Showing posts from September, 2009

Spanish Students Can Win Prize Money

by Ann Abbott

I, of course, love the topic of Pearson/Prentice Hall's student essay contest: "Es tu mundo ¡Conéctate!"

I wish my Spanish community service learning (CSL) students could participate, but the contest is open to students in intermediate Spanish courses. The "Spanish in the Community" course is sixth-semester or higher.

If your intermediate Spanish students use their Spanish in the community (it doesn't seem like it has to be specifically for a CSL course), encourage them to enter. You can get money too.

Medios sociales para negocios: como crear un perfil profesional en la web

by Ann Abbott

Sigue estos pasos para tomar la clase virtual sobre cómo crear un perfil profesional en Internet:

Introducción (5 minutos)

Tarea 1 (10 minutos)

Problemas posibles (5 minutos)

Tarea 2: Busca a ti mismo/a (5 minutos)

Tarea 3: Busca a un/a compañero/a de la clase (5 minutos)

Crear un perfil con Google Profile (5 minutos)

Ejemplos (5 minutos)

Tarea 4: Crea tu propio Google Profile con inglés y español (10 minutos)

Fall 2009 Scholarship of Engagement Reading Group

by Ann Abbott

You don't have to be at the University of Illinois to benefit from the wonderful reading list that Valeri Werpetinski has put together for the Fall 2009 Scholarship of Engagement Reading Group. There is information about (1) theoretical foundations of international service learning, (2) international and intercultural perspective on service learning and (3) student oucomes.

But if you are at the Univeristy of Illinois, click here to read the selected pieces and meet us on Monday, Sept 28, 12:00-1:30 p.m. in room 428 Armory Bldg. to discuss the topic and the readings. Even if you don't have time to read any of the pieces, come anyway.

Students: Apply for Leadership Opportunities in D.C.

I received a message from Julio Costa with all the details about the applications for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's internship, fellowship and scholarship opportunities. Take a look at Julio's profile, read carefully what they're looking for, and make yourself shine in your application. These are wonderful opportunities!Ann
CHCI Program Applications
Now Available Online
CHCI is recruiting Hispanic American students - undergraduate and graduate - for its nationally recognized leadership development programs.Applications for CHCI's 2010 Congressional Internship, Public Policy Fellowship, Graduate & Young Professional Fellowship, and Scholarship Programs are now available online at Congressional Internship Program provides college students with Congressional work placements on Capitol Hill to learn first-hand about our nation's legislative process. CHCI is proud to announce that with the generous support of Walmart, …

UIUC Civic Commitment Task Force's Recommendations

by Ann Abbott

Click here to read the recommendations that our Civic Commitment Task Force recently released. The task force obviously gave great thought to how they could build upon existing university frameworks and strengths to promote more engagment opportunities and to deepen existing ones. The links to other programs are especially useful: they are examples of what our university could achieve as well as reveal the gaps between those possibilities and current realities.

I felt that the section on research could have been strengthened. As it is, it seemed too broad to me. I think almost every researcher on campus would argue that their work is important to society. (And really, since nothing exists outside of society, they would be right.) Perhaps some other communication from the task force (or a future body that takes up the work of the task force) could clarify what civic commitment in research looks like on our campus.

Facebook in Spanish

by Ann Abbott

I use Exito comercial in my Business Spanish class, and so far we've talked about global business, business structures and management. Next week we'll cover banking and accounting. By using the accompanying workbook, students are working on how they express themselves in written Spanish in a professional context. It isn't easy!

These are all essential topics and tasks in business, but I want my students to finish this course being able to do something specific, having a hard skill under their belts and on their resume. So this is the learning goal I have established for this semester:

Students will finish the course with the necessary skills to create a social media marketing plan and implement it.

