Sunday, August 17, 2014

Video Lessons about Entrepreneurship that Spanish Students Will Love



by Ann Abbott

A wonderful resource for business Spanish students or anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship of any kind (commercial, social, academic, cultural, etc.): Lecciones de emprendimiento para principiantes. Diego Saez-Gil is a young, experienced, Argentinian entrepreneur who explains the entrepreneurial process in a friendly tone and with lots of very specific examples from his own experiences and others'.

After the introduction, there are eight lessons, each around 10 minutes. Click on the video above, and it should automatically take you through all of them. Or go to the website to see them separated out.

Language students will hear how business people talk about business concepts. In some cases it reinforces vocabulary and concepts from textbooks, and in other cases it introduces new vocab and ways of thinking about business. They will also see examples of businesses based on new media; textbooks tend to feature traditional business models almost exclusively.

I learned about Diego's videos from Leslie Forman, another young entrepreneur. Be sure to check out her materials and use them to teach students about the nuts and bolts of living and working abroad.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Engaged Humanities and Spanish Community Service Learning

When I think of the engaged humanities, these are the tenets that come to my mind and guide my work.
by Ann Abbott

Recently an old friend asked if I would be willing to go to her campus this year to give a talk. Yes! I love talking about Spanish community service learning (CSL), and I love the chance to see old friends in the places they work.

To organize the trip I needed to send her the usual--my CV, a photo, title of the talk, a blurb. But I also needed to write a paragraph describing my background and expertise in the humanities. Hmmmmm. Even though my PhD is in Hispanic literature, I have felt very distanced from the humanities for many years. When you do work in the scholarship of engagement, you can take a real beating from traditional humanists. "You make us look like a service department." "This isn't a vocational college." "Literature is the heart of Spanish programs." "There's no theory in what you do."

But in this precise moment in time (Israel's bombing of Gaza with 1,800 Palestinians killed; the riots in Ferguson; the Salaita case on my campus; immigrant children at our border in record numbers), I feel drawn back towards my training in the humanities, even literary analysis, because I see so many misreadings of people's words, so much de-contextualization of violence, and so little understanding of how power works.

So this was actually a timely exercise for me. And this is what I came up with:

Ann Abbott's work falls squarely within the engaged humanities, a strand within the broader humanities that strives to "connect humanities research and teaching with projects to advance democracy, social justice, and the public good" (Gregory Jay, "The Engaged Humanities"). After receiving her PhD in Hispanic literature in 1998, Ann began to turn her attention to critical analyses of the discourses about Spanish-speaking immigrants at the national level, within the local communities surrounding her university and within the profession of language teaching itself. For the past eleven years, she has incorporated Spanish community service learning into three courses ("Spanish in the Community," "Spanish for Business" and a course on social entrepreneurship), published curricular materials that connect students' learning to their local community contexts and written scholarly articles about both the student learning outcomes and the challenges of foreign language community service learning. During this period that many have called "the crisis of the humanities," the engaged humanities offers foreign language programs new ways to connect their scholarly expertise to community-identified challenges, and a new way to connect to students who increasingly want to see concrete outcomes to their education.

For me, the engaged humanities are quite different from a term that might be better known: public humanities and public scholars. Just like the difference between outreach and engagement is fundamental (outreach comes from an approach of "we the experts" helping the people who need us and our expertise; engagement is about partnerships, working on community-identified challenges, co-creating knowledge), a public scholar tends to be thought of as someone who writes op-eds, writes for audiences beyond other scholars, opines on current events in the media. The engaged humanities, however, are about engagement, in the ways I listed above.

Here are some links about the engaged humanities that might interest you.
How would you define the engaged humanities? How would you define your own relationship with the humanities more broadly? Let me know in the comments. Fighting to find a place at the humanities table can be a bloody battle; let's support each other. Or poke holes in the concept of engaged humanities. After all, critical analysis is what we do all day long.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Incorporating Authentic Sources and Businesses into Business Spanish Classes

Let's make Business Spanish real.
by Ann Abbott

All too often, students' work in Business Spanish centers around fictions. Students write business plans for fictional businesses that they will probably never launch. Business cases highlight real-life issues but often within the context of fictionalized characters and companies. The chapter on marketing culminates in students preparing ads that are built on some sort of fictional "Mad Men" fantasy world.

We can do better than that. We can engage our students in real business practices, with real business people.

My Business Spanish class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm going to divide the course into three parts:

1. Case studies. Some will come from the textbook, Exito comercial. Others will come from the University of Colorado, Denver's language case studies.

2. Consulting. I did this for the first time last year. My students had five consulting clients and each team of students had to do the social media marketing for their client. They learned a lot! They learned about contracts, meetings, aligning expectations, teamwork, and I hope they learned something about themselves, too. But five clients was really too much. The biggest problem I encountered was this: the kind of communicative competence we expect from students in class (not perfect, just comprehensible), is at odds with the grammatical perfection required when you are representing someone's brand on social media. So we will have just one client this semester: La Linea.

