Friday, August 23, 2019

Great Spanish Songs for Your Classroom!

The following is a guest post by Risas y Sonrisas founder, Leticia Smith.

What do you want to achieve with music in your classroom? Some songs are designed to teach specific vocabulary lessons while others can teach cultural lessons or simply be fun to sing.
To effectively use music to accelerate learning, it is important to pair the song with movement, pictures, or lyrics so students understand what they’re singing. After students learn the song, continue to activate the vocabulary with visual aids, games, acting, writing, and drawing.
Here are four options for great songs for your classroom! ¡Qué disfruten!

Sing-Alongs for Younger Kids

Sing-along songs are simple and easy to learn. Some of the songs have the same tune in English and Spanish, which helps students learn to hear and repeat Spanish words. These songs are best used with pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms but can also work with elementary-level students. They tend to tell fun and silly stories rather than teaching specific vocabulary. Here are a few YouTube channels with colorful and cute bouncing-ball videos.

Cri-Cri: El Grillito Cantor (Cri-Cri, the Little Singing Cricket)

Cri-Cri’s songs are full of fun storytelling, cute characters, and a variety of musical styles. They work with a variety of elementary ages, but are best used with students who already have some Spanish vocabulary. Cri-Cri has been popular with children in Mexico for generations, so your students can gain some cultural knowledge along with the music! Their YouTube channel is full of songs with which children can sing along.

Miss Rosi

Miss Rosi is an educator and singer based in Peru. Her gentle, folksy songs for children are easy to sing and tend to have a moral, natural, or cultural lesson. Again, these songs are presented only in Spanish. Her YouTube channel videos include lyrics.

Risas y Sonrisas

If you’re looking for songs to teach vocabulary by theme, Risas y Sonrisas Spanish for Kids is your best bet! The fun and catchy songs present vocabulary with fun visuals and the option of using American Sign Language to make the connection with its meaning. Then, the vocabulary learned through the songs is reinforced with a complete set of immersion-based printed and digital games and activities. The program also includes songs that tell fun stories or teach about Hispanic culture. The curriculum contains over 40 original songs, many of which are available on their YouTube channel


Leticia Smith is originally from Mexico City and has lived in Austin, TX since 1986. She received a BBA with a Minor in Marketing from Texas State University and an Accelerated Learning certificate from the University of Houston. Not knowing then the impact it was going to have in her future, she worked four consecutive years in the university's Spanish department where she acquired invaluable experience teaching college students twice a week and offering tutoring services. Later, when she had the opportunity to teach children, she discovered that her true vocation was to teach and inspire others to put joy into learning. Her years of experience as a Spanish instructor teaching children in all grades at elementary schools eventually led to the development of her award-winning program, Risas y Sonrisas.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

National Geographic Learning & Cengage

Heads up, homeschoolers! I wanted to make sure that you know about the Spanish/Dual-Language materials available from National Geographic Learning.

Their materials cover:

  • Literacy
  • Reading
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • and Language Development

You can take a look at their online catalog here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Raising a Biliterate Child: Set a Good Example

photo courtesy L. C. Ladish

The following article is part of a series of guest posts on biliteracy by Dr. Carlos Ulloa. Originally published on the L4LL website, both have given me permission to reshare these valuable articles to help parents raising bilingual and biliterate children. Thank you, Dr. Ulloa!

Model, Model, Model

What do I mean by model? You are your child’s first teacher and what you say and do will highly influence your child’s bilingual and biliterate self-image. Your example and how you approach the world will help carry your child through his or her life. What you do will be imitated. What you say will be repeated, shared, minced and eventually outlast you.

Nurture your child’s two languages and vocabulary by embracing your cultural roots and passing on your favorite dichos y refranes. Those oral proverbs, phrases and saying you have heard your parents, abuelo, abuela, tíos and tías use while growing up are rich with not only wisdom, they cross generations and cultures. Those words carry meaning and will stimulate your child’s thinking and oral language development in two languages.

Children love to learn new words when they are used in the context of a lively conversation. Dichos y refranes also make for an engaging conversation during those transition times during the day; such as commuting, grocery shopping, cooking or getting ready for bed. Talk to your child about the message in your favorite dichos y refranes. Ask him or her what the message in the phrase is trying to convey. Together you can come up with examples to reference the dicho or refran to give the phrase life or find a comparative phrase or saying in your child’s second language. Each time you introduce new words in Spanish or English, you are building knowledge, stimulating connections in the brain and reaffirming how words can get you thinking and wondering in two languages.

