Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Celebrating Shark Week with National Geographic Kids

I have to admit a secret: I'm not a fan of sharks. I never have been ever since I saw a few scenes of JAWS as a kid. And here I am a former zookeeper! Isn't that silly? Logical Me knows that what I saw on the show was a bunch of bunk, but the Illogical Me is all "Ummm. No way."

But luckily Logical Me is careful not to pass on my fear to my kids. We don't live too far from the Outer Banks here in North Carolina. And, yes, we go to the beach. (No, I don't get in the water...but my kids do. And you can bet your bippy I'm watching from the shore like una loca.)

We have books on sharks and watch occasional documentaries on sharks. My son is fascinated. So you can imagine how excited he was to get the newest National Geographic Kids 2018 Almanac (aff), which happens to feature a shark on the cover.

And on the inside, there is a new Almanac Newsmaker Challenge to save our sharks. Led by National Geographic explorer and marine conservationist, Jessica Camp, the challenge teaches kids all about sharks. And if your kids visit natgeokids.com/almanac, they'll find

  • an interview with Jessica
  • a shark quiz and earn a SOS certificate
  • the "What kind of shark are you?" personality game
  • shark mask and poster downloads
  • a poll to select the shark photo to appear on next year's almanac
  • more stuff your kids can do to help save sharks

These Nat Geo Kids almanacs are one of my kids' favorite gifts each year. I try to keep them in the car to keep my kids busy reading on long (or short!) car rides.The "bite-sized" (see what I did there?) stories are just right for a quick, 10-minute ride, or can entertain my two for much longer trips. Of course, whoever is reading is constantly reading aloud interesting tidbits for everyone in the car to enjoy. But really, my son will take it and read it anywhere: at home, outside, at the library, at the doctor's office...wherever. It makes me happy to know they are enjoying their time reading while maintaining and developing important literacy skills.

Of course, the Almanac isn't just about sharks. Oh, no. It has more than 350 pages and 500+ incredible photos about EVERYTHING you can imagine - and some things you can't! New this year is the Your World 2018 chapter that shares things to do, places to see, and ways that your kids can change the world.

You'll also find:

  • games, jokes, and activities
  • chapters dedicated to engineering and technology, space, and Earth & life sciences
  • updated maps, facts, and reference materials
  • much, much more!
And don't forget that your kids can find extensive digital extras at natgeokids.com/almanac.

And because I simply can't help myself, I decided to put together a quick, one-page, shark-themed download for y'all. But guess what? It grew into a 20-page packet. Oops! But I had a lot of fun doing it. So, in honor of Shark Week, I'm offering it to all MommyMaestra readers for FREE THIS WEEK ONLY. And it is only available in English at this time. Don't worry, it's on my list of projects to translate into Spanish.   It's available in Spanish now, too!

Enjoy Shark Week!!

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Disclaimer: I am a National Geographic Kids Ambassador. I received the products pictured at the top of this post for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Free Spanish eBook for K - 5th

Spanish teacher alert!

Parents and teachers of bilingual students, I'm so happy to tell you about a new free resource! This collaboration between 18 Spanish-language TpT authors is a goldmine for you. All of them are fantastic and brilliant at creating quality content for your bilingual or Spanish classroom. I was happy to contribute to it, as well.

The Spanish eBook 2017 for grades K - 5 is now available. It is jam packed with tips, inspiration, and FREE RESOURCES for your Pre K-5th Grade Spanish classroom! Each author contributed a free printable, an original teaching tip, and other fantastic products that they have available to help you have a stellar school year. Take a look...

Mundo de Pepita is hosting this year's eBook on her TpT page. So don't hesitate! Get over there and download your copy today.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Resources for Teaching Children About the Great American Eclipse

It seems as if the whole country is preparing for the celestial event happening on August 21st. Is your family or classroom thinking about observing the upcoming solar eclipse? It's being described as the "Great American Eclipse" since it will be visible in totality only within a band across the entire contiguous United States. Everyone in the country will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, but only those within the path of totality will see the full eclipse.

This is a wonderful opportunity for children across the country to learn about eclipses and especially about the sun and its corona. If you are looking for resources to help you teach your students or children about this event, I've compiled a list of some excellent sites and tools that you can use.


