Winter Newsletter

Click the link below to see the IES GRC Winter 2013-2014 updates!

Newsletter 1- Winter 2014pdf

Fall Newsletter

Click the link below to see the IES GRC Fall 2013 updates!

Newsletter 1- Fall 2013pdf


Hi Parents,

I decided to create quarterly newsletters to keep the parents updated this year instead of working more consistently on this blog.  However, I will be adding the fall and winter newsletters for anyone who might not have seen them when your children brought them home with the progress folders at the end of each nine weeks.  I hope you are all doing well after our eventful snow days last week! 

I am currently testing second graders each morning during the normal G.R.C. time.  This was supposed to conclude at the end of this week but now will be extended till 2/14/14 due to the winter weather changing our schedules.  I will resume normal third grade G.R.C. the week of 2/17/14-2/21/14.  Thank you for being understanding of our change in schedule! :)

New School Year 2013-2014 and Parent Day at AAGC

There is something so exciting about fresh school supplies and all the possibilities that a new school year holds.  Looking forward to all of the new discoveries that await us in G.R.C. this year, students!

Parents of third grade gifted education students, please look for the parent invitations for the Gifted Education Plan Meeting to come in the mail this week.  I look forward to meeting with you all in September.

Students, G.R.C. classes will begin the week of September 9-13.  You will come to my classroom for an introduction to G.R.C. one day that week.

Parents, I want to take a minute to share the latest news about the Alabama Association of Gifted Children’s Annual Conference this September.  I attend this conference at the Birmingham McWane Center every year with hundreds of other gifted education teachers and parents of gifted education kids.  It never fails that every year, I leave inspired and full of new ideas.  This year, the conference is on Thursday and Friday, September 26th and 27th.   I will only be able to attend on Thursday, September 26th this year.  However, if you would like more information about gifted education in Alabama, access to gifted resources, and you would like to hear the keynote speaker for parents, the Friday session for parents would be great for you. 

Go to the following website to get more information about this conference if you are interested.

Have a great first week of school! :)

May Update

Hi Parents and Students,

I am so sorry I have been gone from this blog for so long!  It has been a busy but wonderful semester to say the least! 

I will do my best to recap the highlights of this semester for you to see.  This past semester has been focused on the C.S.I. portion of our Discovery Unit.  Through this unit, students have become not only problem solvers, but also forensic scientists and creative writers.

The students have participated in forensic science investigations on:

  • Fingerprinting
  • Breaking Secret Codes
  • D.N.A.
  • Studying Hair Samples
  • Shoe Printing

Each of these investigations took approximately 2 to 3 weeks.  The students were able to learn detailed information about the type of evidence through presenations, and then they were able to apply this knowledge in a crime scene investigation.

The students have also brainstormed, planned, written, edited, and finally published original narrative mysteries in hardback books.  This is our final project for this unit and the year.  I am so proud of all of their hard work on this project!  Throughout this project, I lead detailed writing lessons with the students.  I taught them how to brainstorm, outline, draft, edit, and finally publish their writing.  We focused on effective beginnings of stories, descriptive writing, the structure of paragraphs, the use of similes in writing, the correct use of dialogue, and the importance of details.  I hope that your children will continue to use these writing strategies for many years to come.

Next week, we will have a “Mystery Campfire” in class where the students will have a chance to share their final mystery books with the class and enjoy smores as a celebration for all of their dedication and hard work. 

I have been priviledged to teach and learn from your children in G.R.C. this year!  Thank you for sharing them with me!  I hope that they will continue to accept new challenges as they leave IES  and be the “Daring Detectives” I know they all are! :)

Students: Please comment on this post and tell us your favorite lesson/memory from G.R.C. this year.

On a personal note, my husband and I are expecting our first child in June of this year.   I promised the students I would post a picture of our little Jackson Christopher Beard once he arrives this summer.  Stay tuned for that picture, students! :)

Thank you for all of your help and support this year, parents!

I hope you all have a wonderful summer break!

Maria Beard

December/January Update

I hope you all had a happy holiday break!  I cannot believe it is already 2013! 

This first week of January GRC has proved to be an exciting one!  The students and I dove head first into our Mystery Unit with the beginning of detailed forensic science lessons and writing lessons.  This unit will have a primary focus on science and writing because the students will learn the basics of studying many types of evidence, and they will also write and publish their own original mysteries. 

