Thursday, March 5, 2015

Free Download: Letter G Unit to Accompany Maravillas Sapnish Reading Program

This post uses affiliate links.

Learning to read is the most fun whenever the materials are colorful and engaging and the activities are clever and effective. That is why I love this month's free download from our sponsor Lectura para niños! The download is a set of engaging worksheets to accompany McGraw-Hill's Lectura Maravillas reading program that Leah uses with her students.  

(PSST! Parents, you can find more affordable Maravillas textbooks here on Amazon [aff link].)

Leah says:

This week focuses on the letter G and new sight words: quién and al. It also reviews all previous words taught from the other little reader books.

Each week these books get progressively harder while adding a new letter/syllable of the week as well as 2 new sight words.

The 1st and 2nd pages introduce picture vocabulary that begin with the sound /g/. The 2nd page also provides a game board to use as you wish. In my class I teach them how to play so when I send this home for homework, they can play with their family to make reading a little bit more fun. In class, we mainly just read around the board. This helps the child focus on the word. I like the colors with this game because children with visual focusing disorders have a hard time tracking. The colors help with this.

On the 3rd page there is fluency practice to review a) lowercase letters taught to date, b) uppercase letters taught to date, c) sight words taught to date, d) syllables of the week

With my INTENSIVE students, I make sure if there is an error made, we go back two letters and keep reviewing until we have the letter correct.

With my at level and above level students, we read this page for speed and automaticity.

On the 4th page the students have to

a) Listen to the teacher say 2 words that begin with the /g/ sound and find a picture that begins with this sound.

b) Listen to the teacher say 2 words with the /g/ sound in the middle of the word, then find a picture that has the /g/ sound in the middle of the word.

On the 5th page, the students have to

a) Look at the picture at the beginning of the column, then circle the WORD that has the same BEGINNING sound.

b) Look at the picture at the beginning of the column, then circle the WORD that has the same MIDDLE sound.

On the 6th page, the students have to read words and draw a line to the corresponding pictures.

On the 7th page, the students have to practice segmenting words while looking at the sounds as well as with their eyes closed!

On the 8th page, the students have to read the sentence and draw a line to the picture that corresponds with the sentence.

This link will take you to all of the little reader books that I have created to go along with Maravillas reading series. You do not need this series in order to use these books. These books all reinforce phonemic awareness and phonics in the Spanish homeschool and or classroom.

For more awesome Spanish materials, especially those that teach children to read in Spanish, check out Lectura para niños on Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers, Blog, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Good Breakfasts are Essential for Good Students

This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Honey Bunches of Oats. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

I've written before on the topic of healthy breakfasts to help children focus in school. Without a great breakfast, students lack the energy they need to focus in school and to learn complex concepts.

I'm always looking for breakfast ideas because I know that my kids need protein to solve tricky math problems, learn grammar, and read effectively. On days that we have plenty of time to prepare breakfast, we often make egg burritos, french toast, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, and other dishes.

But the reality is that sometimes families oversleep or lose track of time, and are on the run to get kids to school or class. Even though we homeschool, we certainly experience these mornings, too, because we participate in morning programs and we also have a set schedule. So during those busy moments, I look for easy - and FAST - ways to nourish my kids. Here are some of our quick breakfasts:
  • yogurt and (whole wheat) toast with a glass of orange juice
  • cereal
  • frozen (whole wheat) waffles with yogurt and milk
  • fruit salads with yogurt and milk

And now we've discovered another grab-and-go breakfast! I'll be the first to say that I'm VERY suspect of traditional breakfast bars. I don't like all the chemicals and high fructose corn syrup that seems to be in each of them. That's why I was really happy to discover that Honey Bunches of Oats has come out with healthy breakfast biscuits with whole grain. Pair them with a serving of yogurt and a glass of milk for additional protein and they are a perfect quick meal to help with sustained energy throughout the morning.

They come in three flavors: Honey Roasted, Strawberry, and Chocolate Chip. All of them come with 28 - 30 grams of whole grain, providing more than 55% of your day's whole grain recommendation. The best way I can describe them is that they are like cereal in cookie form. 

