Monday, December 8, 2014

Updates from the Principal

Dear families and community members,

 As we wrap up the fall semester, I wanted to create an opportunity for feedback and open-discussion with parents and community members. You're invited to the first round of Coffee with Principal this Wednesday, December 10 at 2:00PM in the library. We'll be joined by Mrs. Page (Assistant Principal), Ms. Marvel (IB Coordinator), Mrs. Hougham (Counselor) and Mrs. Haney (Instructional Technology Specialist). There will be no set agenda so please come, sit with us and have a cup of coffee. 


4th Grade Field Trip to San Antonio
Last Friday our fourth grade went to San Antonio for a field trip.  While there, they visited the Institute of Texan Culture and the San Jose Mission. The Institute of Texan Cultures and San Jose support the fourth grade Unit of Inquiry: WHERE WE ARE IN PLACE AND TIME with the Central Idea of: Humans migrate for many reasons with a wide range of effects.  This also supports the Texas History portions of the fourth grade Social Studies TEKS.

IB PYP 101

Units of Inquiry: How We Organize Ourselves
I'll be spending next few weeks on providing real classroom examples on how each Unit of Inquiry looks and sounds like at Spicewood. Today I'd like to focus on the Unit of Inquiry: How We Organize Ourselves [an inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.] 

Our 5th grade students embarked on the unit last week. The Central Idea of the unit for 5th Grade is that systems of government organize societies.  In Mrs. Moser's class, they started the unit by reading an article called, "Hunger Games" salute now banned by Thailand's military leaders on NewsELA for Kids. (See how it's cross-curricular? IB calls it, transdisciplinary which means across content areas) Students were hooked on the topic immediately as they were able to relate to the famous book and make a connection to a current event as one student exclaimed, "This article was posted on November 25, 2014!" Mrs. Moser and students shared their thoughts and stances on the involvement and impact of the government in Thailand and made comparisons between different types of governments using their prior knowledge. Next door in Mr. Ortiz's class, they together generated a list of officials (President, VP, Secretary of Defense, etc) for their "nation" and students signed up for a specific position to run for by turning in a written intention. Students were allowed opportunities to campaign for themselves prior to an election. Students wrote their own intention and speech, practiced public speaking skills by sharing what systems they would implement to make a difference for the better, and listened to suggestions citizens were making (because we know good leaders are also great listeners!). Throughout the unit, students will be exploring TEKS on governmental structure, forming nations, how matters are organized with various properties in science, and elements of persuasive writing (they have to convince others to vote for them). Math TEKS are covered in the sequence that RRISD has outlined for all elementary schools in the district. 

You might wonder, well, what does this unit look and sound like in a primary grade level? Sure, let's take a look at our 1st grade. In this unit of How We Organize Ourselves, first grade students learned about goods and services within our community and the different types of organizations that help people meet their needs. They brought in various guest speakers to discuss the roles they play in their jobs, read various books on this topic, wrote in their journals to reflect and in the end decided to take action--a way they can contribute. Students have decided they would like to donate books they no longer use to children who are in the hospital over the holidays. If you can recall, I included this in the November newsletter, asking for donations to support the student-generated action. In this unit, 1st graders also learned in science about how forces and motion play a role around us. They explored forces magnets create and how these forces are used in our lives all around us.  

Conversations that our students are having as teachers facilitate are simply mind-blowing. Student generated questions drive the learning experiences in the classrooms. As they make connections across all that they're learning- Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies, it becomes so much more meaningful and applicable in their own lives. 

This Week's News

Coffee With Principal
I'd like to invite parents and community members to the first round of Coffee With Principal this Wednesday, December 10 from 2:00-2:45PM in the library. There is no set agenda; this is an opportunity for parents and community members to provide feedback and ask any questions they might have. We will be joined by Mrs. Page (Assistant Principal), Mrs. Marvel (IB Coordinator), Mrs. Haney (Instructional Technology Specialist) and Mrs. Hougham (Counselor). 

