Showing posts from April, 2008

Liz: Last Thoughts on Spanish Community Service Learning Course

For most of my other James Scholars projects I have had to write research papers or term papers. Although last year I also got to help design the new Spanish advising website, I would still say that this has been my favorite project! It was great because I got to share with other people my experiences from the community. It also gave me the opportunity to learn about new things like SpanishPod and Global Youth Service Day. I really have loved meeting so many wonderful people! I am so glad that I signed up for this class and I really feel connected with the students at Central High School. This blog has given me a great way to reflect on my time with the students and I think that I have truly grown to appreciate all of it. My experiences with the students at Central will stay with me for a long time and I know that they will have more of an impact on my life than any paper I could write. Hopefully other students will take the opportunity to write in this blog in the future. I would lov…

Update on former Student, Jessica Polos

The last time I posted about Jessica Polos I emphasized her as an example to other Spanish students: her volunteer work in the Latino community, her job experiences, and her decision to go to grad school after working for a few years.

Today I received a note from her saying that she was accepted at six of the universities she applied to, and she decided to attend the Harris School at the University of Chicago. Even better news: she received a Harris Fellowship to cover her tuition and a $10,000 stipend.

Students who work in the community truly stand out.

Congratulations, Jessica!

Chris: Final Reflections on Spanish Community Service Learning, Blogging and Honors Credit

This James Scholar project is much better than the other ones that I have completed. I usually write a research paper about a topic that is not very interesting. Writing papers becomes boring after a while, and therefore this project is a breath of fresh air. This project is not too much work and it requires constant attention, rather than a research project that is usually put off until the end of the semester. This project also allows the student to reflect on his or her experiences in the community, and such reflection is very useful. I know that I have learned more about the Hispanic community in Champaign-Urbana as a result of writing these blog posts. I have tried to convey the actual experience of Spanish 232 to the readers of this blog. I think that if students read this blog and are able to see that Spanish 232 is fun and helpful, the program will expand. I would continue to assign this project to students because it helps them to learn more about the community and it…

Global Youth Service Day & Spanish Community Service Learning

> In the Foreign Language Building at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, we had a very special celebration of Global Youth Service Day. Laura Christiansen (right; Liz Girten, our wonderful student blogger is on the left) received a grant from State Farm and Learn & Serve to organize a program allowing our local refugee and immigrant children to come to the university to teach UIUC students about their cultures. Laura took SPAN 232, studied in Mexico for a semester, did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship at the Refugee Center, was hired part-time by the Refugee Center after the internship, is graduating next month, and planning to live and work in Mexico for the next year.

The Refugee Center runs a Saturday morning tutoring program for immigrant and refugee children. During the last few weeks the children have prepared posters with cultural information about their home countries. The UIUC students who attended spent time reading the posters and looking at the…

Spanish Community Service Learning Students Read and Played with Children from Many Cultures


The MOthers Prepared Authentic Vietnamese Egg Rolls

Both the children and some of the UIUC students had trouble waiting to eat home-made egg rolls and other dishes, the smell was so enticing. But the children had to wait even longer because when it was time to eat, Madame Ho announced, "In our culture, elders go first; the children will wait." After eating Ha explained that we had eaten Vietnamese, not Chinese, egg rolls. I also learned the difference between egg rolls and spring rolls.

Event Concluded with Short Speeches, Songs & Awards

Madame Ha, as she is known, directs the Saturday morning tutoring program. She described the program to the audience then led the children in songs sung in Vietnamese, French, Chinese and English.
Jennifer Hixon, a Refugee Center Board Member and Multicultural Director at King School in Urbana, emphasized the importance of languages. She exhorted UIUC students to learn languages and the children to maintain their first languages as they developed their English.
The audience voted for the best posters, and Madame Ha presented awards to the winners. All children got to take home prizes in the end, and the Saturday morning program bought many art supplies with the grant money. Although as Ha said during the program, "We had to work for this money!"

