Saturday, November 16, 2013


I don't sleep.  I have an opportunity to make a dream become a reality.
50 Cent

All right guys,

My team and I will have officially created our first prototype lesson plan for The Snowy Day, including the actual materials involved in the lessons.

This means:
1.  the actual book
2.  the questions to ask from the book
3.  the easels and easel pads for the picture word wall
4.  the final product from arts and crafts activities in the lesson plan
5.  the actual interactive journal (what it looks like physically)
6.  the nursery rhymes on the easel pad, too!

Overall this is what we've accomplished so far:

1.  We got all our books.  so we have our library fully stocked.  You can see it here.
2.  We're almost done with our first prototype.
3.  We're conferencing with Catherine Corr, our early childhood academic and friend, on how to create a truly bilingual after school program this Wednesday like bosses.

Ready to roll.  I'm not sleeping, broski.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Major Lessons Learned in Leadership and Life

Pain is temporary!  It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year.  But eventually it will subside and something else will take it’s place.  If I quit however, it will last forever.

Eric Thomas, Motivational Speaker

Look, when it comes to responsibility (any type, but especially the big type), sometimes you will feel like you are crumbling under pressure.  That's to be expected--or else you don't have enough responsibility on you and you're running low on commitment.

But remember, you will face lulls.  I have, especially the past 4 weeks.  ALMas faced 3 major issues which stalled our work.

1.  We were all confused, and I wasn't doing anything about it.  No one knew what I was thinking.
2.  We were in the dumps because our potential location never got back to us--so we just stopped working.
3.  As the club leader and creator, I ran away form having the hard conversations and keeping people motivated.

How did we respond as a group?

1.  I spent hours at night after school work to create process maps and mind maps to literally chart out all the steps our organization had to take so that everyone could see where we were, what work was left, and who could take up what responsibility.  It became our central hub for work direction and accountability.  You can check out the evolving chart at the bottom of this page!

2.  I just spoke with Catherine Corr, or educational consultant in early childhood education.  She knows the director of a program on 92nd street that would be open to housing our program's pilot working with siblings of elementary school latino children and families.  Score.

3.  I got my team together for an all board and member meeting.  I told them how I felt, how I fell behind, and how I was tired of running away from ALMas after setbacks and finally ready to run towards it again--and hard!  They opened up with their thoughts and frustrations.  Then we started coming up with solutions.

Now w'ere back on track.  We're creating our first minimum viable product this weekend to showcase for new volunteers, for training new volunteers, and showcasing it to our potential pilot's location.

But you have to understand, this is an entrepreneurial project.  Sure, we're in college starting out as a student organization on campus.  But that's not our long-term plans.  We're going for the big guns, because we believe and know we can reach more kids that way.  And given this is an entrepreneurial endeavor, I expect partial lulls, setbacks, but I also expect strength, vigor, and resilience.

It's never too late to be who you should be.  You just have to start hating being down on your knees.  Because you can't change the lives of those that need if, if you're constantly down for the count.  You'll never get up to do anything.  And that's love.  It's that recognition.  It's recognizing that you were made to do something on your feet--and you decide to stay on your feet until you've done it.

mind mapping software

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Importance of Social-emotional Skills for a Child's Success

The first 5 years of a child’s life are critical for their success as adults in the labor market.  Within these first few years of life (and even before birth), children develop most of their cognitive and noncognitive skills that determine the rate at which they learn and the size of the positive impact that schooling has on their lives.  Cognitive skills are the “smarts” of a child.  Being able to do math problems immediately and solve equations and puzzles.  The non-cognitive skills, also termed their social and emotional skills, are their “soft skills,” their ability to motivate themselves, to be patient, to persevere, and to sit down to study for long periods of time.  

Heckman (2008) explains that children with higher levels of non-cognitive skills are less likely to go to prison, less likely to become teenage mothers (if the child is a female), less likely to become high school dropouts, and less likely become smokers.  Children with higher levels of non-cognitive skills are more likely to graduate from college within 4 years and are more likely to earn higher wages.  Heckman even shows that among individuals with the lowest amounts of non-cognitive skills, any increase in their soft skills is associated with a large reduction in the probability of incarceration--a reduction greater than the decrease associated with an increase in the individuals’ cognitive skills.  He finds that these non-cognitive skills are just as important--if not more important--to the later successes of children than their cognitive skills.

