Charlotte's Web ThingLink

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

At-Home Teaching

Argumentative Writing: At-Home Style ✍️

The 7th Grade ELA team at DMS had just launched their Argumentative Writing unit prior to the March 13 when they found themselves, as all of you, amongst sudden school closures. Here is what Shelley Crocker and Beth Fabiano describe as they moved the process online: 

“After kicking off the genre with a classroom debate, our students couldn’t wait to get started. Not willing to squander student enthusiasm, the existing unit was reworked to be continued at home, showcasing an assignment inspired by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher called, “What Would it Take to Make You Care?” 7th graders were encouraged to pick a topic they were personally concerned about and create presentations to convince their peers to share their view. Topics ranged from global warming to equity and relied on ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade. To mimic the inherent competition in debate, volunteers put their arguments up for an anonymous competition where 7th graders voted on the most convincing argument. All from home, cases were made, minds were opened, and views were changed - argument success.”

Here is an example of what transpired: Example


Anna Livermore at Lietz Elementary has continued her focus on students spreading positivity. In Flipgrid, she created an assignment for students to surprise their principal. By combining a fun tech tool with a thread of compassion, Anna has kept the Lietz Lion community connected.

Story Time

Friday nights, Carlton teacher Kate LaBarbera connects with her students by sharing a night-time story. Using Loom, Kate records herself reading a story which students can then access before their bedtime. To create the perfect ambiance, light music is played in the background. To change it up, sometimes the video is her voice and the book, and sometimes Kate appears in the lower left-hand corner. These stories send students blissfully into their weekends.

Goodnight You! - Watch Video

A Daily Challenge through Morning Messages

Each morning, Theresa Hull’s 1st graders receive an optional challenge to complete through a short, pre-recorded morning message. The challenges ask students to submit a response through SeeSaw, and allow students choice in how they will complete the task. For instance, in one challenge, the students were asked to do something nice for their families, and in another, share a movie they recently saw. Students were given ideas to write, draw, take a picture or come up with their own idea to tell their teacher what they did for the challenge. As she explains in the video, this exercise allows her to connect with her students while expanding upon their writing and creativity. Teacher tip: Theresa shared how she records all of the videos in one day and posts them on seperate days.

Morning Message

Flat Donlon

Following a teacher blog, Katherine Donlon learned about the idea of Flat Donlon and recreated it for her own 1st grade class. First, she printed her bitmoji and then laminated them. Next, she mailed the bitmojis to her students, accompanied by a poem asking students to take her on adventures. After listening to the Flat Stanley book that inspired the Flat Donlons, students were instructed to take Flat Donlon on three adventures and then write about them. She asked students to focus on adding details to their writing. One of Katherine’s favorites was a Flat Donlon who found the coffee in the house as her students know she loves coffee.


The 4th-grade team at Alta Vista created social studies hyperdocs for their students. These hyperdocs allow students to travel at their own pace as they explore topics, apply their knowledge and even go on remote tours. Using this model, the teachers are aiming to increase student engagement. Check out the examples below:

California Statehood
Pony Express Hyperdoc
Transcontinental Railroad

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Celebrating Your Creativity and Ideas 🎉

It is always so inspiring to catch a glimpse of what you, our amazing USD teachers, are doing to make online learning a truly memorable experience for our students each week. There are so many inspirational and wonderful things happening each and every day, just a few which are shared below.

Please use these ideas to inspire your own creativity.
Outside of the box thinking always welcome!

At Home Learning Buddies

Jessica Friedman and Taylor Isaacs have introduced the idea of learning buddies with their 4th graders through weekly art challenges. In the first week, students were challenged to create a learning buddy using materials found at home: an old sock, an egg carton, yarn… The learning buddy not only provides encouragement during at-home learning time, it is a friend students can read to, and is an additional class member that joins students during Zoom meetings. Most importantly, the learning buddy reminds students that they are creative and original too!

This is a quick glimpse into the learning buddy challenge:
Weekly Art Challenge #1 - Create a Learning Buddy

Choose Your Own Adventure

The 7th grade team at UMS began a four-week “Choose Your Own Adventure” project that was built from ideas posted on Twitter by Pernille Ripp. Students begin by choosing the path they want to pursue: Independent Reading, an Inquiry Project or Creative Writing. Students then complete their adventure in a customized Google Classroom which joins students together who have chosen the same adventure. Each teacher manages one of the adventure paths and hosts live check-in sessions once per week with the students while holding office hours and posting lessons or tasks on other days. This experience has truly highlighted what creativity online learning can provide for students. It is also a testament to collaboration and thinking outside the (classroom) box.

