LAII Educator Newsletter: September 2020

We hope that the 2020-21 school year is off to a great start. In this newsletter, we share ideas and prepared lesson plans to help incorporate Hispanic and Latinx themes into your learners’ studies this month in addition to other helpful ideas for teaching during the pandemic. ¡Disfrútalo! 
In the month’s newsletter:· Hispanic Heritage Month Activities, Vamos a Leer Educator Guide: The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (in English and Spanish), Tech Spotlight: Google Meet, Current Event Activities


We also invite you to join our newly created LAII Educator Community Google Classroom for educators and parents to share how these tips worked for you and any other ideas you’ve come up with!

Colombia’s Virtual Cultural Box

During this time of Quarantine and of staying at home to work and study, in collaboration with our graduate student assistants, we have built a package of activities that are related to Colombia and its culture and geography. In this package we want to share with you activities that go from Kindergarten up to 12 grade.

As some of you know, we at the LAII department of the University of New Mexico have some Cultural Boxes with materials that you can use in class to teach the culture and traditions of the different countries of South and Central America. Today we are going to present Colombia’s Virtual Cultural Box, a didactic resource full of guides, activities, videos and knowledge about Colombia. This Virtual Cultural Box comes with a teaching guide, where teachers can find other resources and instructions on how to use the different activities from the Cultural Box.

We are happy to share with all of you this new package of guides that are part of the Viajamos a… project and the My Passport activities.

Single Activities:

Guide: America, a continent with two seasons.

Guide: Speaking more than two languages.

Guide: Viajamos a Colombia

Guide: Colombia’s Native Customs and Languages.

My Passport Template.

Cultural Box

Colombia Virtual Cultural Box

Colombia Virtual Cultural Box, Teaching Guide.

Enjoy it!

Commemorating The Earth’s Day

This 2020 has been a very different year from what we imagined it would be like. It has been a year in which it has allowed us to enjoy more of the coexistence with our families and has led us to live a unique experience in life. The commemoration of Earth Day takes place on April 22 of each year and is celebrated in honor of the resources, places and raw materials that the earth offers us.

That is why in Vamos a Leer, we have decided to make some guides that as a teacher will allow you to explore, learn and teach about natural resources and the importance of Earth Day from Colombia.

These guides are part of My Passport activities and have been designed incorporating activities aligned with the following Common Core Standards.

We hope that you enjoy and use the guides that we made for you.

Guide: America, a continent with two seasons.

Guide: Speaking more than two languages.

Guide: Colombia’s Native Customs and Languages

My Passport Activities.

Ilustración 108868891 © Makc76 –

My Passport is a project we are working on that is part of Viajamos A… of our website, which will have activities from countries like Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico.

The principal idea of My Passport is to build a curriculum that helps teachers and students to travel through South and Central America without leaving the classroom. While engaging in the activities, students and teachers will learn new concepts, cultures and places.

In My Passport you will find a variety of activities and resources to teach, learn and travel to South and Central America. The different resources of My passport have been designed incorporating activities aligned with the following Common Core Standards, and are divided in:

Cultural Virtual Boxes.
Teaching Guide Cultural Virtual Boxes.
Single guides.

My Passport Template.

We hope that you can enjoy, use and learn from these different guides and materials that we have created for you.

Book Group Recap: Juana & Lucas

Book Group Recap: Juana & Lucas

¡Saludos a tod@s! We hope everyone is hanging in and doing well in this crazy time.

This month’s *virtual* book group discussed Juana & Lucas (grades k-3; lexile 870L) by Juana Medina. This heartwarming story takes place in the magical city of Bogotá, Colombia and mimics a Junie B. Jones or Judy Moody -esque style. The story focuses on Juana, who struggles with seeing a value in learning English as a second language. In addition to this dilemma, Juana also faces social and academic challenges as the new school year begins; however, fortunately for Juana, she has a superb support team that includes Lucas (her loyal perrito), Juli (her best friend), Mami and her abuelos.

The main themes that we identified in this fun read were: friendship, the importance of language learning, and expressing emotions. Despite the challenges that Juana faces throughout the text, her relationships with Lucas and Juli are admirable and help readers to cherish the important relationships in their own lives. One of Juana’s most prominent struggles is mastering the strange sounds that make up the English language, which leads Juana to wonder whether it is even important to learn another language. These struggles are very relatable for language learners of all ages! They also provide the opportunity to reflect upon why it is so important to learn another language. Like many kids her age, Juana experiences many feelings that vary from the disappointment she feels with her struggles to the excitement Juana experiences on her way to Astroland. Juana expresses her emotions in English and Spanish, which can serve as an example for learners and speakers of both languages. Check out the guide we created for ideas on how to promote language learning to your little readers, click here!

