Sunday, January 27, 2013

Think-a-Thon: An Adventure in Learning

One of the perks of my position as the GT Facilitator on my campus is the opportunity I have to visit various classrooms throughout the week and spend time facilitating critical thinking and creative problem solving activities with our learners.  It is so much fun watching their eyes light up as they collaborate with peers and attempt to be the first to accomplish the task set before them.

Think-a-Thon is just one of the tools we use to ensure that The Schoolwide Enrichment Model is truly "school wide."  During this activity, fourth and fifth grade learners are working in groups on a variety of different thinking skills including brainstorming, categorizing, creating analogies, and more.  Along with the obvious academic benefits, these sessions give our learners opportunities to develop the  collaboration and communication skills that are vital to their success in today's world.

My point is this...SEM is more than just an hour of enrichment on Friday morning.  It is a way of teaching, a philosophy, a culture of learning.  While E-Time and enrichment clusters are certainly important pieces of The Schoolwide Enrichment Model, these components alone do not constitute SEM.  Other components include curriculum compacting, Academic Olympics, Total School Cluster Grouping, and so much more. The Schoolwide Enrichment Model seeks to embed the gifted pedagogy into the very fabric of the school so that every learner...each learner...experiences opportunities for enrichment and talent development everyday!

Fourth Grade: Now What?

Our fourth grade learners may be done with clusters, but they are continuing to explore their interests and learn more about ways they can give back to our world.  The fourth grade classrooms were buzzing this past Friday morning as the learners and educators began their next round of E-Time adventures.

In Ms. Cadue's room, there are 19 young ladies eagerly exploring the world of fashion design.  They have identified their strengths and divided up the work...everyone has an important role to play in this fourth grade design studio.

In Mrs. Cavitt's room, some young scientists are mixing, stirring, and heating as they explore the wonders of chemical changes.

Sign language is the focus of the day in Miss Snyder's room where a group of linguists are learning to use their hands, bodies, and facial expressions to communicate without sound.    I even had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of  the, was I impressed!

Monsters, dragons and other mythological creatures are coming alive in Mrs. Kirby's room as learners explore a variety of myths and work in teams to design and create tools and media to share what they discover.  Videos, skits...big ideas in the works!

Finally, back by popular demand, there is a group of fourth graders working alongside some fifth grade learners and our very own Mrs. Case, as they take pictures, design page layouts, and create an advertising video for our 2012-2013 yearbook.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Parent Mini Series: SEM

It was my privilege today to share our SEM journey and vision with an amazing group of  parents during the second in a series of parent education meetings here at Austin Elementary.  Those of you who know me know that speaking in front of a group of adults is for me,  nerve racking at best, but having the opportunity to share my passion for the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and what that model means for the learners and educators on our campus made the butterflies in my stomach more than worthwhile.  Schoolwide Enrichment is transforming the culture of Austin Elementary!  It's creating a passion and excitement for learning that is absolutely contagious!  Take a few minutes to view the presentation below and see what the excitement is all about.

Monday, January 21, 2013

First Grade Explores the Culture of India

One of our first grade classes had the opportunity this past week to experience the culture of India in an up close and personal way.  A special guest shared her knowledge and experiences with these young learners as they explored the traditions of India, tasted some authentic Indian food, and learned how to write in the language of India.  The adults in the room were as entranced as the children as we watched a demonstration the simplistic beauty of the Indian alphabet.    Click on the video below to learn more.

Please encourage our young learners by leaving a comment about what you see!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's Our Turn!

Second and third grade learners were beside themselves with excitement this past Friday as they eagerly  gathered with likeminded children and adults  to begin their own interest based enrichment cluster journey!  I was inspired as I visited the various cluster groups and heard the creative ideas and ambitious products these young learners are envisioning.  The next several weeks promises much excitement as these they begin to take the steps necessary to turn their dreams into reality.

The Video Production Announcements Cluster brainstorms ideas about what kinds of information they want to video and share through the video announcements.

The Green Team discusses how they can help Coppell become more Earth friendly.

Navigate Coppell participants complete surveys about what kind of product they hope to create in their six week cluster.  

