Today’s En la Clase continues our December theme on winter celebrations by sharing how to implement another great children’s book into your teaching. We’ve already shared posts on The Miracle of the First Poinsettia and A Piñata in a Pine Tree. Be sure to check those out for some other fun resources if you missed them.
I recently remembered a recommendation a blog reader gave me last year about the beautiful book ‘Twas Nochebuena written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Sarah Palacios. Somehow I’d missed this book when it came out in 2014, but I’m really happy to be writing about it this year in time for one of our December posts. Greenfield Thong and Placios have created a new version of the familiar ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas tale. Here, students will read about one family’s Nochebuena celebration. This story, like some of the others we’ve highlighted this month, is filled with references to Latino Christmas traditions such as tamales, adornos, canciones, las posadas, and champurrado. Written in a mixture of English and Spanish, the book can be used with English speakers or Spanish speakers, as the surrounding words and illustrations provide plenty of context clues. The glossary at the back is also a great resource. Continue reading →
Saludos, everyone! This week marks the beginning of our December themes. We are starting a bit early, since the staff here at Vamos a Leer will be leaving for winter break half-way through December (more details to follow). We want to make sure that we have enough time to put out at least a few winter-themed book reviews before we leave for the holidays. Our December themes will focus on the winter season and winter celebrations in Latin America.
This week I will start by reviewing The Miracle of the First Poinsettia, written by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrated by Fabian Negrin. This holiday tale is best for ages 5-9. It is written in English with Spanish words interspersed throughout, and tells the story of a young, Mexican girl who learns to give gifts from the heart. Oppenheim’s story is a retelling of a traditional Mexican myth about the creation of the first Poinsettia flowers in Mexico. These flowers are sometimes called “flores de la Noche Buena,” or “flowers of Christmas Eve.” According to Oppenheim’s Author’s Note: “They decorate homes and churches all over the world at Christmas time. In Mexico they are so plentiful they still go like weeds. They brighten gardens and remind us of hope, the joy and the miracle of Christmas!” With glowing illustrations, this tale of love and kindness will surely warm the hearts of readers as the winter chill sets in. Continue reading →
Thanks for reading this week! I’m here just briefly to wish everyone a happy, safe, and fun holiday weekend! Good luck to any of you brave souls venturing out into the sales world! I’ll be back the Friday after next since our Sobre Diciembre (eek, I know, December is on the horizon!) post will come out next week!
I realize it’s still November, but based on our search statistics, many of you are already looking for books, lesson plans, and resources for teaching about winter celebrations like Christmas and Las Posadas. I’m impressed! You all are far more organized than I was when I was in the classroom. You’ll definitely want to check out this week’s giveaway of Merry Navidad! In previous posts we’ve discussed our philosophy for how to approach teaching about cultural celebrations and traditions in a way that’s authentic and meaningful. Many of those same ideas are relevant here as well.
First, I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’ve written about in past posts on teaching about winter celebrations. This time of year was always one of my favorites times to be in the classroom because the possibilities for engaging and interesting lessons were endless.When I taught third grade, at the beginning of each December I began a unit on three winter celebrations: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Las Posadas. As a child, I remember talking about Hanukkah in school, but the extent of what we learned seemed to be limited to eating latkes and learning a song and game about dreidels. I wanted to go beyond that. I wanted my students to have a deeper understanding of cultural traditions that may be different from the ones they or their families personally observe. Continue reading →
Can you believe that the holidays are upon us! I cannot! Although we are sad to say that this is our last week of the Tuesday Giveaways for this semester, we are happy to have given out so many great books thanks to Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy’s gracious donation and we want to encourage you to look out for some more giveaways in the spring! Our final giveaway of the semester will be Merry Navidad!, co-authored by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Viví Escrivá, and translated into English by Rosa Zubizarreta. This book is described as a “warm and vibrant collection of traditional Spanish Christmas carols, or villancicos, [in which] authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy bring to life the holiday traditions of Latin America and Spain. The creative English adaptations by Rosalma Zubizarreta both capture the spirit of the originals and add a new dimension to the songs. And Spanish illustrator Viví Escrivá‘s spirited illustrations are perfect backdrops for the lyrics, adding rich holiday flavor.” It would be a great addition to classroom holiday activities for all age groups. Are you ready for a sing-along? Comment below and let us know! Have a happy and safe holiday season and don’t forget to check back in the spring for more giveaways!
Thanks for joining me again this week! I can almost smell all the delicious foods being prepared at home already! Can’t you? I hope you and your students are getting excited to celebrate the holiday in your own special ways. This week, I am featuring a few resources that highlight the ways in which Thanksgiving coincides with Harvest Festivals throughout the world.
