Surefire Strategies for Reading Comprehension--
A language-rich classroom, where students engage in regular guided and independent reading, is the ideal context for developing the skills needed to perform well on standardized tests. The following ideas work well every day, but they also come in handy at test time.

1. Encourage Purposeful Reading
We constantly emphasize reading for purpose. We want our students to know why they're reading what they're reading - for pleasure? to find information? -- and to tailor their reading strategies accordingly.
We want students to be purposeful readers of standardized tests, too. To accomplish that, we don't mince words. We tell students that the reason they are reading passages is to answer questions so that they can perform well on the test. As such, students should know as much as possible about the questions prior to reading the passage.
Teaching Tip: On practice tests, encourage students to read, or at least skim, the questions before they read the passage. Then, while reading the passage, they should keep those questions in mind and underline words and phrases that might help them home in on the correct answer.

2. Cover All Kinds of Questions
To prepare students for the kinds of items they'll see on the test, we ask them a variety of questions about their reading. Our questions are meant to enhance comprehension and promote a range of interpretations -- literal, inferential, personal, and so on.
However, just asking the right kinds of questions isn't enough; it's important to explain them as well. Acclaimed educator Taffy Raphael suggests teaching these question-and-answer relationships that are common in standardized reading tests.
"Right There" Questions: The answer to these questions is right there in the passage. To find it, students recall information from or refer back to one place in the passage. Example: "Who gave John the dog?"
"Think and Search" Questions: Students can also find the answer to these questions by using their memories or looking back at the passage. However, the answer is usually in more than one place. Students need to assemble information for the answer. Example: "What was the same about every dog in the story?"
"Author and You" Questions: These questions are often the toughest because they can't be answered just by reading the passage. Students need to use what they already know, plus what they learn from the passage, to answer. Example: "How did John probably feel when he found the dog?"
Teaching Tip: You can build awareness of these questions by having students use different colored pens on practice tests. Students should circle” Right There” questions in green. Green means go directly to the passage to find the answer.
Think and Search questions in yellow. Yellow means use caution - look in more than one place to find the answer.
Author and You questions in red. Red means stop and think about what the passage says and what you already know before you answer.
3. Teach Text Structure
Lessons on story organization, compare and contrast, cause and effect, and other text structures are important parts of both literacy training and test preparation.
Many test passages are written in a standard format; understanding that format will give students a leg up in reading passages and locating answers. You've probably seen slow test takers who, for each question, reread a passage from the beginning until they come across an answer. Students need to be more efficient than that.
Teaching Tip: After reading a story passage with a clear beginning, middle, and end, have students guess which parts will contain the answers to comprehension questions. Help students see the following patterns:
Answers about when and where the story takes place are often found at the beginning.
Answers about a problem in the story are usually found in the middle.
Answers about how the problem was resolved are frequently found at the end.
Knowing where to look will save students valuable time.

Four Tried-and-True Tactics for Math Math test items assess students' computation and measurement skills, number sense, and ability to reason. In addition, problem-solving items ask students to apply skills in context. A math curriculum that emphasizes investigations, higher-order thinking, and conceptual development lays a strong foundation for learning in general and preparing for tests in particular.
1. Make Word Problems a Priority
Students generally have difficulty applying their existing skills effectively in new contexts, such as standardized tests. This problem may be due, in part, to the fact that those skills were initially learned in isolation. The solution lies in breaking the end-of-chapter-exercises mind-set and integrating word problems creatively.
Teaching Tip: Weave word problems into your curriculum by having students look for quantifiable situations in the environment, literature, or current events. Then ask students to write word problems based on those situations. It's also important to familiarize students with testlike problems, so give them samples from old tests to solve, critique, and rewrite.

2. Stress Number Sense
Without number sense, students make errors because they have a hard time judging whether their answers are reasonable. Emphasizing number sense involves dealing with numbers in context, visualizing quantities, and recognizing the relationships between quantities - in other words, concepts common to standardized tests.
Teaching Tip: Investigations such as finding where, how, and in what context numbers are reported in the newspaper, or comparing the area of a tennis court to a football field, help students quantify their world and see the usefulness of numbers.

3. Focus on Estimation
Estimation is a real-life skill that pays off when it comes to tests. However, students sometimes fail to develop estimation skills because they're fixated on 100 percent accuracy. When asked to estimate an answer, we've seen students solve the problem exactly and then round their answers off to make it seem like an estimate!
Teaching Tip: You can develop estimation skills by giving "flash quizzes." Using an overhead projector, flash a math problem, such as 367 + 228, on the screen and have students estimate the answer without any written computations. Grade the quiz together by asking students to determine a reasonable range of estimates for each problem.

