Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Best of MommyMaestra 2015

Dear Friends and Familia,

2015 has gone by in a flash! It is so hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the year.

Over the last few years, I've done a "Best of MommyMaestra" post highlighting popular posts (and ones I really enjoyed writing or reading) for each month of that year. It is always fascinating to go through my site and discover which ones were the most popular.

But first, I want to thank MommyMaestra's wonderful sponsors who share such fantastic freebies every month to help MM readers teach their children a new language or new skills and concepts. A giant abrazo to Lectura para niños and Spanish for You!. I'd also like to thank Risas y Sonrisas for their support of MommyMaestra and articles to help parents raising bilingual children. I want to encourage each of you to visit their sites where you'll discover wonderful products to help you raise multilingual kids. And if you are a parent or educator who has downloaded their free content from MommyMaestra, please take a moment to just say thank you to them so they'll be inspired to continue to provide you with such great materials.

I also must thank all of the guest contributors to this site, who share such wonderful content with us.

MommyMaestra is always looking for guest contributors. We want to hear and share your stories to inspire other Latino families to get involved in their children's education. We want you to be excited about the things your child is learning and to take an active role in their journey of discovery. When I first started MommyMaestra almost 5 years ago, I only knew of a handful of Latino homeschoolers and there were NO blogs dedicated to education for Latino families. Today, it is rare that a week goes by when I don't get an email or message from a mother (sometimes a father!) who is looking for curricula, has questions about how to start homeschooling, or needs resources for helping their child improve in specific subjects at school.

May 2016 be a wonderful year for your familia.


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

" probably already know that more than 20 unpublished poems by Pablo Neruda have been found.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."
This popular post shares resources for you to use as you introduce one of the world's most famous Latino poets.


App Review: Ortografía Paso a Paso

"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."
App reviews remain in high demand with MommyMaestra readers, especially those that help young Spanish learners, such as this one!


"There are so many wonderful Hispanic women who have made an impact on our world's history. Today, I've chosen three who I feel have had the greatest influence. All three are simply fascinating, and while I've limited the information here, I would encourage you to delve into each one and study them yourselves."
This post turned out to be extremely popular with MM readers! And as a Hispanic woman, I really, really enjoyed writing it! ;)


"I am so thrilled to announce that PBS KIDS is celebrating Día de los niños, Día de los libros this year! How wonderful is it to have the holiday recognized on national television? Bilingual families and those with young Spanish learners will find this of special interest."
I am always excited to see major companies supporting Latino holidays and traditions. You guys loved this post and free download almost as much as I did!


"The Build Your Own Game Board and Activities comes with activity cards and links to activities and games that boost language learning. This particular freebie focuses on the months of the year, symbols or images associated with each month, and an audio file to help the players/learners with pronunciation. There's also a worksheet at the end for practicing the vocabulary."
I'm so thankful to Spanish for You! and all their wonderful monthly freebies for parents and educators to use while teaching children Spanish. Debbie's activities do a great job of boosting Spanish vocabulary in young learners.


"If you have a child who is crazy about dinosaurs then the chance are good that you've got those little dinosaur skeleton figures floating around in their toy chest. So why not use them to let your child role play a paleontologist?"
Tutorials for activities that can be done any time of the year are always fun, such as this one!


"All children - not just my own - need to have a smooth transition back to school. Abrupt change is hard even for the most flexible of people and that is why we need to prepare our kids emotionally, as well as academically, for the start of classes."
Of course, I love posts that help parents with issues they encounter all year long.


"Whether you are a parent teaching your preschooler at home or a preschool educator preparing for the new school year, it's important to have a collection of books that you read aloud to your young students. Children should be read to daily for at least 15 minutes. It's important to remember that those 15 minutes can be spread throughout the day and not limited to one sitting. So you might begin your day with one book, read another before nap time, and a final book before bed."
Literacy is SO IMPORTANT to a child's academic success! And that skill development begins at birth at home with you.