3. Project-based learning. I want students to see and study real-life people from Spanish-speaking countries who are in the business world. I also want them to see that "the business world" doesn't just mean multinationals and billionaires, like Carlos Slim. So, just like the image at the top of this post states, I'll have students do this:

*Use online sites (About.Me, LinkedIn, and others) to search for Spanish-speaking professionals.
Example: Mimi Guarnero is a wonderful example of a young woman from Mexico who has an interesting educational background and a strong entrepreneurial streak. I also want to show students this list of YouTube stars. It features several people from Spanish-speaking countries. I want them to see that "business" can take many forms, including digital communication and entertainment. Furthermore, this specific list shows that the Internet is not "English-only," and that students should use their Spanish skills to explore parts of the Internet that probably don't appear on their Google searches and other highly-filtered sites.
*Find one professional who interests you.
Students might be attracted to a certain city or region. They might be interested in certain careers. Maybe they want to find someone who graduated from the University of Illinois. Whatever the personal connection might be, I want them to pick someone who resonates with them on a personal level and then do research about them. Click on all the links. Google them to find out more. Explore maps and Flickr images about the place they are from. Go all out.
*Pitch that person as someone we should invite to Skype into class with us. 
I'll teach the students a formula for preparing an effective elevator pitch (3 minutes; or maybe even this 30-second model of an elevator pitch), then have them all give their pitch during class. Students will then vote on the top three. Working together as a class, we will then contact those three people and see if they can Skype into our class and talk to us about their business experiences.

I'll fill you in with more details as I progress. Do you have any advice? Any concerns? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Book about Heritage Language Learners and Relevant Teaching Theories

by Ann Abbott

My friend, colleague and renowned expert on heritage language learning Prof. Kim Potowski (U of Illinois, Chicago) has co-authored a recently released book:

Beaudrie, Sara, Cynthia Ducar and Kim Potowski. Heritage Language Teaching: Research and Practice.

Although the table of contents doesn't show a separate section on community service learning and heritage speakers, heritage speakers definitely benefit in unique and important ways from CSL courses.

Because Kim knows this, she also invited Prof. Glenn Martínez (the Ohio State University) and me to co-author a chapter in a handbook-in-progress. She is including a chapter on Spanish for the professions and community service learning, and Glenn and I would use this guiding question in our writing: What considerations are necessary when engaging heritage speakers in courses focused on Spanish for the professions and on community service learning?

I hope that you will read and benefit from Kim's newest book as well as the large bibliography she has built over the years.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Importance of a Conclusion in a Spanish Community Service Learning Class

How do you conclude your classes? Do your students walk away with a sense of accomplishment or confusion?
by Ann Abbott

At our upcoming new-TA orientation, Dr. Florencia Henshaw will lead a session on lesson planning. She asked me for my thoughts on what makes a good transition. This is what I replied.
  • Come full circle. Return to the introduction of the class and show students that they have accomplished what they set out to accomplish. In this way, they don't leave feeling that they just did busy work; they leave knowing that they went through the necessary steps to get to the final, logical step of that day's lesson.
  • Focus on information, not grammar. Focus on the communicative goal that was achieved. In other words, the conclusion should not be, "okay, so today we reviewed and practiced the preterit." Now that requires that there truly be a communicative goal to the class. So in a way, the inability to pull together an effective conclusion might very well be an indication that there was no communicative/task-based goal to the lesson plan to begin with.
  • What is the big picture? Connect the activities to the class, then connect the class to the course goals. Occasionally, ask students to provide the conclusion to the class. In 232 I often end the class by ticking off what we did that day and end by saying, "Now tell me, why do you think we spent our time together talking about these things? What connection do today's activities have to the goals of our course?"
  • Be explicit; students don't always recognize the learning in active learning. One of the main purposes of an effective conclusion is to leave students with an explicit acknowledgement of the learning that just took place, not just we did 1, 2 and 3. Too often, students in our classes misunderstand our communicative language learning, task-based, active-learning lessons as, "Well, I had a good time today, but I didn't really learn anything."
  • Briefly tie it all together. A good conclusion can be as short as a couple of sentences. It does not have to be boring or long.
I hope some of this is helpful, Florencia!
Ann

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lesson Plan for a Spanish Community Service Learning Flipped Classroom


by Ann Abbott



An old friend from grad school, Kathy Fox, shared the above video on Facebook. Her son: 
"just accepted a job as an attorney in the law firm of Sonia Parras in Des Moines. He's been working for Parras part time for the last year and always speaks very highly of her. She specializes in immigration law, provided legal assistance to many of the victims of the Postville raid, and is co-founder of ASISTA, whose 'purpose is to centralize assistance for advocates and attorneys facing complex legal problems in advocating for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.' Very cool. Congrats, Son!"
Kathy then shared the video above, an interview in Costa Rican television with Sonia Parras about how to protect your children from abusive relationships. It's full of rich, detailed content, language and cultural perspectives.


Lesson plan idea


Homework

Listen to the video as many times as necessary to understand it.


Class

Put students into teams and ask them to reformulate the information from the video into the following formats:
  • Short video directed toward young girls, not parents.
  • Short video directed toward young guys, not parents.
  • A poster with an eye-catching image and short bits of information. (Students can use Picmonkey or Canva.)
  • A weeklong series of Facebook posts for a local Latino Facebook group.
  • A resource sheet with local resources for anyone suffering abuse.
  • A Slideshare presentation of the highlights from the video interview.
  • A letter to Sonia Parras, thanking her for the information and telling her what the class plans to do with it.


Share

Upload, make copies, share, pass out, announce, whatever it takes to make people aware of the information that students created.


Celebrate

Invite students, community members, community leaders, university administrators to a presentation of all the ways students created and shared information based on the video.

What else? What other ways could students transform the information? What other audiences should they target?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Emergency Instructions as Part of the Syllabus

photo by Geoge Hodan
by Ann Abbott

I promised myself I wouldn't start thinking about the fall semester until August. I'll be teaching two courses:
  • Business Spanish
  • Spanish in the Community
It's August 2nd.

