Monday, December 28, 2009

Student Reflection

by Katie Bednar

“The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr. Seuss)

This quote, recognizable by most people in the world of education, is one of my favorites from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! This quote serves as a motto for countless organizations and educators, especially those concerned with reading and literacy. At SOAR there is a focus placed on reading strategies and comprehension, and this is something that I did try and work on with Marisa* throughout the semester.

Almost every day after finishing her homework, Marisa and I headed to the Booker T. Washington library to get a few books to read. The school’s library has a great section of Spanish and bilingual books, and this is where we would head. On the first day, after heading back to the classroom and beginning to read, I was blown away by Marisa’s reading abilities. She succeeds at reading not because she knows all of the words, but because she sounds them out letter-by-letter, word-by-word. When she gets stuck on a word she takes the time to sound it out, re-read it, and continue on. I was so impressed that she did all of this on her own initiative without any prodding from me. Since it was clear that Marisa had mastered many crucial reading strategies, I moved on to checking her comprehension. During our reading time I asked her questions about what she was reading, checking her understanding and encouraging her to think more about what she was reading. Towards the end of the semester I really started to see a change in the way that Marisa reads, taking time to process and think about what she has read. I hope that she has learned a lot, because I know I have!

Throughout the semester, my time with Marisa can truly be labeled a shared learning experience. Just from our reading times I have learned a ton of new vocabulary. Whenever I ask Marisa what a word means she tries to draw it out in a picture so that I understand. She is a great little teacher! In general, I have learned more than I ever thought I would about working with bilingual students, and the experience has encouraged me in my future career. And of course my abilities and comfort with the Spanish language have improved! I am going abroad next semester, and I know that what I have learned will benefit me there an when I come back, as well! I would love to come back to work with SOAR in the fall!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Student Reflection

by Katie Bednar

¿Cómo se dice “protractor” en español?

It’s not every day that we need to know the Spanish translations for mathematical terms such as “add,” “subtract,” “obtuse,” and “acute.” They are not necessarily part of the average student’s vocabulary. However, these are words that the students that we tutor at Booker T. Washington interact with on a daily basis. In Spanish 232 we had a lesson that focused on working in the classroom and things we should know in order to work with students. There was a whole section that focused on how to use math vocabulary such as “add” and “multiply” with a Spanish-speaking student. On the first day that I had to work with Marisa* on a math assignment, I was extremely grateful for this lesson! The terminology is very basic, just something I have never needed to use.

One day at SOAR when Marisa was absent, I worked as a substitute in the 5th grade classroom. The students were learning about geometry in terms of angles and using protractors, an instrument that hasn’t been on my school supply list since middle school. To work with an English-speaking student on this type of math would probably have been a little challenging simply because I have not seen that kind of math in years. The fact that the assignments were written in Spanish added a whole different dimension to the solving of the homework problems. Times such as these have been some of my greatest learning experiences in the SOAR program. Through problem solving I have interacted with the students in a way that helps us come up with a solution together. In this type of dialogue each of us contributes to the conversation and help to solve the problem. Both of us are able to learn from each other and come up with a solution. Being able to negotiate this type of back and forward conversation (problem solving with a student to help them arrive at a correct response) will inevitably benefit me as a classroom teacher in the future. It is one of the many lessons that I will take with me from my time spent with SOAR this past semester.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Student Reflection

by Katie Bednar

Fully Immersed on the First Day

On the first day of tutoring with the SOAR program, I walked into Booker T. Washington with very mixed feelings. I was excited to meet the student I would be working with, but I was also nervous and a little anxious. I knew coming into the program that I would be using my Spanish and that many of the students in SOAR were just beginning to learn English. I guess you could say that I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea that, in some way, the success of my student would depend on my ability to communicate with them in Spanish. My confidence with the language was not really where it needed to be. Needless to say, I was somewhat apprehensive as I walked into the 1st grade classroom for the first time.

After introductions in the first ten minutes, I was paired up with my student. Marisa* is a 1st grade student from the bilingual classroom. I introduced myself to her, asked her what her name was, and where she wanted to sit. Nothing. She kind of stood there, looking at me with a blank stare. At first I thought she may just be shy, so I led her to a desk and we began to work on the assigned activity. We were to make ourselves nametags and a notecard with pictures of our favorite foods, colors, etc. Many of the tutors around me were describing the activity to their students in English, and that is what I tried to do as well. It was not until about ten minutes in that I realized that Marisa was not shy, but unable to understand me. Marisa is a Spanish-speaking student that speaks little to no English. The moment that I realized this, I immediately began speaking in Spanish. Marisa’s eyes lit up, and we were able to learn a little bit about each other.

With all of my apprehensions and lack of confidence with my Spanish ability, I was forced to overcome that in order to connect with my student. I was taken by surprise by my ability to communicate and connect in Spanish when I really needed to. From that first day, I have only seen my confidence with the language and the quality of conversations with Marisa grow and grow. I am thankful that I was paired with a student whose primary language is Spanish. I am continuously learning and my comfort with the language continues to develop.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Student Reflection

by Danielle McBride

This photo is a picture of my old high school. Though the buildings may appear similar, the students I work with and I had quite different experiences in school.

As I have stated in previous posts, I am from a town that has a significant Spanish-speaking population. This means that while I was in high school, a large number of my classmates were in ESL programs like the one I work in at Central High School. It was not until working in this classroom for an extended period of time that I came to the realization that the high school experience I had, along with the majority of other students, was and is drastically different than the high school experience of English Language Learners.

My high school experience, and the experience of most people I know, was that of doing the bare minimum to get by. I received straight A’s in high school, but the work was not difficult for me. Even the people who did not receive the best grades still only did what was necessary to get by. When work was assigned for in-class, there never was a second thought to how or when it would get done. When homework was assigned, I never really worried about whether or not I would be able to complete it. In fact, most of the time I had the homework assignment finished before the class period was over.

In high school, I always knew the students in the ESL program spent the majority of their time in school in this classroom. However, I never realized what a commitment to learning they had to make here. Working at Central, I have come to realize that these English-learning students commit so much of themselves to the language and school. Every day, students rush to eat their lunches in five to ten minutes so they can come into the ESL classroom and work on assignments, quizzes, tests, etc. that they did not have enough time to complete earlier in the day. Also, Monday through Thursday, numerous students stay after school, sometimes for up to two hours, in order to receive additional help with their work. Sacrifices such as these can mean that some students are not able to participate in all of the extracurricular, social, family, or relaxing activities that other students have time for. Perhaps the most admirable quality of this sacrifice is that these students are choosing to give up their free-time on their own accord; no one is telling them they must come to the ESL classroom during any time of the day and their sacrifice is very rarely acknowledged.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a high school student who is not only learning algebra and biology, but is also learning to live in a new language. When I was in high school, and perhaps a bit now, I could not fathom going so far out of my way when it was not “required,” “necessary,” or going to be acknowledged by anyone. But the students I work with at Central have shown me what true dedication means. The students that have achieved the most in terms of their English and academic achievements are those that are willing to go the extra mile. Seeing their dedication to learning, even when it is difficult and seems they will never get it, makes me want to achieve more. They have inspired me to work harder in seeking opportunities to strengthen my Spanish skills. They have given me the drive to push for more in school; if I put in more effort, I can do more than simply just receive a good grade in a class. These students, some of whom are living without their families, know practically no English, and feel scared and nervous to be in a new environment, deserved to be looked at as heroes and role models. They work twice as hard as other students and do not care if anyone recognizes their efforts. I have learned so much from having the opportunity to work with them, and I hope I can have some success in emulating their outstanding work ethic and personal drive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Champaign-Urbana: Immediate Volunteer Opportunity

I just received the e-mail below. If I were in town, I would go myself. But I can't. If you can help, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator directly.

