Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hanging on...

I took this picture yesterday during our snow day. That tree is in front of my apartment and I couldn't help but noticing the few (like 4) leaves that are still hanging on to that tree. It is almost the end of January, we had windy days, icy days and several snow days. But those leaves keep on hanging to that tree. Doesn't this remind you of the book The Little Yellow Leaf? If you haven't read it, I am more than happy to tell you all about it.  The Little Yellow Leaf  by Carin Berger is the story of this leaf that is just not ready to let go of its tree. Fall is coming, the leaves are turning colors, all the other leaves are ready to fall to the ground and let life takes its course. But the Little Yellow Leaf keeps on saying, "I am not ready yet." Days passes by, weather changes, but the Little Yellow Leaf is still not ready. Until one day, the Little Yellow Leaf meets the Little Scarlet Leaf , who was also still hanging on to a tree. But this encounter gives each other the encouragement and support to "let it go." As the old Beatle song will say, "I'll get by with a little help from my friend." It is my wish for you that in your life, you also have a Little Scarlet Leaf. 

The Little Yellow Leaf

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another great publication!

Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids Every Human Has Rights-A Photographic Declaration for Kids is a must read. Based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this book makes it easier to sit down with a child and start having a conversation about Human Rights. When you open the book, two pages are dedicated to each right. So, first you will see a large photograph with the quality that National Geographic photographers are known for, a smaller multicultural photograph accompanied by a narrative, the declaration of human rights rewritten for accessibility, and students responses to those rights written in the form of poetry. Put it all together, and you have an amazing and accessible piece of work on the Declaration of Human Rights. I enjoyed reading the students' responses to each right, I enjoyed looking at top quality photographs, I loved that this is a book that young children can access with the support and guidance of an adult. 
Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland (1990-1997) agreed to write the foreword to this book where she reminds all of us "that change comes about through education, but that it also requires action". I thought about those words and  our times in the USA. I thought the timing was perfect.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Feb.20, 2009 Inauguration Day

Dear United States of America,

I have been living in your land for the past 7 years, almost 8. I have learned to appreciate and love so many things that this country has to offer. Even though I am not an American citizen, I love this country will all my heart because it has been my second home all these past years. I would like to believe that I am putting my little grain of salt when I decided to come over here and teach immigrants like myself who are looking for a better future in your land. You are a powerful country and you have a lot to offer. You have gone through some rough patches in life. But today I hope you feel that a new beginning has started. The possibilities of change has opened up for you and I couldn't be happier to be here today to witness all of this. I am praying for you America that those promises will become actions. You deserve it. You are a good home to many of us. And although, today there are many people of different religions, political views, languages and ideas living on your land, we all wish you PROSPERITY because today we stand as ONE nation, with hopes of liberty and justice for all. 

Stella Villalba

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I would like to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with one of my personal favorite books about his life: Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. I know that this book was published in 2001 but it is a book that just absolutely adore for so many reasons. 
The powerful and amazing drawing of Martin's face on the cover is how I believe he would always wants to be remembered: strong, confident, reassuring and hopeful. There are times I wished I could have met him personally, or walked with him during his many peaceful marches but in the back of my mind I know that those were disturbing moments in American History.
I enjoy when books include an author's and illustrator's note; it makes me feel connected to the story, or it is like getting a "behind the scene"  peek into an author's work. If I haven't read the illustrator's note at the beginning of this book, I would have missed the fact that the reason he included four candles  in the last picture is to represent the four girls who were killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. I also love the collage as the medium for this book because it allows so many things to be brought together at once.
Since I have been reading in English, my second language (more than 15 years now), I have learned to pay attention to words, choices of words, phrases, idioms, etc. When I saw the title of this book: Martin's Big Words, I felt the connection right away. I love words. I love Martin's words. I love that the author decided to pay attention to his influential words, words that have touched million and millions of people in this nation. May his words always prevail. 

