Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Value of Cultural Immersion and Competency for Teachers from the USA

Mission: Excellence in Education
& World Understanding

Teacher training is always constant. We are always learning something new, seeing new trends and adapting them to specific needs in the classroom.

One way that my team has been contributing to this is a workshop offered in Cuernavaca during the summer for teachers on how to integrate Mexican culture and history into the classroom. This is geared to teachers from the USA who either teach Spanish or who teach other subjects and have students from Spanish speaking backgrounds in their classrooms.
The teacher needs to understand the students and the students need to understand the teacher!

The program includes intensive Spanish language at different levels, presentations on topics such as the Mexican Family,  “Día de Muertos”, the Virgin of Guadalupe,  Mexico’s Gifts to the World, Celebrations in Mexico, such as the Christmas Posadas, Baptisms, Quince años, Semana Santa.  In other words, understanding Mexico through its traditions, celebrations, and history.

We get out of the classroom and visit places such as downtown Cuernavaca and its museums and historic sites. We also visit Xochicalco, Taxco, Tepoztlan, places in Mexico City such as the Museum of Anthropology, Bazaar Sabado, Templo Mayor, Teotihuacan, the murals in the National Palace and much more. All of this to give people more than just an introduction to Mexico.

The Cuernavaca Children’s Mission offers tutoring for Mexican children twice a week in downtown Cuernavaca and many of the teachers have participated in helping children to succeed and graduate from ‘secundaria’ and ‘prepa’.  

We also ask people that come to Cuernavaca to bring a bottle of vitamins to donate to the VAMOS program. The children that come to their programs are given a meal and a vitamin.  Sometimes this is the only meal they have during the day.  The results have been amazing. Our school has been collecting vitamins for them for over 15 years now.

These comments from some of the participants say it better than I can:

I was delighted when I won the a scholarship through the Ohio Foreign Language Association to study at the Cemanahuac Educational Community of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Was further delighted to find out that there was a two-week program exclusively for educators. Although my expectations were high, my experience was even better than I imagined. I attended classes, stayed with a host family, and participated in organized trips both in Cuernavaca and to other towns. Perhaps best of all, I was able to meet passionate Spanish teachers from all over the United States.
The teachers and staff were kind and helpful and the class sizes were small and adapted to my level and interests. They also were tireless in planning activities that were enriching to us as teachers, such as a field trip to an educational center in a rural Xochicalco underground cavern town, a trip to a teacher supply store, opportunities for intercambios, and much more.
I think for many safety is a concern when considering a trip to Mexico. I took basic precautions such as guarding my purse in public and not walking alone late at night. That being said, I never felt unsafe. Everyone I interacted with was kind and helpful and no one made me feel uneasy for any reason. The staff was there to help us feel comfortable in our surroundings and to answer any questions that we had about this issue. Please do not avoid this wonderful country because of safety concerns!

When I first received information I received a scholarship to study in Mexico, I was very nervous about what it would be like. Contrary to popular belief and what the media presents, my experience in Mexico was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I had opportunities to connect with teachers from 16 states as well as native Spanish speakers from Mexico. It was a fast-paced trip, filled with information about the past and present culture and history of Mexico. We had short afternoon and full day trips to visit beautiful places around Cuernavaca. I had opportunities to practice my vocabulary and grammar in the morning, and then culture sessions about different topics within Mexican culture. I connected with my housemates and my lovely host mother, Lorena. I learned that while we may have many differences, it's our job as teachers to bring back the culture of Mexico to our peers, family, friends, and students in order to build bridges, not walls. I can't wait to go back to Cuernavaca. :)

My time at Cemanahuac was incredible! I learned more in two weeks than I have in years of continuing education classes. I am not a Spanish teacher--I teach Special Education, but there is a large Spanish-speaking community within my district that I felt I could better serve by learning more about Mexican culture and improving my Spanish.
This program greatly improved my ability to interact with my students and their families, and I couldn't be more grateful for my experience. We learned about the language and the culture, both inside of the classroom, and out. Among my favorite memories are hiking Teotihuacan, baking ‘pan dulce’ at Ocuituco, exploring Taxco, climbing the Piramide del Sol, and going to the temazcal. The experiences I had in Mexico and the fellow teachers I was privileged to share my time with are once-in-a-lifetime memories. I can say with 100% certainty that being at Cemanahuac made me not only a better teacher, but also a better person.  

