Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It was the night before 2009...

Oh 2008 is ready to embark in a voyage that later on I will just call it "a trip down to memory lane." But it is ok to let him go. Every year when I am ready to write down my reflections or the Best of 2008 in my journal, I like to concentrate on the "good" parts. Every year will have its ups and downs, it is just part of this cycle called "life." So here is my list ( I LOVE making lists!) of just 10 of my "Best of 2008" that I will like to remember...

1. I graduated from OSU with a master's degree! (after a couple of years!)
2. I started a blog! Oh My World-Mi Mundo was born this year!
3. I made great new friends across Ohio some through this blogging world, some from professional organizations and some from Columbus Library (yes, that's you Katie and Angie!)
4. I have a new teaching partner  and a new friend (welcome Michelle to the ESL world)
5. I went to Argentina after a couple of years.
6. I witnessed the presidential elections in Paraguay and in the USA, both were historical events. A day to remember.
7. I have read TONS of children's books. 
8. I witnessed  Fabrizio (my nephew's) in his kindergarten class in Paraguay.
9. I taught him how to read and write in a month, and he wrote his first letter to his mom with me. 
10. My dear Kevin (a student of mine) learned how to walk and talk again, a true miracle.

As I look back at 2008, I know there are a lot of reasons to feel gratitude right now. And I am. Thank you for being part of My World-Mi Mundo, for becoming a frequent reader and also a friend. May 2009 bring you peace, strength and perseverance to achieve what you dream!

See you next year...(I love saying this!:)

Stella Villalba

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thinking Caldecott...

This is the time of the year when a lot of us (book lovers) try to get our hands into some of the books that are up and running for Caldecott or Newberry Awards.  It is, in my opinion, an exciting time of the year but also one when we are working very hard in"catching up" with the world of children's literature. There are  lots of good postings done on this topic by many great blogs. You can find them here, here, of course here, and here
Today I read one of the picture books mentioned in  A Fuse#8: Building Manhattan by Laura Vila and yes, there are many reasons this book is a "possible" one: an artist who invites us readers to look at illustrations from different perspectives and angles makes  it a strong candidate for a Caldecott. Some of my favorite illustrations include "looking up" at the skyscrapers in New York, looking at the city from "the top" and feeling like I am "driving" on the highway on my way to the island. 
I will also like to mention that I LOVE books with time lines. Laura Vila included a time line of the building of Manhattan with a short description and their matching illustration. A job well done!

Building Manhattan

ABC Books

After reading a review by Franki  (A Year of Reading)  on How to Build an A by Sara Midda, I knew I would want that book right away! Let's just say that Franki did a terrific job writing about this book so you can check her posting right here. After reading this great ABC book, I found two more books that I would love to share with you. 

The first one is called A is for Artist-An Alphabet Photography by Ella Doran. I received this book as a Christmas present from my friend and teaching partner Michelle. Let's just say I fell in love with this book right away. The photograph in each page is stunning and the colors are vibrant. Each letter is represented by at least three words with matching illustrations.  For letter F for example has three words: felt, field, flowers, and the part of the illustrations is the word "flowers" spelled using felt as the main material. For the letter W is Woods with hidden illustrations among the "woods." I can picture my students' surprise faces with each page turning. 

A is for Artist You can find this book here. I know that my friend bought it at the Wexner Center Store at  which is a wonderful organization to support.

Another great book I found at the Columbus Library today is A is for Art An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen T. Johnson. Although this is an ABC book, I will definitely use it with an older audience (10 years and up), for more artistic reasons in mind or to teach alliterations.  Stephen Johnson's work is brilliant, each letter is captured through words, objects and ideas. Some letters are playing hide and seek, in which you the reader needs to find them hidden among the huge illustrations!  Stephen T. Johnson is also the author of a Caldecott Honor book for Alphabet City

A Is for Art: An Abstract AlphabetAlphabet City

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cultural Festival Part III

I am a visual learner. No doubt about that. I learn and retain information so much faster if you just let me look at what I am learning. May be that is the real reason I am doing some "visual blogging postings" on the Cultural Festival. Below you will find pictures of the International Museum my ESL students with their families, friends and some staff members create for the Cultural Festival. For one night, we transformed the gym into a museum and boy, oh boy, do I wish it stays like that all year! I invite EVERYONE to participate in the making of this international museum. For example, my best friend here in Columbus teaches at Beechwood Elementary as well and her family is from Macedonia. Every year, she sets up a display with information, artifacts and family pictures sharing her heritage with all of us. This year, I invited our awesome social worker whose family is from Japan to participate as well. She kindly agreed and she surprised all of us with an amazing display she set up for that night. We (the staff at school) learned so much about her! But the best compliment in all of this was when she told me that she herself learned so much about her grandparents from participating in this project that otherwise she just wouldn't know. I thought, "mission accomplished!." I couldn't be happier. 

