Charlotte's Web ThingLink

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Hour of Code 2018

This past week close to 4,000 of our students and well over 100 of our teachers participated in Hour of Code! We saw an amazing variety of activities across all eight of our schools and all grade levels, including coding, game design, animation, robotics, sound design and many more. You can check out some of these great experiences on Twitter using #USDLearns and #HourofCode.

Our elementary STEAM ToSAs did a wonderful job of promoting Hour of Code and supporting their teachers in creating engaging and challenging opportunities to allow our students to explore computer science and programming. We also saw many great coding activities in our middle schools. Every student and teacher who participated in Hour of Code will receive an exclusive Hour of Code sticker designed by one of our very own students, Dartmouth 8th grader Ashita Apurva:

Thank you to everyone who participated in Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week and congratulations to this year's randomly selected Hour of Code winner, Nina Lamour, 5th grade teacher at Carlton Avenue School! Keep up the great work and if you haven't started coding with your class yet, it's never too late to start!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

School Community

Featuring Guest Blogger Navjot Grewal

Guadalupe’s student body has a great tradition of citizenship and community, and more so than any other time, this is showcased during the Student Council elections in the Fall. Led by Teri Susoev, Kathy Williams, and myself, we mentor students to be involved in their communities, give voices to their quieter peers, and advocate for those in need in our school community.

Every year, 4th and 5th graders have the opportunity to run for an executive office in the Student Council. The presidency is reserved for 5th graders, while the rest is open to both grade levels. Aside from the president, every other office can be occupied by a pair of students and this is where the strength of many of our students lies. Many of the applicants choose to run in pairs, writing their speech together, creating joint posters and usually having a catchy campaign slogan. They work tirelessly together to create a strong, cohesive image. Many of our offices are usually held by pairs of students.

In October, we begin the process of placing an open call for students to run. In the span of two weeks, we have posters up, speeches checked and ready to be delivered, and the election day ballot ready to go. During this time many students who we have misjudged as shy come out of their shells to run for office. Others, who are usually more exuberant and outspoken, are often our most nervous and worried. This is a time of growth for students, and a time for teachers to see students they had as first or second graders display confidence as bigger kids. It brings and bonds our school community closer together every year.

The speeches are where many of the students shine. We see them in a new light, grown up and assured, sharing a piece of themselves that can get lost in a classroom or on the playground. They make a tough case for the voting body on who to choose. While some elections can become popularity contests, once the speeches have been delivered the elections become more competitive with an evened playing field.  Students filter back into their classrooms, submit a digital ballot, and eagerly await the elections results in the five minutes leading up to a Friday afternoon dismissal.

There are tears, heartbreak, and a range of emotions as the results are announced by the principal over the PA system. The candidates are together in the media center while their friends wait for them outside on the playground. Giving the candidates a separate space allows those who have lost time to control their emotions and those who have won time to gather themselves and win with grace. There many hugs, congratulation, a few tears, and a lot of cheering in the media center regardless of victory or loss. This is my favorite part as an educator, to watch kids who have worked hard to recognize the hard work of others, to look beyond winning and losing, and to see how kind children can be to another when they’ve worked towards the same goals. While elections can be contentious, at Guadalupe they are symbolic of how our community works: together.

Follow Nav on Twitter: @WheresGrewaldo

If you see something cool at your site that would make a good blog post, or would like to guest author a post, please share your thoughts here!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pumpkin Design Challenge

Featuring Guest Author Todd Sinclair

This October, the 5th Grade team at Oster Elementary took on a new project inspired by the unofficial - and awesome - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) annual pumpkin carving contest. Engineers at NASA JPL have carved out an hour of time in October over the last seven years to show off their creativity while participating in this fun team building activity. These engineers take time off from designing and building machines that will explore the farthest reaches of outer space to create pumpkin displays with lasers, lights, robotics, and more.

We brought our idea to our incredible STEAM ToSA, Kaitlin Celestre, who quickly devised a plan to help our students tackle this as a design challenge. We provided the students with sessions to explore a variety of tools, including Little Bits, Snap Circuits, and Microbits, with the goal of inspiring design ideas to include in their pumpkin creations. Student teams were then given time to brainstorm a pumpkin design, sketch out their ideas, and develop a list of the electronic components and other items that they would use to further enhance their designs.

