Monday, December 7, 2015

Updates from the Leadership Team

Dear families and community,

As we visit classrooms and move about the campus, the Leadership Team continues to see engaging learning activities, phenomenal student performances and committed Spicewood teachers and students. We are looking forward to another enriching week!


Spicewood Silent Auction
The results are in...Spicewood PTA made a net profit of $47,100 for our students!  PTA has approved these funds to create a school garden for Spicewood Elementary, purchase 1 cart of 24 iPads, and purchase 1 water fountain with bottle refilling capabilities. Please visit the PTA website for updates on these additions to our campus.

2015 U.S. Class Chess Championships
Congratulations to Raghav Aggarwal and Niko McMullen who recently represented Spicewood at the U.S. Class Chess Championships in Houston. Raghav won 2nd place for K-5, and Niko won 7th place for K-2. 

3rd Grade Choir Concert 
In connection to their Where We Are in Place in Time Unit of Inquiry, our third graders gave an amazing, standing room only performance last week . Students and parents enjoyed an entertaining and educational evening! Kudos to our music teachers, Ms. Tess and Ms. Mary for all of their hard work and successful shows this first semester! We look forward to seeing what they have planned in the spring time for our primary grades. 

IB PYP 101
This portion of Mrs. Kim's letter is contributed by Mrs. Vance, our PYP Coordinator.

How do children best learn?
A powerful and thought provoking question to say the least! Most simply put, children need an opportunity to construct their own meaning about ideas and concepts. Then, they need the guidance and support to transfer their own meaning. Finally, they need a chance to apply their understanding. These three phases are fluid and children move back and forth through them in an on-going cycle.

One way our teachers help students construct meaning is to make their thinking visible. As students learn new ideas, it's essential for them to notice the parts and pieces before being able to describe and explain, conversely being able to identify and break down an idea is a critical aspect of analysis. 

Each Unit of Inquiry has a central idea, or focus for the unit. There are also three lines of inquiry that helps guide the inquiry towards the central idea (check out a previous post that further explains these areas of a unit planner). Our goal as PYP teachers is to plan and create learning experiences that allow students to come to answers on their own, in turn synthesizing the ideas and concepts presented in their classrooms. Throughout the year I'll share different ways both primary and intermediate grades. This week we'll focus on both Kindergarten and First grade and take a look at how some of the teachers have used different tools/strategies to help their students construct meaning of their Unit of Inquiry.

In their How the World Works unit, the Kindergarten was focusing on the following central idea, Resources are useful and have properties that can be observed and described.

As students read and learned about different rocks and resources, one classroom collected their thinking on a RAN (Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction) chart. 

While participating in class discussions, students first brainstormed things they thought they knew about natural resources (pink far left column). This information was then resorted, throughout the unit, as different books were read, experiments were conducted or short video clips were viewed. The RAN chart is an interactive tool used by both the teacher and the students, moving and adding sticky notes. Students were encouraged to ask new questions (blue), sharing new learning (purple) and confirm their initial thinking (orange). The chart is a valuable tool for both the teacher and the student. It gives the teacher information about how he/she needs to guide the inquiry and instruction and, additionally, models for the the students how thinking changes and progresses over time. As teachers explicitly teach and model reading and writing strategies, it is as equally essential that thinking strategies are modeled, practiced and applied in a similar manner. You'd probably find it hard not to find sticky notes on the walls of all of our classrooms here at Spicewood. All of our teachers use sticky notes as a way to document and organize student thinking throughout their Units of Inquiry. 

In first grade, the students just completed their How We Organize Ourselves unit in which they were focused on the central idea, Organizations exist to meet people's basic needs. As new learning of different organizations, wants and needs unfolded, Ms. Sanchez helped make thinking visible in her classroom by devoting a bulletin board with different graphic organizers, charts and sticky notes. This is not a traditional bulletin board that displays the final product of student work, however. 

