Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Inspiring Latinos Series: Mariana Iranzi

I just absolutely love discovering talented Latinas. Especially when they are using their talents to educate children. So when I listened to Mariana Iranzi's music this weekend, I knew immediately I was including her in my Inspiring Latinos Series.

The great granddaughter of the famous Tango composer, Julio de Caro, Mariana spent her childhood immersed in the world of music. Born and raised in Argentina, she studied recorder, Orff music classes and choir at the Collegium Musicum of Buenos Aires, and started her first piano lessons when she was 8 years old. Since that time she has developed her talent and explored different genres of music with some amazing experiences.

After many years of playing the Beatles, Bach sonatas, and her own compositions at house concerts and music schools, she was deeply driven by the sounds of rock music and decided to try the electric bass. Next thing you know she's touring Argentina in 2000 with the rock band Kro-Magnon, and then goes on to get her degree in bass performance in 2003.

But if all that isn't enough, Mariana decides to continue learning and decides on a new adventure. Two years later, Mariana received her Bachelors Degree in professional music (education & performance).

Over the next six years, Mariana played bass for the Dave Alpert Band, the Florencia Gonzalez Big Band and created her own children’s music band. She has taught in the public schools of Buenos Aires, as well as early childhood music education classes here in the U.S., private lessons and ensembles for the past 14 years.

Now a children's music composer and performer, Mariana's albums focus on bilingual and multicultural music for kids. Not surprisingly, her debut album, Aventura Collage, received a NAPPA Golden Award.

Mariana's latest project is her new album for children, Hola Hello. It was released this year.

Honestly? I absolutely love it! There are a lot of really great children's albums in Spanish available on the market. But Mariana's training and unique talent is obvious when you hear her songs. Her style is so distinct that I know I would immediately recognize her work. The best part is that her songs are just as appealing to adults as they are to children. In Hola Hello, she's taken traditional Latin American rhymes and songs and made them her own. In fact, I do believe her version of Los pollitos dicen may be the best one I've heard.

To learn more about Mariana, visit her website,

To listen to samples of her songs or to purchase your own copies of her albums for children, you can find them here on Amazon.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bilingual Mathematics


Do you know about Bilingual Mathematics? A few weeks ago, the creator of the site sent me an email inviting me to take a look.

Carmen Ayala says she works with mostly Latino students in the Chicago area and has been creating resources to help them in school and life. She's most passionate about teaching math.

"What I noticed throughout my work is that students are able to solve simple arithmetic problems," Carmen says, "but struggle when it comes to problem solving, which often includes reading."

So she created a site called Bilingual Mathematics to help solve this problem. It offers math printables, all of which can be downloaded in both English and in Spanish. There is even a section on each resource that reinforces math vocabulary, which our students often struggle with. And all of the bilingual worksheets are common core aligned.

Bilingual Mathematics is a subscription-based service. It costs $29.95 a year. For those of you with children who are struggling in math, this might be worth a try.

I would, however, have preferred to download a few sample worksheets, though I could not find any on the site. If you have used Bilingual Mathematics before, or you sign up now, let us know what you think...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cricket Magazine Launches Babybug...en español!

Looking for an educational magazine in Spanish for your toddler? Well, I finally have one for you!

When my kids were little, we would get Babybug and other little magazines like it. At the time, I scoured the internet looking for the same type of magazine but in Spanish, and lamented over the fact that there weren't any. I even went so far as to play with the idea of doing it myself, but with a full plate, that idea never panned out.

Well, I am so pleased to share that Cricket Magazine, the leader in quality children's magazines, has embraced the idea and in a progressive move launched Babybug en español. Babybug is a boardbook style magazine made with nontoxic ink, rounded corners, and no staples. It is put together by the very talented Christianne Meneses Jacobs, creator of Iguana magazine, the only Spanish language magazine for kids ages 7 - 12. (Cricket Magazine now offers Iguana magazine as well.) Full of the highest quality content available from the world’s best children’s writers and artists, Babybug is available in a print or digital edition for your iPad!

