Pack your bags!

It’s time to go on a field trip! The 21st Century Skills classes are wrapping up their work on designing a field trip for the sophomore class. Over the weekend, a panel of teachers and administrators will watch the students’ video proposals and choose one winner out of all 12 proposals. Some of the possibilities in my two classes include the MFA, MOS, Fenway Park, a historic Boston Harbor cruise, a high ropes course and simulated “shipwreck” situation at Hale Reservation, a math-themed walking tour of Boston and a trip to the BSO. Next week, we will spend time watching each other’s proposals and giving constructive feedback, as well as reflecting on the planning process as a whole. Additionally, we are all going to pitch in and help the winning group promote and execute their plan! I have had a lot of fun listening and observing as the students worked in groups to finalize their plans; its great to see them problem-solving and thinking on their feet! screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-22-57-pm

In  Hispanic Civilization, we will be taking a vocabulary quiz tomorrow on a list of 40 “refranes” or “dichos.” These examples of idiomatic language are a requirement for scoring well on all of the AP Spanish rubrics. Students have enjoyed exploring the differences between the “literal” translations of some of the sayings and their “best” English counterparts. A few of us have even learned some new English vocabulary in the process! As a way of becoming familiar with these phrases and hopefully moving them from short-term to long-term memory, students created short skits in which the saying was used in context. They also created memes that included a “refran.” Check out a few examples:

In Spanish 1, we are really making progress! Students have spent the past week reviewing the days, months and seasons and have been busy making calendars in partners. The calendars are posters to be hung up in the classroom and students are enjoying working with colored pencils and markers for a change of pace. Students are able to tell the day and date today, tomorrow, and yesterday when asked and we have had fun figuring out each other’s birthdays and favorite seasons. Students spent time today in stations correcting written work as well as creating their own Quizlet sets for the 20 questions they will need to know for their Interview Exams, which are soon approaching! For this test, students sit with me one-on-one and answer 10 of 20 possible questions in complete sentences in Spanish. While this can be intimidating the first time, last year students really excelled and I expect no less this year!

Setting goals

What’s on your bucket list? That’s one of the questions posed to students in 21st Century Skills last week. Skydiving? Learning a new language? Writing a novel? Maybe you are like me and you have a list of far (and not so far) away places that you’d like to visit. I’ve had a great time looking through the Padlets created by students illustrating some of the things that they would like to experience and accomplish in their lives. Check out a few examples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Setting goals for yourself is an important skill and this week, we will take the dreams students expressed in their bucket lists and try to turn them into SMART goals. As students explore the acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), they will craft both long and short term goals for their academic, personal and professional lives, creating action steps and benchmarks to help measure progress towards these goals. Most years, this lesson falls at the same time in which I’m coming up with my formal teaching and learning goals for the year and I enjoy sharing them with my students as an authentic example.

Giving students authentic opportunities to practice the 21st century skills that we have identified is one of my main goals for this class. Currently, students are working in groups in order to plan a possible field trip for the entire sophomore class. This task is challenging and requires critical thinking, productivity, collaboration and problem-solving skills, just to name just a few. Each group (in all four 21st Century Skills classes) was assigned an academic department and is in the process of putting together a field trip proposal connected to the 10th grade curriculum in that academic area. Students began by constructing a survey to give to teachers in order to gather ideas and hope to have a draft of their proposals completed by Friday. Only one proposal will be chosen by a panel of teachers and administrators and be offered to all sophomores. There are many exciting ideas being explored and I can’t wait to see the details!

A great start!

It’s been a great start to the year! Spanish 1 classes are well on their way to being able hold a short “small talk” type conversation and are currently working on a “foto habladora” or “talking photo” in Notability. They will fill in conversation bubbles with basic personal information surrounding an image of a person (to be decorated!) and then use the recording feature of Notability to record themselves speaking the information as well. Great writing and pronunciation practice!

Hispanic Civilization, Literature and Culture has explored what we mean when we use the word “culture” as well as spending time describing elements of their personal culture. We have started reviewing grammar and are in the process of revising our first essay. As soon as all the permission slips are in, we hope to begin watching the show “El Internado” as a reward for using Spanish in class!

In 21st Century Skills, we have figured out what those “skills” are and have spent time coming up with examples of people putting them to use in real life. After choosing an area of personal expertise, students researched a person who has been successful in that particular field. They then created an Imovie trailer in which they identified some of the skills that have helped that person be so successful. This was my first time assigning a trailer as a project and I think both the students and I agree that it was a creative and efficient way of getting a message across.

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.!

World Language Week – Spanish 1

Version 2

Last week was World Language Week at Nipmuc! All Level 1 students (in all 3 language classes) created t-shirts decorated with information about a specific country. Specifically, they included the country’s name and outline on the back, decorated with the colors of the flag, and then designed a “license plate” containing an important date, creative “vanity” number, images and an appropriate slogan in the target language. Students wore their t-shirts to our “International Buffet” during last block on March 1st, when each student brought in a dish from their respective countries. During the buffet, students were ask to taste-test 5 different items and it seemed like everyone enjoyed trying something new! Hopefully, students will come away from the week with an appreciation for the diversity of culture that exists in our world as well as some in depth knowledge about one country in particular.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Additionally, students watched the classic movie “Man of La Mancha,” which is based on the longest running Broadway musical of the 1960s. The story is narrated by the figure of the author Miguel de Cervantes, as he recounts the adventures of Don Quijote, the famously idealistic knight who implores us to “dream the impossible dream.”  Through watching the film, students are exposed to the ideas of chivalry,  of “tilting at windmills” and the history of the Spanish Inquisition.





Intercultural communication

Today, as an end of the semester celebration and also as a part of our final unit on intercultural communication, the 21C Skills class went to the Asmara restaurant in Cambridge to try Eritrean/Ethiopian food. We sat at traditional tables- a wicker basket of sorts- and ate using injera, a spongy flat bread. Students enjoyed the sampling of beef, lamb, chicken and lentil dishes and shared everything family style. We discussed the importance and polite lends of washing hands before eating when your hands are your primary utensil ! One student remarked that it seemed rude to eat the bread that was underneath the food, noting how different situations call for different rules of etiquette. In our preparations for the trip, students researched other “know before you go” hints. Their project for this unit will be to create a corporate training video for a business who is sending employees to another country, providing information on etiquette related to greeting, gifts, dining, clothing, formality and other topics.  

Yesterday, our class had another intercultural experience. Mr. Costello presented to us in American Sign Language (ASL) through the use of an interpreter on Deaf Culture. He is a teacher at The Learning Center for the Deaf and provided us with information about what daily life is like in Deaf culture, as well as some of the challenges faced and tips on how to interact when communicating with a deaf person. I know that I personally learned a lot and they students asked many good questions. 

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.