Friday, January 30, 2015

PBS KIDS Writers Contest Is Now Open

Hey, parents! Did you know that the annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest opened yesterday? My daughter had a great time when she participated in the contest, writing and illustrating her own adventure story a few years ago. She's too old to participate now, but I remember well how proud she was to create her story and mail it off to PBS KIDS.  

As a Latina mom, I want to urge you to encourage your children to write their own stories. Despite the fact that minorities in the United States will soon be the majority (37% of the current US population are people of color), the number of children's books that contain multicultural content stubbornly remains at only 10 percent. And of that, only a little over 1 percent are Latino children's lit titles.   

We need our stories to be heard. But more importantly, we need them to be written. So get out some paper and sharpen up those pencils and support your child's storytelling skills!

The Writers Contest is designed to promote the advancement of children’s literacy skills through hands-on, active learning. The contest is open to children in grades K-3 and encourages creative thinking and storytelling, while building literacy skills through the creation and illustration of original stories.

To enter, kids can submit stories to their local stations, and local winners will then be entered into the national contest. National winners will be announced during the summer of 2015, and the winning stories will be featured on

This year, the judges include acclaimed writers, producers and children’s media creators, including Marc Brown, author and illustrator of the ARTHUR book series, and the Kratt Brothers, Martin and Chris, from the PBS KIDS show WILD KRATTS. The national winners will receive prize packages including ARTHUR books and a personal technology device courtesy of PBS.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Peekapak Review and GIVEAWAY!

Have you heard of Peekapak? I have and was pleased when they reached out to Mommy Maestra for a collaboration!

Peekapak is a wonderful children's curriculum designed to extend classroom learning into the home. They offer lesson plans for Kindergarten to 3rd grade. They create stories that are Common Core and SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) aligned and include in-class activities that support key themes and learning objectives. The lesson plans are adaptable and parents can support teachers by using the home extensions or do it all at home.

With my big guy in 2nd grade and two little ones in preschool, we decided to gather around my computer and read a story from the 2nd grade curriculum so that they could all participate. We read "The Peekapak Pals and The Tree of Happiness" and we could totally relate to this story! After this major snow craze that kept my boys home for two days this week, we quickly identified with the characters' feelings: No one was enjoying the weather anymore.

Not only were the illustrations vibrant and contemporary, but the boys always love the "comic book" pictures with conversation bubbles over the character's heads. Diego read those to us while I read the narrator's part at the bottom of the pages. We stopped to discuss, made predictions and dove into a printable activity right after we finished reading.

Because the story was so relatable and we were discussing and learning new vocabulary for this specific "grateful" theme, I also took advantage of the construction heart shapes we had previously cut out for a Valentine's Day project, and used them as "tags" like in the story. We wrote things that make us happy and grateful in the hearts and taped them on to our home windows.

Whether you are homeschooling at home or not, these lessons plans are great for any parent who wants to support their children's learning experience at home. It was a perfect lesson plan for our long snowy day!


Our friends at Peekapak are giving 10 Mommy Maestra readers a free 6-month access to their curriculum!  Just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below and Peekapak's social media pages for the newest curriculum information.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Betty Galvan, is writing "for smart and stylish moms" over

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pablo Neruda: Lesson Plans, Videos, Books, & More

This post uses affiliate links.

Did you know that more than 20 unpublished poems by Pablo Neruda have been found? His publisher says the discovery amounts to 'a literary event of universal significance!' They were found among his papers in his native Chile.

The late Nobel laureate led such a colorful life and there are several children's books that have been published describing it. You might remember this little review I did of Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown.

At any rate, I thought now would be a great time to publish another compilation of lesson plans, activities, videos, books, and more of this remarkable poet. I was surprised at how few I could actually find. (Someone needs to remedy this, no?) So below, is a list of some of the great resources I was able to find online. I'll be updating it as I come across new materials.

Lesson Plans


Here are a few printable lessons and activities that may interest you:


Here's a lovely little video of Julie Paschkis, illustrator of "Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People":

For a Spanish video biography, I absolutely love this one for little children from CBeebies Español:

Pablo Neruda Books for Children 

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People 
by Monica Brown and Julie Paschkis

by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis

Also available in Spanish: El soñador

by Pablo Neruda and Jose Moran

by Georgina Lázaro León

Other Posts That May Interest You

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MinuteEarth: Educational Videos

This week, I discovered a fabulous new resource for parents and educators that is perfect for every family's Edutainment Shelf. If you're looking for quick ways and simple explanations to help your son or daughter (or yourself!) understand how things works in the world around us, check out the MinuteEarth channel on YouTube.

