Learning to flirt (and other things too): Spanish 1 is off to a great start!

My first group of Spanish 1 students is already impressing me with their creativity, excitement and quick transition to high school world language classes!

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been slowly creating a collection of greetings to use in daily conversations.  We started covering the greetings (los saludos) by watching two videos.  Check out the links to view them!  (They’re funny, I promise!)

What we DON’T WANT

first semester

What we DO WANT:

Speaking video

It got a few giggles, but I really did mean it: after watching the second movie, I explained that our term 1 goal is to be able to flirt and introduce ourselves in Spanish.  We brainstormed the basics of what we’d need and got started!

Since beginning the greetings, we’ve added a new one each class, slowly expanding our conversation each day.  We’ve practiced as a class by throwing a beachball and racing to answer, by introducing ourselves as famous characters or people and most recently by creating short video introductions!  Using the Flipgrid app, students greeted their audience, stated (and spelled) their names, explained where they are from and added an ending “adiós” salutation.  Flipgrid also allows adding stickers and fun, colorful images to your video, so students were able to showcase their creativity and have a little fun.  (Even I got in on the action, recording my demo video with a T-Rex on my shoulder!)  Parents/family members: ask your Spanish 1 student to show you their video!  Here’s our final result – a full grid of target language speaking!

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 12.45.27 PM

Needless to say, I am so impressed.  While a few students have had an introduction to Spanish at the middle school, most students are exploring this language for the first time. To see them embracing the challenge and venturing out of their comfort zones has been so exciting, rewarding and fun for me.  Stay tuned for future blog posts about this fantastic group!



Andiamo al caffè!

Thanks to a fantastic idea from my Italian partner in crime, Signorina Reardon, I had a fantastic Friday morning with my level 3 Italian students!

Last year Signorina Reardon and I were brainstorming about ways to help our students speak more in the target language.  Talking in a new language presents a few challenges.  Cognitively, it takes time to craft a response in your native language and consider how to communicate it in another language.  Socially, it’s difficult to allow yourself this time when your peers and your teacher are watching you and expecting an answer.  In past years, full class “chat” sessions can get awkward pretty quickly.  As the teacher, I would find myself choosing the next victim instead of facilitating a conversation of volunteers.

Signorina Reardon’s idea was simple, but fantastic: why not create a more casual setting, like a cafe, in which students can chat and drive the conversation.  (You might even see a “Caffè Signorina” sign on her door!)  Each day that our levels 3 and 4 classes meet for first block, we’ll pause with content and assignments and hold small conversations.

This morning was my first caffè/chat session with Italian 3.  This is a relatively large class (22 students) and I wanted students to feel comfortable.  So, I divided the class in half.  One group worked collaboratively to read the first chapter of our novel Destinazione Italia (more on that later!!)  The other group put some chairs in the back of the room, brought their coffee and enjoyed some Munchkins….and only spoke in Italian.

Was it awkward at first?  Yup.  But, did it lead to some fun, non-academic conversation in Italian?  YES!  SÌ!!!!  I learned so much about my students today!  Some students work after school (from serving as a host at a restaurant, to lifeguarding, to working at coffee shops).  Other students talked about their involvement in sports, clubs or activities. I have students who are ballroom dancers, piano players, year-round athletes, and more. Drama students explained the basic plot of the upcoming fall play.  They shared details about their families, interests and asked how to say goofy phrases in Italian.  Even I shared the mortifying tale of my experience trying out for my high school tennis team. With a little time (and sugar) we fell into a conversation that was fun, organic and really rewarding.

Looking forward to this fun new tradition!  Do you have ideas about topics we can cover?  Leave them in comments below!

caffe italiano


“You’re freaking me out.”

Last week, on the second day of school, a student (unintentionally) gave me a fantastic compliment.

I had just finished explaining a beyond exciting brainstorm to re-invent vocabulary acquisition by providing students the opportunity to create individualized “passion projects”.  This was the first time I had “pitched” the idea to students, and I. WAS. PUMPED.  I was crouched down, hands out, eyebrows raised, mouth open, with an expression that said, “SOOO…what do you guys think??”  I was literally sweating, even though the temperature in my classroom was 65 degrees.

One student blinked and interrupted the silence with:
“Yeah.  You’re like…..way too excited.  It’s freaking me out.”

Yay!  Mission: accomplished!

To my amazing, unique and talented students this year:
Maybe this excitement is a little much for a 7:30 am first block class.  Maybe you never thought you’d get excited about Spanish vocabulary.  Maybe you think I need to switch to decaf or start doing yoga.

OR….maybe learning should look a little like “freaking out”.  Maybe when you’re really in that learning zone and loving what you’re doing, you will be “like, way too excited” – and maybe that’s a good great thing.

So, this is my goal as your teacher this year.  I want to show you how to use a new language to fuel what excites, inspires and drives YOU.  I want you to be so flipping excited about your own passions that you can’t wait to learn how to share them with the world.  I know it’s a tall order, but I know you can do it.


We’re aiming for Buddy the Elf level excitement here, people.



Week 1 = done!