With early learning a critical issue for Latino families that has a significant impact on academic performance, it is important for us to find the resources that we need to prepare our children for school. Babybug helps parents develop their children's pre-literacy and pre-math skills with fun but simple illustrations and activities. Inside you'll find stories and activities that teach them about the seasons, colors, number & letter recognition, ways to develop your child's vocabulary, and ones that teach them about the world around them and their own bodies. Poems and short stories prevail and make learning a lot of fun for you nenes.

I especially love how they incorporate cultural folklore and fingerplays that allow us to pass down the traditional stories of our heritage. So many of them are not only fun, but educational, too.

Check out this introductory video to the app...

Learn more about Cricket's Spanish Magazines for children here.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of Babybug en español for review purposes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

End of the School Year Lessons and Activities


Whether you are teaching in a classroom or at home, summer is quickly approaching and lesson plans are coming to an end. After the units are completed and the testing is done, we have to find ways to continue to motivate our students during the home stretch. I remember being in the classroom and the final weeks in May became more challenging as the kids (and teachers) developed a bad case of "summer-itis".

It can happen at home as well. On a daily basis, I supplement my son's education by teaching Spanish, working on math word problems, reading, spelling and sometimes even religious education. In addition, I make sure music lesson assignments are completed and chess is enjoyed at home too. As the school year is wrapping up, I realize that we stop staying on schedule (some days have been so nice outside)! Although, I believe in just relaxing on some days and enjoying lots of free time, there are enough hours in the day to continue our job! Here are some ideas for you to help end the school year with assignments and ideas that are educational and fun! These can be applied to all grades too and can be carried on to the summer months as well.

If you use your smart phone as much as I do to take pictures of your little ones all day long, review the photos with your students to do the following: 

Talk about the big moments/projects done this year and make your own yearbook or picture album.

Have your students journal about their favorite part of the school year.

Have your students journal about the most challenging part of the year.

Think ahead: 

Journal goals for the next year.

Journal plans for the summer.

Creative writing:

Objects in a beach bag. Pack a bag with summer essentials such as a beach ball, sunscreen, and sand toys and have your students write a story using the contents in the bag. Get creative yourself! Throw in an odd object (a serving spoon or a thermometer) to help add humor or drama to the story.

Write a letter to a character of your favorite book.  If your students could say anything to their favorite fiction characters, what would it be?


Clean the classroom! Organize supplies, books, and paper clutter. File, recycle, wash down and dust. Have your students help you make a list of the supplies needed for next year. They might surprise you with a great request!

Having fun while still learning:

Play games: Sorry!, Matching, Loteria, Chess, Chinese Checkers, UNO, Quirkle...just to name a few of our favorites, are great educational games to play during down time.

Field trip! A trip to your local firehouse or post office can still be educational! Or take a simple nature walk. Have students write or illustrate what they saw on the way to their destination. Maybe bring a camera along?

Special lunch or dinner.  Some home schooled students go year round and some don't. Regardless, make time to celebrate! Even if a graduation is not taking place, take your kids out for a special meal and reward yourself too!

Do you have any educational end-of-the-year ideas? Please share in the comments below! image via

Betty Galvan, is helping her readers "find the positive and seek the benefits" over at her blog, MyFriendBettySays.com

She is the mother of three beautiful little boys and a teacher.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scholastic's Digital Math Magazines

With summer quickly approaching, it's time to start thinking about how to help your kids keep their reading and math skills sharp so they can avoid the dreaded Summer Learning Loss. But kids don't want to think they're doing school, so we have to get creative and find fun ways to keep them learning.

One of my favorite resources is Scholastic's digital magazines, and especially, their Math Magazine which takes real news stories about current events and turns them into math problems. From Iron Man to cicadas, their problems are fun, challenging, and engaging.  Math Magazine is for students in grades 6 - 9. If you have younger children, you might consider DynaMath for kids in grades 3 - 6.

