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!


Under construction…

My son, Noah, and I have spent a lot of time this summer watching the construction vehicles hard at work across the street building a new house. For him, there’s nothing better than coming home to find the excavator moving dirt into a dump truck. Its more fun than watching the garbage truck pick up the trash!  Just look at the wonder and excitement that shows on his face in the picture below.

I can’t say I feel the same way. I get bored pretty fast watching piles of dirt move from place to place. But I can stare at my son’s handsome face for hours, watching his expressions and listening to him as he tries out new words and sounds. So, I happily sit next to him as he takes it all in. We are both content, but motiIMG_8892vated for completely different reasons.

Motivation was the topic of Nipmuc’s keynote speaker, Richard Lavoie, during our kickoff professional development day today and his message was one that I hope to keep in mind as I get to meet my students tomorrow. Engaging my students and motivating them to learn the subjects that I teach requires that I get to know them as individuals. Convincing them that its worth their while to complete the tasks I put in front of them means figuring out how they will put those skills to work for them in real life. This week, I’m going to spend some time learning the names, faces, likes, dislikes, experiences, hopes, fears and dreams of my students.  My hope is that this will translate into a more fruitful (and fun!) academic year!

Now its time to get some sleep! See you all in the A.M.!

Self-help videos for Wellness Week

In December, Nipmuc students and faculty participated in a Wellness Week, sponsored by our Counseling Center. The week was very well-received and really enjoyed the opportunity to spend 30 minutes practicing yoga, de-stressing with glitter and getting a 10 minute chair massage. The lead-up to the holidays is fun, but can also be very stressful! Finding time in our busy schedules to squeeze in shopping, baking and celebrations can be difficult.

As a part of our unit on time management, the 21st Century Skills class spent a significant portion of class time over the course of 3 weeks reading and discussing self-help books in small groups. These “literature circles” (a concept borrowed from our English department) allowed each group to read a different book and take responsibility for their time both in and out of class, hopefully applying some of the time management strategies that we had previously reviewed in class.

I chose the books on recommendations from other faculty members. They were The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, Mindset by Carol Dweck and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (also chosen as a book for the STEM students this year). Students were assigned a role or roles for each day of discussion, filling out a notes sheet customized for each role, which included: diction detective, discussion leader, artist, reporter and bridge builder.  Discussions were in-depth and interesting to listen to, allowing me to take a step back and admire my students’ leadership skills.

As a culminating project, each group created a video using role play to explain some of the most important points contained in each book. The videos will be uploaded to the Wellness Week website as a resource for the Nipmuc community during our next wellness week in the spring. I’m working on getting them all online so that I can post them here but I’m having some technical difficulties at the moment!




#nipmucdigcit: debate, edchat and a guest speaker

Last week was an exciting one for our 21st Century Skills class! We spent time participating in a debate, joining in an #edchat on Twitter and listening to a parent guest speaker. As part of our unit on digital citizenship, we continue to spend time talking about our digital footprint and its impact now and in the future.

As a collaborative venture with Mrs. Lee and her students from Help Desk (Block F), we participated in a formal debate. The first scenario involved a choice between two job applicants- one more qualified but with a digital footprint that was questionable. The second scenario used this video about being the “first follower” as its jumping off point for a discussion around whether or not to comment on someone else’s negative post about a teacher online. Students were very well prepared and insightful in making their points and even decided to go to 3rd lunch in order to not interrupt their debate!

Our guest presenter, Mrs. Margaret Hartwig, gave us her perspective as a recruiter for on both scenarios when she came to class on Friday morning. She showed students a tool which her company is now using that allows them to quickly and easily access a potential applicant’s social media postings and explained that one’s digital footprint will be come more and more important as time goes on. She also mentioned that  the field you are entering (finance vs. a software company) will also make a difference as to what may help/hurt you when considering your social media postings.

But coming back to the second half our our time with Mrs. Lee’s Help Desk students… After our debate in class, we took to Twitter to participate in the inaugural #nipmucdigcit edchat on digital citizenship. Here’s a copy of the transcript of our discussion. I think the students really enjoyed the fact that someone from “outside” of Nipmuc joined in on our chat (as well as Mr. Armitrano and Mr. Clements) which made the task feel very authentic. Everyone brought up great ideas as they answered the 3 questions Mrs. Lee proposed.