"Earlier this week Champaign County Nursing Home admitted a 62 year old male for therapies and medical management post hospitalization. This gentleman’s primary language is Spanish. His dysphasia keeps him from communicating with our speech language therapists as we do not have anyone on staff who is fluent in Spanish. As the Volunteer Coordinator I am seeking a person who would be willing to volunteer 30 minutes during the day on week days to help us work with this person. A knowledge of Spanish as it might apply to medical situations would be helpful. If you know of anyone who might be able to assist us with this, please contact me.

Jim Hronek, Volunteer Coordinator
Champaign County Nursing Home
500 S. Art Bartell Rd.
Urbana, IL 61802

Student Reflection

by Katie Bednar

“SOAR-ing” at Booker T. Washington

This semester, I am participating in the SOAR Program at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Champaign. The program has a very interesting and hopeful history, started in 2006 by the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, the Latino Partnership, and Booker T. Washington. The program was developed out of a need that was expressed by members of the Shadowwood mobile home community in Champaign. After the cancellation of the afterschool program in their community, many of the Latino parents banded together to advocate for support for their children. Among their desires was homework help and afterschool enrichment for their children, along with parental education on helping their child succeed at home. In response to their concerns and community support, the SOAR (Student Opportunities for After-school Resources) Program was developed. And the rest is history (kind of).

The SOAR Program has been helping to meet the needs of many Latino, non-native English speaking students for almost four years. The volunteers that contribute to the program are helping to open the door for many of these students by assisting with homework and reading skills. For non-native speakers, the reading of English can prove to be a daunting and difficult task. And for many of these students, the SOAR Program is the only outlet through which they receive additional one-on-one reading support. Equally important, the volunteers in the program are able to act as mentors and friends to the students. This is a part of the program that I truly enjoy. I am able to tangibly see my student progress through the completion of homework assignments and readings. Additionally, I am able to form a meaningful relationship with a student that will hopefully have a positive impact on them. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given to work with this great program!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Student Reflection

by Andy Kraus

These last few weeks have been full of teaching challenges. First, we’ve been teaching past tense verbs, and these are somewhat difficult for the students. Second, we have to find a way to deal with Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

There are so many irregular past tense verbs! It’s so easy to forget that since I already know English, but being a teacher has reminded me that there are exceptions to just about every grammar and pronunciation rule. For the most part the students are picking up on it, but they’re still at the state where they’re not familiar with the irregular forms and many of them are getting tripped up. But I’m confident that once we spend enough time on it they’ll be speaking like pros.

Our other problem is timing. Since all the teachers are university students we leave for Thanksgiving and winter break – leaving our students without new instruction for long periods of time. We already missed a week of class for Thanksgiving. I was sure to give my students homework over break, though, so hopefully that kept them engaged in the learning process. However, I am worried about the length of the winter break.

To make sure this time isn’t lost we will probably assign an ample amount of homework to the students, so they’ll become experts at what they already learned instead of starting on new material. That’s not ideal in my mind, but its’ the best we can do. I’m thinking of assigning various homework, such as: keeping a journal in English, speaking in English with someone for a certain period of time, watching TV shows in English, reading the paper and summarizing the articles, and learning 3 new vocabulary words a day. I hope this will keep the students excited about learning!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Student Reflection

Danielle McBride

This is a photo of me looking over an old history book and reading up on the Vietnam War. Due to the fact I feel insecure about my knowledge sometimes, I occasionally come home from working at the school and research topics that I know I am going to have to work with again.

While working at Central High School, on numerous occasions I have found myself thinking, “How am I supposed to explain this in Spanish when I am not entirely sure how to explain it in English?” Working through situations like this, where I may simply not know how to articulate a concept or an idea in English because it seems so “second nature” to me or I may not know the concept or idea to begin with, I have learned numerous tactics to approach these situations and I feel as though I have improved myself throughout the process.

Sometimes, I am faced with a student that needs help with a subject that I have never taken and have no real knowledge of. In some instances, I was not even aware such subjects were offered in high school (such as economics, anatomy, psychology, etc.). Being from a small town and high school, I wasn’t exposed to these subjects and, being an International Studies major with a focus on human rights, I have not had exposure to these subjects in college either. This seems quite problematic when faced with a student depending on you to help them understand their required work. When I first was in this situation, I was sure I would be of no service to the poor student that was going to be stuck with me as their tutor. But once in the thick of the predicament, I realized that I have the ability to read, think, learn, and explain. It was then I recognized that I can quickly glance at the textbook to find out the information and facts I need to know and still be able to translate and explain in English.

Another issue I’ve come across is almost opposite in nature. Some things, such as math for me, come quite naturally. In fact, I have never been very competent at explaining or clarifying math concepts to others because in my mind, no explanation is necessary. Of course, when faced with it being necessary that I explain such concepts, and in Spanish rather than the language I learned them in, I thought the task was going to be daunting. However, I have found not thinking of these concepts as I traditionally have, but rather thinking in Spanish first then looking at the concept, I am able to explain in a much clearer manner. I would have never guessed that explaining trigonometry would be easier to do in Spanish than in English, but it seems to be the truth in my case.

Translating, both words and concepts, between English and Spanish can be an overwhelming task at times, but it certainly is achievable. Working in the ESL classroom, there are always challenges in translation. Sometimes you simply do not know the word in Spanish. Working in this classroom has strengthened my ability to not stutter or freeze up when I do not know a word, but to find another way to get my point across. I either explain the word or find a different approach to my explanation (which sometimes includes using more vibrant hand gestures…).
Needless to say, working in Central High School has really changed my perception of language obstacles. Now, rather than thinking, “How am I supposed to explain something in Spanish that I can’t explain in English?” I turn towards the thought, “What is another way of approaching this situation so I can think through it in Spanish and provide help and assistance?”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Student Reflection

by Leslie Barron

Never Too Old for Recess

With only one week left of volunteering it makes me think about how my relationship with the students has changed over the course of the semester. The first couple times I worked in the classroom I was nervous because I had difficulty understanding the teacher and the students. I was not used to how fast they talked and was constantly trying to focus on making sure I knew what was going on and what the teacher wanted me to do. The students sit on the rug in the class every morning to begin their lesson and I just remember how lost I was after the first day when they were all talking so fast it was hard for me to understand what they were saying. When interacting with the students, we just worked on the task at hand, usually reading or writing. Usually I would have to ask them to slow down or repeat what they had said. I caught on to some of their conversations with each other but did not get involved. I was always nervous but excited to go back the next time. The students were at first were shy around me as well. It was hard to get completely comfortable around them, because unlike some other Illinois students who volunteer and work with one student outside of the classroom, I am always in the classroom trying to help all the students. I cannot give my individual attention to only one.

Even though it was a difficult situation for me at first, the experience I had this past Tuesday while volunteering makes me grateful that I have gotten to know so many of the kids. After reading and writing, the students have morning recess. Instead of waiting inside, I decided to go out and play with them on the playground – I mean, why not? The kids all wanted to play tag so they decided what home base was and then we all started running. I actually was having a blast. Running around playing with the kids made me realize two things. First of all, my conversational Spanish has definitely improved immensely over the course of the semester. While running around I was able to laugh and joke with the kids without thinking about what I was saying. I was comfortable speaking in Spanish. In addition, when two of the students got in a fight I was able to communicate with them about what happened and then explain to the teacher outside in English what the problem was. It was natural to go back and forth between the two languages. This was definitely a goal of mine this semester. The other thing I realized was how big of an impact I have had on many of the students this semester. They all wanted to run where I ran and grab on to me while we were safe on home base. Not only have I been able to help them with their academics, I have really gotten to know a lot of them and learn about their families. It is obvious that they trust me and feel comfortable around me as well now.