So far I have had several conversations with a community partner organization that is going through personnel changes and setting new directions. I have also done a lot of email marketing of one of the classes that I teach. We're currently at nine students enrolled, and I need ten in order for it to not be cancelled.

To keep me grounded (because when I think about teaching my mind goes in a dozen different directions, one idea leading to the next, and the next...), I'll start with revising the course calenders and tweaking the syllabi.

This year we need to do something new with our syllabus and/or on the first day of class: discuss our university's emergency response recommendations and read a one-minute script to our students on the first day.

None of the classrooms are designed to protect us from a shooter. And let's not kid ourselves: we have tornadoes, yes, but we're not really talking about the weather in these scripts.

I will read the scripts, point out the exits and tell students things on the script that they already know. But saner gun laws in this country would be more effective than scripts.

International Community Service Learning in a University of Illinois Program

Photo by Alex Grichenko
by Ann Abbott

How should students choose a study abroad program? 

It's an important choice, and I think that the information online isn't too helpful:

I won't try to describe on this post all my thoughts about how students should choose a study abroad program. (I'll tackle that in the future.)

What I will say is that you definitely need a program that has a community service learning component. Or an internship program that has an academic support built in, e.g., reflective essays, portfolio-assignments and feedback along the way. 

Like the Costa Rica program we cooperate with at the University of Illinois. The article explains very well why integrating CSL into your study abroad is such a good idea.

Why? Because nowadays it's not just important that go abroad, it's important what you do abroad. You have to stand out from the crowd of other high-achieving college students who have studied abroad. And I don't mean this just as a resume builder. I mean this as: you will be a different person if you have high-quality, faculty-supervised experiential learning while abroad. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sign Up Today for SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community"

Sign up today. We need ten students in the 4:00 section!
by Ann Abbott
  • Would you like to take a Spanish course that is different from all the others?
  • Do you want some real-world experience in professional settings? 
  • Want to create a resume section titled "Bilingual Professional Experiences"and stand out on the job market?
  • Sign up now for SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community"! 
  • We especially need students in the 4:00 section. 
  • If you haven't taken SPAN 208 but you want to give this class a try, go ahead and sign up
  • If you're still not sure, watch this video in which I explain the course. (It's short; less than five minutes.)

Why should you take SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community"?


You will speak Spanish. Lots of it.


Students often complain that they take Spanish classes but rarely have the chance to actually practice Spanish in them. In class you listen to the professor and to a few students who raise their hands. There's lots of reading, and while the texts are important, they don't necessarily reflect the students' own interests. And writing? It's high-pressure, high-stakes writing for tests and papers. But where is the speaking? That's what many students really want. They want to be able to speak Spanish so that they can interact with Spanish-speakers, not just to answer questions like, "¿Qué pensaron del artículo que leyeron para hoy?"

In SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" you'll speak a lot.

In class, every student speaks in Spanish, every day. Does that sound like a lot of pressure? Actually, it's a lot of fun. You'll be sharing your ideas with your classmates who want to know what you did in the community, what you think about immigration reform, how does bilingual education actually work, *not* whether your grammar is perfect or not.

In the community, you'll use Spanish to accomplish something: help kids do their math homework or improve their reading fluency; decipher a complicated insurance claim form and explain it in Spanish to someone who was robbed; make a phone call in English on behalf of someone whose landlord won't respond to their requests; or something as simple as greet clients in Spanish and with a smile--you might be the only person that day who didn't give them dirty looks for speaking Spanish or accented-English.

You will prepare yourself to be a bilingual professional--whatever that profession might be.


Yes, you need a solid based of Spanish vocabulary and grammar to be able to use Spanish in your future profession. And all the Spanish courses at Illinois should give you that. But you need something more. You need to build some intercultural competence by actually working with people of different cultures. You need to see that you can make mistakes in Spanish and still be understood by native speakers. But you also need to see that there are some cases where you really need to get it right; and that requires you to be resourceful, to use on-the-spot quick thinking to look things up on-line, make a quick phone call to an expert, or call your supervisor over for help. 

Being a bilingual professional is all about negotiating meaning. Working among--and in between--languages. Building up confidence in your Spanish but also learning strategies for those times when you have reached your limits. Understanding that it's not just the words you speak but what they mean to the other person, because words and culture go hand in hand.

You can talk about that in a classroom. (Does anyone really talk about that in their classes though?) But you'll experience it when you work in the community in SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community."

You can bring your feelings about social justice to life. Or just think things through.


Do you think social justice is about marching? Making signs and yelling? Being self-righteously moody about trendy causes? Do you think it's about thinking critically about what's going on in the world, whether you decide to do anything about it or not? Can we tweet our way toward social justice? Can just being a student in SPAN 232, doing your work in the community and completing your assignments have an impact on some of the most vulnerable communities in Champaign-Urbana?

If you are already passionate about politics, immigration and Latin America, this course will be a perfect fit for you.

If you hate the news and never talk politics, it's still a good fit for you. We talk about study abroad, how schools work in other countries and how to figure out the rather complex Hispanic naming system. We watch music videos, write thank-you notes and analyze some census data for Illinois counties. You don't have to become a radical! You'll just come out on the other side of the semester more informed. 

You'll be in an engaging class with a professor/instructor who is a passionate, creative expert.


No boring lectures! You'll be working in groups. Sometimes you'll be walking around the class, asking your classmates questions. You'll work with partners, but never the same one all the time. You'll use your smartphone (or your partner's) in class to look up information on the web, take pictures and upload them or even make a short video.

If you sign up for the 1:00 section, you'll have Rejane Dias. She's taught the course before and has loads of experience both teaching Spanish and doing community-based work. Students love her.