Of course, a child must develop both of these skills because of the relationship between the two.  According to Heckman (2006)’s model of human development and skill acquisition over time, children with larger amounts of non-cognitive skills develop their cognitive skills faster.  They learn faster.  When they realize this, they in turn invest more in their non-cognitive skills too because they realize the complementary benefits of investing in both skills. This is dynamic complementarity:  it is a virtuous cycle.  And the more a child already knows, the easier it is to learn new skills!  This is self-productivity.

Simply put, a child that can study for long periods of time and remain motivated to learn is going to learn faster than another child that does not.  And the more the child continues to learn, the more the child will be willing to study longer, making learn even easier over time.

And there is a critical window in time in a child’s life where these skills first develop and are easiest to develop.  These are the years from birth to age 8.

So how do we ensure a child develops and invests in these social emotional skills we recognize are so important for a child’s ability to learn and be successful, productive individuals--not just their cognitive skills?  We provide them with nurturing, loving, and encouraging home and classroom environments.  This means children are not pit against each other in competition, but they are taught to work together in teams, to share with one another, to love and care for one another, and to to be patient and working at problems step by step until they are resolved.  This means we hug them, talk to them, ask them questions--if they get an answer wrong, we avoid bringing them down but guide them to the correct answer and let them understand their thoughts matter and that they should participate in discussions and conversations without the fear of feeling dumb or inadequate.

If they get into disputes with their fellow classmates, we teach them to resolve their issues not through violence but through listening, understanding, and apology.

Updates: Logo, Program Location, Volunteer Recruitment (and new Beta Website), and Brand Management

Our Logo
A graphic designer friend of mine, Shuwen Qian, used his amazing talents and created this logo for ALMas:

Pretty Awesome right?

Program Location
We're still waiting on the green light from Gage Park Library.  We submitted our program proposal to Ms. Elizabeth McChesney, and we're waiting for her stamp of approval.  It's been about 2.5 weeks, and I have followed up with her twice.  I will do so again tomorrow to see where we stand while letting her know our commitment to this program and the Hispanic community.

In other news, I was invited to speak to 60 seniors at UNO's Major Hector P. Garcia Charter School about going to college and what to expect.  The school largely serves Hispanic students and works to raise their achievement levels--only fitting, right?  Yeah!  I told the social worker there about ALMas and how we were finalizing our location.  She exclaimed, "YOU SHOULD DO THAT HERE!"  I told her that we should talk with the principal and see if we could get this going.  We would need to figure out transportation, because the UNO school is about an hour away by bus.  But this is an alternative option!

Volunteer Recruitment (and new Beta Website!)
It's the start to a new year the University of Chicago, and we have new students from around the country just waiting to serve their community--and we would like to recruit some of these new youngsters as founding program members and college teachers.  We've just started our first beta for our new website where we'll host all of our program information for volunteers, students' parents, and supporters.  You can see the skeleton of it here:

We've also created an awesome brochure for recruitment too!  Check it out:

Brand Management
I've been reading some fundraising books that unsurprisingly also act as brand development books!  I'll share what I've learned in a later post, but right now I can tell you that AIDA came from one of those books.  So now we're in full swing to get our program started!  We just need to tidy up a few things!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Third Revision: Elysia Liang's Help and Edits

AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

The Hispanic community and its children in the United States are in danger.

Compared to all other ethnicities in the US, Hispanic students have the highest high school dropout rates, and they academically underperform at every grade K-12 compared to white students. Consequently, as adults these children can expect to be unemployed, earn low-incomes, and struggle as they straddle the lines between life and poverty.

These students’ gaps in academics and economics result from deficits in their cognitive and noncognitive skills which open up early in their childhoods and persist into adulthood.

Most of these skills develop in the first 5 years of a child's life. Because mothers spend the most time with their children early in their lives, they largely control these investments in skill development. Hispanic mothers know they must invest in their children, but with little formal schooling and knowledge of resources available, they don’t know how. Consequently, they read less to their children early; expose them to less vibrant, expansive language and vocabularies; and less frequently enroll them in high quality preschool programs.

As Hispanic students remain the fastest growing student demographic in the US, these children will continue to drop-out of school at the nation’s highest rates; they will continue to academically underperform relative to their white peers; and they will continue to struggle economically.

But we can change all of this.

If we intervene in these children’s lives early through high quality early childhood literacy programs and programs geared towards working with these children’s parents, we can raise their high school completion rates, raise their incomes and employment rates, and raise them out of poverty.

With the support of our donors, ALMas: Pre-K Literacy and Mentorship is doing just that. We’ve implemented an after school pre-k literacy program based upon the most recent research in early childhood education, and through that same program we work with parents to teach them how to help their children continue learning; growing at home; becoming productive citizens in a new and advanced, technical economy.