"Despite their best efforts at encouraging their kids to speak Spanish, when only one of the parents is bilingual, they find that after a certain age, their children always revert back to speaking English at home, because mom and dad both understand it. This can even be the case in households where one parent makes the effort to exclusively speak in Spanish to the child as he or she grows up. Once kids start attending school in English, it tends to completely take over the other language at home."
This was a super popular post in September. Special thanks to Leticia Smith, creator of Risas y Sonrisas, for sharing her expert opinion with us.


"Aren't they adorable? They are fun and so easy to make. Put them inside a super cute bolsita I designed that you can print and assemble yourself, and you'll have a fun treat bag to give your child or their friends this holiday."
Teaching our kids cultural traditions is fun and rewarding. Help your children be proud of their heritage and build their self-confidence so they'll succeed in life.


"This freebie matches my beginning sounds phonics center, but is in black and white. I send these pages home for homework when we are practicing deciphering beginning sounds...These are a great way to get the parents involved in their students' learning."
Lectura para niños is the best resource available for parents and educators who are teaching their young Spanish speakers to read and write in Spanish! Thanks to Leah for all the samples and free downloads of her creative materials.


"Peruvian retablos are a form of art typical of the Andes. They have their origin in the altar boxes brought by the Spaniards, but over the centuries they developed into a folk art expression."
Guest contributors, such as Mariana Llanos, are a valuable part of MommyMaestra. Thank you all for such creative and inspirational posts that share your experience and genius ideas!

See you next year!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad from MommyMaestra!

I love the art of Kate Hadfield, don't you? Wishing you all a wonderful day with familia and friends.

¡Feliz Navidad!

Monday, December 21, 2015

"'Twas the Noche Before Christmas" Free Printable

Dear friends,

I'll be focusing on family for the rest of the year, so my postings here will be sparse (unless I find some real goodies!). But before that happens, I want to make sure and leave you with one more gift: "'Twas the Noche Before Christmas" printable poem.

This post contains affiliate links.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Bilingual Version

Many years ago, the famous poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas came out. It didn't take long before some creative genius rewrote it with a Latin twist. Since then it has been rewritten countless times.

My mother published one of these adaptations YEARS ago in one of her columns (she has been a journalist my whole life). It was so good, that I wanted to share it with you. So I received permission to create this FREE DOWNLOAD of  'Twas the Noche Before Christmas. This version was written by Samuel Saenz, who is now retired and living in Texas.

I've created three different little "posters" so you can choose the one you like best, print it and share it with your children, all your friends, or just hang it in your house for some holiday decoration.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas in Spanish

If you were looking for the actual Spanish version of the Christmas classic, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, here are a few resources.

First of all, in Spanish, this poem is titled, Era La Vispera de Navidad. You might like this beautiful children's book to share with the students or children in your life:

Era La Vispera de Navidad

Era La Vispera de Navidad
by Clement C. Moore

If you want a preview of it, you can find a good read-aloud version on YouTube by KidTimeStoryTime:

Here's another book version:

Cuento De Nochebuena: The Night Before Christmas Spanish

Happy Holidays to you all,



Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sesame Street's Star S'Mores

Can you guess what we'll be doing today?? Thanks, Sesame Street!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Libritos de Villancicos y Aguinaldos

Does your family enjoy singing villancicos or aguinaldos? A few years ago, I created a little Christmas carol booklet for our homeschool group, who sang the songs at our local nursing home. This year, after creating a set of printables about Parrandas, I was inspired to do the same with aguinaldos. And then I thought, "Why not villancicos?" So I did.

You can now find both of these wonderful little booklets in my TpT store. Just print on both sides of the paper, fold in half, and staple in the middle. They're available in black-and-white (to save on ink and allow children to color in) or full-color versions.

Both booklets are available IN SPANISH ONLY.

The villancico booklet includes the following songs:
  • Noche de paz
  • Arbolito, arbolito
  • Mi burrito sabanero
  • Los peces en el río
  • Fum, fum, fum
  • Dime Niño
  • Adoremos
  • Pastores venid 
  • Campana sobre campana
  • El tamborilero
  • Ya vienen los Reyes Magos

The aguinaldo booklet includes the following songs:
  • Estrella de Belén 
  • Arbolito, arbolito
  • Alegres venimos
  • Pobre lechón
  • Traigo un ramillete
  • Las Navidades
  • Alegría
  • Venid Pastores
  • Linda parranda
  • Flores de aguinaldo
  • Aguinaldo de la Trulla

Want to see what they are like? Here's a sample for you to download.

