Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Saying of the Week -

This past weekend I bought the latest Alejandro Fernandez CD. One of the songs is a rendition of the ever popular song El Rey. The lyrics have been on my mind. I have found myself repeating the following line from the song over and over with my students:

" No hay que llegar primero,
Pero hay que saber llegar."

You don't have to get there first,
You just have to know how to get there.

Right now, for some reason, my second graders seem to be in a race to finish every darn thing we do. The work that is coming in is quite average and often times sloppy and poorly done. I have to try and turn this around WAY before state testing time.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekend Wrap Up

Go Sabi!

Sabina Rides Her Bike (Finally!)
Sabina has finally learned how to ride her bike without the training wheels. She is behind just about all of her friends on this skill but I just never pushed it and she never had the ganas to master it. On Saturday we went to a great park with plenty of room to practice bike riding and she started to get the hang of it. Today, I invited a friend of hers to come with us and that helped too. By the end of our time at the park she was riding fairly well. We need to bring up the bike seat to help her out a bit but she is now a biker!

Go,Go, Go!

Hermione Granger Outfit
Sabina found out that on Thursday (Read Across America Day) she can dress up as her favorite literary character at school. For Sabi, the favorite character would be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Sabina LOVES Harry Potter. She has diligently worked her way through the entire series. Right now, she is 1/3 of the way through the last book in the series, book 6. Sabina asked me if we could get a Hermione Granger outfit. I thought - why not? I looked online and saw that they are not cheap. To buy the outfit and pay extra for shipping to get it here before Thursday, would cost about $55. My mom said that she would make it for Sabi.

Gryffindor Dress Robes

We went to Jo-Ann's to look for a pattern. I started adding up the amount of $ it would take just for fabric and it exceeded the online price by far. I thought about it a lot and ended up buying the outfit for Sabi online. It killed me to pay that much but I did it anyway. She just loves Hermione. I have to say, I love it that Sabina is so into books and that Hermione is her heroine. Just think - Sabina could be Barbie or X-Box crazy . (I am trying to rationalize the expense here - can you tell!)

Sabi and Lily

Suzuki Recital, Dinner and Tío Ruben come home:

Today was Sabina's February Fling. It is a recital for her Suzuki music program. Sabina was great! She performed both with her small group that she works with on a weekly basis as well as with the entire group at the end.

After the recital, we called up Tío Ruben who just came back from Buenos Aires and had dinner at a great restaurant. Sabina entertained us with her ideas about how to be a "proper lady" and Ruben entertained us with his stories of his trip. My mom and I entertained Ruben and Sabina by spilling salsa all over our clothes!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Read Across America Day - Coming Soon!

Cat in Hat 2

March 2nd is Theodore Geisel's (Dr. Seuss) Birthday. It is celebrated nationwide as Read Across America Day. Classrooms all over the country will be doing lots of great literacy based activities to honor Dr. Seuss and celebrate the joy of reading.


What will we be doing in my room? I am not quite sure yet - I haven't figured it out completely. It will include:

* A reader's theater production of Green Eggs and Ham performed by both me and hopefully another teacher at my site.

* A Dr. Seuss Read Aloud rotation. All of the second grade kids will rotate from class to class in second grade. (The kids move the teachers stay) In each room the kids will hear a different Dr. Seuss book.

* Each student will receive a Dr. Seuss candy bar. (I found a very cool candy bar wrapper template that I personalized for my kids at my school. I will just take the Hershey bar wrapper off and slip this one on - How cool is that?)

That is it so far - I am working on a writing activity as well as an art activity. I need ideas. I hate doing the same things over and over again and want something fresh.

Any ideas?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Attallah Shabazz - Remarks at Coretta Scott King's Service

Attallah Shabazz

Thank you to Jett for finding both the test and audio of the remarks made by Attallah Shabazz at Coretta Scott King's service. Here is the link. Go there and listen to the audio. I have cut and pasted the text below. Enjoy!

It's a big one to balance -- for a lot of reasons. First I have to say praise God Almighty that we have been bestowed with such a woman as Coretta Scott King; that, for me, my family, my five younger sisters -- that our hearts are heavy, but the memory brings on a chuckle and a smile and a caress of warmth because of the role she played in our individual lives, after we lost are own mother.
Now, on the sixth day of Creation, we all know that God created Man in His image. But even God knew His work was not done, until he created Woman -- bless His heart. How many of you here know that no matter how mighty the man in your midst is, that he could not do it without the caress, the wink, the unconditional love, the pat on the back, the sustenance, the maintenance, of the woman in his life?

As I sat there, I looked around and realized how full the room is -- probably the viewing audience, and those who cannot touch this room, or cable television, or read a newspaper -- for whom Coretta mattered. Yes, indeed, Martin Luther King, Jr. But Coretta Scott King gave people a backbone and a poise. If you didn't have any of your own, you could mimic it at least. You knew what grace looked like. You knew what poise looked like. And in her it came in brown, which we didn't always get to see forecast before us. We got to see it in wonderment and beauty, just that film. You know, was she never not cute? I mean just lovely, just -- just lovely.

