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Oratorical Fest and Spelling Bee Resources

The MLK Oratorical Festival is open to all students, and the Crocker Spelling Bee is for 4th and 5th graders only. Here are several resources that can help your kids to prepare for these events.

Past OUSD Oratorical Festival video:

To see how children will be scored at the Oratorical Festival MLK ORATORICAL SCORE SHEET 2017 – OUSD

Scripps National Spelling Bee Word Lists

How to Study for a Spelling Bee

Study-Guide-2015-16-National Spelling-Bee

Junior High Spelling Word List 2016-17



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Spotlight: Spanish by Viva el Español

Spotlight: Spanish by Viva el Español

Spotlight: Spanish by Viva el Español

1st through 4th Grade Teachers – Francisca Acevedo & Johanna Pumarrume

5th Grade Morning Spanish Teacher – Teresa “Tessy” Pescador

Program Supervisor: Angélica Baraona

The Spanish program via Viva el Español is one of the many programs paid for by the Crocker PTA and not through Federal, State or city funding. Please donate to Annual Giving to continue to keep this and our other programs running!

Q. What is Viva el Español?
Viva el Español is a non-profit organization founded based on the belief that learning a foreign language in the pre-school and elementary school years is an essential part of a child’s education and development. Now in our tenth year, Viva el Español has taught Spanish to thousands of children at their Lafayette location and at more than 30 pre-schools, elementary schools, and middle schools all over the Bay Area. We offer classes for all age groups and proficiency levels– including bilingual children, teenagers, and adults. Viva el Español also offers theme-based winter/summer camps and teen internships, enabling children and teens to make substantial improvements in Spanish proficiency over the summer months.

About Our Curriculum:
Our curriculum is designed to spark and expand children’s interest in Spanish by engaging them in creative activities including music & movement, arts & crafts, interactive games, and literature. It was initially developed by a teacher who has a master’s in teaching Spanish, and who also developed curriculum used in the New York City public school system for teaching Spanish under a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation. Since then, our curriculum has grown to encompass new themes, grammatical concepts, and cultural activities, while following the same format and philosophy. We have a library of over 1,500 books in Spanish; 1,300 songs; and a wealth of games and interactive activities shared by all teachers.

Our methodology uses a full-immersion approach, and our focus is on comprehension and oral production early on, supported by reading and writing activities. We provide families with resources that can be used to extend learning from classroom to home, and host optional special events and field-trips for families, where language can be used in context.

About Our Teachers:
Our teachers are all native Spanish speakers with experience working with kids in a wide range of settings. They are trained by us in techniques of teaching Spanish as a foreign language. We have several in-service training sessions per year ranging on topics from songs & games, classroom management, child development, orchestrating a Spanish class performance, completing progress reports, and more. In addition, teachers are supported by our Manager and Director of Elementary School Programs who coach, mentor and supervise our elementary school teachers.

Q. How many hours does the program run and how is that time spent?
Francisca and Johanna are on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from approximately 9am to 3pm. They spend time with all Crocker kids between 1st and 4th grade– visiting each classroom twice a week for a total of about 1 hour of Spanish exposure per class, per week.
Tessy meets with a group of 5th graders in the Multi-Purpose Room on Monday & Wednesday mornings, from 8-8:30am.

Q. What is the background of each of the teachers?

Francisca Acevedo – 1st – 4th Grade Teacher
Of Mexican heritage, Francisca was raised in Sacramento and has lived and studied in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Zacatecas. While her career has been as a Tax Analyst, her passion lies in children’s education. She joined Viva el Español to “motivate children in a positive, dynamic way in their early stages of life.” Francisca has experience teaching ESL at the high school level, and has also been a leader in a Youth Group Ministry program and she is a catechist. Additionally, Francisca has completed various Early Childhood Education units at Chabot College. In her free time, she enjoys coordinating Weddings & Quinceañeras, relaxing with friends and family, going to the movies, dancing, as well as exploring the Bay Area. This is Francisca’s seventh year teaching with Viva el Español.

Johanna Pumarrume – 1st – 4th Grade Teacher
Johanna is from Lima, Peru, where she studied teaching English as a second language. For two years, she taught English to students from first to sixth grade. As so, she employs the methodologies learned to teaching Spanish as a second language. Johanna has her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Merritt College, and she is working towards transferring to East Bay University where she will major in Human Development. In addition, Johanna already has a California Associate Teaching Permit and is working on obtaining her Master Teaching Permit with a specialization in children with special needs. Johanna loves teaching! In her free time, you may find Johanna reading books, writing poems, or dancing salsa and merengue. This is her fifth year teaching with Viva el Español.