If you enjoyed this read, check out Medina’s sequel: Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas!

¡Feliz mes de la historia de la mujer!

¡Feliz mes de la historia de la mujer!

Women’s History Month is here! Which inspiring women are you teaching your students about this month? Share their names in the comments below!

When it comes to women from Latin America and Latinas from the U.S., there is a long list of mujeres poderosas from which to choose. Here I will spotlight a few Latinas who have paved the way for future generations interested in STEM.

First, we have Mirna Roman; she the tica (costariqueña) who was the first Indigenous doctor in Costa Rica. This trailblazer is from the Ngäbe community and became inspired to practice medicine by watching her mom treat her siblings. We’ve created a STEM guide in Spanish that includes interviews of Roman and a reflective follow-up activity. Click here to access it!

Next up, we have Ellen Ochoa. Did you know that in addition to being the first Hispanic astronaut Ochoa has also made and patented 3 inventions? Our lesson plan on Ochoa is in English and perfect for grades 3-6; it includes two interviews of Ochoa in which she reflects upon her achievements and goals for future generations. Click here to check it out!

Last, but certainty not least, is Nicole Hernandez Hammer. Hernandez Hammer is a climate scientist, who spent her early childhood in rural Guatemala and is currently based in Florida where she works with communities who are most afflicted by climate change. Our STEM guide on Hernandez Hammer is in English and features an interview of this advocate in addition to a news article that addresses the impacts of climate change in Florida. Click here to learn more about this current issue!

Here’s to mujeres poderosas everywhere!
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.

Is there another Latina in STEM that you want to see featured in one of our STEM guides? Drop her name in a comment below!

Book Group Recap: Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

¡Feliz (casi) primavera, lectores y educadores!

This month, we discussed Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Under the Mesquite (Grades 7-12; Lexile 990L) at our book group. This is a very heartwarming read about Lupita, a high schooler who experiences and overcomes challenges both at home with her family and at school with her peers. Lupita’s experiences and challenges are very relatable to readers of all ages. Click here to view our book guide. For extended notes on Under the Mesquite, check out our previous post about it by clicking here.

McCall begins Under the Mesquite with a definition of the mesquite tree that attests to its strength and resilience to endure harsh climates and its adaptability. It becomes clear from the beginning of the text that this resilient tree symbolizes this key theme that we see as Lupita is put in tough situations and valiantly overcomes these challenges.

Consider creating a memory box as a way to extend Under the Mesquite with your class! As Lupita grows and faces different difficulties in her life, she journals her memories of her mother, family, friends and cities in her blue book. Her interest in saving the memories of loved ones allows her to write stories that will revive the moments. It is from the desire of keeping the memories of her loved ones that the activity of memory box is thought. Students will put a drawing, an object, a photograph, a note and other things in a box that keeps the memories of their loved ones, places or moments of their lives. And finally, they will keep this box in their classroom as a door that will lead them to the memories.

Join us next month! On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Why Cascarones?

As Ericka told us in the previous post, the importance and influence of the culture of two different countries in the development and growth of a border child make a great mark in their way of looking at the world.

Some of the most important aspects that the book, They Call me Güero, touches are the family in the day-to-day life of a border child, he food and how it shows the cultural roots that his family has had for years, and finally how the Güero is fortunate to have the opportunity to participate and live in a social environment that allows him to live different traditions of the two countries.

Some of these traditions are the Quinceañera, the preparation of Mexican tamales, the celebration of the Day of the Dead, and Easter, among others. We wanted to highlight the creation of the cascarones as a celebration that is native to Mexico and the United States. This celebration is held during the month of Easter where children decorate the eggshells and fill them with flour, confetti, frost and other things. The idea is that after making the decoration and filling of these eggs, the game beings… who will break more eggs?

¡¡Manos a la obra!! // Let’s do it!!

List of things to use:

Clean eggshells (preferably white)

Food dyes (various colors)

Confetti or flour (whatever you want to fill the eggs with!)

X-Acto knife


Hot water


Step 1

To begin, we make a small hole in the eggs at one end and then we begin to remove the egg from the shell with care to not break the shell. When you have empty eggshells, we will wash them with water and let them air dry.

Step 2

In cups with a cup of hot water, 1 tsp of vinegar and 10-15 drops of food coloring, we submerge the eggshells in the different colors leaving them to soak for about 5 minutes.

Dare to play with the colors!

This is what our cascarones looked like are after painting them.

Step 3

Now it’s time to add the filling! It’s important to think through what you want to put inside. Maybe a little confetti, or you can be riskier and put some flour in them.

After you put the stuffing in them, you cover the hole with a piece of tissue paper and glue, so that what you put inside the shell will have no way out.

