On October, 5th, let’s have a conversation about bilingualism and biliteracy in Miami

Do you know the different options for developing bilingualism and biliteracy in our community? Come and participate in a conversation about different types of programs promoting bilingualism in the Miami-Dade school system. The Head of Downtown Doral Charter Schools, a dual language immersion program, and I will be there to navigate you through all types of programs.

Check the Miami School Fair website: https://www.miamischoolsfair.com

I am honored of being among these great speakers. Check here who is coming to talk, and sign up for this event: https://www.miamischoolsfair.com/speakers-2019

I hope to see you there!

Is your school talking about digital citizenship?

Your school should be discussing and helping you and your child understand the challenges of the contemporary world.

Welcome back to school! Over this past school year, many parents and schools have reached me out to start a discussion about how to teach children to use the internet safely. So, I will start this school year bringing this conversation back:We can’t effectively parent or mentor children from a place of fear or denial. We have to face that we cannot change that screens are part of our children’s lives, so we have to teach them the foundation of a thoughtful and healthy use of this tool. As the new school year begins, I invite you to think: our goal is to teach children to be digital citizens. 

Digital citizenship is about confident and positive engagement with digital technology. A digital citizen is a person with the skills and knowledge to effectively use digital technologies to participate in society, communicate with others, and create and consume digital content.

Australian Office of the eSafety Commissioner

I invite you to enlighten yourself about the pressure of being a child in a digital world, many of these links will help you create conversation starters:

Teachers (and parents) can also navigate through these fantastic resources at Common Sense Media:

I believe the path of education is to making visible the underlying issues, establishing a critical thinking conversation about them, and modeling. To help your students and children use better the internet, explicitly talk about how you use it to communicate with others, and what strategies you have to get trustful information or learn something. 

Your school should be discussing and helping you and your child understand the challenges of the contemporary world. Let me know how I can help.

Wishing you all a great school year!

The end of “paralllel monolingual” classes

“(…) language practices cannot be developed except through the students existing knowledge”.

 García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging to learn. Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism, and education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

The outcomes related to the neurocognitive advantages of bilingualism of last 20 years of research are widely spread now, side by side with some longitudinal study showing that forms of bilingual education, such as dual language immersion program, bring the advantages for all students’ higher academic achievement. Beyond, these well know and widely spread data, I want to bring your attention to a discussion that is now permeating any second language teaching course (TESOL, World Language, Foreign Language, Heritage Language, or Dual Language immersion programs). The hot topic discussion on any language conference right now is: 

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Is the strict language separation (also known as parallel monolingualism) really more effective, or, allowing emergent bilinguals use their repertoire in the classroom will lead to more effective language development?

You may or may not have heard about the term “Translanguaging,” a (not so) new lenses to second language pedagogy.  The name has been used in Europe for over two decades but in the U.S. has gained attention recently with the groundbreaking research of Ofelia García. I have been studying translanguaging for two years now, and I want to share some thought-provoking excerpts that instilled a revolution on the ways that I am thinking about second language acquisition and pedagogy:

“New language practices can only emerge in interrelationship with old ones, without competing or threatening an already established sense of being that languaging constitutes” (p. 79).

 García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging to learn. Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism, and education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

“(…) learners need a secure sense of self that allows them to appropriate new language practices as they engage in a continuous becoming” (p. 79).

 García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging to learn. Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism, and education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

I already have offered professional development about how to use emergent bilinguals’ home language literacy skills to develop literacy skills in English. If you or your school want to know more about research-based strategies of how to use language learners’ repertoire to build literacy skills in English or in a second language, let’s talk!

Hello parents and teachers! Can you identify underlying issues on procrastination?

Procrastination creates stress at school and at home. Occasional delays happen, but when it becomes a pattern, it can be fueled by an underlying issue. Have you considered that procrastination maybe is not laziness? Sometimes, children refuse to study or do homework to mask their lack of confidence or anxiety of failing to complete a task. Perhaps, procrastination is masking the lack of study skills or a learning difficulty.