Only with our supporters’ and donors’ help can we do this. They are the reason why we can keep our program running and helping as many Hispanic children as we can.

Revised D in AIDA: Desire

Here is a revised version of D.

I think it's a lot more coherent!

Check it out:

These students’ gaps in academics and economic struggles result from cognitive and noncognitive skill deficits, which opened up early in their childhoods (0 - 5 yrs) and progressed into adulthood.  

Because mothers spend the most time with their children early in their lives, they largely control the investments in their children’s skills.  But with little formal schooling and knowledge of resources available, these children’s mothers know they must invest in their children but they don’t know how.

Consequently, early on Hispanic children are read to less than optimally;  are exposed to less vibrant, expansive language and vocabularies; and are less frequently enrolled into high quality preschool programs.  

As Hispanic students remain the fastest growing student demographic in the US, these children will continue to drop-out of school at the nation’s highest rates; they will continue to academically underperform relative to their white peers;  and they will continue to struggle economically.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Re-Branding and Re-Wording for Optimal Future Sustainability

Yo Guys,

I followed AIDA from marketing to focus ALMas' content and and lay down the foundation's of ALMas' marketing and fundraising strategy.  It all focuses on making our program stand out using the time-tested and empirically tested strategies of story-telling and adapting the message to fit the reader/listener.

I got this from reading a book called, How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money by Tom Ahern.  It's a GOD-SEND.

It really focuses on how to make materials for your organization that clearly explain its importance.

I'm trying to implement that right now, and it has also been a great way to pull my organization members together and hash out elevator pitches, program descriptions, and get everyone in-line with the organization's mission and purpose.

So here's my AIDA for ALMas:

The Hispanic community and its children in the United States are in danger.

Compared to all other ethnicities in the US, hispanic students have the highest high school dropout rates, and they academically underperform compared to white students at every grade K-12.  Consequently, as adults these children can expect to be unemployed, earn low-incomes, and struggle as they straddle the lines between life and poverty.

These students’ gaps in academics and their struggles in economics are the result of their cognitive and noncognitive skill deficits that opened up early in their childhoods and continued to grow larger into adulthood.  Early in life, these children are read to less than optimally; they are exposed to less vibrant, expansive language and vocabularies; and they are less frequently enrolled into high quality preschool programs.  Their mothers, who largely raise them, know they should invest in developing their children’s skills--but they don’t know how.

As immigration trends remain constant for the foreseeable future, where largely  disadvantaged and uneducated Hispanic mothers and families immigrate from Mexico and Central America to raise their children in the US, these children will continue to drop-out of school at the nation’s highest rates; they will continue to academically under-perform their white peers;  and they will continue to struggle economically in the labor market.  

But there is a solution.

If we intervene in these children’s lives early (ages 0 - 5) through high quality early childhood literacy programs  and programs geared towards working with these children’s parents, we can raise their high school completion rates, raise their employment rates, decrease their poverty rates, and raise their incomes!

ALMas: Pre-K Literacy and Mentorships is doing just that.  We’ve implemented an after school pre-k literacy program based upon the most recent research in early childhood education, and through that same program we work with parents to teach them how to help their children continue learning; growing at home; becoming productive citizens in a new advanced, technical economy.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Adapt. Believe. Persist.

These are the major lessons I've learned.

I couldn't go to sleep tonight.  I tried sleeping after my 7 mile run.  But I couldn't stop thinking.  I couldn't stop thinking about this article my friend posted from Inc. Magazine, "The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship."

I couldn't stop thinking about the potential failure of ALMas, of being incapable of ultimately getting everything together, of ultimately lacking the ability to lead and get something meaningful and big done.

I kept thinking about the possibility of failure.  Of resentment.  Of sadness and disappointment that would engulf me. I kept thinking, I'm not done yet.  I haven't put my best foot forward.  If I fail, it's on me.  No one else.

And then I got up and started working, getting work done.  I had to find all the books we would need for a standardized set of books to start our after school program.  First I began with Eric Carle and moved my way through others, like Rikki Tikki Tambo (awesome, b-t-dubs).  Then I moved on to bilingual and Spanish books.  Got them too!

I mapped out local grocery stories, or " las mercaderias" as they are called in the Hispanic neighborhoods.  Looks like my team and I will be going on foot to these locations over the weekend and setting up meetings as well as hopefully getting some snack commitments for our kids!

Fingers crossed!

But now I feel better.  I took control.  I adapted to the situation at hand.  I believed in my abilities and my vision.  And I continued, persisted.