Begin writing down those favorite dichos y refranes that personally influence what you most value. Record your thoughts, your child’s thoughts, your parent’s thoughts, your abuelito and abuelita’s thoughts on those favorite dichos y refranes. If you want to get extra creative, begin creating, sculpting or collecting photos to pair with your recorded dichos y refranes.

Although most dichos y refranes can be literally translated, your child will learn that sometimes words get lost in translation or the words just don’t flow so poetically in the other language. Sometimes when translated into English or Spanish you will need less or more words to express your meaning. Your child will learn to appreciate the beauty of two languages through dichos y refranes.

What words do you want your child to own and live by? You may be inclined to go to the web and look up what other people have to say about dichos y refranes. You can go there but if you listen to your own words and reflect on the wisdom passed on to you, those dichos y refranes will come to you. Think about the words you really want to pass on to your own child and you may just hear your mother, father, abuelita or abuelito’s voice in your mind.


Dr. Ulloa y su Tía Chepa
Dr. Ulloa grew up speaking Spanish with his mother and English with his father.  He is currently a Dual Language reading teacher in the Escondido Union School District and a lecturer in the Dual Language and English Learner Education Department at San Diego State University. Dr. Ulloa has over 28 years of experience as a director of curriculum and instruction, elementary teacher, Descubriendo la Lectura/Reading Recovery teacher and parent involvement specialist.  He served as a commissioner on the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory board to the California State Board of Education from 2012 to 2016. Ulloa earned his bachelors at San Diego State University in Liberal Studies with a Spanish Bilingual Emphasis, masters degree in Education from Harvard University and doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Ulloa can be contacted at

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Giveaway: Strong Roots Have No Fear

Friends, I love the subject of today's giveaway. This book is for every single parent. We should all be striving to raise children to have the courage to forge forward on their life's path and to be themselves as they were created to be.

Strong Roots Have No Fear (aff) by Aditi Wardhan Singh is a parenting guide that gives moms and dads the tools and confidence to help prepare their children to thrive in a multicultural world. Singh draws upon her own childhood experiences as well as her current parenting choices to counsel the reader. 

The book itself is divided up into 20 chapters. Here's a sampling of some of the themes:
  1. Being an Empowered Parent
  2. Big Emotions
  3. Multilingualism
  4. Creating a Love of Reading
  5. Motivating Self Reliance
  6. Cultivating Talent
  7. Igniting Curious Learning
  8. Imparting Self Moderation
  9. Gender Equality
  10. Counter Bullying
  11. Preparing for Tragedies/Predators
  12. Infusing Your Heritage
  13. Celebrating Diversity
  14. Ingraining Racial Equality
  15. and more...

I love Singh's voice - at once she's both authoritative and personal. Through her writing, she is encouraging and determined. She tells us what to do and how to do it. And she gives examples from her own life to help us understand.

The most powerful statement in the book that I read was this one...
"The secrets lie within our own childhood."
And it is so true! I think back to everything I am and I think the largest and most essential part of me is a result of my childhood and my family. Whether I am like them or not, I made the choice (whether I realized it or not) to do so.

Singh says, "You cannot stop your little ones from growing up and walking into the big bad world, but you can create within them the strength to face it. Every challenge, every fear.

For me - with children ages 15, 13, and 2! - this book was super meaningful. It helped confirm what I knew I needed to do for my youngest, and imparted wisdom when dealing with my oldest. It understood my own feelings of fear and inadequacy and gave me peace and confidence.

One of the most important parts of her book, I thought, was the section on preparing your children for tragedies, and how to identify and deal with bullies or predators. Really, I am a neurotic parent when it comes to my children being around strangers. I trust nobody other than my immediate family, and even then, I am always watchful for the smallest of signs. It's terribly sad to be that way, but in today's world, I think we have to be. And it was wonderful to read the words that validated my caution. But also great to read about ways to teach your children to be vigilant and give them the tools for self-preservation.

If you have followed MommyMaestra for any time at all, you know how strongly I champion teaching our children about their own heritage so that they grow up knowledgable and proud of it. Because doing so provides them with an inner strength that I think you can't get anywhere else. So, of course, I was delighted to see the author also teach this in her chapter on Infusing Your Heritage.

Overall, I think this book is a must-have for EVERY parent! You will feel so much better after reading it. And especially for parents who send their kids off to school, this is one read that will help lessen your anxiety.