If you sign up for the 4:00 section--please, please sign up for the 4:00 section because we need ten students--, I (Ann Abbott) will be your professor. Not to brag (ack! how can I say this without sounding like I am bragging?!), but I am an award-winning teacher who also shows up consistently on "the list"--you know, the list of excellent teachers based on students' ratings at the end of the semester. I write strong, detailed letters of recommendation for my students, even long after they have graduated. I love teaching, respect my students and enjoy watching my students learn and grow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Student Spotlight: Jesse Hoyt

by Ann Abbott

First things first: Jesse Hoyt was never a student in my class. But he was a student at the University of Illinois, and I ran into him a lot because of his work with La Colectiva at the University YMCA when I was more involved with CU-Immigration Forum at its beginnings.

Most importantly, I think he is a former UI student that current Spanish students should get to know. He's a role model because of the career path he followed, and he's a expert in community organizing, grassroots organizations and immigrant rights.

Here are several videos that I hope inform and inspire you. Listen carefully to find out where he worked after graduation (he has moved on now), look up the website and see if they have any job openings that could be a good fit for you.



Now listen to his talk at the University YMCA's Friday Forum from the fall of 2013. You'll learn a lot about for-private jails and immigration reform, but you'll also see how professional and experienced a person just out of college can be.













I hope you're inspired and more informed now!

Teaching Incarcerated Students about Spanish Community Service Learning

I'm excited to participate in the Education Justice Project this fall.
by Ann Abbott

I'm going to go to a prison this semester.

I've never been to a prison before. I know many people from my hometown, Clay City, Illinois, who have been to jail, mostly because of drugs. On the other hand, I also know a lot of people from Clay City who work as prison guards--one of the most coveted jobs in an area with mostly low-paying, low-security jobs.

I'll be going to the prison in Danville, Illinois to teach one class (just one day) through the Education Justice Program (EJP), run by Prof. Rebecca Ginsburg at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I have admired their work for many years, even donated small amounts to the project. (I always imagine that money going toward buying a tank of gas to drive from Champaign to Danville and back.) I have also long admired the work that Prof. Pamela Cappas-Toro (Stetson University, Florida) and Lee Ragsdale did with the program when they were a UI graduate students. Finally, I was in the front row last year to listen to Prof. Ginsburg speak about EJP in the Friday Forum at the University YMCA (you can see her talk in five parts: part 1, part 2, part 3part 4 and part 5.)

So I was delighted to receive this message from Rebecca earlier this summer:
"I'm writing to invite you to participate in the fall 2014 Discovery Series at Danville prison through the Education Justice Project (EJP). The Discovery Series is a not-for-credit course that we hold on Fridays between 5 - 8 each fall semester. The class is capped at 15. Each week we invite a different guest speaker. Speakers are free to address any topic they like--their latest publication, their research, a teaching subject they love to share…  We encourage them to distribute an appropriate reading in advance. It can be as small as an article, or an entire book. While the class lasts 3 hours, we don't expect guests to speak for 3 hours. An interactive format works much better. The classrooms are equipped with digital projectors and chalk boards."
I immediately replied yes, and here is my plan for the time I will be with these students.

Social Entrepreneurship and Service Learning: Business Concepts within Latino Contexts

Readings

  • Chapter 1 "Overview of the Social-Justice Model for Service-Learning" 
  • Chapter 3 "Becoming Committed to Social Justice"

Seminar Outline

1. Foreign Language Community Service Learning (CSL) and Social Justice
  • What is CSL and what does it look like in a Spanish class?
  • What are the connections between CSL and social justice?
  • What do students' reflections tell us about their experiences and learning outcomes? (Analyze student blog posts.)
  • What effect does CSL have on students' sense of civic engagement? (Share my research results.)
  • What do community members have to say about Spanish CSL?
2. Social Entrepreneurship and Social Justice
  • What is social entrepreneurship? (Dees' definition; my emphasis on process--identify opportunities, gather resources, produce something of value--over product.)
  • What are the connections between social entrepreneurship, CSL and Spanish? (Describe my course)
  • How do students apply the entrepreneurial process in a CSL context? (Examples of students' team projects.)
  • What are some examples of income-generating activities within nonprofit organizations? The key is to use existing capacities to generate income. (ECIRMAC, Idealistas.org, Homeboy Industries) 
3. Business Concepts within Cultural Contexts

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Teaching English Abroad when You Didn't Actually Learn How to Teach

Once you find a job living abroad, teaching English, then what?
by Ann Abbott

As I have written before, many Spanish community service learning (CSL) students want to find opportunities that allow them to continue learning languages, to immerse themselves in other cultures and to live abroad. Teaching English in another country is a popular option.

In a previous post, I shared information and resources about how to find a job teaching English abroad.

Once you get the job, though, then what? Jst because you speak English doesn't mean you know how to teach. So when I talked to Kelly Klus, about her upcoming move to Barranquilla, Colombia to teach English, she asked me for ideas and resources. Here is the gist of what I told her.

Speaking English to English Learners.

Kelly will be teaching in an immersion classroom. That means that she will be teaching social studies, science and other subjects in English. So even when she's not teaching English per se, she will still need to communicate with students in English in ways that facilitate their understanding. Here are some resources and ideas.

  • Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen (Lee & VanPatten). This book will give you the fundamentals about how we actually learn a second language and what that means for how we teach. I was a graduate student at Illinois when VanPatten and Lee were there, and I learned so much from both of them. All the techniques I am about to list, I learned from them. They might seem rather obvious, but actually implementing them is harder than you would imagine. 
  • Speak English only. It's so, so hard for many people to believe that you can speak 100% English even with beginning learners. You can! You should! Incorporate the techniques below, and you will see that it is possible and beneficial.
  • Speak slowly. If you are teaching true beginners, you will need to slow down quite a bit. Furthermore, you will think that you are speaking slowly--yet you will not be speaking slowly enough! It's hard to slow down when you are speaking your own language. But you must. 
  • Speak in chunks. If you have a long or complex thought to communicate it, break it down into chunks. For example, if you are describing your mother, you might say the following. "My mother is kind. She smiles. She is happy. My mother loves people. She volunteers. My mother volunteers in a hospital. With cancer patients. She helps patients with cancer." Those are short phrases. Some are not even complete sentences. That's okay, especially with beginning language learners. Research shows we pay attention to the beginning and end of a sentence--so chunk your sentences so students don't lose what you said in the middle!
  • Repeat. You can repeat the same words, or repeat the same concept with different words. In the example above, "my mother" was repeated. "Volunteers" and "cancer" were repeated. And throughout the example, the entire concept of "kind" was repeated with specific examples. Which brings us to...
  • Use specific examples. If you are teaching about sports cars, give students examples: Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini. If you are teaching about mammals, list some: humans, whales, monkeys. When you tell students you like chick flicks (really? you do?!), tick off some titles of famous movies starring Cameron Diaz or Rachel McAdams. Your goal is for students to make "form-meaning" connections in their brains. In other words, instead of attaching "chick flick" to an equivalent in their first language, you want the word to connect directly to the concept itself.
  • Give visual cues. The visual cues reinforce what you are saying. Maybe students don't know what the word "curly" means, but if you point to a picture of a woman with curly hair and then make a "curlicue" gesture with your finger near your own hair, those visual cues will match up with the word you are saying: curly. You could also write the word "curly" on the board and draw a curlicue next to it. Those are visual cues, too. 
  • Use comprehension checks. When we want to know if students are following us, our natural tendency is to ask, "Do you understand?" Their answer to that question, though, doesn't necessarily reveal what we want to know. What if they're too polite or shy to say no? What if one person says yes, but the others just didn't say anything. In other words, you need to ask different questions to find out whether they truly understood or not. In the example about your mother, you can ask them to write down true or false and say, "1. My mother is cruel. 2. She volunteers in a school. 3. My mother has cancer." You'll really know if they understood by asking them those short, quick, ungraded questions. 

Approaches to teaching.

I am no expert in elementary or secondary education. If you didn't take any education classes in college, and you suddenly find yourself in the role of a teacher, you'll want to do the following.
  • Reflect on what types of teaching kept you engaged. I told Kelly to think about what classes she liked. What did teachers do differently in those classes to engage her? Were there any specific class periods/activities/assignments that stood out in her memory? If you and all your roommates complained about boring lecture classes, then don't stand up in front of students and lecture them. Do what worked.
  • Eudtopia.org. Read what teachers read. Edutopia has everything from "big-picture" issue-based essays to specific curricular materials.
  • Project Based Learning. Personally, I think that PBL is one of the best approaches to teaching. It engages students in their learning like little I have ever seen and culminates in the application of that knowledge. That's a great way to learn and retain what you learn. 
  • Pinterest. There are so many wonderful resources in the Education section of Pinterest. (Yes, you have to skip past the myriad posts about decorating your classroom.) You might be interested in looking through my boards, too
  • TeachersPayTeachers.com. Sometimes you need ideas and inspiration, and the ideas above can give you that. Other times, you need something concrete to do in class--and fast. This is a good site for those moments. Consider posting and selling your own work, too.
I hope that some of these ideas and resources are helpful to you. It's just a start, of course. And please leave a comment to share and tips and resources you have developed while teaching English abroad, either in a school or in private classes. 

Student Spotlight: Kelly Klus

Kelly Klus, just one week before departing for Barranquilla.
by Ann Abbott

It was a delight to have Kelly Klus in both my "Spanish in the Community" course and in "Spanish & Entrepreneurship." She was interested, engaged, smart, responsible and I sincerely enjoyed reading her reflexiones and listening to what she had to say in class. She worked at SOAR in my class, and she did her study abroad in Ecuador

She emailed me a few days ago and told me her big news:

"I accepted a year-long job assistant teaching in Barranquilla, Colombia. I've been meaning to email you since I accepted it; I'm super excited to go. I've been doing some reading and trying to give myself some crash courses on teaching English as a second language in a classroom. If you have any time this week I'd love to pick your brain about what you've learned about teaching languages and any resources that would be good in exchange for a coffee or lunch :) I'm going to be with third graders, a long shot from crazy college kids (ok, so they're just big kids) but I'd still love to hear any advice you have for me."

Kelly's experience: networking

First I asked her how she found this opportunity to work in Colombia. She told me that she told a friend who works in AIESEC that she was interested in living and working abroad. Her friend said, "You should apply for a paid internship through Shape Colombia." She did.

Take-away for all students

Clarify what you want. Name it! Claim it! Then tell everyone you know what you are looking for. Post it clearly and simply on Facebook. Make an announcement at your family reunion this summer. Send an email blast to your high school teachers and college professors. The more people you tell what job/internship/program you're interested in, the more likely it is that someone will be able to help you.

