Showing posts from June, 2009

Research: How to Build Community Partnerships (NYLC The Generator)

by Ann Abbott
As always, the National Youth Leadership Council's newsletter, "The Generator," has very useful information about service learning in it. The Spring 2009 issue focuses on partnerships, and in this post I'd like to focus on the "Research" section written by Bjorn Lyngstad.Lyngstad's piece begins with a question: "How can partnerships best be developed to ensure the success of service-learning projects?"Frankly, in Spanish community service learning (CSL) I think we have it pretty easy. Our students need to develop their Spanish language skills and/or knowledge of Latino cultures. Our partners usually need our students' Spanish language skills to communicate with their stakeholders. That seems pretty easy to square up.The problem is that our students need to use Spanish to do something: answer phones, greet clients, tutor children/adults, help resolve issues (legal, financial, bureaucratic, etc.). So our students need knowledge …

Student Spotlight: Megan Knight's Spanish & Illinios Summer Internship

by Ann Abbott
Megan Knight was one of the student bloggers from my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course last semester. She always wrote compelling and smart posts about her work in the course, in the community and her time studying abroad in Chile. This summer Megan has one of the Spanish & Illinois Summer Internships, and she is working at Childcare Resource Services, the same place she did her community service-learning for "Spanish in the Community." I asked her what kinds of things she was doing during her internship, and you can read her answer below. What I love about her answer is that she is busy. She's using and developing many different skills--translation, document creation, writing/editing copy, client interaction, teamwork, and many more. Great job, Megan! :) Jeeze, what am I NOT doing at CCRS? There's always so much to do! Right now I'm in the process of creating/translating resource guides for the six counties that CCRS offers servic…

Student Spotlight: Héctor Barajas

by Ann Abbott

I realize that there is still some debate about whether or not professors should be Facebook friends with students. There is even a Facebook Group called "Faculty Ethics on Facebook."

I enjoy being friends with my former students (and some current students--why not?) on Facebook. I get to see a more complete picture of who they are, what they do, what they like, and I like that. I don't pretend to use Facebook for any pedagogical reasons; I just like getting to know people. Even before Facebook, I knew that my students were "whole people" with whom I had the privilege to interact just a few hours a week.

And it is through Facebook that I have been able to stay in contact with Héctor Barajas. Héctor was in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course during the spring of 2008, and he worked as a tutor for the ESL students at Central High School. I remember very well the team project he worked on and the great presentation they gave at the end …

First Look at the Cover of "Comunidades: más allá del aula"

This is my first look at the cover for the textbook. It looks so simple, yet striking. Of course, that's just my opinion! :)

You can see details about the book here, and it will be available by August 15.

I know that there are a lot of people who develop innovative courses and great teaching materials. Here are some things that I have learned along the way that might be helpful to others who are writing a textbook or want to.

1. Inform yourself. Talk to other people who have written textbooks, if possible. See if you can do some work-for-hire for a publishing company, just so that you see the kind of work it takes--and if you're cut out for it.

2. Know your market. In order to get a contract you have to write a proposal. Even if your idea is great, if there aren't enough instructors who will buy it, then it won't get published. Remember, that doesn't mean that you don't have a great idea. It just means that not enough Spanish programs can adopt it in their course …

Student Blogger: Update on Sarah Moauro

by Ann Abbott All during the spring semester of 2009, I looked forward to reading Sarah (and Megan's) blog posts about their time doing community service learning (CSL). It was truly disappointing for me to stop receiving their reflections when the semester ended. But Sarah didn't stop blogging! She took a wonderful trip to South America (Peru, Argentina and Uruguay) after school was out. She blogged about her experiences and took amazing photos along the way. I followed her blog while she was gone, and then when I saw her pictures it was truly like going along for the ride in a way. Congratulations, Sarah, on your spirit of adventure and ability to communicate so well through your words and images.

First Lady Michelle Obama Announcing Terrific News for Service

University of Illinois Alum Takes Students on Service Trip to Honduras

by Ann Abbott
Not only do the undergrads who take "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish for Entrepreneurship" go on to do great things that I like to highlight here; so do our department's former grad students.
Brenci Patiño is a perfect example. She is now at Texas Lutheran University and recently took students to Nicaragua. You can read about it here.
Brenci and I are friends on Facebook, so I was thrilled to follow her updates about the trip and then see the pictures and videos she posted. It gave me an glimpse into the local culture and the reach of their service project.
Congratulations, Brenci!

