September 13, 2020

Hispanic Heritage Month Picture Book Recommendations

Representation matters!  You may feel like you have heard that phrase a lot this past summer, especially with the 2020 Census going on.  However, it really does.  When I think back to my childhood as a Mexican-American kid going to school in a predominately white neighborhood, it was hard for me to see people that looked like me achieving success.   With Hispanic Heritage Month starting this week, I am going to share some of my favorite classroom read alouds that celebrate my culture!
Aside from my parents, the working Hispanic adults around me during my elementary days were often seen as the landscaping and janitorial staff at my school.  Despite the fact that I went to a Spanish-named elementary school, I did not feel represented much except for the Friday mornings we all danced the Macarena (part of growing up in the 90s)!
It is amazing to me that the only Hispanic person I read about or learned about as being successful and making a difference in our country was Cesar Chavez (probably because he was born in my home state of Arizona).  The reading book list did offered diversity by exposing me to African Americans and their plight through slavery, but I didn't feel connected to my ancestors or read about people like me.  To help your Hispanic students feel represented, I encourage you to make time to incorporate Hispanic Heritage Month into your instructional day.  Just share about the life of one Hispanic leader a day, and in 10 minutes or less,you can build character education, classroom community, teach tolerance & embrace diversity! (I wish one of my teachers had done this when I was in elementary school.)
So, as an undergrad I earned my elementary ed degree with an emphasis in multiculturalism and began to build up a library with bilingual books.  First, I added in titles from people I knew: Gloria Estefan wrote a picture book about her dog, The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog (so cute - I cherish this story because its theme is all about being true to yourself!)  

Then, my crush growing up, Oscar de la Hoya, wrote an inspiring bilingual picture book called Super Oscar (another win!)  

Later, I discovered Monica Brown and even attended some of her book signings when she was in town at the local bookstore for Me llamo Celia / My name is Celia
Of course, I had to own a copy of Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez which tells more about the life of Cesar Chavez.  I feel connected to him because he looks an awful lot like my paternal tios (uncles) and he died on my birthday, along with the AZ connection.  In my opinion, this book is a classic!
 This year, I've been adding to my collection again: Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha (written by actress/singer, Roselyn Sanchez for her daughter), it is filled with beautiful, vivid illustrations that depict her island of Puerto Rico.
Dreamers is written by the amazing Yuyi Morales, so there's enough said.  It was hard for me to get through that one and keep a dry eye.  I recommend this when you want to share an inspiring read!
My latest addition is Selena: Queen of Tejano Music which I knew I had to have as soon as I knew it existed.  The text is very detailed and lengthy, it almost reminds me of a modern-day My Family by Sandra Cisneros.  However, it is all about the life of our beloved Selena Quintanilla!  

For the older students who want a novel to read independently, anything by Pam Munoz Ryan is great.  

-MaƱanaland is on my wishlist (it just came out in the spring of 2020) 

In case you missed it, I would like to share my Hispanic Heritage Month teaching slides with you.  I've already done the difficult planning and researching for you!  Each school day showcases a new Hispanic leader (wide variety of influencers from all walks of life: athletes, civil rights activists, entertainers, and intellects).  Not to mention, each Hispanic leader comes to life with a kid-friendly video clip for student engagement!  Click the image below if you are interested:

Respectfully representing,

August 11, 2020

Google Forms for Distance Learning

One of the hardest parts about distance learning is so much of the instructional materials become so dry and it's easy for students & teachers to lose interest.  When your students need a break from reading passages and you need to escape grading Google Classroom assignments, then rely on Google Forms for its amazing ability to self-correct questions!

Another struggle during distance learning is determining how to translate science instruction into an online learning platform.  So, I found the educational and engaging YouTube videos I would have shown to introduce a scientific concept in my brick & mortar classroom, and created, "Watch and Learn" activities.  Animal adaptations, animal behavior, extreme weather, earth and space science are all represented.

How Does It Work?
1. Simply assign the Google Form as a shared link or assignment in Google Classroom.
2. Students simply watch a 5 minute or less video clip on a nonfiction science topic (animal adaptations, tornadoes, volcanic lightning, etc.) and answer the 5-point question quiz.  
3. When they've finished answering the questions, they will receive immediate feedback on how well they understood the topic.  
It doesn't get much simpler to engage kids digitally with digestible, fun learning experiences!

Each Watch and Learn set includes 5 digital learning activities for Google Forms.  You can assign one each day, or you can assign it once a week so it becomes something your class can earn for attendance (or whatever you're trying to work towards as a team goal)!  

If you are interested in sampling these Google Forms Watch and Learn activities, you can try the End of Year set for free (available here.)  Teachers and students alike love these Google Forms digital learning activities!

If you would like to incorporate these distance learning activities into your lesson plans and score the best deal possible, check out the bundled set with 30 Google Forms!  

May 11, 2020

Why Research Projects are Perfect for Distance Learning

Research projects are PERFECT for distance learning because it puts the child in charge of their own learning!  The reason it is important for teachers like me, is our district decided teachers are not allowed to instruct on new academic content during this time of school closures.  This was a result of not being able to insure everyone has access to the same material.  So I thought, RESEARCH PROJECTS to the RESCUE! Besides, it's what I typically assign after state testing is over with anyway!
Digital google classroom activities
So, who doesn't love going on the endless rabbit hunt from time to time when you start diving into a topic?  GUILTY!! NOW is the time to get the students on that learning train!  Go ahead, dangle that carrot in front of them if you have to, but kickstart that love for learning again by assigning a digital research project.  Make sure you maintain parameters, of course! Just provide your class with a little bit of context, some suggested kid-friendly research websites, and an overarching topic.  
Watch my video to see how I kickstart the research phase of our Animal Research Project!

In my opinion, animals and countries are great places to start when introducing research projects.  Don't be afraid when you hear "research projects" and you think back to that dreadful semester-long project your high school English teacher assigned you.  Think of what it looks like now in a 1:1 classroom setting or digital learning through Google Classroom.  It can be as simple as a presentation you might create to teach your class about a new topic - but this time your students are teaching!
 Animal Research Project

What's the encyclopedia of modern times? The Internet!! And how do you begin that search? GOOGLE!  Nobody does Ask Jeeves or Yahoo anymore.  So utilize the research tools available inside Google Docs and Google Slides to set your students up for success in a research project!  And if you're looking for some quality research projects, hurry up and check-out my digital resources by clicking the image below. I promise you with the cute template and 5 video tutorials included to set your students up for success, you'll definitely enjoy how simple it was to assign a research project:

Google Classroom activities

Until we meet again, have a beautiful rest of your day!