Now you just have to enjoy and play with these fun cascarones.

Other sources

Recap of This Month’s Book and Sneak Peak for the Upcoming Titles

¡Feliz febrero, lectores y educadores!

This month’s book was They Call Me Güero, by David Bowles (Grades 5-8; Lexile: 850L). This read was a very contemporary and engaging read about a middle schooler nicknamed Güero, who shares his experiences as a border kid, and how he navigates between being Mexican and American. Some of the key themes that Bowles has incorporated in this great read include migration, diversity and Latinx cultural traditions. Middle school readers will find this text very relevant and relatable thanks to the details, topics and perspectives that Bowles has utilized.

For Güero and his family, transnational migration between Mexico and the U.S. is deeply ingrained into their familial history and identity. Despite their long history as a border family, Güero shares the tensions and stigma that his family encounters as they go between Mexico and the U.S. In addition to Güero’s experiences, Bowles also includes some of the traumatic experiences of migration through Andrés, one of Güero’s classmates, who confides in Güero about his scary journey from Honduras. In our book group discussion, the consensus was that Bowles succeeded in providing a realistic, and current image of migration and the stigma that often accompanies it, which makes this text relatable to readers who share these experiences.
In addition to sharing migration narratives, Bowles also excels in incorporating diversity and cultural traditions in the text to celebrate diverse cultures. For instance, while introducing his friend group to the reader, Güero describes his friends as a group of diverse nerds in that they each have different cultural backgrounds yet share the same interests in reading and their studies. They Call Me Güero celebrates the reality that today’s classrooms across the U.S. are incredibly diverse and alludes to ways in which educators are integrating diversity into school curriculum (through Güero’s “woke” teachers!).
In Güero’s poems, he describes his normal day-to-day experiences that include his strong familial bonds and his admiration for his grandmother who taught him to read and to be strong, his challenges in school (e.g. dealing with bullies and crushes) and outside of school, the traditions and celebrations that are integral to Güero and his family, and more! Güero’s depiction of traditions and childhood memories led book group attendees to reminisce on our memories spending time with grandparents and learning about life from their stories, attending misa as young, antsy children, making (and breaking!) cascarones, and how these experiences have stuck with us. All in all, we highly recommend They Call Me Güero for its lightheartedness and relevance to today’s middle schoolers.
Click here for the book guide!

Mark your calendar for our next meetings!

*Please note that this semester, we are using rotating locations* Join us to discuss the following books; no need to have read the whole book or even a page. All book groups will run from 4-5:30p–latecomers are always welcome!

On March 5th, we will meet at Humble Coffee Downtown (505 Central Ave NW) to discuss Under the Mesquite by: Guadalupe Garcia McCall. (Grades 6-12)

On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Vamos a Leer | Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle | Book Review

On May 4th, we will meet at High and Dry Brewing (529 Adams St. NE) to discuss Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle and Edel Rodriguez. (Grades 7-9)

Vamos a Leer is back!

¡Hola a tod@s, y bienvenidos al año escolar 2019-20!  

We hope that your school year is off to a great start so far!  I have been working hard to update the blog with the selected books for this year’s book group and to include the option to view and request our book and thematic sets directly from the blog. Please check out the menu tabs at the top of the main page to see what we have available for teachers and submit your requests early and often! I am also working on some resources to promote Latinxs in STEM (spoiler!)

Last Monday, we had our first book group meeting to discuss Margarita Engle’s recent novel, Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots. This great read takes place in Los Ángeles during the ‘40s when the chaos of the Zoot Suit Riots (or, as Engle aptly calls them: “the Sailor Riots”) was ensuing between U.S. servicemen and Mexican-American teens. Our group consensus was that Jazz Owls is a quick read that presents a variety of perspectives—from “zooters” and “patriotic girls”  to police officers and reporters—as the plot unveils! 

We loved all the history that is tied into Jazz Owls in addition to all the key themes that could easily engage students in discussion, such as racism/ prejudice and challenging traditional gender roles. Our educators said they would like to use the text in class to teach varying perspectives and to get students engaged with the text by predicting what characters might do next. For more historical context and ideas of how you can incorporate this great read into the classroom, check out this guide for Jazz Owls. Read Engle’s Jazz Owls and let us know what you think!  

Our next book will be Jenny Torres Sánchez’s Because of the Sun, which discusses the struggles Dani faces when her mother is killed, and she is then forced to move from The Sunshine State (Florida) to The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) to live with her aunt. Will she be enchanted by her new home?? We look forward to seeing you at Red Door Brewery‘s Downtown location (509 Central Ave SE) next month to discuss this great read!  Register here, it’s free!

¡Hasta pronto, lectores y educadores!