Classroom Activity: Write an Episode of Your Favorite TV Show with Spanish CSL in the Plot

by Ann Abbott

Once I started to use Twitter, I found a wealth of information about community service learning (CSL) from all over the country. Truthfully, sometimes all the great information can be overwhelming. But building relationships and finding real gems makes it worthwhile.

Here's one gem: a blog post about how CSL stories can become the basis of plots for Hollywood productions.

What a great idea!

And although we missed the deadline to submit stories, I think the concept would be a great basis for a fun in-class activity. (Remember, my examples are all based on Spanish CSL, but I'm sure you could think of examples in English and in any subject matter.)

Learning Objectives
1. Students recognize and recreate the human drama of Spanish CSL and the situations they encounter in the community.
2. Students use their communication and presentation skills to enact (or summarize) a Spanish CSL-based plot.
3. Students to consider the power of stories to create change.
4. Students analyze t…

What Do Spanish Community Service Learning and College Admissions Have in Common?

by Ann AbbottMy audience for this blog isn't high school students who are trying to get into college, but I still think this video on college admissions is relevant to those of us doing Spanish community service learning (CSL). How? The things that the speaker says about getting into college--being vested in your activities, showing you authentic self in your admissions essay, what is the value of grades versus challenge--are all true about how students can highlight their Spanish CSL work when they look for a job or a graduate program.I truly believe that a Spanish CSL experience is a great way to set yourself apart, but only if you really take advantage of the experience. Adding it as one more item on your resume doesn't help if you can't then speak passionately about what you learned, how you learned it, and how you can transfer that to the work you will need to do in the job or grad program you're applying for. I'll continue to write more spceific posts abo…

Add Variety to Spanish Community Service Learning Reflection

by Ann Abbott

A quick reminder of the three pillars of successful Spanish community service learning (CSL):
A mutually beneficial community partnership.

Service learning activities that are tied to the academic content of the course.
Structured reflection.In this post I'd like to concentrate on #3, structured reflection. There is so much to say, and so much has already been said. Furthermore, reflection in a second language adds another layer of complexity for the students and instructors.

Still, the 4 C's (Eyler, Giles and Schmiede) are a good place to start (quoted in Service-Learning course Design Workbook from Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Summer 2001):
Continuous: reflection activities are undertaken throughout the service-learning course, rather than intermittently, episodically, or irregularly.Connected: reflection efforts are structured and directly related to the learning objectives.Challenging: reflection efforts set high expectations, demand high qual…

A Classroom Activity about Entrepreneurship Featuring Latin American Ashoka Fellows

by Ann Abbott

This morning I received another issue of the Entrepreneurship Educator Newsletter. It has good content about using Twitter in your teaching and generating income by offering workshops to the public. The last point led me to brainstorm some potential workshop topics that I could offer. I'll post more about that later.

One of the things that I enjoy about the Entrepreneurship Educator Newsletter is that it often offers some grab-and-go classroom exercises that you can implement right away in your own classroom. So I thought I'd offer one of those here today. (I offered another one using in a previous post.)

Remember, I am teaching my students Spanish at the same time that I am teaching them about entrepreneurship. You may want to tweak the activity if you teach in English. If you teach Spanish, like I do, tell your students that they will read the information in English, but they need to speak in Spanish.

Learning Objectives:
Recognize that local communities o…

Spanish Community Service Learning Bibliography

by Ann Abbott

As a service to all who are doing research in Spanish community service learning (CSL) and to those who would like to read the bibliography in order to start a course or program, I thought it would be a nice idea to keep an updated bibliography on this blog. Whenever you see a new article, book or textbook on Spanish CSL or foreign-language CSL in general, please leave me a comment or e-mail me at, and I will update this bibliography.

Abbott, Annie. "Putting Students to Work: Spanish Community Service Learning as a Countervailing Force." Building Infrastructures for Latino Mental Health.  Eds., Lissette Piedra and Lydia Buki. Springer. 2011.

Abbott, Annie. "Social Entrepreneurship and Community Service Learning: Building Sustainable Non-profits and Language Programs." Specialised Languages in the Global Village. Eds., Carmen Perez-Llantada and Maida Watson. Cambridge Scholars. 2011.

Abbott, An…

College Students of 2020--Will They Take Spanish Community Service Learning Courses?

by Ann Abbott

What's your first impression of the young woman in the photo: is she studying?
I think most people would say "no." But in just a few years, a cell phone and a laptop might be precisely what students use to study.

