Thursday, April 28, 2011

Student Reflection

by Haley Dwyer

Hi all! I’m back and it’s sad to say but my time at the Refugee Center is coming to a close. I have done a lot at the Center over this semester and learned a lot from my experiences. One of the skills that I will take out of this experience is the ability to translate documents. At the Center, they translate all sorts of documents in every language. Over the semester, I have translated everything from birth certificates to divorce certificates to diplomas. Through these experiences I have learned a lot about the art of translation.

When translating federal documents to English I have learned the importance of word choice. Different types of documents use different types of words so it is extremely important that as a translator, you realize what type of document you are translating. Because federal documents use specific words that I am not always familiar with, I use often to attempt to choose the perfect word. On there is a discussion space in which people can ask questions and most times the word that I am looking for is in there. This site alone has come in handy during my time at the Center.

Along with picking the most appropriate word, I have learned that formatting the document is also very important. When U.S. customs officers or other officials look at the translation, they want it to look as similar to the actual document as possible. This includes translating the stamps, signatures, and seals that are associated with official documents. I have learned that translating these special things is probably the hardest part of translating a document. The words are not always spelled right and sometimes they are abbreviated or smudged so it is important to spend the time to attempt to fully understand them.

Although translating is time consuming and sometimes monotonous, I have taken joy from doing it at the Center. For me, it is a way for me to get to know and to help someone without actually meeting them. It feels as though they have allowed me to get a closer look at their life and for this I feel blessed. It has also been extremely fascinating to notice the differences in the format and wording of official documents from different countries. This is just one of the many tasks that has made my time at the Center fly by over the semester.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Student Reflection

by Hanna Perhai

Hello, yet again!

As the semester is quickly coming to a close, I only have two posts left to reflect on my experience.  In the past, I've talked about my goals for this semester, the organization that I'm working with, and some of the challenges that I've faced so far.

Before my final, closing post (which will come sometime next week), I'd like to focus on not only my experience in the community, but how it has worked in conjunction with my time in the classroom.  To be honest, I never was very excited to have a classroom portion of this course.  I only really wanted to work in the community and get a chance to improve my Spanish.  However, I now realize that having a classroom portion has been extremely beneficial in getting the most out of my experience in the community.  For example, before my first real day of tutoring in Spanish, we learned different math vocabulary like addition and fractions.  Little did I know, I would use those very words the next day when I worked on math homework with my student.  In fact, he was studying fractions at the time.  When just one day before, I didn't even know how to say "one-third," I was talking about all kinds of fractions and helping my student learn.  Similarly, our practice on commands was quite helpful.  Knowing how to effectively keep the kids on task without having to think too much about how to say things is invaluable.

Still, when we got away from our unit of Spanish in education, I felt like my use for the classroom would soon be over.  While the subject matter didn't necessarily apply specifically to my situation, it still wasn't entirely irrelevant.  Learning about the difficulties that undocumented immigrants face really opened my eyes to what the lives of some of my students' families could be like.  I realized how ignorant I had been before.

I'm in this class--and ultimately this major-- because I want to help people with it.  And it shouldn't matter what a person's legal, socioeconomic, or whatever else status is, I want to help.

One big epiphany I had while I have worked in the community is that I want to pursue child psychology.  I love working with the kids in S.O.A.R., and I really have always loved children.  So child psychology was something that was always there, but I never really considered it.  Now I'm very interested to look more into it so I can help children, especially those whose primary language is Spanish. :)

So I leave you with these thoughts.  This week we got good-bye cards from our students because the year is almost over.  It was really heartwarming, and so I posted the front of my card here for you to see. That's all!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Student Reflection

by Kendra Dickinson 

Hello Everyone!

I have been doing so much during the past few weeks that it is difficult to even know where to begin. As the school year comes to a close, I am beginning to wrap up the projects that I have been working on. Most importantly, there is still much left to be done for the Water Quality Survey that I have been working on, so I am trying to get as much accomplished as I can before I graduate. Right now, we still need about 100 more people to fill out the survey, so I have been working hard to make that happen. As I described in my previous post, it was very labor intensive to go out onto the street and talk with each person completing the survey individually. While this method is ideal in the sense that it creates a person-to-person connection and fosters a better understanding between the researchers and the people completing the survey, unfortunately it is not the most efficient way to carry out the Water Quality Survey. Francisco and I talked this over, and did a lot of brainstorming to attempt to come up with the best way to distribute the survey, reaching the most people, as well as a diverse group of people, in the most efficient manner. We ultimately decided that they best way to do this would be to contact organizations in the Midwest that serve Latino and Spanish-speaking communities, and to ask them to hand out the surveys in the communities that they serve.

