Tuesday, September 1, 2020

How We Learn a Language

Hello! At the beginning of the school year I like to talk a little about why we do what we do in our Spanish classes. This year I've made video explanations and included them in this blog post so it can easily be shared with parents and reviewed at any time. 

In this class, students don't learn about the language. Students will acquire the language naturally through input.  The videos below will go into detail about what I mean by this. I've broken the presentation into short videos (between 2-4 minutes) to chunk the information. I've also included a reflection question after each video to help you process the ideas of the video.

In This Class We Learn to Speak From the Heart
Reflect: What does it mean to "speak from the heart"?

What is "Input" and Why Is It Important?
Reflect: How do people develop the ability to speak a language?

The Right Kind of Input to Speak From the Heart
Reflect: What skill(s) did you develop through practicing?

The World Needs People That Speak From the Heart
Reflect: Given that our planet faces many serious problems, why is it important to be able to connect with people around the world?

I hope the videos above give you an idea of the WHY and HOW of our Spanish class. I also wan students and families to know that language learners will understand much more than they will be able to produce, and that's OK! The image below is a nice visual representation of this idea.

I'm excited to start another year! Feel free to reach out with any questions! 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Highlights of the 2019 - 2020 School Year!

What. A. Year.

This year I started teaching middle school students Spanish at an International Baccalaureate school. In early March I was so darn proud of how much my students had learned and grown. My sixth graders were reading a multi-chapter novel in Spanish and doing a great job! My 7th and 8th graders were having conversations about food, family, school, and more! These students were understanding and producing more in Spanish than high school students I've taught!  And then school closed for the year. 

I want to take a moment to highlight a few of the great moments of the year I was able to capture through photos and video.


I told lots of stories, and then we played lots of games working with the vocabulary and grammar of these stories. 
6th graders placing parts of a story in the correct order

7th graders playing BOOM game based on a story

6th graders playing Quizlet Live Relay

We had FUN

We drew, we watched music videos from Spanish speaking artists, and we danced!

A great example comparing Victor and "el otro hombre" 
6th graders drawing what they want to be when they grow up

7th graders dancing to Just Dance videos! 

7th graders trying to find differences between Señor Wooly videos.

Our Locura de Marzo Bracket!

6th graders dancing to Tooty Ta en español
6th graders dancing during a Gimkit review game

This isn't the ending I wanted for the year, but this isn't the end anyway. 

I'm very grateful that I will get to teach the current 6th and 7th graders as they move up to 7th and 8th grade. Whatever the future of school will be, I'm looking forward to continuing our learning. As the ad below says, we are never too far down to come back

I wish everyone a safe, healthy summer break!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Highlights of the 2018 - 2019 School Year!

It was a great year! Below are the Top 5 Spanish class highlights as well as 5 more great moments with the 2021 students. 

At the end of the year I give anonymous survey to students for feedback on what went well/what could to be improved. Below is a word cloud of what students enjoyed the most!

Have a great August break!

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Break 2017

I hope everyone had a great break! I really enjoy traveling over breaks. (In April I went to Colorado, December I went to Mexico, and last August I went to Canada and a bike trip with my mom) This break was spent mostly in Pittsburgh resting, going to Sandcastle and biking.

I did return to my hometown Jefferson City Missouri to experience the solar eclipse. We saw totality!
The path of totality going through Missouri. My hometown is also the state capitol.

A total solar eclipse! I took this with my phone and the glasses.

The "Bordner Point"

I'm looking forward to a new school year and sharing in learning with students!

Friday, August 4, 2017

2017 - 2018 Recap Class of 2019

Looking back on a great year and I'm just blown away by how much we accomplished and how much fun was had!

Final Hispanic Music Projects

First I want to start off highlighting some great final projects students created.
Ji and Julian's Comida Song

Jacob, John and Bryce's SER ESTAR song

Alexa's Tengo Tu Love video

Isaiah's El Cuerpo Animation

Taharka, Connor, Mark and Ryan's version of "La Gozadera"


Megan from Community Justice Project
Guillermo from Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Again we were lucky enough to have guests visit our classes this year! From Antonieta who spoke about her home country of Venezuela, to video-conferencing with Ben, a community organizer supporting agricultural workers in California.

Random Good Times

A typical morning greeting from Dayona and Ja

Bike Club getting to cruise the town!

Doing the "Soy Yo" Girl dance with students!

Having fun on field trips!

Laurel Caverns

SciTech Days

Looking back now that the year is over and I scroll through the videos and photos and projects of the year, I wish I had done a better job of telling the class of 2019 how impressed I was with their talent and creativity. It was truly a pleasure to work with them! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2015 - 2016 Recap Class of 2018

I'd like to take a few moments to review all the neat things we've done this year with the class of 2018!

