Showing posts from January, 2008

Introducing Liz Girten, SPAN 232 student blogger

Hi! My name is Liz Girten and this semester I am taking the community based learning class Spanish 232. I decided that I wanted to take this class because I really loved the idea of experiencing real life Spanish conversations while helping out the Champaign-Urbana community. I love to volunteer and I think it is unique that this class combines typical classroom work with a volunteer project. My community partner is the ChampaignCentralHigh School. I work with the ESL class and help students if they have trouble understanding their homework assignments. So far I really enjoy it! The kids and teachers are so grateful for the help and have been very welcoming. It feels good to be using my Spanish skills in a real life situation and I feel satisfied knowing I have helped other students.

Using YouTube for SPAN 232 Diarios Digitales

SPAN 232 students: Instructions for Posting your Diario Digital to YouTube
1. You probably know how to use YouTube better than I. If you do, skip the rest and just know this: you need to title your video "Diario Digital 3" (or whatever number it is) and share your video with your TA (e-mail address) and with me ( 2. If you don't already have a YouTube account, go to and "Sign Up" to create your account. If you already have an account or after you have created one, "Log In." 3. Go to "Account" --> Contacts & Subscribers --> "My Contacts." 4. "Invite your friens to join YouTube," and invite your TA (e-mail address) and me ( Copy to your "Friends." 5. Go back to home page and click on "Upload." 6. Fill in required fields. Title your video "Diario Digital 3" (or whatever number it is). 7. "Broadcast Options": Choose &qu…

Student Blogger

I love my students. I love blogging about my students (former and present). And I love the fact that one of my students is now going to blog!

(By the way, that's my former student Emily on the right in this picture. I keep seeing her in the mornings after she's done with her yoga class and I'm pulling in to my parking lot. Hola, Emily.)

Elizabeth Girten is enrolled in SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" and is going to blog here regularly about her experiences with Spanish community service learning for her James Scholar Learning Agreement.

If there are any other students interested in doing the same honors project, please contact me.

Here is the information I gave Elizabeth:

Write a total of 14 posts, at least one per week. Write in English--with some Spanish sprinkled in if you want. Posts can be brief, but you do need to develop your idea/reflection. Write a title for each post. Include a photograph of yourself/others in the community or an image that is related. No cl…

SPAN 232: How to do a diario digital

Fulbright Scholarship: Nicole Pivato, Spain

I recently received a newsletter from the Office of Scholarships for International Studies. I was happy to see an update from Nicole Pivato, a former Spanish CBL student who is currently in Spain on a Fulbright. She teaches English and American culture in a school near Madrid. (See previous post.)

Here is what Nicole had to say for the newsletter:

"We are not allowed to speak Spanish in front of the students. The teachers go to the extreme to actively tell them that the "poor TA's" don't know any Spanish. It sounds intimidating to try to explain the digestive system to second graders in their non-native language, but overall the students understand an impressive amount. ... Some days I help out in the classroom, other days I have conversation sessions and work with pairs of students. Other times I can give nearly the entire lesson. It is most important for me to be flexible and go with the flow of how the classroom teacher wants to put me to use."


Warmer Days

The temperatures in Champaign have been so cold the last few days, that the public schools had to cancel classes. My students came to class yesterday all bundled up.

Here's a reminder of warmer days to come. Marcos Campillo (current SPAN 232 TA) holding his class on the quad.

Career Paths After Spanish Community-based Learning: Jessica Wetmore

I recently heard from a former student, Jessica Wetmore, and I was very excited to see the ways in which the fundamentals of Spanish community service learning are threaded through the very fabric of everything she seems to do.

Jessica took my two Spanish CBL courses ("Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship") while she was a UIUC student. She worked at both the Refugee Center and Child Care Resource Services. Her Spanish was beautiful (she was a heritage speaker; her mother was from Spain), she had the perspective that international experiences give you, she had worked with Alternative Spring Break on campus, and she was simply smart!