The first resource is from Eatocracy and it shows some beautiful images of how Thanksgiving foods in different parts of the United States have been adapted to include more Latin American ingredients. For example, the first picture on the page shows the Castillo-Lavergne Family’s Turkey Pasteles, which are wrapped green banana stuffed pastries. This is the perfect display of how the traditional turkey platter can be transformed and included in other cultural dishes. This article, creatively titled, “El Día de Las Gracias—Thanksgiving with a Latin Twist,” celebrates the coming together of flavors, families, and cultures across the United States. We think this resource could easily be incorporated into class discussions of how students celebrate the holiday, what foods they have every year, and who gets to help with the cooking. Continue reading →
In last week’s En la Clase I talked about using Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper as the basis for a poetry activity based on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness. This week I’m highlighting Gracias ~ Thanks, another beautiful book illustrated by John Parra and written by Pat Mora. As the title suggests, thankfulness is the main theme of the book, making it the perfect book for this time of year. The publisher’s description writes, “There are so many things to be thankful for. . .Straight from the heart of a child flows this lighthearted bilingual celebration of family, friendship, and fun. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!” Like last week’s books, Gracias ~ Thanks is a book written with young children in mind, so it’s great for your pre-school or early elementary students. But, with such an important and universal theme, it’s great for encouraging a mindfulness of the everyday things for which we can be thankful in older and younger students alike. Plus, each page is written in English and Spanish, so it’s great for English, Spanish, or bilingual classrooms.
In all of our busyness, it’s easy to take for granted the people or things that make our lives so special. Mora’s poetic words and Parra’s beautiful illustrations turn the very commonplace things in our lives into reasons to celebrate. They highlight the ways in which the ordinary actions of family and friends can make our lives such lovely experiences. Not only is it a fun book to read, but it easily lends itself to writing activities. Continue reading →
Thank you again for joining me during the busy weeks! This week, I am featuring a resource that offers a Thanksgiving story that differs a bit from the traditional “Pilgrims and Indians” story we are accustomed to hearing. There are many discrepancies with the “First Feast” idea that accompanies most Thanksgiving stories, including some that highlight the Spaniards’ presence in North America prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival and others that were highlighted in last week’s post (link to rethinking schools resource). However, this resource offers yet another perspective on Thanksgiving. This author happens to be a historian who teaches in high schools and also identifies as Native American. Continue reading →
It’s officially November. Here at Vamos a Leer we’re not advocates of teaching the traditional tales of Pilgrims, Indians, and the First Thanksgiving (Charla does a great job discussing this in her post “Thanks but No Thanks: Creating a November with No Stereotypes”). This doesn’t mean that we want you to entirely ignore the fall season. One of my favorite parts of being in the classroom was that I was able to explicitly call attention to the changing of the seasons. This made me so mindful of the different things I loved about each time of year and allowed me to encourage my students to do the same. The end of fall and the beginning of winter are a great time to have your students focus on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness. So for today’s En la Clase post, I thought I’d highlight the ways the two beautiful books by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra can be used as the basis for a great seasonal literacy activity. The books by this duo are amazing. If you’re not familiar with their work, you must remedy that right away! In this post, I’m going to discuss Green is a Chile Pepper and Round is a Tortilla. Check out the review Lorraine wrote last year of Round is a Tortilla for a quick introduction to their work.
Focusing on shapes and colors, both of the books were written with young children in mind. But as with many great children’s books, this doesn’t mean that young readers are the only ones who can enjoy or benefit from them. For me, these books really inspire the reader to be fully aware of all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around them. Full of cultural references, they really encourage students to think about all of the everyday things that not only make up our daily experiences but really enrich our lives. As is probably evident from the titles, Round is a Tortilla encourages this kind of awareness by focusing on the shapes of the things that surround us, while Green is a Chile Pepper highlights colors. Written with a lyrical style, I think the books really lend themselves to a poetry activity. Continue reading →
As we move into November (I know, I cannot believe it’s November either!), I want to thank all my readers! This is a busy time in the semester/year so I appreciate the time you are spending with me on Friday mornings. Today, I wanted to kick off the month by expanding the discussion beyond the trite, problematic depiction of “the first Thanksgiving between Pilgrims and Indians” to which so many classrooms and communities still adhere. We do a disservice to ourselves and to others if we hold just to that depiction.
At various times over the past few years, Katrina has posted about how to contradict stereotypes associated with Thanksgiving and offered ways to “re-teach” it. At the bottom of my post, I’ve provided links to her posts on the topic. Continue reading →