Teresa “Tessy” Pescador – 5th Grade Teacher
Tessy is originally from Mexico. While residing there, Tessy had the opportunity to do Social Work at a local orphanage where for three years she coordinated fun, educational events for the children of the home. In her studies, Tessy has received certificates for courses in speed reading and rapid comprehension in Spanish. Currently, she is pursuing a degree in Sociology/Social Services at Laney College. Tessy has experience as a tutor and baby sitter. She also comes from a family of teachers. In her free time, she likes to read, watch movies, and dance salsa. This is Tessy’s first year teaching with Viva el Español.

5. Please describe the curriculum and how it differs by grade.
Our curriculum is designed to engage all of the child’s senses through music and dance, arts and crafts, storytelling, and culture — the Spanish student at Crocker Elementary is exposed to the Spanish language while having tons of fun!

The dynamic Spanish Classroom works closely with the students of each class, learning *new* and relevant topics that are welcoming and exciting.

Each age-group/grade has it’s own curriculum, tailored to their level and educational needs. Using a scaffolding methodology, each year builds upon the last. Additionally, grammar is taught innately through the development of the child’s language acquisition, and reinforced with written work, art projects, and dialogue exercises.

A typical class may begin with circle time, in which our signature song “Hola hola hola” is performed. This song serves as a building block for furthering Spanish language education as it is a great opportunity for the child to begin to learn and use Spanish verbs! Depending on their grade level, the students may proceed with in-class written work, a cultural project, educational games, or an arts activity. We also include storytelling into our curriculum to further auditory comprehension.

Themes visited this year, per grade:

1st grade –
Los saludos y los sentimientos, greetings & feelings
La clase, the classroom
El alfabeto, the alphabet
Los números, numbers
Los colores, colors
Las formas, shapes
La fruta, fruit
Me gusta, I like
El cuerpo y soy así, the body and this is how I am
El clima, weather

2nd grade –
Los sentimientos, feelings
El calendario, the calendar
Las estaciones, the seasons
El clima, weather
La ropa, clothing
La casa, the house
La familia, family
Las mascotas, pets

3rd grade –
La hora, telling time
Las comidas, food
El restaurante, the restaurant
Los transportes, transportation
Los viajes, trips/travel
Perú, Peru

4th grade –
El dinero, money
El mercado/México/Perú, the market/Mexico/Peru
Las profesiones, professions
Latinos Famosos, famous Latinos
¡De película!, movies
Las comidas, foods

5th grade, Before-School Spanish Class –
Los transportes, transportation
Los viajes, trips/travel
Las direcciones, directions
La ciudad, the city
Las compras, shopping

Q. Can each of the teachers please tell us what they love about this job?

As an individual, I love being spontaneous, creative, and silly! I also enjoy dancing and singing very much, and of course, speaking Spanish while proudly sharing my cultural traditions. It never crossed my mind that these qualities would come in handy! I LOVE to teach. It is incredibly rewarding to see the impact it can have on these beautiful beings. What is most satisfying, is listening to students who spontaneously sprinkle Spanish words into their daily conversations; be it during recess, asking their teachers for school materials, or greeting their parents after school. To see and hear this among our students is worth it all!

-Francisca Acevedo

The best part of being a Spanish teacher is that I can teach children not only a new language, but also the cultures of different countries. In class, we discuss traditions from various Spanish speaking countries, such as: Mexico, Peru, Spain, Costa Rica, Chile and more! It is of great satisfaction to see and hear children in the hallway saying “Hola, ¿Cómo estás?” I notice their efforts in using a foreign language. Being a teacher provides you with the opportunity to introduce children to a world of new experiences; learning a new language by using their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional skills.

-Johanna Pumarrume

I believe that being a teacher is one of the most honorable professions in the world. It is of great satisfaction to watch students develop through the learning process, as they acquire new knowledge and skills. It is also amazing to see how young boys and girls cultivate their own strategies to learn, as a result of the application of our own teaching methodologies.

-Teresa “Tessy” Pescador

Q. Can you provide an example of how what you do has made an impact on a kid or the kids at Crocker?

We can write books on examples! For me, however, I find it the most rewarding when you are given the opportunity to connect with a child, captivate him or her in class and spark their enthusiasm for learning a new language. As a teacher, you hope to impact your students in some way. As so, when you greet a child who can demonstrate his comprehension and fluency by speaking in full, complete sentences and engaging in fascinating conversations in Spanish, you are simply blown away — our hearts melt!