So after the next chapter in our textbook, I will be giving my students lessons on social media and business. I'll post more about that in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I think you might find the video above entertaining. Did you know all those Facebook terms i…

Is Spanish Important to Your Future?

by Ann Abbott
I just read Peter Bregman's latest post on the Harvard Business Publishing site. In it, he gives excellent examples of cross-cultural work scenarios, and the potential pitfalls that occur when you don't fully understand the cultural expectations of all parties.
But we aren't born knowing what the expectations of all cultures are. Many times we don't even recognize our own until we run up against someone who doesn't share them.
The traditional approach to teaching cultural expectations has been to come up with lists. Asians do this. Latinos want that. Americans are like this. Gift-giving cultures expect that. High-distance cultures need this. It's a weird combination of specificity--lots of detailed items on these lists--and huge generalizations--painting entire continents with one big brushstroke.
When teaching my Business Spanish class yesterday, I had to cover the section of the textbook that talks about how important family is in Hispanic cultures.…

Student Spotlight: Julio Costa

by Ann Abbott

Some students really inject life into a class. Julio Costa did just that in the "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" class I taught last semester. So it wasn't surprising to me when I found out that he had been accepted into a very prestigious program designed to develop leadership in outstanding young Latinos. Here is some information about Julio and news about his experiences in Washington D.C.
Julio studied political science and Spanish. He took both Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses: "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrpereneurship."In both classes Julio did his CSL work in the bilingual classrooms at BT Washington elementary school.In his reflective writing, it was obvious that Julio had formed very positive relationships with the children in the class where he worked and that the students saw him as a role model.For his community-based project in the "Spanish & Entrpreneurship" course, Julio and…

Is Spanish Important for Our Students' Future?

by Ann Abbott
"Like many teenagers, my son spends a ton of time on his computer," writes Robert Safian in his letter from the editor in "Fast Company's" September 2009 issue. "His passion is designing icons to personalize a desktop or iPhone interface. He posts sets of these icons online for people to download. He doesn't get paid for any of this. But he loves doing it."
That sounds wonderful. We want our children and students to have passions, skills and technological know-how. But Safian's next paragraph set my teeth on edge.
"I sometimes reprimand him for devoting so many hours to this: 'Have you finished your Spanish homework?' Yet I also find myself wondering, What's actually the better training for his future, high-school Spanish or honing these self-taught computer skills?'"
How many times must we explain the importance of foreign languages to Americans? Why did he pick his son's Spanish class and not his math …

Bilingual ESL and Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

One more follow-up about the work of Lisa Rabin and her colleagues at George Mason University. Click here to see a video about the teaching practicum in bilingual ESL that Prof. Rabin organized, and click here to read more about it. Prof. Rabin says that, "The field study has resulted in a very practical way of training students in language ideologies and working with institutions in the community as well as with residents."

I like to include "student spotlights" on this blog to inform and inspire other students. Consider this a "faculty spotlight" that will do the same.

A Student's Perspective on Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

It's really nice when students are genuinely excited about doing Spanish community service learning (CSL) because it connects to their values, experiences and goals. Here is an e-mail I received this summer from a student.It also shows the appeal that Spanish CSL can have for heritage speakers. And finally, it's so nice to have males take an interest in the class; most of our Spanish students are females.

To Whom This May Concern:

I'm writing regarding the class SPAN 232, Spanish in the Community. I was browsing through classes I was interested in adding to my schedule and this one struck me as really intriguing. I've taken a Spanish placement exam at UIUC, but don't really recall what I received, as my foreign language requirement was met in high school. So, while I don't have any formal Spanish language education at the collegiate level, as I'm sure you can tell my surname (and first name for that matter), I am of Hispanic decent, thus Spani…

Describe Your Community Service Learning Program in Five Sentences

by Ann Abbott

I recently was challenged to describe one of my Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses in five sentences. I wondered how I could do that when I seem to write an infinite number of blog posts about them! So, I tried to to not complicate things too much and came up with the five sentences below. They're long sentences, but they are five. Can you describe yours in a few sentences? A few words? With one picture? In a 30-second video?