4. Emphasize Mental Math
Mental math involves tapping into students' natural way of doing mathematics. Research shows that children develop their own methods for problem solving, which may not always match how we teach. For example, children tend to solve double-column addition problems from left to right mentally, despite the fact that the traditional paper-and-pencil method requires them to work from right to left. Personal strategies like this exist for all operations.
Teaching Tip: By encouraging mental-math strategies, you'll be addressing tests' heavy emphasis on computation. Have students share their strategies with classmates; but remember, what works well for one student may not work for another.

Teaching Format Fundamentals
The mere sight of a bubble answer sheet sends shivers through most kids. These activities will orient them to the standard features of standardized tests.
Create a Bubble Graph: Begin each day with a typical math problem or reading question that you take from a practice test or write yourself. (We've found that students love seeing themselves in items.) Write the item on chart paper and place long rows of bubbles next to each answer. Create a "bubble graph" by asking each student to fill in the answer he or she thinks is correct. Refer to the graph when you review the problem.
Build-a-Test: Teachers Emily Hamilton and Jennifer Underhill of Boston have students make standardized reading tests for one another. After providing plenty of model tests, they ask students to select passages from favorite books, read them carefully, and develop a set of multiple-choice questions. When students are finished writing their tests, they administer them to one another. Test taking was never such fun!
Students can create their own math tests, too. In addition to word problems, assign "greater than/equal to" problems. Kids love writing items to stump their friends, such as "Which is more, two dozen or the number of hours in a day?"
Pass-Along Questions: For books they read during silent reading time, students can write comprehension questions or math problems on stick-on notes and affix them to the cover. The next child who reads the book answers the items and adds her own. For favorite books, the number of items grows quickly.

Six Tips for Nipping Test Stress in the Bud
1. Don't Skimp on Practice Tests: They are vital to helping students understand the mechanics of the tests. Call your test company to request samples.
2. Promote Positive Attitudes About Testing: When discussing tests with students, make three recommendations: Be serious, confident, and strategic.
3. Deal with Basic Roadblocks: Do your best to circumvent problems such as inadequate breakfast, lack of sleep, and chronic tardiness prior to testing week.
4. Plan a Fun Day-of-Test Activity: Avoid academic activities immediately before testing. Instead, try something less stressful, such as Simon Says.
5. Look Out for Daydreamers: Seat easily distracted students in cubicles and corners. Encourage them to stay on task by checking off each line they read.
6. Talk About Those Last Few Minutes: The final moments of a test period are valuable for checking work and guessing on remaining questions.

With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States.  During this week we focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contribution to the church, or community, and our nation.  We also honor those who contribute to our success--students, families, faculty and staff, volunteers, community supporters, and our local leaders.
The theme this year for this week was Catholic Schools---Raising the Standards.  Catholic Schools are noted for their academic excellence and their high moral standards.  This year's theme celebrates the constant attention Catholic educators pay to increasing the learning and faith development of all students.
St. Patrick Catholic School, as you know, is also participating in the nation wide initiative for all schools called, "The Common Core State Standards."  St. Pats has made many improvements over the last few years to meet these changing times and needs.  We are blessed that everyone has embraced these changes for the good of our students.
St. Patrick is a warm and inviting school.  We a community that is tight-knit and dynamic.  Fellow students become friends, teammates, and counselors, while teachers are always there to lend a helping hand both in and out of the classroom.
This weeks activities were a huge hit and helped highlight all of the wonderful things we do as a school, community , and parish.  Thank you for joining us in our celebration.  We certainly love that we have so many people that support all that we do, and rejoice  in the fact that we do this for the glory of God.
Here at St. Pat's we are "Raising the Standards" and are proud to offer an education that is distinctive among all educational institutions in the diocese and in our community.  We are excited to have the opportunity to share what  our students have accomplished and are continuously learning.  I am very proud of all that we represent and thank each of you for your tremendous contributions in our success.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Catholic Schools Week 2013

Mr. Lyall's Line
Catholic Schools Week reminds us that Catholic education has a long history in the Americas. Missionaries traveled with the explorers to the New World and taught the Gospel to the native inhabitants. In 1662 the Jesuits opened a school in New York City. In 1782, the first parochial school was founded at St. Mary’s Church in Philadelphia.

This year’s annual celebration of Catholic schools and their many gifts highlights the high standards maintained in Catholic education.  A Catholic school education helps students prepare to live their mission as Christ’s disciples.

Please, take some time during this week to say “thank you”.  Thank your teachers, your pastor and your parishioners for this tremendous blessing of a Catholic education that we enjoy here at St. Patrick Catholic School.  Let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifice of stewardship that makes all that we do here at St. Pat's possible.  We are the beneficiaries of the faithful who have come before us and believed in the value of a Catholic education.  Let us never forget or take it for granted.  