-Francisca Acevedo

As a team, Francisca and I believe that the children at Crocker have a huge potential for acquiring a foreign language. Additionally, they are so lucky to have families that value, enrich, and motivate their children at such a young age.
Along with preparing our every-day Spanish curriculum, it is the result of a positive and supportive environment that our Spanish students feel confident when communicating in Spanish. We strongly encourage children to use their Spanish skills not only in class, but also in their daily life.

-Johanna Pumarrume

Kids are always watching everything, and in particular, most of the time, the teacher is the focus of attention. It is therefore very important to keep track of the instructions and materials given to the students, to fulfill a certain task or objective. Many times students learn without being conscious of their own progress, but at some point in time, they realize with great joy that something has been settling in their minds. It is in those magic moments, as teachers, we can enjoy seeing big smiles and wide opened eyes full of surprise.

-Teresa “Tessy” Pescador

Q. Anything else worth mentioning that parents might be interested in knowing?
A great article with regards to how learning a second language is excellent for cognitive development!

Thanks to all who support the PTA to have the educational opportunity of learning Spanish available at Crocker. To keep this and our many other wonderful programs running, please donate to the PTA through Annual Giving. Any amount helps!


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Spotlight: Dante Clark – Physical Activity Teacher

Spotlight: Dante Clark – Physical Activity Teacher

This our fourth in the series of interviews and articles to get to know PTA funded programs better. The Physical Activity program is one of the many programs paid for by the Crocker PTA and not through Federal, State or city funding.  Please donate to Annual Giving to continue to keep this and our other programs running!

Interview with Dante Clark, Physical Activity Teacher

What is your role at Crocker?
My role as the PA Coach is to bring safety, security, exercise, conflict resolution and most of all FUN to my yard.  I spend majority of my time on the yard.  I work 5 to 6 hours a day.

What is your background in this role?
I’ve been working with kids for 4 years. I graduated AmeriCorps in 2014 at Youth Uprising, teaching media production.

Can you give an overview of what Physical Activity is at Crocker?
I teach four classes a day.  Each class starts with stretching and light cardio and then 3 Games. All physical unless if it is a rainy day, we work on brain activities and strategy building games for classrooms.

  • K-2nd grade play tag, and simplified sports games to build hand eye coordination and comprehensive skills. We also work on the Cougar word of the month as part of class. Last month’s word was “respect” and this month is “courage”.
  • 3rd-5th grade have same routine, as I have a set of games to play by the month. By the end of the year children should have a sense of confidence, respect for other and responsibility.

Can you give me an example of how what you do has made an impact on a kid or kids at Crocker?
I see kids of all ages and hear stories of all kind.  I teach kids to accept circumstances that are beyond their control, to move on and stay happy no matter what the situation is. I teach them self-control and self-reliance to lean on no-one but themselves. To always ask why and seek for answers.  To not feel bad for not always understanding others or themselves.

What do you like about your job?
What I like about my job is that I don’t see it as a job, more of a duty for our children, for I also have children and teach them these lessons as well. I like helping children make good decisions on their own.  I don’t tell them what to do.  I love to watch my kids’ growth. I keep track of their growth with conversations that lead to an intuitive response. I help build cognitive decision making by allowing kids to talk out their problems with each other.

Anything else worth mentioning that the community might be interested in knowing?
Something interesting for the parents is to know I will be bringing my media production class here to Crocker. I’m also a guidance counselor and peer mediator at Youth Empowerment High School and Youth UpRising.

The Physical Activity program is one of the many programs paid for by the Crocker PTA and not through Federal, State or city funding.  Please donate to Annual Giving to continue to keep this and our other programs running!


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Spotlight: Lisa Hobbs (Ms Lisa) – Library and Technology

Spotlight: Lisa Hobbs (Ms Lisa) – Library and Technology

lisahobbsSpotlight: Lisa Hobbs (Ms Lisa) – Library and Technology

This time we spotlight our wonderful library and technology teacher, Lisa Hobbs. The Library and Technology instruction is one of the many programs that are 100% funded by the Crocker Highlands PTA.  Please support Annual Giving to keep these programs running.