A Success

The goal of the grant was to show UIUC students a broader picture of immigration patterns to the US and to Champaign-Urbana. Too often, the discourse on immigration in the country centers solely on movements northward from Mexico, Central America and South America to the US. Instead, we are lucky to have people from Asia, Africa, Europe and America in our community. With the children's posters, songs, food, and the displays of clothing, books and crafts from different countries, we definitely met our goal.

Message from Leal School to Spanish Community Service Learning Students

Next week is designated as National Volunteer Week and I would like you to encourage your students to come in that week to volunteer or at least to pick up a treat in the office near where they sign in. Some students and classes are making thank you notes, too. Please let everyone know that their time was greatly appreciated and I hope they will consider volunteering next year even if they are not taking a class that requires them to. All fingerprinting will be good for next year and all they need to do is touch base with me and I will review the procedures and get them started. Thanks so much for your help in making all this possible!! Jane Cain

Liz: Dancing in Champaign-Urbana Community and Ecuador

I went to the Salsa night last night at the Canopy Club! The music was really up beat and interesting and they taught us some new steps that I didn’t know before. I remember how important dancing was when I was in Ecuador. It seemed like almost everyone knew the basics of salsa, merengue and bachata. I remember when we went to visit indigenous people they would always teach us a traditional dance from their pueblo. The picture here is of me trying (and failing) to dance to one of their traditional songs. When I came back to the States, I really noticed how little we dance here. If you really want to connect with the Latino community in Champaign-Urbana in a more casual setting that with the community partners, a great idea would be to take some dance classes and head out to Radio Maria. They play salsa music on the weekends and I’ve heard it’s very fun and energetic. I know there are lots of Latinos that go there, so I’m sure it would be great way to practice and to get to know native…

Spanish Community Service Learning Article in New Issue of MIchigan Journal of Community Service Learning

I was very happy to receive the new issue of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning in my mailbox today and see the article that Darcy Learn and I wrote about Spanish community service learning. Here is our abstract:

The professional standards int eh field of foreign language pedagogy focus on communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. Using those 5 C's as a framework, the authors examine student success at satisfying those disciplinary standards through community service learning (CSL). Data is used to present a qualitative case study. This case concentrates on the standards for foreign language learning, but the results hold meaning for CSL instructors of all disciplines, suggesting ways in which CSL can help students achieve the national standards of other disciplines and highlighting the fact that all CSL facilitates student learning about these 5 C's.

As always, it was wonderful to work with Darcy on this project. Many thanks to Jef…

Liz: Study Abroad Hosting Salsa Night

I also wanted to let you all know that the Study Abroad Office is hosting a Salsa night at the Canopy Club in Urbana. It’s this Wednesday from 9:30 to 10:30 pm. There is no charge at the door and free dancing lessons when you get inside. Plus I heard they are selling pizza for 50 cents! The only requirement is that you speak in Spanish! I think it would be a great time for little to no money, plus you can practice your language skills and learn about an important part of the Latino culture!

Liz: A Woman's Place Needs Spanish Community Service Learning Students

Today I went over to A Women’s Fund for orientation. Everyone there was very welcoming and glad to have the help. The building is well organized and I am so happy that we have such a great program to support the women and children of our community! They do need help communicating with the Latino population though. When they get a new client, A Women’s Fund usually has them go over a packet full of information and documents they need to sign. It would be such a help to them if we could translate these documents into Spanish. There are so many services that the program offers, but because of communication problems they often cannot give the Latina women all the support they need. New clients are required to watch an orientation video, which they have had problems with because most Spanish speaking clients cannot understand it. They would like us to translate into Spanish for them and make a new video. I am going to try and help them as much as I possibly can before I go away for the sum…

Another Useful Website for Spanish Community Service Learning Students and Community Partners

Unfortunately our community partnership with Christie Clinic's OB/GYN department did not work out this semester, but I do know that health information is very important to all our community partners. For example, the employees at the Refugee Center often accompany clients to doctor visits to translate.

While translated written instructions don't take care of all of a patient's needs, it is a good tool to have. Today I received an e-mail from the Latino Partnership's list-serv telling us about this very useful site:

In a grant proposal I am working on, I propose that students can use social bookmarking to help community partners in rural areas better serve their Spanish-speaking clients. This is a good example of a site that should be brought to the attention of many clinics and social service agencies in general.

