Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spanish Lesson Plan with News Items

by Ann Abbott

It's the time of the semester when we all need to interject a little variety in our classes to keep students alert and engaged.

Today I'll be doing parts of Lección 15 ¨¿Son noticias para nosotros?¨ from Comunidades. I gathered a few articles from today's La Raza  (a Spanish-language newspaper based in Chicago). I copied them, divided them in half and printed them out. In class, I'll mix them out and hand each student a piece of paper. Students will read their half of the news item and then search among their classmates to find the person who has the other half. They'll sit down together to fill in the complete picture. You can print out the articles I chose and do this activity with your students, too. (I have enough for 14 students. If you have more, just choose a few more articles or pair students up.)

Afterwards, I'll have students do the following:

  • Circulate among their classmates again, telling about their article and asking if the other students already knew about this news item or not. (Conclusion: usually the "Latino news" are completely unknown to most students.)
  • Ask them to identify why they think these particular news items are pertinent to their work in the community or connected to information we have studied in class.
  • Get out their smart phones or laptops and browse La Raza for a few minutes. Then go to La Opinion (a Los Angeles based Spanish-language newspaper) to compare the two perspectives.
  • To conclude, I will ask students to answer our lesson's initial question: ¿Son noticias para nosotros?
I hope that you can use these articles with your students. If you do, let me know how it goes. I find that it is both a fun and informative lesson.

Student Reflection

by Jacqui Kukulski

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?  Well, Carmen Sandiego contracted Chagas disease in her exploits over in Central Americas, lost her health benefits and her amazing salary so she’s at Frances Nelson Health Center.  That’s quite unfortunate for Carmen Sandiego.  

Luckily, that’s not the case for the people who get treated at Frances Nelson.  I haven’t heard of a single case of Chagas disease.  There’s honestly nothing amusing about working at Frances Nelson, but to work there you need to be lighthearted but with eons of compassion. 

Frances Nelson Health Center is a governmentally subsidized clinic that provides healthcare for the uninsured (or self-pay) and for the bad insured (their insurance doesn’t help out much).  Every patient this clinic sees is on a pay scale based on their monthly salary and how many dependents are in the household.  Through this center patients are able to get appointments at Carle Hospital for specific procedures that the clinic can’t handle itself, and their pay scale stays.  I don’t know how you may pay your medical bills, but if you have ever seen a bill without any insurance, you’ll understand that this pay scale is the reason these people are able to get healthcare.

The pay scale certainly helps the patients out, but there would be no clinic if there was no one willing work there.  Every single employee there is a hero.  They may not be wearing camouflage and fighting to preserve our freedom.  They may not be secretly wearing spandex under their street clothes.  In fact their wearing scrubs, t-shirts, jeans, dress pants, and dress shirts.  From the girls at reception to the doctors to the triage lady to the people I don’t even know who work there, they’re all heroes.  These women who work here (there are about 4 men who work there), are some of the most amazing people I've met.  They are the embodiment of this clinic.  Recently the clinic has taken too many patients on and is no longer accepting new patients, but when a little girl with many medical problems coupled with Down syndrome showed up at the clinic, she became a patient.  This is only one example of their extreme compassion.  But there are also times when we have to turn patients away because they showed up too late for their appointment.

Working at Frances Nelson is rewarding yet difficult.  It’s difficult because you find out about everything that is wrong with the health care system and how people are being forgotten.  I have learned that people come from drastically different backgrounds and only want one thing: to see a doctor.  And, that is where it becomes rewarding.  For the Spanish speaking patients, I am one of four people who make up the keystone.  With out us translating, it would be weeks if not months before a Spanish speaking patient was seen, not to mention the doctors would have trouble figuring out what was wrong with them.  I may only answer phones at the moment and translate at the front desk, but at the end of the day, I know that without me, that patient might not have been seen.

While working at Francis Nelson, I have met and talked to people with drastically different backgrounds.  Of the Spanish speaking community, whom I work with most, there are immigrants, mothers fleeing their husbands, children who try to translate for their parents, teenagers who want to help out with the family and are giving up a college education and fathers who accompany their wife and children to their appointments.  Seeing all of these people has opened my eyes.  I have always read or heard about people like them.  I learned about them in my Spanish classes in high school, in history classes, on the news, but never have I actually experienced (knowingly) someone from a drastically different background than my own.