Connecting with our Preschoolers

Pre-K teacher Laura Better-Henry has been utilizing SeeSaw to connect with her students and as a way to meet a variety of her students' diverse learning needs. Every day, Ms. Better-Henry sings the "Day Of The Week" song. She also conducts a calendar review, reads her students story books, gives art lessons and even leads her students through yoga exercises! With these student connections and interactions, Ms. Better-Henry's students continue to learn and practice their language, motor, and learning skills during at-home learning. To help us stay inspired, here is Ms. Better Henry (I can’t help but sing along every time)!

Ms. Better-Henry: Days of the Week song

A Collection of Stories

Members of the Lietz staff have come together to record readings of a variety of storybooks. Teachers then post these readings through SeeSaw or Google Classroom as part of their ELA assignments. Here is just one example of Mrs. Gustafson reading The Adventures of Beekle, An Unimaginary Friend

Mrs. Gustafson Reading: The Adventures of Beekle

Checking in on Student Wellbeing

Sixth grade teacher Ginny Espinoza checks in with her students using a Google Forms before classes begin each day. Ginny began this process before at-home learning and continues to use it to gauge where her students are emotionally before diving into a lesson. Inspired by work with Ken Shelton, Ginny asks three simple questions each day: Student Name, "How Are You Feeling?" and, "Is there anything I can do or you need from me to support your needs, your wellbeing, or just you in general?" Using the information she receives, she checks in with students who need extra support for that day, though sometimes they just enjoying sharing fun facts, like what they ate for breakfast. Ginny noted that, “It has been really beneficial in building strong relationships with my students. I've noticed that they seem more inclined to share with me, and it has been a great way to quickly see how they are doing.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Sending a message to one student in Google Classroom

CLICK HERE for the short (just over a minute) video on how to do this.

Step 1: In the Classroom, choose STREAM at the top of the screen.

Step 2: Click on Share something with your class…

Step 3: Deselect the ALL STUDENTS box

Step 4: Scroll through the list to select the student to whom
you want to send a message.

Step 5: Write your message. 

Step 6: Click Post (or click on the drop arrow to choose
Schedule and have it automatically post it for that student at a future time)
You’re done!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Zoom Settings - Revisited

With all the recent press on Zoombombing and privacy concerns, we've updated our how-to with added security settings, including enabling the waiting room and other helpful tips.

Bottom line - don't share your meeting link publicly (not on social media, not on your teacher webpage, not online except in Google Classroom or SeeSaw).

Big shout out to ToSA Chanmi Chun for incorporating the new privacy information.

Direct Slide Link

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Guidelines for Conducting Live Video Conferences with Students

UPDATED 3-27-20

During this time of school closures, it is critical that we maintain connection and engage with our students to address the negative effects of social isolation and disconnecting from school. Many teachers have expressed interest in holding live video conferences with their students to re-connect and re-engage in learning, but conducting whole class live video instruction is not expected or required at this time. Video conferencing is a great way to engage in small group or individual support for students on an as needed basis. Before conducting any video conferences with students please think about these considerations.

Equity and Access

Consider providing multiple ways students can access any content shared in a video conference to ensure equitable access for ALL students. Not all students may be available at a specified time to meet and not all students may have internet access at home capable of supporting live participation.
Consider ways to deliver content asynchronously so students can access it when and how they are able. Screencasts, video recordings, articles, YouTube videos and other existing content can provide alternatives to live online instruction that can be accessed in a flexible manner.

Currently Supported Video Conference Tools

The following tools are currently being supported by the USD Tech Department and meet student data and privacy requirements:
  • Google Meet
  • Zoom
Some Important Considerations Before Using Live Video Conferencing With Students:
  • Protect your student’s privacy! Refrain from posting images of any video conferencing sessions on social media that may display student faces and/or student names. Our existing Media Opt-Out policy applies.
  • Be aware that students may record sessions without your knowledge or permission; discuss this with them beforehand as part of establishing expectations for online class conduct and behavior.
  • Parents may be watching alongside, or with their student during the live conference and may wish to participate; again, discuss this with them beforehand as part of establishing expectations for online class conduct and behavior.
  • Be aware of the possibility of inappropriate student behavior and student safety issues:
    • Inappropriate images or words may be visible in backgrounds.
    • You may hear things (dogs, cats, siblings, etc.) in the background.
    • As a mandated reporter, you might see something that you feel legally obligated to act upon.
    • The video background environment may disclose information such as location or student full name.
NEW - Recording

Live video class sessions may be recorded by the teacher with prior notification to parents. Teacher recordings will be used for legitimate educational purposes, including making the session available to the class in a secure format for viewing after the live session has ended. Parents may opt their student out of participating in a live session recording by notifying the teacher prior to the meeting. Recordings may not be downloaded or shared by parents or students without prior written consent of the teacher and all meeting participants present (including parent permission for any students present).