I bet you can guess my son's favorite one...chocolate chip, of course. He likes to dunk them in a glass of milk. And I love it too because even though they taste like chocolate chip cookies, they are actually good for you!

And they aren't just for kids, either. My daughter prefers the Honey Roasted and I like the Strawberry. Really, all of them are good. There are 4 biscuits in each package.

So if you are like me and are looking for new products for quick breakfasts that you won't feel guilty about feeding your kids, then check you might try these!!

You can learn more when you follow the Honey Bunches of Oats website, Facebook page, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Free Spanish Mini-Lesson: Describing with Adjectives

Are you teaching your child how to speak Spanish? Or are you an educator looking for ways to supplement your curriculum? Maybe you're thinking about learning Spanish together as a family and are looking for a great curriculum. Either way, you should check out all the wonderful printables available here on MommyMaestra! 

One of the biggest parts of learning a new language is expanding your vocabulary. That's why I love this month's Spanish-learning freebie from our sponsor Spanish for You!

The Describing with Adjectives Mini-Lesson comes with three fun activities to help your child learn describing words, as well as which words have endings that change (or don't) depending on the nouns they are describing. I also love that you can even use some of these printables with additional games/activities that you can find online. And don't worry if you aren't a fluent Spanish speaker. As with all of Spanish for You!'s excellent materials, this one comes with an audio download to help you with pronunciation. 

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrate Read Across America Day!

This post uses affiliate links.

Feliz cumpleaños, Dr. Seuss!

Every year on Dr. Seuss' birthday, the NEA (National Education Association) celebrates with their Read Across America project. Anyone and everyone can participate. All you have to do is pick up a book and read to your child, student, niece, nephew, cousin, grandchild... or even volunteer to read aloud at your local bookstore or library.

Typically, we associate all the wonderful books that Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated with this day. But did you know that many of them are available in Spanish, too?

If you are like me, you may be highly particular, though, about translations. Too often literal translations leave a sour taste in my mouth. A truly good translation, however, is one that captures the spirit of the story and brings it to life in another language. It's hard to find good translations, I think. But one of the best translators in my opinion is Yanitzia Canetti.

And lucky for us, she has translated quite a few of Dr. Seuss' wonderful tales for children including: (affiliate links below)

So if you find yourself looking for Dr. Seuss books in Spanish to share with your children, visit and enter Yanitzia's name in the search bar to find her translations of these awesome books.

And while you're at it, be sure to check out the other books she written and/or translated!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Encouraging Reluctant Readers With Films

I've always heard the phrase, "the book is better than the movie." And in my limited experience, that has generally proven to be the case. But just because this is true, doesn't mean the movie isn't worth watching. And in the case of reluctant readers, watching movies may be the pathway to creating a love of reading.

My son has always loved a good story. But he's always preferred to hear one rather than read it himself. When he was little, he would always bring a book and ask me to read to him. Even in our homeschool, our read-aloud sessions were - and still are - his favorites. But when it came to reading himself, he wasn't very keen.

Until he discovered How to Train Your Dragon. And I don't mean the books. Oh, no. The movie and then the television series captured his imagination. Then one day, we happened to be on one of our weekly bookstore trips and he spotted a little book. It was a beginning reader featuring - yep! - How to Train Your Dragon. Normally, he would be pretty apathetic and impatient about our literary shopping trips. But not this time!

So we bought it. And when he finished reading it, he begged me for another. And then, even though I thought they were far too advanced and difficult for him, I bought one of the bigger books by Cressida Cowell. I read the first chapter, and right when he was thoroughly hooked, I got "too busy" and told him to read it himself. I whined and begged, but I was very firm and told him I would read some more the next day if I had time. Before I knew it, he was reading it himself...before bed, in the car, on the couch. I would help him with difficult words, but otherwise he read the whole thing himself. And then I bought him another. And another.

Then one day, we stumbled upon Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy. And my little Star Wars lover was gobbling down all of Brown's books on that subject. Now we all eagerly await young Roan's next adventure in the third book set to come out this June.

From there we started ordering Indiana Jones books and graphic novels.

And after that? We watched Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. I balked at the $13 price per book. Lucky for him, though, we found most of the series in hardback at a used bookstore for only $4 each.