The nostalgia that I see around with silvering members of the civil rights movement, marchers, spokespersons, having hit it hard and recovered and sustained. Let me acknowledge one who has not been: We've had the grace of meeting Mrs. Oliver Tambo.¹ We know
Dr. Height. We've heard from the illustrious Dr. Angelou. Mothers of the movement, sustainers of the movement. But one of the mothers who had to live with the same similar thing as my my mother and Mrs. King was Mrs. Merle Evers.² These are women who, when no one was looking, they had to maintain, sustain, and they had each other.
I want to thank the King family for asking me to speak on behalf of my family. You know decades ago one would not think that there was any likeness between Malcolm X Shabazz and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So our families aren't united because of something we've done today. It was united because those men started it then, unbenounced to many. Have you ever seen the picture of the two of them embraced and with a grin this wide.

martin and malcolm

They knew what they stood for. No matter how different, the message was the same. It was to make sure that we as a people in the United States on this globe were inherent beneficiaries of what God had bestowed to all of us at birth. However the means, there are arteries plentiful to meet that heart.

A few decades later in the 70's, through the introduction of a -- a journalist and photographer in
Ebony Magazine, I got to meet the eldest daughter. People were surprised that by then we had not already been an integral part of each others lives. But I want to say, in our respective households, we were sibling families, if I'm clear; all the while, in this together, wondering what was going on in the threshold of the other house, feeling one another.

So, there was a little apprehension. ("Hope she likes me.") She thought the same. Stood in front of a planned, posed photographer, whom we both grew up knowing,
Moneta Sleet. That was the easy part. We hummed and tapped our foot. And he said," loosen up a little." You know, "break a little bread."

Then we just started to realize certain things. Not only were we the oldest daughters of our respective families, but our birthdays were a day apart. Could that be fate? We knew we had commonalities. We knew our parents did. Realized that makes us both Scorpio. Uh, oh. Then Moneta Sleet took a picture with tonsils and wide tongues, wide mouths, and that was how the friendship and kinship began with Yolanda King and myself.

Shortly thereafter, we founded a national touring company called "Nucleus," which brought us together on a regular basis. Started with four shows of presentations and it went up to 16 cities a year. And for 14 years we were on the road meeting people who weren't ready. They didn't think it could be. They even thought that they could pull one against the other by winking. You know the Malcolmites with -- give you the whatever and the Kingites would....[gestures accordingly] But you wanted to say, "No." We're in this together. That's why were standing together, both of us respectively products of our -- our households, no doubt. We look like our household parents. We -- She had that "ya'll" and that easiness of the South, which I just loved. Tee-hee. And mine was quick, northern, and West Indian. Product of my house.

And we traveled around just enabling people to see that you can merge. We could still be exactly who we were and function together, be together, make this thing happen together. I wasn't flattered when one picked Malcolm over Martin. I was protective of who he was through her. And vice versa. You're not doing the men any justice by picking one over the other. Your not doing us any justice by picking one over the other. There are many methods for us to get to this union of who we were.
Our mothers....beautiful women. And I'd like to say, Mayor Franklin, that maybe my mother can have a honorary seat on that Freedom Choir. When I came home after meeting Yolanda King, my mother sat with bated breath, wondering how it would all go, as if it -- she were a long lost daughter of her own. So as we traveled on the road together we got to swap mothers -- all of us -- as I got to know the King siblings, and feel like their older sibling myself. Very protective I am of each of you in my heart.

They were definitely sisters. My mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and Merely Evers would go away for retreats unbenounced to people -- pin curls, Noxema -- and share that which others could not. And when you saw any of them, grace followed; but not without a Keloid under the attire, not without a continuous rub of Aloe Vera, coconut oil, a little sag. But the commitment to the mission, to loving their husbands, to raising their children, sustained them. (Excuse me.)

When my mother in 1997 had her accident, the gathering of women surrounded us. I see many of them here. Mrs. King was no doubt a part of that perpetual momentum. When my mother made her "transition," Mrs. King was one of the few who maintained regular phone calls. Now I had always called and exchanged cards and things on significant dates -- not the Monday that celebrated her husband's birthday, but on exactly January 15th, because there's an intimate association. But on birthdays. And we would always get -- all six of my mother's children -- would receive something in the mail every birthday.