This post contains affiliate links.

Lesson Plans

  • NASA Total Eclipse website - This is seriously my favorite resource! From activities to lesson plans to citizen science, NASA has compiled EVERYTHING you need to study and prepare for not only the Great American Eclipse but any eclipse. You can even live stream the event safely from your computer - so if you aren't in the path of totality, you can still view the complete solar eclipse.
    They also have a section created specifically for HOMESCHOOLERS with family activities and free downloads.
    AND the best part is that they have a whole section available in Spanish, including a video interview with Dr. Yari Collado-Vega, a Space Weather Forecaster. (You can learn more about her here.)
  • PBS Learning Media has also put together a bunch of resources for educators and students to learn about eclipses. This page is a compilation of materials you can use to accompany their Teacher Toolkit.
  • BrainPOP Educators - A short list of their eclipse resources.



Remember! NEVER look at the sun directly - even during an eclipse! Use solar eclipse viewing glasses to protect your eyes. Here are some possible glasses available via Amazon. But remember to order them soon as there is no guarantee there will be any available in the weeks leading up to the eclipse!



  • Total Solar Eclipse - Available for iOS and Android; Gives you access to five simultaneous video streams, including live coverage in Spanish hosted by Exploratorium educators.

Commemorative T-shirts

Are you planning to watch the eclipse as a family? Or maybe your classroom is headed outside to watch. Either way, check out these awesome tees...

Monday, July 17, 2017

MommyMaestra Sponsor: Speekee Spanish for Kids

Just a quick shout-out to MommyMaestra sponsor, Speekee - Spanish for Kids! It's an online, video-based, Spanish immersion program for kids ages 4 and up.

If you are looking for a different type of program to teach your children Spanish this coming homeschool year, and prefer one that doesn't require the parent to teach the lessons, this may be the choice for you. It does require internet access so that your child can login and watch the lessons at his or her own pace.

Want to learn more? Read my complete review of their curriculum here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


This is a sponsored post in collaboration with KIDDO TV. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a person asking me to take a look at their YouTube children's channel. This is a fairly common occurrence for me, so I clicked on the link without any great expectations. After watching one episode, I was a fan and knew it was a great fit for MommyMaestra readers. So I agreed to work with them to share their great content.

KIDDO TV is a YouTube channel dedicated to creating and sharing educational and entertaining videos for children. They have a number of shows for kids probably as young as 4 years old up to 12 years old (this is my own estimation based on watching the videos).

As a parent, I know how hard it is to use YouTube as a teaching tool with children because there is simply too much inappropriate content shared on the site. That's why I love finding original YouTube channels, such as KIDDO TV, that you can safely pull up and/or subscribe to without fear of commercials and links to videos not intended for children.

(TIP! Change your settings at the bottom of the page to "Restricted Mode" and lock it in place with your Google password. Then you will feel safer because it will screen out "mature" content that you don't want your child to see.)

Back to KIDDO TV - This channel is definitely worth checking out because all of the shows teach young children valuable lessons. Below is a short description of three of the different shows that are featured.


My absolute favorite series is ART LESSONS. Each video lasts approximately 15 minutes and is like sitting down in art class for an actual lesson. Miki is our teacher. With paint brushes sticking out of her hair and her fun apron, she's exactly what I think of in an art teacher. Miki is fun, thorough, and engaging as she encourages the children to create their own masterpieces using the techniques she carefully shows them. "It's not a mistake, it's just going to make a different picture," she says to one boy when he uses a little too much of one color. I simply love how she teaches children to not just make art, but how to look at it, too! I also think parents will like how organized the lessons are and how she clearly explains each step.

I also appreciate the diversity of the students on the show. In fact, the entire channel has a multicultural feel which appeals to me as a parent raising global citizens.

Here is the first video that I watched and that immediately won me over...

This series could EASILY be used as part of your child's homeschool art curriculum.  There are currently only 10 lessons/videos, so this would work mainly as an art supplement. As a homeschool parent, I would watch the lesson in advance, so that I would know what materials I'd need to purchase or prepare. And then your kids could simply watch the lesson on their own and complete the project.