Thinking about the time spent at Leal this semester I am able to look back and see how my relationships with the students have grown as I have gotten to know them better and have been able to speak with them about non school related things as well. When the conversations started to get easier I started to have much more fun with the kids. Every morning when I walk into the classroom their faces light up and before I even have the chance to put my things down they all yell “maestra” because they each want me to work with them that morning. At the beginning of the semester scheduling time and waking up early to volunteer was a hassle, but now I genuinely look forward to going in and seeing the kids – well at least after I manage to get out of bed. I know I have helped them this semester, but they have also helped me. I believe my time spent volunteering will really pay off next semester when I go abroad to Granada. I am much more comfortable with the language now and am much better at getting my point across even if I do not know all of the vocabulary. After I get back from Spain I want to continue to volunteer at Leal because I have had such a good experience there this semester.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Student Reflection

by Leslie Barron

Becoming Bilingual

Before I started volunteering at Leal I had never been in a bilingual classroom. Over the course of the semester it has been interesting to see how English is incorporated into the students learning. All of the students in Ms. Davila’s classroom speak Spanish as their first language. While many of them understand some English, most cannot speak it well. After learning about different bilingual programs in class it was insightful to see first hand how the programs actually work. The teacher always uses Spanish when speaking with the students in the classroom. When I first started volunteering many of the students quickly realized that I am able to speak Spanish as well as English. For the students who only speak Spanish it did not really matter, but the students who are able to speak English had different reactions.

The second week of volunteering I was reading with a student. The kids usually have to read a short book and then do some sort of writing activity afterwards. She was struggling with the longer pages so we were alternating reading. I would read one page and she would read the next. After a while reading she turns, looks at me and says, “You do know I speak English, right?” This comment was funny to me because the girl was so confused as to why I was trying to speak in Spanish when we could easily just talk in English. I explained to her that although I know how to speak English part of the reason for me being there is to practice and improve my Spanish skills. The same thing happened with a number of other students who are able to speak English. Many times they would say something to me in English and I would respond in Spanish.

As the semester went on I realized my ability to speak both languages was really helpful to the students. Many of the books in the classroom have both Spanish and English. Many times when working with the kids they read the Spanish and then I read the English. I can tell that reading this way helps them understand English much better. Also, reading this way helps me learn new vocabulary in Spanish. Having the books written in both languages is helpful when working with the students on their writing too. If I do not completely understand the story in Spanish I can check the English to make sure I understand correctly and am able to help the students write their reactions.

The students are also exposed to English in their music and drama classes. Neither the music teacher nor the drama teachers speak Spanish, which at first was surprising to me considering how many students speak Spanish. In music class many of the songs they teach are in English. The teacher teaches the students hand motions as well as the lyrics to help them understand what they are singing about. At first I thought it would be really difficult for the students to sing in English as opposed to Spanish, but most of them really enjoy learning the English versions. When given the option one day of an English or Spanish song, most chose to sing the English one. The same techniques are used in their drama class. The students were practicing to perform in an assembly. For the performance they were acting out a part of Where the Wild Things Are. Even though the teacher narrated in English, the motions and acting helped the students understand what she was saying. At first I thought it was strange that the teachers did not speak Spanish, but after participating in the classes I have come to see that exposing the children to English forces them to learn it and is actually better for them then having everything translated into Spanish. It is clear that a number of the students still do not understand English at all, but it has been fun to see so far the children’s improvement in both languages.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Student Reflection

by Andrew Kraus

This past Friday it was my turn to develop a lesson plan for the students. The theme of this week is “Money and the Workplace.” Fortunately, I’m in a Spanish 202 right now, so I’m well-versed in this area. In fact, I was able to copy a lot of the vocabulary right out of the class textbook and make a useful practice sheet for the students. We also went through dialogues about going to the bank, renting an apartment, and shopping for goods. I think the teachers learned a lot of useful Spanish vocabulary at the same time!

The other part of the lesson was grammar. We’re in the last week of learning the present tense, and we’re rounding it off by practicing the present progressive (I am going, they are eating, etc), which is very similar grammatically in Spanish and English, so for the most part the students picked it up pretty easily.

Next week we’ll be learning the past tense, which will be very challenging for many students, but also extremely rewarding once that light of understanding clicks on.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Student Reflection

by Anthony Salis

Hoy entendí algo que resume mucho de lo que aprendí durante este tiempo trabajando en ECIRMAC. Hablan de un problema que tiene una familia con bebé que se nació recientemente. En el certificado de nacimiento, los enfermos escribieron "Grace" para el nombre de la hija. Los padres desean que se llame "La Grâce". Esto es un problema que ocurre con frecuencia con inmigrantes. Los enfermeros no respetan los formas de nombrar en otras culturas del mundo. Muchas veces usan letras que no existen en inglís o no usan laforma de nombre primero y segundo con apellido familiar.

Es difícil para inmigrantes adaptarse a la cultura americana. Posiblemente es más fácil que en otros países, pero todavía hay desafíos. La lengua es una de las barreras más prevalecientes, especialmente en esta parte del país. Muchas veces la única razón que entran en estos problemas legales es que alguien tiene mala explicación o no tenían toda la información. Como estos padres: el enfermero solamente les preguntó que significa la grâce y les explicó que todavía podían llamarla "La Grâce" en casa pero en papel debe ser "Grace". Es ridículo que no podamos hacer acomodaciones pequeñas como ésta.

También es asombroso cuanto hacen para vivir en los Estados Unidos y ganarse una mejora vida. Muchas familias se separan para que el padre pueda encontrar trabajo y muchas viven en la pobreza con caseros que no las aceptan o compañías eléctricas que apagan las luces. Hay programas del gobierno que asisten en vivir como cupones de alimentos pero no son muy organizados y hay gente que los recibe que no los necesita y gente que no los recibe que los necesita. Problemas con la electricidad, el teléfono, los caseros, o los patrones usualmente se basan en la falta de documentación. No es necesariamente la negligencia de estas familias pero la desorganización y la lentitud de nuestro gobierno.

Esto plantea preguntas políticas de posiciones de permitir la inmigración y ayudar a los pobres, pero muchas opiniones se basan en el uso del dinero de los ciudadanos naturales y las figuras de trabajos. Era útil para mí encontrar a unos de estos inmigrantes que tienen recursos limitados para establecer lugar en este país. No son tontos o inexpertos sino no informados. Vinieron aquí para mejorar su vida, pero más importante, las vidas de sus hijos. El prejuicio de los sentimientos de los americanos son muy nocivos al desarrollo de los ciudadanos nuevos. Una mano de bienvenido sería muy apreciada.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Student Reflection

by Leslie Barron
Volunteering Means No Child is Left Behind

After a couple weeks volunteering in the 1st grade classroom at Leal Elementary I started to realize how difficult it is to teach because the students all have such different ability levels. The first couple times I went to volunteer I was really focused on my Spanish and being able to communicate with the kids. I was focusing so much on my Spanish that I was not observant of the different levels and learning styles of the many different students. After I became more comfortable and conversational with the students I began to realize the different ways they learn, how well they are able to learn the material, and what the teacher does as well as what I can do to enhance their learning potential. I am not an education major and have never thought about going into teaching so it has been really interesting to see the different methods employed by the teacher to try and help all the students.

The first time I noticed the extreme variation in ability level of the students was when we were working in stations. I was working at a math station. Each group had 4-6 students. The kids were supposed to work in pairs and play a game similar to war. Instead of winning by having the higher card, the student who could correctly add the two cards the fastest and come up with the correct answer would win both the cards. The game continued until one player won all the cards. One thing I realized right away was that the teacher had created the groups thoughtfully so as to put students with similar abilities together. In each group there were a few students that were a little better at math than the others, but not much. At first I let the students pick their partners, but after working with a lot of them I decided to pair them myself so as to help them get the most out of the game. If I saw one student consistently winning I would pair that student with another student at a higher ability level while I tried to help the students that were struggling. I also helped the students learn how to add the cards more quickly. In the beginning if one student had a ten and another had a two the students would start counting “1…2…3…4” until they got to twelve. I helped them realize they could start with ten and then count “11…12”. It was rewarding for me when they understood the new method of counting. It made me really happy to see them using the easier method because I felt as if I had really helped them learn the concept and idea of addition. I could even see the students become more excited about the game and about math after they were more confident in their abilities. In addition, I was proud that I was able to communicate effectively in Spanish. By the end of the class I felt very confident that I had made a difference.