End of the Semester Reflections on the UIUC Spanish Community Service Learning

(Wow, I look like a crazy person in this picture!) In my previous post I wrote about student and TA feedback and how I planned to respond to it. Most of those issues revolved around new elements in the course and the need to fine-tune them. Using YouTube for students' diarios digitales and working with new community partners were challenges that accompanied the wonderful growth in the program.In this video I reflect on other challenges and successes:Sustaining/Changing existing partnerships. Just as Spanish & Illinois changes and grows, so do our established community partners and partnerships.Responding to unpleasant events in the community and with our community partners.Launching this blog and highlighting student bloggers, Liz and Chris.Adding team community projects to the SPAN 332 (Spanish & Entrepreneurship) curriculum.In general, I realize that one of the main duties of my job directing and teaching these courses is to continuously reflect on their successes …

Chris: His Spanish Community Service Learning Work Chris Helps Lessen Stress for Client

I recently had to complete an accident report for a woman at the Refugee Center. This is the intersection at which the crash took place. The person who I was helping was traveling North on Lincoln avenue (right on the picture) and she was stopped because a car in front of her was waiting to make a left turn. While stopped, a car rear-ended her and caused a great deal of damage to both of their cars. Luckily, both people were okay but this woman now has to deal with a lot of paperwork and other things in addition to her job and taking care of her family. I was glad to fill out the accident report and I was able to improve my Spanish by serving as a translator. It was actually kind of hard to translate this sort of project because it involves a lot of directional terms, like ‘forward’, ‘across’, etc., which are kind of hard to understand.-Chris

Interesting Website for Spanish Community Service Learning

CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) has a wealth of information on its website.

I'm in the process of writing a grant proposal now, so I see this as a great resource for data that can be used in a proposal.

Darcy Lear and I are working on a paper that draws connections between millennial students, technology and Spanish community service learning, and CIRCLE has a publication titled Millenials talk Politics.

In short, this site is full of very useful information. Thanks to Pattsi Petrie for pointing it out.

Student Feedback on Spanish Community Service Learning

Yesterday afternoon one of my SPAN 232 TAs stopped by my office to pass along some student feedback on the course. As is always the case, some feedback is very useful and I can act upon it, but not all. Here are the main points that I will tackle for next semester. Problem: Some students don't feel they benefit from doing the diarios digitales (students speak into a web cam for five minutes to reflect on a specific topic related to their community service learning, record it, and turn it in to the instructor).
Solution: Create a lesson plan so that students can discover that in this course we work on the four skills--reading, writing, speaking and oral comprehension--and why. Some students suggested doing oral exams instead of the diarios digitales. The diarios digitalesare oral exams. I have successful course materials that walk students through the basic tenets of community-based learning, the 5 C's of foreign language learning, and now I will add something about the four skil…

Chris: Translating Official Documents Is Part of Spanish Community Service Learning

This week I spent a lot of time doing translations. Pretty much everything that I translate is either a birth certificate or a marriage license. Although such work is often tedious, it is beneficial in many ways. First of all, it teaches me new vocabulary. The word “witness” is something that I never knew how to say in Spanish. Secondly, it teaches me a bit about how things are done in other countries like Mexico. They do not create their birth certificates until well after the child is born, for example. One of the forms that I translated was not created until eight months after the boy was born, named, etc. Lastly, translating such documents makes me feel useful because I know that it is an important task. People need to be able to present an accurate birth certificate or marriage license, and my work is instrumental in helping them to do so.