Kelly's experience: persistence and determination

She had to apply for the internship along with all the other people from the US *and* abroad who were also interested. Not only that, she then needed to be matched with one of the many programs within Colombia that participated in the program. In other words, there were many layers to the process. Many people with whom to communicate. And most importantly: many chances for her application to get lost in the shuffle. Kelly told me that every couple of weeks, if she hadn't heard anything, she would follow up with all the people with whom she had been corresponding to say, "Hey, I'm still here. I'm still interested."

Take-away for all students

Be persistent. Think about the process from the other person's point of view. They're juggling lots of work, lots of projects, lots of candidates. Maybe they meant to get back to you but got backlogged. They didn't get back to your email when they intended to, and now it's buried under 100 new emails. Give them a reminder. Or several. If they don't want to contact you, they won't. But if they do, it will refresh their memory.

Kelly's experience: the interview

She will be working in a private English-immersion school in Baranquilla. In the interview, the interviewer simply confirmed that Kelly spoke Spanish while conducting the interview in English. Most of her questions were about Kelly's experiences working at SOAR (which she did for her service learning work in my class) and at Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana. Kelly was able to talk about the many ways in which she kept children on-task, focused and learning.

Take-away for all students

Take classes that give you experience. The interviewer was interested in Kelly's experience. Her hands-on experiences in real-world work environments. She wanted to know what strategies Kelly had learned, how she handled challenges, if she was ready to jump into the job in her school. Take all the CSL courses you can. Look for internships. When you study abroad, do something besides attending classes and hanging out with American friends.

I hope Kelly's experiences inspire you. And speaking of networking, don't forget that if you are my student, there is only one degree of separation between you and Kelly. Connect with her! Introduce yourself as an Illinois Spanish student who is inspired by her choices, who shares her passion for languages and cultures. Follow her time in Colombia. Learn from what she learns and shares. Network so that you, too, will be able to find your path after graduation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Student Spotlight: Maggie O'Connor

by Ann Abbott


Maggie studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador and was a volunteer English teacher at a local elementary school. She did her CSL work as a classroom aid in the bilingual kindergarten classroom at Garden Hills Elementary as well as the SOAR tutoring program there. In addition, she worked at the Wesley food pantry.

Here are some of her reflections about her CSL work and her application for a Fulbright:

"The main thing that I learned from CSL that I will apply to law school and/or the Fulbright Scholarship should I receive it is that I know a heck of a lot less than I think I do. In other words, you are never really done learning something. 

"For example, I thought going into SPAN 232 that I knew all there was to know about community service learning after being a volunteer tutor already in Champaign and working at a local food pantry during high school. However, when we had group discussions about different forms of ESL, I was completely blown away that I had never understood why a class at an American school should be taught completely in Spanish when the students were supposed to be learning English. It totally made sense why students were struggling to learn math: they were learning it in English, and it was a concept they could hardly grasp in their native language. The concepts are much easier to translate once they are understood.

"I learned the importance of cultural influences and implications when speaking to someone in a different language; for example, one of the students I was trying to tutor hardly looked me in the eyes, which I just interpreted as being shy, but it turned out that she was Guatemalan, which [could have] meant that looking into an adult’s eyes was a sign of disrespect. It was not a language barrier but a cultural misunderstanding, and considering that angle helped me to work with her better and understand that she needed a little bit of extra help coming out of her shell.

"These are very broad generalizations, but overall I will definitely use the lessons of humility about how much I have to learn (especially when it comes to learning outside the classroom) and of how important it is to consider what lies beneath the surface of an issue or a cultural barrier. I used to think it was enough to be able to speak Spanish; when I go to Mexico or am studying law, I will remember that it takes exploration beyond the text to truly understand something and that considering something through another’s lens can entirely revolutionize your perception of a word, behavior, or action."  

Redesigning Spanish Programs for the 21st Century: Bibliography

by Ann Abbott

Dwindling majors in language programs.

Upper-level literature courses that don't make.

Parents who discourage students from majoring in Spanish. "I'm not paying $100,000 for four years just so that you can have fun."

Students who want to study abroad but take business classes.
Or engineering classes.
Or environmental studies.
Photography. Animal sciences. Econ. Internships.

Students who do the Spanish major and love it, but wonder, as graduation draws near, what in the world are they supposed to do now?

Faculty committed to their students' learning but uncomfortable with new directions and expectations.

This is a partial description of the challenges college-level Spanish programs are facing today. And while our departments are filled with smart and creative faculty, grad students and undergrad students, our solutions sometimes are too small-scale or too close to what we're already doing (and students are rejecting) to be effective.

As a first step, let's put together a bibliography that can guide our thinking. Personally, I think this is about a new architecture, not new pictures on the wall. But let's see what you think.

Bibliography

Please add pertinent citations in a comment, and I will update this list.

Alonso, Carlos. "Spanish: The Foreign National Language." Profession (2007): 218-28.

del Pino, José M. "Hacia un modelo de coexistencia en la enseñanza subgraduada del español." Hispania 97.2 (2014): 182-83.

Lord, Gillian & Cristina Isabelli-García. "Program Articulation and Management." In Manel Lacorte (Ed) The Handbook of Hispanic Applied Linguistics. London: Routledge, 2014. 150-67.

Miñana, Rogelio. "The New Mission and Location of United States Spanish Depart­ments: The Mount Holyoke College Experi­ence." Profession. Web.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Student Reflection

Picture is from sasaki.com

by Kelly Klus

As many of my friends and I have been thrown into the reality of graduation, I’ve had several reflective conversations about the Champaign-Urbana community. C-U has an unbelievable amount of resources and opportunities, of nooks and crannies that are impossible to explore within four years. The campus community has so much to offer in the form of RSOs, clubs, fascinating research, professionals and experts in any given field; the surrounding community has even more to add.

