Sunday, August 31, 2008

Have you Met Todd Parr?

I was really happy when a couple of years ago I discovered Todd Parr and his outstanding books. It all started when I found The Peace Book a couple of years ago(now published in Arabic as well!!!). I read aloud this book to my class and the children responded so well. They loved the illustrations, the way Todd Parr writes, the way he includes a letter to his readers at the end of the book. This book  got all of us talking and sharing what Peace means to each one of us. The students responses were amazing, and the high quality of the conversation that The Peace Book encouraged were priceless. From this read aloud, came a great mural that all the ELL students created just in time for the holiday seasons. 

The Peace Book cover

Since then, I have read every book he made. Among his collection, you can find the following great books:

The Family Book (winner of the 2004 Openhelm Toy Portfolio Best Book Award)

Cover of The Family Book

The Grandma and of course, also the Grandpa Book!

The randpa Book coverThe Grandma Book cover

I love reading this book about reading. It is such a great way to start the school year and set the tone!
Reading Makes You Feel Good book cover

And for our very young readers, Todd Parr has has some creative concept books like:

Cover of Black & WhiteCover of Big & Little
And coming for Valentines' Day 2009:
Don't forget to visit Todd Parr's page where he has some fun activities for children to do! He is truly quite an amazing and talented artist!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trading Spaces (Blog Edition)

My friends over at A Year of Reading are encouraging teachers to share pictures of their classrooms. What a fantastic way to get more ideas and to learn from other teachers! So here are some pics of my ESL world in Whitehall City Schools.

This is part of my classroom library surrounded by a couple of "reading buddies" that are waiting to be read to.

This is another corner with more books. In this area, books are organized by grade levels (I work with all ELLs students in grades K-5). With proper training and reminders throughout the year, they are able to put the books away in their corresponding grade level tub.

Nothing says "I belong in this room" as pictures of the students displayed all around the room. Since I am lucky enough to work with most of my students year after year, I post their pictures up on our world map and place it depending on what country they are from. Since ELLs population is growing rapidly, so are the numbers of students enrolling in our district. I literally don't have any more space in my big world map so I have created large posters of our different continents so I will be placing pictures of our new students on those posters.
And here is the fun part, I don't bring any pictures down. Even if students move out of our district, the picture stays. Even if my students are growing up, changing and growing older, their first picture stays up. I love how my fourth grade students look at their kindergarten picture up on my wall and say, " Wow, Ms. Villalba, you still have that picture, I was so little then!". That's the reaction I am going  for. :)

For the writing station, I like to have things at children's reach. I want them to be independent workers in my classroom, and when the materials are available at hand, they are able to successfully work by themselves. I use a large chart with transparent pockets to display different materials for the writing station such as multiple copies of our ABC chart, consonant cluster charts, sticky notes, small pencil sharpeners, rubber bands (to stretch out words), popsicle sticks (to leave spaces) and of course, choices of papers. 

Listening station: I can't stress enough the importance of this station for ELLs regarding of their age. ELLs benefit of having the opportunities to listen to the same story over and over. It provides a wonderful role model for intonation, pronunciation, and the chance to listen to the same words over and over.

Ahhh..this was fun. I could go on and on. But how about I share a bit more throughout the year? After all, the school year has just started. I would make changes and more re-arranging as we learn and grow more independently.

Keep your eyes open for...

a new Mo Willems book coming up in October! I can't stop talking about Mo Willems' books after I witnessed my ELLs students enjoying, devouring, learning how to read, and most importantly, reading over and over with the same excitement!
If you don't have any of Mo Willems books in your library, I highly encourage you to purchase them for your own classroom library. I have written about his books in an earlier post here. And I really love the fact that Hyperion Books for Children made a hard cover series of his books for a very good (hard cover) price of $8.99. 

Has anyone been lucky enough to read a preview copy of this book? If so, I am dying to find out what you think! Like I said before, I know I won't be disappointed! I just love his books as much as my students do!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An invitation

The beginning of another school year is approaching fast. Teachers across the nation are getting their classrooms ready, dusting off boxes and containers, pulling out their library books, decorating walls, and planning ahead. The beginning of  the school year equals a refreshing start. For me, it means an opportunity to do things differently, to keep in mind the things that worked  last year and to definitely polish or change the things that just didn't help the students learn or grow.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite ALL teachers when planning for this new school year to keep in mind their ELLs in their classroom, those quiet voices that sometimes get totally overlooked. Some teachers may be thinking, "but I am hardly trained to teach ELLs?" OK. I understand that. But having English  Language Learners (ELLs) students in the classroom is a part of educating and teaching in the USA. ELLs population across the nation is growing rapidly. It is our duty and our responsibility to:

1. start asking for training on how to better reach ELLs in school.
2. ask for help from the ESL specialist or teacher in our building if there is one.
3. ask administration for support in order to do our job: teaching and reaching ALL children.

I believe that if we are in the field of education, then teachers are PROACTIVE. We don't have to sit and wait around until help is being offered. It is our responsibility to make sure all children are learning. And each child has different academic needs. Not one child learns the same way as another. No Child Left Behind does not mean All Children Drag Along. And I feel that sometimes this is what is happening with ELLs students in some classrooms.

Let 2008-2009 be the year that changes all that. I invite you to open the horizon and include all children when you plan and you teach. I will do my best through this blog to share with you strategies that help ELLs in the classroom. It will be my way to contribute to the change!

Have a wonderful 2008-2009 school year!

Monday, August 18, 2008

And back..