We've been looking at the digital online magazines (my kids LOVE them), but if you want to order print copies, just click here. The digital mags are full of information including articles, videos, and downloads.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Aprendes Con Launches Educational Program in Spanish (With a Giveaway!)

To celebrate the launch of their Educational Program in Spanish, Aprendes Con is having a special giveaway on their Facebook page: You can enter to win one of four $50 Amazon gift cards!

Aprendes Con/i Learn With is a fantastic developer who already has English educational apps in place and are now launching those same apps in Spanish. I've written about them before here and here. Their apps focus on early education and developing those skills needed by Pre-K and elementary-aged students. So many of you have asked me over and over for quality apps in Spanish that teach subjects and concepts, not just how to speak the language. Here's your opportunity to follow this company. Take a look at their website in English and now in Spanish.

You can enter their giveaway on their Aprendes Con Facebook page.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A New Hispanic Character for Sesame Street's 44th Season

Monday afternoon, I had the most wonderful opportunity to sit down with Sesame Street's new Hispanic character, Armando, and his amiga, Rosita, who may well now be my favorite Sesame Street muppet of all time.

Armando - or Mando as he is called on the show - is played by the talented Ismael Cruz Córdova. Ismael is such a likeable guy with his energetic smile and infectious laugh, that I know children across the country will be immediately drawn to his character this fall. He brings a new face to the show that reflects the multiculturalism of modern-day Latinos in America. From the soles of his dancing feet to the tips of his vibrant hair, Ismael is a beautiful blend of his Puerto Rican, Taino, Afro-Caribbean, and European ancestry.

Latino families like ours, are in for a treat as Sesame Street's 44th season (which premieres on September 16th - Ummm, happy Mexican Independence Day, people!) will focus will be on both executive function skills and Hispanic Heritage. Of course we all know what Hispanic Heritage means, but if you're like me, you may be wondering what in the world executive function skills are and what they have to do with early education. It sounds more like something the CEO of a major company needs, no?

Pero, they are actually essential skills that together create the foundation of all core brain activity and are comprised of the ABC's of self regulation, including Affect (understanding that your actions have an affect), Behavioral (showing self control, curbing impulses), and Cognitive (understanding how your actions have an impact).

Part of Mando's role on the show will be to focus on self-expression. He is a writer who loves to write anything from poetry to songs and everything in between. During our interview, Rosita gave an example of how he helped her recently when she became upset after reading a book (she's learning to read) that she had been waiting for. It was called Hola, Lola and was about a little Mexican girl just like her...only she wasn't. The little girl in the book instead walked around wearing a sombrero, owned a burro, and took siestas all the time. Rosita was disappointed and frustrated, but Mando told her that instead of writing an angry letter to the publisher, she should write her own book. He inspired her to share her own story with others.

Ay! You know, right, that this is a guy after my own heart, no?

So Rosita did it. She actually wrote her own song. And she called her story Mi amiguita, Rosita. You'll be able to learn all about it this coming season on Sesame Street. (Did you catch the executive function skill Mando taught Rosita? To channel her frustration into something positive and productive?)

And, Mamis, you will love the fact that when I asked Ismael who his role model was growing up, he told me that it was his own Mami. Here's what he said in our interview...

"I was not influenced much by pop culture," Ismael said. "I was completely and directly influenced by my mom. She was always very clear about her struggle. Not in an accusing way or anything. Just very bare boned. 'This is it and this is what’s happening and your actions will affect you,' she said. She was very clear and open with us about her journey. Not condescending. She spoke to her children…"

"…Respectfully. I learned that from my parents," Rosita said.

"And she considered my opinions," said Ismael. "But always that impetus to move forward. Always the drive to continue no matter what happened."

"So did she place an emphasis on education?" I asked.

"Most definitely," he responded. "It was, 'This is your only option.' And it was your responsibility. We were never rewarded for good grades. It’s also your responsibility to educate yourself as a citizen. You shouldn’t be given a treat just to be the best. Just to do your part. She worked in a Mexican restaurant, and I used to wait for her and do my homework. Sadly, she wasn’t ever able to help us with it. So it was on us and that is very empowering for a child. That was the seedling at my core. I’m trying to keep from crying right now."

