Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My First Holy Communion Keepsake Journal in English and Spanish

My Facebook feed has been blowing up with photos of my friends' children who are having their First Communion. I remember that LONG ago day when I had my own. Surrounded by family, it was a special day. At school, we had rehearsed and studied in preparation. At home, my mom and I shopped for a special dress and looked for just the right shoes. Although my school gave me a rosary, it was the one that my 'Buelita gave me that I still cherish today.

So when Avril O'Reilly reached out to me and shared her books, I thought it might possibly be a good gift idea for some of you. My First Holy Communion Keepsake Journal would make a lovely regalito for a young girl about to experience (or who has recently experienced) her first communion. Avril published this little keepsake journal through Lulu, a self-publishing company.

The book is sweetly illustrated and contains lots of activity pages to help your child record her favorite memories. There are pages to color, draw, and write. There's even a spot where your child can add photos from that special day. I did find the font choice a little difficult to read, but it was likely chosen for its "cutesy" feel.

This particular book is available in two version: one in English and the other in Spanish.

Here's a blurb about the Spanish version:
Este Diario de recuerdos de tu Primera Comunión es el mejor lugar para guardar todos los recuerdos y todas las cosas que pasaron en este día tan importante para ti. En el día de tu primera comunión te unes a Jesús de una manera especial y querrás recordar todo acerca del día en que recibiste por primera vez el sacramento de la Santa Comunión. Un libro es un lugar genial para guardar seguros tus recuerdos. ¡Lo más bonito de este libro es que es creado por TI! Tú llenas los espacios en blanco y añades tus propias imágenes y palabras para crear un libro de recuerdos personales de tu primera comunión. Consigue algunos lápices de colores y tal vez un poco de brillo y diviértete llenando tu libro. No hay prisa. Tómate tu tiempo y disfrútalo.
Yes, this book was created for little girls. Now, from what I can see, Avril has another book that is geared more for boys called My First Holy Communion Keepsake Activity Book, but it appears to only be available in English.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cinco de Mayo Interactive Notebook or Lapbook

I'm pretty excited about my newest download in honor of Cinco de Mayo. My newest activity is designed to be used with an interactive notebook or lapbook. If you've been homeschooling for any time, you are no doubt familiar with lapbooks. If you are a new homeschooler, or a parent with children in a traditional school setting, then let me briefly explain both.

Lapbooks are a popular way of learning. Children take a manilla file folder and usually fold it in such as way as to create two flaps that open like doors. Inside are educational bits that are visually appealing. You may have maps, pockets with flash cards, drawings, graphs, minibooks, flaps, and accordion books. Facts are broken up into manageable sections for kids to learn and organize.

Interactive notebooks are similar, but instead of file folders, students use their notebooks. Inside, students paste reading passages and graphic organizers that they cut out, color in, write in, or otherwise assemble.

Because my kids really love their interactive history notebooks, I decided to create a set of instructional materials based on Cinco de Mayo. All of the ones I found on TpT, sadly focused on stereotypical images and concepts of sombreros or chips and salsa. Few actually tell the REAL and complete history of Cinco de Mayo and its impact on U. S. history.

So here's what mine includes:
  • Notebook cover page
  • Close reading passage on the history of the Battle of Puebla
  • Close reading passage highlighting the biography of General Ignacio Zaragoza
  • 4 Information templates & map
  • Discussion questions

This packet comes with all materials available in English AND Spanish. It was designed for students in 4 - 8th grades.

Here are some sample pictures of my kids adding this set of Cinco de Mayo printables to their history interactive notebooks.

If you'd like to use my Cinco de Mayo Interactive Notebook or Lapbook with your own students or children, you can find it here.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Celebrate May the 4th with Star Wars Books for Kids

This Wednesday we'll be celebrating May the 4th because, as you have surely figured out if you follow MommyMaestra on Facebook, my kids are Star Wars nutso. (We waited 2 years for the last movie to come out and had tickets for it a month in advance.)

Anyhoo, I was looking around my house and it occurred to me that my son's literacy skills can be partly attributed to quite a few Star Wars books.

Have you ever heard a friend or teacher say, "Oh, read the book before you see the movie. It's way better!" Well, with my son, who was a reluctant reader initially, it is the exact opposite. Once he sees a movie and falls in love with the storyline and the characters, then he can't wait to read the books. And he will read them cover to cover. This has proven to be the case for several stories: How to Train Your Dragon, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Star Wars.

So if you have a reluctant reader in your house, and he or she happens to love Star Wars, consider checking out these titles which are so much fun for little kids.

