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 news, news about Champaign-Urbana, editorials, horoscopes, and other types of information.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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 if we have an inside look at exactly what is going wrong in the classroom we can figure out how to help the students in a more effective way.
Monday, February 25, 2008
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 las tareas” and “Está jugando en clase.”
The teacher offered to let the student come in to class before school to make up all of the work he was missing. The teacher explained that he had to come in every day, but if he misses one day “the deal is off.”
I did get a little nervous here because I had no idea how to say “the deal is off” or anything remotely like it in Spanish. So I just took a minute to think and tried explaining it in a different way. Basically I explained that he had to come in every day at or he would “suspender la clase.” Although it wasn’t a direct translation, I was still able to convey the urgency of the situation.
As the night went on, everyone became more relaxed; I became more comfortable using my Spanish and the father started asking more questions and had responses to the teacher’s comments.
Being a translator may seem like a lot of pressure at first, but if you don’t know a word just take a minute and think about another way to convey the message or try using circumlocution. Any little bit you can translate makes a huge difference because the parents need to know how to help their children if they are struggling in school. So please don’t be nervous about translating! It can be a great way to practice your Spanish and help some one out at the same time.
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 have any questions regarding this program please contact our office:
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I'm also pleased to see that there were far fewer technical issues. Remember to go to this site http://www.sip.uiuc.edu/people/fcampill/Span232FAQ/ 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.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
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 science in another language. Secondly, I am impressed by the bilingual education programs because they must require a lot of skill and patience on the part of the teachers. I am guessing that the teachers are fluent in both languages and must be capable of explaining detailed concepts to both English and Spanish native speakers. All in all, I think that bilingual education probably challenges kids and makes them smarter than single-language education, and it would be nice to see other communities follow CU’s example.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
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 most important conclusions that we reach is the answer to this question: if a person makes the minimum wage i, is it realistic for them to be able to buy a home in X county?
I'm hoping to learn more ways to include government documents in my courses.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
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 Merriman, email@example.com."
This would be a wonderful opportunity for one of our recent grads, a BAT student, or one of our CBL students.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I think things have been going very well so far at
- 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 with school because it is mentally exhausting to be going to school full time in your non-native language. Plus, many students have night jobs and do not have time to study out side of the ESL classroom. Often times the students just need you to go over the material one more time in a situation where they are allowed to ask questions and go over specific areas they do not understand.
- If you have studied abroad, try to relate your experiences with the students and tell them you know how frustrating it can be to go to school in another country.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
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 another month or two).
This is another example of a student who works after graduation and then starts down another path towards success.
Good luck, Will!
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.
Friday, February 15, 2008
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. She had a lot to share about what she learned there, and she especially mentioned Tania Mitchell's (Stanford) presentation on diversity in service-learning classes.
3. A colleague of mine is in a working group at her church with Latino families. She mentioned to me the other day that one of the mothers was concerned with the UIUC students who work at the local elementary school with the Spanish-speaking students and their cultural sensitivity. She recounted the story of a student who told the child, "I need to talk to your mom. Tell her to meet me here at X time." The mother dropped everything she had already planned to talk to the student. It turned out the student needed to interview someone for a class project she was working on.
As my colleague recounted the story I felt bad because I certainly don't want my students to cause problems for community members instead of helping them. Then I felt relieved because I realized this student couldn't be from my program because they have no class project and they certainly aren't asked to "interview" any community members. I told my colleague that the student must be from another UIUC program, not mine. My relief, though, then turned to alarm when I realized how easy it is for one poorly conceived community service learning project or one poor student to harm the credibility of every single other community service program. Community members don't necessarily distinguish between "the UIUC Spanish program in the community" and "the UIUC X Department's program in the community." It's just "the university." That is why we need, in my opinion, a stronger centralized program for cross-campus community service learning efforts.
The potential for contributing positively to the local community is huge. But so is the potential for damage.
4. I am hard at work writing for a big Spanish community service learning project. Can't wait to share details soon.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
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
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
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.
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 tareas
- tiene que tomar el examen otra vez
- habla mucho en clase
- falta mucho a mi clase
- tiene que pedirme ayuda si la necesita
- existe ayuda despues del colegio en la biblioteca
- tiene que tener sus apuntes organizados
- es muy buena estudiante."
Hopefully this information will help you feel better prepared for your role in the parent-teacher conferences.
Monday, February 11, 2008
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.
Last semester, I studied abroad in
Friday, February 8, 2008
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.
If you would like to work at the parent-teacher conferences, please send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the following information:
3. times available
I will pass that information along to Ms. Citraro. I hope that at least some of you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to help parents and teachers better communicate for the benefit of the students.
View Larger MapSee map for directions from FLB to Champaign Central High School.
In the next few days I will post something about the vocabulary that you can anticipate using in this situation.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
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!
Monday, February 4, 2008
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 because we have such a great public transportation system here in Champaign-Urbana. It may seem out of the way to go to your community partner, but in the end it’s worth the effort for the experience and the interaction with members of the community.
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. :)
Sunday, February 3, 2008
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 Spanish-language newspapers. Read the article in English or in Spanish.
Darcy Lear, co-founder of Spanish & Illinois and now at UNC Chapel Hill , states in the article that community-based learning forces students to re-examine their stereotypes and confront problems that don't have simple solutions...or any at all.
September 21, 2006
"¿Hablas Español? Learning Spanish Through Immersion"
Article in the Daily Illini / Buzz campus news paper featuring Prof. Abbott about the Spanish & Illinois program, community-based learning, the Intensive Spoken Spanish class (Span 232) and our community partners.
Written by Sandra Mazuera.
March 3, 2005 Inside Illinois, Vol. 24, No. 16
Spanish students get real-world experience, do service work
By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor