Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Innovative instruction fosters collaboration and creativity in SBISD classrooms


The new school year is in full swing, and teachers across Spring Branch ISD are engaging students with innovative instruction. From building peer connections designed to foster strong learning environments to incorporating motion and physical action into the learning process, educators in SBISD are creating powerful learning experiences for kids.

View the full photo album to see students' activities across SBISD! 

Here are a few highlights from around SBISD:

Bendwood Elementary 

At Bendwood, economics and business teacher Colleen Mitchell engages students in activities that build on an approach that promotes working together in harmony. 

"Students use appreciation and encouragement to support their successes and challenges," said Mitchell. "We do a TRIBES community activity weekly to foster engagement and build a community of learners." 

Recently, Mitchell's students worked in teams, with one partner blindfolded and guided by the other to pick up the correct puzzle pieces, which required collaboration and teamwork. 

Buffalo Creek Elementary 

In Erin Fuqua's fifth grade class at Buffalo Creek, students have been learning about living and non-living things in an environment. 

Recently, Fuqua placed her students in groups and provided them with an animal figurine. Their instructions were to create an environment in which their animal could survive. 

"Students were able to research what their animal eats and what other elements they need to survive in an environment," said Fuqua. "The hope was that they would understand that living things depend on each other to live." 

For the activity, students had creative freedom to use various materials, including Play-Doh, foam paper, cotton balls and more. 

Fuqua chose this hands-on learning exercise to encourage students to think outside the box and explore their creativity while helping them better retain the material. It also encouraged collaboration and teamwork among the students. 

"It is very important for our students to collaborate in the classroom," added Fuqua. "It teaches them to share and develop new ideas while learning from each other." 

Shadow Oaks Elementary 

At Shadow Oaks, first grade teacher Vivianne Pineda recently kicked off her writing unit. 

Pineda begins by asking students to write a personal narrative. She notes that it is a great way to get to know her students and assess their writing abilities. 

Students then learn the writing process through an engaging chant: "We are writers, we are authors. First, we think, then we plan, then we write! BUT STOP, we have to revise and STOP, we have to edit!" 

"We like to use our whole body in our first grade class," said Pineda. "Each line in our chant also incorporates a physical sign to help students remember it." 

In her writing center, Pineda encourages students to use colored markers, sticky notes, revision strips and other materials to see their mistakes and corrections. Through these exercises, students feel comfortable making mistakes and correcting them, which helps them grow. At the end, students publish their final pieces in the classroom library. 

"I truly believe that students will rise to the occasion of being independent writers if given the necessary tools and time to do so," concluded Pineda. 

Treasure Forest Elementary 

Fifth graders at Treasure Forest have been learning about food webs. 

In Laura Watson's science class, fifth grade students are exploring the flow of energy within food webs and the roles of the sun, producers, consumers and decomposers. 

To understand how food webs work students were assigned their own organisms and instructed to draw the animal on a paper plate and identify whether they were producers or consumers. 

Students came together to discuss the details of their organisms and collaborated to discuss how energy flows through a food web. Through structured conversations using sentence stems, students created a food web on the bulletin board outside of their classroom. 

"This activity helped students comprehend the transfer of energy in food webs, while also promoting student engagement and student-centered learning," said Crystal Cuellar, science instructional specialist at Treasure Forest. 

Landrum Middle 

At Landrum, students are actively engaging in learning activities, but sometimes they need a brain break. 

"We have students for 90-minute block periods," said teacher Eva Zapata. "That can be a very long time for them." 

To allow students' creativity to flow, Zapata engages them in brain breaks, including paper airplane competitions, lotería (a traditional Hispanic card game similar to bingo), and drawing competitions. 

"Sometimes we get so focused on the content that we forget to make time to have fun," concluded Zapata. "Giving students brain breaks has helped me build positive relationships with my students while allowing them to have fun."

 Spring Woods Middle

To introduce students to United States history, Tiffany Blackwell gave her students Creating the U.S.A., a comic book developed by a former Memorial Middle student. 

"My students read Kingsley Wallace's comic book," said Blackwell. "She wrote it a few years ago and donated some copies to my class, as she wanted to help students learn about history." 

The comic book is the first of a series of three. In the first one, students learned about the mystery of the Roanoke colony. After reading the comic book, the class engaged in a discussion about the content.

Northbrook High 

In Christopher McVay's art class, students have been learning about their cultural backgrounds by creating images of their favorite home-cooked meals. 

McVay shares that many times these recipes have traveled from generation to generation, becoming a part of their identity. He hopes that students learn from each other's artwork and showcase their own culture. 

While discussing the project with his team lead, Lauren Mohan, she mentioned something that stuck with McVay and encouraged him to assign the activity: "Your life experiences are unique and valuable, they are part of who you are and your culture. You should take pride in what you have lived, especially when sharing that with other people." 

The finished work will be displayed at Northbrook's Hispanic Heritage Night and Open House on Sept. 28. 

Spring Woods High 

Government team leader Michael Dorantes has been engaging his students in a vocabulary maze to learn vocabulary words. 

"We started using this activity last school year and it worked really well," said Dorantes. "We usually complete the activity twice a semester with vocabulary terms of areas of study I really want the students to understand. It's great for any content area." 

Students are given 20 index cards, 10 with the vocabulary words and the rest with their corresponding definitions. They are then instructed to post the words on one side of the wall and the definitions on the other. 

The students are given yarn and must create a physical connection between the word and the definition, creating a maze. Students then race through the maze but should not touch the yarn. While racing through the maze, Dorantes stops them at distinct wall sections to discuss the terms and definitions. Those who have the quickest time win a bonus or a prize.