The Jedi Academy series by Jeffery Brown

My kids agree: this is the most hilarious set of Star Wars books ever. This trilogy follows Rowan, a young boy from Tatooine, who hopes to get into the fighter pilot academy, but instead is selected to attend the Jedi Academy. The series shares his typical ups and downs that any young student experiences at school. We discovered the books soon after the first one came out, and my son waited impatiently for each of the following titles to be published. The story is laid out in a graphic novel format, and the illustrations no doubt really make this book series work. I loved that the books inspired my son to practice drawing because he wanted to continue the story with his own illustrations and storyline. We also wound up buying the series journal and an assortment of notepads and notecards we found at Target.

And if your kids enjoy these books (and I know they will), then they'll also like some of Brown's other titles including Darth Vader and Friends, Good Night Darth Vader, Darth Vader and Son, and Vader's Little Princess.

The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger

The best thing about this series, in my opinion anyway, is the creativity it inspires after kids finish reading. My son has made more origami in the past year than I've seen in my entire life. From Origami Yoda to Fortune Wookie, my kids went so far as to start looking up additional origami patterns online from Angleberger's website:

According to my son, this series is about a socially awkward kid who folds a magical origami Yoda. His friends are also a little strange and this paper Yoda tells them their fortune and helps them solve problems brought about by Darth Paper, a paper puppet controlled by the class bully. The series goes on from there. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

5 Historical Fiction Novels for Latino Teens

I'm delighted today to share some wonderful titles specifically for Latino teens. These historical fiction novels reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. The writing is incredible and all of them are prize-worthy works.

Note: The following titles are written for teens and adults. They may contain adult language and situations. Parents are advised to read the books themselves first before sharing with their children. This post uses affiliate links.

Playing for the Devil's Fire
by Phillippe Diederich

A grim and violent depiction of the terror the drug cartel wreaks on communities, Playing for the Devil's Fire is a fictional account of one boy's valiant attempt to save his town.

Thirteen-year-old Boli and his friends are deep in the middle of a game of marbles. An older boy named Mosca has won the prized Devil's Fire marble. His pals are jealous and want to win it away from him. This is Izayoc, the place of tears, a small pueblo in a tiny valley west of Mexico City where nothing much happens. It's a typical hot Sunday morning except that on the way to church, someone discovers the severed head of Enrique Quintanilla propped on the ledge of one of the cement planters in the plaza and everything changes. Not apocalyptic changes, like phalanxes of men riding on horses with stingers for tails, but subtle ones: poor neighbors turning up with brand-new SUVs, pimpled teens with fancy girls hanging off them. Boli's parents leave for Toluca and don't arrive at their destination. No one will talk about it. A washed out masked wrestler turns up one day, a man only interested in finding his next meal. Boli hopes to inspire the luchador to set out with him to find his parents.

Burn Baby Burn
by Meg Medina

Burn Baby Burn is a coming-of-age story of a young woman who must face the turbulence in her city and her own home.

Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous New York summer of 1977 when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam who shoots young women on the streets. Nora’s family life isn’t going so well either: her bullying brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day, her mother is helpless and falling behind on the rent, and her father calls only on holidays. All Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. And while there is a cute new guy who started working with her at the deli, is dating even worth the risk when the killer likes picking off couples who stay out too late? Award-winning author Meg Medina transports us to a time when New York seemed balanced on a knife-edge, with tempers and temperatures running high, to share the story of a young woman who discovers that the greatest dangers are often closer than we like to admit — and the hardest to accept.

Out of Darkness
by Ashley Hope Perez

The ill-fated love affair between two teens of different races in a town and a time when segregation rules, Out of Darkness is a powerful story.

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion the worst school disaster in American history as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle

Based on the author's own childhood, Enchanted Air is the personal memoir written in verse of poet and author Margarita Engle.

Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.

Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?

This River Here: Poems of San Antonio
by Carmen Tafolla

Sprinkled with heirloom photos, This River Here is a collection of poems sprinkled with Spanish words and filled with vivid imagery to give detailed accounts of Tafolla's family and town history.

San Antonio poet laureate Carmen Tafolla captures her hometown—the city of her ancestors for the past three centuries—in poems that celebrate its history as a cosmopolitan multilingual cultural crossroads. Discover San Antonio’s corazón in Tafolla’s poetry, accompanied by historic and contemporary photographs that convey its enduring sense of place. A century ago, San Antonio gave Oscar Wilde “a thrill of strange pleasure.” J. Frank Dobie claimed that “every Texan has two hometowns—his own and San Antonio,” and Will Rogers declared it to be “one of the three unique cities of America.” To Larry McMurtry, “San Antonio has kept an ambiance that all the rest of our cities lack.” Carmen Tafolla calls forth the soul of this place—the holy home of the waters, called Yanaguana by los indios—and celebrates the many cultures that have made of it “un rebozo bordado de culturas y colores.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: Maya's Blanket

Time for another addition to your family library's Latino children's literature section! Today's picture book is a treasure that celebrates the special bond between Abuelitas and their grandchildren.