In SPAN 332, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," students spend their time in the classroom learning about the theories of social entrepreneurship and how to build sustainable non-profits in culturally-appropriate ways. They also spend 28 hours (that's about 800 volunteer hours, total) working with a local non-profit that serves Champaign-Urbana's sizeable Latina/o population. They use their Spanish skills to help non-profits (schools, social service agencies, clinics and youth organizations) achieve their missions an…

Students Can Apply Spanish CSL Technology in Jobs

by Ann Abbott
Using Web 2.0 tools for my Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses saved my health.
Seriously. When I first started with Spanish CSL, I scheduled the students. It wasn't too hard. I just had twelve students and one community partner. Still, the students' schedules are not set in stone at the beginning of the semester, so every time they changed something, I had to do more work.
The next year I had 24 students and two community partners. And I was still scheduling the students. I hired an undergraduate to help me (Royce, you were/are a saint!), but that just meant that two of us were stressed out. I wasn't sleeping at night. And I got backaches. Talk about stress!
Then I tried a website. Students had to e-mail me with their #1 and #2 choices. Students could see what slots were available, but I was still a slave to the e-mail and the computer. If I didn't update frequently, some students couldn't get either one of their choices because, unbeknown…

Gender, Culture and Business Spanish

by Ann Abbott
During the first weeks of my Business Spanish class this semester, we talked about globalization, culture and the connections between the two. Here are the steps I took:
1. Recall and analyze students' own experiences. Students in the class who haven't studied or travelled abroad had to interview students who had and ask them for examples of culture shocks they had experienced. After going through that exercise, students had to choose one example of a culture shock and analyze its possible importance in business contexts.
2. Define terms. I asked students to read this page at so that we would share a common definition of globalization and related concepts.
3.Explore a case. I spent about ten minutes telling students the story of my brother-in-law's, Giuseppe's, business. How he started out in Italy, near Milan, running a small sewing factory to supply the pret a porter sector. Once a flourishing industry throughout the valley where he liv…

Language Ideologies and Spanish Community Service Learning, Part 2

by Ann Abbott
In a previous post I reviewed Lisa M. Rabin's article about language ideologies and service learning from the Spring 2009 issue of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. I concluded by saying that the information in that article will certainly inform my teaching of Spanish CSL. Try these steps with your students, and let me know how it goes.
1. Include bilingual schools as community partners. If that's not possible, English as a Second Language classes are another option. Many of my students work in bilingual classrooms at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Champaign and in Urbana's Leal School. As they experience bilingual education for themselves and share their experiences and learning with other students in the class who work in other settings, their awareness of what bilingual education is, grows. Many students simply are not informed about bilingual education in the first place.
2.Bring experts into the classroom--in person or by video.…

Student Profile: Josie Chambers

by Ann Abbott
Josie Chambers contacted me by e-mail long before the semester started to ask about "Spanish in the Community" and her desire to use Spanish with local latinos. She has decided to volunteer with one of our community partners, but not for course credit. That is important for our students to know: if you really want to improve your Spanish, you don't have to take a class! Volunteer. But take it seriously, like you would a class.

In our e-mail exchanges, Josie mentioned that she was in Uganda, and I was very curious to find out more about her reasons for being there and her activities. Many of our students are curious and adventurous. I hope that some of them will be inspired by Josie's story below.

Finally, I'd like to point out that Josie's major is Integrative Biology, yet she is interested in Spanish community service learning (CSL). For both personal and professional reasons, many of our students find that putting Spanish to work in the community…

Article Review: Language Ideologies and Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

Rabin, Lisa M. "Language Ideologies and the Settlement House Movement: A New History for Service-Learning." Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 15.2 (2009): 48-55.

Run, don't walk, to your library to read this article from the Spring 2009 issue of the MJCSL. If you are building your own community service learning (CSL) library, like I am, subscribe to the journal. You will always find valuable information in it.

This article is good because it provides solid, and in some ways surprising, information. And it's good because it solves a problem that I and other Spanish CSL instructors have: our own students' resistance to participating in bilingual education, something that they see as keeping Latina/o immigrants "down."

In class, students might say something like, "I think that the school should offer free ESL classes for the students' parents, too. They could get better jobs if they spoke English." (As if the school had…

How to Move Students from Service to Advocacy

by Ann Abbott

My Spanish community service-learning (CSL) students have been engaged in important direct service for five years now. They do the following, and more:
Tutor high school ESL students.Serve as teachers' aids in elementary bilingual classrooms.Help lead Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts meetings.Answer phones, do translations, receive clients, fill out forms and problem-solve at social service agencies with Spanish-speaking clients.Translate materials from English to Spanish.This semester they have begun to work on research projects involving community engagement for University of Illinois professors.But the Summer 2009 issue of the Generator newsletter made me think about how I can move students from direct service (addressing current needs) to advocacy service (addressing root causes). The newsletter gives several examples, including this one: starting a school-based recycling program (direct service) and continuing recycling effort, documenting results, and presenting to cit…