If there's one thing I've learned over the course of "Creating ALMas," it's this fundamental key to change and impact:


Monday, August 19, 2013

Early Childhood and Ability Gaps and Dissolution of the Nuclear Family

Here's an interesting paper from Heckman, "Schools, Skills, Synapses"

He writes about the ability gap that emerges between children almost a year after birth:

"The evidence on the importance of family factors in explaining ability gaps is a source of concern because a greater proportion of American children is being born into disadvantaged families. A divide is opening up in American society. Those born into disadvantaged environments are receiving relatively less stimulation and resources to promote child development than those born into more advantaged families. Figure 13(a) shows the dramatic rise in the proportion of children living in single parent families. The greatest contributor to this growth is the percent living in families with never married mothers. (See the top category.) Such families are much less likely to invest in their children (Moon, 2008). Figure 13(b) shows that the percentage of all children less than age 5 with a never married mother is over 25% for children born into families with dropout mothers. Figure 13(c) shows that this phenomenon is especially pronounced for African American families."

 Why do you think these individuals invest less in their children?

Is it because of financial constraints?  Time constraints?  Do you think they don't care?

Whatever the reason, one thing I've never thought about when it came to early childhood and ability gaps was that these gaps are partially caused by the dissolution of the nuclear family.  Parents getting divorced, leaving children to be raised by one parent or the other.  Parents both working full time without paying for nanny services to invest in their child, leaving their child without cognitive stimulation and warmth in the household from one parent.

It's just something I never really thought about.  Have you?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Update on Work We Gotta Do!

Check out this super sweet google doc of responsibilities my team and I made last night to get our work done for ALMas!

We've got deadlines and objectives.  I think we're running hot baby!

Last updated:8/16/2013<-- td="" update="">
Responsibility Table for Each ALMas Member
Objective / Task
Member Assigned
Due Date
Days Until Due
Food/Snacks - LiabilityVidal Anguiano8/19/20138/17/20132Summary of meeting with law student.
Food/Snacks - Data CollectionChristian Sanchez8/21/20138/17/20134
Food/Snacks - Data CollectionAdan Meza8/21/20138/17/20134
Classroom Supplies - Data Collection and OutreachMarvin Espinoza8/18/20138/17/20131
Classroom Supplies - Data Collection and OutreachSpencer Claxton8/18/20138/17/20131
Booklet - Best Practices to Follow in the ClassroomCristina Ochoa8/20/20138/17/20133Text for booklet on best practices in classroom
Booklet - Early Childhood Demographics and Early Childhood Research BenefitsJoseline Gomez8/20/20138/17/20133Text for research on early childhood and demographcis for kids
Books - Read ConmigJoseline Gomez8/20/20138/17/20133Sort through read conmigo books and coordinate with Josh
Website - WordpressShuwen Qian8/19/20138/17/20132Wordpress site and text
Training Summary and Best PracticesChristian Sanchez8/23/20138/17/20136Get it done people! :]
Get people to make own spreadsheet of their accomplishmentsMarvin Espinoza8/20/20138/17/20133

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Start Up and Updates

Everyone, I know we've trailed off on the blog, but that doesn't mean we haven't been hustling.

In the past three months, this is what we have accomplished:

  1. Launched a successful panel discussion on the interaction between early childhood, immigration, and economic opportunity.
    • Check out photos here!
    • Commentary from the event:
      • "Dear Marvin
        I'm writing in regards to the panel ALMas organized this evening, which I thought was wonderful. It was informative about the current state of early childhood education, as well as hopeful and constructive about possible directions that early childhood education might take. It highlighted the importance of and challenges that face what I understand to be an often neglected area of concern in the debates about education reform. I let Brandi Snodgrass, my NSP supervisor, know that it was the best-organized, most informative (on the most levels) and most enjoyable panel discussion that I've attended in my four years here. Although I'm graduating in a few weeks and won't be around anymore, please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you in the next few weeks. 