The varying ability levels of the students are also very apparent in their reading levels. The first class I volunteered I read with a student, Juana [not her real name]. It was frustrating to watch her struggle. She would mix up words such as “el” and “le”. I didn’t really know the best method to help her. After a few more classes I had the chance to read with other students. It was extremely surprising to me how well some other students were able to read in comparison to Juana. Other students were able to read chapter books only stumbling over a few longer words. After working with some of the more able students and watching how they sounded out words I was better able to help the students that were still having difficulties. I really enjoy reading with the students. Not only can I see improvements in their reading, I also am learning new vocabulary. When I ask the students to tell me what a certain word means they get really excited because they realize they are helping me just as much as I am helping them. I hope by the time I am done volunteering I will be able to see even more improvement in their reading level. It is a great feeling to see how the time you spend volunteering in the classroom really does pay off.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Student Reflection

by Anthony Salis

Algunos días no estoy seguro por qué trabajo cada semana. La mayoría del trabajo es contestar el teléfono. Al contestar el teléfono le pido qué necesita y la mayoría sabe con cual de las profesionales quiere hablar. Si está en la oficina, le doy el teléfono y regreso a lo que hacía antes. Si no está en la oficina, necesito ver lo que puedo hacer para él. Usualmente es nada porque no sé los formas legales ni otros contactos profesiones para tomar el paso próximo con el problema. Lo que puedo hacer es tomar un mensaje, y ¡puede ser un desafío! Cuando habla con muchas personas diferentes por teléfono, encuentra a personas que son difíciles para entender. Usualmente es la barrera de lengua, especialmente con las personas que hablan el chino o el vietnamita y no mucho inglés. Las conversaciones pueden ser lentas pero si puedo obtener un nombre y un número, estoy contento.

Aunque, es los hispanohablantes para que estoy más preparado. Pero no significa que las conversaciones son más fáciles. Guadalupe usualmente tiene reunión los martes por la mañana y por eso necesito tomar muchos mensajes en español. He aprendido que hay muchas maneras de hablar. Algunas hablan muy rápidamente, algunas con un ceceo, y algunas muy claramente. La experiencia de adaptar a estas maneras diferentes me ha servido bien en mejorar mis habilidades de comunicar. Para mí hablar es más fácil que escuchar, especialmente por teléfono porque no puedo ver a la otra persona. Cuando me explica su pregunta no puedo interrumpir tan pronto para pedirle repetir algo.

Más que los mensajes, una vez le di direcciones a alguien para llegar a la oficina. Agraciadamente, estaba temprano para trabajar un día y decidí andar por las calles ambientes para familiarizarme con el barrio. También una mujer vino para ayuda con una llamada al gobierno para algo con los impuestos. Tenía que entrar unos números de identificación pero no sabía cuales necesitaría y la maquina terminó la llamada muchas veces porque tomaba demasiado tiempo. Eventualmente, decidió que yo era mentiroso y me bloqueó de llamar. Tenía que decirle regresar otro día y pedirle a Guadalupe para ayuda. No todo de mi trabajo es útil pero ¡trato!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Student Reflection

by Danielle McBride

This photo is of the anatomy book that I sometimes have to use to help the students with their work.

For Spanish and the Community, I am working at Champaign Central High School as a tutor in the ESL classroom. Due to the fact that there was confusion with my background clearance, I go for several consecutive hours, rather than two, each visit. Typically, I attend Wednesdays from 10 am to the end of the school day, 3:15 pm. I also attend whenever I have a Friday free in my schedule. Overall, I usually average about ten hours a week in the school. The advantage to this is that I have longer contact with the students, thus allowing me to forge more of a relationship with them.

While at the school, my job is to help the students with any class work, homework, quizzes, and/or exams that they may need assistance with or help understanding. The class subjects may vary from math to history to science; students come in at all times of the day when they need help. The help I offer can vary from five minutes of assistance in translating a word problem in algebra into Spanish to spending numerous class periods throughout the day deciphering the history of the ancient Chinese dynasties. When students are in the ESL classroom but have no work to do, we practice English. This can mean teaching them how to say basic phrases and questions like “What sports do you like?” to clarifying grammar structures in English.

An interesting detail in this work is that I am not always guaranteed to work with Spanish-speakers. There is quite a variety of English language learning. I have found that at various points in the day I am aiding students from French-speaking Africa, China, Vietnam, or Albania.

Another interesting point of my work at the school is that throughout different times of the day, the number of students I work with varies greatly. During some class periods, there are so many students that come down to the ESL room for help that I must work with groups of students, sometimes up to five at once. At other points throughout the day, I can work with only one or two students. In these situations, I am able to focus more attention on the needs of the individual and spend time getting to know the story behind their life and their personality.

In contrast, some class periods no students come down for help with work. During these periods, I typically talk with the teacher and any other tutors that are there at the time. It is during these times that we discuss the environment in the school/town for English language learners, the intriguing life stories of some children, and the problems that we may come across with certain individuals. Even though I may not be tutoring a student during these few points during the day, I am learning and reflecting on various themes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Student Reflection

by Anthony Solis

Es interesante que la puerta esté cerrada cada vez que voy a ECIRMAC. La iglesia no tiene actividades durante los martes por la mañana y el edificio es muy tranquilo si quieres explorar. Pero no debes. La puerta está cerrada por razón; el acceso es limitado a los que necesitan usarlo. Cada semana necesito tocar el timbre para ganar acceso para trabajar. Para mí es un paso importante para tomar toda la experiencia. Las oportunidades se presentan pero no abren todas las puertas. Es importante que tomes el paso siguiente para asegurarlas.

Y ¡qué oportunidad es! Puedo encontrar a muchas personas, y todas tienen sus propias historias especiales. Para considerar a la diversidad de personas que vienen, el centro de refugiados tiene empleos que pueden hablar muchos lenguas útiles. Hay una para el español, una para el chino, una para el vietnamita, y una puede hablar el vietnamita, el francés, y poco el español. Tuve llamada de una abogada que buscaba un intérprete para Hindi. Siempre tienen recursos para encontrar a alguien quien puede servir como intérprete. Me fascina cuantas personas aquí no pueden o no prefieren hablar el inglés.

Un día vino una mujer árabe quien aplicaba para ganar ciudadanía en los Estados Unidos. Hay muchas papeles que necesitó llenar y muchos obstáculos como el transferencia de su matrimonio legal. Tenía que hacer pausa con un papel que le pidió escribir su nombre en su alfabeto nativo. ¡La línea no fue establecido para las palabras del derecho a la izquierda! Qué tonto es nuestro gobierno.

Tengo varias oportunidades para hablar a los hispanohablantes. No me había dado cuenta de que podía conversar tan bien. Usualmente Guadalupe no puede llegar a la oficina hasta la diez y media, y por eso es mi trabajo saludar a los clientes, preguntarles que necesitan, y decidir si puedo ayudarles o debo decirles que esperen para que Guadalupe regresa. Por la mayoría las conversaciones son fáciles, la dificultad es cuando tienen documentos necesito saber la lengua legal. Es bastante difícil en inglés, y por ahora no puedo traducir al español.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Student Reflection

by Leslie Barron

La Escuela Leal

This semester I decided to take Span 232 so I could learn a little more about the community surrounding U of I. After two years of living in Champaign I realized I do not know much about the community outside of the campus. I thought this class, Spanish in the community, would be the perfect opportunity to get involved in the community and learn a little more about the people who live here. Although we were given a variety of locations where we could volunteer, I knew I wanted to work in an elementary school this semester. I love being around little kids and knew this would be a great opportunity.