We are so lucky to have so many different cultures and countries represented at our school. I believe that if you give parents an opportunity to participate and  be involve in schools, they would gladly accept. Sometimes it is just a matter of time. Sometimes all it takes is an invitation. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cultural Festival Part II

"A picture is worth a thousand words"  I think that is totally true! That is why I won't spend time talking about the results of our Peace Mural after reading The Peace Book by Todd Parr. Let's just call it my "visual blogging" of the Cultural Festival! Enjoy it!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Cultural Festival 2008

I have said this before, and I will say it again...I am so blessed to work with a community of ESL parents that give 100% to the school and to their children's education. I strongly believe that if a school system makes room for parent involvement, parents will respond. I also strongly believe in building strong and positive relationships with parents because they are your strongest ally. For me, our Annual Cultural Festival is a testament of what families and teachers can do together for our children and our community.  

As many of you know, last Wednesday Dec. 17, we had our Fourth Cultural Festival, an opportunity to celebrate our cultures, our families, our heritage. I am proud to say that I started the Cultural Festival in May of 2006 and since then it became a "classic" at our Beechwood Elementary. The theme I chose for this Cultural Festival was Peace because it is an universal wish that crosses borders. Regardless of what holidays we celebrate, Peace is desired by everyone. So this is what we did...

First...we gave all of our families a warm welcome to our evening event.

Then, each family was invited to participate in the making of a Peace Mural. Families went to different classrooms and they all read....(drums rollling) The Peace Book by Todd Parr (of course, one of my favorite books!). 

Then, each family was invited to write and draw what peace means to them. Part of the directions given was to "follow" Todd Parr's style: drawing big colorful pictures! Then, they will cut out those pictures and place them in a colorful background paper! and TA-DA! Done!

Once the family were finished with their project, they were invited to place their work in our community Peace Mural that was set up for the families in our main lobby at school.  Are you ready for a peek at the final product? Here it is...
The Peace Mural "Before"

The Peace Mural "After"

Afterwards, the families were invited to listen to our 4th grade Choir "Il Cantanti di Festa" that my dear friend, our talented music teacher, put together for the night. The choirs sang peaceful and touching songs to all our audience. Once again, they succeeded in bringing tears in our eyes!

The last part of the night is our International Dinner and visit to our International Museum where families and students set up tables to display
 arts and artifacts from their home country. The display were awesome, it shows a joined effort to create such a display!

During the International Dinner, students, families and staff have a chance to talk to one another, visit the different displays, and read students work (more on this project on another posting!).

After 2 hours and 20 minutes of a great sense of community, it was time to clean and go home. At the end of the night I was talking to one of our ESL families and I was telling them that when I am at the gym, with microphone in hands thanking everyone, I looked at the people standing in front of me and I saw a strong community, I saw an extended family with our ESL communities. Year after year, there they are...showing their support in what we do as a school. My dearest and sincerest thanks to all those families who have taught me so much...

In the next couple of days, I will be doing some more "visual sharing" of our Cultural Festival, especially of our wonderful displays so you can also get a glimpse of the different countries represented at our schools.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


December is a busy busy month for sure.  I just wanted to let you know that I will be taking a short four-day break from blogging so I can enjoy the Cultural Festival that my wonderful, truly amazing ESL families at my school put together. My teaching partner and I have been organizing and working on this event since October. Our big day is tomorrow so now I would like to relax and enjoy the show (although I don't look like relaxing at all that night!). I enjoy the process and now I would like to just enjoy the results! But I will be back this weekend with pictures and ideas from our Cultural Festival! 
Stay warm friends....December is definetely here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Does Peace Feels Like?

When I got this book in my hands, my mind was definitely racing. I was reading through the teacher's lenses and ideas were flowing in my head! Why? Well, how much time do I  have to tell you all the wonderful things about this book?
What Does Peace Feel Like?

*uses a  friendly language, accessible to children of different ages
*it matches our Peace theme perfectly!
*the illustrations are fun.
*the author uses the five senses to write about PEACE
*it is an outstanding mentor book!
*great example of metaphors and similes!

