Monday, January 25, 2010

Define Community Service Learning for Your Students

By Ann Abbott

By this point in the semester, you've probably taught a few classes, your students know that they'll be working in the community, and maybe they have even had an orientation or work session in the community.

But do they know why they are working in the community? Do they know how it will help them learn Spanish? Do they know if it's actually more effective than the "easier" route of just sitting in a traditional class?

I've said it before: students need to know something about the pedagogy of community service learning (CSL) when they do it. When it's raining cats and dogs, and they have to walk to their community partner's building, they know what they really have to slosh through it. When you ask them to reflect upon what they have observed in the community, they will know that this isn't just about journaling, or getting in touch with your feelings; it's about tying together the classroom learning with their experiential learning.
When you ask them to generate their personal vocabulary list based on interactions in the community, they'll understand that you're not a slacker; you simply couldn't have known what vocabulary they would need.

Comunidades has a Lección devoted to explaining the pedagogy of CSL to students and how it connects to the ways in which we learn a second language. In a previous post I offered another lesson plan for engaging students with the pedagogy. And I recently came across this new example of CSL:
  • Coordinating a community run is service.
  • Measuring body mass index is learning.
  • Calculating the average BMI of a school, setting up a website to gather statistics, then organizing a "Walk Across Oklahoma" to help reduce obesity is service-learning.
Ask your students to offer another example of how we can combine service and learning to create service-learning.

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