Wishing you all a fun-filled and meaningful Catholic Schools Week.
In Christ,
Mr. Lyall

FLU SEASON HAS ARRIVED

Mr. Lyall's Line
Wow, I can't believe that January is already half way over.  Time seems to be flying.  Soon we will be embarking on taking our state assessments and beginning Lent in February.  January and February always remind me that time is very important.  We need to take time to be prepared for all the responsibilities that are approaching quickly.  With January too, we find the need to bundle up warmly and be conscientious of illness.  The flu has arrived in Kingman County, and here are some tips to help all of us avoid this nasty bug.
If you’ve been watching the news, then you know that there has been an unbelievable rise in influenza cases recently. Maybe that’s to be expected during flu season, but when a virus kills dozens of people, including children, and overflows emergency rooms at hospitals across the country, you’ve got an epidemic on your hands.
At this point, the CDC believes that the scenario may have peaked, thanks in part to the holidays, when children gleefully stayed home instead of spreading the virus further at school. Even so, we’re not out of the woods quite yet.  Here are some tips:
1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

In Christ,
Mr. Lyall

New Year's Resolutions

Mr. Lyall's Line
January is a great time to reflect on the areas in our lives where we felt successful during the past year.  It is also a time to consider how to make changes in areas where we would like to improve.  Here are some tips to help students start the new year off on a positive note.
Get plenty of sleep.  Scientists have found that students who do not get enough sleep have difficulty paying attention in class and do not do as well in school.  The recommended amounts of sleep range from about 8.5 to 11 hours a night for elementary students.

Eat Healthy.  Eat more fruit, nuts, and vegetables.  Drink at least 8 (8 oz) glasses of water everyday.  Limit the amount of sodas and snack foods you eat.

Exercise your mind and your body daily.

Follow the Golden Rule - Treat others (children and adults) the way you would like to be treated.

Time + Effort= Achievement - Take the time to carefully complete all assignments at school and home; ask questions when you do not understand a task; demonstrate perseverance (that means keep trying - even when the work is difficult), and eliminate the word can't from your vocabulary.  Make it a goal to do your personal best at school every day.

Read, read, read - Success in school depends, in large part, on a student's ability to read and understand what they have read.  Students should read a variety of books, including folktales, poetry, biographies, fiction, and more.  Read to get information, read for fun, read to someone in your family...just read!

Attend school regularly and on time.

Write out a plan for success.  The plan may include getting better grades, making new friends, studying harder, staying out of trouble, etc.  Share your plan with someone who can help you reach your goal.

Have a fantastic new year!

With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

First, I would like to sincerely thank you on behalf of our teachers, staff and myself for the generous outpouring of gifts and goodies. It is heartwarming to know that so many of you take time out of your busy Christmas schedule to think of us.  We truly appreciate your kindnesses.  

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of all us here at St. Patrick Catholic School to wish you and your family a happy and holy Christmas holiday. For those of you who are traveling, our prayers are with you for a safe and storm-free trip.  We hope that you all have the opportunity to slow down, relax and enjoy the company of family and friends this holiday season. After the events of the last week, we are reminded of how dear and valuable our friends and loved ones are to us.

We wish you a Christmas filled with the wonder of the birth of Christ, the warmth of the Holiday spirit and the love of family and friends. May you all have a Blessed Christmas and all the best in 2013!

In Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Christmas Frenzy

I was talking with some students the other day and we were discussing plans for Christmas, and gifts we still needed to buy.  We talked about how much we had to do.  We did mention our plans for church on Christmas or Christmas Eve, but we all were so focused on the other things.  Then, out of the blue, one of the students asked me what I do during Advent. Our conversation turned to silence.  A couple of us did talk about prayer, but how do you celebrate Advent? As a reminder to myself, that evening I did some reading and I came up with this message for this week.
Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child, but in the midst of the pre-Christmas frenzy, it's easy to lose sight of the profound spiritual importance of the Advent season. Your greatest temptation during Advent will be scrimping on your spiritual needs because there are so many other things going on!
There are presents to make or buy, cookies to bake, cards to mail, parties to plan, gifts to wrap and trees to decorate. Even your parish can put demands on your time with choir practices, pageant rehearsals, candy sales, food collections for the poor and Advent evenings of reflection.
There's nothing wrong with pre-Christmas preparations. But it's important to balance the sacred part of the Advent season with all of the other things you are doing. If you don't make time for quiet reflection, prayer and conversion of heart, you will find yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted by Christmas Day. Your Christmas celebration will look perfect on the surface, but will feel spiritually unsatisfying. You will have a hard time experiencing the joy and peace that the Babe in Bethlehem brings.
I want to say thank you to the students for reminding me that Advent is a time of preparation.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Celebrate Advent

First, I want to thank the 8th grade class for a wonderful breakfast on Sunday.  It was exceptional to see so many people supporting our school and our students.  It was a huge success.  On Monday, we received a call from the Kingman Chamber of Commerce that our float in the parade on Saturday won second place.  Outstanding!  I heard that the weather was wonderful and the parade was very nice.  Congratulations Crusaders, we are very proud of you.  You definitely are representing our school very well.
In our rush to celebrate Christmas, we seem to forget that there is another season that falls between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25; it is the season of Advent.

