Saturday, December 22, 2012

Educators as Learners... @ The Learning Forward National Conference!

One of the things we frequently discuss as a staff is our dual role of Educator AND Learner.  This was evident recently as three Austin educators attended the 2012 Learning Forward National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.  Kara Cadue, Liz Malone, and Cooper Hilton spent five jam-packed days learning from leading educators, researchers, and professors from around the country.  We suspect they also managed to squeeze in some time catching the city "sites." :)

We have asked them to each share a reflection from one of the sessions that they attended.  In addition, they will share their learning with the Austin staff at an upcoming professional learning day in February.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Parents Are Learners Too

Today is an exciting day at Austin!  We are starting off with the 1st of our series of 4 Parent Courses devoted to informing and involving our parents in the work we're doing with Operation Transformation.  Part of that work is a realization of the responsibility we have to build reciprocal relationships with our parents and community.  This is a great first step towards achieving that.

We've used a great (FREE) tool to help us organize the event and plan for our attendees. was an easy way for us to publicize the class and keep track of those attending.  It's a great tool for organizing volunteers, parent conferences, etc.

Check out the link below for the presentation that we'll use. 

Parent Class #1 Presentation

One item that the presentation references is the Campus Pedagogy.  The Campus Pedagogy is a component of the Transformation Plan that was developed at the summer Principal Academy.  In short, it outlines what we believe our school community should look like.  Take a look at the graphic version below, and give us your feedback!  It is meant to guide us over the next few years as we "transform" our learning environment.  Of course, it will change and evolve as WE change and evolve.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We Believe...

For the past few years, Austin has had Belief Statements that voice what it is that we believe about education and the needs of our learners.

Having since composed our Campus Guiding Purpose, we realized that we needed Belief Statements that reflect that Guiding Purpose and tell our community what distinguishes Austin from other elementaries, so we bravely undertook the task of reviewing our Belief Statements and updating them to be authentic reflections of what we hold to be true!  Our team leaders helped facilitate this process with their teams.  Needless to say, there was plenty of cutting, pasting, adding, omitting, and rewording.

We couldn't be more proud of our final product!  What we ended up with truly verbalizes how Austin is unique and strives to ignite passion in our learners AND educators.

Check them out, and let us know what you think.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Operation Transformation Is In Full Swing

At Austin, we are thrilled (and maybe a little anxious) by the announcement that Coppell ISD was selected to participate in the High Performance Schools Consortium.  Read the article here.  This means that we will play an integral part in the transformation of the public education system in Texas.

Fortunately, we have already begun working to transform our school to a 21st Century learning environment, but we will have a long road ahead of us.

As part of this work, we have updated our Roadmap.  You may remember last year's Roadmap to SEM from a previous post.  We found that this was a great visual representation of our vision and where we are headed as a campus.  Check it out, and let us know what you think.

As you can see, we've already taken several steps this year.  Most recently, the staff met to review our Beliefs Statements and evaluate their compatibility with our Guiding Purpose.  It was a tough process! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prepping for Clusters

After a successful implementation of E-Time (see E-Time posts), Austin is ripe and ready to begin digging even deeper with Enrichment Clusters!  Clusters are similar to E-Time in that they are both interest based and student driven.

Liz Malone (GT Facilitator & SEM Coordinator) has been working this week with our 4th grade, 5th grade, and support staff teachers as we prepare to kick-off the first round of Clusters with 4th and 5th grade at the end of October.  Additionally, we will work with our parent volunteers who have graciously agreed to share their passions and lead / co-lead a Cluster!

Here are a few of the things that our educators are discovering about Clusters-

Why are Clusters important?
  • They support kids' interests.
  • They help learners discover new interests.
  • They challenge learners on different levels.
  • Students learn from each other and from experts.
  • Clusters support our Guiding Purpose of unlocking students' passion and cultivating their uniqueness.
  • MANY more reasons!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Curriculum Compacting: A Tool For Differentiation In The Classroom

Since the beginning of the school year, we have featured a few guest bloggers and their reflections on their learning from Confratute.  To close this series, check out the article below from Liz Malone (GT Facilitator & SEM Coordinator) on Curriculum Compacting.  We are excited about the work she will do with ALL of our learners this year and the coaching/planning work she will do with our educators. 