This past November I got a package in the mail. Now we all know that she was wheelchair-bound. We knew that she didn't speak, so it meant that our conversations where cut out. But I could send a note. I just didn't expect notes back. It wasn't the burden she needed to bear. So I get a package and I get a card. It was for my birthday. A mother all the while. Do you understand what I'm saying? Certainly a mother of the Movement but intimately, in terms of the dedication. And it's signed, from her, with the hand writing of her daughter, Bernice.
As I continued to travel I sent cards again just so that she can hear from me. Every time I sent a card, I'd get a call from one of the children saying, well more specifically, (yeah, okay,) "Mother wants to hear your voice." And I'd get it on the -- you know, too far to call back immediately. And I'm trying not to put pressure. And then I'd get another call with a tap of the foot and the sound, "I don't know, did you get my message?" And I know its not just her pounding; its mother pounding. And my heart -- if you can talk about intuition -- was -- was almost too scared to touch. Because I wasn't ready.
(Excuse me. I'm sorry.)

Yet, no doubt one of the most beautiful things -- as her eldest daughter and I discussed -- when you witness love and being loved the way we have by each our respectable mothers, you almost feel like you don't have the right to ask them to stay a day longer, when they are now in the arms of He who loved her most. For it is not fair to rob someone of that. Because if she was here, we'd still be on the receiving end. But from a chair, and quietly silent, the reflection -- and I know He reached down caressing her, and saying, "I'm here all the while." Sometimes just the human being needs simply that.

I'd like to read a phrase form
Khalil Gibran,that I lifted, on death. Now, I, myself, don't use the term "death," but "transition." And he says,
"What is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence, shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountaintop, only then shall you begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, only then shall you truly dance.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity."

So as we have all have grown up though this civil rights movement -- some before -- and we know that anthem hymn, "
We Shall Overcome," I'd like to presume to add an update of affirmation, not the some-day, but to-day. Time's up.
We have lost many on that walk, on that journey, who stood steadfast -- steadfast, giving and doing, serving and being, sharing and extending. And I would rather say something like, "We have come over to-day!" "We have achieved today!" Even if you don't have an affirmation that says "Now!" -- because somebody else will rest with your some-day; they'll put you on pause, with some-day -- we have to do it now, by any means necessary.

Vegas Baby!

This morning I just heard that Alejandro Fernandez and Luis Miguel will be in concert on September 16th in Las Vegas. It should be an extra special event since it is also Mexico's Independence Day.



Thursday, February 23, 2006

Premio Lo Nuestro

I am watching Premio Lo Nuestro while simultaneously reading the Live Blogging about Premio Lo Nuestro on Vivirlatino. I LOVE it. I like the comments from both of blogging over there. If it isn't too late when you are reading this, turn on Univision and check out the show. If it is too late, go check out the pics on univision.com. You will be guaranteed lots of fancy dresses, lots of cleavage and chisme, of course!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Testing - I HATE it.

Today, I read two different blogs that totally describe how I feel about testing. Check them out.

Site 1: Out of Control by The Pig's Tales

Site 2: T Minus One and Counting by Guusje

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Musically Speaking

Today I have been helping my daughter clean her room. We have been listening to her "tunes" on her CD player. Her favorite CD is The Princess Diaries 2 CD. I gave this CD to her on her birthday back in August. She plays this CD just about everyday and knows the words to every song and knows who each of the different artists are on the soundtrack. Not only does she know these songs, but she knows the other songs that they play because she sees highlights of their songs both on the Disney Channel and Disney.com.

While I know that my baby is growing up, I have not been quite ready for all of the growing up stages that have come our way. One of these stages is developing her own likes and dislikes. Listening to her sing today with the CD seemed so pre-teen to me. Nothing was wrong with the words or the way she sang but it made me a bit wistful.

At some point while we were listening to the soundtrack I started to think about what my first album was. I want to say that it was Bad Girls by Donna Summer. (I know that it was really my dad's album but he pretended that it was mine) That was certainly not good listening material for a young girl. I was so young and naive though that I had no clue as to what the album was about. Then I remembered that my first 45 of my own, that I picked out, was The Hustle. I think that we danced to that at school and then my dad bought it for me.

I was still baffled as to what my first album was. Then it hit me:
SHAUN CASSIDY! I remember thinking that he was the coolest thing on earth back then. I think that I watched him on the Hardy Boy Series every week. I also bought his first album which was called Da Doo Run Run. (I think) I played that thing non stop - just like Sabina plays her CD. I was in music heaven back then.

I guess that I will have to accept that my baby is growing up. It is a good thing. She is figuring out who she is and what interests her. I also have to be thankful that she has better taste than her mommy did in music. I would much rather listen to the Princess Diaries soundtrack over and over again than to Shaun Cassidy. (I don't know how my mom did it!)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree


Spring has sprung here in the Central Valley. Many beautiful flowers have blossomed and the trees are in full bloom. Each year as the fruit and nut trees begin to blossom it reminds me of a song that either my brother Nebur or my brother Aaron used to come home singing. We call it the Popcorn Song.

