Bilingual Early Childhood Education: Grandes Comienzos—Futuros Brillantes!

According to the 2010 United States Census, over 60 million people in the country speak a language other than English at home. Of those, 62 percent speak Spanish at home. By 2020 it is estimated that over 38 million U.S. residents over the age of 5 will speak Spanish in their homes.

This week, Dallas, Texas, will be the host city for the 2014 Annual Conference & Expo of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This year’s conference theme is “Delivering on the Promise of Early Learning,” and teachers, people who teach teachers, administrators, and kids are all participating.

confspanishbanner1 (1)More than forty sessions throughout the conference will be part of the Grandes Comienzos, Futuros Brillantes track. Meaning Great Beginnings—Bright Futures, this programming will be held in English and Spanish and will address the special needs of the largest population of English language learners (ELL) in our schools. Most sessions will be geared to dual language learners: children from Spanish-speaking households who will continue to speak Spanish at home but need to navigate school and beyond with a solid understand of written and spoken English.

When Spanish-speaking preschoolers enter a classroom, they usually bring limited skills in the English language. Through carefully developed curriculum modeled by bilingual teachers, children are taught to speak, read, and comprehend in both languages. A three-year-old may come to class with strong Spanish comprehension, but practically none in English. Bilingual programs aim to move them along and close the gap between the two. reading to toddler (c) Arekmalang | Dreamstime.comFor example, a four-year-old may comprehend 65 percent of the Spanish words and statements she hears, but only 25 percent of the English ones. By the time she is ready for kindergarten, her comprehension in both languages will have grown, perhaps to 75 percent in Spanish and 50 percent in English. As she continues through elementary school, this gap will continue to close.

The science of developing a bilingual curriculum that fully aligns with Common Core State Standards is complex, but solid offerings are available in the education marketplace. There are also hundreds of great bilingual books for preschoolers. These books are not only useful in classrooms, but they can help a Spanish-speaking parent show the importance of mastering both languages. A quick search of Amazon brings up 1,500 titles, ranging from classics like Curious George/Jorge el curioso and The Cat in the Hat/El gato en el sombrero to new works written especially to reflect the lives and traditions of Spanish-speaking Americans, like My Family and I/Mi familia y yo. While the majority of these books are for Spanish and English learners, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and several other languages are also available.

FSP Best Behavior seriesFree Spirit Publishing has enjoyed watching educators and kids use our set of bilingual books to help kids grow both their English and Spanish vocabulary and comprehension. Several of our Best Behavior® series books are available, as well as offerings from our Learning to Get Along® series and Trivia for Tots In a Jar®/Trivia para peques en un jarro.

In past centuries, many of our immigrants chose to drop their native languages and only speak English, perhaps as a statement of belonging to their new country. Within two generations, many of these families had lost all of their native language except for a handful of phrases. It is exciting to witness so many families with ELL students committed to carrying their native languages on in the family and community while mastering English and developing new traditions.

bilingual-products split
Have you entered to win a set of bilingual books in our Bilingual Book Giveaway? Entries accepted through November 7, 2014.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Counselor’s Corner: National Runaway Prevention Month

Natl Runaway Safeline logoNational Runaway Prevention Month, which is hosted in November, was created to shed light on the staggering statistics related to runaway kids. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, an estimated 1.6 million kids run away each year in the United States. The National Runaway Safeline (NRS) reports that approximately 550,000 unaccompanied children and teens experience homelessness each year.

The National Runaway Safeline has tons of information and resources for kids, parents, and educators. Here are some highlights of the information and resources available.

Home Free
The National Runaway Safeline offers free bus transportation home through Greyhound Bus Lines to runaway children ages 12 to 20.Wikimedia commons by Specious _ Greyhound_bus This service, called Home Free, can be initiated by calling the National Runaway Safeline, 800-RUNAWAY. The Runaway Safeline facilitates a conversation with the parent/guardian or arranges for an Alternative Living Arrangement (ALA) for the child. More information about the Home Free program can be found here.

Parenting Tips
The National Runaway Safeline website has a wealth of information and tips for parents on everything from dealing with stress to communicating with your child. There is a link to videos containing Parenting Tips from Maureen Blaha, the NRS executive director. Some topics include “How long do runaways stay away?” and “Warning signs that your child is considering running away.” Access the NRS parenting tips and advice here.