Curriculum Compacting: A Tool for Differentiation in the Classroom

I was so excited this summer to once again attend Confratute, a week-long educational conference held on the beautiful University of Connecticut campus in Storrs, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford.  While there, I had the opportunity to participate in an exploration of Curriculum Compacting, led by Dr. Deb Goldbeck, a leading researcher in this area.  Dr. Goldbeck shared with us much of the research surrounding the practice of curriculum compacting as well as a wealth of information about the tools and resources that are available to facilitate the implementation of curriculum compacting in the general education setting. I have attempted to share just a taste of her wisdom in the paragraphs below, but I am looking forward to sharing more information as the year progresses. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is curriculum compacting? 

Curriculum compacting is simply another tool that can be used to differentiate classroom learning experiences so that we are able to effectively meet the unique needs of every learner.  Dr. Goldbeck defines it this way: “Curriculum compacting is a procedure used to streamline the regular curriculum for students who are capable of mastering it at a faster pace.”  In other words, we do not continue to require students to practice those skills and concepts in which they have already demonstrated mastery.  Instead, we create experiences which allow them to explore those concepts at a higher level of depth and complexity and in a way that relates to their own personal interests and talents.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Back to School Tradition

It's becoming somewhat of a back to school tradition for Austin to create a video and share it with parents on Curriculum Night.  It's the perfect opportunity for parents to put a face with the name and get to know some of the people that work with their child each day.

This year, it was also the perfect opportunity for us to share a preview of upcoming Schoolwide Enrichment activities and a few details on CISD's Operation Transformation.

We were able to find a very talented young narrator to help us out.  Check it out, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Reflections on Creativity

Last week, we featured a Confratute reflection on a series of math sessions that our teachers attended.  This week, we would like to spotlight Lisa Ricciardelli (Art teacher @ Austin) and her reflections on Creativity at Confratute.

I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to attend this year's Confratute and fully enjoyed all the speakers, classes, workshops, and scoops of farm fresh ice cream. The energy there at UCONN is really playful, informative, and inspiring! Yet if I could sum up this experience with just one word, it would definitely have to be creative.

In one of my favorite classes of the week, “Motivation, Meta-Cognition, & the Importance of Creativity”, we learned that there are two types of creativity according to Dr. Bonnie Cramond: expressive and inventive. Expressive creativity illustrates conceptions or emotions and aesthetics where the inventive type addresses a worthwhile problem to find novel and appropriate solutions. Both have equal merit in education and can be woven into our curriculum in a plethora of ways. From the new Fine Arts TEKS:

The Fine Arts, as universal languages, incorporate the study of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts to offer unparalleled experiences and empower students to explore realities, relationships, and ideas. The Fine Arts engage and motivate all students through active learning, critical thinking, and innovative problem solving. Our disciplines develop cognitive functioning and increase student academic achievement, higher order thinking skills, communication, and collaboration. Students develop relevant aesthetic and cultural awareness through exploration leading to creative expression. Creativity is essential and the study of the Fine Arts nurtures and develops the whole child.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dr. Math!

As we mentioned in our previous post, several educators from Austin Elementary participated in multiple professional learning events over the summer.
A few teachers that went to Confratute at the University of Connecticut in July chose to attend a strand of sessions with Dr. Rachel McAnallan (a.k.a. Dr. Math).  Below is a reflection from May Voltz (3rd grade) on her experience with Dr. Math!

(Dr. Math & The Austin Crew)

Engaging!! Inspiring!! Tactile Learning!!! What do these words have in common?  Dr. Rachel McAnallan, aka Dr. Math.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Welcome Back!

To say that it has been an eventful summer for Austin teachers would be an understatement!  The professional learning began almost the minute school was let out and has continued up until school begins next week. 

Here are a few of the professional learning opportunities in which our educators participated this summer-
  • CISD's Best Day Ever Summer Conference
  • The Leadership Development Process through Learning Forward Texas
  • Great Expectations
  • Confratute (pictured above)
  • The International Congress on Math Education
  • Learning @ Lovejoy featuring Dr. Carol Dweck (author of Mindset)
  • CISD's Principal Academy
As we begin the school year, we look forward to featuring a few reflections by guest bloggers from these learning experiences.