This week, we focused on the basics of forensic science and the science of fingerprinting.  The fingerprinting lesson will be continued next week. 

In the past month of classes we have also covered the following topics:

Quick Creative Thinking Activities: Alphabet Transformations, Poetry Alive, and Creative Writing

Quick Critical Thinking Activities: Number Grid Problems, Analogies

Discovery Unit Activities: Career Wax Museum, Mystery Vocabulary Game, “The Case of the Ruined Roses”, Detective Case Reports, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, Venn Diagram, Detective Observation Activity, Productive Thinking, Forensic Science Introduction and Notes, and Fingerprinting Lesson to name a few.

We have been very busy becoming expert detectives!  My hope is that through the mystery portion of our discovery unit, the students will learn better science skills through hands on investigations, and they will further their writing abilities through targeted lessons and writing practice. We will also incorporate other subjects such as math and reading.  We will graph data from science experiments, and we will work together to read and solve high level mysteries.

Red Folders and Progress Reports: Be on the lookout for your child’s red G.R.C. folder with their current work and G.R.C. progress report.  This folder will come home next week on your child’s G.R.C. day.  The work is yours to keep.  Please sign the progress report and return it in the folder within one week. Thank you!

Schedule Update: The next 3 weeks of G.R.C. will be different for the students because of a few things.  1/14-1/18 is the week of DIBELs reading testing at IES.  I am a member of the DIBELs team, so I will be helping with this testing each day.  Because of this, your child will only see me for about 1-1 1/2 hours next week. The following two weeks 1/22-2/1 are the weeks of second grade screening.  G.R.C. classes will be cancelled these 2 weeks. Each day, I will be meeting with second grade students to complete the second grade screening activities as I did with your children last year.  Normal G.R.C. classes will resume the week of 2/4. Thank you for being understanding of this change in schedule!  I will miss seeing my third graders for these 2 weeks, but I look forward to picking up our mystery unit the week of February 4th.

Thank you for your time and support!

Maria Beard

November Update

Happy November!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families!

This week we are wrapping up the last of the self-discovery portion of our unit, and we are beginning the MYSTERY unit!  The kids are so excited to learn the skills necessary to be expert detectives and mystery authors.

Over the past month, the students have completed the following activities:

Creative and Critical Thinking Activities

Synectics– The students have completed Synectics creative writing activities comparing themselves and other objects to other things in new and original ways.  Through this activity, students also learned the importance of supporting your claims with clear reasoning.

Grandfather Tang Lesson- Through this reading, geometry, creative thinking lesson, students were able to identify geometric pieces by their attributes.  They were also given an opportunity to create an original animal or object using the 7 provided tangram pieces.  This original creation will be used as inspiration for an original story by each student.

Word Picture Puzzles– The students used critical and creative thinking to solve and create word picture puzzles.

Missing Numbers Puzzles– The students used math skills to solve a given missing numbers puzzle.  Students used deductive reasoning and their knowledge of addition and subtraction math facts to solve 4 of these puzzles.

Escalator Video- In this social-emotional lesson, the students watched a short video about 2 people who got “stuck” on an escalator because it broke down.  Following my guiding questions, students were able to decipher the comparison between this video and choices we make in life.  In life, we can either be on the “stairs” or on the “escalator.”  When we try hard, take ownership over our learning, and go the extra mile, we are on the “stairs.”  When we give up too easily or wait for others to do the hard things for us, we are on the “escalator.”  This will be an analogy I use with the students throughout the rest of the year. 

Unit Activities

On the Job Hunt: Career Discovery Project– The students began and completed the Career Discovery project in the last month.  Through this culminating project, students learned to research a chosen topic using a trustworthy website, gather information, answer higher level questions, and then turn this information into a completed project.  Students are also learning the skills necessary to be an effective presenter.  We cannot wait for these final career projects to be presented in 2 weeks. 

Discovery Puzzles– The students participated in discovery discussions centered around the books “What is This Thing?” and “Stories with Holes.”  Students used deductive reasoning to solve the “Stories with Holes” puzzles as a group.