Liz: The Benefits of a Paid Subscription to

I was very excited to see that SpanishPod posted a response to my blog about their web site! You can see what they wrote if you go my last blog and click on comments. JP said that we could write to them and put in requests so that the lessons would be related to what we are talking about in class! I thought this was a great idea! I’m very excited because I think that this would make the podcasts much more useful to our class! I was also looking into more detail at the website to see what the lesson plans are like. You can listen to the podcasts for free any time you want but if you want to look at the lesson plans you have to have a paid subscription. With the voucher Ann Abbott gave me, I was able to get access to the lesson plans. Each podcast has its own lesson plan that is divided into five sections: The first is Discussion, which is actually available to anyone. Under this part of the lesson plans, you can post a response to the podcast or start a conversation on a related topic.…

Liz: Using Fits with Some Topics in the Spanish Community Service Learning Course

I have just been listening to several of the podcasts on I really liked it! It was comparable to the Nuevos Horizontes, the radio clips we listen to for Spanish 232. Nuevos Horizontes usually focuses more on the Latino community here in the Champaign-Urbana and the United States, which is perfect since that is the focus of our class. The problem with SpanishPod is that some of the podcasts are relevant to the class and others are not. For example, I listened to one that was about finding an apartment and what kinds of questions you should ask. We were just talking about this in class and I thought the podcast presented useful vocabulary and information on the subject. On the other hand, there were podcasts on restaurants and how to order food that we wouldn’t be able to use for Spanish 232. Another problem might be that we don't necessarily have any idea what the future topics of podcasts will be. So there may not always be a podcast that is directly related to wha…

New Community Partner: A Woman's Place

I just got back from a meeting with Deb and Danyale at A Woman's Place (Urbana). What wonderful women, and what a great service they are providing to our community. Their vision now is to better serve their Spanish-speaking residents, and with the help of our Spanish community service learning students I think that they can make strides in that direction.

In a previous post I wrote about their organization's need to help two of their current Spanish-speaking residents. They weren't full-fledged community partners at that point, but I put the call out to our students to see who could help.

Today they told me that they were extremely pleased about all the e-mails they received and the students' willingness to help them out with whatever they needed. (Thank you, students!)

Today's meeting, then, was to set up a community partnership so that our Spanish community service learning students can work with them on a consistent basis every semester. Whenever they have S… and Spanish Community Service Learning?

Going to conferences is great for networking, picking up teaching ideas, spotting trends and viewing the latest commercial products to come out on the market. At the 2008 CIBER Business Languages Conference that I just attended, I was able to do all of those things, and I wanted to share one commercial product in particular:

Orlando Kelm (University of Texas) was on the program to talk about using course wikis. However, he couldn't make it due to American Airlines' mass cancellations. Still, his colleague presented his talk, and the basic take-away was: using a wiki to post students' work means that each semester's cohort doesn't have to start from scratch; they can build on each other's work. I think we've all been frustrated by "losing" the great work that some students do for our course, so his wiki was a good demonstration of providing continuity as well as a service to others searching for cultural and language content…

CIBER Business Languages Conference in St. Petersburg, FL

The 2008 CIBER Business Languages Conference just ended. It was a great opportunity to learn what other universities are doing in their Business Spanish classes and to highlight what we are doing at the University of Illinois.

Maida Watson (Florida International University) and I collaborated on a presentation titled, "Site Visits, Standards and Scaffolding: Creating and Teaching Cases for Business Language Learners of All Levels." We talked about three kinds of site visits: international faculty development programs, visits to local companies, and web"site" visits. We then shared cases, other teaching materials and assessment items built around those site visits. Maida directs a CIBER faculty development program that takes Business Spanish instructors to Spain every summer, and several of the cases we presented were based on site visits from that program.

But my second session was the most exciting because my students presented with me. The title was "Und…

Liz: Social Media Could Be a Good Idea for Spanish Community Service Learning

I know that I speak for myself, as well as many of my class mates, when I say that my main social network is through Facebook. It’s an easy way to keep in contact with all your friends no matter where you are. I would say that most students here at the U of I use Facebook instead of other cites like MySpace that are more centered around blogging. Facebook does offer an application where you can add “posts” or “notes” that I would compare to a blog. Most students do not use this application but it would be easy to add for a class project. The good thing is that most students update their Facebook on a regular basis and check other people’s profiles frequently. So, there would be a lot more people reading the blogs and responding to them. I also think it would be a great idea to get more students involved in community based learning project. If the students posted notes about their personal experiences in the community and reflected on what it means to them, I really think that more peo…