Since day one volunteering at Leal Elementary School in Urbana, Illinois I have had the most amazing experiences. Leal has students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but I got assigned to volunteer in a 1st grade bilingual classroom. Most of the students only speak Spanish, some understand a little bit of English, and only a few of them speak fluent English as well. One thing I noticed right from the start is how many volunteers work at the school. The binder of U of I students alone is impressive. I usually go in the mornings which is when the students work on reading and writing. The first few weeks of volunteering the teacher would give me specific tasks to do such as working with one group on counting, or another group of students on reading. The students would be in groups of about five and they would rotate so I would get to work with most of the students as they came through the stations. It was really fun getting to know so many of the students and enjoyable to talk to so many of them. After I became more comfortable in the classroom the teacher let me choose what I wanted to do instead of assigning me a group.

I also get to spend time with the students while they are in their music class. I realized quickly that having volunteers who speak Spanish and can communicate with the children is a big help because the music teacher neither understands nor speaks any Spanish. For this reason, I feel like I can do the most good in this type of situation. It is exciting to be able to translate something and have the students understand what they are supposed to be doing. Most days I volunteer there are other students volunteering there as well. The program coordinator does a great job of organizing the volunteers and really placing them in classrooms and with teachers where they can make a difference. So far Leal has been an exciting place to volunteer and a place where I would love to continue to volunteer after this semester. For anyone else looking to get involved in the community while using Spanish, or not, Leal Elementary is the perfect place to start!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Student Reflection

by Leslie Barron

My name is Leslie Barron. I’m a junior pursuing a double major in political science and Spanish. After undergrad I hope to attend law school. My family recently relocated from the Chicago suburbs to Boston so I am beginning to look at law schools on the east coast. Spanish has always been of interest to me, at least since I started taking Spanish classes in 7th grade. Ultimately, I think it would be awesome to be able to use my Spanish in my legal career.

Senior year of high school I had the opportunity to go on a two week study abroad program to Cuernavaca, Mexico and live with a host family. This experience really opened my eyes in a number of ways, but most importantly made me realize how much I enjoy the Spanish language. For this reason I decided to double major in Spanish at the U of I with the hopes of someday becoming fluent. I felt as if I learned so much more in two weeks in Cuernavaca than I ever could have learned in a classroom. Next semester I am planning on studying abroad in Granada, Spain and I am sure I will have the same feelings there. I am so excited to have the chance to really better my Spanish and become more fluent while simultaneously learning about the culture of Spain.

So far, the Spanish classes at U of I have been pretty interesting but I am very happy that I am able to participate in Span 232 this semester. One of my friends took the class last semester and raved about how much fun she had volunteering. When I started volunteering a couple weeks ago at Leal Elementary in Urbana in a 1st grade bilingual classroom I quickly realized what she was talking about. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that you are really making a difference and helping these kids learn. I hope that this semester first and foremost I will be able to make a difference in the classroom and be a good role model for the students. In addition, I hope this experience helps me improve my Spanish in all senses – speaking, listening, and reading. Finally, I hope that I will get to know some of these students well and learn about their different experiences living in the US being primarily Spanish speakers.

The picture is from the Cuernavaca, Mexico trip in 2007 when we visited the Teotihuacan Pyramids.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Student Reflection

by Danielle McBride

Photos: The first picture is of myself (farthest right) and two friends in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay looking out unto the Río de la Plata in mid-November 2008. The second picture is of myself looking out through the forest onto Las Cataratas del Iguazú in early December 2008.

I’m Danielle McBride and I am a senior in International Studies with a focus on Latin America and human rights.

My experiences with Spanish have been impacting, and sometime life changing. I am from a small town in northern Illinois. Though we are roughly 9500 people, we have a rather significant Spanish-speaking population; something all the other towns around us lack, making us a bit different than the average small town in Illinois. Growing up, I always had friends and classmates that had to learn English as their second language, but I knew nothing of other languages. As I became older, I became more intrigued by the diversity in my town, more specifically the Latino culture. In high school, I took three years of Spanish, and found I had a more natural talent for the language than most of my fellow classmates. As I found myself at the University of Illinois, I knew I wanted to make my focus on improving my Spanish skills and learning more about other cultures, once again, more specifically Latin American cultures. Hence, I chose to be an International Studies major. I found after one or two courses in Spanish here at the university that I really had a passion for learning and speaking Spanish. Because of this, I started working as an ESL teacher’s aide for the elementary school district in my hometown over every break (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.). I still continue to work with the district’s ESL program every break. I also started to explore using Spanish outside of school and work. Moving past the nervousness one sometimes feels when speaking a second language, I began using Spanish more and more with my friends who spoke Spanish as a first language. I now use solely Spanish when around the families of these friends.

Though all these matters have shaped my experiences with Spanish, studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the fall of 2008, without a doubt, affected my life the most. While I was in Argentina I lived with a woman named Ana María. Ana María was a retired professor of literature and a writer of historical fiction that focused on women in Argentine history. Needless to say, I learned quite a bit from Ana María and had the opportunity to meet many interesting people through her. I even attended a “birthday party” for Jorge Luis Borges where I was able to meet his wife María Kodama! Attending classes at La Universidad de Buenos Aires and making Argentine friends truly opened my eyes to a world more beautiful and exciting than I could have ever imagined. Whether it was sipping mate with friends or simply strolling through the various ferias on weekends looking for trinkets to give to friends and family, Argentina stole my heart. I loved my experience so much with the country and its people, I hope to move back for a few years after graduation.

Through this project, my more obvious goal is to improve my Spanish. Since returning from Argentina, I know my Spanish speaking has become a bit rusty, and working at Central High School will definitely allow me an avenue to speak more often. Other than my self-improvement, I hope to learn more about the lives of the Spanish-speaking students at Central. In the past when I have worked with ESL children, I have never had consistent contact with the same group of individuals, thus not allowing me to truly understand their lives and circumstances. However, since I will be working with the same set of individuals at Central, I hope to learn about their pasts, presents, and futures. I think gaining more insight into their lives will allow me to gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to be them and what has brought them to Champaign.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Student Reflection

by Katie Bednar

I am currently a junior studying Spanish and Education. I am working toward a certification in the teaching of Spanish for grades kindergarten through high school. My passion has always been in the field of education, and as I went through high school, my interest and affinity for the Spanish language developed. It only seemed natural to pair the two. For this reason, I am very excited to be working in the Champaign school district as a part of this project.

This will be my first semester working in the community via Spanish & Illinois, but over the course of the past two years I have worked in the Champaign schools tutoring and working with Spanish-speaking students. I discovered my interest in bilingual education through time spent observing and working in a bilingual kindergarten classroom. Much of my exposure to Spanish has been in a classroom setting, whether it is as the student or the mentor. My knowledge and comfort with the language are constantly improving.

I am grateful for this opportunity to use my Spanish in the Champaign-Urbana community to help and teach others, as well as to learn a little something myself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Student Reflection

by Anthony Salis

El primer día que fui a la agencia, tenía un poco de miedo porque no estaba seguro de lo que iba a hacer. Tampoco nunca había estado en la parte de Urbana pero las direcciones eran bastante básicas--a la esquina de Green y Birch. Supe que había encontrado la puerta correcta cuando vi una nota que dijo que no había nadie en la oficina por la primera hora que estaría. Fantástico. No sé lo que hago y no hay nadie para enseñarme.

Pensaba que la primera hora no debía valer para nada, pero en la segunda hice doble el trabajo. Guadalupe regresó a la oficina y trajo dos padres que necesitaban ayuda en llenar una aplicación para su hija. ¡Qué presión! No hablaron inglés para nada y tenía que traducirla para que podían que debían marcar. Era muy difícil pensar en palabras que describan las ideas técnicas especialmente las enfermedades. ¡Había muchas que no conocía en inglés!