With a new school year comes new faces.  We are excited to welcome 8 new educators to our Austin family!  Each of these new educators is ready to join in and play a part in our transformation to a 21st century learning environment.  Help us in welcoming them to Austin!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Campus Vision Check-Up

Last night, Laurie O'Neill, Principal, presented to the PTO a brief overview of our campus vision and where we currently stand with the implementation of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM).  Check out this Prezi that she used to outline her presentation!

PTO SEM Prezi 4-11-12

Comment below if you have any questions or if we can provide any clarification about the information in the Prezi!

Mindset Book Study

As we've previously mentioned, we are currently in the middle of our book study on Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck.  A few staff members will actually participate in a professional learning opportunity with Dr. Dweck in Lovejoy ISD this coming July! 

Below is our most recent topic of discussion on The Inverse Power of Praise.  What are your thoughts?

A child who has a great deal of self-awareness of his intellect lacks a great deal of self-confidence. Why does this child, who is at the top of the charts, lack confidence about his ability to tackle the most routine of school challenges?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Arts Integration- Guest Blogger Lisa Ricciardelli

Check out the guest blogger feature from Lisa Ricciardelli, Art Teacher at Austin Elementary.  She recently returned from the National Art Education Association's 2012 Conference and brought back a rekindled passion for arts integration!

Through a grant made possible by the Coppell Gifted Association I had the fortune of attending the National Art Education Association’s 2012 Convention in New York City on March 1-4! One of the highlights of my conference experience that would be purposeful to teachers was a session I attended on educational neuroscience and the important role art plays in the development of the brain. The Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning demonstrated in this session that, based on educational neuroscience, teachers must tactically integrate understanding of various learning modalities with multisensory learning into the curriculum for students to best learn. Arts participation has been consistently linked to better academic performance largely because the Arts are inherently multisensory and do uphold diverse learning modalities. The arts can enhance spatial reasoning, attention, thinking habits, motivation, and collaboration. What's more, Arts activities naturally incorporate factors that are known in cognitive psychology to improve long-term memory for information, rousing active retrieval of factual knowledge.
Teachers and Specialists,
I am happy to support any staff member on integrating the arts into your curriculum by helping you create project-based ideas and/or creativity exercises for your students. As a resource to you, I welcome our collaboration individually or in teams!
Need some instant gratification on the topic?
Here are some examples of excellent creativity exercises that can be used in most classrooms: DIVERGENT THINKING BEGINS HERE

More on Arts Integration…
Arts integration is not a substitute for teaching the arts for their own sake. While it is necessary to recognize the need for art specialists in the schools, it is also important that all educators become aware of the successes that have been demonstrated when students become engaged in their own learning via arts integrated instruction. Furthermore, it is essential to understand that arts integration is about a methodology and a philosophical approach to education that creates a level of personal connection and added depth in the classroom through a creative inquiry-based process of teaching and learning.
Source: Northeastern Illinois University

Links/Books: has excellent lesson ideas for arts integration. The blogger believes in providing high-quality, high-impact professional development for education practitioners and advocates using Arts Integration, Technology and Innovative Teaching Strategies to positively impact all learners.
Artful Thinking is a program that was developed by Harvard Project Zero in collaboration with the Traverse City, Michigan Area Public Schools (TCAPS). The program was one component of a larger TCAPS grant from the US Department of Education that aimed at developing a model approach for integrating art into regular classroom instruction. The purpose of the Artful Thinking Program is to help teachers regularly use works of visual art and music in their curriculum in ways that strengthen student thinking and learning.
The following books are highly praised publications presented to us in this seminar on the topic of educational neuroscience:
·         Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (familiar? LOL)
·         A Whole New Mind: How Right-Brainers will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink (J)
·         Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner (Genius!)
·         The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner (of NPR)
·         The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model by Dr. Mariale Hardiman (Feb 2012)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cooperation vs. Collaboration

At our most recent Team Leader meeting, we began a discussion of ways to build a more reflective campus culture.  One of the questions was, "How can we get to a place where, as teachers, we are comfortable stepping back, taking a look at our instructional practices, and adjusting as necessary?" 