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Parents are usually stressed with children procrastinating their assignments which usually lead to last minute wars. If you are dealing with this stressful situation, you should give a try to my homework planning on this past post, or even start understand about the homework issue reading this other one. If sticking to a plan consistently have not worked, you should consider that there is an underlying issue (read this article).

Have you considered that maybe your child is avoiding to complete an assignment to mask a difficulty, an anxiety, or perhaps he or she does not have the organizational skill to start it?

I usually study or work on my computer beside my children while they are doing their homework. In this way, I can observe how they are developing their study skills and notice what they are struggling with. When I see my child giving me the runaround, I start to pay attention to what is really going on. I usually think that something smells fishy here! It can be one math step that my son is not confident or does not know how even to start it! With over 20 years of experience as an educator and a curriculum developer, I can identify in different subjects (reading, writing, science, math, or social studies) where usually is the gap. I can analyze if my son just needs a structured sentence to start the flow, or if he needs a graphic organizer to plan the entire sentence, or even if he needs to start over: ok, so what is an atomic theory? However, I see how parents struggle to identify what the underlying difficulty is, or even teachers don’t have the time to pay meticulous attention to it.

Looking for resources to use at home, I want to share that I started to use this website, IXL. It is a paid membership subscription but in my case it worth it every dollar. (No, IXL is not paying me for this post). I like IXL because it runs a diagnosis and set up skills that the child needs to master in each subject (identifying underlying concepts that maybe he or she did not learn yet to finish the homework). Another essential feature is that the website is organized by subjects, separated in ease to identify themes and contents, so I don’t waste time looking for the content that I want my child master before homework. One more feature that I like is that when the child gets a wrong answer, the website shows exactly what was the mistake, and how to get correct it next time. Many times, my son and I went over it to notice what was step that he didn’t understand yet.

If you want to try different resources (some free!) look at this article. The take away from today is to pay close attention: maybe your child procrastination is a form to ask for help.

Don’t assume that procrastination is laziness: look for the right resources that will help you help your child. Maybe your child needs study skills, maybe he or she needs help to grasp a math step, a science concept, or he or she needs develop writing skills. Set up an appointment, I can help you.

Be prepared for the teen years (no, not for the mood changes, and challenges of parents’ authority) but for the stressed teens in the “high achievement” era

Researchers, professors, parents, and educational leaders have been discussing how the “high achievement” expectations are the cause of high incidence of anxiety and depression on teens. Middle and high schoolers are under no precedent stress: GPA, AP classes, Honor titles, excessive homework, and schedules… everything to try to get an “Ivy League” ticket. In this post I will share how to set up balanced expectations.

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I have a pre-teen at home, and everybody advises me: Be prepared, you are entering the though years! (In my mind I just answer: What? I feel that I had enough already!). Jokes apart, I relate to the concerns of every parent about how raising a teenager is challenging, so in this post, I will share how I am not scared about dealing with a teen at home, and what really concerns me. 

One of my strengths is the ability to use challenges to create a learning path, so teenage years don’t scare me. When people say:

  • They will challenge you because they also will have opinions. Truth, but I don’t understand why is this not amazing? Why should I expect someone that only agrees with me and obeys me? I see here an excellent opportunity to teach and learn how respectfully agree and disagree.
  • They will test your (and the world) limits! I understand how this can be dangerous, but guidance is the key. I see here opportunities to teach responsibility, consequences, and independence.
  • They are inconstant, they are trying to figure out who they are.Well, count with me! I am an expert on this journey! I am trying to figure it out who I am and how to position myself in a better way in this world every day…

I am prepared for the hard times, I had worked with teenagers in Brazil for 12 years, and I see this as a very enriching moment. I admire when they are lost, how hard they try to find a way to understand who they are in this world, or at least how to position themselves. So, all these teens’ issues do not scare me.

What I am really concerned about is how being a teenager in this “high achievement” times can make parents and students stressed and lose the sight of what is essential. Teenagers are usually stressed with overload homework and schedules that they don’t have time to experience the path of being a teenager.