ECIRMAC and SOAR were two of these niches that I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the great diversity CU has to offer- especially grateful that these two organizations allowed me to explore diversity that was not centered in the University experience. According to ECIRMAC’s website, 24.3% of Urbana’s residents speak a language other than English at home, more than the reported 20.1% nationwide. Getting to interact with a portion of this community was inspiring and I know I will continue to seek similar opportunities throughout the rest of my life. I met so many hardworking people--the women that keep ECIRMAC functioning everyday are tireless, the students that volunteer are integral, and the people that come in to seek support are determined, their stories moving.

I’ve spent the past few days at home in the suburbs, and as I was thinking about this last blog post I thought about looking at what resources were available to immigrants and refugees in the community in which I grew up. My preconception was that Naperville’s and the surrounding communities’ diversity is so incomparable to the CU community that I wasn’t expecting to find many services/support/resources for refugees here. I pretty immediately stumbled upon a World Relief branch in DuPage/Aurora (http://worldreliefdupage.org/).  The office offers very similar services to ECIRMAC—legal and community advocacy, citizenship applications, translation of documents, ESL courses. Like ECIRMAC, World Relief seems to be a center that is capable and willing to offer a broad spectrum of services. World Relief has an explicit religious component to their organization-- which differs from ECIRMAC. 

This summer I hope to continue to volunteer at ECIRMAC while I’m in Champaign. I think an interesting project would be to inquire into similar organizations within different communities—like World Relief DuPage— to see how their day-to-day activities, services and programs operate. Opening lines of communication between similar organizations could be mutually beneficial for the organizations and would offer opportunity to recognize opportunities for improvement or change as well as share knowledge and resources.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Results of Community Based Team Projects




Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

What? 

Our group consisted of three members (Ryan, Celia, and myself). The purpose of our group project was to help out the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) organize their fundraising dinner.

The East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) has provided services to refugees and their families in the East Central Illinois area for 32 years. In the past year alone, they have served over 2,100 clients! Their services include resettlement, translation, adjustment, citizenship,and a children's tutoring program. 


Although they are supported by small federal, state and local grants, the Center depends heavily on this annual fundraiser. As a group, we worked diligently to market the event and seek sponsors.We created the flyer pictured below and distributed it to local businesses while asking for any sponsorship they could offer. Even though it was really tough to find sponsors, we still tried to spread the word about the event as much as possible We did this by sending out emails to our current and past professors, leaving the flyers at the local businesses we visited and also by asking some departments to include the flyer in their weekly newsletter. 


On the day of the event, Saturday, May 3rd, Celia and I attended the event and helped out in any way possible. However, there wasn’t much help needed that day since all the tables were set and people were able to serve the food themselves. Additionally, there were assigned people who were collecting tickets. Our presence, however, was much appreciated by the Refugee Center.

(Maritza Guzman)

So what? 

Now that we’ve heard a bit about the what, now I’d like to spend a bit of time speaking on the ramifications of our project, and on the lessons we have learned that we would like to pass on. 

I should start this section by saying that by helping the Center raise necessary funds to continue their services, we helped ensure their organization had the funds to continue their work. As Maritza discussed, the services that ECIRMAC offers are varied, and the majority of these services are completely free to the clients who visit the center. This is great, but it also means that the financial capital gained from fundraising events like the annual dinner are absolutely central to maintaining the mission of the organization. 


And this is something I want to touch on briefly as well: in this way, we learned that although an organization may identify as a “nonprofit,” that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make any profits in order to keep operating! On the contrary to tie in some of what we have been learning in our in-class discussions – all organizations need to be able to produce something worthy and desirable, whether it be a social or a physical product. 


As we have seen through our analysis of Kiva and other such groups, nonprofit organizations like ECIRMAC also need to have all the marks that other good, respected for-profit companies need to have. These include being financially transparent, being conscious of their “branding,” and image, and having reliable, stellar marketing to reach new relevant populations. 


From working on this project with Maritza and Celia, I think we have all come to see that these are indeed challenges and concerns faced by groups like the Refugee Center. We benefited from this aspect as well as from being involved with an organization that does this kind of work so well. 


Because my group members and I do want to work with multilingual and multicultural populations in the future, the experience we gained from directly working with this community was actually a nice complement to the in-class learning we’ve done on the subject. 


On a personal note, as someone who one day wants to work in the public (or nonprofit) sector, this project helped present me with a more sobering view of the industry as a whole. Put simply, I’m starting to see that working as a professional for an organization that “just helps people” or “just makes the world a better place” is no simple affair. Working to improve the world in this way requires no less innovative, responsible, or hardworking a mind than the for-profit sector demands. Whether one works for Boeing or Kiva, it’s not like the mindset of the employee must completely change


Having spent almost 4 semesters now volunteering at this particular refugee center, I have seen firsthand the positive “so what?” work this organization does with the limited resources they have. As a simple volunteer, I have been fortunate enough to have been thrown completely out of my undergraduate comfort zone, helping clients with complicated and intense issues related to immigration, housing, crime, and law. 


There are few other organizations like ECIRMAC in our community, resources that serve a vulnerable community even as they build relationships with local university students and simultaneously educate our community on issues we otherwise might never encounter. I am extremely grateful to my supervisors at the refugee center, and for my time there particularly, in working for this event and others as well. It has been an intense learning experience I will never forget (and one I plan to continue!) and one I never would have had without this curriculum.

(Ryan Kuramitsu)

Now what? 