Created by Henry Reich of MinutePhysics, this awesome little channel features science and stories about our amazing planet. Most of the videos are around two minutes and cover a lot of ground, with sensible, easy-to-understand explanations for everyone to understand. These are great for supplementing science topics that are covered in school.

Here are just a few examples of the informational videos they offer:

Just a reminder: Not all YouTube content is suitable for children. You should have your Safety Mode on, and/or be present when your child is watching the video. And as usual, always watch videos before sharing them with your children to ensure that they are appropriate.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New 1-Hour Special of ODD SQUAD and a New App!

My kids enjoy a good mystery. Like most kids, they love breaking out their private investigator paraphernalia and being "on the case." That is why they are huge ODD SQUAD fans.

If your kids are like mine, then they won't want to miss the new episodes from the series that will run all next week. They start with a one-hour ODD SQUAD special this Monday (Jan 19th) in which the kid agents save more than the day – they save the world! In “Odd Squad Saves the World,” the agents tackle high-stakes cases and work together to overcome their biggest obstacles yet.

In addition to the on-air broadcast, clips and full segments from “Odd Squad Saves the World” will also be available on, the PBS KIDS Video App and PBS KIDS on Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast and Amazon Fire.

PSST! Did you know that you can now get ODD SQUAD gear in the PBS KIDS shop?

The series also launched its first app this week and it is super fun for kids! 

Name: ODD SQUAD Blob Chase!
Subject(s): math
Brief Description: Kids use math skills to investigate and solve problems as they chase and recover blobs that have escaped their containers and are on the loose in Odd Squad headquarters.
Price: $.99 (for a limited time)
Language: English
Ages: 5 - 8 years
Device: iOS, Android, Amazon Fire

What my kids like:
The entire concept of capturing the blobs that are on the loose. They also like that it is tricky and there is so much action on the screen. It requires quick thinking on their part to zap the right number of pieces to manipulate the blobs across bridges, over walls, up/down tubes to their containers.

What I like:
My son sometimes struggles with math, his least favorite subject, and this app makes applying math concepts fun. I'm delighted that he enjoys using those skills that he needs to practice (addition & subtraction) with the characters/story line that he loves.

Disclosure: I received an ODD SQUAD screener and access to the app for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions above are my own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Benefits of Messy Art

I love the Pinterest art project idea just like every teacher and mother. I love watching my little guys' faces scrunch up inquisitively when they are following directions, and love the look of victory when they have completed an art craft. Some days, even our awesome babysitter shows up with an art lesson plan! The boys are lucky, but because our life is just getting busier and busier and they are getting older fast, I have started to take on a messy art approach these days because honestly...there isn't always a lot of time for planning art projects.

As a former teacher, I'm always thinking, "Are my boys learning from this? I know it's fun, but is it educational, too?" As a busy mom of 3 active boys, let's just say that the art smocks don't even make an appearance any more. I have my spot cleaner for their clothes and carpet ready (just in case!) and let them go wild with art. I'm embracing letting go and letting them just have fun. Here are five reasons why:

1) Kids need a positive approach to new experiences and messy art makes it happen. When my oldest dumped and ruined a box of oatmeal when he was a tiny toddler, it became an art project. A very messy art experience indeed! I added water right where it landed and had him touch and feel the difference. Children love to discover on their own and rather than making a negative experience over a mess made, make it a positive one and enjoy watching them dive right in.

2) The oatmeal project turned into the ultimate sensory experience for my son. Today, my other little guys love scented clay to mold, stickers to randomly stick, glitter paint, glue in different colors, and apples to stamp. I'm letting them feel, smell and even try different types of paper.

3) The boys have developed even more self-confidence through their messy art play. There are no rules and they are allowed to dig in and go for it. Scissors are okay (because I'm sitting there) and those little tools help them learn to trust themselves and their own creative process.

4) Because of the motivating factor to create something from nothing, and with the help of some awesome art materials, kids learn to express their feelings while working on messy art. Messy art time helps my boys release pent up energy on cold rainy days and it gives us time to talk and open up on sunny ones. There's something about bonding over googly eyes and scraps made of old cardboard boxes.