For the four Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, Catholics are encouraged to postpone their thoughts of Santa Claus, Christmas shopping and seasonal decorations, and think instead about the four themes of Advent: hope, love, joy and peace.  Being practical, we all need to do a great many things to prepare for Christmas, but let's not forget to observe what is most important.  

This message of faith is intended to appeal to everyone who is already bogged down in "observing" the season of Christmas, urging them to take some time to walk through the themes and messages of Advent.
One of those themes is love. Has there ever been a word that is as widely used but as badly understood? The problem with the word love is that we use it to describe our feelings about a great many things that really have nothing in common.

A true definition of this love can be observed every day in the faith of a child. This sort of unconditional love abounds in the hallways of our school.  We also have an opportunity to put this kind of love into action by participating in all that our church offers during this Advent season.  Our church and school offer many opportunities to experience not only love, but hope , joy and peace.

May these four themes register with each of us this advent season.

With you in Christ,

Mr. Lyall

Welcome To Winter

As November ends and December begins, Old Man Winter is starting to show up, and I just wanted to remind everyone to make sure your student is dressed appropriately for the weather before they leave from home.  We do try to go outside as much as possible, and it does get cold for them when they do not have the proper clothing.  Thanks for helping out with this.
Next, I would like to say congratulations to both our boys' and girls' basketball teams.  The season has officially started and both teams have won their first two games.  Our next home games are next week on December 5th and 6th when we square off against St. Joseph and then Partridge.  Come cheer on both teams.  Tip-off for the girls game is 4:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M. for the boys.  We hope to see you there.  Keep-up the good work Crusaders.
Additionally, I would like to remind everyone that our Student Council is collecting slightly used clothing and toys for our “Christmas Store” on December 15th.  Mrs. Arensdorf is heading up this activity and it has been a huge success in the past.  We would like to get as many items as possible and show our support to our community.  Please send these items to school, not the church office.  Thank you for your support and your generosity.
Lastly, I would like to remind everyone of the Christmas Parade on Saturday and the 8th Grade breakfast on Sunday.  We hope to see you at both events!  I am certain that we will be well represented at both events.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

A Time of Thanksgiving

Throughout history, November was a relaxing month because the crops had been harvested and the cold had not yet set in strong. Today, though many may not harvest their own crops. November is a time of the year that provides you a few weeks of rest before the rush of the holiday season, which begins with Thanksgiving at the end of the month.  Before we all get caught in the hustle of the holidays, let's take a moment to reflect on what we all have to be thankful for this year.  We are so very blessed here a St. Patrick, we should take time to be thankful.  I am truly thankful for all of you, and look forward to working with each of you for years to come.  Thank you for all that you do to make St. Patrick Catholic School the best school in Kansas.
When the United States was in its infancy, the first presidents declared Thanksgiving as a day of relaxation and thoughful prayer.  Let us truly reflect on all our blessings.  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
This coming week on Monday and Tuesday our faculty and I will be at the Regan Catecetical Institute for religious instruction and formation.  Please pray for us as we study our faith so we can be better teachers for our youth.  After this, we can begin our vacation with our families.
I want to remind everyone that we will once again be hosting a Christmas store for the people of Kingman.  Your gently used clothing and toys for children and adults of all ages is greatly appreciated.  Now is the perfect time to clean out the closet or the basement, and we could use all of those unwanted items for our store.  This will be the third year for this event and it has been hugely successful.  Please remember the less fortunate in our community by making a donation to our store.  If you would like to help with this event, please contact the school office, as we are in need of some adults to assist with this event.  Thank you for your support.
May God continue to bless all us.  St. Patrick...pray for us.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Cold & Flu Season has Arrived

My article this week is going to focus on illness.  We have had a large amount of flu like symptoms, horrible coughs, and queasy stomachs this year.  Additionally, we have had students complaining about their eyes hurting, as well as horrible headaches.  All of these things are related. Please talk to your students about proper hand washing, wearing appropriate clothing for the weather, and the importance of eating healthy food and getting a good nights rest.  All of these simple practices can go a long way in staying away from the flu and promoting healthy habits at school and at home.  Disease can spread very easily, and I am asking you to do whatever you can to help prevent this from happening at our school.  There are many helpful websites out there that address very specific needs.  Take a look of them, as they all are helpful in preventing the spread of disease.  Thank you for your efforts with this endeavor.
Additionally, I would like to remind everyone that Friday November 16th is a 2:00 P.M. dismissal.  This is necessary for our faculty to receive some needed training.  Please make arrangements in advance for pick-up on this day.  The following week students have the entire week off for Thanksgiving.  The teachers and I will be at mandatory religious training on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  Pray for us as we study our faith.  Hopefully, we can impart this knowledge for the good of our entire community.
Have an excellent weekend, enjoy the weather while you can.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Balanced Perspective

