Sunday, September 8, 2013

Excited to start!

I'm glad the first week is over! I tend to do the most talking in the first week, explaining expectations, procedures, routines, etc. It's important work that keeps us from getting tripped up once we really start rolling, but I'm glad the first part is over.

I read through the Goal Setting answers and I was very excited. I was excited because many of the things students want to have conversations about (talking about things you like to do, describing school, talking about food, weather, music and shopping) are things we cover in our Spanish 9 and 10 classes! We aim to teach things that are valuable to students, and when they tell us they want to learn some of the things we already plan to teach well then, we think we are going to have a great year!

Many students mentioned some things that are different about Latino culture, or they mentioned similar things about latino culture that they wanted to learn more about. Some of these things were how Latinos dress, their dances, currency, food, sports, and celebrations like Cinco de Mayo, Día de los Muertos, and Quinceñeras.  This showed us that you are an observant bunch, and you pay attention and notice things. That's great because that a big part of being a knowledgeable traveler is paying attention and asking good questions. That so many of you are already aware and curious means we are going to get a lot out of this class!

What's even better, is that we all share the common goals of being successful, and speaking Spanish and understanding Hispanic culture!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Great Hispanic Music Projects

I was so impressed with some of our Hispanic Music Projects I wanted to highlight a few!

  • Two students recorded themselves playing songs on a piano, used Adobe Soundbooth to mix in latino beats like bachata and cumbia, then created their own bandcamp webpage. This project mixes jazz, Mozart, piano, bachata and cumbia beats and mixing audio using Adobe Soundbooth.

  • One student created a website where she review four bands. The first one was from the band she was assigned to review on the first day, Hello Seahorse. Using the keywords/search terms Pete gave her, she found the other 3 bands. I had never heard of the other 3 artist, but what suprised me is that one of them, King Coya, has remixed music from Amadou & Mariam, a African band, as well as tango, and more!

  • Another student started by making a Soundlcoud mix, then created a Tumblr that gave details about each song she selected and the artist who made them, and finally made a poster for one of the bands as if they were coming to Pittsburgh. I was very impressed with how this student kept delving deeper and deeper into different aspects of the music.

  • Here is a video two students created from a song they liked.

  • This .gif was drawn by hand, scanned then color was added. This was "cover art" to a song two other students created.

As you can see, the projects we get are incredibly diverse! I'm constantly blown away with the creativity and technical skills our students demonstrate. Bravo, 2015 Team A!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Best Blogs From Team C 2016 Spanish 9

In general, Mrs. Akhand and I were very impressed with the quality of blogs that Team C 2016 completed during Spanish 9 class. We want to showcase some of the best post and blogs.

Blog that was as clear as it was cute - Konika

Konika's blog is very stylized, and looks unique! It is also very easy to read. This is a great example of a student personalizing their blog while also making sure it doesn't get out of control!

Amazing visually beautiful blog - Kaylona

Kaylona got an advanced grade for most of the posts because she always went the extra mile to complete a visual. She is a Prezi guru! Her attention to detail makes her blog one of the most visually enhanced blogs of the trimester!

Awesome Advanced blogger - Kelsey

Kelsey delivered a quality blog every week. She was very careful to follow all directions. The result is a great portfolio of work throughout the trimester!

Best Male blog - Dylan

Dylan, like the ladies mentioned above, completed all required posts as well as many optional posts. What makes Dylan's blog great is how he has used technology to let his personality and work shine! 

Great blogs by post

Konika's Quien Soy Glog

Muchas gracias for a great trimester Team C 2016! We're really excited to continue your Spanish conversation and culture learning next year!

Native Speaker Interview Day July 2013

Native Speaker Interview Day is one of my favorite days to be your Spanish teacher. I get filled with pride and excitement watching students engage in bilingual conversations with our guests. Here are some photos from the day.
Ricco and Kori interviewing Ms. Dimate
Josh and Stevie interviewing Ms. Aguirre
Kayla and Anna interviewing Mr. Matteo

As I was listening I even learned things. I learned that when someone asks your age in Spanish and they don't want to tell you, they say "sin cuentas" which means "without counting" but also sounds like 50. That was a reminder to me that in many situations it is not appropriate to ask someone's age!

Another thing I overheard was one of our guest engaging in "chit chat" with students before the interview began. He explained that in Latin America, it is considered rude to just get straight down to work without having an informal, how are you check-in conversation. That is very different than what I am used to and I remember struggling with that a lot when I traveled, but I saw how it helped some of our students get comfortable and less nervous before they started the formal interview.

The last thing I want to mention that I overheard was one of our native speakers encouraging a student to try again. He said "No one is going to laugh at you, no one is going to make fun of you." That is very true. Many times, we are too afraid to try something because we are afraid of looking stupid or failing. When you are learning another language, and you practice that language in an attempt to try to communicate and respect someone else's background, even if you mess up, they appreciate the effort. No one is trying to embarrass you, so try your best, and learn something.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Explore but don't judge


Last Friday 9th grade period C had a guest speaker come in to answer some questions. His name is Adam and he is a travel blogger. His website is

Adam was born and raised in Cleveland. He graduated from Ohio State University and started working as an engineer. After awhile working in the "real world" he decided to quit his job and travel the world. He now spends his time volunteering and exploring different places around the world, while also growing crazy hair.