5) Creating art while talking and expressing emotions can produce some interesting work from your child.  Watch their creativity go wild when you provide a paper shopping bag, tape, and markers! The ultimate goal is for our children to love playing and creating with different materials on their own and to grow to love all different forms of art in the future.

Have fun being messy!

Supplies to Have On Hand for Messy Art

Here are my recommendations of basic supplies that we use for messy art.

Betty Galvan, is writing "for smart and stylish moms" over

Monday, January 12, 2015

Nature: A Sloth Named Velcro Video & Printable Game

Do you watch documentaries in your homeschool or to supplement your child's education? We do. And so I'm excited to start a new series here on MommyMaestra called Edutainment Shelf. It's my opportunity to share some of our favorite documentaries, movies, series, and other media that teach families about history, culture, and the world.

DVD: "Nature: A Sloth Named Velcro"
Price$19.99 On sale this week! $17.99
Language: English

Because we love animals so much in this house, we're starting with an episode from one of our favorite shows. This week, PBS is releasing "Nature: A Sloth Named Velcro" on DVD. Do your children know what a sloth is and where it comes from? This wonderful episode follows Ana Salceda, a young Spanish print and television journalist, moved 15 years ago from her native Spain to explore the wilds of Panama. Ana's world turned upside down when she became the caregiver for a tiny orphaned baby sloth, which she named Velcro. For nearly two years, she cared for the baby, letting it live on her. They were inseparable, until the day came for Velcro to be reintroduced back to the wild. But their time together jump-started Ana’s introduction into and involvement with the larger conservation story of sloths, as well as with their caretakers and supporters.

“A SLOTH NAMED VELCRO” tells the story of Salceda’s return to Central and South America to see how much has changed since Velcro came into her life and to document current sloth conservation efforts. Here's a peek at the show:

Of course, after watching this episode, my son when running for his sloth plush (which we got this year from the PBS KIDS line at Whole Foods Market) because my kids were enthralled with the idea of having to carry a sloth everywhere with you.

This video is the perfect supplement to unit studies on:
  • Central America
  • South America
  • Rainforest animals
  • Mammals
  • Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Adaptations

My kids and I absolutely loved this episode of Nature. So we created this little activity packet after watching it. It includes a printable board game that shares fascinating facts about sloths, and we also included a pencil pal craft.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this DVD for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions expressed above are my own.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Spare Parts Movie and Twitter Party!

This is part of a sponsored collaboration with SprintLatino and Latina Mom Bloggers. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

I absolutely love inspirational movies that are made by and/or about Latinos. In fact, I have a whole collection of them on DVD that I break out and watch on a pretty regular basis. Some my kids have already seen, while others I'm saving to show them when they are a little older to help them be proud of their culture and to inspire them to make a difference. So when I saw the trailer below for the new movie Spare Parts, I let out a little squeee! The movie is based on the true story of four Latino students and their teacher on their quest for a shot at a NASA-sponsored, national robotics contest. With no experience, used parts, and $800, the group goes up against MIT, the top robotics team in the country.

As the mother of a daughter who is obsessed with robotics and wants to be a bioengineer, I'm passionate about getting our kids excited about careers in STEM fields. Latinos only account for 5.8% of the engineering workforce, and young Latinas are virtually nonexistent. Most Latino college students aren't pursuing a degree in any of the STEM fields. But with the U.S. Hispanic poverty rate at 24%, a career in one of these fields has the ability to lift families out of poverty since STEM graduates could potentially earn a six-figure salary upon graduation. I'm really hopeful that this film will motivate our kids to discover and explore science, technology, engineering and math.

Spare Parts opens in theaters across the country this coming Friday, January 16th.

Twitter Party Details!

I'm super excited to be co-hosting a Twitter Party tomorrow (Monday) afternoon with some of the cast from the movie! There may be a few surprises along the way so you don’t want to miss it!

What: Latinos in STEM & Spare Parts Twitter Party

When: Monday, January 12th at 2:30 pm PST/5:30 pm EST

Where: Twitter

Hashtags: #SprintSTEM #SpareParts

Who to Follow:
Celebrity Guests: @GeorgeLopez @CarlosPenaNOW

Co-Hosts: @STEMLatina @SassyMamainLA @CouponMamacita @MamaLatina @NarvaezJorge @LatinMami @MamaNoticias @ToughCookieMom @TeachMe2Save @Lista1

Moderators: @LatinaMomBlogs @LatinoMarketing @JollyMom

Brand: @SprintLatino

Friday, January 9, 2015

Do You Know About Best Buy Education?