Harriet Guerrero
ADK Eta chapter Mexico
Cuernavaca, September 2017

Casa Tatic 2017.JPG
climbed Tepozteco.JPG
Hike up to the Tepozteco pyramid

cooking class.jpg
Cooking class at the Fundación Rayuela in Ocuituco
Dalel wshop 2017.JPG
The classroom

Frida's necklace.jpg
Trying on Frida's necklaces in Taxco
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Welcome luncheon at Casa Hidalgo on the zocalo.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Creative Writing, a way to enjoy literature

         2017 Educational Symposium- New Orleans- USA
AKD – INTERNACIONAL - ADK – ETA - Cuernavaca - México

Creative Writing, a Way to Enjoy Literature
by Marli Camargo

The purpose of this workshop is to undertake some reflection concerning the importance of creative writing. We will explore how teachers can develop and teach a creative narrative based on their own environment for children and adults.
What is Literature?

According to the Dictionary of literary terminology, literature is:
  • An act of communication between the emissary (author), the message (text) and the receptor (public). 
  • Art, reading and writing and also the basic disciplines of culture: Grammar and rhetoric. 
Calderon, 2000 (Breve Diccionario de términos literários)
What matters to the reader?

According to Proust, what matters to the readers are:

...words that cause emotions like anguish, a feeling of rejection, darkness, being abandoned.

These kinds of words matter to all humans from the duchess, the princess, the diplomatic, the writers, the soldiers, the painters etc. (Hirieart, page. 10).

Through creative writing the reader can:
  • Travel among the words
  • Meet the main protagonists
  • Experience the environment
  • Visit faraway places or the same space where you are while traveling back and forward in time
  • Reflect, live, create and give their own opinion

Basic elements to help writing Practicing writing
  • Reading constantly 
  • Utilize the words in an artistic way 
  • Identify the meaning 
  • Identify the content

How to approach to a creative writing?

Sensorial memory
Use words as:
1- Onomatopoeia  ( imitate the sound)  
2- Symbols –  (ex: - citizenship of heaven)
3- Abstracts thoughts- (thinking that is coherent and logical )

How to approach writing curiosity?
  • The secret of writing 
  • The details ( people, the actions, the thoughts, the desire) 
  • Figurative language
  1.  similes (like or as)
  2.  metaphors –Make one from yourself 
  3.  images- example children´s books    

How to feed the muse?
  • Experiences from our own lives.
  • Our reactions towards these experiences;
  • The facts, names, dates,  emotions, passions, memories, etc. 
For example:
1- The excitement of reading different poems or exploring old libraries.
2- Note keeping
3- Starting from “..I remember... ”

Where can I get inspiration?
  •  the diversity of people lives;
  •  the weather;
  •  the flavors of the food;
  •  the culture (traditions, the beliefs);
  • the place you live;
Example - Simple things like onions (see Pablo Neruda, The Onion)

The writing adventure

I would compare the process to a journey of traveling to somewhere for the first time.
For instance, having only a slight idea about the place that you will be to visiting;
According to Bachelard, the writing adventure is “ experiment the sensations and emotions that the person has felt in relation to the place where she is”. (Gonzales, 9)

Creative writing

Brings a sense of belonging to the place such as:
A city, the streets, the plazas, the historic centers and to the neighborhoods;
It creates a sense of identity;
Making you or the reader a part of the community, 

The importance of space in creative writing 

In creative writing you can create your own space;
Space gives us the power to be near the people of the community and also to show our identities from other communities ;
Gives the opportunity to learn about heritages, natural resources and the regions where you come from or live;
It involves different sectors such as: cultural, touristic and social;

Creative writing and the sustainability

Creative writing has sustainability because the author can cooperate with the community in different ways like work with:
Illustrator and editorials; 
Government and micro-entrepreneurs;
Schools and families; 
It encourages the writer to involve him/herself to different sectors such as cultural, touristic and social.
Schools, families, and hospitals.