Coppell Kid Painters' Guild explore how they can use art to celebrate the history of Coppell.

Learners on the Emergency Responders Crew discuss potential careers and decide what kind of  information they will need in order to become experts in helping others as CISD School Board member, Tracy Fisher looks on.

Book Blooms participants eagerly discuss ideas for a Reading Garden on the grounds of Austin Elementary.

The Austin Archeology Association discusses plans for exploring archeology through clay pottery.

Movies, Books, and More cluster participants discuss tools  that could be used to create book trailers in which they can share their favorite books with those around them.

The Digital Card Creations cluster group explores the history of card making together as they begin discussions about an authentic audience for the digital resources they plan to create.

A young learner in the Lights, Camera, Cook cluster brainstorms ideas for some tasty creations.

The Problem Solving Task Force discuss ideas for making our community a better place.

What's Your Story?  This group of learners, eager to explore how photography can be used to tell a story, are seen here discussing some of the technology tools they may use to share their unique story with the world around them.

This young learner is thinking hard about what she hopes to accomplish in her Magic Maniacs cluster.

The members of the Shock Your Socks Off cluster are eager to begin exploring the power of circuits and how they are used to make our world a better place.

Like what you see?  Encourage our young learners by sharing a comment about what they are doing.

Want to see more?  Contact Liz Malone @ 214-496-7335 or by email at to schedule a tour and see these young designers, inventors, and entrepreneurs in action.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

First Grade Class Explores Japanese Culture

One of the joys of teaching in today's world is the opportunity to work with children from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.  One of our first grade classes took advantage of that opportunity during E-Time this past Friday as they explored the cultural heritage of one of their classmates.  Rikita was so excited as he shared with his friends the language, traditions, games, and art of his native land.

 Rikita's classmates were excited as well.  With Rikita's help they learned how to write their names in Japanese!  They also made  Japanese lanterns and even had the opportunity to play Japanese chess!  According to Rikita, we adopted the game of chess from the Japanese.  Wow!  I had never heard that before. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

We're Not Done Yet!

Many of you enjoyed our recent Enrichment Cluster Showcase where our 4th and 5th grade learners shared the learning and excitement of their  seven week cluster experience.  Well, we are not done yet!  Our 2nd and 3rd graders are getting ready to embark on their own cluster journey, and spent E-Time today deciding which clusters they might be interested in joining.  Please click on the link below to get a sneak peek at our upcoming 2nd and 3rd grade clusters.

Enrichment Clusters will begin for our 2nd and 3rd graders next Friday, January 18th.  If you are interested in assisting with an Enrichment Cluster, please feel free to contact me.  I can be reached by email at or by phone at 214-496-7335.

Sharing Our Learners' Success

Many of you who attended our recent Enrichment Cluster Showcase asked where you could find the links to some of the videos and websites that our learners created and shared on that day.  This post is for you!  I have gathered the links and posted them below for your viewing pleasure...enjoy!



Animation Station

Puppet Performers

Learner Reflections

Catch the Beat

The Video Production Company

Contributions to the Community

Clay Creators Cluster raised $138.44 to be donated to Operation Kindness!

Clay Creators also donated 4 handmade/kid made puppy/kitten bowls to Operation Kindness!

Fitness Frenzy organized a "Healthy Day" for Austin Elementary!

Why Knot Woodworking designed, built, and donated a beautiful picnic table to Austin Elementary!

Quotes From Our Learners

"I felt famous!"

"I enjoyed meeting people with a similar interest as me."

"I enjoyed learning new things and getting active."

"It was fun getting together and working as a team to accomplish our goal!"

"I liked that we performed at the Showcase ourselves without the teacher's help.  We got to show her that we are responsible."

"I feel very important right now!"

"My cluster was perfect!  I wouldn't change a thing."

What Did They Learn?

"We learned to be creative."

"I learned about trigonometry and measuring and that you need to be careful when using dangerous tools!"

"We learned how to take blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate."

"We learned how to collaborate and make new friends."

"We learned how to make QR codes."

"We learned about endorphins and how to stay healthy."

"We learned that it is important to share ideas and work together."