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About the Academic Program & Experience

When/how do I find out about my child’s classroom assignment/teacher? Can I change it?

In the 2nd week of August, all class lists will be released on Join Our Class and you will receive an email from your child’s lead teacher on the same day. The school goes to great lengths to assemble classes that reflect all aspects of diversity as well as a range of learning styles and energy levels, appropriately paired with lead teachers (and teaching assistants from PP3 – 2nd grade). Input from teachers from the previous academic year as well as counselors/therapists and section heads is factored into this placement. Students rising to Kinder – 5th grade are asked for names of five students they’d like in their class in the upcoming school year; the school guarantees that at least one of those students will be paired with the child. The school is not accepting parent requests for teachers or classmates.

How do you assess your academic program at Magellan?

In addition to formal assessments made by the school in collaboration with our accreditation/authorization processes, we also monitor academic progression and standardized test score results (for classes participating) for knowledge and skill deficiencies on an ongoing basis. In addition, unique aspects of our program – Mandarin language instruction, design thinking, mathematics and science – are reviewed against national and international trends in education to ensure that we are providing the best academic experience to our students.

Why should I pay tuition to send my child to Magellan if there are other dual-language programs that are free at my local public school?

While there are dual language programs available here in Austin, we believe – and are reinforced by language learning research – that language learning for complete biliteracy is best in an immersion environment. With up to 80% Spanish immersion, students have the best opportunity for full development of all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening). We also believe strongly that inquiry-based education, as offered by MIS through International Baccalaureate, provides a deeper learning of content vs. “teacher as lecturer” and rote memorization that is seen in a traditional US classroom.

What is a “Unit of Inquiry”?

The curriculum in the Primary Years Programme (PYP) at MIS is structured into a series of “Units of Inquiry”. These 6-8 week long learning cycles bring student focus to student a specific interdisciplinary theme. In Preschool, our students study 4 units of inquiry. Beginning in Kinder through 5th grade, 2 additional units of inquiry are added to the curriculum. Still wondering how this works?

The first unit of inquiry in first grade is “How We Organize Ourselves” focusing on exploring the interconnectedness of human made systems and communities so members can interact. Students will learn about the structure and function of organizations, societal decision making, economic activities and their impact on communities and the environment. Through activities led by their classroom teachers as well as art, music, library, physical education and English teachers, students master the concepts introduced to them in this unit. In addition, students build and refine practical skills in cooperation, public speaking, formulating and answering questions through research, applying knowledge and self-management.

Learn more about the curriculum for each grade.

Learn more about inquiry based learning.

Watch a video about inquiry based learning.

How is math taught?

At MIS, our math curriculum is integrated into Units of Inquiry throughout the PYP, utilizing curriculum/teaching methods of Singapore Math™.  The uniqueness of Singapore Math provides students the opportunity to understand math in an abstract way focusing on problem solving rather than drilling and memorization. By mastering abstract concepts earlier, students are building the foundation for earlier study of topics such as algebra and geometry.

Singapore math is based on the learning theories of CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract), Conceptual Understanding, Variability and the spiral approach.  

Watch a video about Singapore Math part 1 learning theories.

Watch a video about Singapore Math part 2 learning theories.

In Middle School, students have dedicated math classes each week. Learn more about Math in Middle School. (link to math)

Learn more about Singapore Math.

I heard that you provide “differentiation” in the classroom - what does that mean?

Differentiated instruction is a is a framework or philosophy for effective teaching that involves providing different students with different avenues to learning. All people naturally learn in different ways and can learn concepts more thoroughly and deeply in an environment where content fits their learning style.

Teachers may differentiate the content and the process, for example the different reading levels in a classroom. They may also differentiate the final product giving students the freedom to demonstrate their learning in different ways, in writing for example, a student may write a story while other may choose a comic and a pair of students will work collaboratively writing a play. In math, when students master a concept, they may get more complex problems in order to apply the same skill or a combination of others previously learned. Teachers might send Homework menus for students to choose depending on their interests.