The bulletin board has the transdisciplinary theme posted at the top to guide beginning thinking towards the unit. Initially, the first graders then broke down part of the transdisciplinary theme and central idea as they investigated the role and purpose of organizations. Then, students helped gather and sort new information about wants and needs through classroom discussions and interactive group assignments. This was followed by several different learning experiences and speakers over the next few weeks who were involved in organizations in and out of our community. Throughout the unit, Ms. Sanchez thoughtfully added student created reflections, thinking maps and important vocabulary. She helped students document their learning in one communal place that they could use during classroom discussions and final written reflections. By making student thinking visible, she supported her class as they constructed new meaning about the structure and function of organizations on our world. At the end of the unit, this bulletin board will be cleared to prepare for their next unit of inquiry. Through her own reflection, she plans on adding a few different elements to continue to extend student thinking in her classroom. It's so amazing to see the progression of student thinking that comes about when the right structures are put into place! 
Want to be more involved? How can you support your child at home? Be sure to keep up with our keep up with all things IB related at our PYP Spicewood Blog
This Week's News 

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 Codeduring Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-11).  More than 100 million students worldwide have already tried an Hour of Code. 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 and ask your child to share with you what they've learned during this week. During this week, they will be participating in coding activities with their classroom teacher as well as:
  • Viewing computer science informational videos on morning announcements
  • Participating in a Photo Contest - teachers will snap pictures of their class coding for a chance to win cool prizes! 
  • Video Blogging at our Kids React Video Booth - kids can record a 30 second video about their unique coding experience.

December Spirit Night Cancelled
The Spirit Night scheduled on Dec 10th has been cancelled. It has been rescheduled for May 17, and will be at MOD Pizza. We look forward to seeing you there. 

Lost and Found
Around this time of the year, our  lost and found is always overflowing with jackets, gloves, water bottles, etc. Beginning December 14th, all lost items will be set out on tables in the main hallway, for students to claim. Students will have until Dec 16 to look through and claim lost items. Anything not claimed by Dec 16th will be gathered and donated to Goodwill and the clothes closet at Anderson Mill Elementary.  

Other Campus Activities

Scripps Spelling Bee 
Spicewood Elementary PTA is thrilled to announce participation in the Scripps National Spelling Bee during the 2015-2016 academic year. All 3rd-5th graders have the option of participating. Please follow the Scripps Spelling Bee Link for information regarding  study material, volunteering and competition dates.  All interested students must register by December 11th. 

Clothes Closet
The Clothes Closet is a service project conducted by the Round Rock Council of PTAs which provides gently used clothing as well as new socks and underwear to RRISD students who are in need.  There is a ‘Coats and Jeans’ drive that will run from November 30 – December 17.  Please bring any clean, gently used coats and jeans to the school and deposit them in the donation bins in the hallway near the library and PTA volunteer room. Your donations benefit RRISD students and are greatly appreciated by those who receive them! Please visit the Clothes Closet page to learn more or contact Brittiany Johnson at with any questions.

Spicewood Science Fair
Our Spicewood Science Fair will take place January 25 - 27.  All 4th & 5th graders are required to enter the Science Fair with an experiment.  They will receive detailed information from their teachers just before the Winter Break and throughout the month of January. Students in grades K – 3 are encouraged to participate as well and we will have a Parent Information Meeting on Tuesday, December 8th at 6:30pm in the Library to answer any questions that you might have.  Our PTA is able to order Science Display Boards at a discounted price by ordering in bulk.  If you would like to take advantage of this, please see the form in the Friday Folder

One World One Night – Save the Date!
What would be better than to give our students and their families a passport to cultures around the world?  Would you like a chance to travel the world without buying a plane ticket?   If so, please consider helping with the One World One Night at Spicewood Elementary on Tuesday, March 1, from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. Please visit the One World One Night page for more information. 


Monday, December 7 - Friday, December 11
Computer Science Education Week - Hour of Code

Tuesday, December 8 
6:30 PM Science Fair Parent Information Meeting 

Thursday, December 10
5:00 PM Spirit Night @ Pei Wei is Cancelled. 

Monday, December 14
8:00 AM K-2nd Principals' Pride 

Tuesday, December 15
8:00 AM 3-5 Principals' Pride 

Wednesday, December 16
No Parking at Hope Church

Thursday, December 17
No Parking at Hope Church
Classroom Winter Parties 
Last Day of Fall Semester

Friday, December 18
Student Holiday- No School Monday

Monday December 21 - Monday January 4
Winter Break 

Monday, January 4
Staff Development 

Tuesday, January 5
Classes Begin