So, for the past few weeks I have been working diligently in contacting organizations across the Midwest, from Minnesota to Indiana to Michigan, trying to find groups that are willing and able to distribute the survey in their communities. In addition, in order to minimize the amount of work that these organizations have to do, we will provide them with individual envelopes that each contain a copy of the survey, and are complete with stamps and address labels so that all they have to do is distribute those envelopes in the community, and the people filling out the survey simply fill it out, seal the envelope, and drop it in the mail. Out of the over 50 organizations that I contacted, I only received two responses. One group, unfortunately, was not able to help. However, the other response that I got was from a woman that works at multiple organizations that serve Latino and Spanish-speaking communities in Madison, Wisconsin, and she agreed to pass out copies of the survey. I put together a packet with instructions, as well as 30 envelopes with stamps and surveys and sent them off to her last week. Now I just have to wait!

In addition, I also went to Lunch at La Casa last week in order to present the Water Survey to students there, to see if they were able/willing to fill out the survey, or if they were able to bring the survey to their Spanish-speaking family members. This was moderately successful, because not all of the students visiting La Casa are in fact of Latino heritage, and of those that are, not all of them speak Spanish. Still, it was a great experience to get to hear a very interesting talking about perceptions of beauty of Mexican women in post-WWII Chicago, and to interact with the students that were in fact interested in the survey. Also, if any of you readers think that you might know of an organization that serves a Spanish-speaking community that would be interested in getting involved with this project, please let me know by commenting on this post!

Finally, I have just started working on yet another project, which is called Scientific Animations Without Borders.  Two of the people that I work with Extension, Julia Bello Bravo and Francisco Seufferheld, are part of this project, which creates 2-minute scientific videos, usually related to agricultural, environmental or community health topics. These videos are produced in many different languages, and can be downloaded through computers or cellphones almost anywhere in the world. Click here to read more about these 2-minute scientific animations

While the videos are being produced in many languages, there are many videos in Spanish relating to themes such as cholera prevention, how to make natural insecticides, as well as how to store cowpeas. I have been working on this project by helping to create the scripts for upcoming videos, as well as contacting NGOs in order to distribute the videos. If you are interested in seeing one of the videos, you can watch one in Spanish about making a natural insecticide by clicking here.

Overall, the common theme of these projects is the distribution of information to populations that could benefit tremendously from the knowledge and information. While working on these projects I have begun to learn about the many barriers to distributing information in way that is understandable and accessible to the target group. With the Water Quality Survey I have learned the importance of surmounting language barriers. With the Scientific Animations Without Borders Project, I am seeing how literacy can also be a huge limiting factor in the dissemination of information about environmental and community health related issues. Therefore, I am really happy to be able to be a part of these projects, not just because of what I am learning through my work on them, but also because of the potential that they have to help people both in our local communities and all over the world gain increased access to information about the environment that relates to their lives.

Student Reflection

by Marlee Stein

As the semester is coming to an end, I definitely feel as if it was a wonderful and rewarding experience.  Although my placements started out a bit rocky, I learned a lot because I was able to work with a number of different students.  

The last 5 weeks or so I worked consistently tutoring with one girl, and really created a bond.  She was a very intelligent girl and helped me learn a lot of Spanish, despite her knowing very little English.  

I got to work in classrooms for both 3rd, and 4th grade students, but didn’t use very much Spanish.  Nonetheless I gained insight into how best to help the students with homework and learning English.  

By subbing at SOAR I worked with girls of all ages and of all abilities.  I even had to teach a girl who knew absolutely no English how to add fractions.  It really forced me to use everything I knew in the Spanish language to explain the difficult concept clearly and properly.  

This past Thursday I was subbing for some tutors that went home for the holiday and the girl I regularly tutor on Tuesday ran up to me and gave me a hug and begged that I get to work with her that day.  I was shocked at the impact I had made on her.  It was the first time I realized the opportunities that Spanish could provide. 

I have always known I wanted to study Spanish, but until now never really knew what could be done with it other than use it to travel.  Working at SOAR and Booker T. Washington not only told me an option I had but allowed me to experience it to see if that was possibly the career path I was interested in.  

Up until now I felt like my Spanish classes had fallen into a lull in which it was only repetition of grammar rules learned in high school.  In this class I learned more than I did in any of my other classes.  Also I was finally able to apply the grammar rules that I learned in previous classes.  I hope to continue and volunteer with SOAR next year, since it will be great preparation for going abroad and I think it is a wonderful program.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Student Reflection

by Hannah Perhai

Hannah here, once again! I'm back to blog about my work in S.O.A.R. this semester.

So, in my last post, I promised to discuss the difficulties that I have encountered while volunteering as a tutor for a Spanish-speaking second grader. These challenges come in two categories: language-related and behavior-related.