        Take care.
        Robert Blakslee"
  2. Had our college-teacher volunteers trained by our educational PhD consultants in best practices for starting pre-k literacy programs.  
    • Lessons included:  
      • dealing with challenging behavior
      •  choosing the right books
      • dialogic reading
      • evaluating and assessing the teacher
      • encouraging students to learn through positive reinforcement.
  3. Drafted battle plans for out community outreach to get more textbooks for our children as well as coming closer to finalizing our location space for the program's pilot:
    1. You can see the battle plans here
    2. With respect to our program's space, I am meeting Gage Park Library's lead librarian to talk about implementing our program through their space during the school year
    3. Rough sketch of our educational assessment for our children
    4. Revising our lesson plan template
  4. I'm back on a regular running schedule for the ultra marathon!
  5. Website being developed by our own computer programmer, Spencer Claxton!
    1. He's working for the Univ of Chicaog on cloud computing, so we're lucky to have him!
  6. I'm meeting with Leif Elsmo, MBA from booth in Strategy.
    1. Schedule August 20th for coffee, and we're talking abotu how to develop collaborations and sponsorhips with local businesses to help pay for our program.  BOOM

Friday, April 5, 2013

Major Update Time!

OK, I'm sorry guys.

My group and I are all undergraduate students, we got caught in the middle of finals week and Spring Break, but that doesn't mean we haven't been hustling and getting work done!

Here are our updates:

  1. We have had to move our afterschool program start to this coming Fall, only because then we will have a full curriculum and all our books and fundraising ready.'
    1.  Spencer Claxton is working on our annual allocation budget for money for class time and books and t-shirts.
  2. We're hosting a panel in the mean time!  Here are the details
Title:  "The Dream of Hispanic Youngsters: Early Childhood & American Opportunity."

Plan A panel: James Heckman, Roberto Gonzalez, Molly Thayer, and Catherine Corr.

Topic of Discussion:

Where does immigration, economic opportunity, and early childhood development and education intersect?  According to these four separate perspectives and fields of study, what can young Hispanics int he United States expect to make of themselves?  What can they expect to achieve, or not?  What trajectories of life can they most likely expect to follow given their circumstances from these four perspectives?

And finally, what role does public policy play to change these trajectories, if they are bad?  And how should public policy address and support these Hispanic youngsters?  What is the cost?   What are the benefits?  And are willing to pay?  Should we even pay?
Yes, we mean Nobel-laurate, James J. Heckman!  And yes, immigration scholar extraordinaire!  Molly Thayer, Directof of Literacy at the Urban Education Institute, and Catherine Corr, PhD Candidate in Early Childhood Education and Second Language Acquisition at UI-Urbana-Champaigne!

We've just about got both Heckman and Gonzales.  Thayer and Corr have confirmed.

    3.  We're also simultaneously reaching out to book organizations for book donations, while also figuring
          out how our organization will function and consolidate responsibilities. 
    4.  We're also in training season!  We're holding professional development training sessions for our
         tutors and members so that we can grow our capacity in the future while also understanding how
         to teach children in an educationally productive classroom environment that we have to learn how to
         build too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ultra-Marathoning for Funraising and Commitment

Dear ALMas Redership,

I, Marvin Espinoza, ALMas blogger, will be running the October 2013 Des Plaines, IL 50 mile ultra-marathon to fundraise for ALMas.

Yes.  That's right.

I'll soon have a fundraising site for it, for you all to see.  And I'll be listing workouts on my marathon blog, too!


Sincerely, and with love,
Marvin Espinoza

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Strategy

As seed capital, the book donations from Robert-Leslie Publishing are going to be critical to get books for our program and children.

Through our UChicago alum contact in Milet Publishing, Pete Beatty, I've just sent him a message asking if he can forward along our orgnaization's information to the appropriate higher ups at Milet Publishing (because contacting them through their "Contact Us" e-mail is just getting lost in the e-mails of thousands of others).

But we're ready to roll!

I'll be contact two more publishing houses today and tomorrow.  We're getting there!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Catherine Corr: Our Official Educational Consultant!


It's official!

Catherine Corr, PhD Candidate in Early Childhood Education at UIC, is our educational consultant!

We even made it on her CV!  That's big!

She has been such a huge resource and friend not just for me, but for ALMas and our work.

Thank you, Catherine!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our First Book Donations: Robert-Leslie Publishing


You don't know how I feel right now, but I want to cry.

Not tears of sadness.  But tears of joy, knowing that we are getting closer to starting this after school program.

My heart is slowly melting in a soothing warmth.

But I know the hard parts are not over yet.

Thank you, Marilyn Overby.  You have brought this boy so much inspiration and joy.

Marilyn was whom I contacted from Robert-Leslie.  And she and R-L are saints.  We have our first book donations.

These are the first few steps towards the work that God put us on this Earth to do.

From the bottom of heart,
Marvin Espinoza

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Update! February Goals

All right guys.  January has been a big month.

We accomplished all of our goals!