Concrete Images of Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott
"The Generator" newsletter always provides food for thought--and material for several blog posts. In a previous post I commented on the main theme of the Summer 2009 issue--the duration and intensity of service learning. (If you haven't subscribed already, I suggest that you do.)
This issue also led me to think about visible versus invisible community service learning (CSL) work.
What is an example of "visible" CSL work? Just open up the newsletter and look at the image at the top: rubber boots, brightly decorated with images from the local natural environment. That object (the boot) and the image (animals, plants, swamps, etc.) are concrete and easily-recognizable symbols of the wonderful "Wetland Watchers" project for Louisianna middle-schoolers. The images are bright, positive and make you feel that good things are happening.
These students have planted more than 3,900 trees (p. 3), they wear matching bright green t-shirts, they can tell …

Photography and Reflection

by Ann Abbott

Writing, I've always known, is not the only way to reflect. In Comunidadesthere is a picture of a young woman writing in a blank book (p. 128). The caption I wrote says,

"¿Es la escritura la única manera de reflexionar? ¿Hay otras maneras de expresar las ideas que surgen cuando reflexionas? ¿Qué piensas de estas otras maneras de concretizar tus ideas? Por ejemplo: dibujar, filmar, sacar fotos, charlar, crear música."

Yet in my Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses I tend to emphasize reflective writing. On the one hand, we're used to reading students' writing and we know exactly how to grade it. I used to have students do five-minute oral reflective videos with a webcamera and post them to YouTube, but many students simply couldn't handle the assignment and flooded my TAs with technical questions. Unfortunately, I had to stop using that assignment.

On the other hand, new formats can bring out new insights. So it's important that we ex…

10 Everyday Ways to Improve Your Spanish Language Skills

This blog focuses on Spanish community service learning (CSL) students, but we cannot forget that they are first and foremost Spanish students. All the best practices for teaching Spanish still apply, you just add on more layers when you have them work in the community with native speakers to solve real-world problems. The following blog post by Rose Jensen (accredited online college; Rose.Jensen28@ offers tips for all language learners. For more from Rose, I suggest her post on "101 Tools to Learn ANY Foreign Language for Free"--Ann
Learning a new language can be exciting and enlightening, but it can also be challenging especially when you’re trying to grasp the finer points of conjugation, pronunciation and pick up less than common terms. You can help yourself learn to speak more fluently and maybe even learn a little more about Spanish-speaking cultures by using these simple ways to flex your language muscles. Read newspapers and books in Spanish. Even if you do…

Career Choices and Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

I received an e-mail (quoted below) from a former student, Megan Knight, who did Spanish community service learning (CSL) with me last semester and did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship over the summer. Megan also blogged here last semester for honors credit in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship Course." Obviously, Megan is an exceptional student with a lot of talent and initiative.

She's also a lot like many students of mine: she's talented in many areas and that sometimes makes it more difficult to hone in on one single career path.

So I like the fact that Spanish CSL contributed in some way to the decisions she is making about her career and how she can use Spanish to contribute to increased access to social services and representation for Spanish-speakers in the US.

Not only do our students get to see the kind of work that happens in the offices and classrooms of our community partners, the employees who supervise them can serve as formal or …

Have You Heard from Your Community Partners Lately?

by Ann Abbott

I try to always be honest on this blog, even when it isn't very flattering. So, I confess that last week when I was talking to community partners, I heard something that didn't make me very proud.

I made a phone call to one of the community partners to confirm details for this semester. While we were on the phone, I asked her about something else, which led her to tell me about a group of students she had in a past semester who caused her a lot of trouble. They didn't come when they said they would. They made excuses. They were a headache for her.

Here's the most embarassing part: I didn't know that had happened to her!

She hastened to add that all the other groups from all the other semesters had been wonderful. She even apologized to me for not returning my messages to tell me that there was a problem. But the truth is, it is my responsibility to make sure things are going well with my community partners. I thought I had it under control: I s…