I'll discuss behavior-related problems first. As with any young child, you're going to have some difficulties here and there keeping your kid in line, especially in an after-school program when the kids are exhausted or hyper after a full day of school. Luckily, my student behaves fairly well. While most of the boys in our class act out (and the girls behave like little angels), my student mostly spaces out. I consider myself lucky in that respect because I don't have to yell at him to stop breaking rules all the time, but when it comes to getting homework and reading done, his lack of attention can be challenging.

I've found that in this situation, I need to remind him constantly of what we will be doing once we finish the task at hand.

Some weeks, I am paired with an extra student because his or her tutor was not able to volunteer that day. These situations are the most trying in getting the kids to behave since they now have a partner in crime. I must assert my authority and threaten consequences if the children do not follow through with my requests. Still, even with these difficult situations, everything has turned out well.

The next set of problems I encountered while tutoring at S.O.A.R. is language-related.  First and foremost, I took this class to practice my Spanish.  While I am expected to do a lot more while in the community, I always try to get a good amount of Spanish-speaking in every week. This means I help my student with his math homework and I discuss our readings in Spanish with him. The problem is that sometimes I am not sure of how to say something, and my student is having trouble understanding the concept anyway. Many times while explaining a math problem, I have felt that my lack of Spanish skills was hindering his ability to learn. Knowing this is the hardest thing about tutoring, and so I find it necessary to use the right balance of Spanish and English to make sure we both understand what is going on.

One of the best moments in my volunteering so far happened last week. I was given an extra student to work with for the day, so I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Both boys started to work on their math homework, and my new student finished very quickly. Immediately, he wanted to go to the library to read, but I could not let him go unsupervised, and I needed to help my other student finish his homework.
Well, the first child sat down and worked through the problems with my student, explaining each step of the problem without giving away the answers. It truly was inspirational to see one student teaching the other, and it helped me learn how to better work with my own student to see how he explained everything.

So, even though I've had some problems in my volunteer experience so far, I've learned a lot. I hope to continue learning and facing obstacles as the semester comes closer to an end!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Student Reflection

by April Nwatah

Hello Friends!

So from what I’ve been told, this is the first semester that Spanish 232 has worked with Salt and Light. In a sense, me and my two other class mates that volunteer at Salt and Light are pioneers in this project! However, being a pioneer isn’t always simple. When we first started working there, there wasn’t very much for us to do. On Mondays (the day that I volunteer) they give away clothes. The way it’s set up, its kind of like a thrift store – except everything is free. With the large amounts of people that come in to receive clothes, the area gets quite messy. Therefore, for our first couple weeks we simply organized the racks of clothing. When clothes would fall off of the hangers (percha in Spanish, as I’ve learned through my time there) we would put them back on. There weren’t too many opportunities to speak Spanish and it was getting kind of frustrating.

While at Salt and Light, we noticed that a lot of kids would come in with their parents and have nothing to do. My classmates and I decided that we should do something with these kids. We then talked to some of the people who worked at Salt and Light about coordinating a coloring table for the kids. Apparently, they used to do that but didn’t have the volunteers to run it so they stopped. This was great news for us! Because they used to have a coloring table they still had all of the supplies, so we didn’t have to go get any of our own. Also, it was finally something that we could do to be useful to the community AND practice Spanish.

The coloring table has been a great idea. Often times, the same kids come back so I’ve gotten to be friends with a few of them. Because many of them speak Spanish, I’ve been able to practice my Spanish so much more than I was able to do before we started the coloring table! Overall, it has been a great experience working with the kids. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lesson Plan about Messy Problems in Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

In their seminal book, Where´s the Learning in Service-Learning, Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. identify the learning outcomes of service learning. Eyler and Giles explain that well-designed service learning forces students to confront "ill-structured problems," which they define as "complex and open ended; their solution creates new conditions and new problems. Such problems require, first and foremost, the ability to recognize that the problems are complicated and are embedded in a complex social context, the ability to evaluate conflicting information and expert views, and the understanding that there is no simple or definitive solution" (16). "Traditional academic programs," they state, "however, have not resulted in moving most college students to the levels necessary to cope with complex issues and information (King and Kitchener, 1994)" (17). On the other hand, their research on service learning indicates that, "The quality of service-learning, including application, opportunities for structured reflection, and diversity and community voice, was a predictor of reports of critical thinking, ability to see consequences of actions, issue identification, and opennes to new ideas" (127).

Today, we tackled messy problems in my classes. Students confront them every day in their CSL work. For example, a CSL student who tutor an ESL student might suggest that they stay for extra help after school, but if the student doesn't take the bus, he/she has no way to get home. Or he/she has to work after school to contribute to the family income. These are just a few of the many examples my students see every day in the various places where they work.  But I wanted to bring that into the classroom today. So this is what we did.