They did not, however, have a reading culture in their home. They were never really taught to read. In fact, he says he did not read his first entire book (cover to cover) until 7th grade. He bemoaned the fact that he had not developed better literacy skills early on as he had to work very hard and force himself to develop them when he was older.

Which made my gift to him that much sweeter. Since we knew I'd have the chance to interview Ismael in Maimi, my kids and I decided to present him with a little gift of Latino children's literature straight off of our bookshelves. Each of us chose a book and wrote a message on the inside. We hoped that maybe these books might provide a little bit of inspiration for future episodes. Maybe Mando could read one of the stories or poems to Rosita as one of the segments? Wouldn't that be awesome to feature Latino children's literature on Sesame Street? (It certainly doesn't hurt to try, no?) Either way, the smiles on his and Rosita's faces spoke volumes. And they were quite happy to pose for pictures as you can see above.

You can read more about our selections tomorrow on our sister blog, Latinas4LatinoLit.org.

I just want to end this post sharing his responses to my children's short questions:

My daughter wanted to know what his favorite food was. Ismael said vegetarian sushi! (Yes, he's a vegetarian.)

And my son wanted to know what his favorite color was. Any guesses? He said, ROJO.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Search for Sesame Street's New Hispanic Character

So first there was this:

Y luego:

And finally there is this...

Stay tuned for more, Amigos!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

¡Muévete Hoy! #FightLatinoObesity

You may remember me sharing this video last year and the week I dedicated to fighting Latino children's obesity. But the reality is that a week isn't long enough. Obesity among Latino children has reached epidemic proportions. HALF of Latino newborns today will develop diabetes. Our children's weight has long-lasting affects, so it's time we become aware of the risks associated with our children's diet and physical activity levels and it's time for us to make wise choices.

So I hope that you will be seeing more posts here on MommyMaestra dedicated to sharing resources and ways for you to help your children get moving and eat right.

For those of you living in the middle of the city, if you don't have a local park that you feel safe taking your children to play in, and if your child's school does not offer daily PE classes, then maybe you need to think outside the box and get creative when it comes to getting your kids moving.

The new "Muévete Hoy!" exercise video infuses Latin dance moves and a catchy beat as a way to get people up and moving during a break at a conference, meeting, educational seminar, or after school and on the weekends.

To request a DVD copy to play at your meeting, e-mail alejandro.

The video below was produced by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. For more information, visit http://ihpr.uthscsa.edu or read their blog.

Get your kids moving!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day from Text4Baby

Text4baby wants to wish all moms a Happy Mother's Day! To celebrate mothers and all of the wonderful things they do, the team over at text4baby created a word cloud as a way to highlight all of their special attributes. 

Text4baby sends pregnant women & new moms FREE text messages with health information and baby care tips timed to their due date or baby's birth date. If you are pregnant or have a baby under age one, all you have to do is text BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511 411, and you’ll begin to receive free health and safety messages timed to your due date or baby’s birth date. Text messages include information on topics such as labor signs and symptoms, prenatal care, developmental milestones, immunization, nutrition, safe sleep, and much more.

Feel free to join the conversation online at Twitter, @mytext4baby, or on Facebook at text4baby

Disclosure: I was not compensated to share this information with you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

iLearn With Launches New Literacy App in Spanish


Today, iLearn With has launched the Spanish version of their literacy app, Ice Land Adventures. The newest app, ¡Pingüinos!, is designed for children ages 3 to 6 and teaches letter recognition, phonics, reading and spelling.

You can read a complete description of the app (in Spanish) on their new Spanish website, or just go to their iTunes page to download the app FOR FREE.

And to follow along as they release more of their English learning apps in Spanish, you might prefer to follow the Aprendes con Facebook page.