If you'd like your own copy, then you can find it here on Amazon (aff link). OR you can enter...

The Giveaway

The author has kindly offered one copy to a MommyMaestra reader. (Yay!)

To enter to win, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: Whistlefritz Spanish Learning Program

As another school year begins, it's time for a new review of another Spanish-learning program. You can find a complete list of programs available for homeschoolers here

Name of program: Whistlefritz (Educator's Spanish Collection)
Target age: Preschool - early elementary
Amount of materials: Comprehensive
Price: $139 - $169.99
MommyMaestra Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Whistlefritz is a complete program designed for preschoolers and early elementary students. What I love about this program is that each lesson is centered around an activity that teaches a specific concept and new vocabulary. Little kids are so hands-on and project/game-based learning is often the best type of education that they can receive.

I received a copy of Whistlefritz's Educator’s Spanish Collection. This includes:
  • 1 lesson plan book
  • 1 set of DVDs and CDs
  • 1 set of Memory Matching Cards (game)

The book contains 40 lessons each of which takes 30 - 40 minutes to complete. The spiral curriculum builds on previous lessons and allows children to master their Spanish by providing them with multiple opportunities to revisit previously taught concepts. 

Some of the lessons are cross-curricular, teaching not only Spanish, but also science, art, and even physical education. ***Added Bonus: because most of the lessons focus on preschool concepts, I think this curriculum would work as a preschool curriculum for Spanish-speaking children.

Each lesson contains two sections. The first has...
  1. a description of each lesson
  2. the goal
  3. the objective
  4. vocabulary
  5. materials
  6. estimated time to teach
The second section is on the activity itself and it has...
  1. the focus (and review)
  2. teacher input
  3. guided practice
  4. independent practice
  5. the closure
  6. and extension activities
Quite a lot of thought has gone into each lesson and I really appreciate the guided practice section because it is thorough and provides the teacher with exact text to help their students.

Although the text is written in English, Spanish text for all speaking scripts is included. But there is also a completely new Spanish version available here, making this a good choice for immersion programs/homeschoolers.

I really love that the video series is purely supplemental and not a required part of each lesson. They are occasionally recommended in the extension activities. I feel like kids today already stare too much at screens. But these short videos are a fun way to complement the lessons. In some of the videos, students meet Fritzi the mouse who is always in the middle of some sort of adventure. He really is adorable. But they are all about learning the concepts being taught.

And finally, there are the CDs. They are full of fun music that will make your kids move! Carnaval is the most recent release and it is really just top-notch. Listen to clips of the songs yourself here. My 2yo just can't help but dance when the music starts.

Overall, I think this is a really great program for little ones. You don't have to take my word for it, though. As always, I recommend that before you purchase ANY curriculum in any subject, always visit their website first and download samples. When you go to Whistlefritz, you can listen to a sample, watch a clip, or download a sample lesson to see if this will be a good fit for your (home or school) classroom.

Disclosure: I asked for and received this curriculum for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Do you know about FIRST LEGO League?

I first learned about it online and so I decided to find out more. My oldest son and I just attended our first introductory meeting and I think we are both very excited about it. If you've never heard of it, FLL is a team-building, STEM competition coopertition that focuses not on winning, but on growing and developing our children's skills.

Wait, coopertition? Yes, I know that is not a word. But it was the one used by the engineer at our meeting. She admitted that it was a made-up word that combines the words cooperation and competition. And she said the goal was not to win, so much as to learn how to work in a team and to develop FIRST's core values in the students.

According to the website, FLL...
" the most accessible, guided, global robotics competition, helping students and teachers to build a better future together. The program is built around theme-based Challenges to engage children ages 9 to 16 in research, problem solving, coding, and engineering. The foundation of the program is the FIRST Core Values, which emphasize teamwork, discovery, and innovation. Students emerge more confident, excited, and equipped with the skills they need in a changing workforce."
It sounds like SUCH a great opportunity for kids to nurture their STEM skills, learn to work in a team environment, and direct their energies toward improving the world we live in.

Watch this:

This year's global challenge has been announced and the theme is: CITY SHAPER and the challenge is to

Teams can be found all over the United States...and also in 97 other countries.

The entire event - from the start of the planning to the final competition - all takes place within about five months. Our team has already received its gameboard (shown below), and they will begin to build the modules that go on the board. Then they will build a robot and program it to approach each module and complete a specific task. There are 10 modules in each.

