Student Created Alphabet Cards

We have begun our year long social studies investigation on Families & Homes. Through picture books, family shares, systems thinking and essential questions, we hope to guide our little ones to understand how families and homes are inherently similar, while celebrating the unique differences of everyone’s family and home.


The three essential questions guiding our discussions are:

  1. How can families be the same and different?
  2. What systems does a family use to work together?
  3. What does a home give a family?


When asked, “What is something that you do with your family that warms your heart?”, students eagerly listed various activities particular to their families. Using their ideas, students created their own alphabet cards that will be posted in the classroom. Their ABC cards nicely link their use of systems thinking to their personal lives, their school and the learnings around Families and Homes. They are also adorable and extremely creative!

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We are only four weeks into our year long investigation, but our little ones have already concluded that the most important part of a family and home is love. Another recent comment is that family members aren’t necessarily those that you are born to.

I am looking forward to what I will learn from their conversations and how their wonderings will steer our investigation.


I sustain myself with the love of family. –Maya Angelou


Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2016


Wonderful news…Monster Slayer / Exterminadora de monstruos has received a bronze medal for Best Spanish Language Picture Book. A huge thank you to Lina Safar – your illustrations are amazing. Also to Liliana Consentino, whose Spanish translations truly captured the sentiment of the book. I’m honored and proud of the picture book that together, we created. I think I shall go outside and celebrate with my family by doing handstands!

Congratulations to all the Moonbeam medalists! As an educator, I love everything about picture books. I see how they positively impact my students’ understanding of their world, community and relationships.

About the Awards

The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to celebrate children’s books and life-long reading. 

“Millie & The Lords” -Indie Film


I attended the Los Angeles premiere of this film, Millie & The LordsIt was fantastic. As a Latina woman, Latina writer, Latina educator and Latina who has been raised in this country – yet attuned to cultural norms and customs of my family, this film resonated with me on many levels.

Millie & The Lords is the story of many people who are hungry for something more, yet circumstances say that living out one’s dream is not for them. Milagros Baez, a Puerto Rican woman in Spanish Harlem longs for a different life. With no one in her life, no one to believe in her, Millie doesn’t even believe in herself. However, as she learns about the Puerto Rican revolutionary group, The Young Lords, she discovers an inner strength and passion that she never knew was there. 

This relevant story is written by Jennica Carmona.  The film incorporates documentary material and inventive cinematography that honors the legacy of the Young Lords Party.

If you would like to arrange a screening at your school, university or community center, please contact


Hopes & Dreams: Beginning of school activities.


I attended a Responsive Classroom workshop, (a way of teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community) this past summer. I was excited about incorporating Hopes and Dreams, as well as other RC systems in my classroom this school year.

For the past three weeks, we have been working on learning school routines, class systems, and activities to foster kindness and mindfulness. We read books to help us discuss the sort of classroom we would like to be in and the ones we would not want to be in. I shared with the little ones that my intention for the school year was “joyous and harmonious”. Students came up with agreements that would support such an environment, and we eventually chose these five:

  • Be kind and gentle
  • Use inside voices
  • Participate
  • Walking Feet
  • S.L.A.N.T (sit up tall like a mountain, listen attentively, nothing in your hands and track the talker)

We then signed the classroom agreements and hung it in the class. We review them throughout the day, especially during transitions, which can be tricky!

Students also shared their Hopes and Dreams.  The banners are beautiful representations of the little ones we work with, but also serve as reminders of our class goals and the work we need to do. Wishing you a joyous and harmonious school year.



Int’l Latino Book Awards 2016: Picture Book Winners


The ILBA ceremony was held on Thursday, September 8, 2016 at Cal State University Dominguez Hills. A large community of Latino authors came together to celebrate the work and progress made in the literary world. Monster Slayer was awarded Honorable Mention: Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture book – Bilingual.

Here is a list of winners in the Children’s Picture Book Categories. Hopefully these books will make their way into classrooms and your homes.

Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual











          Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book – English


Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book – Spanish
Las Estrellas de los Reyes Magos, Tere Rodríguez-Nora; Illustrator: Walter Torres; Ediciones Norte, Inc.
Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Bilingual
Robbie’s Big Soccer Game ~ La gran final de fútbol de Robbie, Jill Barletti;
Illustrator: Jelena Brezovec; Snowflake Stories, LLC
Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – English
Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Spanish
Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book – English
Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book – Spanish or Bilingual
Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual
Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – English
Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish
Mi Práctico Líbro de Escritura: Un Nuevo Método Divertido y Fácil para escribir Historias, Amada Irma Pérez, Ilustrado por: Lili Sosa; Writers’ Groups of Ventura & Beyond
Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual
Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – English
Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish
Here is a complete list of winners in all categories:
Congratulations to all the ILBA 2016 winners!

The Teachers College Reading & Writing Project: August Writing Institute



Teachers College: Columbia University

This week I participated in the August Institute on the teaching of Writing at Teachers College at Columbia University. Upon registering, we were given tote bags with the Teachers College logo, several books and a notebook where we would be practicing and developing our own writing skills during the course of the week. As an educator who loves everything about literacy and writing, I was thrilled to be here.