I just came across this article that I agree 100%. My insightful advise is for you to read it too. Pay attention to what the author says:

Teens need to:
Experience learning as joyful and exciting.
Read for pleasure.
Play a game where winning doesn’t matter.
Figure out who they are and what they value.
Fall in love, not with a person, but with a passion.
Discover not what the world can do for them, but what they can do for the world.
Reflect, wonder and dream, breathe, and live in the moment.

Cathy Vatterott

Now, compare these goals with your family and school’s expectations. If these seven goals are not in the sight, this indicates that your expectations are not focusing on what is crucial. If you have a teen at home, talk about what the author’s highlighted in her article:

Teens need to know that:
School is not the real world and that in the real world, the rules will differ from place to place.
Their worth is not determined by their GPA or how many activities they are in.
Focusing only on the future insults the value of the present.
Failing a test or even a course does not make them a failure.
Their success is not enhanced by someone else’s failure.

Cathy Vatterott

I expect that my son challenges me so we can talk about respect, responsibility, consequences, and independence. I hope that he shares with me how he is confused so I can share with him my journey to discover who I am. Besides, what really concerns me is how it is easy to lose sight of what is essential, and set up expectations that will lead to anxiety and depression.

Schedule a conversation about school’s expectations, homework overload, and ways to study smarter.

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Homework battle: parents’ strategies for settlements

In a previous post, I helped teachers and schools to discuss insightful research-based practices of homework that makes sense to assign in (if you did not read yet, you could read it here!). Today, I want to bring insightful ideas for parents dealing with the homework battle.First, it is essential that parents acknowledge to themselves and their children (explicitly) that, after spending 7-8 hours at school, it is unrealistic to expect children to be excited and diligent about homework. This is precisely where I believe that parents need to take a smart approach to homework and teach a fundamental lesson:

Sometimes (or most of the times?) we have to finish tasks that we don’t want to, that we don’t agree too.

Understand that we don’t do everything we want and we have to accomplish assignments that we don’t want is what responsible people do. Parenting smartly and authoritatively also means teaching our children to grow up as responsible people. Parents can use the homework as an opportunity to tell their own story when they sometimes have to work when they were tired, or when disagreed with the task. As I have pointed before, research has shown that from early grades to 7th grade, homework should be used to teach study skills (I am the first in the line to acknowledge that some schools are not following this rule!). However, you can use homework to talk with your child: 

About how it is essential to revise what he or she have learned at school briefly, so the knowledge will start to migrate from working to long term memory. 

About how homework should serve to learn study skills.

About how finishing this task will lead he or she develop responsibility.

Another recommendation is to organize a study-plan with your child, following these steps: 

a) Ask your child pay attention to what works best for him or her (play for one hour and then tackle homework, or the opposite). 

b) Set up a list of assignment priorities or divide long tasks in parts. 

c) Set up breaks: after 20 minutes of working in the assignment he or she can run or play for 5-10 minutes and then tackle the second priority or part.

d) Put the phone away (in other room), or establish unambiguous rules to use it. My son uses my phone’s dictionary, so we established that he can have access to it when he needs to search for a word. 

e) Another tip is to use a timer for each assignment, or for parts of a lengthy task.

Use this excellent homework contract to start these conversations with your child.

It can be somehow naive (and exhausting!) ask children be willing to work on their homework after a long day at school, however, let’s face this battle using it to share our lessons and to teach them some.

Personalized education: your school should be discussing about it!

“The one-size-fits-all approach, which has guided our current school system since its early 20th-century origins, simply does not address the complex and varied needs of today’s children, particularly those living in poverty.” — Paul Reville

I feel blessed of participating in a book club discussion with enlightened innovator educators in Miami. Every other month there is a fascinating topic and book choices to read and discuss it.  In the first meeting, we came together to understand what personalized education truly means, and I genuinely believe that you should know more about it. I started to dig in this issue, and today I just came across this fantastic document, which begins with:

Countless studies tell a somber and all too familiar story: an unacceptable number of children and youth in the United States face systemic barriers that impede their access to essential services and opportunities they need to thrive.

Lee, Saeyun D. Success Plans: Promising Tools for Customizing Student Supports and Opportunities. Cambridge, MA: Education Redesign Lab, 2019.