It has been an awesome start and first quarter to this school year.  The students, staff, and families have done an outstanding job with all the extras this year, and to top it off the pep rally last week was exciting and a great way to end the quarter as well as Red Ribbon Week.  With all of that said, it is important to recognize the value of putting in everything we do in our lives, in school, and in our families into a balanced, positive perspective.
Every day we balance tasks and relationships.  A system of constant and open communication is a definite strength of our school and I thank each and every family and staff for doing such a great job of listening to and celebrating our students' accomplishments and challenges.
Another way of seeing the "balance" or appreciating the complexity of relationships at St. Pats is to examine the words urgrncy and intensity.  Urgency could be defined as the speed at which we work together to resolve a challenge or seize an opportunity.  Intensity could be defined as the strength of our response and the tools that we use to reach our goal(s).  Whatever the issue /opportunity at hand (discipline, attendance, programming, etc.) is, let's keep on working together, as we always have, to move at a speed that is quick yet careful and considerate.  Responding to people's needs in a time-sensitive manner and following through are hallmarks in building trust.
Second, when we respond, let's keep in mind that we are in the business of teaching and learning.  The goal is to learn and to change/adapt to new information while learning new behaviors.  Sometimes, we must examine what "tool" will do the best job of reinforcing the new information or behavior.  One of my favorite quotations by Abraham Maslow is, "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."  Another quote by Hiam Ginott sums it up the best, " In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized."  Let's act on behalf of all the students.  Have a wonderful November!
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

MORE DETAILS ABOUT COMMON CORE

I want to thank all the parents who attended conferences this week.  This is an excellent communication tool to assist you and your children with success in the classroom and at school.  If you should need additional time with the teacher, please do not hesitate to ask for assistance.  This type of communication is truly positive, and the outcome reaps tremendous rewards.   
Last week we had a celebration with our entire school in recognition of all the hard work and outstanding results we received on our state assessments.  Mr. Arnold, Mrs. Meng, and the Student Council planned a very fun day with the theme of the Olympics. This day started with the opening ceremonies and the lighting of the torch.  Great Britain has nothing on our Student Council!  Numerous events like hurdles, relays, swimming, rowing, basketball...the list goes on and on, were enjoyed.  Students were tremendously excited to participate and have some fun.  It was a fantastic day that ended with all of us hearing and singing the National Anthem, as we are all winners.  Thank you Student Council.  We will continue to strive for excellence and see what you have in store for us in the future.
I would like to speak a little bit more about the Common Core State Standards.  Some people have asked me why we are changing, so I thought I would give a little more information to all of you.  Several factors have influenced the development of the Common Core State Standards initiative:
1. An equity imperative that seeks to provide all students with a high-quality education regardless of where they attend school.
2. Global competitiveness, which requires a workforce with different skills and education.     
3. A wide diversity of current curriculum standards and calculation of student achievement levels across the states.
Since 1983, education reform has focused on standards-based education as a means to remedy the mediocre performance of American schools.  Almost 30 years later, the nation is still grappling with the importance and impact of standards on educational outcomes.  More than ever, St. Patrick Catholic School is ready to tackle these issues for our students.
If you should have questions, please do not hesitate to call or visit with me.  I assure you, we are ready to tackle issues of the 21st Century at our school.
In Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Helping Children With Mass

Are you having difficulties with your children wanting to go Mass? We are facing more and more students who are coming late or having anxiety on days that their class attends Mass.  Maybe by working together with the children, we can help alleviate this issue.  
Help your children love the Mass. The celebration of the Eucharist is the heartbeat of our Catholic faith. As parents, we want our children to find true Communion with Christ, but getting them to attend Mass cheerfully, sit still, and pay attention can be hard. Yet, making Mass meaningful for children can make it more meaningful for us, too. Try these ideas:
Start with the basics. Aim for a Mass time soon after everyone wakes up and is rested. Make sure all have had enough to eat and used the bathroom.
Rehearse. Go through your Mass book and choose prayers and responses to practice as a family. When the time comes during Mass, the children will be proud that they know what to say.
Communicate your expectations. For example, you want everyone to pray the prayers and sing the songs, to kneel, stand, and sit when appropriate.
See and be seen. Sit where you have an unobstructed view of the altar. Watching the priest, the altar servers, friends and neighbors on the Communion line will keep children interested and aware that they can be seen, too.
Bring your own. It can be confusing to follow along with adult mass books. Look for age-appropriate materials youngsters can follow. Our Sunday Visitor (800-348-2440, www.oursundayvisitor.com) or Daughters of St. Paul (800-836-9723, www.pauline.org) have Mass resources for a variety of ages.
In Christ,
Mr. Lyall