The conversation between Adam and students was respectful and engaging. Students asked some great questions and Adam gave great advice and told some pretty interesting stories.

As I read the post-video conference reflections, I was surprised at how many students focused on Adam's hair and the fact that instead of staying in hotels he has used Students were shocked at how abnormal these things were.

I admit, those are not things we hear or see everyday. I'm also not suggesting students follow in Adam's footsteps. But I do hope my students challenge themselves to be open-minded about new information.

The world is a big place. There are many different ways of looking and living. There are many different reasons people look and live the way they do. It's important for us to remember that just because something is not familiar or what we are used to, that doesn't make it bad. When we see something that is different, we must suspend our first judgement.

We must be open to exploring how and why things are different. We must seek to understand, not condemn or reject.

This is a skill that is developed over time. This is not just a skill for traveling, but a skill you will need in City High, in Pittsburgh, and any other place you come into contact with new or different people.

One of the things that Adam said is that when you travel you get to know yourself. When you come into contact with things that are different than what you are used to you ask yourself "Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I do things the way I do things?" When you seek to understand others, you learn about yourself in the process.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thoughts after reading your letters

I just finished reading all the letters of introductions from my new students. I love reading about students hobbies, what's important to them, and their experiences with other languages and cultures. I even learned about airsoft, though I don't know how it's different than paintball.

A lot of students mentioned that they have had Spanish before but they don't remember much. That is a pretty normal response. I bet many of you remember more than you realize, and things will come back to you as we review them.

We understand that for most of our students Spanish class is like a side salad. It's not the main course, but it's a good place for getting nutrients that make you healthier. That's why we've set up the class to focus more on participation and projects rather than exams. We don't expect you to remember everything forever, but we design the course to help you develop skills that you will use beyond this class, such as

  • growth and reflection - we want to help you find areas that you have improved in and identify what you did to help you grow
  • respectful, positive communication - how you do/say something often communicates more that what you actually say
  • keep an open mind - learning to be curious and non-judgmental about new and different things you encounter
Many of you mentioned that in order for you to be successful you need your teachers to be patient. That will be my goal for this trimester, to be patient and support my students as they learn about Spanish culture and language. What I want in return from my students is a positive effort and focus everyday in class. 

I'm really looking forward to this trimester.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Hola estudiantes!

This blog will be a place where I share my thoughts on how our class is going, highlight some great work, and share some resources/ support for you and your blogging.

To get things started my first blog post will be like your first blog post, a letter of introduction from me to you.

Dear students,

Hola! Como estas? (Hi! How are you?) I'm very well. I had a great break and I'm back ready to work to help you learn about Spanish language and culture and have fun while doing it!

There are a few things that are important in my life. My family is important, but I don't get to see them very much because my parents live in Missouri and my brother teaches English out in Los Angels. I also have a few close friends that have helped me though a lot, so I'm very grateful for them. Another thing that important to me is my health. Not too long ago, I realized if I got a good night's sleep and ate an apple instead of potato chips I felt much better.

I started taking Spanish classes like many of you, in high school. I wasn't that great at it and yea, I remember being really frustrated sometimes! It was hard and I thought my teachers were crazy. When I got to college I signed up for Spanish level 3 but didn't do too well and had to take it over again. Spanish was never easy, and I felt embarrassed every time I spoke to someone in Spanish. But I really wanted to travel and I loved learning about the history and culture of Spanish speaking countries so I stuck with it. In college I applied to travel just about every semester or summer, and I haven't stopped traveling since! And as I travel, my Spanish gets better and better. I keep practicing by listening to music in Spanish, and listening to radio shows/watching TV, and reading Harry Potter (or Twilight) in Spanish.

I've had many good experiences with other languages and cultures. When I was in college I studied abroad in Switzerland and Argentina. Then I got an internship in Mexico, then in Switzerland. Since college I've traveled to Costa Rica, Peru, Spain and Mexico. In each of these experiences I have learned so much, and I'm looking forward to my next trip!

During my travels I've had some negative experiences. I've been mugged, and I've also had some gnarly food poisoning. There have been times when people were offended because I did something they thought was inappropriate but I didn't know. These lessons have taught me to be humble and as kind as possible to anyone I meet.

For me to be a successful teacher I need you (my students) to try your best. We have tried to set up this class to allow students to be creative, passionate, reflective, and honest about their work. Reading directions carefully will also take you very far.

When I think of a vision for myself in the future, I think of myself as continuously learning. There is so much I still don't know about, so much my students will teach me, and so many adventures to be had. I hope one day to take you to Costa Rica.

I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I love music and I play the guitar and piano. I like all kinds of music, and before I was a teacher I wrote and took photos for music magazines in St. Louis and Chicago. I also love taking photos and I dabble in making videos of places I go and things I see/do. I also like long distance running and biking. I hope to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. in 2013. I like making jigsaw puzzles, coloring, reading books, and knitting.

I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all and helping you learn Spanish!

Ms. Bordner