"What if the objects we love -- blankets, stuffed animals, dolls, toys -- never leave us?" ~Monica Brown 
Maya's Blanket ~ La manta de Maya
by Monica Brown
illustrated by David Diaz

I truly love this sweet story titled Maya's Blanket (aff), that puts a Latino twist on a traditional Yiddish folk song "Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl." Monica Brown's own multicultural background serves as the inspiration for this book; she's of Peruvian and Jewish heritage.

When Maya was just a baby, her Abuelita hand-stitched a beautiful blanket for her. Maya loved her special manta (blanket) because it kept her cosy and warm every night. As she grows, the blanket gets frayed along the edges, so she and Abuelita transform it into a lovely dress. But then she stains the front, so they turn it into a skirt. Before long, Maya has outgrown it and the skirt must be transformed again....

The story goes on with the beloved blanket changing - getting smaller and smaller - but still useful to Maya as she grows bigger and bigger.

Perhaps your family will be inspired by this book to save and repurpose those special gifts that are gifted or passed down from family members and friends.

What is most touching to me about this book is the special connection that Maya shares with her Abuelita. Their love is so strong that Maya clings to the blanket as it changes form... a symbol of the close bond she shares with her grandmother.

Bilingual families will love that the book comes with full text in both English and Spanish, though some Spanish words (manta, bufanda, etc.) are sprinkled into the English text. There is also a glossary included at the end of the book.

David Diaz' illustrations are, as usual, fantastic. The colors are vibrant, reaching out to pull your eyes into the story. Each page is a visual delight as each character seems to leap off the page.

This beautiful story is can be used to supplement lessons on family, recycling, repurposing, creativity, growth, metamorphosis, transformation, grandparents, and more.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: Roses for Isabella

In honor of Día de los niños, Día de los libros which takes place this coming Saturday, April 30th, I'll be dedicating this week to sharing reviews of books that celebrate children and other resources for Día. Some of the books are new releases, while others have been around for a while, but may not have received much publicity. I hope you'll follow along and find some new titles to explore and add to your home or school library.

Roses for Isabella
by Diana Cohn
illustrated by Amy Córdova

This book came out several years ago, but it's not one you see very often. That's a shame because Roses for Isabella (aff) is a wonderful story that takes you into the life of a young girl in Ecuador. Isabella is a budding writer and her family is so proud of her. One day, her teacher has a surprise for the class as she invites them to write stories in honor of Pachamama, or Mother Earth. One of the students will be selected to read aloud their story at the school assembly celebrating Pachamama, and, naturally, Isabella hopes it will be her, and decides to tell the story of her own family.

I love how this book tells us about Isabella's life through her own writing. I also loved about the important message it shares of how buying Fair Trade products benefits families around the world. In this story, we learn how Isabella's mother became sick from chemicals when she was working for a rose grower. She leaves her job and goes to work for a Fair Trade company that cares for its employees as well as its product. 

Isabella finishes up her journal writings with a poem in honor of Pachamama. 

The author has included an afterword describing Fair Trade around the world. It's a great history lesson for students and perfect for raising global citizens.

The illustrations by Amy Córdova are lively and colorful. I love how she captures the traditional clothing of the characters and the cultural details.

This beautiful story is can be used to supplement lessons on Ecuador, world history, children around the world, world cultures, Fair Trade, economics, family, schools around the world, holidays, Earth Day, and more. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Teen Safety and Snapchat - What's The Story?

It can be difficult for parents to keep up with the latest apps and social media platforms that kids are using, but it’s important to make an effort to at least know the most popular ones. One of the apps that has quickly become a teen favorite is Snapchat.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a “disappearing” messaging app that teens use to communicate via photos or videos with friends. Once a photo or video is seen by the receiver, it vanishes. However, the receiver can take a screenshot if he or she would really like to save the message.

Snapchat has officially surpassed Instagram as the fastest-growing social media app and currently is considered the most popular app among teens. What’s so great about Snapchat? Teens love that unlike other social media platforms, Snapchat doesn’t post their messages for the world to see. Instead, teens can choose who receives the message and because it vanishes, teens feel safer sending photos or videos that they normally wouldn’t post on social media.

Are Teens Safe on Snapchat?