This is a sponsored post.

I've often written about the role of technology in education and mentioned that even as a homeschool mom, I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind and how much tech I want to use in our daily lessons. By now you know that I rely on Best Buy to supply most of my homeschooling tech needs. But even with all my research, there are times when I still need some guidance, time when I have questions about the the technology and I need someone who is knowledgeable to answer them. Luckily, my local store has staff available to help me when I need it.
I'm aware that there are many educators (not just homeschoolers!) who follow this blog. If you are a teacher, did you know that Best Buy has a direct channel division dedicated to providing end-to-end learning solutions for K-12 Education? They are there to provide educators with the right advice, technology, service, and support.

Best Buy helps you build the right solution for your school
• Knowledgeable Advice
A dedicated Education Account Manager will consult with you, provide unbiased advice and guide you to the right solutions for your school. You’ll have one point of contact and get the personal attention you need every step of the way.
• The Latest Devices
Partner with Best Buy to outfit your classrooms and offices with the latest education technology from top manufacturers you trust.
    - Chromebooks, laptops, tablets, touch screen displays, printers, charging carts, advanced A/V
• Expert Service
Their team of professionals will assess your technology needs and provide all the services you require, including installation, asset tagging, device management and more.
• Professional Support
From pre-sales engineering to post-sales support and training, They'll help you manage your technology and protect your investment.
     - Geek Squad® Support, Geek Squad Protection, training and professional development
They'll help you choose the right platform for your classroom
• Chromebooks and Chrome management
• Android devices
• Windows-based solutions

Are you planning on attending FETC in Orlando, January 20-23? If so, be sure to stop by the Best Buy Education Booth #131. They'll be featuring daily demos and guest speakers from Google, MakerBot, EdTeach, Amplified IT and Ergotron. You can talk with them about your school’s technology needs and they'll answer any questions you may have.

Disclaimer: I am a Best Buy Brand Ambassador and have been compensated for sharing this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Form Your Own Spanish Classes to Earn Extra Money

The following is an advertisement from our sponsor, Spanish for You!

If you are a stay-at-home parent looking for a way to earn extra money, forming your own Spanish classes may be an opportunity. You can do this with Spanish for You! even if you don’t know Spanish. It could be a great way to build a small business and provide interactive Spanish learning for you and your children!

Spanish for You! is a curriculum for grades 3-8 that I created for use with my students. Everything I have done in my classes I have formatted into lessons and materials anyone can use. You simply teach a one-hour class each week using my lesson plans and assign homework from the corresponding week in the lesson guide between classes. All the work is done for you, and you learn right along with your students!

Your material needs as the teacher are nearly the same as if you used the curriculum at home with your own children. You would need:
  • a curriculum package** ($39.95 or $64.95 depending on the grades you plan to teach)
  • teacher lesson plans ($12.95 per grade group - grades 3-4, 5-6, and/or 7-8)
  • optional teacher printable flashcards of all the vocabulary and verbs ($4.99)

**Curriculum packages come in themes - Mi vida (My Life), Viajes (Travels), Fiestas (Celebrations), and Estaciones (Seasons). You choose the theme that interests you and then teach that theme to all your grades during the same semester or school year. Usually students are grouped in classes of grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8, but there is some flexibility with that. The lesson plans and homework tailor to the different grade levels.

The students would need a curriculum package like yours that they purchase directly from our website. Since the students each have a package like yours, when you assign the weekly homework, they already have it. You don’t have to print, copy, or distribute anything!

To find students you can talk with friends and neighbors. Create a flyer or brochure to distribute in your neighborhood, church, library, or other places with a board for posting information. Start small to get your feet wet and then grow as your expertise grows!

There are many options for places to hold your classes. You could hold small classes at your home. Community organizations sometimes have space to rent for a small fee, and some churches provide free class space in return for volunteer work.

If you need support at any time, you can contact me at I am also available to speak via phone to answer questions as you plan or teach your classes.

If you have been looking for an opportunity to make extra money, you may want to give this a try. You DON’T have to know Spanish, and you DON’T have to be a teacher!

