Monday, September 29, 2008

Student Difficulties with "Reflexiones Orales"

(image from

As Marcos noted in one of the earlier blog posts, the SPAN 232 students did a wonderful job with their "reflexiones escritas." They wrote insightful and rich reflections on what they were learning or about to learn.

Something different happened for the "reflexiones orales."

Students have to talk into a webcam for 5 minutes about the assigned topic, record their reflection, then upload it to YouTube to share with their TA.

Some students did a great job and did everything on time.

Many students didn't even follow the directions to invite their TA on YouTube so that they could share the video with them. Those students will get a "0". But that would have been so easy to avoid.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Students, if you read this and want to share why this seems to be so difficult for some students to do, please leave a comment.

My only thought is that this is totally new for many students and that the "unknown" is difficult for them. Otherwise, I'm really stumped on this.


Building Spanish Community-based Learning Programs from Scratch

One of our recent grads, Nacho Alvarez, got a job in a university in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The university is very interested in service, and the community has a large Latino population. Perfect for building a Spanish community-based learning program!

Unfortunately, Nacho didn't have a chance to teach "Spanish in the Community" while he was a grad student at the University of Illinois, so he wrote to ask about how to set up partnerhips, build a program, etc. I told him the basics:

1. Our students spend two hours a week in class and two hours a week (for a total of 28 hours) in the community.

2. If he wanted to use my teaching materials, to let me know. They're available through Xanedu.

Then Marcos (my wonderful RA this year) replied with more details about setting up partnerships. Since I think more and more of our grad students will be asked to do this kind of thing, I'm copying Marcos's reply here. It's good advice for anyone starting from scratch to build mutually beneficial partnerships for community-based learning.

"Hola Nacho.

:The first thing I would consider is analyzing your own goals in establishing a partnership between the community partners and the college.What are the needs of the community? What are the needs of the students? What kind of volunteer work is needed and/or available for the Hispanic community that your students can perform? etc..

"I would try to get a list of possible places where they work with the Hispanic community: for instance, Ann has created partnerships with schools, but also with the Refugee Center in Urbana, the Girl and Boy Scouts, the Child Care Resource Center on campus, etc...One of my students started this semester at La Prensa as well, the CU newspaper in Spanish. You can try to research a little about possible places before the meeting, and ask them further questions then. I.e. Try to check if there are schools in the area with ESL or bilingual classes with a good amount of Spanish-speaking students, etc...

"I suggest you start with one or two partners only. Once you get information about those places, you could establish how a course would work and present to the college/department a draft with the partnership, course objectives, responsibilities of students, etc...highlighting the connections between the curriculum and academic content of the course with the volunteer work with the community.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What it takes to write a good "reflexión"

By Marcos Campillo Fenoll

I have been gladly impressed by the quality of our students' first written reflexiones this semester. Many of our students have selected Amy's story posted on this same blog as their starting point, providing many useful strategies and ideas to work inside the classroom in preparation for such events. They have been really touched by this story, and I feel we also need to prepare our students both for the positive and possible negative circumstances of working inside our community.

Some others have reflected on their first experiences with the community partners. Many share a pattern: from nervousness and fear to confidence, leading to happiness and pride. Once they got to know they people they'll be working with, and they started using their Spanish in a real setting witnessing the impact of their help, their confidence erased the previous fear of not knowing what to do or how to do it. I am really proud as well to see the first weeks have already had a great positive impact on the students.

Now, in terms of their writing, here are some tips about what characteristics the great "reflexiones" had:

1. They developed their ideas in depth, and showed a clear organization.
2. They connected their work/the posting to their own experiences and the classroom material studied (i.e. many refer back to one or several of the 5 C's of foreign language learning).
3. Carefully reviewed their writing (agreements, verb tenses and forms, accents, 'ñs,' etc...).
4. Had at least a sentence or two as a way of conclusion.

We hope these tips can help you improve your reflexiones!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Carolyn at Girl Scouts

Hola a todos!

This weekend I started my Community Based Learning work with the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois. I had THE MOST FUN EVER! On Saturday we had a "Fun Day" at Shadow Wood in Champaign, with a moon-bounce and a big inflatable slide, face-painting, and lots of snacks and prizes. I spoke so much Spanish to so many kids and parents that came by, and I was probably smiling the whole time (of course I ran around and jumped on the moon bounce too).
I also learned a lot about the community, and I would suggest to everyone who is volunteering for Spanish 232: don't just work in the community because you need your hours for the class! Do it for the people; who are amazing, inspiring, friendly, and hard-working. One woman spoke to me and said that they want to talk to us, not be researched by us and then left alone with no help at all, after just talking about the problems they are having. En general, the latino community is excited to work with us, but they don't want someone whose heart is not in it, if or if they're only doing it for "credit". Keep this in mind and have as much fun as possible! Meet new people! And speak lots of español!

Carolyn Kloecker

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hi there. So, I'm Carolyn 'Carolina' Kloecker, or at least that's how you'll find me on facebook (a reflection of my obsession with Spanish). I'm an International Studies and Spanish major with an Anthropology minor and the CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) Certificate. In other words, I'm a dork.

I took Spanish in the Community because I feel that I have learned a great deal about foreign spanish-speaking populations, from studying in México, working with people at Concordia Language Villages from many spanish-speaking countries, and from my other classes, but I have not had much experience with the Latina/o community here in Central Illinois. I am also interested in la comunidad hispanohablante in Chicago, and I hope to work with a Spanish & Illinois partner in the future.

This semester for CBL I'm working with the Girl Scouts outreach program. I'm very excited so far, and I can't wait to use my experience with kids to plan creative girl scouts meetings and have fun with them. The girls will be spanish-speaking, but I'm sure most of them are bilingual, so it may be sort of a spanglish experience. I can't wait to get started!

P.S. the pic is me with my friend Laüra in Monterrey, México on the last day I was there (Summer 2007)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Long Pause Explained

Over the summer I didn't blog regularly because...well...because it was the summer. Now that the semester has started I haven't blogged regularly either, but for one very different reason: Francesco Barbieri.
He arrived August 20 (7 1/2 lbs) and joined his big sister, Giulia, and brother, Marco. We're all happy, but I think the kids thought that they would be able to play with him. Soon they will.
No promises. I will blog, but probably not as frequently as I did last semester.
Hopefully some SPAN 232 students will blog for their honors project or my thesis students will add to this blog. It's always great to have students' perspectives here.
As usual, CBL has been both a joy and a challenge this semester. Will explain in later posts.