Socratic Circle– The students participated in a Socratic Circle centered around the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  Through this activity, students disected this piece of text determining unknown words, identifying key phrases, and asking important questions.  Then, the students sat in a “fish bowl” format.  Half of the students discussed the text and student questions, and the others observed.  Then they switched places.  I was SO impressed with their ability to make important inferences about this poem.  We compared the poem to life choices and career choices, and the students pointed out that it is much better to take the more difficult or uncommon path in life because you only have one life to live and the harder you work, the better off your life will be.  Some students even pointed out that the path of “hard work” is becoming overgrown because many people don’t want to take it.  However, it is the best path to take!

I cannot wait to dive further into the mystery portion of the unit with the students in the coming weeks.  The students will be acting as forensic scientists as they study evidence, and they will be working as writers as their author their own original mystery.




October Update

Over the past month, GRC students have learned the basics of critical and creative thinking as well as the basics of our classroom where I see each student once a week for 3 hours.  We have had a great start to our year.  I am so proud of all of your hard work detectives!

The students have worked in groups, teams, and independently to complete assignments in my room to this point.  They are learning the true value of team work and independent work as well. 

Here is a brief highlight of our most important lessons from the past few weeks:

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds – Goal setting nonfiction book lesson about the famous Olympic diver, Sammy Lee.

Alphabet City Creative Thinking Lesson- This taught the students to look at the world around them in new and creative ways.

Perplexor Critical Thinking Puzzles- These required the students to use inferencing skills and deductive reasoning to solve each puzzle.

ColorKu and SudoKu Critical Thinking Puzzles- These strategy puzzles required the students to analyze given information, choose the best answers, and provide reasoning for their choices.

Discovery Unit Preassessment- This preassessment is a tool I use each year to determine a students prior knowledge before our discovery unit.

Poetry Alive Creative Dramatics Activities- These poems performed in small groups challenged the students to work in teams to come up with creative actions for a given poem.  This activity really pushed some students outside of their comfort zones.  It was exciting to see their final performances!

Multiple Intelligences Inventory and Mobile Project- This lesson, inventory, and final project provide useful information for both me and the students throughout the year.  Ask your child to share their top 2 multiple intelligences with you.  Would you like to know if your top 2 multiple intelligences are the same or different than your child’s?  Complete this inventory online at the following address:

In addition to completing this inventory independently, we also worked as a collaborative group to graph our results.  We were surprised to find the top multiple intelligence for 3rd grade GRC students at IES this year is the body kinesthetic intelligence.  This means that most students who come to me prefer to learn through movement and hands on activities.  I will do my best to provide diverse activities to meet the learning styles of all students in my class this year.

Parents and Students,

Please feel free to comment on this blog post to share your multiple intelligence results with our classes.

Thank you for your time!

September Update

This week we are beginning our first week of normally scheduled G.R.C.  I am so excited to see the students this week!  The past 2 shortened classes of G.R.C. have served as a bit of an introduction.  We have covered the question, “What is G.R.C?”  through a PowerPoint and group discussion.  We have discussed the basics of creative thinking and critical thinking.  I have worked with the students to solve their first “Perplexor” critial thinking puzzle, and they have worked to complete a few creative thinking activities. Finally, we have begun the “Self-Discovery” portion of our unit. 

This week in G.R.C. the students will learn about:

  • Responding to quotes and looking for the big ideas
  • Active Listening
  • Perplexor #2 (Done in small groups using active listening)
  • Self-Discovery through their “arm self-portrait” project
  • Goal setting for the year with the book Ruby’s Wish
  • Poetry Alive Creative Dramatics

Looking forward to a great week, Detectives! :)



A New School Year 2012

Hi Parents and Students,

  Students, I hope you have had a great start to your third grade year!  Parents, I enjoyed meeting many of you at the G.E.P. parent meeting this past Tuesday.  I am looking forward to working with each of your children this year.  Classes will begin the week of the 27th of August.  The normal schedule for G.R.C. will be changed this week due to the annual state department gifted education meetings that I have to attend on August 28th and 29th.  Each class will come to me for approximately 1 1/2 hours this week instead of the normal 3 hours.  The following week I will be helping with D.I.B.E.L.s testing, and again will have to shorten my normal schedule.  Thank you for being understanding of these schedule changes. :)  Normal G.R.C. class schedules will begin the week of September 10-15.  I am looking forward to a great year full of wonderful discoveries, Daring Detectives!

See you soon!