But don't get me wrong. My son, who is now a voracious reader at age 8, doesn't only read books about movie characters he loves. Remember how I said he has always loved a good story? Well, that passion for reading and stories has now grown to include new books and even classics.

My once reluctant reader now easily accepts reading assignments in school, although I've had to abandon many of the easier reads for his grade. We started a set of illustrated classics I found at our local bookstore and he read aloud Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But he couldn't wait and wound up reading Treasure Island and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer without me.

For school assignments, I've actively searched for "living books" written by authors passionate about the subject matter. We've even joined a homeschool book club.

Now we keep a basket in our car on the floor between my children's seats that holds an assortment of reading materials. Everything from comics to mysteries to classics to activity books to magazines. They read everything they can get their hands on. While my daughter has always been a strong reader, I didn't think my son ever would be. I'm so grateful for that day I let him choose his own book. Even if it would be considered "twaddle" by some homeschoolers. Because I think to develop a love of reading in our kids, they need to be allowed to choose their own titles every now and then. Even when that interest is created by movies.

If you have a reluctant reader in your home, consider showing a movie first and then sharing the original or companion book. To help you, here's a short list to get you started. Keep in mind that there may be lots of other books or versions available than the ones I've listed here. For example, there are tons of books on Star Wars. But I listed Jedi Academy because it is perfect for a young child and ermerging reader.
  1. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (television series)
  2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (movies)
  3. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (movies & television series)
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (movie)
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (movie series)
  6. Dinotopia by James Gurney (television series)
  7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery (television series)
  8. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (movie)
  9. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé (movie & television series)
  10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (movies & television series)
  11. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (movie)
  12. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (movies)
  13. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (movie)
  14. Peter Pan by James M. Barrie (movies)
  15. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (movie)
  16. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (movies & television series)
  17. Stuart Little by E. B. White (movies)
  18. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (movies & television)
  19. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (movies)
  20. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (movies & television)
  21. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (movies & television)
  22. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (movies & television)
  23. Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown (spin-off of Star Wars) (movies)
  24. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (movies)
  25. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (movie)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reading Comprehension Passages Vol.1: Famous Afro-Latinos

Black History Month got me to thinking about the role of Afro-Latinos in our country's - or world's - history. I thought it would great to study a different person every day for a week, but I had so much trouble trying to find educational materials on this topic. 

So what did I have to do? Create my own, of course.

Reading Comprehension Passages Vol 1: Famous Afro-Latinos is designed for advanced readers in grades 3rd - 6th. It includes one-page reading passages about seven Afro-Latinos, including:
  • Celia CruzSammy Davis, Jr.
  • Soledad O'Brien
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Martina Arroyo
  • Pelé
  • Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez

There's also a set of reading comprehension boosting worksheets that require children to carefully read the text to find the answers. Answer keys are included for busy teachers. 

And guess what! TpT is having a site-wide sale in honor of teachers! You can get up to 28% off select products including ALL of my teaching materials, like the new one mentioned above.

To check out the sale, click here


Monday, February 23, 2015

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers

This post uses affiliate links.

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa
by Veronica Chambers
illustrated by Julie Maren

One of the most delightful children's biographies in our family library is this tribute to Afro-Latina salsa singer, Celia Cruz. Beautifully written, Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa (aff link) sweeps us away into Celia's childhood and her subsequent rise to fame. You'll learn about what she was like as a little girl, how the country felt when she became the lead singer of their favorite band, and with whom she eventually found love. Even as a young girl, her amazing voice stood out and captured the attention of her family and friends. Did you know that her neighbors used to gather outside her home and beg her father to leave the door open so that they could hear her singing lullabies to the younger children?

Veronica Chamber's writing style is vibrant and engaging. Take a look at the opening sentence...
In the fabled land of Havana, where rhythm grows, sweet and juicy, like oranges in Florida, there lived a girl. 
The illustrations are warm and bold and even a bit flamboyant...just like the singer herself. Sometimes I find myself flipping through the book just to look at the pictures.

Even though the story is written in such a way that both adults and children will enjoy it, Veronica has included a section of notes at the end that not only shares her own experience (she is an Afro-Latina, too,  who was born in Panama) and gives more detailed insight into Celia's life. There's also a glossary and - eee! - a selected discography!!!