SMOOTHING OUT THE MORNING ROUTINE

Getting ready for school in the morning can be frazzling for even the most practiced of families.  With the increasing number of tardies that we are experiencing this school year, maybe some tips for a smoother morning might help.
STICK TO A  REGULAR BEDTIME—Making sure children get a good night's sleep is key to ensuring a peaceful morning. When children go to bed at a reasonable and regular time, waking the next day is easier. Learning improves, too.
LIMIT BREAKFAST CHOICES—Offering two healthy choices instead of unlimited access to the pantry, for example, will reduce the amount of time spent deciding. Cold cereal, muffins, fresh fruit, etc., are all quick and healthy choices, Offering simple foods may enable children to help themselves.
DON'T ALLOW TOO MUCH TIME—Set wake-up times so that there is just enough time to wash, dress, eat and walk out the door. That may mean laying out clothes and packing backpacks the night before.
BE SURE TO SET ASIDE A FEW MINUTES FOR FAMILY PRAYER- There's no better way to start your day than with God's blessing.
Hopefully some of these tips will make your morning run more smoothly. We all have days when we are running behind but when it is a consistent  issue, small changes can be made can hopefully correct the issue. Please keep in communication with the office and your teachers.  We are happy to be of assistance in any way we can.
In Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Where Did September Go?

Mr. Lyall's Line
It is hard to believe that September is over and October is here.  With the end of September and the start of October I would like to remind everyone of many events and milestones. This week we have celebrated Respect Life Week.  Many fun activities including "Twin Day" and the 8th Grade vs Parents softball game helped us really focus on the importance of life and the celebration of family.  It was beautiful to see all of us celebrating as a family.
October promises to be a very busy.  The Softball tournament will be played, for both boys and girls, on October 4th in Haven.  As soon as brackets are made available, we will get them to you.  Next, our girls who play volleyball will have their tournament in Pratt on the 6th.  Our football players round out their excellent season at Chaparral on the 11th.  All of our junior high students have done very well this season, and we are proud of all their accomplishments.  Way to go Crusaders and Eagles.
October 12th is a 12:30 dismissal.  Please have arrangements made to have students picked-up after school.  The teachers have inservice.  Report cards for the first quarter go home on the 17th.  Parent teacher conferences are on the 17th and the 18th  from 4:00 to 7:00 P.M.  Please call the office to reserve a time slot for each of your students.  Conferences are very important, and can solve many communication problems and ease tensions.  Normally we have 100% participation in parent teacher conferences.  We look forward to seeing you.  Also on the 17th, all paperwork, including, immunization documentation, Form B documentation, and unfinished registration paperwork, is due.
The following week, October 21st through 27th,  ushers in Red Ribbon Week and many activities that help us say, "No!" to drugs and alcohol use.  More so, we like to celebrate how we respect our bodies and minds and learn that drugs and alcohol use get in the way of our healthy lifestyles.
As October finishes, we will be preparing for basketball season.  Students in 7th and 8th grade are invited to play for our school.  If a student has not played a fall sport, they must have a physical before participating.  If you should need a physical form, please contact the school office for this paperwork.
Halloween parties will be on the 31st starting at 2:30 P.M.  Please, no costumes.
Have a beautiful October, or should I say bootiful!  Either way, don't blink or you will miss it.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

HEALTHY HINTS

Mr. Lyall's Line

It seems that cold and flu season is already here. Last week and this week as well we have had numerous students missing school with flu-like symptoms.  We all can be proactive in stopping the spread of the flu. Here are a few tips and reminders. Adopting healthy habits for kids can have concrete benefits. Dodging just one or two of those day care cold viruses could save you a lot of misery.  Healthy habits can help protect your child from the flu this fall and winter. Even if the benefits aren't immediate, teaching healthy habits will pay off.

Healthy Habits for Kids: Getting in a Routine
When teaching healthy habits, focus on what's important. You probably don't need to lecture toddlers on the germ theory of disease. Concepts like contagion are probably too hard to grasp for little kids.
We really can't teach a preschooler to stay away from a friend who's coughing. So instead of explaining, the key is to practice and ritualize some good behaviors. If you make them systematic, the odds are much better that your kids will stick with them—and stay a little healthier as a result. If you make good habits part of a routine, it all becomes much easier. Your kids will do them without thinking.