    1. Social Security Numbers. I said mine out loud. I asked students to raise their hand if they had theirs memorized. (Everyone raised their hand.) So we did a "fuga" (like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") in which one person starts saying theirs, the next person starts, the next person starts, etc. Students had fun with that and recognized that they have memorized their Social Security numbers because they use it so often.

    Video. We watched this video about drivers licences and undocumented immigrants. After the video I divided students into small groups, gave each group a large ficha and asked them to draw a large circle on the ficha. They then had to represent the issues presented in the video in the form of a cycle, or vicious circle. (They did a great job.) We then commented on a quote from the video, "Dios no hizo fronteras."

    2. Poverty simulation. Then students opened up their laptops and smart phones, and they went through an on-line poverty simulation (unfortunately it is in English; if anyone knows of one in Spanish, please let me know). Some worked individually, but others made decisions together in small groups. They were very engaged in the activity, perhaps the most engaged I have seen them all semester. We then discussed the hidden "costs" (ethical, medical, social, etc.) in the decisions they had made in order to save money. We also talked about the importance of relationships, because asking for help (and not paying certain bills) was really the only way that they could make it through the month.

    3. Connections and conclusions. We ended the class with this question: What is the connection between the video we watched at the beginning of the class and the simulation they did at the end of the class.  There were many very good answers from the students, but I was happy to see that one conclusion they reached was that life is a series of "ill-structured problems" (even though they didn't use those words), not only, but especially when you have few resources.

    4. Follow-up. In Thursday's class, students will use the structural model from the poverty simulation and create their own "problems and solutions" that undocumented immigrants face.  I'll let you know how it goes!

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Links to Spanish-Learning Sites

    by Ann Abbott

    Although this isn't a "how to learn Spanish" blog per se, using Google Analytics, I can see that many people come to the blog looking for specific information about learning Spanish. 

    So, I was recently contacted by a blogger who asked that I mention a post on her site.  I'm happy to do so:

    One Word at a Time: Top 15 Spanish Blogs

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Bibliography on Transcultural and Intercultural Competence for Spanish CSL Research and Practice

    by Ann Abbott

    This blog's running bibliography on Spanish community service learning (CSL) is one of its most-accessed posts. I'm happy that people find it a useful resource.

    Now, I'd like to do the same for a bibliography on transcultural and intercultural competence.  Although cultural competence and intercultural competence are terms that have long been used, researched and theorized, the MLA's 2007 special report on "Foreign Language and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World" has prompted a new wave of work on the topic.  I am particularly interested in how Spanish CSL does/does not influence students' developing transcultural competence.

    This bibliography may be a bit messy at first.  There are many publications, and I may find that I need to organize them in different categories than what I can envision right now.  Plus, I'm going to just jump and start adding sources to the bibliography, but I may later remove them if I find that they do not seem related in some way to Spanish CSL. Please write a comment with your suggestions for both the organization of the bibliography as well as individual items within it.


    Levine, Glenn S. and Alison Phipps, Eds. Critical and Intercultural Theory and Language Pedagogy. AAUSC Issues in Language Program Direction. Boston: Heinle, Cengage Learning, 2012.

    Phipps, Alison & Glenn S. Levine. "What is Language Pedagogy For?" 1-14.

    Kramsch, Claire. "Theorizing Translingual/Transcultural Competence." 15-31.

    van Lier, Leo. "Classrooms and 'Real' Worlds: Boundaries, Roadblocks, and Connections." 32-42.

    Urlaub, Per. "Understanding Comprehension: Hermeneutics, Literature, and Culture in Collegiate Foreign Language Education." 43-56.

    Gramling, David & Chantelle Warner. "Toward a Contact Pragmatics of Literature: Habitus, Text, and the Advanced Second-Language Classroom." 57-75.

    Lu, Peigh-ying & John Corbett. "The Health Care Professional as Intercultural Speaker." 76-94.

    Dasli, Maria. "Theorizations of Intercultural Communication." 95-111.

    Parker, Jan. "Framing Ideas from Classical Language Teaching, Past and Future." 112-124.

    Brenner, David. "From Core Curricula to Core Identities: On Critical Pedagogy and Foreign Language/Culture Education." 125-140.

    Train, Rober W. "Postcolonial Complexities in Foreign Language Education and the Humanities." 141-160.

    Coleman, James A., et. al. "Collaboration and Interaction: The Keys to Distance and Computer-Supported Language Learning." 161-180.

    Elola, Idoia & Ana Oskoz. "A Social Constructivist Approach to Foreign Language Writing in Online Environments." 181-197.