REVIEW: VISUAL LEARNING BOOKS from Sunflower Education

visual learning books

Today I was excited to have the chance to review one of the new visual learning books from Sunflower Education (aff link), and I have to say that I love these teacher resource books that provide blueprints and instructions for creating full-scale, actual-size drawings and diagrams with sidewalk chalk. Both of my kids are visual, hands-on learners. They learn best with projects or activities that establish in their minds whatever it is we're studying. So this book with its directions for making full-scale drawings is such a great resource for us. And teachers, homeschoolers, parents and kids alike will also enjoy drawing their own

Created by teachers, the Social Studies book is divided into seven categories: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (i.e., Lighthouse of Alexandria), iconic images of the Old World (like a Viking ship or medieval castle), Native America (e.g., an Iroquois Longhouse), U.S. History (like a prairie schooner), Historic Transportation (such as the Santa Maria!), Warfare (think modern tanks), and American Landmarks (remember the Alamo?).

Each category features the directions to drawing several different images most closely associated with it. This is such a fantastic tool for supplementing your child's social studies lessons and bringing them to life. The dimensions of each image have been thoroughly researched for accuracy. And each activity comes with four sections: Prepare gives you a rough estimate of how much time the project might take and lists the materials needed to complete the drawing; Focus talks about the history behind each project; Present gives you ideas about different ways to create the drawing; and Conclusion shares ways to bring the lesson to a close.

For kids who are artists at heart, this book helps develop their sense of proportion and reveals the intimate connection between math and art. What a treat to be able to cover such a variety of subjects (social studies/history, math, art, and reading) with one simple activity. We're headed to the library parking lot soon with some chalk and measuring tape. We just have to figure out what image we want to draw.

How much fun would it be to draw the Alamo?

Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. Gracias for supporting MommyMaestra!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Scholastic Teacher Express' End of the Year Dollar Deals Sales

It's here! Scholastic Teacher Express is holding their end of the year Dollar Deals Sales again.

You might remember me writing about it last year when I bought $187.60 worth of eBooks for $16.00!

I love this sale. As a homeschooling mom or teacher, the Dollar Deals are a treasure trove of over 1,000 eBooks for grades PreK-8 that are specially priced for $1, $3 and $5. You can find everything from activity books to lessons plans, and many other teaching resources. You can find downloads for almost any subject and they also have a large Spanish/ELL section.

It’s a really great way for teachers to stock up on resources for next year and for parents to stock up on activities for the children to practice reading and/or math skills during the summer. Avoid Summer Brain Drain with these fun and educational eBooks that keep your kid's skills sharp!

The sale officially starts tomorrow, but you can get a sneak peek today. This 3-day sale is their biggest sale of the year. And you can even pay with PayPal.

I shared my tips for
taking advantage of the sale last year, but I'll share them again, because my 3-step process really is the most sensible way to shop!

First, set a price limit for yourself (i.e., $10, $15, $20, etc.).


Second, start on the first page and then just add whichever products you like to your shopping cart, OR look at your wish list (if you made one last year), and see which products you'd like to use now.

Finally, when you finish, go through your shopping cart and start thinning it out by moving products to your wish list. That way you won't loose them, but will be able to buy them later...or at next year's sale.

This 3-day sale ends at midnight on Sunday, May 12th.

Happy shopping!!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Appreciating Those Who Teach

It really does take a village to help raise and to educate our children, doesn't it? Whether your kids are home schooled or attend a traditional school, there are a lot of people who take part in teaching our children. Some see them every day or maybe a couple times a month. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week but don't stress if you haven't gone out to pick something out for them. As the school year ends, you can also put together something as an end-of-the-year gift. Simply taking the time to say thank you is really the most important idea.

Preschool teachers, tutors, therapists, coaches, music teachers, art teachers, activity leaders, and religious education teachers are all helping our students become well-rounded individuals. They all deserve a little recognition- but that's a lot of people and it can get a little expensive to buy something for everyone.

Nevertheless, whatever your budget might be, little things really are the best. Here are a few inexpensive ideas:

Gift Cards. As low as $5! Teachers love a cup of coffee or a small contribution to help buy all types of books.