After graduation, Jessica worked with Admission Possible in Minnesota. She wrote to me while she was in that program and encouraged other students to apply. At the time she said: "Admission Possible has ... been recognized in Princeton Review's national search for the 2008 edition of Best Entry-Level …

Report Shows Employers Value Community-Learning

My department Head, Prof. Diane Musumeci, just passed along an interesting document titled "How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning: Employers' Views on the Accountability Challenge." Click here to read it.

Spanish & Illinois offers students both community learning as well as faculty-supervised internships--employers' top two picks for assessing recent grads' potential employment success. Our Spanish community service learning courses conclude with lessons on how students can connect their service learning to their job searches in meaningful ways, we teach entrepreneurship, and our summer internships give students very valuable work experience and networking opportunities.

Many of the details in the Spanish & Illinois curriculum were based on my intuition, the faculty development programs I have attended through CIBER and AEL, dialogue with my colleague, Darcy Lear, and hearing my husband talk about his employees and his frustrations when …

Spanish Community Service Learning and Transnational Migration

As an instructor and coordinator of Spanish community service learning, one of my greatest satisfactions comes from students who say that their experiences in the course have changed their ideas about immigration and immigrants. And this is not an infrequent comment, even though the vast majority of our students come to Spanish community service learning with an already open view of Latin American immigration to the US. Many times, I have seen that the actual "crossing" stories have great impact on the students.
A few semesters ago, students who worked with one of our community partners learned of the case of a very young girl who became pregnant by her "coyote." Jose Miguel Lemus, a wonderful TA with whom I have had the fortune to work, collected oral histories from his students, and some of them interviewed their own family members about their "border" stories. With the students' permission, those stories are now the basis of very rich discussions in…

When a Second Language Isn't Enough

Some students throw themselves into Spanish while in college--classes, study abroad, Spanish community service learning, Spanish honor society, Spanish-speaking friends--but then after graduation find themselves only around Spanish when they go to a Mexican restaurant. It has changed their perspectives, helped them have a more "international" world-view, but the connection is lost after college ends.

Then there are students for whom language and cultures--or in some cases, languages--seems to be woven into the very fabric of their lives. (I was like that; I couldn't have imagined building a life for myself after undergrad that didn't include languages and international experiences. So I got a PhD in Spanish, married someone from Italy, and have to wrap my mind around three languages--English, Spanish and Italian--and one dialect--Bergamasco--sometimes on a daily basis.)

Ian Easton is definitely one of the latter. He was in my SPAN 232 course with a truly extraordinary …

Technology and Spanish Community Service Learning

Hands-on, experiential learning is what makes community service learning so effective. However, technology can vastly improve the efficiency with which instructors and directors can tackle the administrative tasks.

Here are some technology tips:

Create a simple webpage with clear instructions. For this semester I provided a bullet-point list for students to follow. Click here to see.

Spell outeverything, even if it seems obvious to you. For example, I told students several times and in several venues that only those working at the Refugee Center and BTWashington School would have orientations today; all other organizations would arrange their own orientations at their own times. Students were still confused. Finally, a sent out a group e-mail with orientation details for each and every community partner organization. The questions then stopped.
React to feedback. I couldn't understand why students had so many questions about the BTW orientation. Finally, I looked back over what I had …

Numbers: Impact of Spanish Community Service Learning

The spring semester starts on Monday. The impact that Spanish community service learning will have this semester is very exciting. (It's especially exciting because just three years ago I taught the pilot course of SPAN 232 with only 12 students and 1 community partner.)

Students from three sources will participate in community service learning: SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" students, SPAN 332 "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" students, and students doing an honors project for other Spanish courses.Students can choose from amongst 10 community partner organizations, representing a broad spectrum of services, contact possibilities with Spanish-speakers and professional insights for students.
Over 120 UIUC Spanish students will take their learning outside the confines of the classroom. By working with the local Latino community they will sometimes confirm what they have been taught in other classes and sometimes question it. Native speakers will give them thei…