Showing posts from February, 2008

Chris: Local Press in Spanish Contributes to Community Service Learning

When I have some free time at the Refugee Center, I read the paper. There are two papers that report about the Hispanic community in Champaign-Urbana and both of them are free. I can accomplish the goals of this course in many ways by reading “El Informador” and “La Prensa”. For example, these papers use the vocabulary of native speakers, rather than the vocabulary of text books. By learning the more commonly used vocabulary, I am better able to communicate with Spanish speakers. Moreover, the newspapers give me more insight into the local Hispanic culture. There are always articles about upcoming events within the community and individuals who have helped the community. Finally, I am able to make connections by reading the newspapers because I learn about new things. For example, last week’s paper had an article about nutrition and it taught me many facts about proteins and carbohydrates. All in all, I would suggest that other Spanish students read these papers. They contain national…

Liz: Need for Biology Tutor at Central

I’m sure you all got the e-mail from Ann Abbott earlier this week saying that Ms. Citraro needs a tutor to come into the biology class at Central. It would be amazing if any one could please help out; the ESL students are really struggling in this class. I would help out if I could but I have class every day at that time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know any biology at all. I haven’t had a biology class in years but I can still help the students with their homework assignments. Most of the homework is based on reading comprehension but because there are so many specific scientific words, the students have trouble understanding the work. It would be extremely helpful if someone could take the time to go over the readings with the students, any little bit would help. Even if you couldn’t come in every single day I think the students would still benefit from it. Please respond to the e-mail if you are available to help. As tutors in the ESL class we can help with homework projects but…

Liz: Details about Translating at Parent-Teacher Conference

For this post, I would like to talk about my experiences translating at the parent teacher conferences in more detail because I know many students were nervous about it. I wasn’t too nervous because over the summer I worked as a Spanish-English interpreter at a Target in my home town. The experience helped me out with the parent-teacher conferences as far as practice goes, but as for the vocabulary I used it was completely different. At the beginning, I used very basic conversational questions because the father of the student seemed a bit nervous and was very quiet. So when we started walking down the hall I started making small talk and asking him where he was from to make him more comfortable. This was also a good way for him to get used to my accent and my speech patterns. The first class we went to was biology and the student I was helping was having quite a bit of problems in this class, so I had to explain to his father what had happened. I used phrases like “No ha entregado …

Opportunity to Live and Work in Spain

Several of my past students have taken advantage of this opportunity and enjoyed it immensely. Please read:

"The Education Office of the Embassy of Spain is pleased to announce that the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science will be sponsoring a North American Language and Culture Assistant Program for elementary and secondary schools in Spain. This program enables US and Canadian citizens to work as English Language Assistants in Spain for the school year 2008-2009. The assistants will work in close connection with experienced Spanish teachers and are meant to collaborate mostly in teaching English oral skills.

"We would greatly appreciate it if you could inform your students of this opportunity.

"Candidates can find information and requirements on the following website:

"Applications for the 1300 grants offered should be completed and submitted online by April 15th, 2008.

"Should candidates…

SPAN 232: Feedback on Second Diario Digital

Overall, your diarios digitales are really, really good; I enjoy listening to your analyses.

I'm also pleased to see that there were far fewer technical issues. Remember to go to this site if you have problems.

Common mistakes that will lower a student's grade:
Video is not 5 minutes long.Student reads.Student does not look into the camera while speaking.
The video here contains additional information.


Liz: Spanish Community Service Learning Students Help Parents and Teachers Connect

Last night I went over to help out with the parent-teacher conferences at Central High School. There were actually quite a few students that showed up. I was really impressed that so many students wanted to help out! Thanks everyone! I helped as a translator for one family, I knew the student because I had tutored him before. At first his dad seemed a bit shy, but he opened up more and more as we visited all of the teachers and he was very grateful that the school had offered the invitation for him to come in to class because he was able to get suggestions on how to help his son be successful in class. The parents really want their children to get a good education and learn English so they can grow up to do what ever career they want to. The conferences seemed to encourage both the parents and the students to let them know that they are doing the right thing and going in the right direction to a better future. Thanks again to every one who came out!

Chris: Spanish Community Service Learning Reveals New Information about Champaign-Urbana

I continue to learn more about the community of Champaign-Urbana at the Refugee Center.