The Tech Team is here to support you! Please reach out to your site tech or the Technology department as you make this challenging shift to online teaching and learning. This will take time to adapt and that’s expected. Connect with your colleagues and brainstorm ideas together. It’s ok to start with what you know and move forward from there.

How-to Share a Link to Meet/Zoom in Google Classroom

Step 1: When you have created a video meeting in Meet or Zoom, you’ll need to copy the link to share out. Remember, if you’re using Zoom, you need to go to your settings and allow joining via web browser (Instructions here)

Step 2: Open the Google Classroom where you’re sharing the invitation link.

Step 3: Click on STREAM up on the very top of the page.

Step 4: In the middle of the page, click on “Share something with your class…”

STEP 5: Type the directions or information for the meeting. For example, “Join me at 3:00pm Thursday for story-time.”

Step 6: Then click on the ADD button below what you typed. Choose LINK. Paste the link to your Zoom or Meet in the space provided. Click ADD LINK. On the bottom right, click the POST button.

Congratulations, you did it!

Monday, March 23, 2020

How To Use Your School Phone FROM HOME!

With our At-Home learning initiative and stay-at-home in effect, some of you may feel that there is an obligation to use your personal phones to stay connected with students and parents. While staying connected is more important now than ever before, we understand this is not ideal for multiple reasons.

In order to continue to facilitate communication, we are enabling our phone system’s ability to access classroom/school extensions at home through the 8x8 Virtual Office app. The app can be downloaded onto your mobile phone or laptop and will allow you to make calls that look like you are using your phone at work (Caller ID will show your school number, not your personal cell number).

If you would like to get started, please follow the instructions provided below. First step is to download the app from the app store from your mobile phone and then have to reset your 8x8 password to login.

First Step:
App Store Installation (or search for 8x8 Virtual Office from your mobile phone) choose one:
Google Play/Android:
PC/MAC (headset with microphone recommended): 

Second Step:
Reset your 8x8 password via the following link: (or from the app login window)

  • Click on ‘Forgot Password?’

  • Fill in your Email address
  • Click ‘Send’

Third Step:
Check your District Email for an email from ‘’ and follow the guide from 8x8 to reset your password. (Check your Spam or All Mail folders if no email is in your Inbox)

Final Step:
Open up the app and log in with your Email and the password you just set.

(Note: You may want to log off the app after-hours to prevent incoming calls after your workday obligations are complete)

Technical Assistance:

Your Site Techs are ready to provide support in getting this setup. If you need assistance feel free to contact them directly or email me at

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Getting Familiar with Google Classroom

At-home learning poses a lot of challenges. But with Google Classroom, you'll find a great way to stay in touch with your students. Whether it's creating a "Stream" for you and students to keep in touch with each other, or pushing assignments to your students through "Classwork," once you have your class set up, you will find it is a great tool.

This post has lots of embedded links in the blue text. Clicking on them should help you become familiar and comfortable with Google Classroom. However, USD teachers can contact one of the Instructional or STEAM ToSAs for further help.

Get started by creating a Class. Once your class is created, there are two ways to have students join your class

Lucky for us, USD has been a Google for Education District for years and our students have accounts from early primary grades and generally know their username and password. If not, you will have to email it to their families for them to join. Once they are signed into their account, all USD students can access Google Classroom through their school's Symbaloo page. You might like to share this doc with families and students to help them sign into Google Classroom for the first time.

Once your class is set up and students are invited, you may like to "Share something with your class..." in the Stream tab. You might like to invite students to share by posting in the Stream. Both you and they will be able to Google Drive files, links, files or YouTube videos. If you would like to reserve the Stream for communications from you, you can turn off student access by clicking on the gear in
the upper right-hand corner of your class and scroll down to "General." There you can set parameters.

You can also delete a post or mute a student by using the three dots that appear on the right of a post. When muted, a student will still be able to submit work.

Of course, posting and assigning classwork is the primary reason teachers use Google Classroom. Teachers create assignments, a quiz, ask a question, or add material. At USD, second through fifth grades teachers will copy each day of the first two weeks of lessons and add them to your Google Classroom. Heather Koleszar created screencasts which walk you through posting both the Reading and Writing (Step 4) and Math (Step 5) assignments. If you are a co-teacher in a class, you can "re-use a post" from their class, a great way to share the work load with your grade level colleagues.

Once work is assigned, you'll be able to see, comment on and grade your students' work. One way to access it is through the Classwork tab. Another is through the Classroom folder created in Google Drive.

Hopefully, this will get you started. If you have questions, here is a resource that might help. And, of course, your USD ToSAs are here to help.