Today , as Sabina and I were driving around town we saw many Popcorn trees and broke out into song. Here it is:

More Trees

The Popcorn Song

I looked out the window, and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!
Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.
I could take an armful and make a treat,
A popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.
It wasn't really so, but it seemed to be,
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

Shabbat Shalom


Earlier today I was reading La Dolce Diva's blog. She wrote about hosting a Shabbat dinner for some friends of hers. It got me to thinking about the fact that we rarely have a special Shabbat dinner anymore. To all of you non-Jews, a Shabbat dinner marks the beginning of our Sabbath. There are some rituals and special blessings that go along with the good eats.

I decided that it was high time for us to start having Shabbat dinners again. Sabina and I got to work cleaning up the house and preparing the meal as we cleaned. We put a roast in the Crock Pot early this morning. Around 1:00 we started the challah since it needs a lot of time to rise. (two separate times)

Letting the Dough Rise

After putting the challah away to rise, Sabina and I set the table to get that out of the way. I had to search high and low for both candles and candle holders. When I placed them on the tables Sabina asked me "Are we having a romantic dinner?" I knew right then that it had been too long since our last Shabbat dinner!

Around 3:30 or so, Sabina and I punched the challah dough, kneaded it some more and then braided our challot.

Glazing the Challah

We then set it aside to rise. Then we moved on to the roast which smelled amazing. I took it out of the pot and shredded it Ropa Vieja style. YUM! Around 4:00, we began the challah baking. The challah was ready by 5 and we sat down to start our Shabbat meal.

Lighting the Candles

Sabina was an active participant in the blessings before we ate and an active participant in eating the food too!

The Hamotzi

We had a great day prepping for this meal and eating it. As I sit here typing, I am wondering how I can try and make sure that we have our Shabbat dinners more frequently on Friday evenings. It was easy today - I didn't have to work. I will just have to give it my best shot.

Shabbat Shalom everyone.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Novela News

A new novela will be starting Monday, Peregrina. It looks like it will be very good. It has the necessary basics: a cheesy plot, veteran actors as the older characters and hot younger dudes! If that wasn't enough, the names of 3 of the characters are also the names of 3 people in my family Sabina, Aníbal and Rubén. I have to watch it now, right? I haven't watched a novela since La Madrastra. That is just too long for me to go without one.

I can't wait for the 20th!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tales From the Classroom #9: Valentine's Day For the First Time

As much as I don't enjoy Valentine's Day, yesterday was not so bad. It was actually quite special because I got to see it through the eyes of a student new to the U.S. It was Ana's first Valentine's Day.

I sent a class list out last week so the kids could get started on their Valentine's Day cards. On Monday, we made Valentine's Day mailboxes out of shoe boxes, butcher paper and construction paper. I asked if anyone needed Valentine's Day cards. It occurred to me that some kids may not have any and I didn't want anyone to feel left out. Ana came up to me and discreetly asked me what we needed cards for. I then realized that she had no clue about Valentine's Day and I felt horrible for not remembering to tell her about it in great detail. So - I sat down to do it. I had to describe it several times because she just couldn't visualize it. Finally , she got it.

I gave her some Valentine's Day cards that I ran off on the Xerox machine. They were very simple but they would do the trick. I told her that all she needed to do was write To: ____ and From: ___, fill it out with the appropriate names and she would be good to go. She was excited and couldn't wait to get home.

Yesterday,Ana passed out her Valentine's Day cards with great pride. I noticed that there was a LOT of writing on the little cards that she was passing out and I went to see what she had written on everyone's cards. Ana wrote beautiful, personalized messages on each of her classmates cards. There were a few second language learner errors in translation but the spelling and mechanics were flawless. Here are a few of her comments:

* You are a nice boy. You go fine with all of the kids in the class. (You get along well with all the kids in the class)

* You are my good friend that is a girl. I like to play with you.

* You are a nice person. You work very hard and respect the teacher.

After passing out the cards, the kids got to read the cards they received from their friends. Ana went to all of the kids and thanked them as she received her cards. No one else did that. We then had a little party and watched Charlotte's Web. (We just finished reading the book)

When the movie was over, I asked the kids why Charlotte's Web was a perfect movie to watch on Valentine's Day. I got lots of different responses but the one I liked best was from Ana. She said "es porque la pelicula se trata de los amigos, Charlotte y Wilbur y Fern y Wilbur. Es una pelicula de amistades come este día del amor y amistad." (Because the movie was about friendships like Charlotte and Wilbur, Fern and Wilbur. It is a movie about friendships like Valentine's Day.)

I am REALLY going to miss this young lady when she moves on to third grade. It is so much fun to watch Ana in her acculturation process. It is also quite amazing to see how quickly she is learning English while she is in the process of learning grade level content.

