Student Spotlight!

Bret Hackenson is a member of one of my Block B Spanish 1 Honors and a real pleasure to have in class!

bret hackenson pic for blog

Nombre:  Bret Hackenson

Clase:  Spanish I

How many years have you studied Spanish?:  I have studied Spanish for three years.

(Hobbies) Pasatiempos:  I enjoy cooking, playing video games, drawing, and going for walks.

(Favorite Food) Comida Favorita:  My favorite food is roasted unsalted peanuts.

(What are you hoping to learn in class?) ¿Qué quieres aprender en la clase de

Español?:  I am hoping to learn how to speak Spanish fluently enough to talk to a Spanish-speaking person.

(What I like most in this class) Lo que me gusta más en esta clase:  I like games of Quizlet Live most in Spanish class.

(What are we currently doing in class?) ¿Qué hacemos ahora en la clase?:  We are currently learning about idiomatic expressions with the verbs ir and tener.

(Dicho Favorito) Favorite Quote or Saying:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci


Can you believe it? April vacation is almost over and we are already a few weeks into the last term of the school year! As advisor to this year’s senior class, I’m very aware of how close we are to graduation! As seniors get ready to flip their tassels and head on to the next step of their lives, the work that we are doing right now in 21st Century Skills related to goal setting and future career plans seems extremely relevant. Students started off the unit by making bucket lists and this term, I added a gallery walk of those Padlets, asking students to find others in the class with similar dreams as them and encouraging them to “steal” others’ ideas. I’m including a few examples in this post. We next created SMART goals from those bucket lists and most recently have written newspaper style articles visualizing ourselves as having completed one of those goals. I’ve posted them in the classroom as a daily reminder for both myself and the students of the great work they have ahead of them! And we all know that money plays a large role in our ability to reach our goals, so students have worked through 3 modules in the Everfi Financial Literacy Program, learning about different types of banks, various savings vehicles and beginning a conversation about credit cards and their impact on our spending habits.

In Spanish 1, we finished up Term 3 with our cara-a-cara (face-to-face) interviews and students impressed me with their efforts. The 20 questions for Term 3 are really more than that; most questions have a blank that can be filled in by one of the 30 regular verbs we have learned so far. That really opens up the possibilities that students need to be ready for as they are asked 10 of those questions. Students in Spanish 1 are solid in their verb conjugation skills and ready to move on to irregular verbs in Term 4. We will cover -zco, go-go and boot verbs as well as comparing the verbs saber and conocer, which both mean “to know.” Before vacation, we watched the classic movie, “Man of La Mancha” as a way for students to become familiar with the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, as well as the life of the author of the first novel written in the Spanish language, Miguel de Cervantes himself.  We will use the characters as topic of conversation as we continue our study of vocabulary and grammar in Term 4.

Our Hispanic Civilization class is finished with their study of Spain and right on time as several of the students in the class traveled to Spain with Ms. Reardon for April vacation. I have seen some of the pictures and can’t wait to hear their recap of the trip! After our study of the Arabic influence in Spain as well as importance of bullfighting to the Spanish culture, I hope that their visits to the Alhambra and the Plaza de las Ventas were even more thrilling! During Term 4, we will turn our focus to Latin America, starting with a survey of the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs and then moving to more current political and cultural topics. I hope to be able to share some of my experiences traveling to those countries with students as the year comes to a close.


My sophomore immersion class is currently studying the Spanish Civil War. After getting down the basics, we will be watching segments of a movie called “La lengua de las mariposas,” which is set in Spain at the beginning of the war. It follows a young boy as he begins school and starts a relationship with his teacher, who is a Republican. As the Nationalists gain ground in the war, the townspeople have to choose sides, splitting both friends and family. In addition to watching this film, students are also studying Pablo Picasso’s representation of Guernica, commissioned for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. In class today, students identified elements of Picasso’s mural and then put together a 4’x 8′ poster of the masterpiece. Picasso’s original is in black and white, but I asked the students to color in the poster. It was a way for them to single out the various elements of the picture but also, to relax after a long day of taking MCAS. Check out their work!

World Language Week 2017

World Language Week here at Nipmuc is always a lot of fun and this year has been no exception! The sophomores presented their food trucks this afternoon and did an amazing job coming up with fun themes, delicious food and excellent research!

My sophomore immersion students are almost at the end of a unit of study on the cultures of Spain and today we created posavasos or coasters out of ceramic tiles in the style of the azulejos found in Moorish-style buildings in southern Spain, such as the Alhambra. Students used the app “IOrnament” to design the tiles and then with the help of Mrs. Clish, one of our art teachers, we printed the designs in color and the decoupaged them to actual ceramic tiles. With a bit of felt added to the back, they are instant (and gorgeous!) coasters! Students enjoyed creating them and definitely had an appreciation for how much skill it would have taken the original artists to create these geometric designs by hand.

Tomorrow, Spanish 1 students will be participating in the International Buffet, where they will wear the t-shirts they have been creating all week. Each student was given a country and asked to do basic research on its culture and economy. On the t-shirts, students created a license plate with elements representing unique aspects of that country, as well as the name and outline of the country shape on the back. On Friday, they will each bring in dish from that country to share with their classmates. Its always a lot of fun and students are able to try food from all over the globe!




Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to know the students in my new 21st Century Skills classes. Its been a lot of fun to find out more about each individual student and things that interest them inside and outside of the classroom. They started by stumping me with some pretty fun “2 Truths and a Lie” on their name tags, and making a class playlist (so that they wouldn’t have to listen to music in Spanish all the time!) Next, they shared their areas in which they considered themselves to be experts. Students answered questions about HOW they became experts in these topics, drawing attention to the most important 21St century skill of them all(at least in my opinion!), learning how to learn.  We defined many of the most commonly known 21st century skills, giving personal, academic and professional examples and students made Imovie trailers showcasing these skills as demonstrated by individuals famous in their field of expertise. Additionally, students created Pinterest boards containing information that would help a complete novice get started in that field. Lastly, students made an infographic on the Canva app showing the 21st century skills they feel they excel at already and those that they think they need to work on the most.

It really has been great to see the variety of topics that my students feel passionate about: creative writing, snowboarding, cooking, swimming, horseback riding, soccer, jazz, acting, volleyball, playing various musical instruments, and drawing just to name a few!


World Cloud Selfies!

Spanish 1 students are currently working on describing familiar people and things, and focusing on the concept of adjective agreement. While listening to the song “Bonito”(Pretty) by a Spanish band called Jarabe de Palo, students filled in the blanks in the song, paying close attention to the masculine or feminine forms of the adjective.  As a follow up, students were asked to use the website, Tagul, to create a word cloud from a selfie and use 10 adjectives in Spanish to describe themselves. Some of them really came out neat and they did a good job employing the concept of adjective agreement as well!

It’s cookie time!

As a fun way to end 2016 and head into our holiday break, Spanish classes (and Italian and French, too) designed and described in the target language ugly holiday sweaters and cookies made in the shape of Spain. After creating a protype on paper and using the verb tener and their new adjective vocabulary list, Spanish 1 students traded their paragraphs with a classmate and tried to draw that sweater by reading the description. Lastly, students got to frost their own cookies to look like their original designs and then compare them to both drawings! It was a lot of fun and some really good practice! The Hispanic Civilizarion students are currently investigating the different autonomous communities of Spain and frosted their cookies with something symbolic of each region. They will be creating travel websites using Spark Pages when we get back for their chosen regions, with more indepth information relating to important sites, local and traditional cuisine and lodging possibilities. These students have also been studying the various languages spoken in Spain as well and the Roman and Arabic influences in the Iberian Peninsula. 

But getting back to cookies- here are a few pics! Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season! See you in the New Year! 

Sleep & Sketchnoting

I’m sitting down to write this blog post while my 2 year old is sleeping. He has been struggling since we set the clocks back and has caught a cold,  so today when he had a meltdown at 10:30 am, I decided that nap time was going to come about 2 hours earlier than normal.

I myself woke up super early on Friday to take the train into Boston for the ACTFL conference, joining thousands of world language teachers from all over the country. It was an exciting and jam-packed day and by the time I got home, my brain was just crammed full of new ideas and experiences. What I needed was a good night’s sleep to let my brain sort it all out!

While I was at the conference on Friday, I left an article on just that topic- the importance of sleep and its impact on our ability to learn and process our surroundings – for my 21st Century Skills class. I hoped that they would read the article and take notes, but I wondered how much they would get done with their minds focused on important soccer and football games, FAST and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  In order to make the task a more interesting, I asked them to try their hands at sketchnoting, a type of note taking that includes doodling, creating graphic organizers and using color/font to remember important details. Wow! With no prior experience and only a quick online tutorial, they did a great job on the task! Looking through their sketchnotes, I think that they will serve as a great way to jog our memories of the contents of the article when we meet on Tuesday for class. Additionally, I hope that the act of creating the images/diagrams will help bring the information into their long-term memories. I attended a couple of sessions at ACTFL related to the best strategies for learning vocabulary and using images and making personal connections were just a few of the ideas we explored! Check out some examples of the sketchnotes below! And… try to get a good night’s sleep this evening-it really is important!

Visualizing our goals

In 21st Century Skills, we are wrapping up a unit centered around setting goals. Most recently, students were asked to explore the technique of visualization in order to help them focus on achieving one of their previously written SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Timely) goals. The assignment required each student to write a short, newspaper-style article in which they reported on their goal as if they had already achieved it. Additionally, they needed to include an image (with their own face photoshopped in if necessary)! documenting the event. I’ve hung these articles on the bulletin boards in my classroom and although the black and white images aren’t as attractive as the color versions handed in online, the headlines attract immediate attention: “Nipmuc Student Wins Big,” “Student Lands Breakout Role in Major Play,” “One Album Down, Many to Go,” and “Caution: New Driver.”

My hope is that students will find inspiration in the daily reminder of the goals that they have set for themselves. Also, we will check in formally before the end of Term 2 to see if they have made progress!

Spanish 1: Face-to-Face

By Friday, both of my Spanish 1 classes will have completed their first cara-a-cara or face-to-face interview exam of the year. Students are asked to answer 10 of 20 questions that we have practiced daily over the course of the term in a one-on-one interview with me during class time. So far, I’ve been impressed with the skills that my students have demonstrated!  Below is a screenshot of the 20 questions, which include basic personal information, as well as talking about time and date. This type of exam is more authentic than a traditional, written test for this type of “conversational” exchange. And in my experience, students really step up to the challenge! My hope is that right now, my students could interact in the real world with a native Spanish speaker in order to convey basic information like name, age, origin, telephone number and a few more.

Using a Google Form to grade them in real time during the interview, I’m able to share their results with them almost immediately in the form of a spreadsheet. Since students recorded their interviews, the next step will be for them to go back and listen to our conversation while identifying and correcting their errors using my feedback.

As we move into Term 2, we will continue to practice the last 20 questions, but build another 20 before our next interview exam. We will study the difference between tú and Usted, and learn the formal form of all the Term 1 questions as well as practicing talking about others (él and élla forms). Additionally, we will go into more depth on the topic of origin, learning the names  and locations of the Spanish-speaking countries, adjectives of nationality and the concept of gender of nouns.