Note: These are lyrics only. Musical score not included.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

App Review: Juana la Iguana

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Juana, la iguana. All thoughts and ideas expressed above are strictly my own.

Are you the parent of a preschooler? If so, (and if you have followed me for any amount of time) you know that I believe that preschool is critical to a child's future success. Even if you don't enroll your child in a good-quality preschool and are working with him or her at home, you still need tools to help you teach those important concepts that all children need to master before they start their formal education. Today, I have a new one for you.

NameJuana, la iguana
Subject(s): Preschool concepts
Brief Description: An interactive app for preschoolers that teaches children basic skills such as counting, colors, and vocabulary development.
Price: $2.99
Language: Spanish
Ages: 3 - 5 years

Juana la iguana is a vibrant app that is engaging for preschoolers who will find five activities that help them learn to identify colors and count up to 10. The illustrations are fun and colorful, making the app enjoyable.

Your child will learn the names of animals and fruits, while completing simple games that reinforce the vocabulary, such as matching...

Or develop hand-eye coordination by having kids drag and drop...

Or help them learn to count by touching and counting aloud...

The app is completely in Spanish, thus immersing the child in the language. However, I think that what I love most about this app is that the reward each child receives for completing the activities is an opportunity to stand up and dance to a fun, energetic song.

The only thing I don't like is that it appears to only be available for iOS and I know that the majority of MommyMaestra readers use android phones and tablets.

And if you enjoy this app, the developer has a second Juana app available with a beach theme. You can find it here.

Disclosure: I received this app for review purposes. All thoughts and ideas expressed above are strictly my own.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Free Download: Christmas Spoons Game in Spanish

With Christmas less than two weeks away and it provides an excellent opportunity for developing your young Spanish learner's vocabulary. Luckily, our sponsor Spanish for You! has created a super fun activity to help you! This month's download helps them learn and practice key phrases associated with Christmas.

This printable activity teaches key vocabulary associated with the holiday. The 4-page download comes with vocabulary cards, worksheets, and directions. Not sure of the pronunciations? No worries! It also comes with the audio to help you with the pronunciation of each word. 

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. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Multimedia Giveaway to Complement Transformative Calendar

Back in October, I shared with you a valuable and FREE new resource from authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy. The Transformative Calendar is full of suggestions for books and poems appropriate for different dates throughout the year.

Because these ladies are truly giving and supportive of families and educators all across this country, they have offered to participate in a monthly giveaway here on MommyMaestra. Each month, they'll be giving away resources that are mentioned in their Transformative Calendar.

This month's Multimedia giveaway includes:

1. Merry Navidad + DVD El encuentro mágico con el folklore infantil by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy

2. Todo es canción + DVD Escribiendo desde el corazón by Alma Flor Ada

3. La moneda de oro/The Gold Coin read by Alma Flor Ada

4. Abecedario by Alma Flor Ada music by Suni Paz

Book + CD:
5. Música amiga Number 1 ¡Qué rica la ronda! by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, music by Suni Paz

One lucky MommyMaestra reader will win all of these materials. Because we are already to December 10th and because I'd love for you to receive the items before Christmas and Dia de los Reyes, I'm going to have a weekend giveaway with a quick turnaround. 

To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: La Familia Cool - The Most Valuable Treasure

by Dania Santana
illustrated by Ramon Sandoval

If you don't usually buy books to give as gifts, I hope that this year is the year you start a new tradition. For birthdays and holidays, my children always receive at least a one gift bag full of books. 

If you are looking for new titles to buy and share with your children, you'll find lots of recommendations here on MommyMaestra. Today, I'm happy to participate in a book blog tour and introduce you to a new author and her first published children's book. You may already follow Dania on her blog, La Familia Cool. Dania is not only a bilingual blogger, but also an incredible translator. I've worked with her on other projects before and she is top notch.

