Sunday, September 30, 2012

Angel Craft for Archangels or Guardian Angels

This week, I prepared a lesson on the Feast of the Archangels for my Catholic Moms Group.  We meet once a week, each taking turns on preparing an activity for our children to do.  This one turned out great, meaning that children of all ages enjoyed learning about the archangels and our guardian angels; they especially liked decorating an angel, particularly with glitter glue.

After I signed up to lead this lesson, I spent some time surfing the web looking for a craft suitable for ages 1 – 8 that we could do outside and that had more appeal than the swings or slides (we meet at a park so the kids can also get some exercise before the lesson to help them focus a little longer).  I found many wonderful projects, but eventually settled on this one by Noreen at Crafty Journal because I saw opportunities for the children to be creative, to use their hands in different ways, and to see how glitter can mimic the nature of an angel.  Also, I could do the cutting and attaching of the different parts at home rather quickly.

As usual, I made some changes.  Noreen spray painted her angel, but I choose not to spray paint so the children could color it as they wished.  I also cut the ovals for the angel faces from a manila folder to help them stand out from the white body and wings (using construction paper or colored card stock would provide a wider variety of face tones).  To add shine, we used squeezable glitter glue in neon colors, but of course regular glitter would work just as well (or even glitter crayons).

As I discussed the lesson, I showed the children a coloring page of the archangels from Coloring Saints (choose from one of their categories to find the page).  After learning about the different tasks assigned to Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and the Guardian angels, we prayed the Guardian Angel prayer together and proceeded to decorate the angels.  I also explained the celestial nature of angels, which is the reason for their iridescent (glittery) appearance.  The children really applied themselves to this project, and even waited patiently for their turn with the different colors of glitter.  

I think angel crafts would be fun to do any time of year, particularly for lessons involving stories of angels visiting people, such as The Annunciation or The Nativity.  You read about the angel we crafted earlier this year at this post.  Below you will find links to more great angel activity ideas.

Noreen’s blog Crafty Journal includes several lists of angel crafts; the one we made is highlighted on the Christmas Angel Crafts page.

I found the link to Noreen at Crafolic’s September Feast Days page.  Near the bottom of the post, you will find many more angel crafts.

At Training Happy Hearts, I found links to readings for adults about the Archangels that helped me plan what to say during the lesson.  You will find them at the bottom of this Feast Day post.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hear Me at the Houston Poetry Fest

Picture yourself seated in a small auditorium with a well lit stage in front.  A narrow podium stands in the middle, spotlighted.  The crowd is mumbling, but settling down.  In the moment before the Master of Ceremonies walks up to speak, the crowd quiets, sudden as the end of a summer rain.  The M.C. welcomes the attendees, thanks the sponsors, and introduces the first reader, who replaces the M.C. amid clapping hands, sounding as if the rain has returned.  Next, the poem infuses the air with lyrical lines, images opening into your mind like flowers and layering there with the sounds of the words as your emotions wake up and seal away the memory of the experience for you to recall another time.

This is the intimacy of poetry.  I hope I have sparked your interest in attending one of my poetry readings.  If you cannot attend one of my upcoming readings, I hope you will find a local reading to attend.  You won’t be disappointed, so give it a try.  Too busy to attend a scheduled reading?  Believe me; I know how hard that can be!  I’ve got you covered.  Details about a free audio recording of poems written about artwork here (includes links to full color reproductions of the art).  No excuses, now; go listen to some poetry.

Image courtesy of The Houston Poetry Fest

I just received news that I will read as a Juried Poet at this year’s Houston Poetry Fest.  This three day celebration of local poetry has been held each October for nearly thirty years.  I am honored to be chosen to participate for a third time (each through blind jury selection).  Previously, I read as a Juried Poet in 1993 and 2001.

The first time I participated, I was very young, still learning the craft of writing poetry, and extremely humbled that I was chosen to read on a stage with more experienced, published poets.  Now that I am one of the more experienced (and published) poets, I remain humbled, as the field of local and regional poets who apply is very deep, very diverse, and wonderfully talented.

This year, you can hear me read on Saturday, October 13th at 7:30 p.m. at Willow Street Pump Station (part of the UH-Downtown campus, east of the main building), 811 North San Jacinto.  See the list of other poets here.  Come join us!

Each night of the Fest, you will hear Juried Poets, a Featured Poet, and a Guest Poet, starting Friday the 12th, continuing Saturday (both at 7:30), and culminating Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.  An open mike event runs Saturday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4:30.  Full list of events here.

