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.!

Ugly Sweater Cookies!

Spanish 1 students (along with the Italian and French 1 classes) created designs for ugly sweaters, describing them in the target language and the trading that description with a partner. The partner took on the challenge of frosting an actual sweater shaped cookie to match the target language description given to them by their partner.

Students showed great skill both with the frosting and with the grammar concepts that we have been practicing lately, including adjective agreement, the gender of nouns and definite and indefinite articles. In order to see how successful the frosting of the cookie was, we compared it with the original student’s drawing in Notability. I think that students also enjoyed the ability to color in the app instead of using colored pencils/markers. The products were remarkably professional! And we had a lot of fun!

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Assessment for Learning

Last week, I attended  PD session with my department and the presenter talked a bit about how “assessment” can sometimes be considered a “dirty word.” And it is true: sitting through 3 hours of PSATs today with the sophomores and juniors, I do know that there are times when tests seem to eat up a lot of our time in the classroom with students.

However, when assessments are used “for learning” they can be really powerful tools. The 1:1 program has provided us with many options for formative assessment and today I was able to use a couple of them to help me decide if my students were ready for a formal or summative assessment on the geography and spelling of the countries of the Spanish-speaking world. With the 4 day weekend, time is really flying. I needed to decide if I could quiz students this Friday or if we needed more time practicing these two topics. Instead of simply guessing or asking students informally, I spent class today on 3 formative assessments.

results of country kahootStudents used the app “GeoChallenge” to practice their geography skills. They got instant feedback while playing the game and I asked them to play until they hit 100% accuracy or as close as possible. Then, we played a Kahoot with the same material and I was able to see exactly which countries students were still struggling to identify as well as the individual students and the class averages. They were pretty good! Lastly, students practiced the spelling of the names of the countries in Spanish on a set of terms in Quizlet. That program showed me which words students were getting correct/incorrect and from the looks of things, they only had a few names to practice! Hooray! It’s time for a summative assessment and I’m fully confident that my students came away from class today with a good idea of the specific terms/countries that they still need to study for their quiz on Fridayquizlet results for blog countries

“Small talk”

Spanish 1 is coming to the end of their first unit of the year. Every day, we have been adding basic questions and answers to build a short conversation – the kind of small talk you make when you meet someone. In addition to practicing these short conversations with a multitude of partners in class every day, students in Spanish 1 have used their Ipads to take advantage of the ability to record both their voices and to make short videos.

Students made audio recordings of themselves spelling their first and last names, practicing those words as well as the alphabet. They made short videos of themselves describing “¿Cuántos hay?” as they counted objects in order to practice their numbers. (We sped up the videos to make them more entertaining!) As a larger assessment, students collaborated to create video puppet shows using at least one phrase from each of the vocabulary sections learned.

On Monday, they will take a more formal, written quiz on all of the questions and answers learned so far, something that will require them to show their awareness for Spanish punctuation, accent marks and spelling. On Friday, their work on Quizlet – where all of their vocabulary is available to them 24/7 in a format in which they can practice by playing various types of games – was due. Students were required to complete 5 of the 6 possible activities for each set onces, giving them targeted but fun ways to practice on their own time. This work was the majority of their assigned homework for the year so far.

Their quiz will utilize the app/site, Socrative, which will allow students to take the assessment on their Ipads. Because of this, students will get instant feedback on each question as they take the quiz and I will be able to post their grades very quickly as well. It also allowed me to give students to take their quiz last week as a “practice” and, from their comments, they felt like it helped them understand what I was expecting and also realize more specifically the areas they needed to study.

The language we speak can impact the way we act!

The first week of school has come and gone – along with our long Labor Day weekend – and it was a good start to the year! I think that my new 2nd floor classroom is a bit cooler than the 3rd floor was but I’m still hoping that the temperatures drop soon! Students in Spanish 1  participated in an activity on the first day in which they were asked to find something in a photograph of a person from another culture that reminded them of themselves. Student did a great job and we able to identify the main purposes of the task: getting to know one another, getting used to speaking in front of others and, most importantly, finding something familiar in the “foreign.” We now use the term “world” instead of “foreign” language to describe our department, but beginner language students will be exposed to words, ideas, and traditions that are different from those they know.

I mentioned in class that sometimes the words that a language uses have an impact on the way speakers of that language view a topic or think about an idea. Here’s a link to an article by Jessica Gross titled “How languages affect the way we think”  that contains great examples of how the words we use to describe an idea can actually impact our behavior. Check it out!

Class syllabi and Piktochart

I have experimented a bit with infographics in the past and this year, after seeing some great examples on creativelanguageclass.com, 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!