Extended Weekend

Today at school we had the privilege of being evacuated for about 20-30 minutes because of a gas leak in the main building. Apparently some vandals kicked an important pipe and busted it open. Today of course was not a nice warm 71-74 degree day. It was a rather chilly 63 degrees or so. So not fun!
Starting tomorrow, I have a 5 day weekend. We get both President´s Day holidays together along with an in lieu Admission´s Day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day

The kids were nuts today at school. They were very hyper and excited in anticipation of our celebration in class today. I had planned to do lots of fun little Valentine's day activities throughout the day with the kids. When I saw how crazy they were though I scrapped all of those plans and put them to work. I figured that the only way to calm them down was to make them focus and get busy.

Best Valentine Gift Ever!

The day started off great with a Valentine present from one of my students to her classmates. She brought each classmate a special Valentine's Day pencil. She said that candy is bad for your teeth so she brought pencils instead. THANK GOODNESS!. Pencils are hard to come by at my school. What a wonderful idea!

George Washington

After journal writing, spelling and daily warm up skills we moved right into a President's Day activity. The kids read about both Lincoln and Washington and did some comprehension activities. I was amazed at how much they retained. I bet that they could give a few sixth graders a run for their money in Presidential trivia!

Ant Project

Our next activity was a very time consuming one. We have studied ants in both Language Arts and E.L.D. classes. Today's project was to make a replica of an ant colony. The hardest thing for my kids was using scissors. We rarely use scissors anymore since art has almost been cut from schools. I had to teach several kids how to hold and cut today. That is just wrong!

Our Party

After lunch we did some math drills and then I let the kids have a party. The kids passed out their Valentine's Day cards, had a bite to eat and then watched Charlotte's Web. (We just finished reading the book) We went out at the end and did three laps around the track and it was time to go. A great time was had by all!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Who Would You Choose Te Be Your Valentine?

For all of you who don't have Valentines:

If you could choose your Valentine, who would it be?

Here is my choice:

Alejandro Fernández - Me Dedique A Perderte

I have to admit that after seeing A.F. on many interviews, he really wouldn't be the best Valentine. He is a wee bit shallow and I doubt he reads much. Still ...he is a cutie.

Tales From the Classroom #8: I Got Skills!

When I pass out math worksheets I usually sit down and complete them myself right after I pass them out to the kids. I like to make an answer key so I can correct the papers quickly and return them to the students. Since I am not a second grader, it takes me all of 30 seconds to complete the page.

Here is what transpired today during that scenario.

I finished the paper and got up to walk around and check on the students at work.

Student 1: "Ms. V., how come you can always get done so fast?"

Student 2: " 'Cause Ms. V.'s got SKILLS!" (you should have heard the intonation on this one!)

These guys crack me up!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


An Associated Press article featured in today's Modesto Bee about homework made me reflect on my homework practices in my classroom.

I give my students an average of 35 minutes of homework a night. 15 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of skill review. I wait to send homework home until Back to School Night at the beginning of the year because I like to review my homework policy and homework guidelines for parents. In addition to reviewing this material with parents, I also have homework guideline handouts from the United States Department of Education in both English and Spanish for them to take home.

My Homework Policy - Very Simple

1) A homework packet is sent home on Friday and is to be completed and returned on Thursday.
The reason for a weekly packet instead of sending home daily work is because I know that families are not always available to work with kids every night of the week. Many of the parents at my school are night time factory workers. They get to see their kids when they leave for school in the morning and then again on the weekend. If I send a packet home, families can find the time either during the week or on the weekend to work together with their children. I usually have all but 1 or 2 kids turn in their homework.

2) Homework must be completed by the student.
Now I know that this sounds silly but you would be surprised at how many times in my teaching career that I have had to call parents and let them know that it was not ok for them to be completing their child's packet.

3) Don't rush through the packet - do your personal best on each page.
I want homework to be a meaningful learning experience, not just busy work.

The first month of homework is always a struggle. I have to keep going over the rules with both the kids and the parents. I have to bribe kids to make sure the homework is turned in on time. After that though, it is usually smooth sailing. This year, I have had a great return on homework overall. On two separate occasions, I had students who lost their homework packets and didn't come to me and ask for another one. Instead, they took it upon themselves to go to a friend's house from our room, copy the assignments on blank paper and then do the homework. I have never had such responsible students!
Here are some interesting findings from the AP article and my thoughts about them:

1) Less educated parents spend more time helping kids with take home assignments.
I believe this.

2) The most affluent parents spend the least time helping their kids with homework.
Kind of related to the above statement - I also agree that it is probably true.

3) Women spend an average 46 minutes a day helping with homework. Men spend 35 minutes.
I TOTALLY believe this one!

4) Black parents spend more times than Latinos or whites on homework help.
I have no clue about this one - can't really comment.