Healthy Habits for Kids: Hand Washing
When it comes to healthy habits for kids, hand washing is the most important one. To make it work, it's got to be built into their daily routines. Parents should make hand washing a ritual, like brushing their teeth.  You don't have to do it so obsessively that their hands get chapped. But you should always have your kids wash their hands:
When they arrive at day, preschool or school.
Before they eat.
After changes or after using the potty or toilet.
After playing
As soon as they come in the house-whether it's from school or from playing in the yard.
The key is consistency. Get them to do it every time.  If you do, your kids might start hand washing automatically. They  might even start reminding you if you forget. It's also important to do hand washing well. Always use warm water and soap. The CDC recommends that people wash their hands for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice-about 15 to 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, an alcohol-based gel will work too. Just make sure that your
kids really scrub their hands for about 20 seconds. They're done when the gel has completely evaporated.
Of course, some kids will resist hand washing. What can you do?
Make them do dishes. Lots of toddlers and preschool age kids love playing in the sink, so instead of getting into a struggle about hand washing, just stand them on a chair by the sink, give them the soap and a dish to wash. If they keep at it for a few minutes, they'll probably get their hands pretty clean.
Choose the right soap. A bar of white soap can seem pretty dull, but if you can find a soap that catches their attention-with a fruity smell, or maybe a cartoon character on the bottle-you might have better luck with hand washing. To add to the mystique, you could make the soap especially for you child's use. Keep it on a high shelf and take it down only when they need it.

Healthy habits for Kids: Other Tips
Hand washing is the most important, but there are other healthy
habits for kids than can reduce the spread of germs.
Cough in the arm. Many of us were told as kids to cover our mouths
with our hands when we coughed or sneezed. The problem with that
old advice is that it results in a handful of germs—which are then
spread on everything a kid touches.  Experts now recommend that
kids and adults cough and sneeze into the crook of their arms. That
way the germs are less likely to wind up coating every surface in the
room.
Use tissues. It won't always work, but you can try. Most school aged
kids are capable of blowing their noses. Whether the tissue can or on
the floor is another story, of course.
Teach by example. As any parent knows trying to get a toddler to
do something can be maddening. Asking, or demanding, or begging
your kid to adopt healthy habits might seem hopeless but one good
strategy to instill healthy habits in kids is to get your kids to mimic
you. If you are really conscientious about modeling healthy habits,
you could get an added bonus: you might get sick less too.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

HHS Clarified

At the request of the Bishop, Michael Jackels, and Superintendent, Bob Voboril, I am taking time to provide important information on the HHS mandate.   It is very disappointing that the supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the health care law, as it violates religious liberty and conscience protection, and threatens human life and dignity. Rather than summarize or misquote Bishop Jackels or Mr. Voboril, I am printing their responses here so you have accurate information. Below you will find the Bishop's response to the HHS mandate, as well as Mr. Voboril's points of clarification on the mandate.
Bishop Jackel's Response: Many of us are familiar with the story of the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a whale. That happened because Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and preach. Maybe Jonah didn’t want to deliver God’s message because it threatened doom, or because he didn’t know how the people would react: repent, or attack? I feel a little like Jonah. I would rather not have to deliver this message, mostly because the message itself is sad and disturbing. You may have heard the news item from this past Friday: Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Director, decreed that a religious organization (like a Church) that offers health insurance to its employees will be forced to cover contraceptives (some of which can cause an abortion) and sterilizations, free of charge, even if it believes in conscience that these are morally objectionable.    Sebelius went so far as to say that she believes that this decree “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” But how can you speak of balance when the result is taking away religious liberty and conscience protection?   There are exceptions; for example, a religious organization will not be forced to go against its conscience if it qualifies as a religious organization according to the federal tax code, and if it hires and serves mainly people of the same faith, and if its sole purpose is to teach religious doctrine. I can’t think of what kind of religious organization might possibly qualify for this exemption.

The only other exception is for religious organizations that since 2010 have made no changes to their health insurance plans beyond those specifically allowed by the federal government.  The Diocese of Wichita and its employee health insurance program enjoys this second exemption, at least for now. But we may still be forced by the federal government to provide notice to employees about where contraceptives and sterilizations are available.

Even though the Diocese of Wichita as an employer presently enjoys an exemption, the Catholic faithful here should still be concerned …
… Concerned because the federal government could in the future still make new requirements that would force us to do something against our conscience. A lot depends on who is running the government, and whether or not that administration is friendly towards religious liberty and conscience protection.

… Concerned because it does affect many other religious organizations, Catholic and others, that are denied religious liberty and forced to act against their conscience.

… Concerned because this mandate does not respect the diversity that is so much a part of our national unity.

… Concerned also because religious liberty and conscience protection are being threatened in a very real and concrete way, right here and now: the government forcing a Church to do something that it judges to be morally objectionable.
Catholic social justice teaches that, in keeping with human dignity, people have a right to health care. But it also teaches that, again, in keeping with human dignity, people have a right to freedom of religion and of conscience; to have that taken away is too high a price to pay for health care.
I said earlier that I feel a little like Jonah, also because I am not sure how people will react to this message. I am not looking that we fast, put on sack cloth and sit in ashes. My hope is rather that we will contact our elected leaders and let them know that we do not want to be forced to act against our beliefs, we or anyone else, and that we want religious liberty and conscience protection restored. And pray, pray more, pray more harder.                                                             
Mr. Voboril's Points of Clarification:

1.        The Health and Human Services mandate is a serious threat to the religious liberty of the Catholic Church because it requires the Church to pay for insurance for things that we oppose morally.

