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Showing posts from April, 2011

Student Reflection

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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 wordreference.com often to attempt to choose the perfect word. On wordreference.com there is a discussion…

Student Reflection

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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 nex…

Student Reflection

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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, …

Student Reflection

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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 hom…

Student Reflection

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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…

Student Reflection

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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 n…

Lesson Plan about Messy Problems in Community Service Learning

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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, "Th…

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

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…

Hispania, March 2011

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by Ann Abbott


What a pleasant surprise to receive the latest issue of Hispaniaand 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 develo…

Our Student Blogger Receives Fullbright

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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

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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 succ…

Student Reflection

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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…

Activity Using Census Data in Spanish Community Service Learning Course

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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 t…

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

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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 …

Student Reflection

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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 ana…

Student Reflection

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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.…