5) Public school students spend less time on homework than kids in other schools.
I almost didn't publish this one because I know that SOMEONE reading this blog would want to tell me that this is the reason that we need vouchers!
(Boo-down with vouchers)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Book Meme

Susan from Chicken Spaghetti posted a meme. I decided to do it too . By the way... look at her most current post on Second Graders =Good Readers. Check out the P.S. section. My students are going to go nuts when I show it to them on Monday - I can't wait! (Thanks for writing to us Susan and posting this great list!)

* Sabina did the meme too! Check hers out here.
Here is the Meme:
What were your three favorite children's series?
1) Choose Your Own Adventures

2) Nancy Drew
3) The Great Brain


1) Harry Potter Series

2) Magic Tree House Series

3) Cam Jansen

What were your three favorite children's book characters?
1) Pippi (Pippi Longstocking)

2) Tom (The Great Brain)

3) Nancy (Nancy Drew)


1) Harry (Harry Potter)

2) Gooney Bird Greene (Gooney Bird Greene)

3) Tom (The Great Brain)

What were your three favorite non-series children's books?
1) From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
2) Heidi - Johanna Spyri
3) ¿Que Hago? -What do I Do? by Norma Simon

1) The Girl Who Hated Books -Manjusta Puwagi
2) Thank You Mr. Falker - Patricia Polacco
3) Wilfred Gordon Mc Donald Partridge -Mem Fox

Bonus Round #1:
Who wrote your least favorite childhood books?

I think I liked all books. I don't remember not liking certain types of books then.

Bonus Round #2
What was the saddest moment in your childhood reading?
I can't think of one. Probably when I didn't have anything to read.

Bonus Round #3
Which adult book scared the bejeezus out of you?

This is hard. It would be a toss up between some of the murder mystery writers that I read. (Cornwell, Kellerman and Patterson) There are some really gory parts in there that make my skin crawl.
I think one of the reasons that I am teaching is because I want to share my love of books with kids. I have a ton of books in my classroom. I don't know how many but I know that the number is well over 1,000. I am always buying new books. I think that there is a much better assortment of books today than when I was little.

What Do I do?  ¿Qué Hago?

Great Book Moment in my Life: About 4 years ago, on one of our classroom trips to the school library, I was browsing through the shelves looking at books when I stumbled across a book from my past. It was What Do I Do by Norma Simon. I had completely forgotten about this book. It was one of my first books. It is about a day in the life of a cute little girl who lives with her extended family in New York. It is a bilingual book. When I came across the book I was moved to tears. I felt a rush of emotions come over me. I LOVED this book as a little girl. I am not sure if it was because it was one of the first books I could read or if it was because I remember thinking that the main character was so much like me. I checked it out, of course, and couldn't wait to get home and read it to Sabina. I then went online and looked for the book. I found out that it was published the month before I was born. It was only available from Barnes and Noble. I snatched it up and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

Tales From the Classroom # 7: Family Values

This week I have been working with my E.L.D. group on a book about their families. One of the pages in their book is entitled Things I Do With My Family. There are 6 pictures of activities that might be done as a family. They are:

1) Play games
2) Listen to music
3) Go to the park
4) Eat meals
5) Read books
6) Watch TV

The kids were to circle the activities that they do and then add some more ideas to the page. We read through those 6 activities and talking about our experiences. When we got to the "read books" section though the reaction I got was shocking and depressing. I was getting ready to ask the kids about their experiences with their families and I heard "Read Books?" and "We don't do that" and then there were a few who laughed because I guess the idea of reading a book at home is just too funny.

I tried to contain myself and not lecture the kids about the benefits of reading at home. I knew that if I opened my mouth I was going to start preaching a bit too much. Just then, one of my kids said "Ms. V. how come playing video games isn't on here?" I almost lost my mind. I let them have it.

I know that the reality of my second graders is that they are still children and not in charge of their rearing. (or at least they shouldn't be in charge of it) They really aren't to blame. How many times do I have to tell parents that they need to take an active part in their child's education. Why should I even have to tell them that at all?

Personally, there is no greater joy for me than to sit down and enjoy a good book. I have shared this with my daughter and she loves it just as much as I do. I realize that parenting is hard and time consuming. I know that it is much easier to let the tv and video games parent your child at times. Parents have to be strong though and take the time to invest in their children right now. The payoff for doing it is great. The consequences of not doing it are potentially disatrous. How can I get through to these parents?

By the way - when the kids asked why there was no option for playing video games on the page, I informed them that at my house we do not own an X-Box or Nintendo or any type of video games. I SWEAR that I heard someone mutter under their breath "Man, I'm glad Ms. V. isn't my mom!"

It's Too Hot

The weather channel says that it is 71 degrees here in Turlock today but I think it has to be closer to 75 or so. It is HOT! I am not ready for this weather. I want still want to wear turtlenecks, sweathirts and sweaters. It doesn't help that the sun shines straight through my classroom and makes it even warmer than it is. I have the air conditioner on for goodness sake - In FEBRUARY!

Winter...please come back.