1.  We applied for RSO status.
2.  We applied for start up capital from the Dean's Fund.
3.  We got our lesson plan template research-approved.
4.  We have engaged in outreach to gather books for our Spring start.
5.  We have a developing partnership with Richard J Daley Elementary.

Next Steps:
1.  Get our members trained in administering and analyzing the UEI's STEP education tool.
2.  Get our members to observe pre-school classrooms.
3.  Get our members trained in classroom best-practices and classroom management.
4.  Plan how to relate Dean's Fund back to the University Community (a requirement).

This is our plan for relating the Dean's Fund back to campus:

"Where does immigration, early childhood education, economic opportunity, and cognitive development all intersect?"

Who we're thinking of getting:

Immigration:  Robert Gonzalez, SSA Professor, University of Chicago
Economics:  James Heckman, Economics Professor, U of C
Cognitive Development:  Molly Thayer, Director of Literacy, UEI
Catherine Corr, PhD Candidate in Early Childhood Education and ELLs, UIC-Urbana-Champaign

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

RSO Application? CHECK

All right, guys.  We passed a major milestone today:  ALMas officially applied for Registered Student Organization (RSO) status, and it looks like all our work is paying off.

Goals achieved:

1.  We've officially applied for RSO status
2.  We've basically secured our school for running our pilot-program with 17 pre-k latino students.
3.  I spoke with Carol Balser, Lead HeadStart teacher at Richard J Daley Elementary, and she seems ecstatic about having ALMas (especially since we're research based!).

The next few steps include:

  1. I'm scheduling ALMas training sessions for my Outreach Team, so that we are all on the same page when we call book publishers for book donations and permissions.
    1. I already have the list and contact names.  It's now just about implementing the strategy and pitching ALMas to these organizations for publicity (and we're a small pilot-program)
  2. Applying to the Dean's Fund for Student Life
    1. Average grants from this fund range from $750 - $1500 as a one-time installment for a program that must be integrated into UChicago student life.  
    2. That's good news for ALMas, because this is startup capital to pay for the $65/hour rate for the supervising pre-k teacher in our classroom during our afterschool program.
      1. We'll be relating this back to campus with a conference on early childhood education with a focus on ELL students and poverty in the United States, as well as the economic benefits of quality early childhood education and development.
  3. I'll need to speak with Molly Thayer, Director of Literacy at the UEI, and Catherine Corr, PhD candidate at UIC, to schedule training sessions for our members.
    1. Molly for: training our volunteers to use the STEP education evaluation tool
    2. Catherine for: training for in classroom instruction best practices
  4. I'll need to also schedule different meeting times with Carol Balser, so that ALMas members can observe a pre-school classroom and see what it's like firsthand to work with young children.  (I had to do this multiple times!  And it was a great experience!  But also frightening because little children can get crazy very quickly--tat's what training is for).

To think about where ALMas was at the beginning of the 2012 summer--just an idea--to now becoming an actual program...I don't know, I'm taken aback.  This has been months in the works, talking to all types of early childhood education professionals, academics, and practitioners; meeting with after school programs all around Chicago to understand what works and what doesn't; going through the literature on sociocultural theory, tansfer theory, and all the research on language development as it relates to cognitive development, ability, and economic opportunity--I'm left almost breathless.

But this is no time to take a break.  The best part has just begun.  And it's the best part that takes the most work.

But as Theodore Roosevelt said,

So then let this be me caring.  By doing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pitching Practice: Taking the Next Step

Time to practice pitching for ALMas and maybe get some contacts within the publishing industry to talk about getting permissions and books for our kids!

At Taking the Next Step, kind of a networking event for UChicago undergrads at the Marriott Hotel, Pete Beatty, an '03 graduate!

He works at Bloomsbury Publishing, and right now that publishing house has a series of literacy-dedicated non-fiction picture books. 

Pitching, LIKE A BOSS.

I've asked Spencer Claxton, member of the ALMas' Research Committee to find information on Pete Beatty, because rule number of pitching:


That way, you can ask them about their career choices, their history, soften them up as friends--that way, when they see you're not only kind, dedicated, and intelligent, you plan and enact:  you're a shaker with a heart! 
People love shakers with hearts.  Especially when those shakers seem to be little versions of themselves (which is where background information comes in!).
NEVER BE FALSE, however.  The worst thing you can do is LIE. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Research PAYS OFF

Just got the research-based stamp of approval for ALMas' lesson plans from TWO of our early childhood education friends and professionals.