This would be a wonderful book to supplement studies on Celia Cruz, Black History Month, Afro-Latinos, salsa, Havana, Cuba, musicians, singers, Women's History Month, famous Latinas, aspirations, talent, encouragement, and more.

This book is written in English with Spanish words sprinkled throughout.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

I found this fabulous infographic yesterday on Twitter. It shows some great information on homeschoolers and homeschooling here in the U.S. After reading it, I felt encouraged as a homeschool parent and I hope you enjoy it, too.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fighting Asthma and Allergies with the New Dyson Animal + Allergy from Best Buy

This post is sponsored by Dyson and Best Buy and includes a review of the new Dyson Animal + Allergy.

There is nothing scarier than waking up in the middle of the night to find your child gasping for breath beside your bed. I'll never forget the time my son came tripping down the stairs at 2 am clutching his throat and trying to breathe. He has long struggled with allergies and is borderline asthmatic.

Did you know that Latino families are more likely to be affected by asthma than any other group? According to the Environmental Defense Fund, "Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites, and nearly 1 in 10 Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from this chronic respiratory illness."

Indoor and outdoor air quality plays a major role. We live on a small farm in the country and our home has a lot of carpeting. Every day someone is tracking in dirt and who knows what. In the spring, pollen and dust come wafting in every time somebody opens the door. My kids spend time playing with the horses and dog , then come in covered in hair. I'd love to be able to just rip the carpet out and finish the wood floors underneath. One of these days I will. But in the meantime, I have to try and stay up with vacuuming, changing the air filters on a regular basis, and dusting.

You might remember me posting a year or so ago about how I started using a Dyson to vacuum. It has made such a difference! While I've been thrilled about the easy way to dump everything in the trash without having to buy those little vacuum bags, I still had to was filters on a regular basis, which I wasn't that crazy about.

But now, there's a solution for even that. The new Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy is a new tool for parents in the line of defense against pollen and other allergens.

It's the first vacuum cleaner to never lose suction and that requires NO FILTER MAINTENANCE!! Dyson was the first to get rid of the bag and now they’re getting rid of the filter. Sometimes I absolutely love advances in technology.

Even with the relatively new Dyson I had before, I had to rinse the filter because it would eventually stop sucking up dirt. Sometimes it would get clogged with hair and paper and leaves and pine needles so I'd have to take it apart to clean out the suction line. Not anymore! Here's how it works:

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy
  • New Cinetic cyclones are smallest yet, so they can spin out the finest dust and dirt. They oscillate to dislodge any particles that would typically get stuck in a cyclone that small.
  • Cinetic cyclones allow for dust capture so small, that a filter becomes unnecessary. Thus, there are no dirty filters to wash, maintain or replace.
  • Tested and proven with 10 years’ worth of dust. (Others claim “no loss of suction” by only testing one bin full of dust. Dyson used the equivalent of 10 years’ worth, and Dyson Cinetic never lost suction.)
  • Cleaner head self-adjusts to seal in suction across carpets and hard floors.

It also comes with an assortment of attachments to help you clean those hard to reach spots. My absolute favorite is that little curved one in the middle left. You just snap it on to the extension hose and then use it to suck up all the dust that gathers on top of your ceiling fan blades or the top of your bookshelves. It is simply awesome. 

I'll tell you right now that it is a little pricey. It's valued at $699. But Dysons last forever so I consider it a worthy investment not just in keeping my house clean, but in my family's health. I'd rather invest in this vacuum than pay ER bills when I have to take my son in because he can't breathe. I know that using this vacuum doesn't guarantee that will never happen, but it makes me feel better knowing that I'm able to suck up and toss out those allergens that wreak havoc on his little respiratory system. And combined with other steps such as washing his bedsheet regularly and staying away from harsh perfumes and detergents, it is simply one of the steps I take to ensure my family's health.

If you feel the same way, or if you suffer from asthma or allergies yourself, you'll be able to find this model at Best Buy stores starting on March 1st. 

Disclosure: I received this product for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares

This post may use affiliate links. 