Many teens use Snapchat to innocently sent goofy pictures or videos back and forth to friends. However, there are dangers that teens can be exposed to on this app.


Many predators use Snapchat to send sexually explicit photos to teens, knowing that the evidence will vanish after a few seconds. Even the FBI has warned that these predators will convince teens to send them explicit photos as well, assuring them the messages will disappear anyways, so it’s not a big deal.

The disappearing-message feature makes Snapchat an attractive social media platform for bullies. Bullies can send harassing or threatening messages to teens knowing that the message will disappear and there will be no evidence that the bullying occurred. Sometimes, teens take pictures hanging out with friends at a party, and then send those pictures to other people to make them feel left out. There have been cases where teens send embarrassing or explicit photos to a friend, only to have the friend screenshot it and use it to cyberbully the sender. In fact, 52% of Snapchat users have noted that their messages have been saved as snapshots by the receiver.

Parents should remember that cyberbullying is not something to take lightly. In a recent survey, 30% of teens said that cyberbullying led them to turn to self-harming behavior, and 83% of victims suffered self-esteem damage.

What Can Parents Do?

Now that you know about the dangers that teens may face on Snapchat, follow these tips to protect teens as much as possible:
  • Limit phone usage. Make certain times of the day or rooms in the house “no phone zones,” especially the bedroom. Keeping smartphones out of kids’ bedrooms will ensure that they don’t take any bad judgment calls by taking inappropriate photos.
  • Make it relevant. There are a number of celebrity hacking scandals that have made headlines in the news recently. Use these relevant examples as a way to start a conversation with teens about whether privacy ever exists when you’re using a smartphone or a social media app.
  • Teach kids not to respond. If someone cyberbullies your teen, it’s important that they learn not to respond to it and add fuel to the fire. Instead, tell kids that if a threatening or harassing message comes through Snapchat, try to take a screenshot of it so they have proof that it exist. Then, approach the school, or if the message is serious enough, the police with the evidence.

Remember, Snapchat is just one app that teens are using on a regular basis. As parents, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in social media so you’re always aware of what teens are doing online.


Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology, and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting-related topics.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dick & Jane Educational Snacks

The following is a product review by homeschooling mom, Mireya Marroquin Dunn.

How awesome is it to learn while you eat a healthy snack? As parents, we want the best for our kids. We work hard to get them to eat healthily and do our best to get the best education we can provide for them.

Well, I came across a great snack that you can serve to help your child learn the 50 U.S. states, all 44 U.S. Presidents, and even some English/Spanish vocabulary words. These snacks (cookies) are made with all-natural ingredients...and a big PLUS is that they are NUT free! 

Dick & Jane Educational snacks are a great way to enjoy a snack and your kids will have fun learning what they eat. You can also find them on Facebook.

What a wonderful idea from a husband and wife team; one is a teacher, and the other runs the bakery. You can find these yummy cookie snacks that taste like vanilla in select grocery stores or have them come right to your home through You can buy them in small snack sizes (single servings) or in an 8oz. box (family size).

This company is on a mission as well: they are raising money for education. Their GOAL? $1,000,000,000 for EDUCATION. They work with schools around the nation to raise money for the classrooms and cafeterias.

In my opinion, these healthy snacks are a great way to learn together. They are great for starting conversations with your kids and even to share with friends wherever you go!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Explore the Outdoors with PBS KIDS

This morning, I filled my hummingbird feeder for the third time this year. Do you know what that means? It means that despite several late freezes, spring has officially sprung here in North Carolina. We welcome the warmer temperatures with great joy because my kids get so restless being trapped inside during the winter months. The hammocks get shaken out, the bike tires aired up, and the gardening gloves get dirty again.

We look for other ways to enjoy the outdoors as a family, too. A couple of weeks ago, we broke out the kayaks and the fishing poles and headed down to our local swamp. We were lucky to have warm weather and plenty of biting fish! I loved that my family had the opportunity to enjoy such a beautiful setting at the beginning of the season.

And once again, PBS KIDS is celebrating their annual Explore the Outdoors initiative with new programming and fantastic online content for your family. Last week, new episodes of Ready, Jet, Go! aired featuring earth science and astronomy concepts. Maybe your child learned about asteroids, meteors, and meteorites. Or maybe they learned about the northern lights.

My kids are anxiously awaiting the new Wild Kratts episodes coming out next week, including the series' 100th episode! In true creature adventure fashion, my kids have been outside scouting for wildlife. They have been monitoring a dove nest in our carport for the last several weeks and the two babies finally fledged a few days ago.