Going in the right direction. #onedirection

Monday, January 7, 2013

Meeting Set Up with Lead HeadStart Teacher at Richard J Daley


Done this morning:

1.  Scheduled meeting with lead HeadStart teacher at Richard J Daley Academy on the 16th of January
2.  Left message with the Assistant Principal at William H. Seward Elementary School. 
 Going to keep getting action. 
3.  Updated Gloria Panama on ALMas' progress. 

Gloria is the Executive Director at the Charles A Hayes Family Clinic that provides after school programming for at-risk youth in Chicago while also providing young adults with literacy education for job-skill development.  She is our first Advisory Board member, and a great friend and resource.

As Teddy Roosevelt said,

"Don't fritter away your time...Be somebody; get action."

Friday, January 4, 2013

By the End of January: Goals to Achieve

By the end of January, the ALMas team should have finished the following:

1.  Found and created a partnership with our partner HeadStart program and public school
2.  Successfully applied ALMas as a Registered Student Organization
3.  Have a detailed outline of our general lesson plan structure for weekly pre-k sessions
     (all edited and revised by our early childhood education advisors)
4.  Finish rough draft or working draft of our pre-k curriculum.
4.  Have our logo already finished.
5.  Have our website up and running (or at least to be up and running by 6th week).


Interesting Piece of Information: HeadStart in Illinois

Illinois Early Learning Project. (2012). FAQ: What does the research say 
           about dual language learners? Retrieved on Nov. 1, 2012 

1.      “If a child meets the criteria (tested for English proficiency) and at least 20 students share the same language, the child must be offered a transitional bilingual education preschool class that will provide instruction in basic academic skills in his or her native language as he or she learns English (ISBE, 2010). If there are 19 or fewer preschool DLL students who speak the same language in a public school district attendance center, then a locally determined transitional program of instruction, usually including English as a Second Language (ESL) and home language support, is to be provided for those DLL students.
2.     " The new regulations also require that by 2014 lead teachers in bilingual preschool classes be certified in bilingual instruction or in English as a second language, as well as in early childhood education. The number of early childhood educators who already have both these certifications is currently not enough to meet the demand statewide, although many school districts are encouraging dual certification. Many observers are concerned that the new regulations will pose problems for school districts already facing financial difficulties (Malone, 2010)."

Winter Quarter: Week 1 Battle Plans

Here are the objectives we have to meet this first week of school to make sure we're on track.

Before all of this, I have a call with Edna, a preschool bilingual teacher for the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center, and I'm going to ask her about what types of activities she provides her students that come from a limited English background.

Questions I need to ask Edna:

How does she tailor instruction?
How do the children learn over the year?
What types of improvements have you seen?  How large are they?
How behind have your most behind students?  How do you work with them?
What should be the beginning activities for a child at the beginning stages of just learning how to use language and connecting it to letters and words?
What types of activities have you found to be the most effective?
How do you make a progressive program?  Harder words?  How do you determine that?
How do you determine the pace?

Battle Plans:
  1. Monday and Tuesday: 
    1. I need to talk to Ms. Panama from the Charles A Hayes Family Clinic and ask for the connection to CPS school director she knows.  He can pull some strings.
    2. call the 7 schools and find out who is in charge of overseeing the HeadStart program at the respective school.
      1. Figure out if each respective program teaches fully in Spanish or partially
    3. Let them know about ALMas and our plan
    4. See if they are interested
    5. If interested, get in contact with the appropriate HeadStart teacher
    6. Meet with Professor Sedlar and have her as our Academic Advisor, unless we can get Roberto Gonzalez, or the professor advised to me by Steve.   (That may be a good option).
  2. During the team meeting:
    1. divide up the team into two groups:  
      1. Group 1: RSO Application and Website Design - led by Marina
        1. Figure out what we need to apply for RSO status
        2. Get materials together and apply by THIRD WEEK (so, second week)
        3. whole group: Start thinking about funding sources on campus AND fundraising opportunities
        4. Get them in touch with Shuwen, our website developer
      2. Group 2: Curriculum design and Lesson Plan Development - led by Marvin
        1. Review literature read over Winter Break and synthesize information
        2. Finish general outline for lesson plans and weekly routine
        3. After the routine, figure out what books would be helpful
        4. After input from HS teacher, we move forward with tailoring themes and vocabulary words for lesson plans
    2. Each respective group will take on the responsibilities designated to them
  3. Figure out which publishing houses will be useful for finding appropriate books for pre-k children whose native language is Spanish
    1. Daniel should have a list available by this time
  4. Get Eugene on board and see what's up with the graphics, or else we'll just find something else.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

First Rough Draft of Program

Rough Outline of Program Structure

Short Introduction

All activities are prefaced with the teacher giving the students explicit, clear, and specific instructions as to what they will be engaged in and how they will perform their tasks.  
The teacher will demonstrate the steps taken while explaining them.