Our group has learned a lot about planning a fundraising banquet through this experience. Through planning the donations, entertainment and advertising for the event, we gained invaluable experience in the efforts needed to plan a formal banquet of this scale. 

In order to plan this event we needed to use a great deal of organization and communication skills. Our three group members all had full schedules that were difficult to coordinate, but we made time to meet and split the work in order to reach our best individual results until we could regroup. 


One of the best things we gained from this project was the ability to prioritize. This is a skill that will be helpful to each of us as we continue to develop, and one that I know personally will come in handy next year during my first year of graduate school. 


We would like to offer some advice to future groups so that you can learn from our process. First and foremost, this is the type of event that takes time so beginning earlier in the semester is the best advice we can offer. The event was very successful and the donations for the auction were amazing, but in order to take the fundraiser to the next level we should have begun soliciting donations earlier. 


The first step in planning was to make an appointment with the coordinator of the event so that we could get as much information as possible in order to know what we needed to do. We tried our best to keep in contact with the Center, but they are understandably very busy so we took it upon ourselves to think outside the box. Since we were not given a great deal of instructions or direction, we decided to use the skills we had discussed in class to help the center in every way we could. To us this meant being innovative and thinking beyond this one time event. 


One thing we had in mind but never got to implement was to create a regular source of income for the Center. We had the idea of creating t-shirts that would not only help advertise the efforts and services of ECIRMAC, but help provide a supplemental cushion to the budget. We weren’t given an official response from the Center, but they seemed interested in the idea so whoever takes over for the following year should try to organize this. 


It was amazing to learn about and even witness all that the Center does, and we were all happy to be able to ensure that they have the resources needed to continue their charitable work. 
(Celia Zanayed) 

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

by César, Skye and Kim

What?

Our group project was to act as the “web masters” for the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) Facebook page. The women from the ECIRMAC office made clear they wanted us to post information relevant to the mission and work of the Refugee Center every weekday (Monday through Friday) to maintain the interest of followers and clients. Our posts varied depending on the amount of news coming from the office. Some of our posts consisted of updates around the office and information about upcoming events so that clients and volunteers were able to easily obtain this information via Facebook. If we did not have enough posts for the week with just office information, then we would post about articles, pictures or motivational quotes that we felt would increase the interest of the Facebook followers. The main purpose of our project was to increase awareness about the Refugee Center through social media (Facebook) and to keep these followers informed about our work. The Refugee Center aims to provide necessary services to the immigrant and refugee populations in the area and this page helps these populations more easily find how our organization can help them. Our goal for the semester was to augment the amount of followers to 350 people (or 350 Facebook “likes”).

The ECIRMAC page needs to continue growing both in likes and in reach, which can only be done with consistent posting. I will be staying on as the Social Media Manager and creating relevant and engaging content for the page. Creating a database of possible posts, images, videos and articles will ensure that posts are useful and will assist in weekly planning. While I am away or unable to post daily, posts can be scheduled ahead of time so that the page does not suffer. We successfully reached our goal of 350 likes by the end of the semester; we believe setting goals like this are important to maintain motivation and measure success. So, another goal should be set for the future. The ladies o fthe center should be educated on the management of the page in the event that a Social Media Manager is not available to run the page for a period of time. More detailed analysis of the Facebook insights would also assist the page in the future as they would provide information as the what type of content is successful and what time of day is optimal.

So what?

During our group project, making our posts relevant to our viewers was crucial, as the likes and comments we receive are able to promote the page and thus enable us to achieve our end-of-semester goal, which was to get the page to 350 likes by the end of the semester. Our posts on the page included things such as motivational quotes, current news, and even the promotion of ECIRMAC’s annual Fundraiser Banquet, which is crucial for the maintenance of ECIRMAC. Setting such goals for ourselves was very helpful because it allowed us to see our progress throughout the semester. This self-evaluation allowed us to assess how to change what we posted in order to gain “likes” throughout the semester. For example, we were able to see that pictures of people that work in the office and our clients received the most “likes” on the page because people like seeing people they know on social media websites; therefore, we would continue to post pictures of ‘real’ people. Additionally, we were able to announce days when the Refugee Center was closed due to bad weather so that the volunteers and clients did not waste their time travelling to the center. The posts that may have been the most helpful were those that made the public aware of events with Mayte and other employees that took place out of the office. We are confident that our continual posts during the semester have helped ECIRMAC because we can see the feedback via Facebook “likes” and comments from community members. If anything, this semester long project has taught us the importance of social media and what we can achieve through it.

Now what?

The ECIRMAC page needs to continue growing both in likes and in reach, which can only be done with consistent posting. I will be staying on as the Social Media Manager and creating relevant and engaging content for the page. Creating a database of possible posts, images, videos and articles will ensure that posts are useful and will assist in weekly planning. While I am away or unable to post daily, posts can be scheduled ahead of time so that the page does not suffer. We successfully reached our goal of 350 likes by the end of the semester; we believe setting goals like this are important to maintain motivation and measure success. So, another goal should be set for the future. The ladies of the center should be educated on the management of the page in the event that a Social Media Manager is not available to run the page for a period of time. More detailed analysis of the Facebook insights would also assist the page in the future as they would provide information as the what type of content is successful and what time of day is optimal.

This assignment taught us a lot about being a team, and about social media management. Through this project we learned the importance of an online presence for an organization like ECIRMAC. This experience has also allowed all of us to have a different perspective of social media; we can now see it as a dynamic working platform and not just a personal outlet. Overall, we are very proud and honored to have been able to assist ECIRMAC in their online growth and reach their goals.