Runaway Prevention Curriculum
NRPM ResourcesThe National Runaway Safeline has a free curriculum available for download called Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum. A companion video for the curriculum outlines the services offered by NRS and reasons kids decide to run away.

Ways to Spread Awareness
The NRS gives suggestions of 10 ways you can make a difference during National Runaway Prevention Month. Participate in a national event, such as organizing a Wear Green Day on November 14 to raise awareness. You can also create your own local event by, for example, hosting a book discussion or showing a movie related to runaway kids and the challenges they face that lead them to run away. The NRS shares links to books and media with themes related to runaway kids.

How will you spread awareness about National Runaway Prevention Month and the services the National Runaway Safeline offers?


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Enter to Win Bilingual Books for Kids!

giveaway button © by Free Spirit Publishing lgWin 10 English-Spanish titles, including two new books in the popular Learning to Get Along® series!

This month we’re giving away all of the bilingual titles pictured here to three lucky winners. Entries must be received by midnight, November 7, 2014.bilingual-products

Cool Down and Work Through Anger/Cálmate y supera la ira Paperback, ages 4–8
Hands Are Not for Hitting/Las manos no son para pegar Paperback, ages 4–7
Hands Are Not for Hitting/Las manos no son para pegar Board Book, ages birth–4
Trivia for Tots In a Jar®/Trivia para peques En un jarro Ages 3–6
Share and Take Turns/Comparte y turna Paperback, ages 4–8
Diapers Are Not Forever/Los pañales no son para siempre Board Book, ages birth–4
Germs Are Not for Sharing/Los gérmenes no son para compartir Board Book, ages birth–4
Germs Are Not for Sharing/Los gérmenes no son para compartir Paperback, ages 4–7
Words Are Not for Hurting/Las palabras no son para lastimar Paperback, ages 4–7
Words Are Not for Hurting/Las palabras no son para lastimar Board Book, ages birth–4

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us about your experience with bilingual students.

For additional entries, complete the following tasks and leave a separate comment below for each:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s up to four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight November 7, 2014.

The winners will be contacted via email on or around November 11, 2014, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated, administered, or endorsed by Facebook or Twitter. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Guest Post: “Making Inroads” at NAGC’s Annual Convention: Five Tips for Maximizing Your Experience

By Dina Brulles, coauthor of  Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom

Brulles_Dina_July2013_FSP AuthorThe National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC) 61st Annual Convention & Exhibition takes place in Baltimore, MD, November 13–16, 2014. Are you ready? Whether this is your first NAGC convention or you are a returning attendee, the massive amount of events, sessions, and vendor resources may seem overwhelming at first glance.

Check out the following tips to maximize your time and energy:
1. Take advantage of the resources
2. Create a straw agenda
3. Visit the vendors
4. Use social media
5. Network, network, network!

1. Take advantage of the resources

  • NAGC Conv 2014 LogoAttend the major events: the Opening and Closing Keynotes, the General Assembly, Network events, featured speakers, etc.
  • Join a network. (NAGC members may select three free networks to join.) Look at the Networks’ sessions and read about their goals on the NAGC website. Decide which you would like to learn from and support. Then sign up to receive information from your selected Networks. This is a great way to learn more about specific areas and connect with others who share similar interests.
  • If you are already a Network member, attend a network meeting. Meeting details are listed in the convention book.
  • Approach those with ribbons and ask how you can get involved!

2. Create a straw agenda (and be flexible)

  • Use the planning schedule template available on the NAGC Convention site.
  • Select two options for each time slot. Then narrow it down based on what you are hearing and learning and on logistical considerations. Your first choice may not be accessible, or you may change priorities based on other sessions you are attending or people with whom you are connecting.
  • Remain flexible about the many possibilities that will open up after hearing speakers and connecting with other attendees.

3. Visit the vendors

  • Peruse the major publishers. They can offer advice on the types of resources that would be most appropriate for your needs.
  • Attend author book signings at the publishers’ booths. Several publishers schedule book signings for their featured authors, providing a personal opportunity to speak with the authors whose works influence your teaching and learning. (Book signings are typically scheduled at lunchtime in the Exhibition Hall.)
  • Are you interested in graduate or certification programs? A myriad of offerings in gifted education degree programs exist for all levels of experiences, locations, formats, and purposes. Some exhibitors waive registration fees for conference attendees.
  • Speak directly with the publishers of the most prevalently used gifted nomination and identification tools. Learn more about which resources would better identify gifted students in your school or district.