Computer Science Education Week!- The Hour of Code
We live in a world surrounded by technology and we know that whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works. But only a tiny fraction of us are learning computer science, and less students are studying it than a decade ago.

That’s why our entire school is joining in on the largest learning event in history: The Hour of Code, during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 8-12). Last year, 15 million students tried computer science in one week. This year, we're joining students worldwide to reach 100 million students!

Our Hour of Code is a statement that Spicewood Elementary is ready to teach these foundational 21st century skills. To continue bringing programming activities to your students, we want to make our Hour of Code event huge.  I encourage you to volunteer. During this week, your child will be participating in a coding activity with their classroom teacher as well as:
  • View coding information & videos on morning announcements
  • Photo Contest - teachers will snap pictures of their class coding for a chance to win cool prizes! 
  • Kids React Video Booth - kids can record a 30 second video about their coding experience

3rd Grade Spirit Night at Taco Cabana- Hosted by PTA
Please join us for dinner at Taco Cabana this Thursday between 5PM and 8PM. 3rd grade teachers, Mrs. Teal, Mrs. Dielmann, Mrs. Skagen & Mrs. Page will be there for part of the night. Money raised from the event will be spent towards educating and enriching our students at Spicewood. 

Science Fair Parent Information Night
The Spicewood Science Fair will be held Monday, January 26- Thursday, January 29, 2015. All 4th and 5th graders are required to participate. K-3rd graders are highly encouraged. A Parent Information meeting will be held on Thursday, December 11 at 6:30PM in the library. (Please join us at Taco Cabana- Spirit Night for dinner then come! :) For all the details, visit the Science Fair page on the PTA web site.

Lego Robotics Club - Volunteers Needed
The Lego Robotics Club is in need of parent volunteers to help students prepare for their upcoming competition in the First Lego League Challenge on Saturday, December 13. Parent volunteers are crucial in helping students amplify their robotics learning and prepare for competition. Lego Robotics meets every Thursday and Friday after school from 3-5pm. For more information, please visit Mr. Ortiz’s Robotic’s Club website. To sign up as a volunteer, or if you have questions, please email Mr. Ortiz ( or Julie Haney (

Spicewood Principals' Pride
We will be celebrating the success of our students as we invite our parents to join us at the Princpals' Pride. On Monday, December 15, we will be celebrating with Kindergarten through 2nd grade students from 8-8:30AM in the cafeteria. On Tuesday, December 16, we will be recognizing 3rd through 5th grade students. You will receive a prior written notice from your child(ren)'s teacher(s). We would love to have you with us! 

No School on Friday, December 19
Parents, please mark it on your calendar that there will be no school for students on Friday, December 19. The last day of school for students before Winter Break is Thursday, December 18. 

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Monday, December 8- Friday, December 12
Computer Science Education Week

Wednesday, December 10
2:00-2:45PM   Coffee With Principal
Please join us in the library. 

Thursday, December 11
5:00-8:00PM   Spirit Night @ Taco Cabana (hosted by PTA)

6:30PM   Science Fair Parent Information Night
In the library

Monday, December 15
8:00AM   Principals' Pride Kinder-2nd Grade

Tuesday, December 16
8:00AM   Principals' Pride 3rd-5th Grade

Wednesday, December 17- Thursday, December 18
No Parking at Hope Church Parking Lot

Thursday, December 18
Last Day of Fall Semester

Friday, December 19

Friday, December 19- Monday, January 5
Winter Break 

Tuesday, January 6
First Day of Spring Semester

Tuesday, January 13
6:00PM   Parent Information Night on ADHD -Hosted by PTA
A guest speark, Dr. Denbar, will be here to speak on ADHD for any parents who would like to receive information the topic. There will be an opportunity for Q & A at the end of the session. Please join us in the library. 

Wednesday, January 14
Wellness Wednesday Starts Back Again!

Monday, January 19