Q: How many hours do you work and where do you spend your hours(what classrooms)?
Ms Lisa: I work 32 hours per week. I see all students once a week in the library and also in their classrooms for computers.
Q:  What is your background in this role (education/experience/number of years):
Ms Lisa:  I have a BS in communication from the University of Utah and an MA in communication from UNC Chapel Hill. Following graduate school, I worked as a management consultant on software implementation projects for Anderson Consulting and Deloitte Consulting. I took a few years off when I had kids and then got an MLIS from San Jose State. I’ve been working at Crocker for 9 years.
Q:  Please give an overview of what you do in your role for both Library and Computers and how it differs by grade.  What are you covering now or plan to cover by end of year?
Ms Lisa:
In library, a big part of my job is to make reading fun and interesting so I read tons of books and share them with classes, individual kids, and teachers. I work to get the kids talking to each other about what they’re reading, too. My recommendations are pretty good, but theirs are really powerful in a different way. Most of us, whether we like reading or not, like reading more if we have good books and people to share them with. There is power in finding a community of readers — it can be just a couple of kids who love the same series or genre, a class sharing a read aloud, or a book group (in person or online). I love that there are books that every Crocker kid knows and loves – it’s one way we’re connected to each other. We’ve all read Mac Barnett’s amazing book Sam and Dave Dig a Hole – you should, too. It will drive you crazy! This year, many of our classes read a chapter book called The Wild Robot. It’s been fun to see kids share the story with classmates, but also kids in other classes and grades. Now we have hundreds of kids who know the story of Roz the robot and we’re all stuck living with the serious cliff hanger at the end!
In Technology:
K/1: We’re really getting used to using laptops and learning some of the vocabulary we need to use them (cursor, trackpad, user name, tab, volume, etc). We try to do this with activities that dovetail with whatever students are learning in their classrooms. For example, in first grade, we played a game using online manipulatives (10s and 1s) to create numbers up to 100. The game let us practice math concepts being taught in class while practicing clicking and dragging on the trackpad. We also played a game involving odd and even number recognition which reinforced a concept taught in class and let us practice using the trackpad without clicking. We finished by typing some words on a website called Alphabetimals. Alphabetimals is a fun way to play with words, gives their fingers a break from clicking and dragging, and lets the kids use the keyboard without requiring serious typing skills. In kindergarten and first grade, we also use ebooks, audiobooks, and a research database just for young kids. Using these tools let us have conversations about what they are and practice using them.
2/3: In second grade, we’re still learning how to use the laptops and expanding our technology vocabulary. Because the kids’ reading and spelling skills are improving, we start learning to use the library catalog, an online encyclopedia, and doing other kinds of online searching. Late in the year, we’ll use Google Docs to write a paragraph and a poem. This gives us a chance to get our feet wet and do a little writing, formatting, saving, etc. In third grade, we introduce keyboarding and Google Drive, Docs, and Slides (G Suite) and teachers begin to use them on projects in their classrooms like the living museum, animal reports, and short stories. (All OUSD students have Google accounts administered by the district. No, our students don’t have access to Gmail through these accounts.)
4/5: We continue using and improving our skills with tools like Google Docs and Slides. We continue practicing online searching using different techniques in a range of places. To a greater extent, we work on projects that grow out of classroom activities that are different depending on the teacher. For example, some 5th graders research elements on the periodic table, create scientist trading cards, create individual or class slide shows, or rate/ review books online. Some projects that seem simple allow us to practice a wide range of skills. We recently created word clouds, took a screen shot of our work, and uploaded the screen shot to Google drive. We’ll be using the word clouds later this year when we upload the image to student blogs the 4th and 5th graders will be creating.
Q:  What do you like about what you do?
Ms Lisa: I get to know all of the kids, many of the families, and I work with all of our teachers.
Q:  Can you give me an example of how what you do has made an impact on a kid or kids at Crocker?
Ms Lisa: I coordinate events that connect all of us as a community — the book swap, Poem in your Pocket Day, puzzle week, Hour of Code. I also get to work with kids individually — helping them find a great book or learn a new skill and they help me find great books and learn new things, too.
Q:  Anything else worth mentioning that parents might be interested in knowing?
Ms Lisa:
  • Crocker has one of the best elementary school libraries in Oakland! I’m really proud of that. It wouldn’t be possible without our incredible community support.
  • The library is open every day after school for 15 minutes so kids can exchange books or check out additional books.
  • Your student can show you some of what we do on the Crocker launch page at
  • I really appreciate all of you who help keep things running smoothly in the library and help out during computer time. Thanks!
Thanks to all who support the PTA to keep Lisa Hobbs employed through the PTA.  To keep this and our many other wonderful programs running, please donate to the PTA through Annual Giving.  Any amount helps!