The first two days of school in Room 236 were a blur!  I learned dozens of new names and shared lots of details about me (I’m afraid of cats, have an identical twin and wore braces for 6 horrible years….all true).

While everything had a little Italian or Spanish “twist” on it, this week’s activities were all about getting to know my new students!  I created five stations for students to complete, each with a different task.  We practiced conversation skills with Jenga, learned about each other (and Sra. Blackburn….ha!) and worked as a team to accomplish some fun, different tasks.  Level 1 students took some time to think about starting to study Spanish, and what their goals are for the year.  Some pictures are below at the end of the post.

As former students know, I am bizarrely excited about Spanish and Italian, so it’s hard for me not to jump right into (what I consider) the “fun stuff”. However, we took some time in these first two days to really chat about what we like (not what we like about Spanish verbs or Italian regions) but what inspires us, excites us and lights us up.

This conversation was a great way to introduce some new initiatives our department is trying out this year and hopefully demonstrate to students that languages reach beyond conjugations and verb tenses: they are simply new ways to express ourselves, our passions and our lives.  I am SO EXCITED to start some fascinating new projects that will capture each student’s individual passion and excitement.  (More on this next week!!)

To my students – you re-energized me about being back here at school and I’m ready for a great year with you!  Happy 4-day weekend!

Ci vediamo….nos vemos! 🙂


True or false? Students learned a lot about me this week!

Are you ready?

To my students this year:

As a teacher, I’ve always thought of the first day of school like the best fresh start of the year – even more than January 1st.  So….happy new year to you all!

Room 236 is ready to go: my door is covered in tacky bright (?) pictures, my pencils are sharpened and I’ve had a whole summer to drum up some new crazy Blackburn ideas. All that’s missing is YOU!  I am so excited to get to know you and discover together how a new language can help you fuel your interests, ideas and passions.

So….you ready to crush it?



¡Adios! Ciao!

And just like that – we’re wrapping up the 2016-2017 school year!  It’s hard to believe that another year is in the books and also hard to think that I’ll be saying adios and ciao to my wonderful students!  As we head for the beach, I thought it would be nice to look back on a few fun memories from this year.

Italian 3 has been an absolute pleasure to teach this year.  Both sections (A and E blocks) brought more creativity, innovation and humor to our projects than I’ve ever seen! From creating cooking shows to movie trailers, these ragazzi really displayed such genuine excitement to use Italian in a variety of authentic situations.  We had the opportunity to go on a field trip to explore DaVinci’s legacy at the Boston MOS and explore Italy’s culinary heritage by visiting Eataly.  Students wrote fairy tales, performed skits and read two mini-novels in Italian.  We had our first group of inductees in the Società Onoraria Italica in March and many of these students are off for more Italian adventures next year in Italian IV.  I look forward to chatting them up in italiano in the halls and to traveling to Italy with them next April!
Bravi, ragazzi!  Grazie per un anno indimenticabile!

Here are a couple of class photos we took at the end of the year.

This is my third year at Nipmuc, and my third year teaching Spanish 2 – a course I love for a lot of reasons.  Perhaps the most exciting part of a level 2 language course is the progress that students make from September to June.  Students arrive with a well-formed base in the present tense, but leave being able to speak/write about the past, future and hypothetical situations.  As a teacher, it’s so fun to watch as students realize how much they expand their communication abilities with each tense.  This year, students made this transformation with lots of interesting projects that got them out of their seats and using the language in fun new ways.  From creating iMovie trailers to introduce next year’s Spanish 2 students to the course to making mystery celebrity timelines and taking on the challenge of one-on-one quarterly interviews – these students impressed me each day.  Level 2 students also participated in a new (and amazingly fun) project for World Language Week – creating mock food trucks for a community-wide competition!  As an added bonus, some students were able to join Nipmuc’s April adventure in España!

Some photos from D, G and B blocks over the past couple of days:


Wishing everyone a safe, fun, adventurous summer!  See you next year!
Signora/Señora B.

Italian Student of the Week: Pasquale!

This week’s Italian Student of the Week is Peter Morelli.  Peter, or as he is called in Italian class “Pasquale” is a student in E Block Italian 3.  Here’s what Pasquale had to say about his experience in Italian 3 so far!


Il tuo nome (your name): Peter Morelli

Il tuo nome italiano (your Italian name): Pasquale

La tua classe (your class): Italian 3 (E Block)

I miei passatempi (my hobbies): reading, football, video games

La mia attivitá in questa classe è…. (my favorite activity in this class is….)
Sticky sentences

Che facciamo adesso nella nostra classe? (What are we doing now in our class?)
We are re-teaching the concepts we learned this year with review projects.  I presented the future tense with my group today.  (More on these review presentations in my next post!)

Quest’anno, io voglio imparare … (This year I want to learn …)
How to get better at speaking Italian (you can read more about how we worked on speaking skills in this post)

The #1 country on my travel bucket list is…
Italy (did you know Nipmuc is traveling to Italy in April 2018?  If you’d like to come, please see Signorina Reardon in 239!)

Detto preferito (favorite quote/saying:
“Nothing is impossible.”

Bravo!  Grazie, Pasquale!  🙂