2.       The Diocese of Wichita is self-insured, and because our insurance plan meets certain HHS requirements, it does not have to comply with the HHS mandate (it is ‘grandfathered’) at this time.       3.       The grandfather clause exists as long as the benefits in our plan meet the HHS requirements.  However, the grandfather clause is not a part of the law but an interpretation of HHS and therefore is subject to change.

4.       We do believe that the HHS mandate is an unconstitutional infringement on religious liberty.

5.       Other dioceses are suing HHS because their plans do not currently qualify for this grandfather clause.  They have until February 1 to comply with the HHS mandate.  However, as long as the grandfather clause is in force, we do not have to change our plan.

6.       We as a diocese cannot sue because we at this time are not injured by the law.

7.       It is important that schools, their councils, and PTOs educate parents about the serious harm that this mandate is causing and the threat it poses for religious liberty.  We need to educate our parents to evaluate candidates on their position regarding this mandate and we need to vote.  However, we may not, implicitly or explicitly, endorse candidates because to do so jeopardizes our non-profit status.

8.       If the grandfather clause would be withdrawn, the Diocese of Wichita could not comply with the mandate.  Our other options would be to withdraw our insurance benefit and pay a huge fine or engage in civil disobedience.

I hope this information clears any confusion on this issue and helps you understand the responsibility we have to vote in the next election and speak to our congressmen and women.  If you should have questions, or need further discussion or clarification please do not hesitate to contact me or visit the Catholic Diocese of Wichita web page and click on the Bishop's button.
With you in Christ and faith,

Mr. Lyall

September Already

Mr. Lyall's Line
I can hardly believe that September is already here.  Fall, my favorite season, will soon be here.  I love all the color changes and cool brisk air. It reminds me of home.
I have been trying to keep everyone informed about the educational changes we all are experiencing with the new state adoption of the Common Core Curriculum.  Here is some more helpful information.
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are educational standards?  Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.
Why do we need educational standards?  We need standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce. Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common standards will provide a greater opportunity to share experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.
Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they do help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have so that teachers can build the best lessons and environments for their classrooms. Standards also help students and parents by setting clear and realistic goals for success. Standards are a first step – a key building block – in providing our young people with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college and work. Of course, standards are not the only thing that is needed for our children’s success, but they provide an accessible road map for our teachers, parents, and students.
With this information, as well as the information we have provided through your child’s classroom, I believe we can partner successfully to make this transition and change seamlessly.  If you should have questions, please do not hesitate to ask your child’s teacher or myself.  We are happy to be of assistance.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

WELCOME BACK

Welcome back everyone.  I hope your summer was filled with much adventure and happiness.  I want to let everyone know how thankful I am for all the prayers and well wishes for my father.  His open heart surgery was a huge success and he is doing very well.  In fact, he has already returned to work.  This is largely due to the many thoughts and prayers from all of you.  On behalf of my entire family, we want to thank you and tell you that we appreciate everything.  When I left to come back to Kansas my dad said, "Make sure you tell all the kids in your school that I felt their prayers and that they are just what I needed to feel better."
I have more good news.  This summer at the first principals' meeting St. Patrick Catholic School was honored.  The diocese has started a new awards program and we were the recipient of the St. Robert Bellarmine Awards in Religion, Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  These awards are in recognition of academic excellence for scoring exemplary in each of the subjects listed above.  Additionally, since we were exemplary in every testing category, we received the St. Thomas Aquinas Award of academic excellence.  I was very honored to receive these awards on behalf of the school and parish and will have them proudly displayed as soon as we can get the items framed.  Way to go Crusaders!
Next, I would like everyone to please mark your calendar with a change.  Back-to-School Night had to be moved to Wednesday, August 29th.  We will start promptly in the gym at 6:30.  Father Ben and myself will be speaking briefly, then we will send you to the classrooms to visit with the teachers.  I hope to see all of you there next Wednesday.
I have fielded a couple of questions about the new federal polices that govern our lunch program.  Be assured that Mrs. Molitor and I are having continued conversations about these policies and we are examining every possible angle to provide the best possible lunch we can.  A note did go home explaining these new policies.  If you have not seen this note, please ask your student for it, or visit our web page to view it.  Mrs. Molitor would be happy to address your concerns, please e-mail or call her at school.  Be assured we will provide the best possible choices for our students.
I am very glad to see everyone back for this school year.  I pray that we continue to have this outstanding support and success.  Welcome back.
With you in Christ,
Mr. Lyall

Mr. Bob Lyall