Our next (and last!) unit will be on intercultural communication and we have another parent speaker coming – exciting!



The rules of social media

Currently, in 21st Century Skills we are discussing social media and the role it plays in our lives. Before the break, students worked in partners to create informational posters for some of the social media platforms they use the most: Instagram, group texts, Snapchat, Youtube and Brighten. In addition to identifying the distinguishing features of each platform, students provided a list of “rules” to help an inexperienced user avoid pitfalls and  make the most of his/her experience. I definitely picked up a few helpful tips and gathered some new insights into platforms like Snapchat and Brighten that I haven’t used before.

A trip to Block Island

Early in the year, I asked the 21st Century Skills class to compare their own ideas about what 21st century skills are with those of their parents. There were many similarities in the ideas of both groups  but one addition to our list that came out of that conversation came the suggestion “transportation and logistics.”

Immediately, my experiences with World Challenge came to mind, as students are required to make bus reservations, hire guides, and get to the airport on time as they travel through a country in the developing world.  A couple of times in the past I have suggested a day trip to Block Island as an opportunity for my teams to practice the skills they will need out of the country in a much more comfortable and “low stakes” setting. Not to mention, visiting Block Island is a lot of fun!

Our 21st Century Skills class welcomed the challenge of putting together a trip and overall, they excelled in their planning. The students began by defining the problem (figuring out what needed to be figured out!) and then presenting their initial research. Next, students used an Eisenhower matrix to prioritize the tasks they had left as well as categorize them so that each could be placed under the responsibility of one person’s “job description.”

Lastly, students were tasked with coming up with a product that would serve both as a reference for us while we were on the trip as well as a way for them to demonstrate to someone outside of the class all the effort that had gone into planning the day. They came up with a slick (laminated!) color brochure and a short film in which they documented what they imagined each part of the day to be like. Overall, their preparation made for a great day and the weather cooperated! Everyone had a role (leader, transport, morale, safety, budget, etc.) the day of the trip and each student eagerly fulfilled his or her responsibilities. Mr. Spindel joined us as a driver (thank you!!), providing his family’s 15 passenger van, and we all enjoyed the day! On the ferry ride home, I asked students to video tape their answers to the following questions: What was your highlight of the day? What would you do differently next time? How did you feel in your specific role for the day? I look forward to discussing their answers in class today.

block island kayaking 21c

Additionally, students were asked multiple times to identify the 21st century skills that they practiced while completing this project. Here’s a sampling of their answers:

information literacy: we researched several websites to pick which activities we wanted to do, which were the least costly and closest to where the ferry would land

collaboration: we all collaborated together in order to create final needs and estimation for things such as money and what we are going to do

productivity and self-direction: Researching and working on the pamphlet and video when our teacher was not here to guide us

social skills: Making a funny video by understanding social cues

organization: while using the Eisenhower Matrix, we organized our priorities to decide what we had to figure out first to have an awesome trip!

flexibility/adaptability: having a back up plan within our organized activities. Such as planning to go to the movies if kayaking turns out to be unavailable

I’m impressed with their work and I think we could definitely take another field trip! I wonder what ideas they might come up with!

Class syllabi and Piktochart

I have experimented a bit with infographics in the past and this year, after seeing some great examples on, I decided to give my class syllabi an update! I’m hoping to have students create their own infographics this year as well. Piktochart was the site I used to make these, but I have also found an app/site called “Canva” that looks very promising and a bit more streamlined.

Here they are! Spanish 1 syllabus Hispanic Civ syllabus 15-16 21st century skills syllabus


noah for wordpress

Hope everyone had an awesome verano! I enjoyed spending time with my son (he’s almost 9 months old now) and visiting with family. But now it is time to get back to class! I’m excited to meet all of my new students and reconnect with those I already know! I moved to a new classroom on the last day of school so my new address is Rm. 237 (2nd floor, blue wing) and I’ll be using this blog to communicate with students and parents about what is going on in my classroom. I’m teaching Spanish 1, Hispanic Civilization, Literature and Culture and 21st Century Skills this year.  It is going to be great year! ¡Va a ser un año excelente!