Families pitched in with pumpkins, carving tools, and man power to gut the pumpkins on the first day of the building process. Students worked on their designs during the two days before our annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 20th. Day One was full of carving, pumpkin painting, and testing the functionality and placement of the electronic components. Day Two was spent finalizing everything from Day One and troubleshooting any issues that arose. Students were fully engaged from the start, and throughout the design process they demonstrated effective teamwork, collaboration, persistence, creativity, and problem solving. Team after team found ways to resolve unexpected design issues to help bring their visions to life. The final projects were incredible.

Follow Todd on Twitter: @sinclairt7

Link to NASA JPL News Release
Link to video on NASA JPL Contest

If you see something cool at your site that would make a good blog post, or would like to guest author a post, please share your thoughts here!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Computer Science

Jennie Reynolds is thrilled to be teaching the first year-long computer science (CS) class at Union Middle School this year. While she does not have an extensive background in CS (she took Basic C as an undergrad to fulfill a math requirement), she embraced the words of her master teacher - if you are a good teacher you can teach anything. She realized the truth in this when she taught a Minecraft class four years ago. Initially Jennie was terrified that she did not know enough about the program to effectively support the class. Instead, she learned that she often had to get out of the way of her students - they were passionate about their work and the learning was naturally embedded in the process as they brought their ideas to life. 

She attended a training over the summer that was hosted by, which was geared toward teachers who were just starting to teach CS. The free 6th-10th grade curriculum provided by, Computer Science Discoveries, has been fantastic. The first two weeks were completely unplugged and students focused on problem solving and culture building to instill patience and perseverance. 

All of her 7th and 8th grade CS students are in it together regardless of skill level, and they are always collaborating to support each other’s projects. They embrace the idea that even a student with more experience in CS can learn from everyone else in the class by working together. When they presented their websites last week, every single student had someone else to thank for making their designs work. 

With the recent release of the new California K-12 Computer Science Standards, Jennie is grateful for the opportunity to pilot this class. It is designed to introduce students to many of the key areas of CS and it will give them enough experience within each to understand what a career in any of these fields might entail. To further support this, Jennie will bring in guest speakers throughout the year, including a panel of women in software engineering from Salesforce and a genetic science graduate student from UC San Francisco. Her students are looking forward to the rest of the year, which includes work on animation and video games, empathy-based design challenges, the use of data in society, and physical computing.

Follow Jennie on Twitter: @ReynoldsMath

If you see something cool at your site that would make a good blog post, or would like to guest author a post, please share your thoughts here!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Guided Reading

Nikki Grist teaches kindergarten at Alta Vista Elementary. Two summers ago the entire Alta Vista kinder team participated in the first Union School District Guided Reading cohort, which was led by Susan Lavelle (@SusanLavelleUSD). The AV kinder team embraced Guided Reading and they were amazed by the growth all of their reading groups made last school year (some students grew from Fountas and Pinnell level AA to F, for example). This year they are excited to build on that success.

Nikki collaborated with fellow Alta Vista kinder teacher Christine Barbara to develop a schedule that allows them to meet with all five of their leveled student groups on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Students have two separate rounds of centers on each of these days. They start with their Guided Reading block and then break for snack. This is followed by a second round of centers where students work on other subjects such as math and science.

The opportunity to work with every student in a small group setting daily is crucial to the success they have experienced with Guided Reading. Each student group receives differentiated instruction that is designed to meet their specific learning needs, which can range from reinforcing letter sounds and rhyming to reading comprehension practice.

Christine and Nikki have found that they are able to work with the reading groups while the rest of their students are totally engaged. At the other centers, students complete a variety of activities including Word Work, writing practice, reading leveled readers, and listening to stories on iPads from resources like Raz-Kids and Epic!. Students can also use QR codes to access sites like Storyline Online, which features stories that are read by actors and actresses.

The kinder team follows a number of online resources to help them find activities that they can bring to students during the Guided Reading block. For example, This Reading Mama, A Dab of Glue Will Do, and Hello Literacy are sites that offer Word Work ideas almost daily. They also exchange ideas with many educators on Twitter and Instagram as they continue to build their professional learning networks.

