Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Classroom Activity to Define Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

When I teach Spanish community service learning (CSL), I want my students to end the course with a better understanding of the Spanish language, latino cultures and the methodology of CSL itself.

In the first classes of the semester, I do walk them through the tenets of CSL, its goals and why we use it to teach Spanish. But I think I'll start using the following activity to teach them the definition.
  • Go to (always a source of really great information) and click on "what is service learning?"
  • Have students read slide one and then substitute with specific examples from the academic subject of your course. Example: Tutoring children in an after-school program is service. Reading novels in a Spanish literature course is learning. When Spanish students read books in Spanish and English with Latina/o school children, document which words they both had to look up, and report their progress to teachers and parents--that's service learning. (This isn't an easy exercise!)
You could stop right there. Or you could go through all five slides.

Slide 2. Divide students into eight groups and assign each group one category from the list. Have them explain with specific examples how your course incorporates each element. Then each group presents to the class. Finally, have them explain what the negative consequences could be if each element were not incorporated into the course.

Slide 3. Have students work in pairs. Ask them to come up with a two lists: reasons why younger kids couldn't do the work they are doing in the community and reasons why they could. Then, for each grade level, have them come up with a developmentally appropriate example of service learning for the academic subject of your course.

Slide 4. If you haven't done this already, mouse over "Pre-service reflection" and ask students to answer the questions it raises. Ask them what misconceptions they had before they started the course. Then give them a list of possible "Now what?" action items related to the issue their service address and ask them rate them on a scale of most urgent to least urgent.

Slide 5. Students may not be interested in the administrative/teaching level of CSL. Still, you could ask them to look at titles from last year's National Service-Learning Conference and then propose a title about your course.

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