I did not know, for instance, that CU also has a significant number of Turkish and Persian immigrants. This week we had a couple of people call who were looking for interpreters in Turkish and Farsi. The workers at the Refugee Center did not know of anybody who spoke either language fluently, but they did some research and eventually found two translators.

Additionally, I did not know that some of the grade schools in Champaign have bilingual education programs. I was talking to some of the parents at the Refugee Center and apparently they have kids who are taught in both Spanish and English on a regular basis. This concept really impresses me for a couple of reasons. First of all, I admire the kids who take part in bilingual education programs because it must be extremely difficult. Learning fractions for me was hard enough as it is, and I can only imagine how hard it must be to learn math and scien…

Workshop on Service Learning and Government Documents

Once again, Valeri Werpetinski has outdone herself. She is offering a workshop that I would never have thought of, yet makes so much sense: Using the Government Documents Library to Enhance Service-Learning Courses.

I'm excited to attend and learn new ideas for classroom activities using government documents. Of course, when we're dealing with Latino communities, government documents don't always give the full story, but I'm sure there is a lot of information that we can give students to help them see the issues within the Latino community through a broader perspective.

I do an activity with my students about housing, and I use census data about Illinois counties, including my home county--Clay County--a rural, agricultural county with 1% Hispanic population (according to the statistics). It's a good point of contrast for students to compare to Cook County and Champaign County. There is a lot of information about housing in this list of statistics, and one of the mos…

Community Service Learning versus "Forced Volunteerism"

Chris: Community Support for the Refugee Center

For the past two weeks, one of my main jobs at the Refugee Center has been to sell raffle tickets. Each ticket costs $2 and the proceeds of the raffle support ECIRMAC by paying for phone lines and other utilities. I have been absolutely astounded by the number of people willing to partake in the raffle. We have probably sold over $400 worth of tickets already. Most people buy about $20 worth of tickets, even though the prizes (a cordless iron and toaster oven) probably only cost $100 total. I have not been rejected by a single person when trying to sell them raffle tickets. This whole process has shown me how much the community cares about the Refugee Center. It appears that the citizens of Champaign-Urbana really appreciate the services that ECIRMAC provides, and that makes me happy. The last fund-raising project was an enormous success as well- about two weeks ago, ECIRMAC held a dinner with live music and entertainment. According to the newspaper, over 300 people attended the event…

Job Opportunity in Education

A friend of mine from the Urbana school district just wrote to me with this request:

"I was wondering if you would happen to know someone who would be interested in a job at the Urbana school district. Special Ed is looking for a person willing to work 2-3 hours a week, during the school day, tutoring someone in Spanish, high school level Spanish III. They have to have at least 60 hours of college credit. They prefer someone who is a certified teacher, but need someone soon. The person who had been tutoring has unexpectedly left. Maybe you know of someone who might become a teacher and would like some practice?

"They pay $25.00 an hour. The person would have to go to Circle Academy to do the tutoring. This is an alternative placement school for students who were having trouble in the regular school setting. I think that the particular hours of the day are somewhat negotiable, but I am not sure about that.

If you know of someone, can you please ask them to contact Ria Me…

Liz: Tips for ESL Tutors

I think things have been going very well so far at CentralHigh School. The students seem to look forward to working with the tutors and they definitely appreciate the help. I have noticed though that many of the students want you to simply give them the answers so they can copy them down. It might give them a good grade on their homework, but it does not help them when it comes to taking tests because the students will not know how to answer the questions. It’s like the Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”So I have some suggestions for the tutors.
Encourage the student to try to answer the questions themselves. If they still do not understand, try to give them hints or tell them where they can look up the answer in their text books.
If you see students copying off of each other’s homework, offer to help the students instead of walking away and letting them copy. Many of the ESL students are frustrated …

Will Kvasnicka, Former Spanish & Entrepreneurship Student, and His Successes

Will took my course on "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities" the very first semester it was offered (when Darcy Lear and I co-taught it). He worked at the Refugee Center, and his coursework showed how much he learned while there. He spent the following year in our department's Barcelona program--becoming more fluent in Spanish and picking up Catalan.

After graduating, Will got a job as a chemist--exactly what he had trained for in his other major. But not long afterward he wrote to me to explain that he felt pulled to do something different with his life. He explained that he was applying to Teach for America and the Fulbright program to teach in Andorra.