I am on the LAS Online Committee. Our charge is to understand how we can increase our College's (not the university's) on-line offerings. The goals are to increase access to our students and to generate revenue. (Cynics, stop right there. The College is serious about quality; money is not the sole motivator.)
There are a lot of talented people on the committee, and I learn a lot from listening to all of them. At yesterday's meeting, Barbara Hancin-Bhatt shared a new report from the Chronicle about College Students of 2020. As Barbara pointed out, the changes in how universities teach are big and the time frame is small. Two points from the executive summary seem particularly salient for Spanish community service learning (CSL): value and c…

Journal Review for Spanish Community Service Learning: The Language Educator 4.3

by Ann Abbott

Another issue of "The Language Educator," another cache of very useful information. I'll comment on the different pieces in separate posts.

1. On-line tools for learning Spanish The building where I work used to have a television set above the elevators that broadcast SCOLA(with newsbroadcasts from many languages and countries) throughout the day. They took it down, and it is true that it looked outdated--the Hummer-sized tv set hanging above your head--but it was a visual reminder of what our building, the Foreign Languages Building, was all about. If you walk into the newest buildings on campus--the Institute for Genomic Biology and the Business Instructional Facility--they have flat screen tvs that greet everyone who enteres with constant information about what they are about, their brand. But I digress! SCOLA may seem old-school, but don't forget it as a good resource for advanced language learners. '…

Journal Review for Spanish Community Service Learning: Hispania 92.2

by Ann Abbott

Darcy Lear and I have an article--"Aligning Expectations for Mutually Beneficial Community Service-Learning: The Case of Spanish Language Proficiency, Cultural Knowledge, and Professional Skills" pp. 312-323--in the latest issue of Hispania. It's always exciting to see your words appear on the page and to know that other people (might...) read them.

This article was motivated by the fact that everything we had read about Spanish community service learning (CSL) was positive, yet we knew that there were many challenges as well. I think Spanish CSL is very important and has great potential, but I think we also have to be honest about the work it takes to make the experience work well for all parties involved. Plus, in Valerie Werpetinski's reading group, I had read an article by Susan R. Jones about the "The Underside of Service Learning" and students who just "don't get it" and end up reinforcing stereotypes. The last straw for me w…

An Example of Virtual Volunteering and Ideas for Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

Facebook has been a wonderful way for me to reconnect with old friends. It has also been a great source of inspiration as I think about how to use social media and virtual volunteering for Spanish community service learning (CSL).

Those two great things about Facebook combined when a friend that I grew up with, Lynn Wilder, posted that she was taking pictures for volunteer-based genealogy website. She has combined two of her hobbies--photography and genealogy--to add to a data base that helps others do their genealogy research better.

Here is Lynn's description of her work:

"I started volunteering for the website of about two months ago. There were many reasons why I chose to do it. Volunteering with the website gave me the opportunity to help others in their search for their ancestors. It also allowed me to share my talents of photography (yes, I think you can take a BAD photo of a gravemarker!) and it also gave me the chance to see all di…

10 Things Every Traveler (or Community Service Learner) Should Do

by Ann Abbott

Pico Iyer is a novelist who has traveled a lot, to interesting locales, and with interesting companions (the Dalai Lama!). So I read his piece, "10 Things Every Traveler Should Do," with interest. In fact, when I read it, it made me think of how our students can connect in different ways to the communities where they do their Spanish community service learning (CSL).

Obviously, I don't think that our students should think of these communities as "exotic" locales for their "leisure travels." And in fact we sometime have to explicitly stop them from exoticizing both the community members and the spaces they inhabit.

But on the other hand, many of our students rush into the community to do their work, then rush back to campus to do their studying and socializing. They're busy people! They may come to know their workplace (an office, a school, a clinic, etc.) very well without every getting a real sense of the larger community context.


Community Service Learning Can Lead to Great Letters of Recomendation

by Ann Abbott
At the end of the semester, I always tell my students to ask me for a letter of recommendation whenever they need one. I think I ask a lot of my students, so then I always have a lot to say about them in a letter.In fact, I just wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" students from this spring who was invited to apply for a position working at the White House! (Good luck, Julio!) Because the course includes community service learning (CSL), in his letter I was able to give very specific information about the items I list below.
Here are some ways that CSL can result in a solid letter of recommendation for students, provided, of course, that they do good work in the course.Small class size. In general, foreign language courses are small. And because of the extra administrative duties of a CSL course, most are also small in size. Our "Spanish in the Community" courses are capped at 20 students per section. I allo…