Her first book for children is another example of her commitment to helping Latino families prosper. La Familia Cool: El tesoro mas valioso/The Most Valuable Treasure is a sweet story to which many children may relate: Abi Cool and her cousin Tony Cool are feeling bad about themselves because their school mates have made comments questioning their identity. They wonder why it is they don't look like other members in their own family...until Mami Cool shows them a family treasure and changes their perspective.

Having married a non-Latino, my own children have experienced looking completely different from the blond-haired, blue-eyed father and their cousins back in Texas. Fortunately, they are proud of their heritage and unique appearance. But only because I've worked hard to foster their interest and pride in our ancestors and their culture. 

Like our family, the Familia Cool is made up of family members who are as diverse as the Latino culture itself. And just like my own family, they learn to appreciate their diversity by learning about the lives of their ancestors. 

This illustrations are fun well-done. They complement the story line in a such a way so as to enrich the story, keeping it engaging for young readers. The best part is that this book comes with full text in both English and Spanish making it easier for all members of the family to enjoy. 

Teachers: this book is works well with lessons and unit studies of cultural diversity, heritage, fitting in, bullies, and so much more. 

If you are thinking about giving books as gifts this holiday season, don't forget to add La Familia Cool to your list!

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hour of Code and #STEM #Giveaway

Good morning, Familia! Did you know that this week is Computer Science Education Week? And to celebrate, students all across the country (and the world!) will be participating in an Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to computer science. Designed to teach the basics, ANYONE can participate; there are no age restrictions AND IT IS FREE. I know MommyMaestra readers will love it because the one-hour lesson is available in more than 40 langauges!

And you don't have to know diddle about coding to learn. The online tutorials are totally awesome! Your child can choose from various themes, such as Minecraft, Star Wars, or Frozen. Each one gives your child challenges and shows them how to complete them. It really is fabulous.

Why should you have your child participate? Because Latinos continue to be virtually invisible in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. In 2013, only 9 percent of STEM degrees and certificates went to Latinos. According to Horacio Gutiérrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft, in a NBC article this summer:
"There are tens of thousands of jobs in the Untied States—certainly thousands of jobs in the technology field—that are currently not being filled because of the unavailability of talent in the country," he said. "So we have an opportunity by increasing the pipeline of Latinos in the STEM fields of matching them with those jobs."

There are MANY high-paying jobs in need of skilled professionals. And Latino children - our children - are the future workforce of this country. Let's give them the opportunities to learn and nuruture their love of STEM subjects to help them succeed.

So sign up your kids today for the Hour of Code! It's easy and free.


To further help you parents nurture your child's STEM interest and skills, I've partnered with six other Latina bloggers to give you a wonderful present to give your kids this holiday season.

MommyMaestra, ModernMami, Qué Means What, Mami Talks, Mamá Latina Tips, and Hispana Global have all pooled our money to create this awesome set of STEM toys worth more than $100! And one of our readers is going to win it. Our turn around time is quick; you have 7 days to enter so that we can get the toys shipped to you before the holidays arrive.

To enter, all you have to do is use the Rafflecopter below.

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 4, 2015

Free Homework Book for Spanish Students: Penmanship

We are so grateful to all of our sponsors here at MommyMaestra. They are diverse and share valuable activities for MM readers with different needs. Lectura para niños is sharing their final freebie of the year with us today. It is a sample of her excellent Homework Book for Penmanship and is a resource for students in a dual immersion environment or English language learners. Help your student develop their handwriting skills with this simple activity book!

Leah says...

This book has penmanship for Preschoolers, Kinders and those ready for beginning syllables! These penmanship pages provide a developmental range for those who are beginning writers to those who are more advanced and need just a little bit more work. They are also great to send home for homework.

If your readers would like to see the entire book, they can click here.

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, December 2, 2015

How to Make Your Own Peruvian Retablo

Nicario Jimenez: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Looking for a unique culturally-inspired craft for your students? Here's a fabulous Peruvian Retablo tutorial that your kids can make anytime of the year, but especially during the holidays. 

Please welcome back, children's book author and mother of three, Mariana Llanos, who wrote this post to share what she has done in her own home with her children. We hope it inspires you!