How to apply it to children literature?

Have a look at the author´s book  "Cuernavaca - The Eterna Primaveraby Marli Camargo 


Through a creative writing many things can happen:
  • you can become famous and travel around talking about it;
  •  cooperate with a sustainable society;
  • teach the children and adults  how to do that;
  • The adults  can be encouraged to write and involve themselves to different sectors such as cultural, touristic and social
  • It encourages the writer  to involve him/herself to different sectors;
  • It creates a sense of identity;
  • Making you or the reader a part of the community


Calderón, Demetrio Estébanez, 2000 Breve Diccionario de Términos Literarios – Alianza Editorial
Hiriart, Berta Guijosa Marcela, 2015- Taller Escritura Creativa – Paidós - México 
Gonzales, Diego Sánchez, Moreno, Luis Angel – 2014 ‘Identidad y Espacio Publico- Gedisa Editorial-Barcelona 
Camargo, Marli - 2012 - Como o turismo pode ser usado para a aprendijagem   da cultura mexicana na região de Cuernavaca - Morelos – Universidad de León- España 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sisterhood in ADK
ETA Cuernavaca Chapter

Natural Leadership Just Flows

    Much has been said and written about leadership: team leadership, autocratic leadership, transactional, transformational, laissez-faire, cross-cultural, leadership skills, leadership qualities, leadership in management… and the list goes on, and on. It seems to be that whenever leadership becomes the topic of a conversation everybody has something to say.

    Every field of human activity has its naturally gifted people, and leadership is not an exception.  Sometimes we end up in a Leadership position because it is required of us during a life situation or... we just have the talent for it and enjoy being a Leader.

    Teachers are leaders, and our teaching style has a direct impact on our pupils. So we should ponder learning more about the Leadership to polish the skill. As democracy has won territory and society has become more and more aware that we all have the same dignity as human beings, we have also become aware that it is a must to consider inclusiveness, horizontal relationships, respectfulness, and empowerment, to improve our teaching and leadership style just to mention some qualities.

    Also, it happens to be that unless the chapter has many members in ADK most of us have the opportunity and responsibility to be the leader for two years. Former leaders are there to nurture, guide, and counsel when needed. On the other hand, there are times when we find ourselves taking on other roles in our community and have the opportunity to support the captain of the ship.
    Natural leaders are those who are confidently being themselves and others simply follow. They don’t need authority to be heard. They are born with a special talent for developing from within the abilities and strategies of leadership.

    Our dear sister Yolanda had that talent. She would always be emphatic, inclusive, egalitarian, and empowering. Whenever she spoke we would certainly listen because she would always listen and be observant of what was going on before she spoke, and then would she effectively communicate to us her wisdom, encouraging our Chapter to follow and fulfill our Mission as ADK’s members.
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Sweet Yolanda, honest and clear,
always loving, always welcoming, beautiful, and nice.
Informed and cultivated lady,
who nurtured us with wisdom and intelligence.
We deeply and lovingly respect and admire you.
Great leader, you gave us light.
Kindly sharing with us your knowledge,
would continuously set the path to be taken,
by presenting us facts with lucid and keen objectivity.
Now you have reunited with your husband, your beloved companion of life.
But you have left us your manners, your ways,
those that have proved to be so good to us.
God bless you for all the good you have done,
for your disinterested participation on life
to make things good and better.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Is a Lexile Level

Mission: Excellence in Education


By Elizabeth Robinson

The LEXILE FRAMEWORK is the scientific way to match readers with text using the same scale.  

Recognized as the standard for matching readers with texts, Lexile measures connect learners of all 

ages with resources at the right level of challenge. Lexile measures provide a clear way to monitor

progress toward college and career readiness.   …

One thing is to know what a Lexile is and another is to know why it is so important in the teaching of reading.

As a teacher of English in Mexico back in 1996, we had no way of measuring the Lexile reading level of a student, nor did we know that books also have their own Lexile level. In order to know the reading level of a student, we had to hear them read orally and apply Reading Comprehension tests based upon the reading they did in the classroom or as homework.