I have a teetering stack of books sitting next to my desk. As the 2015 L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program comes closer and closer, the pile continues to grow as authors, illustrators and publishers send me new titles to consider for the program's recommended summer reading list. And in that pile are many, many wonderful stories just waiting to be discovered by a reader. So I'm going to try and focus on more book reviews so that you'll discover them, too, and be able to share them with your familia. 

Since this month we are celebrating Black History Month, I want to start off with a book that features an amazing Afro-Latino athlete. Growing Up Pedro (aff link) is a new title by Candlewick Press. Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares, it is the story of baseball legend Pedro Jaime Martínez, the Dominican-American pitcher who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for five teams. According to Wikipedia, Martinez is "an eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2004 World Series champion. His WHIP is the lowest of any live-ball era starting pitcher, and his Adjusted ERA+ is the best of any starting pitcher in MLB history. Martínez also has the second highest winning percentage in modern baseball history, and the third highest strikeout rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio."

If you have a young baseball player in your home - and even if you don't - this beautifully illustrated picture biography of Pedro is a must read. Your child will learn what life was like for Pedro as a child in the Dominican Republic before he made it into the big leagues and moved to the United States. You'll read about the special bond he shared with his older brother Ramón, who preceded Pedro to the States as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And you'll cheer for him when despite his small size, Pedro becomes one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball.

The story is nicely told and the illustrations are phenomenal. It would be a great book to read together when you are covering the following themes: baseball, sports, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Afro-Latinos, family, brothers, siblings, determination, persistence, and more. In fact, you can find a lesson plan for this and three other books by Matt Tavares on baseball legends here.

The book is written in English only.

Check out the book trailer below...

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

App Review: Ortografía Paso a Paso

You might remember my sharing this app for teaching children to read in Spanish using phonics-based games. Lee Paso a Paso has proven to be a favorite among both parents and teachers. So I was delighted when one of the app's developers contacted me to share some new ones that they've developed. I think you'll find this new one just as valuable and effective.

Name: Ortografía Paso a Paso
Subject(s): Spanish grammar
Brief Description: An app that teaches the basic rules for accentuation of the Spanish language through interactive games.
Price: $3.99 (50% discount for schools)
Language:  Spanish
Ages: 6 years old and older
Device: iOS

What I like:
I especially love that this app focuses on accentuation, an aspect of Spanish spelling that I think many students and heritage speakers find confusing or difficult. In fact, it is designed so that students learn and practice the following concepts:

· Identifying the sílaba tónica
· Words classified as Agudas
· Words classified as Graves or Llanas
· Words classified as Esdrújulas
· Words classified as Sobreesdrújulas
· Accentuation of Agudas, Graves, Esdrújulas and Sobreesdrújulas words.
· Diptongos
· Hiatos

There are approximately eight games that are simple and fun, not overwhelming with repetition. The begin with a description of the rule or definition of the concept. I like that the audio is of a child reading the definition and the text appears on the screen with important words highlighted in larger, colored font. But you can definitely turn off the music, word sounds, and the narrator with just a swipe of the button.

You can also control the word pronunciation by selecting the Mexican or Spanish option.

But do you know what I liked best? It was that this app is helpful for anyone learning to read or write in Spanish. The reason I don't write in Spanish is because I was never taught how. I don't know all the rules, my conjugation can be embarrassing, and accents? Oy! I really loved that I learned something myself playing this app. 

There is also a Lite version that is available for free.

Note: This app is only in Spanish.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sesame Street's "The Cookie Theif" Premieres Tomorrow!

We're making cookies today. Want to know why? Because tomorrow on Sesame Street, there's an all new episode and it is super cute! In "The Cookie Thief," Sesame Street opens a new cookie art museum and everyone is excited...until the famous cookie art begins disappearing. And, naturally, You-Know-Who is the prime suspect! It's a logical assumption. I mean, if someone is stealing cookie art, wouldn't you automatically suspect that it was Cookie Monster?

This hilarious episode features our favorite penguin characters and even the hilarious comedian, Rachel Dratch. (She totally cracks me up.)

You can watch "The Cookie Thief" tomorrow on PBS KIDS. And if you miss it, don't worry! You can catch the repeats on February 18th and 20th.

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