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Make Your Own Peruvian Retablo

One of my favorite crafts to do around Christmas is a nativity scene. Today, I’m making a recreation of a Peruvian retablo. Peruvian retablos are a form of art typical of the Andes. They have their origin in the altar boxes brought by the Spaniards, but over the centuries they developed into a folk art expression. Retablos usually depict religious scenes, like the nativity, but also other important cultural, political and social events. Retablos are also a form of storytelling since they represent and preserve oral traditions. Typical retablos are made of cedar wood boxes, painted with vibrant colors. The figures are made out of special clay, a mix of potato flour and gesso, carefully crafted and fixed inside the box.

Joaquin Lopez: Made by Joaquin Lopez Antay. Image © UBC Museum of Anthropology

For this craft, my own interpretation of a retablo, I’m going to use mostly recycled materials.

Supplies You'll Need:

We start by finding ‘the right box.’ I think this is the most important step. Determine what size box you want to use; make sure it has no dents, and that its flaps are in good condition. If your box has any packing tape you may remove it and replace it with masking tape. That way you’ll be able to paint over it. Now gather the whole family and give each person a task. This is a family project!

I chose a small box, fixed it with masking tape, and painted it white. Then, I painted the inside with dark blue. I gave it a couple of coats for optimal coverage. Once it was dry, I painted red lines in all corners as shown in the picture. My brush was a flat point size 8. After it was all dry, I went back with a little bit of white to retouch and fix the parts I had messed up. There were lots!

I let the paint dry while I chose my color palette: hot pink, dark purple, green, and yellow. I chose these colors because I wanted it to be traditional. Usually, retablos are decorated with flower motifs, arabesques, and geometrical figures. First, I made flowers on the inside flaps just by pressing my rounded brush around, like making petals. You can use a stencil or anything else that can help you. I suggest you practice your design on a piece of paper before painting on the box. A good thing to remember is that these decorations are simple and symmetrical. 

I made my designs in all the panels of the box. I didn’t have to, but my daughter wanted flowers everywhere. Once this was dry, I painted the outside flaps. Usually, retablos have half of a flower on each flap so it looks like one flower when the flaps are closed. I did my best to make it that way, even though my flaps will not close together since the box is not a square.

Also, if you notice, I cut the corners of the top flap to shape it like a trapezoid. You can make it into any shape you want. 

While our house dried, I started crafting the little people. I used cardboard from a cereal box. The most important step is to calculate their size. If you make them too big, they won’t fit in the box.

I cut faces and painted them with sharpies. Then I put everything together with hot glue. I had a lot of fun deciding what they were going to wear. I used burlap because of its rustic texture. For the head, I used a crumpled ball of tissue paper and fixed it in place with a dab of glue. If you were going to make a bigger house, you could use toilet paper rolls and use Styrofoam balls for their heads and faces. You can use anything you have handy to decorate these cute little figures. 

For baby Jesus, I used a small rectangle of burlap, cramped tissue paper and a cardboard circle for his face. I bundled everything with the help of hot glue. Isn’t he cute? We even made a cow… well, I know, it could be a Dalmatian, too. 

Before I put the holy family in, my daughter thought it would be nice to let her princesses in for a house tour.

This Peruvian-inspired nativity is a great reminder of the reason why we celebrate Christmas, but even if you’re not religious, you can create your own scenes: from your family life, your favorite movie, etc.

The best part is that after Christmas you can pack everything away in it and save it for next year. With a nice ribbon, it can be a great present! 

This is the time of the year to strengthen bonds and make memories. For bicultural/bilingual families like mine, it’s also time to learn about our traditions and connect our two cultures.

I hope you have a rich holiday season full of love, family, culture, and books!

A Book about Retablos

You may also find this book inspiring. Request it from your local library, or buy your own copy to add to your personal collection:

The Retablos of Jeronimo Lozano From Peru to Utah


Mariana Llanos is a Peruvian-born writer and mother of three. She has published six children’s books available in English and in Spanish on or her website . Mariana visits schools around the world through virtual technology to encourage children to read and write. For this season, Mariana recommends The Wanting Monster (El monstruo quierelotodo in Spanish), a story about a boy who wants everything he sees around Christmas time. Mariana is currently working on The Wanting Monster 2: Andy goes to Perú.

Connect with Mariana on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Amazon.