There is a strong focus on teamwork, communication, and problem solving. They want your children to enjoy the competition, while striving to improve themselves, and helping the other teams along the way.

Overall, I think it will be a fabulous experience for my son, but it is a major time commitment that I hope we can meet. If you have a budding engineer, lego lover, or breathing tween/teen, then maybe this would be for him/her, too!

Visit their website to find out if there are any teams near you.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Free Download: Multi-Subject Binder Inserts

Are you signed up for the MommyMaestra newsletter? If so, be on the lookout for it in your inbox. This next newsletter has a new freebie for you: Binder Inserts.

A few weeks ago, a MM reader was looking for binder inserts for the Spanish classes that she's teaching. I made them for her and then decided to go ahead and make them for all the subjects. I hope I didn't miss any. If you have a subject that you'd like me to add, just contact me and let me know!

They are available in English and Spanish, with space at the bottom of each for you to write the child's name and grade.

If you don't get my newsletter, you can sign up here and you'll get access to the freebie right away.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Braum’s Book Buddy Program

Braum’s Book Buddy Program is officially open for enrollment! You have until August 31st to sign up.

This reading incentive program is open to students in 1st through 5th grades. Each child can earn up to six Braum’s ice cream treats per school year just by reading. And, yes, homeschoolers can participate!

The program starts on October 1st and runs throughout the school year. Kids receive a Braum’s Book Buddy booklet in which their teacher records how many books the child has read. One sticker = one book. After six books have been completed, the child gets a coupon for a free treat from Braum’s.

Who doesn't love that? I wish I had a kid old/young enough to participate!

There are just a few criteria to participate, including how your school MUST be located within 30 miles of a Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store.

So, this is super fun! Go sign up!

Monday, August 12, 2019

5 Tips to Nurture a Biliterate Child

The following is the first in a series of guest posts on biliteracy by Dr. Carlos Ulloa. Originally published on the L4LL website, both have given me permission to reshare these valuable articles to help parents raising bilingual and biliterate children. 

Dr. Ulloa will expand upon some of the tips he outlines in this article as this series continues during MommyMaestra's Back-to-School Fiesta. Thank you, Dr. Ulloa!

Below are some tips to consider as you help instill the ongoing love of reading, writing, listening and speaking in two languages with your child.


Model fluency by speaking, listening, reading and writing to your child daily.  If you want to develop a bilingual and biliterate child, you must be a strong and consistent example. When you embrace the gift of speaking, listening, reading and writing in two languages, you are passing on a family value that can be passed on for generations. Accept it, you are your child’s first teacher! Do not relinquish this important responsibility to anyone.


Make time to read with your child every day. There is nothing like escaping into a great book with your child. Reading should not be a chore. Discover familiar and new books you would like to read with or to your child. Find your child’s inner passion and find all books and websites related to his or her favorite topic.

While reading, consciously ask questions aloud of the author, story setting, characters or plot. This is what great readers do in their heads and you can model it for your child. Put yourself into the book and honor your child’s responses.

There are a growing number of books written in English and Spanish. Your local library and your child’s school library are the best places to start. Start by checking out Pura Belpré Award-winning books. The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate. For a list of current award and honor books, check out the Pura Belpré home page.


A simple and fun prewriting activity is to consciously talk about new and familiar words when you are walking, driving or cooking. When encountering new words, be curious about them, help your child define the new word by breaking the word apart to find smaller words within the word.

Writing is a process. Consider writing a letter to a family member in Spanish or writing down a favorite family recipe. Card making is also a wonderful and purposeful form of reading and writing.

Expand from letter writing to recording family anecdotes, saying and writing captions to include who, what and where on the back of your family photos.


When you are at home or in the car, listen to songs in both languages. Talk about the lyrics. What is the singer trying to say? Audiobooks in English and Spanish are also a wonderful way to bridge into your child’s listening comprehension.


It is never too late to give your child the gift of biliteracy. Language and culture cannot be separated and if you can’t make trips to visit abuelita and abuelito, call them on the phone.

Nothing is sadder to a Spanish-speaking grandparent or relative than when a child cannot communicate with a family member because they do not speak or understand the same language. When you value biliteracy, you are giving your child a life-long gift and a sincere purpose to read, write, speak and listen in two languages.