One of the things we realized was that it will require serious and continuing collaboration.... but what exactly is collaboration?  Are we often times confusing it with cooperation?  We sat down and tossed around some ideas of what collaboration IS and IS NOT.  Check out what we came up with so far, and please forgive the atrocious handwriting :)

Here's what we came up with for "Student Collaboration."

Here's what we came up with for "Teacher Collaboration."

What would you add to the list?  Is there anything you would change?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jensen in Coppell!

Last Friday, several staff members from Austin (and teachers from all over Coppell) were able to take part in a half day of professional learning with Eric Jensen (of Teaching With Poverty In Mind fame).  Check out this quick video for a brief overview of what Jensen speaks about. 

One of the things that stuck in my mind and kept popping up later was something that he said about our role as teachers.  "Kids no longer need us for our content.  Google replaced us there years ago."  I think that really struck home to what we are trying to do now as 21st century teachers. 

No longer will it suffice for us to teach our students "something" and then test them on it.  Chances are, that "something" is readily available already at the click of a button.  Instead, our focus should be on the skills and talents that will help them be successful in a global setting.

What were some other "take-aways" that some of you left with?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Her Big Debut!

This is a first for PD@Austin!  We are pleased to feature our debut Guest Blogger.  I'm thinking she deserves at least a t-shirt or coffee mug for this prestigious honor.  Her name is Sarah Daugherty (a member of the iTeam), and she recently returned from the Texas Computer Educators Association (TCEA) Conference in Austin.  We are excited for her to share some of her learning with Austin teachers!  Take a look at what is in store...

I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Texas Computer Educators Association (TCEA) for the past four years.  TCEA is the statewide gathering of teachers, principals, educational technicians, and instructional technology specialists.  We attend keynote presentations and break out sessions facilitated by classroom teachers and specialists.  These sessions introduce new ideas in the world of instructional technology.  There is a lot of “geeking out” and even more networking that goes on in every corner of the Austin Convention Center.  I even had the chance to meet several Twitter “rock stars” and made potentially revolutionary connections with individuals from all over the state!

Every year I walk away with exciting ideas, tips, and tricks to share with teachers.  This year was no exception.  I had the chance to attend Apple Academy, an all day workshop put on by the Educational Support Representatives from Apple. 

We learned about management of iDevices, great apps for every subject area, and even how to rotate apps in and out of devices so nothing gets stale!  iDevices in the classroom has been around for some time, but it is a fluid movement.  Resources and tools evolve daily and I’m thrilled Austin Elementary is a part of the iRevolution!

My mind was sufficiently blown within the first 15 minutes of the workshop.  The rest of the day didn’t disappoint either!  In fact, I started my first professional blog during a break because I was so excited about all I was learning.  I invite you to follow my blog as I highlight specific apps on our campus, as well as ideas for implementing apps to coincide with the instructional vision of grade-level curriculum.

Follow the CISDAppAddict blog today!

Sarah Daugherty is an Instructional Technology Specialist for Austin and Mockingbird Elementary.  She has been in CISD for 10 years and served on the iTeam for four of those years.  If she was not in education, Sarah would work for E! News, taking at least one of Ryan Seacrest’s jobs.

Sarah, here is your Techie coffee mug for being featured on our blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Questioning Strategies... Part Deux

We finished up the second half of our session on Question Strategies with Todd Kettler yesterday afternoon.  Topics included a comparison between Kramer (from Seinfeld) and a cell nucleus and choosing between living life as a fraction or a decimal.  Let's just say, "I guess you would have had to have been there."

We also continued our discussion of divergent questioning.  Our ultimate goal with questioning is for our students to generate ideas. With divergent questions, we learned, you are able to spark/generate ideas while at the same time check for understanding (generally accomplished through basic convergent questions). 