When we had groups of 25 to 30 students, and sometimes two of them, one after the other, it was difficult for us to find the time to listen to each of our students read out loud on their own, sometimes having to keep them from recess or after school to have a quiet 20 minutes or so to hear them. Then, based on our own criteria, opinion or experience as teachers, we would apply a grade to each and every one of our students over X period of time. When a grade was required for a report card, every two months, this was an exercise that had to be done 5 times a year.

I wonder how many teachers sat their students down to read at the very beginning of the year to hear their oral reading skills during the first two weeks of school? Usually during these weeks we were busing getting settled in, learning how to work together and getting to know the personalities of each student in our charge. Where to find the time to hear each one of them read in September or October?

Therefore, how were we to know how much our students could have improved during those two months? Most teachers would simply assign a grade from 5 to 10 and hopefully those with lower grades would improve and those with 10’s would keep their 10’s!

What about growth? What about those students who had entered in September with a poor reading level, and had improved during the first two months of school? What about those students who knew how to read perfectly well at their grade level, but needed motivation to improve even more? At that age, there was always a long road of improvement ahead, but what made them eager to move ahead further than a perfect 10?

How were we to know in reality what the reading level of our students was? Compared to what? Each other? The students we had last year? The other group in the next room?

On the other hand, what about the books we wanted our students to read from the library? What books were we as teachers supposed to be adding to our classroom libraries? Did we choose them by age appropriate topics? By the size of the lettering? By the length of the book? By the vocabulary? By experience?

How were we as teachers really supposed to be sure about the level of books we chose for our students and whether or not the level was appropriate not only for our group, but for the real reading level of each and every one of our students?

Now lets look at why Lexiles are so important:

In the market today, there are tests that students can do on platforms that measure their Lexile Level. The levels run from BR = beginners to 1220L

Typical Reader Measures, by Grade

Grade    Reader Measures, Mid-Year 
              25th percentile to 75th percentile (IQR)

1            Up to 280L

2            230L to 580L

3            360L to 720L

4            480L to 830L

5            620L to 950L

6            690L to 1020L

7            780L to 1090L

8            820L to 1140L

9            880L to 1170L

10           920L to 1200L

11           940L to 1210L

12           950L to 1220L

As previously mentioned, books also receive a Lexile Measure, depending ontext difficulty only. A Lexile measure does not have anything to do with the content or the quality of a book. In other words, Lexile measurement of a book depends on two factors: the difficulty of the book and Word Frequency and Sentence length.

100,000,000 books have had their Lexile level measured in the world and thebenefit of knowing the Lexile level of your student and the Lexile level of the books you want them to read, lies in the matching of these two to increment learning and growth.

Typical Text Measures, by Grade

Grade                Text Demand Study 2009                                2012 CCSS Text
              25th percentile to 75th percentile (IQR)                           Measures*

1                  230L to 420L                                                           190L to 530L

2                  450L to 570L                                                           420L to 650L

3                  600L to 730L                                                           520L to 820L

4                  640L to780L                                                           740L to 940L

5                  730L to 850L                                                           830L to 1010L

6                  860L to 920L                                                           925L to 1070L

7                  880L to 960L                                                           970L to 1120L

8                  900L to 1010L                                                       1010L to 1185L

9                  960L to 1110L                                                       1050L to 1260L

10                  920L to 1120L                                                     1080L to 1335L

11 and 12    1070L to 1220L                                                      1185L to 1385L

How do we match them?

Students will do a test at the beginning of the year when they enter their new grade. Once the teacher has their new Lexile Level, she will match the students up with books slightly lower, on level, and slightly higher than their Lexile level.

The way students gain confidence and enjoy reading because they are understanding the books assigned to them as an individual, not the same story or anthology assigned to the entire group (whether they understand it or not).

Students are motivated to improve their Lexile levels by practicing the skill of reading, in the classroom and at home, once they have read a story, they are invited to answer a reading comprehension test that is also available on the platform. The grade they obtain on that test, will be recorded on the platform so that they and their teacher can follow their progress as the Lexile level as each student improves.