    Arnett, Carlee & Harriett Jernigan. "Cognitive Grammar and Its Applicability in the Foreign Language Classroom." 198-215.

    Arens, Katherine. "After the MLA Report: Rethinking the Links Between Literature and Literacy, Research, and Teaching in Foreign Language Departments." 216-228.

    Phipps, Alison & Glenn S. Levine. "Epilogue. Paradigms in Transition." 229-233.

    Lo Bianco, Joseph, Anthony J. Liddicoat & Chantal Crozet, Eds. Striving for Third Place: Intercultural competence through language education. Melbourne: Language Australia, 1999.

    Crozet, Chantal, Anthony J. Liddicoat & Joseph Lo Bianco. "Intercultural competence: From language policy to language education." 11-30.

    Crozet, Chantal &Anthony J. Liddicoat. "The challenge of intercultural language teaching: Engaging with culture in the classroom." 119-129.


    Stadler, Stefanie. "Intercultural competence and its complementary role in language education." Specialised Languages in the Global Village: A Multi-Perspective Approach. In press.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Hispania, March 2011

    by Ann Abbott

    What a pleasant surprise to receive the latest issue of Hispania and find so much good information on foreign language community service learning (CSL).

    Zapata, Gabriela. "The Effects of Community Service Learning Projects on L2 Learners' Cultural Understanding."  Zapata's article provides something that we need in the Spanish CSL literature: a study based on an applied linguist's expertise. When Darcy Lear and I began publishing on CSL, most of the literature we found was descriptive. The majority of our published pieces of been based on qualitative studies. Qualitative research, while widely accepted in many fields, is not widely used in foreign language research, in which quantitative research dominates linguistics research and humanistic research is used for the predominate force in language studies: literary analysis. Zapata's "small-scale study [that] investigates the effects of... [CSL] projects or a cultural presentation on the development of the cultural understanding of low- and high-intermediate L2 students" (86) is a welcome addition to the growing body of work on foreign language CSL. Furthermore, people often question whether CSL can be done in introductory language courses. Zapata's study shows that it can indeed be problematic at that level ("low-intermediate CSL students[']...CSL experience may have been inhibited by their L2 proficiency and problems in the delineation of their CSL duties" 86). However, more clearly delineating low-intermediate students' CSL duties is possible, and I firmly believe (but need to research) that even Spanish 101 students can do CSL work that fits their language proficiency level and meets community-identified needs.

    Barreneche, Gabriel Ignacio. "Language Learners as Teachers: Integrating Service-learning and the Advanced Language Course." Barreneche's work is based on a partnership he developed with Junior Achievement. I encourage you to read the entire article, but I would like to highlight just two things. First of all, I think one of this article's strengths is its literature review. Barreneche does such a good job of situating Spanish CSL within many strands of higher education practice and policy debate today: civic engagement education, the role of foreign language education in the evolving face of liberal arts education and then, more specifically, CSL's role in students' language acquisition and motivation.  The entire "1. Review of the Literature" section should be required reading for all of us involved in foreign language CSL. Secondly, I'd like to highlight that partnering with Junior Achievement means that there is much more of interest that Barreneche (and others) can explore about content learning in CSL. Junior Achievement has very interesting programming to teach and support youth regarding finances, entrepreneurship and overall professional skills. (On Twitter, I follow @JA_USA and @JABrasil. My Twitter name is @AnnAbbott.) For example, I teach social entrepreneurship as well as Business Spanish, and a partnership with Junior Achievement in those courses could add to the course's "triple bottom line": language, culture and business knowledge. In other words, there is much work to be done on CSL's impact on students' content learning in content-based CSL courses. Matching the nature of students' CSL work to the content being taught in the course can be challenging, but the Junior Achievement partnership described in this article has sparked ideas for me.

    Book review: Learning the Language of Global Citizenship: Service Learning in Applied Linguistics. Wurr, Adrian J. and Josef Hellebrandt, eds. Reviewed by Anne Reynolds-Case. This review succinctly summarizes each chapter and the book's overall focus. Josef Hellebrandt is one of the earliest figures in the practice and publishing on Spanish CSL, so it is nice to see more of his work in promoting and disseminating CSL.  The reviewer concludes by noting that the pieces in the volume do not provide "tangible results afforded by the means of language proficiency tests or similar testing instruments" (224). While it is true that that kind of study and its results would be a welcome addition to the expanding literature on foreign-language CSL and many people have noted its absence, we should be careful not to privilege that kind of study as the only one that can give us "real," "hard" data on CSL's efficacy.  Research methods within foreign language departments may be an unacknowledged part of the very difficult debates going on in many Spanish departments nowadays about what we do, what we value and what we reward.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Our Student Blogger Receives Fullbright

    by Ann Abbott

    Congratulations to one of our bloggers from this semester, Kendra Dickinson (B.A. Environmental Studies and Spanish, May 2011). Kendra has been offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant to Argentina.