In the images below you can see examples of how they organize their days to make sure they have time to work with each group of students. This represents a one hour block of time and each of the three rotations take about 15 minutes to complete.

Monday and Thursday Schedule

Tuesday and Friday Schedule

Follow Nikki on Twitter: @AVGrasshoppers

If you see something cool at your site that would make a good blog post, or would like to guest author a post, please share your thoughts here!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Design Thinking Challenge

Alyssa Micciche is a 4th grade teacher at Noddin Elementary. Two years ago her master teacher, Amy Wyosnick of Covington Elementary in Los Altos, suggested a twist on a familiar book, Island of the Blue Dolphins. She was excited to share her success with a unit that embraced Design Thinking. Her students were more engaged with the activities and made long-lasting connections throughout the year.

Alyssa loved the idea and ran with it last year. Students were excited for the design challenge that was waiting for them at the end of the unit. The support of Noddin’s STEAM ToSA, Heather Koleszar, made planning for it easy. After highlighting the importance of empathy Alyssa immediately saw connections between her students and the text, and specifically the main character, Karana. They identified what Karana needed while she was on the island and began to develop ways to meet those needs. When it was time to prototype their ideas Alyssa brought her students to the Makerspace to take full advantage of all of the available resources.

Throughout the process students embraced the growth mindset and worked together to learn from their mistakes. To conclude the unit students wrote reflections, and Alyssa was amazed at how well they were able to reflect on their experiences and make connections to their own learning. Alyssa observed that her students continued to make these connections throughout the school year, especially when embracing failure and working to overcome challenges.

Over the summer Alyssa was collaborating with other teachers during the USD EduProtocols and Notice and Note workshops. As they looked over the Island of the Blue Dolphins unit one of her fellow 4th grade teachers, Mikayla Schott from Alta Vista Elementary, suggested that they take the Design Thinking unit and turn it into a HyperDoc. As they worked together to refine the unit, the 4th grade ELA Bridge Map demonstrated how to seamlessly integrate the EduProtocols and Notice and Note strategies into the learning process.

Alyssa has seen the same excitement in her students this year. They are in the midst of reading the story, and the number of connections they are making to the book using the Notice and Note fiction signposts is amazing. Their work is aided by the wonderful Notice and Note bookmarks created by Justin Preza, a 4th grade teacher at Lietz Elementary, which have been invaluable as her students become familiar with the signposts. Check these out, along with other Notice and Note tools, in a one-stop-shop HyperDoc created by Justin and Danielle Damato, a 3rd grade teacher at Lietz. You can see a preview of this HyperDoc below.

For an introduction to Design Thinking, check out this blog post by Laura Guevara on

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


We are relaunching the USD Learns blog! Check here for regular updates on some of the great things that are happening in USD.

EduProtocols - from guest blogger Justin Preza

Worst Preso Ever: This EduProtocol is by far the favorite among my students! By intentionally creating an absurdly atrocious presentation, students are learning the fundamentals of what constitutes a high-quality presentation. Introducing this EduProtocol is easy because it requires no previous instruction, quickly and deeply captures student interest, and touches upon a variety of skills. Some of these skills include developing visual aesthetics, communicating with concise and effective written language, and technology literacy. Give this EduProtocol a try - you and your students will not regret it!

Literary Circles Rebooted (Lit. Circles 2.0): Although the practice of literary circles is not new, the rebooted version brings more depth to student learning! No longer are the days in which students are assigned a role and then share out. Now students work as a team to complete assigned tasks, all while engaging in the 4C’s. Similar to differing roles in traditional literary circles, the tasks in Lit. Circles 2.0 can be adjusted to meet the needs of your students. I take tasks from another EduProtocol, BookaKucha, and include them in my Lit. Circles because it promotes a lot of student conversation. In my opinion, students appreciate the updated version of literary circles because it is less about doing an assigned role effectively, and more about giving them an opportunity to better understand the text. (Photo Credit: Jon Corripo).

Follow Justin on Twitter: @MisterJPreza

If you see something cool at your site that would make a good blog post, or would like to guest author a post, please share your thoughts here!