La oficina estaba muy ocupada ese día. Los teléfonos sonaban mucho y había seis o siete personas en total que la ocupaban. Hacíamos tanto ruido que era más difícil concentrar en lo que necesitaba hacer. Era aun peor porque no entendí completamente el objeto del trabajo que hacía ni estaba completamente seguro que les di la ayuda que necesitaban.

Más que usar el español estaba aprendiendo mucho de otra aspecto de vida. Nunca había entendido las dificultades de la pobreza que cuando les ayudaba. Es triste saber que hay gente que vive con nosotros que toma medidas drásticas para ganar una vida mejora. A causa de sus recursos limitados es muy difícil para ellos sobrevivir en este mundo. Con la ayuda de Guadalupe, teníamos que escribir las respuestas para que su hija se viera bien. Actualmente, asiste a una escuela donde ha desarrollado hábitos malos con el entorno malo. Es un ciclo que solo puede ser roto con ayuda de gente que son beatos con los recursos necesarios. ¡Soy parte de una vida más grande!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Student Reflection

by Andrew Kraus

I’ve been spending about four days a week assisting as an ESL tutor. It has been a challenge to give up that much of my time, but it is definitely worth it. I’m spending a large part of my time teaching an individual student, Antonio, and I’m also helping create lesson plans for the whole class.

Antonio is a very eager student. He speaks and understands English very well, and still impresses me with how quickly he learns. His writing and reading skills are somewhat underdeveloped, though, so we’re going to be spending more time on those. I assigned him a story and a 100 word paper as an assignment before our next meeting.

Antonio is also looking for employment right now, so I’ve made it my personal mission to help him get a job. I helped him craft a cover letter, and soon we’ll be discussing how to make resumes. I’m happy that Antonio is doing so well with English, and if I can help him get a job that would be icing on the cake.

I’m in charge of designing one of the lessons for next week. The theme of the week is money, so I have to create a dialogue about money, as well as a list of the necessary vocabulary. We’ll probably also be discussing present progressive verbs. I hope it goes well!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Student Spotlight: Melissa Dilber

by Ann Abbott

I love seeing the success stories of my former students, and I love sharing them here so that current Spanish students can be inspired by their examples--opportunities they took advantage of while still students and paths they have followed in their professional lives.

Melissa Dilber worked on a senior thesis with me and a teammate, and during that process I saw that she was a risk-taker--in terms of language learning and work experiences. She learned French and Spanish by jumping in feet first; she spent an entire year abroad in France and worked in the Dominican Republic a few summers in service projects and for private companies. I could see that she put herself out there and grabbed hold of challenges--or created opportunities for herself!

Students, if you're interested in a career in public health and in the non-profit sector, Melissa is a great role-model for you. And even if you're planning on working in an entirely different field, take a look at the importance she places on language skills, and really sharpen yours! Furthermore, note that she is passionate about languages and cultures, and that has led her to where she is now.

Here are Melissa's own words:

"I am currently the Program Associate at the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB). HMHB is a maternal and infant health coalition; we connect community, local, private and government groups together based on particular issues, like prematurity, or folic acid awareness. My role is to assist with all of the programs, networks, business that HMHB has on its plate. That can mean anything from organizing a conference to planning a website, or from traveling across the States to attend conferences to creating marketing material for a project, and a little bit of everything else! I get to experience all aspects of a true, small non-profit organization, such as fundraising, networking, planning, researching and again, more networking.
My experience working with you, Ann, on our Spanish thesis was one of the main reasons why I got this job! Of course, the work I've done in Spanish-speaking communities was a part of it too, but I can put those two together because my thesis work was based on that experience anyways. In fact, the writing sample I submitted for this job was the Spanish/English introduction section of my actual thesis- it was a big hit! My boss was looking for someone with Spanish language skills (as well as some work in project management).

HMHB is committed to making a difference for mothers, babies and families in Spanish-speaking communities. There is much work to be done for this ever-growing segment of the population. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a team that prioritizes the needs of the uninsured, under-served population.

The first project I started working on was called the Acido Folico project: trying to create a network of community health workers and promotoras to market a national campaign of folic acid awareness to Latinas of childbearing age.

Since the Spanish-speaking community in the US is so large, and growing every day, I know there will be more projects that we will be working on that call on my Spanish verbal and cultural skills. And all this is coming just from my one organization, HMHB; the public health world is immense and there is always a need for culturally sensitive people with a heart for health.

Which is why I'm so glad that there are professors like you who encourage students to take their passion, their learning outside of the classroom. My own personal belief (as corny as it is) is that languages are keys and people are doors- the more keys you have, the more stories you have to unlock, the more knowledge you can discover. To know another language and then not go out into the world and use it with and for other people, I feel is a huge disservice. I'm eternally thankful for the teachers and friends that have encouraged me to run with my desire to speak and learn Spanish.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do Our Students Possess Intercultural Competence?

by Ann Abbott

In a previous post I asked if our students can recognize culture when it doesn't display itself wrapped in a flag and carrying baskets of local handicrafts.

But in some ways, the more important question is: Can our students recognize their own cultural practices and viewpoints?

It's easy to think that what we do is just "natural." If other people do it another way, that's "weird." (If I had a dime for every time an American says "Ick!" when in another country they see fish served whole, I'd be rich. And that's just one particularly obvious example of "un-natural natural.")

Darla K. Deardorff states this very clearly: "Cultural self-awareness could arguably be considered the essence of cross-cultural knowledge in that it is crucial for individuals to be aware of the way in which they view the world. Often this self-awareness is difficult to gain without moving beyond one's own culture, whether through education abroad experiences or cultural immersion experiences within one's home country. However, cultural self-awareness is indeed key, since experiences of others are often measured against one's own cultural conditioning" (p. 37 "Intercultural Competence: A Definition, Model, and Implications for Education Abroad." Theories for Intercultural Growth and Transformation.)

Many of my students are already quite interculturally competent, but how can we help all our students become more interculturally competent?

Deardorff proposes the "OSEE Tool":
  • O -- Observe what is happening.
  • S -- State objectively what is happening. (It can be very hard to refrain from judgement statements, so this should be modeled.)
  • E -- Explore different explanations for what is happening. (Students must try to see from another person's perspective to be able to do this.)
  • E -- Evaluate which explanation is the most likely one. (You may need to collect more information "through conversations with others and through asking questions.")

In my next post I will provide a lesson plan based on Deardorff's article.

*Thank you, Valeri Werpetinski, for bringing this article to my attention through this semester's service-learning reading group.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hazard! Protect All Involved in Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

What's your worst fear about teaching a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course?

Your students could behave unprofessionally and ruin the community partnership you worked so hard to build.

Your students' Spanish could be inadequate to the task, making mistakes that have real negative impacts.

Someone's safety could be compromised as they travel to and from the community partner's location.

One of your students could be a peeping Tom?

Maybe it's an urban legend, but I did hear that this actually happened at one university.

Obviously, it's impossible to avoid every risk that CSL involves. It wouldn't be as effective if it didn't push students in new directions. But there are some things that we can definitely do to help minimize risks. Follow your university's insurance, safety and documentation policies, and consider these options as well:

Before your course begins

  • Prepare contracts for your students to sign. Download Comunidades' Instructor's Resource Manual for some ideas about what to include in students contracts.
  • Make sure your deparment, college and university know what you're doing.
  • Show your partners the students' contracts. One time one of my community partners had problems with my students--they showed up late, didn't seem to care, etc. After I told their supervisor about the course contract they had signed, she told me, "I wish I would have seen that contract. I could have leveraged that in my conversations with them."

During the semester

  • Explicitly teach your students about the special precautions we need to take when we work with vulnerable populations. Don't assume your students know about this. What makes them vulnerable? What can students do to avoid causing problems for them?
  • Explicitly tell students that they are a team, and that there should be accountability among team members. You're not encouraging snitching, but you do want the students to have a safe, anonymous way of contacting you about potential problems. On the other hand, always remember--"innocent until proven guilty."
  • As always, check in with community partners frequently.