I received a letter from him this week informing me that he was accepted by Teach for America to teach high-school chemistry in Los Angeles. But if all goes well, he might delay that for one year so that he can go to Andorra (the Fulbright's final decision won't be known for anoth…

Chris: How to Get from Campus to the Refugee Center

It is not difficult to find transportation to the Refugee Center. I have a car on campus, and therefore I drive to the center whenever I am scheduled to volunteer. It only takes about five minutes for me to drive from my apartment to the Unitarian church where ECIRMAC is located. The church also has a large parking lot, so I never have to worry about parking on the street or putting money into a meter. If a student does not have a car, he or she could also take the bus. ECIRMAC is located on Green Street in Urbana, and thus there are always buses traveling past the Refugee Center. It is even possible to walk or bike to ECIRMAC from the quad. ECIRMAC is about four blocks east of Lincoln Avenue and some students say that they can walk there in about fifteen to twenty minutes.

Spanish Community Service Learning Updates

The last few weeks I have dealt with many of issues concerning Spanish community service learning issues--some exciting, others challenging.

1. Darcy Lear and I co-authored an article that will appear in the Spring 2008 issue of Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. This one is pure excitement! In the article we assert that the research on community service learning does not problematize language issues, even when describing community service learning work that takes place with non-English language communities or low-English proficiency speakers. Our thesis is that Spanish community service learning allows students to reach the 5 C's in ways that classroom-bound courses cannot. We present a qualitative analysis of one student's 5 C's achievement in our Spanish & Entrepreneurship course. We are so happy to be published in this prestigious journal.

2. Darcy attended and presented at the North Carolina Campus Compact Service-Learning Conference this week. …

LIz: Learn Rules for Spanish CBL, but Don't Forget to Have Fun!

We have been talking quite a bit about classroom appropriate vocabulary in Spanish 232. We are learning math terms and commands so we know how to tell students to do their homework. I would like to remind everyone that being a volunteer also allows you to have some creativity! I volunteered in una guardería (daycare center) when I lived in Quito and it was so much fun! We had to be very creative with the kids to keep them entertained. My friend Sarah and I taught them songs in English and in Spanish. We played ‘pato pato ganso’ and made art projects or had tea parties. And of course on nice days we pushed little kids on the swings out on the playground. We had such a blast because most of the time we were acting like little kids ourselves. Sometimes you just need to let go and behave like a kid again because it takes you away from the stresses of school and life. So really, I just wanted to remind everyone to relax and have fun with their community service projects!

Introducing Student Blogger, Chris Karacic

Hi, my name is Chris Karacic and I am a student in Spanish 232- Spanish in the Community. I will be blogging on this website as part of a James Scholar project. I enrolled in Spanish 232 because I wanted a chance to work with native speakers. I figured that I could only improve my vocabulary, accent, and conversation skills by working outside of the classroom. So far this course has been extremely helpful- I believe that I am speaking more confidently and with a better understanding of the words that native speakers typically use. In addition, I enjoy helping others and I am able to do so at the Refugee Center. I have worked at the Refugee Center three times already and each time I was given a different task in trying to help the immigrants and naturalized citizens of Champaign-Urbana. Even during the rare occasions where nobody was at the center, I improved my Spanish by reading newspapers from the Hispanic community. All in all, I hope to show others that Spanish 232 is an interesti…

Refugee Center's Fundraising Dinner

I know that many Spanish community service learning students who work at the Refugee Center helped with Saturday night's fundraising dinner. Click here to see pictures published in the News-Gazette.

This is a wonderful example of how students who work at the Refugee Center have a window into the many cultures and languages present in the Champaign-Urbana community.

Thank you for your help, students.


Vocabulary for Parent-Teacher Conferences

I'm very happy that so many students responded to our community partner's need for help. Our students' language skills will help Central High School's Latino parents better communicate with the teachers during the parent-teacher conferences next week. Central's secretary will contact the students directly to schedule times with them.

Here is some vocabulary help for students.
Materias. School subjects are "materias" NOT "sujetos." You should remember subjects from your intro Spanish courses, but here are some reminders: historia, matemáticas, inglés, física, química, biología, educación física, etc.

General vocabulary. Notas = grades; aprobar = to pass; suspender = to fail; conducta, comportamiento = behavior.

Topics. Ms. Citraro offers the following advice:
"The topics and vocabulary that would come up are about the subjects at school. For example:no ha entregado las tareastiene que tomar el examen otra vezhabla mucho en clasefalta mucho a mi c…

Liz: Want to Work on a Service Project in a Spanish-speaking Country?