Chocolate! A small box of sweets still goes a long way! If I received too much, I always brought it out when guests arrived in my home.

Baked goods. Have your child get involved in baking a small batch of cookies, cupcakes or muffins. Kids love to participate in gift giving.

School supplies. Help your teacher replenish file folders, crayons, markers, tape, staples. Every little bit helps a teacher's

Flowers. Bonus if you have a garden! Freshly picked flowers by a child? So sweet.

Hand written cards and illustrations with your little ones sincere sentiments. And a great teachable-moment from you to your child.

Many kind and selfless teachers will tell you they don't want a gift but I promise you that they do want to be appreciated. When I was teaching, cards made me very happy, but I won't lie and say I didn't love the chocolates! Are there any other inexpensive ideas you might want to add? Please share!


Betty Galvan, is helping her readers "find the positive and seek the benefits" over at her blog, MyFriendBettySays.com.

She is the mother of three beautiful little boys and a teacher.

image via

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: Mom Goes to War, Mamá se va a la guerra

Mom Goes to War, Mamá se va a la guerra
written by Irene Aparici Martín
illustrated by Mónica Carretero

For every family that has ever had to battle cancer at some point in their history, this is a book that helps children to understand the experience in a less frightening way.

Mom Goes to War is about a queen who must explain to her two sons about her fight with breast cancer. In the story, she calls a the princes together and tells them about the rebellion happening in her body. She explains the many battles that she alone must fight, but emphasizes her need for an army of allies who will support and strengthen her. Children will learn about the human body, like the role of ganglions as watchtowers to announce the spread of the 'armed rebels,' or cancer cells. But there's no need to fear, because the General (a.k.a. doctor) has a plan of attack that he is putting into place to help defend the queen.

I love books that help children to understand real-life situations. This books is VERY well written and describes a woman's battle with breast cancer in such a way that children can understand the process with a minimal amount of fear. The illustrations enrich the text with soft watercolors that bring the whole story to life.

And do you know the best part? Mom Goes to War is published by the Spanish publisher, Cuento de Luz, and is available both in English or in Spanish. The English translation was done by Jon Brokenbrow and he does a great job.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Spanish App: Learn Spanish for Toddlers - Bilingual Child Bubbles

Name: Learn Spanish for Toddlers - Bilingual Child Bubbles
Subject(s): Spanish
Brief Description:  An interactive app where children learn Spanish through immersion by selecting pictures that match the written and audible words.
Price: FREE - $23.92
Language: Spanish
Ages: 1 to 4

The newest app from Tiny Factory focuses on developing skills in toddlers and preschoolers. The simple game features 10 different, whimsical lands for your child to travel to. Each land focuses on a specific category, such as los animales (I & II), los números, las figuras geometricas, los medios the transporte, la escuela, las fruitas, la ropa, y los juguetes. Your child selects a category and is taken to a screen with a simple, slowly moving background (like space, or gently rolling hills). Up in the corner, your "teacher" is young Carlos, a Spanish-speaking boy, who says a word in Spanish. The word is also displayed in a word bubble next to his face. Floating around the screen are bubbles of different sizes and inside each one is an object. Your child must touch (or pop) the bubble with the item that correctly matches the word Carlos says.

What I like:  This app is a great tool for both fluent and non-fluent children. Spanish learners can learn Spanish words with this immersion-style game. Spanish-speaking children can develop their vocabulary while learning basic concepts needed for Kindergarten, such as number, color and shape recognition, as well as common and everyday items like animals, types of transportation, fruits, clothes, toys and school supplies. At the same time, the game helps to develop fine-motor skills and even promotes pre-literacy since each word spoken appears in a word bubble next to Carlos. 

Other Notes: I really like this app and recommend it for early education. However, it can be a little pricey because this app offers in-app purchases. You only get two levels (Animales I & Los Números) for free. Each subsequent level/category is $2.99 or all of them for $11.99. Obviously, it is cheaper to just buy them all at once than to purchase each individual level.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. Tiny Factory contacted me and asked me to review their app. I only explored the free levels.


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