Six Guests

At different points in the year we had guests come in and share their experiences with Spanish 1 class 

  • Brenda is a human rights activist, a professor of Spanish at University of Pittsburgh, and she also works at the Community Justice Project. She shared with students what people face when they attempt to immigrate from Central America to the United States. 
  • University of Pittsburgh's Center for Latin American Studies had a student intern present about youth protesting for better education options in Chile. It was also a great opportunity for our students to pick the brain of a college student interested in World Languages!
  • Bozena visited us from Duolingo! Students got a chance to provide feedback on what they liked about Duolingo and ask questions about how it was structured. Bozena also talked about learning more than just two languages.
  • Ruth was with us for a week and she presented to one class about various adventures she's had, including a Fulbright Scholarship in Russia where they drove on a frozen river like it was a road!
  • Jasiri X shared stories of how he uses music & passion to speak truth about injustices. He shared a verse from his recent collaboration with Rhymefest #WarOnUs, which was informed by a trip to Colombia.

Trying new things

Students were open to trying new things in Spanish class

Students trying crickets

Salsa lessons!

Mate from Argentina

Fun in Clubs

Clubs this year were great! First trimester was Music Making Club and we borrowed Makey Makeys from the Remake Learning Digital Corps

Third trimester was photo/video club. The club partnered with 412Project, a Pittsburgh-area photo club. Students participated in a “mini-instameet”/ workshop with 412Project Photographers. The photographers mentored the students on some technical basics of photography as well as how to creatively see their everyday surroundings in a new perspective. The photographers and the club walked around downtown and focused on street life and architecture.  

Students then had 10 days to post photos under the hashtag #412project_cityhigh on instagram. 412Project photographers selected the best photos of the group and had them printed to be displayed at the school.

Great Final Projects

Throughout the second trimester of Spanish 1 students listened to music as part of their warm up activities. The final project in Spanish 1 class was to create something original that teaches about Spanish language or culture through music. All final projects can be viewed and voted for on The Showcase Website. Below are some great final projects

Overall the progress and creativity of the students of the class of 2018 was remarkable! 
Great job!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lessons learned while traveling

Best of Asia 2015
Here are photos from my recent trip to China and Vietnam
As I get to learn a bit about a new group of students in their introductions to me, it was pretty exciting to see that so many of you mentioned that you want to be able to travel. You want to see other parts of the United States and the world.

And we all have to start somewhere. I had never traveled out of the country until I was 20. Traveling is not something my family did. But once I was in college and I had the opportunity to travel I took advantage of it! The first country I went to was Switzerland. (People in Switzerland speak French, German/Swiss-German, and some speak Italian).  I went to Switzerland because it is in the center of Europe and I could easily travel to Paris, London, and Rome for the weekend. It is amazing to get to sit in a plaza (similar to Market Square) and absorb a different culture and language. 

The biggest advice I have for students who want to travel is to seek out opportunities that will help you travel. Learning the language is great, but it is not necessary.

This past winter break I was able to travel to China and Vietnam. I was reminded of three big ideas during this trip

1. You don't have to know the language of the place you are going. China uses characters, not an alphabet, and the language is tonal (which means different ways of saying the same thing have different meanings). The most I could say is hello, thank you, count 1 to 5, and some food words. Even after being in Vietnam for two weeks, I was no where near able to have a conversation. Don't let not knowing the language keep you from going to a place you want to explore.

2. The more you learn (language/history/culture) the more you get out of the trip. Reading general info on a travel website about a place you are going is a good start. For this trip I read some articles about current and ancient Chinese culture and a brief book about the history of Vietnam. I also found some podcast of a professor of Chinese culture and listened to a few that I thought might be interesting topics. I watched famous movies that took place in the countries as well. All of this was obviously done in English. It is so neat to be able to see something in person that you have learned about. You can also seek out tour guides to get specific information, 

3. Being scared and/or uncomfortable is part of the adventure.Those are going to be the more meaningful experiences. There were many times I was tired, cold, and hungry. Food is going to mess up your stomach. You are going to have to walk! We walked about 10 miles a day in China & Vietnam but I didn't mind it because it was exciting, and we were walking around all these amazing places! If you know ahead of time you are going to be out of your comfort zone then when plans go awry you can just go with the flow and be open to a new adventure. Things will not go as planned. You will not get to see and do everything that you might have wanted, but that does not mean that what you do get to see and do is any less of an amazing experience.

To close, here are a few opportunities open to area youth to travel that are severely discounted/ free!
If you want any help or advice or just want to talk about travel dreams, I'd love to continue the conversation with you!