There is a club on campus called International Impact and they do volunteer projects abroad. They are now taking applications for the summer. There are two different programs in Ecuador and two programs going to Guatemala. It's a really great opportunity, but the deadline for the application is this Friday at noon! Click here for the link to their web site and you can download the application from there.

Liz: Spanish CBL and Volunteering while Studying Abroad in Ecuador

Last semester, I studied abroad in Ecuador. While I was there, I worked as a volunteer at two different schools. My experiences in my CBL class have really reminded me of my time in Ecuador. One of my volunteer projects was working with a second grade class at the Carlos Agular grade school in Cumbayá. I was a teacher’s aid and tutor for the class. I worked with students on an individual level like I do at Central High School and it was interesting because I got to learn about the teaching techniques they use in other countries. It was a humbling experience for me because the kids in the class knew more Spanish than I did, even though I was the teacher. But I would not have changed this experience in anyway. It really taught me so much about the culture of the people, and I think that I learned more about Ecuador because of my work in the community. Plus, it’s easy to relate to the kids at Central because I know what it’s like to be a foreigner. I think that they should make volunteer…

Extra Opportunity for Spanish Community Service Learning Students to Work in the Community

I received the following e-mail today from Ms. Marlene Citraro from Champaign Central High School:

Central High School is having its Parent/Teacher Conferences this coming Thursday, February 21, from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, and Friday, February 22 from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm.

We have many Hispanic parents that need a translator when having their conferences with the teachers.

I would like to know if your students that help in my classes could help in these two days. I know they have to check if they are not busy in these hours.

Please, if you have students that want to help, let me know their names and the times they could help. This way, I could coordinate with the secretary.

Thanks again for your help,


This is a wonderful opportunity for our Spanish community service learning students to work extra hours--especially for those who got a late start in the semester. You do not have to be signed up to work at Central High School--or any of the schools--to be able to help out at this event.


Liz: After Their Course, Spanish CBL Students Continue Working in the Community

This week as I was talking with the other tutors at Champaign Central High School, I noticed that there were quite a few people that were not in Spanish 232. Several of students who are working with my community partner are taking the class Spanish 332, Spanish and Entrepreneurship. But the most interesting thing that I found was that there are quite a few students who are no longer taking Spanish 232 or 332 but still volunteer every week for their community partner because they have enjoyed it so much. How amazing is that? It’s really great for the students to have such stable relationships in the community, plus the organizations are benefiting from all the help from past and present students!

Liz: Transportation and Community-based Learning

Today’s topic: transportation! Here we have a picture of my friend Katie’s car. Every Monday, Katie, my friend Pedro and I carpool to Central High School to work with the ESL class. I love carpooling with them! All three of us studied abroad in Ecuador last semester and it’s nice to have a few minutes to catch up with each other on the way to our community partner. I also volunteer at Central High School on a day when Katie has to work. So, I am going to see if we can work out a second carpool for the students that go to Central on Wednesdays. If not, there are several different MTD busses that run out to the high school that I could take. I know some students have expressed concern about getting transportation to their community partner, but it really isn’t too much of an issue. Most of the students I have talked to are very willing to carpool, especially now in the cooler weather. And if there are no other students volunteering in the same time slot, there shouldn’t be a problem bec…

SPAN 232: Extended Deadline for Diario #3

SPAN 232 students: Please post a comment here describing the technical problem(s) you had with your diario digital. If you found a solution, please describe it as well. I will collect your comments and make a student guide. This isn't a place to complain! This is a place to come up with solutions. :)

Ann Abbott

Spanish & Illinois: Past News Items

It's time to remodel the Spanish & Illinois website. In an effort to make it leaner and cleaner, I am going to remove some of the pages in the next few days. But there is some good information that I don't want to completely go away, so I'm moving it to the blog so it can be archived.

Past news items:

June 11, 2007

Spanish & Illinois in national news item

"College student Anthony Sawyer isn't embarrassed to admit he learned a few things [in a preschool]," begins the story written by Melissa Kossler Dutton for the Associated Press.

The article explains how that university student--and others like the UIUC student in this picture--are learning Spanish in the community more and more. The story includes quotes from Prof. Ann Abbott about Spanish & Illinois' community-based learning courses and from Mrs. Guadalupe Abreu about the students' role at the Refugee Center in Urbana. Translated to Spanish, the article was quickly picked up in several Spa…