Fitzy, the Monster

This animated series is for a much younger audience. The focus here is on introducing children to making healthy, responsible choices. The videos are much shorter - typically only a minute and a half. The idea of the 25 videos in this series is to teach a single concept, such as brushing your teeth, picking up toys, making your bed and so much more! 

As a parent, I would recommend watching one video a day together with your child and then putting what they learned into practice. I love how the messages help to boost your child's self-esteem and independence.


This show is a little more unusual. Again, it is geared for younger children and is about Stroosh, an alien who has awakened on Earth but he doesn't know who or what he is or where he came from. He befriends a young boy named Luca, who introduces him to the planet Earth using his handy "Lucapedia." 

I think this show is pretty engaging for young children because the main characters are all puppets. It is well done, but has very simple dialog for a younger audience. 


There are several other series that are fun and instructional for children, but you'll have to visit their YouTube channel to learn more about them! I think you'll like how diverse each of the shows are - there's something for everyone! 

And if you visit their website, you can download and print coloring pages that feature characters from their popular shows.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Free Online Game: Number Pair Staircase 2

Once again, I've partnered with Education.com to bring you a fun educational activity! You might remember the DIY Dino Bones Activity I shared with you earlier this year. Now, they are sharing an online math-boosting game to share with your children.

Remember, Education.com is an ad-free, online learning program is for students in Pre-K through the 5th grade. Designed to help boost your child's math and reading skills, you'll find tons of online games, printable activity pages, tutorials, and more to keep your kid busy learning.

Today's activity is the Number Pair Staircase 2. It's a great way to sneak in some addition learning!
Finding number pairs that equal 10 is an essential foundational skill. Work on this and more math concepts with Education.com's collection of number games.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Summer Camp @ Home Calendars

Summer Camp @ Home Calendars

Have you been using the MommyMaestra Summer Camp at Home packet this year? If so, I just wanted to let you know that the calendars have all been updated with some new materials.

The packet is a way for parents of 6 to 10 year olds to keep their kids busy entertained and learning at home. Can't afford to send your child to a summer camp program? Don't have time to take your kids to a program every day? No worries! You can just have them do summer camp at home. :)

The program is very flexible and gives you several options. Do you want your kids imagination to control their activities? We've got a simple calendar that just offers the media. For example, one day might be clay and the next day might be paper. Your kids have to decide what to make using that media.

Another calendar has a theme for each day. So Mondays are Art days, Tuesdays are dedicated to Outdoor Play, and so on.

Summer Camp @ Home Calendars

The final calendars are much more involved with a specific activity for your child to complete. There are three (June, July, and August). At the beginning of the month, the parent looks through the calendar and writes down any supplies they might need for the activities (I've included shopping lists) or books to read. Then each day, the child completes the assigned activity. Don't worry, they are all fun! From making a mini llama piñata ornament or coloring an alebrije to reading summer poetry or downloading a math app, every day is something different!

So enjoy the summer with my free Summer Camp @ Home calendars.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

8 Skills Every Literate Child Must Master

Although defined as the ability to read and write, literacy itself is a complex combination of skills. It goes far beyond simply reading and writing. In reality, literacy is the root of all human communication. It requires an ability to identify and interpret messages - spoken or written -  and the ability to effectively formulate and communicate a response.

For children, part of becoming literate requires learning - and mastering - the following skills:

  • print awareness
  • letter identification
  • phonemic awareness
  • phonics
  • reading fluency
  • vocabulary
  • comprehension
  • writing
  • spelling & punctuation

The first step for children is to learn print awareness. This is simply their ability to understand and use print as a communication tool. Kids learn that books are for reading; the words relay information and tell a story. Signs in our environment provide directions, information, or warnings.

Letter identification comes next. Teaching letter identification should begin in preschool at the latest. Really, parents should be reading to their babies and toddlers daily, pointing at words and letters, and creating a print-rich environment for their children through toys, books, artwork, posters, puzzles, alphabet blocks, and more. There are also countless activities dedicated to developing a child's ability to identify the letters of the alphabet. You can find many fabulous ideas on my Pinterest Letter Identification Board.

Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness in which listeners are able to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning. Separating the spoken word "cat" into three distinct phonemes, /k/, /æ/, and /t/, requires phonemic awareness. In simple terms, it is associating specific sounds, called phonemes, with specific letters. English is a bit crazy since it often associates multiple sounds to single letters. We have 26 letters in our alphabet, but we have more than 44 phonemes. For example, the letter Y makes four sounds, as seen in the following words: sky, gym, yoyo, baby. And once you begin combining letters, the number of sounds explodes!

Phonics is the ability to put those phonemes, or letter sounds, together to create words. Teachers always say, "sound it out" to children learning to read. It is a system for learning to read written language. Phonics is closely linked to decoding, the skill associated with interpreting symbols - in this case: letters and words.

Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency, in my opinion, takes more time and practice to master. Children who read fluently don't focus on one word read it out loud, and then move on to the next in a choppy manner. For example:

"Maya. The. Cat. Is. Black. And. Traps. Birds. In. The. Yard. And. Eats. Them."

By the time the child has gotten to the end of the sentence, they don't remember what color Maya was because they were focused on decoding one word at a time. Fluency is much smoother and develops after decoding has been mastered so that the child is already looking ahead to the next word and/or thinking about what they just read.

It is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Over time and with practice, fluent readers automatically recognize words and quickly group them together to gain an understanding of the information being relayed.

Other elements of fluency include rhythm and emotion. When fluent readers read aloud, they sound like they are having a conversation. There's no hesitation and they emphasize certain words. Their voice rises and falls. Listening to audiobooks is an excellent way to help a child learn inflection and rhythm. Reading poetry is another great way to develop these skills.

Developing vocabulary is the next step. If children have a limited vocabulary, it can be hard to communicate effectively. Vocabulary goes beyond decoding to the actual meaning of words. The more words you know and whose meaning you understand, the greater your vocabulary, the better you are at communicating.

Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it, and understand its meaning. How well a child is able to comprehend text is influenced by their traits and skills, one of which is the ability to make inferences. An inference is basically an educated guess. You come to a conclusion based on something you read.

"María drove her car to the panadería to stock up on pan dulce."

From this sentence, I would infer that María is not a child and that she has a sweet tooth. Why? Because she must be old enough to drive her car and she is buying a bunch of sweet bread. (Of course, she might be buying it for another reason, but I would need more information.)

Developing a child's reading comprehension skills requires the parent/teacher to stop and ask the child questions about what they've read.

  • Why do you think he did that? 
  • What do you think will happen next? 
  • How did he feel about what just happened? Why?

The questions need to require more than yes or no answers. They should require the child to think about what they've just learned and recall important events or information.

Equally important to reading is the ability to write well. Literate children not only know how to read, but also how to respond and express their own thoughts or relay valuable information in written form. Children should be able to transfer their thoughts to paper in an organized and sequential manner.

And finally, we have spelling and punctuation. These go hand in hand with writing because a misspelled word can either distract the intended reader, or worse, relay the wrong information. Remember María? What if she walked into the panadería and saw this sign:

"Don't touch the pan dulce with your hands - please use tongue"

While María might actually enjoy tasting all of the pan dulce first, the abuelita waiting in line behind her might object and prefer that María use the TONGS instead.

Correct punctuation also provides the reader with guidance for decoding the information being presented. We've all seen the following meme on why grammar matters:

Carlos loves cooking his dog and his family.

No, Carlos is not a cannibal. He actually enjoys cooking, and he enjoys his dog, and he enjoys his family. But punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence dramatically.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Free Download: Spanish Summer Bingo

Is your family melting during these hot summer days? Are the kids going stir crazy in the house when they can't get to the pool? Are you looking for games and activities to keep them entertained (and maybe learning just a wee bit)?

If you're one of the families learning a new language (Spanish!) this summer, here's another wonderful printable game from MommyMaestra sponsor, Spanish for You! Your young Spanish learners will discover new vocabulary related to summer with this fun activity.

This 2-page activity comes with an audio file to help young students learn proper pronunciation. The activity includes directions and a bingo board template.

Are you looking for some Spanish or bilingual books related to summer? Here are my suggestions...

Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

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!


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