End of semester

  • Remind students that they can share their fears, doubts and suspicions with you in an anonymous format. During the semester, students may fear that speaking up will hurt their grade or cause them to lose face among their classmates. Giving them this option after grades have been assigned can assauge their fears.
    Any other suggestion?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

4 Myths about Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

It would be nice if starting a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course or program happened easily. It would be even nicer if CSL magically made all our students learn more--and remember everything they learned! While I truly believe that CSL is a very effective pedagogy when done well, it is not easy, nor is it a magic bullet.

Here are some myths about CSL. If you're considering starting a CSL course or program, take them to heart. If you're already doing CSL, well, you already know...

Myth 1. My campus' CSL Center will handle everything for me.
A centralized CSL office is a wonderful thing! I wish that the University of Illinois had one. But they don't integrate the CSL work into your curriculum; you have to do that. They don't know how to match up the community partner's needs to your students' Spanish proficiency level; that's up to you. So while they are a great start and save you a lot of work, you still have to make the experience meaningful to your course, to your students.

Myth 2. Doing the same thing in class, but adding CSL, will make the students care.
Maybe. Maybe not. They might care about their CSL work and still think your class stinks.

Myth 3. I don't have ties in the community, so I (can / cannot) do CSL.
You can make ties in the community, and you have to start somewhere, some time. But if you do not have ties in the community, ask yourself why. Your answers could give you a clue as to whether or not you should do CSL. My friend, Darcy Lear, for example, moved to North Carolina from Illinois and started working at UNC-Chapel Hill. She had no ties in the community because she had just moved there. But she quickly plugged herself in, contributed to community organizations and proved that she was a trustworthy partner. But if you have lived in your community for a long time, scorn your local newspaper, don't vote in local elections, and secretly think that all non-university people in your area are "hicks" (or some variation on that word), CSL probably isn't for you. Your potential community partners will smell your elitism.

Myth 4. Translating is a great CSL task.
No it isn't. Your students won't be able to translate well. You will spend lots of time revising their translations. This will remind you why you went into education instead of translation--because you hate to translate because it is so hard. You will resent having to fix your students translations, and you will swear you will never do another CSL class again.

Any more myths to bust? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Global Engagement Summer Institute

by Ann Abbott

I just received the following e-mail and wanted to pass alongthe information about Northwestern's Global Engagement Summer Institute. UIUC students may apply. I don't know if it is open to other university students as well.

"Dear select Illinois faculty, staff, and student leaders:

"The Northwestern University Center for Global Engagement is excited to announce that applications are now available for the Global Engagement Summer Institute, a unique summer program in Bolivia, Nicaragua, India, and Uganda. The program involves a 7-day preparatory institute in Chicago, followed by an 8-week, team-based internship at a host nonprofit.

"This is a great opportunity that pairs rigorous academic training with hands-on international community development experience. Do you think this might interest your students?

"Please feel free to forward the following message (below) to appropriate listservs and students and feel free to contact me with any questions. We'd also be thrilled for any personal recommendations you may have for students who would be good candidates for our program!

"Many thanks in advance.

"Warm regards,

"Nicole Patel
Program Manager
Center for Global Engagement
620 Library Place
Evanston, IL 60208

Amazon's Author Central

by Ann Abbott
Just a quick note to invite you to visit my page on Amazon's Author Central. I'd be happy if you left a comment on the blog post and discussion question. Or maybe you'd like to add a new discussion topic.
It's neat to have another space in which to interact with people who are using or are curious about Spanish community service learning.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Champaign-Urbana: Eat at Blues BBQ and Benefit the Refugee Center

by Ann Abbott

One of the Refugee Center's newest Board members is Sheena Shukla, a former "Spanish in the Community" student and current Masters student in the School of Social Work. She has organized the following fund-raiser on Wednesday, December 9 for the Refugee Center.

I have a broken foot, so I'll be calling for deliver that day. I hope you can drop by Blues or have it delivered, too.

Here is Sheena's message with details:

"Our fundraiser at Blues [1103 W Oregon St #C, Urbana, IL 61801-3783, (217) 239-9555]will be on December 9th for the entire time Blues is opened (11-9pm).

"The Refugee Center will receive 10% of everything sold for that day. On-campus delivery only costs one dollar, so this fundraiser can be accessible to everyone on campus."

What Does Culture Look Like?

by Ann Abbott

When our students travel abroad, they visit museums, rent movies, go to clubs, pass by monuments, travel to natural wonders (beaches, volcanoes, mountains, etc.), walk through plazas, buy artesenias for souveniers, take classes about local history, read literary works by native authors, live with a family, eat meals with them, and watch tv in their living room. They come back with a good--if not perfect--feel for the country's culture.

Our Spanish textbooks are loaded with bright pictures of faces with ethnic features, traditional clothing, modern night-life, happy youth hanging out, portraits of artists and authors, and photos of the same monuments and natural wonders our students would see if they could go abroad.

So when we tell our Spanish community service learning (CSL) students that they should be learning Spanish and about Hispanic cultures while working in the community (do we tell them that?), how will they know when they have encountered "culture?"

In Comunidades, I try to show that the way we (don't) use commands is cultural. So is the way we think parents should interact with teachers and with their own kids. The assumptions we make about how (quickly) people should learn languages is, too.

But these thoughts, viewpoints and ways of speaking are "invisible." There is no monument to the "Ancient God of Commands." No novel titled, "I Thought All Immigrants Should Learn English until I Realized How Hard It Was for Me to Learn Spanish and How Long It Took."

What "invisible" signs of culture have you and your students come across while doing CSL work? Leave a comment to let us know.

Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Questions to Ask Your Community Partners

by Ann Abbott

"How are things going?"

Is that as deep as you probe when talking to your community partner? Maybe you're afraid they will tell you something bad, and you'll have to drop everything and address the problem.

Well, you do need to ask more questions than that. First of all, you need to fix any problems that exist. Secondly, the more you know about your community partner, the more you can help your students extract meaning from their experiences in the community.

So, here are ten questions to ask. I'm sure you can think of more! Leave a comment to add yours.

One-to-One Questions.
  1. What's the best thing a student has done? You want to encourage your students to do more of this behavior.
  2. What's the worst thing a student has done? This can be painful to hear. Believe me. Sometimes it's really egregious ("Can you please tell your students not to teach the children here how to swear in English?"). Sometimes they are little things that you simply need to call to your students' attention.
  3. What do students know at the end of the semester that they didn't know at the beginning? Maybe you can create teaching materials or handouts that can speed up their learning curve.
  4. How many students can you honestly handle? Maybe they could use a lot more, but are afraid to ask. Or maybe they feel that they just don't have the resources to train and follow all your students. If the latter is the case, consider assigning a student "liaison," if possible.
  5. Do you want to continue this partnership? Tweak it? Don't assume anything.

In-class Questions. Consider inviting your community partner(s) to class so that students can learn from their expertise in ways that simply don't happen in the hectic workday.

  1. What is your organization's proudest achievement? These overworked, underpaid people often do wonderful things in our communities.
  2. What change in public policy would have the biggest positive impact on the people you serve? We want students to see that while it's important to help people one by one, policy, politics, and their own votes can truly have an important impact.
  3. What can our students do after they graduate and move away to continue having an impact? Students can take what they learn in the local community and apply it in their new communities. I'd also like to see us create ways for students to stay in contact--Facebook groups, maybe?
  4. What is the most important skill you use to do your job? It's probably something that no one is explicitly teaching in our universities!
  5. Please describe the impact our students have on your organization. Students need to hear that they are, indeed, having an impact. We all want to know that what we do matters.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Authentic Oral Input for Spanish Community Service Learning Students

by Ann Abbott
So, have your students watch the first video interview (in Unit 1 and presented as a series of short clips), then have them do these additional activities.
Vocabulary Activity

Asocia la actividad con el problema.