Dr. Ulloa y su Tía Chepa
Dr. Ulloa grew up speaking Spanish with his mother and English with his father.  He is currently a Dual Language reading teacher in the Escondido Union School District and a lecturer in the Dual Language and English Learner Education Department at San Diego State University. Dr. Ulloa has over 28 years of experience as a director of curriculum and instruction, elementary teacher, Descubriendo la Lectura/Reading Recovery teacher and parent involvement specialist.  He served as a commissioner on the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory board to the California State Board of Education from 2012 to 2016. Ulloa earned his bachelors at San Diego State University in Liberal Studies with a Spanish Bilingual Emphasis, masters degree in Education from Harvard University and doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Ulloa can be contacted at

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Free Download: #ElPasoChallenge

This week, while reading about the horrific mass shooting in El Paso (in my home state), I stumbled upon this one article highlighting the efforts of 11-year-old Ruben Martinez.

Deeply disturbed by the shooting, the sixth-grader wanted to do something that would help his community. And after being challenged by his mom to think of an idea that shows the kindness of El Paso, he wrote down a whole list of ideas.

And he started the #ElPasoChallenge.

He is challenging everyone to do 22 acts of random kindness in honor of those who perished that day.

I love your challenge, Ruben. And to help you with it, I've created these two pages (available in English and Spanish) that list ideas of ways to be kind, or allow you to record your acts of kindness.

It is free for everyone to download and use.

Thanks, Ruben.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Grammar Missions Giveaway!

Six years ago, I shared with you one of my favorite resources for teaching elementary kids grammar: Super Grammar (aff link)!

You can see above why I like it so much. It's because my kids LOVED it. My two oldest, who hated boring worksheet activities related to grammar, totally got into the action and adventure hidden inside this book. And I was able to use the characters to teach and present important grammar concepts in a way that my kids could enjoy learning. Read my post here to see how I used it.

Anyway, Super Grammar has now opened a store on TpT! Do you know what that means? NO WAITING! You can now buy and download a digital copy of their updated 2nd edition of Super Grammar instantly.

In addition, they have now come out with an additional resource that is just SUPER helpful. Grammar Missions is the awesome workbook that I wish I'd had six years ago. It goes perfectly with Super Grammar and contains more than 140 grammar mission assignments.

This workbook has a section for each Super Grammar super-team, and each super-team section is color-coded to match the color-coding in Super Grammar. Also, to keep things organized and easy to follow, the super-teams and their superheroes in the workbook appear in the exact same order and progression as they do in Super Grammar.

So if you have a 3rd, 4th, 5th, or even 6th grader who loves action and adventure and needs a grammar curriculum that's different and fun, this may be for you!

The Giveaway

Tony has graciously offered to give a Super Grammar Power Bundle to one MommyMaestra reader. This bundle contains:

  • the second edition of Super Grammar (with some expanded content)
  • the Grammar Missions workbook
  • a set of Super Grammar Mini Posters
  • and a set of Super Grammar Mini Lists

This is an awesome deal! And if you have a kid in 3rd through 6th grade who desperately needs a more engaging grammar curriculum, you should enter to win it!!

To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Art for Kids Hub

Today's Back-to-School Fiesta favorite new resource is centered around ART.

By now, I hope we all know about the profound effect art classes can have on academic performance. Access to art classes really has a beneficial impact on how a child performs in all the other subjects. In this study of more than 10,000 students in the Houston area, exposure to art classes led to "a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores, and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in their compassion for others."

Another study found a link between arts elective courses in music, dance, visual art and drama, and better grades in middle school. According to the study "when all variables are accounted for, enrolling in the arts seems to be linked to better academic performance, in the same year and later years."

And Learning Liftoff lists the specific skills that art education helps develop.

So I'm always looking out for art curricula, either online or as DVD/workbook sets. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Art for Kids Hub on Facebook.

It. Is. So. Much. Fun!

The videos show kids how to draw various objects and scenes by watching the artist and his young student. After a brief introduction, the camera zooms to their artwork, and the drawing begins. Their art is side by side, so kids can see both versions.

It is fun and easy. If you have a budding artista, check out their streaming channel, so your kids can watch the lessons without ad interruption. Or they can watch for free on their YouTube channel (I don't recommend unless you have it set to restricted mode).

I haven't been able to find out much about the people behind the program, but I do know that it is a family out of Utah. And - MAN! - have they uploaded a TON of videos! You can learn how to draw pretty much ANYTHING. From dinosaurs to peregrine falcons to Miguel from Coco to a food truck to a Native American headdress...seriously, there's not much you can't find on their videos.

Here's a summer-themed one I just randomly picked out to show you.

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