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Enrollment Applications Due January 20, 2017

All incoming students must complete an enrollment application form and turn it in to any OUSD school or the Student Assignments Office by January 20th at 4pm.  You can find all of the information and as well as a form to download here.

Our current 5th graders will get pre-filled forms sent home this week.


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Spotlight: Vocal Music Teacher Jen Myzel Swanson

Spotlight: Vocal Music Teacher Jen Myzel Swanson

jenswansonSpotlight: Jen Myzel Swanson (Ms Jen) – Vocal Music

We welcome Jen Myzel Swanson to Crocker Highlands in her first year with us and look forward to the vocal concerts on December 13.  Vocal Music is one of the many programs that are 100% funded by the Crocker Highlands PTA.  Please support Annual Giving to keep these programs running.

Q: How many hours do you work at Crocker and how do you spend that time?

Ms Jen:  15 hours, and I teach all 18 classes once per week! I spend 13 of those hours teaching, and a few hours a week curriculum planning and preparing the materials for different lessons. The K-1 classes are 30 minutes long and grades 2-5 are basically 45 minutes (sometimes 40).

Q:  What is your background in this role?

Ms Jen:  I’ve been a musician for 8 years, with vocal and guitar as my two main instruments, which I learned through self-study and private lessons as a young adult. I have produced four music albums with a fifth in the works, the songs being very relatable to children and to the themes of living a healthy and sustainable life.  I have worked with kids in summer camp and after-school settings in a range of roles from wilderness skill educator to mentor to tutor for eleven years.  I also taught private music lessons during the 2015 school year before beginning at Crocker Highlands.  In addition, I have been a facilitator of “The Work that Reconnects” workshops for adults and children focusing around the intersection of music and activism since 2014. I somehow am always either working or living with children, it’s what I love to do.

Q: Please give an overview of what you do in your role for and how it differs by grade.  What are you covering now or plan to cover by end of year?

Ms Jen:  What I aim to do is instill the joy and power of music in the children, as well as to teach them vocal techniques for becoming better singers as they grow older.  I teach them music from different genres and time periods in order that history and culture can be learned through the music. In K and 1, I work with simpler songs that teach them singing, rhythm, rhyme, cadence, and sometimes other languages.  Beginning with the 2nd grade age level, I do more complex songs and also begin to incorporate some song-writing. This first half of the school year my theme has been “Storytelling through Music” and we’ve done everything from the old English Folk Song “The Fox” to Boston’s political song “MTA Song” to the new hit hip-hop musical “Hamilton”. The second half of the year will have a different theme, which will be how to explore mood and emotion through music.

Q: What do you like about what you do?

Ms Jen:  I love it. I feel very in touch with my inner playfulness and I can tell that most of the kids are having fun with me in music class.  That is very important to me, because I believe music is one of those things throughout our whole lives that can help us both celebrate and get through hard times. I want to support them in developing an appreciation and connection to music, and I feel grateful that I’ve come into an already well-established music community, following in the footsteps of Jill Rose, who has been mentoring me as well. One of the things I love most is to see once the students have really learned the words, they get so passionate about singing the songs together. I also think singing together helps create class unity.

Q: Can you give me an example of how what you do has made an impact on a kid or kids at Crocker?

Ms Jen:  I think that the kids are learning some new cultural context for the songs we’re learning, like indigenous people’s history through “Color’s of the Wind” and Boston political history through “The MTA Song”. I also think that music is an outlet for many of the kids to connect to a different part of their brains than the analytical mind, which feels very important, especially at this young and formational age.

Q: Anything else worth mentioning that parents might be interested in knowing?

Ms Jen:  You can learn a lot about me by listening to my original music as well! It can be found at  The other thing that parents may want to know is that I am a close student of Bay Area elder, scholar and activist Joanna Macy and have been a facilitator of her work, The Work that Reconnects, for the last three years. This work is a bridge of environmental and social justice activism with spirituality, group practices to help us stay awake to our world during these uncertain times.

Thanks to all who support the PTA to keep Jen Myzel Swanson for Vocal Music as a program for our children which is employed through the PTA.  To keep this and our many other wonderful programs running, please donate to the PTA through Annual Giving.  Any amount helps!


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