1. ___ tejer
2. ___ vacunar
3. ___ dar clases
4. ___ limpiar un parque

a. enfermarse
b. enfriarse
c. verse feo
d. no tener acceso a información

Grammar Activities
1. Indica si la frase se refiere a los estudiantes universitarios de Mexico, de EE.UU. o los dos.

México / EE.UU. 1. Es preciso que presten servicio en la comunidad.
México / EE.UU. 2. Es posible que presten servicio en la comunidad.
México / EE.UU. 3. Es bueno que presten servicio.
México / EE.UU. 4. Es necesario que trabajen muchas horas en la comunidad.
México / EE.UU. 5. Es bueno que no esperen hasta el último año para hacer todas sus horas de servicio comunitario.
México / EE.UU. 6. Es recomendable que trabajen en la comunidad.
México / EE.UU. 7. Es imprescindible que ofrezcan sus servicios a la comunidad.
México / EE.UU. 8. Es aconsejable que participen en el voluntariado.

2. Ahora completa estas frases para describir tus actividades para este curso. OJO: Usa correctamente el subjuntivo.

1. Es preciso que...
2. Es esencial que...
3. Es posible que...
4. No es necesario que...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Leave Students Alone on Facebook

by Ann Abbott

Language instructors are curious about how to use social networking sites in their teaching, and there were many ACTFL sessions about Facebook and other technologies. Everyone wants to know what the possibilities are.

Maybe we should just let our students do what they are already doing.

Something I read recently in a parenting magazine caught my attention:

"Dr. [Christine] Greenhow [University of Minnesota in Minneapolis] recently studied how students use social networking sites (SNSs) as learning tools and found that students are developing 'twenty-first-century skills'--like competency in technology, creativity, communication and collaboration. Many use SNSs to discuss homework and school-related anxieties as well as to post their creative ventures like pieces of fiction writing, photographs and videos. In short, the sites are now part teen hangout, part study hall." (Judith Aquino, Working Mother August/September 2009)

That reminds me a lot of how I use Facebook!

My blog posts automatically import to my Facebook notes and sometimes generate neat discussions with my colleagues and friends. Darcy Lear and I use the chat function to work on our collaborative projects and simply to share and encourage each other. My friends often share their creative projects--whether lesson plans or other types of creative expression--which often, in turn, inspire me to try something new and different.

This also makes me think that I could explicitly encourage students to share their thoughts and creative products from the community service learning (CSL) courses that I teach. Instead of intruding on their already established SNSs, they could share in ways that they already use. But I do think I have a lot that I can teach them about other social media tools, and that is why I teach about them, not necessarily with them, in my Business Spanish class.

Many instructors create course-specific Ning sites work well for language learning activities, teamwork and blog publishing. I think that is great.

And of course, there are already many language-learning social network sites on the web that students can simply be encouraged to use on their own.

Are you using SNSs in your language and/or CSL courses? Did you attend an ACTFL session about SNSs? Leave a comment to share your ideas!

Related posts

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Un Momento. Is That Written with a "C," a "Z" or an "S?"

by Ann Abbott

Recent conversations with some of my community partners have convinced me even more that our students need as much practice as possible with Hispanic names. When they are doing their community service learning (CSL) work, they simply make too many mistakes. That can create all sorts of problems, especially when filing names. And while students may not think that filing is a valuable use of their time, it is in fact invaluable to the people who need to access those files at a moment's notice, for vital tasks.

Although there are many reasons that students might make mistakes with Hispanic names, right now I'd like to focus on possible confusions between the similar sounds of "s," "z" and "c" in Spanish.

On the telephone, or even in person, how would you know if a person's name was Velázquez, Velásquez or Velásques? All three are possible. What about Macías or Masías? I have seen both.

There's only one way to know: Ask! Even if you think you know, ask.

"¿Se escribe con 's'? ¿No? ¿Cómo se escribe?"

This classroom activity should help your students. Be sure that they focus on the strategy of getting the right spelling, not just memorizing how some names are spelled. Remember, there are often variations!

1. Choose 6-8 names from this list and read them out loud to your students. Ask them to write them down. (These are all names of people that I know or have seen, although not necessarily in these combinations.)
  • Horacio Salazar
  • Saúl Esquivel Meza
  • Zenobia Vásquez González
  • Azucena Ortiz-Díaz
  • Nicolás Luis Reyes Fragoso
  • Rosalinda Enríquez Verzal
  • César Arturo Ponce Vélez
  • José Luis Chávez Valdez
  • Zanya Solís Várgas
  • Bianca Paíz
  • Isaac Cruz Péres
  • Criseida María Solorzano Torres
  • Zanya Garza García
  • Ezequiel Zubía Lópes

2. Tell students to ask you strategic questions to confirm the spelling of the names they are not sure of. They cannot ask "¿Cómo se escribe el #2?"

3. Give the students the correct spellings and check how many they got right.

4. Besides "z," "s" and "c," what other letters might cause confusion when writing down names? What strategies can you use to make sure you spell them correctly?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Using Authentic Input: Tips from Michael Leeser and Greg Keating

by Ann Abbott

While at the ACTFL conference last week, I went to a workshop that Michael Leeser and Greg Keating gave about using authentic input in intermediate Spanish. Michael, Greg and Bill VanPatten are the authors of Así lo veo (McGraw-Hill), an intermediate textbook using unscripted documentary-style interviews with native speakers of Spanish. The book will be available in January 2010.

As Michael explained, some Spanish instructors claim that it is impossible to use authentic oral input with intermediate students because it is too hard for them to understand. Thus, the workshop centered on strategies for making authentic input accessible to students.

As I listened, my mind was also on the authentic, unscripted interviews with native speakers that are included with my own textbook, Comunidades: Más allá del aula. I'll post more about them in the future, with activities inspired by the information from Michael and Greg in their workshop.

I took lots of notes, and here I'll give you a list of tips that I jotted down.

Gregory D. Keating
  • If you think the authentic language in the video is too fast for students to understand, try giving them a "scrambled sentence" to put together logically, before they view the video. That way, they will have read the sentence and worked with the content before they listen to it.
  • Likewise, you can transcribe a fast or difficult passage and do a cloze activity in which students fill in the missing words, before or after they listen to it.
  • When there are false starts in the video, ask students to focus on the facial gestures and body language that go along with them. They can give important clues about meaning.
  • If the video includes regional slang, preview it and gloss it.
  • If the video includes regional accents that might be unfamiliar to students and difficult for them to understand, you can start with a very short clip that highlights that particular feature and prepares students for it.

Michael Leeser

  • You can use authentic input to teach grammar.
  • Have students view clips once for what the speakers say, then have them re-view it to focus on how they say it.
  • When students listen to various speakers, you can create an activity that gives quotes and asks students to identify who did say it or who would have been most likely to say it.
  • Michael said, "It's not so much about the content per se, it's about the tasks we give students to do."
  • One of Michael's students brought a video clip to class of Star War's R2-D2 "talking." His student asked, "Is R2-D2 happy or sad?" Even though no one could understand what he was saying, everyone could answer. That's a powerful example of how the proper task can really help students glean meaning from authentic input.


  • Authentic video is more than just listening comprehension. The visuals are also important input: body language, the physical environment, pragmatics, etc.
  • Videos are good for homework to be done outside of class.
  • A woman in the audience who teaches in Iowa mentioned that due to changing demographics in her state, many of her students actually work with native Spanish speakers in their part-time jobs. The authentic input with regionalisms is actually just what they need. She also mentioned that "relationship building" is what they're trying to accomplish right now. Very insightful and something to really think about...
  • Michael said that he sometimes shows students a clip from a feature film with no sound, just action. He then asks them to write the script. He shows it again with the sound on, and they compare how closely their script matched the real one.

Congratulations to the authors for their great work