    Student Reflection

    by Haley Dwyer

    Hola a Todos! As my time has been progressing at the Refugee Center, I have had many challenges that I have had to overcome but the greatest one is easily talking on the phone to native Spanish speakers. Talking on the phone in English is hard enough for me but talking on the phone in a foreign language has taken some getting used to. For me, a lot of ability to understand and communicate efficiently in Spanish has to do with body language. When words fail me, I can always rely on the fact that I can point to things and use gestures or facial expressions to get my point across but on the phone this is not possible.

    As time has progressed, I have gotten better at talking on the phone in Spanish because I have learned how to communicate better without body language. I have learned that when in doubt it is always best to rephrase what the speaker said in simpler terms so that I know that I fully understand what they are saying. This has taken some practice but I can now successfully say that I can ensure that I understand the speaker completely without sounding like I just started learning Spanish yesterday. Along with this, I have learned that the conversation goes a lot smoother if instead of asking someone to repeat something you simply state that you can’t hear them properly. This way, the speaker does not get frustrated that you cannot understand and instead they simply repeat what they were saying, only slower and louder.

    Although these tricks have helped me to master the phone, I still have a difficult time with names. I don’t think that people in general realize how fast they are stating their name so a lot of instances at the Center I have not been able to understand what the client’s name is. Shortly after my first encounter with the phone, I learned how to ask someone to spell their name. This has helped me greatly but people still spell their names incredibly fast so I still have difficulty with this often. I hope to get better at this as time progresses and as I become more familiar with typical Spanish names.

    Overall, although using the phone is frustrating, I am glad that I am learning some of these tricks and techniques for talking on the phone now and not when I am in Spain next year. This is one aspect of life in Spain that I did not think of and so this learning experience will come in handy next year when I have to talk on the phone everyday in Spanish.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Val Kaskovich

    April already? Can't believe my semester at S.O.A.R is coming to a close, not to mention my college career. As I inch closer to donning my cap and gown, I am growing sentimental about all the great times and wonderful learning experiences I have had as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. That being said, I am so glad to have participated in the S.O.A.R. program during my time here. Although S.O.A.R. is currently fulfilling my volunteer requirement for the Spanish in the Community coursework, it is actually my fifth semester with the program. I have had the privilege of seeing some students blossom from tiny, curious kindergarteners into responsible and intelligent older students. 

    I am proud to have lent my service to the community these past few years. What I have found, though, is that S.O.A.R. has been mutually beneficial. The most obvious perk of the program for me (and one of my main reasons for participating in the first place) is the opportunity to practice my Spanish with native speakers. I truly feel that through tutoring, my fluency and understanding of the language have increased significantly. These kids are the perfect conversation partners -- chatty, knowledgeable, and not afraid to correct me if I make an error! 

    Besides language skills, S.O.A.R. has really given me the chance to develop my leadership skills and become a role model. With practice, enthusiasm, and a lot of patience, I learned now to make a first-grader respect me and still think I'm the coolest thing since sliced bread. Tutoring at BTW has heped me relate to people who come from completely different backgrounds and lifestyles. I am more aware of happenings in my community thanks to S.O.A.R. The "bubble" of campus life no longer holds me captive, and I have a greater interest in what is happening beyond the quad, beyond the state, and beyond the US. I am grateful for this experience, especially knowing that I will use all of these skills in my work next year teaching English in Galicia, Spain. What I have gained from my service in the community is truly immeasurable. I feel prepared and confident for whatever next year has in store for me, and I hope that other students take advantage of the chance to make a difference and develop personally by becoming a tutor with S.O.A.R. Hasta luego, Illinois! 

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Activity Using Census Data in Spanish Community Service Learning Course

    by Ann Abbott

    We're at the point in the semester now where we have already covered the specifics of what students need in their CSL work in schools or human services so we are now turning our attention to broader, contextual issues. In other words, how do their experiences in the community relate to larger socio-cultural and policy issues?

    Today's lesson was on housing. I began the class by writing three big words on the board: casa, hogar, vivienda. In pairs, students had to differentiate between those words. Not surprisingly, vivienda gave students the most problems.

    We followed Lección 17 in Comunidades. First, students analyze their own experiences looking for housing in Champaign-Urbana--their priorities and the problems they faced.  Then they compare their own experiences to those of a recent Spanish-speaking immigrant who is looking for work and a place to live. Even though it's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes, they did a great job recognizing all the barriers to getting housing that some immigrants might face.