Also, I have more details about my reading at the South Central MLA Conference in November.  I will read on Saturday, November 10th at 9 a.m. in the Magnolia Room of the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in downtown San Antonio, Texas.  I will share the podium with three other regional poets: Juan M. Perez, Reggie Scott Young, and Eduardo R. del Rio.

You can learn more about the conference here.  I hope you will stop by if you happen to attend the conference or live in San Antonio.

You will always find me linked at The Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Round up.

Karri at My Life’s a Treasure hosts a weekly My Favorite Things Link up, and I am linking this post there.  

L.L. at Seedlings in Stone hosts the weekly On, In, and Around Monday Link up, “an invitation to write from where you are… [with] a sense of place.”  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dual Language Learning: Why and How We Do It, Part 1

We are a bilingual family, speaking Spanish at home and English outside the home.  This path is not an easy one, since American culture encourages assimilation and English primacy.  It has been particularly difficult for me because I am not fluent in Spanish; my parents are from South Texas, but chose to raise their family as English speakers (hence, I blog in English).  I learned little Spanish growing up, and have had to work diligently to learn more as an adult.  My husband and I believe that the struggle to raise children who speak equally well in two languages is well worth all of our effort.

Why do we want our children to learn Spanish?  There are reasons related to future educational and economic opportunities, but there are personal reasons also.  As a Mexican immigrant, maintaining his culture and native tongue, and passing both to our children, are very important to my husband.  Also, his parents are not fluent in English.  One of my grandmothers spoke only Spanish, and I missed the opportunity to develop a close relationship with her because I could not talk to her beyond simple responses to her questions.  I often wish I could have known her better.  My children’s language skills have enabled them to build strong relationships with all of their grandparents, and to converse with extended family members who live in Mexico.

Also, cultural experiences, including traditional foods, music, dances, games, rhymes, songs, and literature are greatly enhanced with knowledge of the original language.  I feel that our life is enriched by our culture and that learning either culture on its own or language on its own are not enough, especially since we have the opportunity to teach both.

So, how do we do it?  I share what is working for us, which admittedly may only work for your family if at least one parent knows the language you wish to teach, or is willing to learn it along with the children.

Image courtesy of AHISD

2 Strategies for Raising Dual Language Learners
(with more to come in a separate post)

Define your language time and stick to it.

We chose to designate our language time by defining our home, and the homes of other Spanish speaking family members, as Spanish only.  I have heard about other families who designate a parent for each language, or devote a certain amount of time each day.  The outcome of our strategy is that our daughters’ primary language is Spanish; we hope this will ensure that they maintain fluency in Spanish while living in an English dominant environment.

Maintaining our family interactions in Spanish has been the most difficult part of our journey.  As the years pass, our older daughter (she is now eight), speaks more and more English at home, in spite of our continuous insistence during each and every day that we speak Spanish at home: nosotros hablamos español en la casa.  I probably say this dozens of times each day.  It would be easy to give up, but we are resolved to raise bilingual children, and that keeps me going on the days when English just keeps coming out of her mouth.

Educate in the language, at school and at home.

Our older daughter is enrolled in a public school dual language program; she and her classmates are learning in both English and Spanish, with a heavier emphasis on Spanish.  She attended a Spanish language pre-k and began the dual language program in kindergarten with eighty percent of her school day in Spanish.  We are extremely grateful for this opportunity, which is rare in our city and state.  The vast majority of Spanish language school programs are designed to teach the children English, with a goal of moving them to an English only classroom as soon as possible.  A dual language program educates with the intention of producing bilingual fluency. I have also heard about immersion programs in both Spanish and Mandarin.

Currently, my daughter and her classmates receive instruction in Spanish for math, reading, writing, and spelling.  They learn science, social studies, more spelling, grammar, music, and participate in physical activity in English. I also supplement my daughter’s school learning at home with lessons in art, religion, cooking, sewing, and more, all in Spanish.  This year, I am homeschooling our younger daughter for pre-k, also in Spanish with a little English (more about this in a future post).

If your school district offers a dual language or immersion language opportunity, I urge you to take advantage of it.  If you are fluent in another language and are teaching it to your children, I hope you will share what works for you.  If you are thinking about teaching language to your children, I highly recommend it.  Even a small amount of instruction can give your child the confidence to learn more as they continue their education.

I have more ideas about raising dual language learners that I will share in another post.  I have been too busy to finish writing the longer post that I planned, and I did not want to delay posting any longer (it has been 11 days).  Check back, and please share your responses, strategies, and ideas in the comment box.

This post is highlighted at the September Bilingualism Blogging Carnival.
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