The best Platforms will include not only an extensive library of books with their Lexile Levels identified, but will also provide reports on each and every student, reports by group, by grade and by school. These reports will give the teacher the support they need for those grades teachers used to guess at. The grades or results of their Reading Comprehension tests will provide that information.

How do we obtain a grade for Oral Reading of our students?

The best platforms available on the market should include a recording option so that students can record their voices reading sections of assigned stories and send it to their teacher. What a time saver!

The past 2 decades has brought us many digital components and options for our schools, but to know what these are, and why they are important to education today is the key for exceptional and vanguard decision making.

For further information on Lexile Levels please visit

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

México, the place where corn was born.

Mission: World Understanding

How to Prepare Esquites

A wonderful way to get in touch with a culture is through one of the most basic human activities: eating

On this occasion we want to share a traditional Mexican snack with you: esquites (or corn kernels).

Corn is a grain that has spread worldwide and was first cultivated and developed by Mexican people about 7,000 years ago. Corn cannot exist in the wilderness, as it requires human care. The seeds, or corn kernels, are protected by the leaves, so they cannot fall apart and spread on their own, but by human hands that thresh them from the husk, sow them, and harvest them.

Many dishes are prepared using corn, including tortillas -the Mexican bread. It is considered the basic staple of Mexican food.

Corn was originally taken to the old world to provide food for people suffering from the famine. Since at the time no one knew the process to prepare the corn for human consumption, its main use has been to feed animals.  

According to the sacred book of the Mayan Quiché people, the Popol Vuh, corn and humanity are linked in a strong bond. Here it is written “We are corn people and corn is of the people”.

So let’s share a delicious Mexican, easy-to-prepare corn dish: esquites. The word esquites comes from nahuatl word ízquitl, which means “toasted corn”.

For this, we need:
  • 6 ears of corn
  • Half an onion
  • Half a stick of butter (vegetable oil may be used instead)
  • Two epazote leaves
  • 1 serrano chile (optional)
  • Salt to taste

And for the topping:
  • Lime juice
  • Red chile powder to taste (optional)
  • Mayonnaise (optional)
  • Grated “cotija” cheese (optional)
  • Cream (optional)

  • Cut the corn kernels off with a knife and chop the onion.
  • Heat the butter in a pan.
  • As soon as it melts, sauté the chopped onion
  • Add the corn kernels
  • Add the coarsely chopped epazote leaves and serrano chile
  • Mix with the butter and sauté for about five minutes
  • Add water (about twice the amount of corn kernels)
  • Sprinkle with salt.
  • Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 45 minutes

Once kernels are cooked, serve in small bowls or cups, and add any of the toppings -or all of the toppings, as you wish.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mission: Excellence in Education