Yes, there are many pluses to this book. I love when I can read a book, enjoy it but also use it as a mentor text for a particular teaching point. In my classroom we are getting ready to discuss how authors use their five senses to give life to their writing. I think I found the perfect mentor text using a familiar theme. 
Don't miss the last page in the book, the word PEACE is written in approximately 150 different languages. Love it!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Somewhere Today

Oh boy was I happy when Katie and Angie from Columbus Metropolitan Library found this great book to match my Peace Theme! Somewhere Today A Book of Peace written by Shelly Moore Thomas is a great book that get children to do some deep thinking about the world around them. In this book, the pattern is kept very simple, very real...
"Somewhere Today...someone is teaching his little sister to ride a bike.
 Somewhere Today...someone is visiting a friend who is old"

And the book goes on listing different things small or big that might be happening around the globe today. After reading this book aloud to my fifth grade class, I invited them to write their own poems inspired by Shelly Moore Thomas. After reading Love That Dog by Sharon Creech in literature circles last year, these group of students learned that you can write your own variation to a poem as long as you give full credit to the author who" inspired" you to write such a poem (Just like Jack does in the book Love That Dog after reading a poem by Walter Dean Myers). After having that conversation and understanding, the students embarked on a journey of writing their own poems about what could be going on Somewhere Today...

And let me just share this with you, there was no way I could've read their poems without a tissue. Even my very beginner English language learner found a way to communicate his message. I was very proud of their poems, and very thankful that I read this book. I know it is not a brand new book (it was published in 1998) but it was new to me and my students. But most important, this kind of book is what make students write from their hearts. I highly recommend it. 
Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace (Albert Whitman Prairie Paperback)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

If Peace is...

Yesterday I talked about extending our horizon in the classroom during this Holiday Season by taking advantage of the diversity and different cultures that we find in the classrooms today. Remembering that not everyone celebrates Christmas, or not everyone understands about "Santa" are important things to remember especially if you work with a diverse population. But like I mentioned yesterday, it is an invitation...the rest is up to you.

So to continue with the Peace theme that we have going on this week, I would like to share another great title I am using with my students this  year.  If Peace is... by Jane Baskwill is also another book that stretches our thinking and possibilities of what Peace means. The author conveys her message using simple but direct language making accessible for students of any age. The illustrations are worth mentioning as well because Stephanie Carter uses some vibrant color that catches the reader's attention right away.  My favorite line in the book...If peace is a book, I'll have to read.  Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

If Peace Is...

I will continue sharing more books on this theme throughout this week, and of course, I will also share some of my favorite Holiday books with you the next week as well. Stay warm. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh! It's THAT time of the year...

December 1st here it is...the last month of the year and one of the busiest for sure! For so many of us December equals Christmas, baking cookies, wrapping presents, preparing for the holidays. If you are a teacher like myself, you are probably thinking, "Oh boy, here we go, the last three weeks of school before winter break!" And many teachers around this country are getting ready to teach a unit of some kind that addresses this holiday season. My invitation for you today is to look at the students in your classroom and ask yourself, "Who celebrates a different holiday other than Christmas?" The reason I am asking you to reflect on this piece is because I can't help but feel "anxious" inside about all those students for whom Christmas is not part of their celebration. When teachers have  a unit like "Christmas Around the World", someone is definitely feeling "out". My invitation to you is to make  a transition from Christmas Around the World to Holidays Around the World, specially if you work with  a culturally diverse population. We all have traditions we are proud of, we have our ways of doing things, think about powerful would be for those students to share a big part of who they are with the rest of the classroom and with you.

There is one thing we all have in common though, regardless of where we come from, we all wish for PEACE.  In preparation for the Holiday Season I would like to share with you some great books on the theme of PEACE. I was able to get my hands on a lot of great books on this topic thanks to my dear friends Katie and Angie from the Columbus Metropolitan Library. What  wonderful resources  librarians are!

So let's go ahead and start, shall we?  A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley. Oh! may I just if you don't own this book, you may want to add it to your personal library. This strong message this book is sending out is that it doesn't take much to spread seeds of Peace in this world. A simple gesture, a kind hand, a warm smile are just some way to spread peace. The author Barbara Kerley has two other books for National Geographic as well. The photographs in this book are sharp, vivid, and best of all, multicultural. 

A Little Peace

After reading this book, I started thinking what are some ways I am spreading these seeds? My answer: by teaching children every day with an open mind. Enjoy! More peace books coming this week....HAPPY DECEMBER!!!