The Education Redesign Lab is an excellent initiative of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. They identified a personalized plan for success has having a significant and untapped potential to bolster students’ outcomes. If you work at a school, check their tools for desigining a customized plan to support each learner addressing their particular strengths and challenges:

Do you want more? Read this excellent article at the Harvard Graduate School of Education newsletter:


Do you want to establish an insightful conversation about this? Schedule a presentation:

Now homework is a battle for schools too!

Researchers are urging schools and educators to rethink homework, parents and students should be part of this conversation.

What is an efficient homework?

Research data shows that the benefit of homework to increase students’ achievement is stronger starting only at 7th grade.

Looking at this data it is urgent to discuss why and how teachers should assign homework due to how much time, efforts, and emotional stress are children and parents spending on it every day. Homework can help students develop study skills, but it needs to be thoughtfully assigned for it. It is not just a drill that the teacher can pull out from the internet or textbook.

An efficient homework invite learners access working memory, and ask them to create their own narratives about what they have learned at school.

It is crucial that district, schools, and educators discuss what research has shown to be efficient or not. We already know that before a particular grade, homework is inefficient to improve students’ grades, and sometimes harm achievement. However, it is not about banning homework, but discussing how much homework is appropriate for each grade level, and (what I believe is most important) to rethink what kind of homework should be assigned.

Watch this video from Edutopiaand invite your teacher to watch it. Bring it to your school and discuss it:

Check the recommendations about homework at the National Educational Association


How to study smarter!

Have you considered that maybe your child does not know efficient ways of studying? This article will give you strategies to help your child approach homework and studying for a test. 

Know how to study efficiently is a lifelong skill. It seems that some children were born knowing how to get their homework done and study for a test, but there are children (and adults) that need to learn how to develop these skills. For many children studying can be overwhelming. If you are dealing with homework battles, my insight is you consider if your child knows how to study. Learn how to study smarter involves knowing how to be organized, to set priorities, and activate working memory, so the information learned at school migrates to long term memory. If you are dealing with battles at home, the first step to help your child is paying attention to identify where the struggles are. Consider these questions:

  • Does your child know what to study or there is a lack of organization?
  • Does he or she use a systematic method for studying or an inefficient one (spending long hours studying)?
  • Does he or she have difficulty remembering the information even when he has studied, or maybe the challenge is expressing what he or she knows?

Now that you started to pay attention to where the challenges are.

Follow these tips:

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What to study

Teach your child to take ownership of his or her academic life. Teach him to check in with the teacher about the content of the test, or ask the teacher to provide a study guide or a practice test. Also, teach your child explicitly to write down on the calendar or a notebook when the teacher offers clues about essential details to focus on when studying for a test. Usually, teachers signal importance saying:“Write this down.”“Let me summarize.”“This is important.”“I’ll write this on the board.”“Remember…”

You will be surprised that some children don’t realize that the teacher expects them to write down information when offering these clues. Check your child’s planner and notebook, and teach him or her how important it is to take notes when teachers start with these sentences.

How to study

One of the most important ways of studying smarter is knowing how to select essential information from what is detail, as well as being able to retell what you just read or learned in your own words. Teach your child:

  • Textbooks offer clues to identify relevant information and trigger what he or she have learned at school. Teach your child to review the chapter using section headings and convert them into questions. For example, the header “Atomic theory” might be changed to “What is an atomic theory?”. After that, teach him to scan the words, phrases, and sentences that appear in bold because they are important and use them to create a word mapping as a study guide. Doing this, the brain will retrieve what he or she have learned at school. 
  • Now use active reading strategies, encouraging your child to use colored highlighters or Post-it notes to flag important information in textbooks and class notes. This will help him review the material more efficiently.
  •  Teach your child to summarize: take notes (writing section or chapter summaries on sticky notes), use voice recording, or answering questions at the end of each chapter are good ways to develop this skill.

I hope this will help you start to win the homework battle… more about homework to come!
Based on BrainCogs®, from Institute for Learning and Development and FableVision, 2002.