4. Use social media to spread the word!

  • App How To-OpenAccessHelp inform your colleagues at home. Sharing information has never been easier. While in sessions of great interest, tweet and post your thoughts.
  • Consider in advance which social media tools to use while at the convention so that you have immediate access for communicating with fellow educators.
  • Prepare by downloading the NAGC Convention app.
  • After the convention, continue to post and respond to others who are sharing what they learned at the convention. The Networks you selected may also have their own social media venues.

5. Network, network, network! Take advantage of your time at the convention.

  • Connect with other attendees you meet in your sessions. This will help you gain more from the presentations.
  • Speak with Network leaders to determine which Networks you would like to join and learn how you might contribute to their efforts. These NAGC leaders want to share information about their networks and recruit new members to participate.
  • Meet informally with the presenters. Don’t hesitate! The presenters enjoy speaking with their session participants.

It’s not too late to register for Thursday’s preconference event, “Effective Program Models,” which features successful programs for low-income and/or underrepresented populations that you can consider adapting for your school or district. There are also “Expert Perspectives,” small-group sessions with an extended presentation time where you can learn in depth from leaders in the field. Visit the NAGC Convention site to register in advance for these events.

Having attended a dozen successive conventions, I can offer my best advice: Explore, connect, have fun learning, and bring comfortable shoes! If you are like most, you will be strategically planning your schedule to maximize your convention experience.

Enjoy making inroads in Baltimore!

TeachingGiftedKidsinTodaysClassroomNOCDDina Brulles, Ph.D., is a school administrator and the gifted-education director for Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District. Recognized for her expertise in creating and supervising schoolwide cluster grouping, she also assists districts throughout the United States in developing gifted-education programs, including those districts serving culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students. She holds a Ph.D. in gifted education and an M.S. in curriculum and instruction and serves on the faculty of the Graduate College of Education at Arizona State University. With Susan Winebrenner, Dina has coauthored The Cluster Grouping Handbook: A Schoolwide Model–How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All, and Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can UseTeaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use/


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Counselor’s Corner: #ReachHigher for Red Ribbon Week

Every October, the National Family Partnership—a parent advocacy group that works to prevent drug abuse in kids—names a Red Ribbon Week as a way to raise drug awareness. This year, Red Ribbon Week is October 23–31.

Red ribbon LogoIn my experience, I had the most buy-in from students and staff when we made Red Ribbon Week focus on the importance of students being drug free for the sake of their futures, with a career awareness component. With the advent of First Lady Michelle Obama’s #ReachHigher initiative, charging every student to pursue education past high school, there is no better time than the present to use Red Ribbon Week as an opportunity to stress the importance of being drug free, better enabling students to reach their future goals.

Below are some activities you can use for the theme #ReachHigher: Be Drug Free! as your Red Ribbon Week Theme.

Highlight Colleges, Universities, Trade Schools, and Military Programs
Expose students to the variety of post-secondary options available to them. Request information from local colleges, universities, trade schools, and military programs. Many schools will send you free apparel, accessories, and promotional items if you request them and explain how you will use them in your school.

#ReachHigher Trivia
Use the college information to ask a different trivia question each day of Red Ribbon Week. Announce the trivia question on your school’s news program or over the PA system. Begin and end each trivia question message with “[Your school] encourages all students to be drug free for their future! That’s why our Red Ribbon Week Theme is: #ReachHigher: Be Drug Free!” Students can also share statistics about the dangers of drug use along with the message.

Red Ribbon Drug Free_Poster_12x18Teacher Doors and Student Locker Decorating Contest
You can also showcase colleges, universities, and trade school programs by hosting a teacher door or student locker decorating contest. Have each homeroom vote on a post-secondary program and decorate their door as a group. Allow student council or another prominent school group to judge and select the winning door.

Prizes for the trivia contest and door/locker decorating contests can be promotional items requested from post-secondary programs.

Bring in the Mascots!
Contact local colleges and universities to have mascots visit your lunchroom. Invite a student group, such as photography or yearbook, to take pictures and make them available to students after the event. If your school allows it, encourage students to use their cell phones to take pictures with the mascots and “tag” the #ReachHigher hashtag and your school’s hashtag on various social media sites.

If you plan to have a Drug Free Pledge, you can also ask the mascots to lead by example and sign your Drug Free Pledge.

For more ideas of how to celebrate Red Ribbon Week at your school, visit the Red Ribbon Campaign.

How do you celebrate Red Ribbon Week at Your School?


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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