Learn more about differentiation. Watch a video on differentiation.

If my child is ahead or behind his/her peers in the classroom, what happens?

We differentiate within his/her class, providing opportunities for deeper – or more – learning for students that are both ahead and behind. Often, students who are behind, will be invited by the teacher once a week for reinforcement before the school day starts. MIS has learning and literacy specialists working across the classrooms to assist students and may recommend additional tutoring outside of the classroom. If a student is exhibiting signs of learning differences that cannot be supported by MIS staff, action plans are developed with parents to support each student’s academic success.

My 2nd grader seems to be reading in English behind her peers who attend public school. Should I be concerned?

It’s easy for parents to be concerned when they hear about the children of friends, family, colleagues or neighbors reading more advanced books than their child. This is not uncommon at MIS since our students are learning speaking, reading, pronunciation and writing in two languages at the same time! Student reading levels will rebound to grade level or beyond shortly, and your child will be literate in not just English but Spanish as well!

Does the school have a Homework Policy?

Yes, we do. Our Homework Policy was reviewed and revised in the fall of 2017 to ensure that lessons at home are meaningful and available to children of a variety of learning styles. We also provide enrichment activities that are optional. Regular homework begins in Kinder and becomes more rigorous in expectations and time as children progress into upper elementary and middle school grades.

How do I help my child with homework if it’s written in Spanish and I don’t speak the language?

Our approach to homework is that every child should be able to complete homework on his/her own without support from parents to build independence and responsibility. In Kinder, homework will be provided in English as children transition into a routine so non-Spanish speaking parents can help at home. We know you’ll still be tempted to translate everything using SpanishDict or another translation app, but it is not the expectation of the school or our teachers. If you’re concerned, talk to your child’s teacher!

We’re not comfortable with our child participating in Human Development sessions with your counselors. Do he/she have to participate?

No. We recognize that there are many perspectives on the introduction of topics related to the human body and sexuality and we respect your family’s decision if you choose not to have your child participate. However we also encourage you to learn more about the topics and approach before you make this decision as the curriculum is age-appropriate and much different than the way it was delivered back when we were kids. Students who are not participating will be pulled out of the classroom during Human Development for a “study hall.”

What happens if my child reaches 3rd grade (when Mandarin is introduced) and is not yet strong in English and Spanish?

In between 2nd and 3rd grade, 2nd grade teachers and the section head will discuss students who are struggling in English or Spanish. For many of them, extra tutoring over the summer is just the trick to bring them up to level. However if it is determined that your child is not ready for Mandarin, we will discuss options with you that may include private tutoring during the Mandarin classroom time.

How often are students outside during the day to play?

All grades, every day have a morning recess and a longer recess before or after lunch. Preschool and Kinder students have an additional afternoon recess. Every grade has PE twice a week.

Does my child need to be potty trained to start Preschool?

Yes, all children must be fully potty trained before they begin attending Magellan. We understand that accidents happen, but children must be trained without a diaper or pull-up both during waking and napping times. Children are reminded to go to the potty at routine times during the day in preschool and are able to use the potty as needed.

What happens at student assemblies and what purpose do they serve?

Every few weeks, we host assemblies at each campus to come together as a community and learn from each other. Annual assemblies include: Peace Day, Safety & Prevention, Chinese New Year, Black History and Earth Day. Students will sing our US National Anthem and our school song. Each assembly is led by a specific grade level where students participate in educating their schoolmates on the assembly topic through presentations, prepared videos, plays and performances. Assemblies are hosted at both our Anderson Lane (Kinder – 8th) and Chimney Corners (PP3 & PP4) campuses.

Are students taught cursive?

Yes! In 2nd grade, students begin to learn cursive.

Do students have field trips?

Yes! Each year, our PP4, Primary & Middle School students attend 3 local field trips to enhance their classroom studies. They may travel to a farm or a local museum, visit with entrepreneurs at a start-up lab or head down to the Alamo to learn about Texas State history. Students in PP3 participate in “walking” field trips and have special visitors come to the school for unique learning experiences.