Showing posts from January, 2011

UIUC: Learn about Activism at the University YMCA

by Ann Abbott

In Comunidades: Más allá del aula, I have an activity about certain actions one can do to address the problem of affordable housing (p. 120). Each item in the activity presents a problem and a possible solution.  Students' task is to decide if the solution involves charity, volunteerism or activism.

That difference is something that most of my students haven't thought much about. By doing academic service learning, students' volunteer work is at least connected to their academic learning, providing them insights into the larger cultural and policy issues that impact the realities they observe in the community. Sharing and comparing their experiences in the classroom helps students make sense of their volunteer work.  Furthermore, many of the prompts for reflective essays included in Comunidades ask students to conclude with a paragraph about what actions they can take to address the larger issue at hand.

Still, teaching students about activism is not the prim…

Take a Picture of Language Learning in the Community

by Ann Abbott

Once again, The Language Educator is chock-full of great information.

In the latest issue, they announced a photo contest, "Capturing the 'Lost C'--Communities."  This is going to be part of my students' final exam.

"We would invite all readers to send in a high-quality digital photograph that you feel represents language learning, particularly when it comes to making the connection to Communities. ... Help us do a better job of illustrating this important aspect of language education! Consider how you can best showcase your students' language learning and their relationship to Communities through a photo--and then enter it to win! You may see your photograph in an upcoming issue of The Language Educator." p. 24

Contest Deadline: May 15, 2011
Prizes: The first place winner of the contest will receive $500; second place $200. For all other entries, if we feature the photo in TLE, photographers will be credited in TLE and on our website.

Model Classroom Activities for Your Students

by Ann Abbott

I have been visiting my TAs' classes. As usual, I am impressed by our Teaching Assistants' intelligence, poise, energy, creativity and classroom skills.  Anyone who complains that students only have teaching assistants the first years of their university classes should sit in and see the quality of our TAs' work.

But there is one area for improvement: modeling activities.  I know that I need that reminder as well!

When you're teaching more advanced foreign language learners, you may think that your activities do not need much set-up. We usually think more about instructions and modeling for novice language learners.

Instead, I saw that students in advanced courses would spend the first few minutes of a group activity figuring out what they were supposed to do in the activity. This was also the only time I ever heard English. "What are we supposed to do?  How do we start this? Etc."

The solution is easy. Give everyone 30 seconds of silence to rea…

Student Reflection: Kendra Dickinson

I met Kendra during her on-campus interview for a Fulbright Scholarship. I was struck by her high level of Spanish, maturity and intellect.  It is so nice to meet students who are true learners, going out of their way to inform themselves about intellectual, cultural and policy issues.  So when she told me she needed a faculty advisor for her capstone project, I agreed. I know I will learn more about the environment and Extension's projects through her blog posts this semester, and I hope others will, too. [Ann Abbott]

by Kendra Dickinson


My name is Kendra Dickinson and I am senior studying Spanish and Environmental Studies. This being my last year at the university, I have put a lot of thought into how best make use of the incredible knowledge that I have gained over the past 3.5 years as a student. This semester, I will be working on a project that combines what I have learned in both of my plans of study, as well as giving me the opportunity to use the skills that I have g…

UIUC Scholarship of Engagement Seminar

by Ann Abbott

Valeri Werpetinski has set up another great semester of service-learning and public-engagement forums through the Center for Teaching Excellence.

First, she has arranged monthly meetings for the Scholarship of Engagement Seminar (be sure to scroll down to see all the topics).  The name of the group is rather formal, but please don't feel that you have to be "serious" about the scholarship of engagement and service learning to attend any or all sessions!  It's a great opportunity just to gather ideas and meet other people who share your interests.  A group of my students and I will present on March 16.

Val is also leading a Service-Learning Course Design Clinic.  If you are thinking about offering a service learning course, know you're going to offer one or want to tweak one you're already teaching, I'm sure you will walk away with lots of ideas and resources.

Finally, there will be a Service Learning and Social Entrepreneurship Showcase, …

Resources for Teaching Business Spanish and Other Languages

by Ann Abbott

Dr. Mary Risner was among the many interesting people I met at the K-12 Business Languages Workshop at Florida International University in Miami this past weekend.  Mary is Associate Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida.  Specifically, she works on their outreach program, and she shared many resources with the workshop attendees.

The Outreach Library. I imagine that you need to live close to the University of Florida to borrow these items (but perhaps that is wrong). However, I googled many titles on the list of books and dvds available, and I hope to find them through my own library or order some for my courses.  Here are just a few of the titles I found particularly interesting and potentially useful: Beyond Borders: Ethics in International Business; The Multicultural Meeting; Comunicaciones Interculturales: Factores que pueden afectar el exito en los negocios in Latinoamerica; Ethical Markets: International Finance Reform; Zoned…

Teaching Business Spanish at the Elementary and High School Level

by Ann Abbott

I just returned from the 3rd Annual K-12 Language for Business Conference: Technologies and Tools for a New Language for Business Course.  It was held in Miami and Sponsored by Florida International University's Center for International Business and Education Research (CIBER).  There were tracks for teachers of Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese.  They planned to offer Arabic, but not enough Arabic teachers enrolled.

At ACTFL conferences I have interacted with some elementary and high school language teachers, but this was the first time that I had been involved in an event that focused solely on K-12 teaching.  It seemed that many of these teachers were already highly professionalized--which is wonderful to see, given all the criticism we hear about our schools. Some were already teaching business in their language courses, some came from "academies" that focused on business, and others wanted to incorporate business content into their regular Spani…

Articles of Interest in Winter 2010 Foreign Language Annals

by Ann Abbott

There are two articles of particular interest to me in the latest issue of Foreign Language Annals (Volume 43, No. 4, Winter 2010):

Grim, Frédérique. "Giving Authentic Opportunities to Second Language Learners: A Look at a French Service-Learning Project." pp. 605-23. This article describes a French service-learning course in which university students taught French to youth (not to Francophones).  The lit review goes up to 2008 (perhaps it took a long time for the manuscript to be published).  Interviews with the SL students focused on learning motivation, professional aspirations, role of civic commitment. The article ends by stating the challenges inherent in planning and executing a service learning course.  I would like to see the students involved with native speakers of the target language (through technology, if necessary), but this is an interesting alternative.  Armstrong, Kimberly M. "Fluency, Accuracy and Complexity in Graded and Ungraded Writing…