This thing actually works!
The first butterflies showed up a few weeks ago. In fact, this weekend, my two kids went out and caught a tiger swallowtail and set it up in a butterfly habitat for an hour or two for observation before letting it go.

But you don't have to have a fancy butterfly house for your kids to enjoy nature. There are fun activities available at that you can download for your children. From making planters out of tin cans to making your own Wild Kratts nature journal, you'll find easy to follow directions and engaging printables.

Also next week, you'll see new episodes of Nature Cat. Your little ones might learn different ways they can help the environment or about nocturnal animals. So be sure you don't miss out!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fueling Education Program for K-8 STEM Teachers

Are you a STEM teacher? Do you have a favorite activity or lesson plan for teaching your students specific STEM concepts? If so, I want you to know about this opportunity for you to win classroom supplies or an in-school teacher training session with science guru, Steve Spangler!

Citgo's Fueling Education Program is focused on nurturing children's interest in STEM. The best way they can do that is by supporting creative and ingenious K-8 teachers. They want to know how your students use STEM learning to boost their creative and critical thinking skills.

To enter, K-8 teachers simply visit to share their favorite STEM teaching ideas or lesson plans through a brief description, photo, and/or video, for the chance to receive one of the following:
  • 3 Grand-Prize winners will receive an in-school teacher training session led by Spangler, with the opportunity to invite up to 99 other fellow teachers to attend and learn STEM-related topics, lessons and activities to engage their students. Each Grand Prize winner will also receive a voucher to purchase classroom supplies from National School Supply.
  • 9 First-Prize winners will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Spangler’s “Science in the Rockies” seminar, held mid-summer in Denver, to participate in hands-on workshops to further develop the way they teach STEM subjects. In addition, each First Prize winner will receive a voucher to purchase classroom supplies from National School Supply.
  • 90 Second-Prize winners will receive a voucher to purchase classroom supplies from National School Supply.
According to the website, when you enter the contest, you will receive a STEM education packet with lesson plans and posters (while supplies last).

“At its very core, STEM is really about our ability as educators to build connections and create experiences that inspire our students to think differently as they imagine their unlimited potential as future scientists and engineers,” says Spangler. I totally agree!

I'd really love to see some Latino or Bilingual Ed teachers win!

Friday, April 15, 2016


If your child is ANYTHING like mine, then you can teach them ANYTHING if you use LEGOs. So naturally, when I saw this, I almost swooned with joy!

This post uses affiliate links.

Brick Shakespeare is pure genius and claims to serve as an introduction to Shakespeare's tragedies. The book has one thousand color photographs to accompany Shakespeare's poetic writings.

Some people are purists. They don't like their kids/students reading abridged versions. They will only teach from the originals. But in my opinion, introducing young children to classic works with materials that are easier for them to understand and that are engaging, makes learning those classic works when they are older a LOT easier.

So... you can betcha I snatched these up as fast as I could and I cannot wait to get them. I'll update this post with a review once the book arrives, but I'm not sure how long the deal on Educents will last. Right now, you can purchase the book for $16.95.

And you know what else? They have a second book featuring the Greek myths!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Free Webinar: How to Celebrate Día in School

This is the week for free online programs! I'm excited to share that I'll also be a panelist discussing how to celebrate Día de los niños, Día de los libros in your school.

Not sure you have time to host a Día celebration? Don't have budget to buy materials? Already have something planned for April 30th? Our webinar answers all these questions and more.

This free webinar is being hosted by Lee & Low Books and takes place tomorrow, Thursday, April 14th at 4pm ET/1 pm PT. 

Did you know that Día is turning 20 this year? The program is for educators and parents to celebrate and teach about Día de los niños, Día de los libros.

Día de los niños, Día de los libros began 20 years ago when Latina author and poet Pat Mora was on a radio show and heard about the Mexican holiday, Día de los niños. Children's Day is actually a holiday that is celebrated around the world, but it wasn't a celebration that had caught on here in the United States. Mora had the idea to combine the holiday celebrating children with books and reading. And Día was born.

The webinar promises to be a fabulous discussion. I'm delighted to be talking with
Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of the Community Education Program at American Immigration Council; Carolyn Vidmar, Public Librarian and Summer Reading Program Coordinator at Spanish Playground; and Susan K. Coti, professional storyteller and educator.

And I think you will especially love the packet of free resources that have been compiled for attendees. From lesson plans and reading lists to printable worksheets, bookmarks, and more, you'll find plenty of printables to help you with your own Dia celebration. It even includes some great printables that I created for you!

So be sure to go and register today! The good thing is that if you can't watch it live, it will be recorded and you can go back and watch it at your convenience.

Hope to "see" you there!

Love this post? Share it!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...