Children Can Set-Up their Own Library

A library, set up by the children themselves, is an example of a real-life project that which will reap many benefits for your students. It gives children the opportunity to develop and practice skills and competences for life, such as organizing concepts and ideas, decision taking, being task-oriented as opposed to ego oriented, team work with all the skills involved, social skills, communication skills, leadership, promoting understanding, self-esteem and self-image, and empathy, just to name a few.
Carrying out such a task will enrich all other learnings by relating them to a real life project. They will have many opportunities while undergoing the project to apply basic math, language, science, and social skills acquired through systematic instruction, as well as an overall view of human activity and knowledge throughout history. Setting up a classroom library is always valuable for children’s learning, and it is helpful for curriculum requirements by visiting it regularly once it is completed.
Organizing and setting up a school or classroom library with the children, isn’t as wild, tough, overwhelming, and time-consuming as it may sound. The strategy to follow will determine the planning of the overall project through a topic web –in this case, a library web. This plan may be extended over several months. The first thing to be done is to weigh some previous considerations.
If there are resources for the project and up to what extent –basically bookshelves, books, and a room or corner. Of course, resources will, in the end, dictate the scope and peculiar characteristics of the library: school resources, classroom resources, teachers’ resources, parents’ resources, and even children’s resourcefulness, will play a roll towards the final outcome of the project.
The children’s interests. If your kids have not been lucky enough to be exposed to reading, or may not have had the experience of a good attitude towards books, you may have to begin with some extensive previous work in this field. For example: organizing a moving library that goes to their home and back to school, systematic visits to the school library or city library, organizing a trip to the bookstore, donation of books to be shared;  in short: exposure to joyful reading.
Children’s age. Differences between younger and older students are particularly in the line of the areas of understandings and skills. Topic webs when organizing the project will vary in complexity, reflecting more advanced understanding with older children. Also, for the very small children, classifying books will have to begin with two types (for example, stories and maths), broadening their understanding and introducing them little by little to the existing variety of different text types.
This project is a task you can set forth on at any level, only its scope and size may vary. Some of the activities that can be undertaken, depending on the needs of your curriculum, and on prior discussion with the class, are:
  • Building bookshelves. This can be a good opportunity to develop creativity and problem- solving skills, as well as social competences (from “being competent”), like team-work, respectfulness, listening to other people’s ideas, effectively communicating suggestions or personal ideas.
  • In the case of a classroom library that takes some books from the school library, the selection of a number of books that will cover their entertainment and consulting needs.
  • Classifying books, first, into literary and information types, and then, into a further classification that considers literary genres, and the different areas of knowledge, like scientific and social sciences.
  • Very surely, some other text types will pop-up, such as magazines, advertising, articles and essays, programs of events, instructions to grow a flower from a seed, and so on …even doctors’ prescriptions! They can also classify these other text types and find out their place in human culture –as well as in their library since it isn’t practical to mix them with the books.
  • Field work. Visiting other libraries to see how they are organized and function, and taking notes of their findings for further class discussion and raising new questions to be investigated and/or to make decisions about their own library.
  • Writing down the library rules and regulations, and making posters and flyers to make them known. They can do this by themselves. If the children don’t know how to write yet, they can “write” their rules with drawings or simply dictate them to the teacher. But it is recommendable that there is a child that plays the role of facilitator to establish the rules. And, depending on the children’s ages, school curriculum, and time, they can get to learn computer skills making the design of their flyers with programs like “Paint” or “Photoshop”.
  • Making an inventory of the books in the library. Here they can learn to use the computer program “Excel”, or to make tables with the more basic “Word” program. They will learn things like title, author, illustrator, genre, publishing house, and date. Also to set a code for the book for its place on the library shelves.
  • Organization and improvement of a book lending system.
  • Establishing and distributing responsibilities and the different roles to be played by the children in order to keep the library working well.
  • Evaluation of each one of the activities, which will lead to further investigation, organization, and some decision taking.

Of course, this is a just an example of possible activities to be undertaken. You and your children will decide your own. And the best way to do it is by making an initial topic web that will be followed by particular topic webs once you have all decided where to begin.

For example, I imagine that in the construction of the initial topic web “classroom library”, preschoolers may have such an outcome as:
Classroom Library.jpg

Whereas primary children may have this other outcome:

As the setting-up of the library progresses, it is important that the children enjoy reading also. Regardless of their reading skills level, it is always recommended to let them have free reading time in which the teacher only observes and documents their interests, the way they engage in the activity, how much a sharing experience it is or if the child prefers to read alone –as well as the child’s interaction with the book, its content and the knowledge acquired. During this free reading time, the teacher can participate with the children if asked to, but must always play an active role in motivating them to realize they can discover the world in books, helping them to acquire the habit of using the library for multiple purposes, and, of course, showing them how to take care of the books, how to hold them, how to turn pages, and placing them back on the shelves. Free reading time is a meaningful and wonderful experience with happy and very rewarding results, even if they don’t show it at the time. In time, you will be able to see and enjoy their development as skilled readers –knowing where to find things, relating their findings in books to other subjects or school learning, as well as the knowledge they have been exposed to in other life activities. In short; gaining independence and self-management by acquiring knowledge and exploration of reality at all levels at school, at home, in their community, and the world as a whole.


Setting up a library with your kids... yes, it may be time-consuming, but what a joyful and useful way to make it happen!
Rebeca Olagaray
April 2017