Debbie Annett
Owner and Author
Spanish for You!
For Class Use info.:

Bosque de las Fantasías: Poems and Stories for Children

Oooo! I have a lovely little resource for all of you today! During the L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program, I frequently get emails asking me for free books and stories in Spanish. If you were one of those people, then here ya go!

Bosque de las fantasías is a fantastic little website with short stories, poems, activities, and more.

Simply click on the category you're interested in located in the sidebar and then select the story/poem you want to read. Each one comes with a single illustration to fascinate your child.

Aren't they super cute!?!

And the stories/poems themselves are fun, creative, and engaging for children. 

The only thing I don't like about the site is the ads that are placed in between the titles/illustrations and the text. I find them distracting and a bit annoying. I'd prefer they be placed at the bottom of the page. 

So go on over and explore the site yourself! I'd love to know what you think...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

PowerPoints Game for Beginning Spanish Readers {PRINTABLE}

This post uses affiliate links. 

MommyMaestra sponsors are some of the best people on the planet. Each month, they provide free downloads for MommyMaestra readers. Lectura para niños simply has amazing materials for parents and educators who are teaching Spanish-speaking children how to read in Spanish. And today's free printable game is no different.

Leah says:
I’m in the process of updating all of my PowerPoints with new Clip art!
I love these new PowerPoints. They are great for immediate feedback, which is what the students need. I usually play these PowerPoints as a whole class and then put them on the student stations for the students to use independently. Later I print them and put Hot Dots stickers (aff) on them. The Hot Dots stickers are hot and cold for correct/incorrect answers. Use the Hot Dots pen to read the stickers. The pen will either “yes” or “no, try again.” I love that the students can play this game in so many ways. This PowerPoint is great for reinforcing beginning Spanish Reading skills.

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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Printable 2015 Resolution Chart for Kids

This is the first year that my children have made "New Year's resolutions." It took some guidance on my part so that they didn't write down the first thing that popped into their head and with which they were unlikely to carry through. I didn't want them to fall into the category of people who say after a few weeks, "Oh, well. New Year's resolutions are made to be broken!"

So to help my kids think carefully about theirs, we first discussed what exactly a resolution is: a commitment to an idea or goal. Then I thought it would be most helpful if I created a fun little chart to help guide them on which goals they want to work toward this year.

The printable focuses on four aspects:

  • 3 things I want to learn about 
  • 3 traits I want to work on
  • 3 skills I want to develop
  • 3 books I want to read!
I was so happy when they were excited to fill theirs out. It took a little work on my part to keep my son from listing the same thing over and over in some of the squares, and some suggestions from me on which books to read, but for the most part, I asked them to fill it out on their own with careful thought about what they needed to work on.

The activity was so successful, I wanted to go ahead and share it with all of you. Just click the link below. The chart is available in both English and Spanish.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Free Download: Letters to the Magi in English & Spanish

Do your children leave letters to the Magi in their shoes on the night of the 5th? Or perhaps they leave a little letter next to a box full of hay for the Magi's camel? If so, here is a little freebie for you from MommyMaestra! Your kids will love these colorful printable letters to the Magi.

This post includes affiliate links.

Printable Template for Letters to the Magi

Our first post of the year is a printable stationery set. It comes with two designs and both are available in English and Spanish.


More Día de los Reyes Printables

Day of the Magi - Dia de los Reyes - Bilingual Minibook

This minibook is an introduction to the Day of the Magi. This book includes coloring pages of items most closely associated with the holiday, as well as brief descriptions in English and Spanish that are easy for young children to understand. Comes in three versions: English-only, Spanish-only, and bilingual. For PreK through 3rd.

This is a one-page history on the Día de los Reyes Magos, or the Epiphany that is celebrated in Latin America and Spain. Your students will learn about this holiday tradition. Available in full color or black-and-white, this informational text is written for students in 6th - 10th grade. Includes an 8-question comprehension quiz plus answer key.

Día de los Reyes Decorations Packet

This is my favorite printable for Día de los Reyes! Your students will enjoy it, too. This packet includes:
• a festive banner to print and hang,
• photo booth props,
• a writing activity where your kids write a letter and stick it into a printed shoe,
• and shoebox decorating sheets for those who put out a box of grass for the camels. Each sheet contains a different scene and the sheets are available for small and large boxes.
For PreK-4th.

Other Día de los Reyes Posts You May Enjoy


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