Wear Your College Logo to Work Day

California State University Stanislaus

Today is Wear Your College Logo to Work Day in Stanislaus County. Here is Sabi dressed for the occasion.

Wear Your College Logo to Work/School Day

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tales From the Classroom #6

Charlotte's Web

1) Today a mom approached me before school to inquire about a stamp that I had used on her daughter's paper. I regularly use different types of stamps to check off student work that we do in class so parents know that I have seen the paper and reviewed it. We are currently reading Charlotte's Web. I have been trying to stick to that theme. I used a cute little piggy stamp to check off the papers this week. The mom that approached me was very concerned because she assumed that since I had put a pig on the worksheet that the work must not be very good.

I very politely explained the situation to the mom. She then was ok with it but she said that she didn't understand because in Mexico it would mean that the work was not good. I then reiterated to her that the work that was done was well done and that I was just trying to be cute with the stamp and would never, ever taunt a child on anything they have done by trying to equate them to a pig or any other animal. She was fine with it. I think I will retire the Wilbur stamp anyway and go back to the stars!

2) I have a student who NEVER seems to pay attention to anything. He is the hardest kid to teach because he is always somewhere eles even when he is physically present in the room. I can tell him information a million times, show him where to go for help and write reminders on his desk but he never pays attention to anything. This week however, he surprised me. I got new glasses on Monday night and wore them to school on Tuesday. Not one person said anything to me about my new specs. No one that is except this child. He said "Hey, Ms. V. - you got new glasses!" I guess he does notice somethings. Now if I can just figure out how to put all of the things I want him to remember to do on my glasses, we will be in business!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Attallah Shabazz

Attallah Shabazz

I have searched and searched all over the internet to find the text of Attallah Shabazz's address at Coretta Scott King's memorial service last night. I can't find either video footage or just the written text. In my search, I found that many news sites didn't even acknowledge her as a speaker. Why is this? I mean this is MALCOLM X's daughter speaking at the memorial service of MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'s wife.

I will continue in my quest and post it if I find it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Coretta Scott King Memorial

Tonight I watched the memorial tribute to Coretta Scott King. It was beautiful. I was so very moved by many of the speakers. I have been trying to gather all of the video footage of my favorites. I have linked some of them below. I can not however find the entire footage of my favorite speaker, Attallah Shabazz, eldest daughter of Malcolm X. If anyone out there in the blogosphere knows where to find it, please share it with me!

Thanks and enjoy these powerful words.


Overview by Keith Olbermann on Countdown:

Rev. Joseph Lowery:

Bill Clinton:

Maya Angelou:

Jimmy Carter:


"Ana" is one of my students. She came here (to the U.S.) from Mexico in May. She has not been in school an entire year yet. Her family does not speak English. Ana was strategically placed in my room this year because I speak Spanish and can provide primary language support as needed.

While Ana struggled with English, academics were not a problem for her. It was quite clear from day one that Ana not only attended school in Mexico but that she must have been a star pupil there as well. The one area that Ana has had trouble with in my room was in language arts. This was due to the fact that she is an English learner and is having to learn English and grade level content simultaneously. When I tested Ana in August, she was reading at a level 2. Kids entering second grade should be coming in at a level 16-18 so she had a lot work ahead of her. Our end of year benchmark for second grade is 22.

Well Ms. Ana has been working her little tail off. She comes to school early to get extra help from me and she goes to a cousin's house after school for more help. As Ana's English has been improving, she has become a very active participant in class discussions and read alouds.

Today, I tested Ana in reading and was blown away. I tested her on a level 14 book. It was too easy. I tried a level 16 - too easy. I jumped to level 20. (THE CURRENT GRADE LEVEL BENCHMARK) She read it beautifully - very fluent, great expression and with 100% comprehension. As Ana was reading, I was getting goosebumps and my eyes were getting kind of teary. Ana, was so charged by what she was doing that she started reading louder and louder and the whole class stopped their centers for a brief moment to listen to her reading to me. What a moment! When she was done, I congratulated her and gave her a little certificate of her accomplishment and sent her up to the office to celebrate with the principal. She humbly went on her way but turned around and gave me a hug before she left.

I LOVE THESE KIND OF DAYS. They are what keep me in this profession!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Classroom Frustration!

Why is it that my students can do the really hard stuff in math like mixed addition and subtraction with regrouping but are struggling with easy, basic place value ?
I just taught a 2 week unit on place value to 1,000. The kids were doing great with whiteboard practice and worksheets. We also used manipulatives to cover all of the bases. I just corrected the chapter test and only 7 kids out of 19 passed. It is so frustrating. I will have to re-teach this somehow. I can't see moving forward if they can't get it. Any suggestions???

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Superbowl Sunday

I am 36 years old and I still don't know the first thing about football. In high school I went to a few football games. I don't ever think I sat down and watched one though. I don't even know that I ever sat down in the bleachers. I do remember walking a lot and socializing.