Growing Professionally

Product Image I have so many wonderful things to say about this book! Using the Writer's Notebook in Grades 3-8 by Janet L. Elliot is an outstanding professional book in the art of teaching writing. This book is a publication by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) therefore if  you are interested in purchasing this book, you will find it here. 

 When I browse through the table of content in this book, several key words caught my attention right away: children's literature, units of study, poetry, engaging boys in writing. 
As we all know, some professional development books are full of theory which we all need, but I would also hoped that a lot of these great foundations of educational theory we would have learned them in college (I hope!). And then, there are professional books with lots of ideas that you find yourself underlying or highlighting every other line in the book! Well,  Using  The Writer's Notebook in Grades 3-8 is a powerful professional books with lots of great ideas for your classroom. It includes several children's literature suggestions to go along with the different units or mini lessons, and also a great list of other professional books on the topic of writing.

Janet L. Elliot suggests and encourages teachers to be observers of language, to pay attention to beautiful language, to record it, to share it. As an ESL teacher, I strongly believe in her words. When I was learning English as  Second Language myself in South America, I kept a journal of "English Words I Love". It helped me learn English, and it worked for me. I truly appreciate her putting these ideas in everybody's mind. 

One of my favorite line in this book in the topic of "sharing" after writing workshop is "If I skip sharing, I lose 50% of my teaching and learning potential"(p. 54)

 I keep a little composition notebook by me when I read professional books because I like to write ideas, or thoughts that come along as I am thinking and learning. I looked back in my notebook and realized I have written pages and pages with insights, and ideas. I feel strong and fresh when I finished reading a book that empowers me. I believe that regardless of how many years you have been teaching, whether you are a first year teacher, or has been teaching for several years, you will find this book inspiring, resourceful and useful. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Every Soul a Star

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass is the story about three lives, three souls whose paths crossed each other to for ever change things within each of them. 
First meet Ally whose home is the Moon Shadow campground. One word defines Ally: simple. She enjoys a simple life, and has an endless love for astronomy. She knows one life: her life in the campground. However, life at the Moon Shadow is very different  from the real world "out there."

Then meet Bree: whose big aspiration in life is to become a super model. She immerses herself in things such as shopping, make up, fashion. But behind all these superficial things, who is this girl? has she really shown her true self to anyone?

And last, but not least, meet Jack whose idea of a good time is to spend time up in his tree house: alone.  Jack struggles with his weight, and being social. His immerses himself in his sketches as a way to set away from everything. 

Now, combine all these three characters and you can't imagine the results! You just have to read in order to find out how these unlikely characters make the best of what their lives

I enjoy reading books that are all about their characters. I love writers who makes me LOVE the characters or at least feel like I know them SO WELL.  Wendy Mass knows how to portrait these characters in such a way that you just can't help but appreciate them the way they are, even if one of them might get you on your nerves (like Bree! at least to me!) 

Wendy Mass had included a wonderful list of books on astronomy for the souls who want to read even more about it. 

And last but not least, if you are going to read this book with your students, please ask them AFTER they read that book, why Wendy Mass chose this title for the book. I have my ideas but I always love to hear from the children's insights or point of view!

Every Soul A Star

Monday, January 12, 2009

Writing Workshop

As many of you already know, I teach English as a Second Language and I just LOVE it. I teach students in grades K-5. Right now my 1st and 2nd grade students are learning about integrating their 5 senses into their writing to enhance their stories and to write just like authors do. Of course, the challenge is that these students are learning English as their foreign language and are building vocabulary in English as they are growing so the approach to teaching this unit is different than it will be to teaching students whose first language is English and might have more words, vocabulary to express themselves. So, having that in mind, I  need to not only teach the concept of writing integrating their 5 senses into a story but also building their vocabulary, extending their knowledge of adjectives in order for them to be successful. So, we took a couple of steps back, and last week, my students experience Senses Stations where they will go around different tables and use their senses in order to describe the different objects that they found.