Chris: Social Media Not a Good Idea for Spanish Community Service Learning

Of all the social media listed, the only forms that I actually produce are blog posts. However, I am definitely in the minority in this area: facebook and myspace are ridiculously popular and most students use them on a daily basis. In terms of consumption, I also only read blog posts, but it should be noted that most students are constantly reading other people’s facebook and myspace pages. On another note, I think that it would be risky to try to use social media in community-based learning. In order to recruit other students into the program, participating students would have to post pictures of themselves at their service location on facebook or myspace. Such pictures would inevitably include non-students and minors, and I think that the program would run into privacy issues. Simply put, I do not think that the pictures of non-students should be plastered all over facebook and myspace, and this seems to be an unavoidable outcome of increased usage of social media. Furthermore, I t…

Nick Ludmer: Spanish Community Service Learning Student and Social Entrepreneur

We have so many talented, dedicated and busy (!) Spanish students. I love it when I have the opportunity to discover some of the many facets of a student.

Nick Ludmer is the young man on the right in the picture. I first met Nick in the summer of 2006 when I took a group of students to Barcelona with me for my course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities." Nick wasn't in the course with me, but he was with another group of UIUC students studying abroad in Barcelona. Even then, I admired his maturity and positive attitude.

Then early this semester I received an e-mail from him saying that he would like to do an honors project for one of his Spanish courses by working at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in the bilingual education program. I didn't recognize his name on the e-mail, but when he stopped by my office to work out the details for the project, I recognized his face. He told me that he had taken "Spanish in the …

Liz: Movie at Latin American Film Festival Highlights Indigenous Cultures

As you can see from my pictures, I went to the Latin American Film Festival this weekend! It was a lot of fun and I hope that all of you get a chance to see one of the films before Wednesday. Also! While I was there, I saw a poster for “La misma luna” and it’s coming to the Boardman’s Art Theater at the end of April. I highly recommend it!

This weekend I actually went to see the movie “Madeinusa.” I thought that it was a very interesting movie although it was much more violent and dark than I was anticipating. The cinematography is beautiful, and there are lots of interesting colors and themes throughout the film. I thought the director portrayed indigenous life in a very fascinating way. I visited several indigenous communities when I lived in Ecuador, and they looked very similar to the village represented in the movie. Also, the director highlighted the sense of isolation in the town and how many of the people felt disconnected from everyone else in the country. I think that is true…

More Than Just Having a Baby: A Test of the Spanish & Illinois Infrastructure

I don't usually post personal information on this blog, but this bit of personal news will have an impact on the community-based learning Spanish courses for the fall.

I'm expecting a baby boy in mid-August.

Aside from the thrill--and anxiety--for my family and me, the anxiety (and excitement, I must admit) about my work duties are equally present.

I am anxious. I run this program by myself. I have wonderful TAs, but I run the program. What will happen when I am unavailable at the beginning of the semester? I deal with student scheduling, students dropping, students adding, getting them all the documents they need for criminal background checks, answering their questions, etc. Despite my best efforts to have all information availabe on this website, I still have to deal with individual student requests, problems and changes.

I am excited. Can I find new and more effecient ways to organize things? Can I find a good person to replace me for those first few weeks of the semest…

Should Spanish & Illinois Apply for a Federal Grant on Service Learning?

That's the question that I am asking myself right now.
The Corporation for National and Community Service has an RFP for a "College Student Social Media Initiative," and the proposals are due May 7. The purpose of the grant is to: " the facilitation of better engagement of college students in service through social media.
Some examples of social media include: social networking (i.e. Facebook, MySpace, Ning, or integrating social networking capacity into existing sites), wikis, podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, mashups, social bookmarking, widgets, etc. Successful applicants must demonstrate how their program can use these tools to engage increased numbers of college students, especially in partnership with other nonprofit or for-profit entities."
On the one hand, I feel like this is a perfect fit for Spanish & Illinois; we have this blog, student reflective writing is done on a blog, and oral student reflections are posted on YouTube (privately). Ann Bis…

Chris: Spanish Community Service Learning Students go to Champaign Public Library

The Champaign public library is frequented by many of those who come to the Refugee Center. Many of the immigrants bring their children there and practice reading books in English. I am told that the library has an extensive children’s section and is actually a fun place for young kids to hang out and play. In addition, the library has book reading events and children’s plays that encourage young kids to enjoy reading. I have not personally had to go to the Champaign public library with anyone from the Refugee Center, but I know a couple of student volunteers who have acted as translators for immigrants at the library.