One of the things I'm still thinking about is the frequently cited observation that "students come into Kindergarten asking tons of questions but leave high school with no questions at all."  What is happening in the middle?  What are we doing to kids to stifle their curiosity and their instinct to generate questions/ideas?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Convergent vs. Divergent

Yesterday afternoon, we began the first part of a two part training on Questioning Strategies with our district Director of Advanced Academics Todd Kettler.  To say the least, the frequency and depth of a teacher's questioning during instruction can have a great effect on student learning!  A couple of stats to think about-
  • 40% of our instructional time is spent questioning.
  • 75-80% of questioning in elementary is at the memory/recall level.
We then began a discussion on Convergent vs. Divergent questioning.  Todd described Convergent questioning as generally having one possible response (doesn't stimulate critical thinking, not very engaging, designed to check for understanding).  Divergent questioning, on the other hand, allows teachers to check for understanding while at the same time promoting critical thinking AND stimulating student-generated questions.  Of course, Divergent questioning is what we should strive for, but more often than not we focus on the knowledge-based Convergent questioning.  This sparked a great question from one of our teachers-

     If students aren't successful with the Convergent questions (that is, if they can't correctly answer the recall/memory/low-level questions), is it instructionally appropriate to move on to more critical, deeper Divergent questions?

That's a tough question to answer!  Thoughts?  If you agree that it is appropriate, how do you asked those higher-level questions without that basic knowledge?  Hopefully, these are some questions that we'll be able to pursue when we meet again. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This past Monday, Austin staff members received the book Mindset.  We will spend the next few months looking at it in-depth through a campus-wide book study.  Here is an overview provided by the book's website:

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships. When you read Mindset, you’ll see how.

Has anyone out there read this book?  What were your impressions or take-aways?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Your Output Is Messing With My Input!"

Wow!  Yesterday's professional learning on "Connectors" was a day of A-HAs and Hmmms.  Check out this video of an activity that got us to thinking about how we are connected as a campus and how everything that we do (our Output) affects others (their Input).

(Hey, don't laugh!  It's harder than it looks!)

 In an overly simplified nutshell, "Connectors" introduced us to the idea that every student and staff member is connected at Austin Elementary, and every word, action, and deed has an impact on our learning community.  Take a look at the connector below (we named her "Mustang Sally").  

 The left side of the Connector, or the Input, illustrates what comes to us; students that are smart, eager, tired, gifted, troubled, innocent, nervous, etc.  See below...
  The right side of the Connector, or the Output, shows how we want students to leave Austin Elementary; students that are encouraged, aware, passionate, happy, creative, playful, independent, etc.  See below...

   As "Connectors" taught us, what helps us make the transition from our Input to our Output are the Transforms (generally verbs) that we do to "transform" our Input to our Output.  Still with me?  Some of our Transforms were: laugh, provide, share, challenge, discipline, celebrate, empower, enrich, motivate, model, teach, correct, etc.  See below...

From there, we began to discuss how within the Austin Elementary Connector (Mustang Sally) there are individual Connectors and even grade level Connectors that, when aligned properly, build toward the desired Output of Mustang Sally.  Now I'm sure I've lost a few people.

Below are pictures of some of the aligning we did with our grade level content-specific Connectors.

Our final Mustang Sally (with the grade level Connectors inside) has been posted and will be used to facilitate discussions of content alignment and vision alignment.

Whew!  What a day!

Friday, January 6, 2012

"E-Time" Success!

We sucessfully completed our first session of E-Time!  I think we were all a bit nervous, but things went smoothly.  After all, this was a first for each of us.

Our teachers did an excellent job of introducing the concept of "enrichment."  We frequently overheard words such as passion, discovery, interest, and choice.  Students were excited to "take the wheel" in their own learning.  

After the concept of enrichment was introduced and E-Time was defined more clearly, students had a chance to spend some time on activities that matched their interests.

Check out the video below for a quick "recap" of the morning!
For more info about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model @ Austin Elementary, check out Lifelong Learning Made SEMple and follow us on Twitter with #AustinSEM .

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year's From Austin Elementary!

It is our first day back of 2012, and we are hitting the ground running!  January will be a month full of Professional Learning for Austin Elementary.  Here are just a few of the things coming up this month:
  • January 6- Our first day of E-Time!  (see previous posts)
  • January 12-  Several Austin teachers will attend a PBIS training at Region X on "Extreme Behavior Modification."  Should be interesting!
  • January 16-  The entire Austin staff will participate in a training on "Connectors."  
Check back soon for some photos and updates of our first day of E-Time!