    Finally, I put students into five groups, and each group was given census data about five Illinois counties: Cook, DuPage, Champaign, Clay (the county I am from) and Pope. They analyzed the data, and then one person from the group had to stand up with the information in their hand.  They then lined up from greatest (on the left) to smallest (on the right) for the following information: population, % of Latinos, median family income,  percentage of residents living below the poverty line (picture) and average home value.

    What did students learn? I think it surprised them to see the difference between rural and urban poverty, for example. They also saw that in the rural counties, household income was much lower, but the price of homes was not much higher than their incomes. On the other hand, in Cook and DuPage Counties, the average price of a home was much more than double the annual household income. It also gave a picture of northern, central and southern counties in this very large state of ours. Most importantly, however, the census data and their comparisons shed real light on the issue of affordable housing in our communities.

    How to Prepare Service-Learning Lesson Plans: Synthesizing Best Practices

    by Ann Abbott

    The ACTFL 2011 Annual Convention will take place November 18-20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado, and I received the message yesterday that my session proposal was accepted. I hope to see many of my friends and colleagues there.

    My session will focus on lesson planning in foreign language community service learning (CSL). At first I thought that I would present my data about how CSL students choose their community partners. Or maybe some preliminary research findings and interpretations about students' higher-level critical thinking skills in reflective essays. But then I remembered what happened at the 2010 ACTFL in Boston...

    I was part of a well-attended plenary session on "The Lost 'C': The Communities Goal Area." Each person in the plenary session had an individual follow-up session, and for each session attendance dropped.  By the time my individual session on "The Communities-Classroom Cycle: Smoothing Service Learning's Transitions" came around, I had great people in the room with me, but only about 20. Thomas Sauer came in for his session afterward and told me, "Everyone went to the lesson-planning session."

    So if lesson planning is what interests people, that is what I will speak about this year. I do think that that solid lesson plans are very, very important. Whenever I have my classes well planned-out (which is not 100% of the time, I must confess), there is a well-defined outcome I want to achieve by the end of the class period, and I plan my activities "backward" so that students have the language, cultural knowledge and content knowledge they need to achieve the outcome. So I do think it's important, and I don't think it's easy to achieve. So below is the information that I submitted to ACTFL. I hope to see you there.

    How to Prepare Service-Learning Lesson Plans: Synthesizing Best Practices

    In service learning (SL), students work in the community; but what happens in class? This session presents a lesson-planning model that weaves SL pedagogy into the same task-based, communicative activities foreign language instructors

    Instructors may feel that service learning (SL) requires them to totally transform what and how they teach. On the contrary, once the SL work has been added to a course design, successful lesson plans incorporate the same, familiar elements they already use: vocabulary building, grammar instruction, the 5 C’s, the four skills, communicative and task-based activities, etc.  The trick is to adapt the content of those activities to reflect students’ experiences in the community. 

    We illustrate the lesson-planning model with a sample lesson plan designed for the intermediate level and based on a common foreign language SL scenario: students working as ESL tutors.  Activities include listening, speaking, reading and writing. The vocabulary relates to basic tutoring activities; grammar instruction focuses on formal commands; students read about ESL pedagogy; finally, students prepare a poster with good tutoring “commands” to be displayed in the tutoring space.

    The session will begin with a brief interview activity related to the very first time the participants taught a class. Because students feel the same way when they first do service learning (SL), we will transition into a short introduction on why lesson planning and classroom support is so vital for foreign language SL students. Participants will then receive two handouts: 1) a SL lesson planning template that uses a backward design and a checklist of foreign language and service learning best practices, and 2) a sample lesson plan that uses that template. We will analyze the sample lesson plan as well as do some of the activities themselves. Finally, we will show examples of how existing lesson plans within popular intermediate-level textbooks can be tweaked to incorporate SL content and reflection. The last 15 minutes will be reserved for audience questions and discussions.

    Following the session, participants will be able to 1) implement the sample service learning (SL) lesson plan with their own students, 2) create novel SL lesson plans following the template and 3) tweak textbook lessons to incorporate service learning content and guided reflection activities.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Kendra Dickinson

    Hello Everyone!       

    I hope that you all enjoyed your Spring Breaks, whether you were on the beach relaxing or building houses with Alternative Spring Break. I myself had a very unique Spring Break this year, as I spent many hours working on the Water Survey that I have been talking about a lot in my posts. Just in case you are not familiar with it, the survey, written in Spanish and administered only to native Spanish speakers, aims at gaining more information about: (i) The perceived and actual household water quality of Spanish-speakers in the Midwest, (ii) The access of the Spanish-speaking communities of the Midwest to information about water quality, (iii) The main sources of water of members of the Spanish-speaking communities of the Midwest, (iv) Preoccupation of Spanish-speaking communities in the Midwest with water contaminants.