Research on Spanish Community Service Learning

Darcy and I have an article coming out this month in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, and we submitted a manuscript to Foreign Language Annals yesterday. We have another manuscript--about aligning expectations between students and community partners--that needs about one week of work, and then we can submit it as well. We're very excited to be putting our work out there!

In the spring of 2006 we collected data from the students in our first "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course. The articles we're currently publishing and submitting are based on that data--student journals, exams, homework, poster projects, and correspondence with the community partners.

This semester we are collecting data from her students at the University of North Carolina and the SPAN 232 & 332 students from UIUC. Student reflections, exams and projects are a treasure trove of insight! I really enjoy reading (and watching--los diarios digitales) to see what students have t…

Urgent Need for Spanish Community Service Learning Work

Yesterday I received an e-mail from an employee at A Woman's Place (Urbana) telling me that they had a few Spanish-speaking clients with whom they were not able to communicate well. Could my students help?


I identified one student to take the lead and work the most hours, then e-mailed all students to ask them to volunteer as well.

The woman with whom I spoke was obviously discouraged because she wanted to be able to provide her clients with full access to the organization's services, but the communication barrier was preventing that. She described difficulties in case management--setting goals for finding housing, employment, etc.--and daily living--e.g., finding family connections, arranging transportation, etc. This is an opportunity for students to have real impact in the lives of the organization's Spanish-speaking clients.

I have reflected on a few things that this sudden opportunity towards the end of the semester has shown me:

Which students will volunteer for a…

Chris: Learning Outcomes from Spanish Community Service Learning

This week we had to make a digital diary about some of the things that we have learned through our work in the community. For starters, I think that I have learned a ton of new vocabulary. Financial and legal terms are always being used at the Refugee Center and I now know how to say things like “mortgage” and “insurance”. Additionally, my conversation skills have greatly improved. I know more everyday expressions and I can understand native speakers more easily. I am much better at speaking on the telephone as well. Finally, I have learned a lot about the Hispanic culture in the United States. I never knew, for instance, that many Hispanic-Americans put more or less equal importance on both of their last names. I also never understood how hard it is for some people to gain citizenship in the United States. All of the above is, of course, just a small sample of everything that I have learned at the Refugee Center.-Chris

Liz: Share Your Stories about How Community Members Arrive

Over spring break I went to see the movie La misma luna (The English title is Under The Same Moon). I recommend it to all of you! It was very interesting and I have been thinking about it this week in Spanish 232 since we have been talking about people’s stories and how they immigrated to the United States. It definitely makes me realize that I have no idea what it’s like to have to do something like that. To have to leave all of your friends and family behind so that you can move to a place that is very different and overwhelming in hopes of a better life. Although, I do think that this movie was a bit unrealistic at times. It would be very difficult for a nine year old boy with out any money to cross the border and make it all the way to Los Angeles. Even thought the movie is a bit idealistic, I think that the story is still interesting. I am really curious to see if anyone has any stories they have heard from people in the community. I know the students I work with at Central High …

Ann Abbott Named "Distinguished Teacher Scholar" 2008-09

I am very honored to have received a University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar award for 2008-09. I feel that this is a chance to spotlight not just my Spanish community service learning program, but all the wonderful work that is being done with university-community partnerships on this campus.

This award will allow me to pursue a project next year: a series of community-university summits to promote dialogue and action about our teaching strategies and outcomes. I have proposed to form a Community Experts Committee comprised of local business, non-profit and civic leaders. They would speak at a series of four or five "summits" with themes such as community service learning, entrepreneurship, leadership, undergraduate research and communication skills. After each summit, faculty members would attend a follow-up session to de-brief and imagine ways to act upon the community committee's insights.

I'm also excited that the other award winner is from linguistics: Raje…