All activities must integrate some or all of:
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Comprehension

Structure for Back-to-Back Instruction

Option 1
1.  Introductory activity (song and name-game) - 2-5 minutes
(Re-) Introduce theme of the week
(Remind) Introduce students to line of activities for the day

2.  Dialogic Reading (small group)  - 15 - 20 minutes
Focus: reading, speaking, comprehension

3.  Interactive Journaling (small group) - 10 minutes
Focus: writing, speaking, comprehension

4.  Poetry Recitation / Major Song Activity (large group) - 10 minutes
Focus: reading, speaking

5.  ABC Picture/Word Wall Activity (large group) - 10 minutes
Focus: reading, speaking

5.  End of class activity - 5 - 10 minutes
Total Time: 57 - 65 minutes

Rough Description of Activities

  1. Dialogic Read aloud to students (small group)
    1. use picture book
    2. Led by teacher, have group of 4 students sit in front of the teacher reading the story book while asking questions (already prepared beforehand) to ask
    3. Teacher makes mental notes as to who is answering and who is not
  2. Interactive Journaling (small group)
    1. provide student with journal and have them draw a picture of something they did today or the day before at home
    2. ask student to add a description (if they can, depending upon literacy level)
    3. teacher must take note of writing-ability progress of particular students
    4. teacher asks student what s/he is drawing and why (allow student to expand upon reasoning, and then continue)
  3. Poetry Recitation or Sing aloud (large group)
    1. This is where we integrate some physical body motions
    2. have students clap syllables
    3. have large pictures depicting actions and characters in the poem/song (even large cutouts)
    4. large poster with large print so students can “read” along with the teacher
  4. ABC Picture/Word Wall Activity (to follow poetry recitation/sing aloud in large group)
    1. (all pictures/activities do not have to be related to theme of the week)
    2. work on vocabulary related to theme of the week (either reinforcing vocabulary worked on in school or new vocabulary)
    3. Have pictures of actions or people in the 29 slots available (29 letters in Spanish)
    4. while playing a singing game that calls the students individually (led by teacher) the student will be asked to name the action or picture on the picture word wall (drawing randomly from a jar to get the letter, which student will be asked to name--help provided by teacher if need be)
    5. Have a larger picture available of each item with the spelling of the word broken into its syllables and in large print
    6. teacher reads the word to student, and student repeats.  Student asked to repeat a specific phrase from a sentence frame (to practice oral skills and correct use of grammar):
      1. e.g. - “I can see that the picture from the Picture Wall is a picture of  __________, and the word _________ begins with the letter ____.”

Reasoning for order

Dialogic reading begins the sessions because it provides the student interactive book exposure to appropriate language use and reading comprehension while developing the students’ vocabularies.

Interactive journaling comes just after they’ve been exposed to putting sentences together and connecting those sentences to actions and pictures in from dialogic reading.  Now they themselves may create a “page” with a picture and some text with guidance from their student teacher who will also ask them their reasoning for drawing their pictures or events (while also taking note as to which students are comfortable with text and which aren’t).  Students here focus on becoming comfortable with transitioning from speaking and listening to reflecting and writing their thoughts down.

Once these two small group sessions are over, the students will come together to recite poetry and/or sing songs related to their cultural backgrounds (nursery rhymes in Spanish from all over Latin-America) with big cutouts of the imagery in the poetry and text to go along with the cutouts.  Students here will again focus on connecting the relationships between words and images/actions.  They will also focus on the connection between words and sounds, how they are made of units of sound (further expanded upon in the next activity).

After the poetry recital/sing along in large group, the group will then move to a fun interactive Picture/Word Wall Activity.  Here students will play a game where they are individually called (in a song).  The called student will go to a jar and pick out a piece of paper.  The piece of paper will have a picture of a character/image from the day’s reading or a picture of a fellow classmate.  The teacher then asks the student to match the picture to the appropriate “square” on the picture/word wall.  The wall lists all 29 letters of the Spanish alphabet.  To the right of each letter there is a short list of pictures from the day’s lesson or a picture of a classmate. Behind each “picture” there is a word the spells the vocabulary word or name referenced by that picture, and the first letter of that word matches to the alphabet letter to the left.  The teacher will then pull out that word and stick it onto a larger picture of the vocab word.  The student will then be asked to “read” from a sentence frame like the one provided in the description of the picture/word wall.