    Throughout the semester I have worked on various facets of the survey including writing and editing questions, compiling and analyzing data, and distributing the survey by mail. However, during Spring Break I went out onto the streets to actual interview people face to face for the survey. Before doing this, I sat down with Francisco, one of the outreach coordinators that I work with, and discussed some of the possible obstacles and challenges of stopping people on the street to give them a survey. We discussed the idea that people might not trust a random person on the street, or might not have time to stop to talk to you. While I had thought about the numerous challenges that I might face, it was in fact far more difficult than I ever would have expected.

    I went out one morning to walk around my own neighborhood in Chicago, Albany Park. The neighborhood is relatively diverse, but there is a large Mexican population in the area. First, I just walked around the neighborhood to survey the scene and to assess my options. I ultimately decided to stand outside of Harvest Time Grocery store, a local food store where many Spanish speakers shop. I asked people if they were interested in completing the survey as they went in and out, but most people were not interested and were clearly busy and had time constraints. I did talked to a few people there, but after that I decided to walk around the neighborhood and look for other locations. As I walked I came upon a Laundromat, and went inside. There I was able to interview a number of people, as they were simply sitting and waiting for their clothes to dry. Many of the people that I talked to even seemed interested in the goal of the survey. After that it started to rain, so I was forced to return home. I went out the next day to the local school to try and talk to some of the Spanish-speaking parents as they waited for their children, but just as I got there it started to rain! Finally the next day I was able to walk around the neighborhood some more and visit other Laundromats, and was ultimately fairly successful in interviewing people for the survey.

    Doing this also got me thinking about communication and limits to accessing information. Last semester I took AGCM 430, Communication in Environmental/Social Movements, taught by Professor Ann Reisner. Part of the course focused on limitations to participation in environmental and social movements. One of the types of limitations is called a biographical limitation. This means that a person, because of the role that they play in society, is not able to participate in environmental/social movements or to access information that would aid them in their lives. Examples of these types of limitations include, for example, having dependents that rely on you for care so you cannot attend community meetings, or working constantly so that you do not have time to be involved in social movements. I encountered some of this while I was on the streets giving the survey. Many people were perfectly nice to me, but were not able to stop and talk to me because they were working, or going to pick their kids up, or had some other responsibility that conflicted with their ability to talk to me.

    While I did feel that time-constraints did limit the number of people that I was able to talk with, I still felt very successful, as this survey overcomes another type of biographical limitation that is a language barrier. Many immigrants in the United States may not have access to information that they need about their water quality because they cannot read the information in English, or are not able to participate in surveys like our Water Survey because they do not speak English. Therefore, this survey surmounts one of the biographical limitations of the involvement of the Spanish-speaking community in environmental and community health related issues.

    I learned a lot of this experience. I never would have expected the hours that it can take to administer a simple survey to a few people. However, doing this made me value even more every single survey that we have been able to get completed and made me realize the dedication that it takes to do research in the field. I am now even more motivated to continue working on this survey because I realize that every single person that participated took time out of their busy schedules to aid in the gathering of information about the water quality of Spanish-speakers in the Midwest, which will hopefully aid in eliminating the language based and biographical limitations that prevent Spanish-speaking immigrants from accessing information and participating in the resolution of environmental and community health/social issues.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Student Reflection

    by Marlee Stein

    I went to my usual placement again this past Tuesday.  After a relaxing spring break at home, where I did not use any Spanish, it was a little challenging to get into the swing of things again.  I now am consistently working with one girl, and I really enjoy it because as opposed to my classroom placement earlier in the semester, I am able to create a one-on-one bond with one student.  My student had minimal homework so we were able to spend a lot of time reading.  The homework she did have concentrated on using sounds such as he, hi, ho, and hu to make words.  She had to fill in the blanks to complete Spanish words such as hada (fairy) and many others.  She did another activity where she had to color in spaces that had the sound ce or ci in it.  It was easy for her to locate the words that started with those sounds such as cero (zero) or cine (movie theater) but she couldn’t identify words such as hace quite as easily.  After we finished her homework we read two books.  One about Clifford the big red dog, and the other was Little Red Riding Hood.  I really enjoyed reading Little Red Riding Hood in Spanish because it is one that I had read in my Spanish classes in Junior High.  Sometimes students blindly read and do not really understand the plot, so what the teacher had me do was ask her to identify the protagonist and explain what they do in the story.  My student seemed to understand the majority of the plot, but sometimes she would get stuck so I had to ask her questions to lead her in the right direction with out giving away the answer.  I also got to learn more about her as a person.  I learned about her family, and that she came here from Guatemala.  Overall it was a successful week in placements!