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.


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:

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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.!