To be honest, I don't know a lot about many sports. Here is how I see them:

Football: Men wearing really big outfits on top and tight as can be pants. (Some of theses guys should NOT be wearing this!) The game looks kind of rough too because these guys keep running and jumping on each other. What is the point?

Hockey: More bulky clothes and more roughness. This game has an added treat - a stick to beat your opponent with.

Golf: What is up with this game? The outfits are ok but how boring is it to watch golf? Yawn!

Baseball: The clothes aren't too tight - in fact - if the player is in good shape - they look good in their snazzy little uniforms. I get baseball - the rules that is. I just don't understand why it is SO long? Can't you do the same thing in 3 or 5 innings? Also - why do these dudes spit all over the place though - GROSS

Soccer - I like this game because I understand it. I also like the shorts! :-)

Basktball: I also like this game. In fact, I used to watch it all of the time. I rarely do anymore though. I should start again. Oh yeah - also the like the uniforms too!

I will be going to my brother's house today for Superbowl Sunday. Will I actually watch the game though? Probably not. I will have fun though - I am sure that I will be able to find some people to socialize with.

Have a good Sunday y'all!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Hatred Alive And Well In My Town

Three local places of worship were tagged and vandalized last night. It is so disgusting.
More here.

UPDATE 2-4-06
Here is today's Modesto Bee story on the hate crimes. Here is the editorial from today's paper on the same topic.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Tooth Fairy Update

Sabina came into my bed last night around midnight and wanted to show me the BIG SURPRISE - the Tooth Fairy came and left some $. She then wanted to have a grand discussion. (AT MIDNIGHT!) I told her to stop talking and just jump in bed and go to sleep. She said something like - well, I was going to go back to my bed but if you WANT me to stay with you, I will. Yeah, right! I was too sleepy to argue with her.

This morning after I woke up she right away looked under my pillow to see if the Tooth Fairy put her tooth under my pillow. She was baffled when she saw that indeed, it was there. Then she looked at me an said "Mom, how come the Tooth Fairy gave me $5 last time and only $3 this time?"

Greedy! I told her that the $5 was probably because it was her first tooth. (The truth: I only had $5 on me last time) She then told me "uh, uh, if you be good and clean the tooth up really well, the Tooth Fairy always gives you more money."

I told her not to listen to her friends ....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Confessions of Tooth Fairy

Yep - I am the Tooth Fairy!

Sabina's second tooth fell out. She is so excited. She has been talking up this tooth fairy thing all day. It is so funny to watch her ask me if I am really the Tooth Fairy. She asks me all kinds of questions for me reveal myself to her but I always have a good comeback for her. The last one of the night (at least I hope it is the last one) was this:

Sabi: "Mom, I KNOW that you have to be the Tooth Fairy. If you weren't the Tooth Fairy, how come you have my old tooth? Where did you get that from?"

My response "Well Sabi, that's easy, the Tooth Fairy is a Mommy too. She knows how much Mommies like to keep things that belong to their babies so they can remember them forever and always. Part of the Tooth Fairy's route is to of course stop under your pillow and get the tooth, but the next stop is to stop by the Mommy's pillow and place it under hers so that she can save it. Check my pillow in the morning and see if it is there!"

HA! Got her! She looked at me as if she knew I was fibbing but wasn't 100% sure.

I know that we won't be able to play this little game much longer but I do love it. The longer that I can keep her young, innocent and believing in Fairies, the better!

Valentine's Day is Haunting Me (or Taunting)


1) My students told me that is is finally February 1st. "Can we talk about Valentine's Day now Ms. V?" ( I told them that there were too many other January things to discuss in January and to wait until February. Those kids don't miss a beat. They also wanted to pull out all of the Valentine's Day books and put them on display, like I always do for other holidays, so I can read them daily in anticipation of the hoilday. (blah!)

2) My daughter wanted her Valentine's Day cards so she could start working on them to be "done in time for Valentine's Day mom!" (she got them done in one 30 minute sitting!)

3) Every commercial break that I have seen features at least one Valentine's Day commercial. The latest one that bugs me is a Kay Jeweler's ad where some chick gets a ring from her beloved. Then they kiss. (GAG!)

4) I fell and bruised my ankle very badly yesterday. (Ok - this had NOTHING to do with Valentine's Day coming up but I feel like blaming the holiday for it anyway!

Only 14 more days and then I can be free of this oppressive holiday!!!! (well, ar least for another year!)

Being Bilingual Pay$

I have been offered two jobs during my off track time. One is a two day job observing teachers in either dual immersion or bilingual programs. Another job is a three day job testing children in the district in their primary language for a baseline assessment score.

Why was I offered these jobs? Because I speak Spanish. Hooray for being bilingual! I don't have to teach Intersession now and I am going to get handsomely rewarded! WOO-HOO!!!!!