Alright my dear bloggers, I am back in the USA feeling very rejuvenated and ready to give 120 to this new school year. Now, as many of you know, I went to South America to be with my family, and my friends. I did things in s-l-o-w motion there, just as the locals. Ha! My heart is full of joy and blessings because of the wonderful 18 days I got to spend there. And I am not embarrassed at all to say that I got spoiled by my mom like you wouldn't believe. yes, I am 32 but I ADORE my mother and love spending every minute with her. Like the good old times, we cook together and had endless hours of deep conversation. My adorable mom is my best friend. Always had. Always will. She knows me inside out like nobody else does and that in itself is a blessing. I shared many soccer games with my dad, both screaming at the T.V. (Hey, we latinos take soccer very seriously!) We watched the Olympics at late hours at night, and of course, we had conversations about politics! My dad is a wise man, knows so much about life is amazing!I got to be auntie to Fabrizio, my 5 year old nephew  for all those days. I gotto visit his school, talked to his teacher, spent the day with them, and of course, read a couple of books. 
I also got to be with my sister in Buenos Aires, Argentina reminiscing our childhood years. 
Here are some pics of these people I adore, and are everything to me...
My Family:

Fabri always talks with his mom (my sis) on the cell phone 
before he goes to school. She is a doctor so she is a busy busy woman, but always pauses her routine to make the most important phone call of the day.

In Paraguay, they are approaching the end of winter. The weather is changing, people dress in light layers, and there are these beautiful trees called LAPACHOS that announce that spring is coming. Lapachos can have pink, yellow or white flowers so it is just breathtaking to walk around the city this time of the year!

My sister and I walking in Buenos Aires.

Argentina = Tango! Oh yes, we love to listen to a good oldie Tango, we love watching it, and although not everyone can Tango, it is amazing how many people of different ages are learning to dance Tango. Fascinating. I am seriously thinking of joining the Columbus Argentine Tango Society (CATS) at the Ohio State University. Looking forward. :)

Well my friends that was my trip in words and pictures.  I read somewhere "Don't be sad that is over, be happy that it happens". I will repeat those words to myself for the next couple of days. 
P.S. Now that I have regular, consistent internet connection again, I will be posting on a regular basis again! Happy start of the week!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Life in Slow Motion

I have been in Paraguay since July 31 visiting my parents, friends and family. I want to record some of my thoughts spinning through my head as I am here living the moment:
+ Time seems to go so much slower here at home. Life is different. Although people have places to go, and things to do, the concept of time is so different. People are not running from place to place, they have time to slow down during the day and enjoy. What a simple concept but let´s be many of us really do that in our hectic and busy life in the States? I can only speak for myself and would admit that I have to conciously make time to slow down, and breath.
+ I left South America 7 years ago and have forgotten the concept of "salad dressing" consist of oil, vinegar and salt. what a healthy life!
+ Fruit. Fruit. Fruit. everywhere. inexpensive. Fruit salad, fresh fruit juices everywhere. Fruit heaven.
+ Music is such a huge part of our lives. At the end of the day, on the weekends, you would hear music coming from every direction. Nobody complains. Music is loud but is beautiful. It seems to pleases everybody´s taste.
+ Driving here? prepare yourself. Nightmare. It is a fact. What can I say?
+ I notice that here the concept of "break" at work is a chance to go and buy something from the fruit stand, or snack corner.
+ Gotta run to catch the bus. It´s tradition.
+ People are so much happier with so little.

And I would like to end it with that final point. Most countries in South America are third world countries and people appreciate life in a different way. Many of the most amazing technology don´t get here that fast so people have to be creative to do what they want to do. And I think that is the bottom line. When you have the basics, you use that creative side of your brain to come up with things that you would like to do or play. It is amazing to watch kids play here. A lot of them do not know about play stations or video games. They play games with rocks, marbles or just a ball. At recess time, they are playing games, creative games that they invent for themselves. It was truly a blessing to watch my 5 year old nephew at school. Life is sure different here. Life is good.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

And the award goes to...

Oh what a wonderful surprise I received when I arrived home (right now I am in Paraguay) and notice that Mary Lee from A Year of Reading has awarded this blog with an " Arte y Pic0" Award. To my surprise, I read these words in Spanish and my eyes brighten up completely! I love this expression! ¨Lo Maximo" T (that used to be one of my adolescent words, ya know, the ones you used over and over..ha ha). So thank you Mary Lee for your kind words. Also, I am sorry that the picture of the award is not showing on my blog (yet). I am using a public cyber in South America and things don´t run the way you want all the time. Oh well.

My favorite part of this award is the ¨paying forward¨piece. So, here are the rules to be followed:

Select 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award, based on creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community. The blogs can be in any language.

Post a link to each blog so that others can visit.

Each award-winner has to show the award and link to the blogger that awarded it.

The award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show a link to Arte y Pico.

now....(drums playing) the Arte y Pico Award goes to...

Cassy at Reach For More/Aspira a Mas She has a way with language that is absolutely beautiful. Cassy writes in English and in Spanish about her daily life using poetry as a way to express her feelings, reactions and emotions. She also post some great book reviews!

Elsie at A Beutiful Mess. She is one creative soul. Her positive look on life, and her fantastic artwork is truly an inspiration. If you don´t know her yet, please take the time to check her blog. She is amazing!

Ali at I have learned a lot about photo and journaling from Ali. I love her simple yet creative ways to express ideas. As a teacher, and as a writing teacher as well, I appreciate her wonderful ideas!

The next blog celebrates the power of words! What an awesome idea is this! One simple word carries a lot of meaning, depending on your point of view, your life experience. Want to know more? Enjoy the combination of art and the meaning of one word

Are you familiar with the work of Keri Smith? if not, you may want to check out some of her books at where she encourages creativity and writing beyond the traditional norms. She is fun, she is creative, she is full of energy. She is a fantastic author and illustrator!

Now blogger friends...time to pay it forward. Please check out
to read a little more about this award. What a great way to encourage each other regardless of our area of expertise!