Sense of Smell:  
some words we heard as they were "talking about it"...
smells like Ms. Villalba's perfum
smells like orange
and some children reacted to the bag of potpourri with words like:
yuck! nasty! gross! 

Sense of Hearing:
soft and loud
the bell reminds me of The Polar Express

Sense of Taste:
it taste like bubblegum...delicious!
Sense of Sight:
some sentences we heard: "Ms. Villalba looks like her mom!" She looks happy" Miss Ray is graduating!"
Sense of  Touch:
we heard some great descriptive words: furry, soft, cold. hard, squishy, cuddly!

Now that my students had a chance to use their knowledge of English to describe some objects using their 5 senses, it is time for students to experience how authors do this when they write. It is time for mentor texts! And this is where our love for children's books comes in so handy! I am so proud to be a blogger of children's literature and to surround myself with other teachers, professionals who use books in their classrooms, or library or school for similar purposes. Right now I have some great Margaret Wise Brown books, and some by Doreen Cronin to use as mentor texts for this unit. We will be "reading detectives" looking for clues, and words of how authors integrate this into their writing. Do you have any suggestions for me of other great children's literature I can use throughout this unit in writing workshop? other great read aloud picture books for grades k-3 that I can use as mentor texts? if you do, please leave a comment with your suggestion! I would love to hear from you. After all, this is what blogging is all about...learning from each other. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein art by Ed Young is the story about a cat on a mission to find out what her name really means. As Wabi Sabi (the cat) walks around asking different animals the meaning of her name, she receives her answer but in a way like you'll put the pieces of a puzzle together. Every animal that responds to her question, gives the cat an essential component of what "Wabi Sabi" is all about. 
I have to admit that I didn't know much about this Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi myself, so as the cat is on a quest for finding meaning, I found myself caught up completely in this quest as well. Why? Because I really didn't have any background knowledge about this concept. The book does a wonderful job introducing this concept, I now understand that Wabi Sabi is finding beauty in the ordinary things, living simply. What an extraordinary concept. And speaking of extraordinary, it is impossible not to fall in love with the illustrations: the amazing collage that brings together photographs, scruffy scraps of paper, leaves and grass, pine branches. Of course, we are talking about the work of Ed Young, whose work in Long Po Po awarded him with the Caldecott Medal. The size of the book with its large papers gives even more power to Ed Young's work. 
After reading this book, I couldn't help but wanting to know more this simple Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi with its strong implications. I love when a book does that to me: makes me want to learn more. You can watch a wonderful interview here with author Mark Reibstein and illustrator Ed Young. 

Wabi Sabi

You can also read a great review in 100 Scopenotes and A Fuse # 8 Production.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

The bestselling author of Not a Box and Not a Stick has just published her third picture book: A Penguin Story. This time Antoinette Portis writes about a penguin, Edna who is on a quest...a quest for color. Edna seems to find this world only on three colors: white, black and blue. No, it can't be. There has to be another color in this world. And that's when Edna set out to search...a search that might never really end. Written for a young audience (Preschool to grade 3), and once again, the illustrations are just simple but beautiful.

A Penguin Story

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This made me SMILE.

Our Cultural Festival made it to the newspaper! 
The article can be found here

One Little Word

Ali Edwards, whose blog I have been following for a long time, invites all of us to think of one word for the beginning of this new year. She explains, "the idea behind the one little word concept is to give yourself something to focus on throughout the year." She has posted ideas that you can read here.  She even has a list of possible words that you can read right here. I have my little word for 2009 but I got to be honest with you, it wasn't too hard to decide: it is my favorite word, my motto in life. And with this thought I would like to introduce to my 2009 word: BELIEVE.

I really never thought how much this word means to me, or how this word is a reflection of me until I saw the dedicatory that my friend Natali wrote when she gave me the book The Last Lecture as a graduation present. Honestly, it was the best message of 2008. It brought tears to my eyes because I truly believe in this. I hope you all enjoyed your first day of 2009. Let the journey begin!