We were welcomed by Lucy Calkins, the founding director of The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). She shared a very personal story about her father. I thought of my own father and how on my to do list there is a huge need for me to listen and understand his story.  Lucy’s words rang true because writing for me has always been a deeply personal and spiritual affair. It also occurred to me that I don’t always honor this personal connection of writing with my students. Unfortunately, in the game of testing, standards and rubrics, I have sometimes been more concerned with the final product than the personal connection of the story or the writing process.

Every day we broke out into small groups. In these small group sessions, we experienced what a writer’s workshop could look and feel like as a student. Our presenter guided us through mini lessons, whole group and small group instructions. She modeled different writing styles: personal narratives, small moments, non fiction, writing reviews, how to and all about books.


After she gave a mini lesson, we were sent to draw a picture/sketch to help develop our writing. This I found interesting because some schools frown upon drawing because they think it is not academic in nature. I myself have been told that the drawing portion of my interactive big books were not in line with the curriculum. As a veteran teacher, I have observed time and time again how eager kids are to share what they have drawn. And as we learned, drawing is equally important as the written word because its purpose is to tell a story, share an insight or convey a message. The presenter modeled how teachers can confer with students (individually or in a small group) and how crucial it is to take notes on what the student is doing independently, observe where they get stuck, and how to scaffold support so they use their “writing tools”.


While I am in the habit of conferring/conferencing with my students in writing, I have mostly focused on the rubric. I am sad to say that yes, I did mark up their papers, I did point out missing periods and misspelled words.  In our morning group I asked the presenter, “So if I’m not helping them edit and revise and I’m not marking their paper, what exactly should I do?” She said, “Focus on one writing point: structure, development, conventions or processThis will help the student better understand the writing process. The focus is on understanding the process of writing so that they eventually transfer these skills in their independent writing.”  “So they don’t publish a final copy?” I asked. She smiled,”No. They are 5, 6 and 7 years old. They can fancy up a writing piece by adding a cover and coloring a picture. How many times have you asked your students to publish a piece to include all of the revisions you’ve helped them with, and they still copy some, if not most of it incorrectly. What’s more important, the final draft or internalizing the writing process?”  I didn’t answer her because I was having an AHA moment. This was paramount! 

We were asked to write in our notebooks everyday. We wrote a lot. Sometimes I really understood the lesson and went for it. Other times I was at a loss. “What’s a small moment?” I asked. “It’s writing with focus, detail and dialogue.” “What?” I asked again and again. As much as the presenter explained it to me, my colleagues at my table gave examples, I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. But after writing several small moments throughout the week, I understand how necessary it is to put myself in the role of the student in order to help them navigate the process of writing.



Our final day together, we gathered for a closing celebration. I was exhausted, hot and consumed with rushing back to the hotel to pack and head back home. I sat on the steps of the aisle since there weren’t anymore seats available. But as five brave teachers shared their “small moment” writing pieces I leaned in, wanting to hear their stories. My heart pounded and broke, I wiped tears from my eyes and held my breath. While I couldn’t see any of the speakers, I could hear their words, I could feel their pain and was instantly taken to that small moment in their lives. Their stories were brutally honest and I wondered how they didn’t lose it as they shared to a crowd of over 1300 people.


I have lots of ideas brewing in my mind and I know how lucky I was to be part of the amazing TCRWP group. I also need to get my father a notebook so he can share some family stories with me.

The wonderful thing about writing is that it separates the meaningless and the trivial from what is really important. – Donald Graves



Writing Summer Camp For Young Children

e4c96e7f-5d6a-49ff-967a-d03b9a8645da.jpgThis week I taught a writing class at a summer camp to incoming first and second graders. We read several picture books where we discussed and wrote about them. We also had daily shared writing activities where each student gave their input and ideas as I scribed their words. We explored “juicy words” or expanded vocabulary like epic, wonderful and melancholy and encouraged each other to use “brave spelling” or invented spelling.

One of the stories we read was I Feel a Foot! written by Maranke Rinck and illustrated by Martijn Van Der Linden.

i-feel-a-foot.jpgBetween two trees, high above grass and ground, Turtle, Bat, Octopus, Bird and Buck are sleeping in a hammock. Suddenly, Turtle opens his eyes. “Hey,” he whispers. “Do you hear what I hear?”  Each animal’s imagination runs wild with what wild creature may be making the sound they all hear. Is it a giant turtle? Or a bird with a giant beak? Perhaps it is Bat-Tur-Octo-Bird- Buck. Luckily for the small animals, it isn’t any of these creatures. It is just their old friend Elephant who was out wandering around. The animals invite him to join them in the hammock and soon the wild imaginings about the night noises begin all over again.

The illustrations are magnificent with gorgeous black backgrounds and a collage type feel. The look of the illustrations was the inspiration for our final writing project. Our little writers watercolored the scenes of their stories, which were then pasted on black construction paper. Their stories included mermaids, Pokemon, a lost octopus, family, cycles, bad guys, destruction and American flags in the jungle! It was a pleasure to work with these little writers. They were an incredibly talented group with lots of enthusiasm and wild imaginations.

in the rainforest

In the Rainforest

in the desert

In the Desert

the search

The Search

eevee vs the bad guys

Eevee Vs. the Bad Guys

the great day at the beach

The Great Day at the Beach

in the field

In the Field

the lovely night at the beach

The Lovely Night at the Beach