There is a student in my Spanish class this semester who is very knowledgeable about immigration laws and has a very strong opinion about them.  It wasn’t until a week ago I learned that his family is full of immigrants and have probably had to face similar hardships like the ones the patients are facing at the clinic.  After learning this, everything became real.  I could hear the emotion in his voice when he was talking about his family history.  It wasn’t just another story for the news; it was his life, just like it is the life of these patients.

After working in Frances Nelson for a few weeks and listening to this student I have learned to open my eyes to the world as it is.  My veil of ignorance is gone and that decrepit looking house down the street isn’t abandoned, that mother debating $1.09 for food isn’t just a penny pincher, that father sitting in the clinic with his kids isn’t just a father.  Everything is more.  That house is a home.  That debate for food is a debate between feeding her children and paying a water bill.  That father isn’t just a father, but a protector and the anchor that family needs to stay sane.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Spotlight: Carolyn (Carolina) Kloecker

by Ann Abbott

Carolina Kloecker is passionate about Spanish and service. She is a self-starter who came to my office just to introduce herself long before she actually took a class with me. And that "jump-in-there" attitude of hers (which many students can develop more in themselves) has taken her far.

As a UIUC student, Carolina studied abroad in Ecuador, did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship with ACCION Chicago, took "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," worked in the Study Abroad Office and amped up their social media presence, and in general simply took advantage of many, many opportunities on campus to develop her language, leadership and service skills.

She was an ideal student. But she graduated in May 2011 and had to find her way in a tough job market. I think her current job and activities will be of interest to all Spanish students but especially those interested in teaching. You can visit her classroom blog, and you can read below to see how Carolina continues to use her passion for languages and cultures in her teaching.

"Hi there!

"I have been so very busy as a 1st Grade Dual Language (Bilingual) teacher here in Austin! I actually teach at Gattis Elementary in Round Rock, Texas, which is a suburb just north of Austin. After getting in to Texas Teaching Fellows in March, I moved down in June to start my summer institute and student teaching. I worked with a Pre-K class (also dual language) and absolutely loved it.

"I am having a blast, and I am especially excited about the expansion of the Dual Language model throughout bilingual education. My classroom is actually "Two-Way" Dual Language, meaning that I have both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students in my class, and the English-speakers are learning Spanish while the Spanish-Speakers learn English, so both languages are equally valued. We alternate Spanish days and English days, but Language Arts is always in the child's native language (so I have to teach at least 2 separate lessons each day), Math is always in English, and Science and Social Studies are always in Spanish. My class is about 2/3 English speakers and 1/3 Spanish, so I have noticed that I have to use lots of goofy gestures and visuals especially when we are doing Science and Social Studies. In the morning on a Spanish day the English speakers walk in and say "awww man! It's a Spanish day." but then when we get to a read aloud or an activity in Spanish, they get so excited when they actually figure out what I'm saying. I have some wonderful students that are very attentive and they are really picking up a lot of vocabulary and understanding very quickly.

"Spanish in the Community and Spanish in Entrepreneurship obviously prepared me incredibly for the role of being a bilingual educator. I was taught to value Spanish, and I saw the reality in Illinois schools (much like in my hometown) where Spanish-speakers are separated and can occasionally be "pushed" to learn English (early-exit) without ever really learning "academic" Spanish. I hope that the dual language model will start to spread even further. It is already in several large districts in Texas and Washington state, as well as other places around the country. More about Dual Language is on the Gomez & Gomez (guys who came up with it) website: In their model, students will continue through dual language at least through 5th grade (there is no "exiting"), if not entirely through middle and high school. They are creating true bilingual citizens, because students will learn subjects in both languages rather than just doing things at school in English and at home in Spanish.

"I am so happy at my school, and I was so lucky to be able to get a job. I really think that I have a job because I speak Spanish, and because of my motivation to learn. That is what I try to tell my students and the parents of my students, that bilingualism (or multilingualism!) can be a huge asset and is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life."

Carolina, you are a shining star and an example that all of our Spanish students can follow. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Student Reflection: Jacqui Kukulski

by Jacqui Kukulski

Well, hello there.  It’s a bit into the first semester and I’ve been to my community partner several times.  I recently spent the summer in Spain working on my Spanish and all things Europe related.  A regular Spanish class for my Spanish (second) major didn’t fit into my schedule and I didn’t want to take a semester off of Spanish so I thought this class would work nicely.  And I’m ecstatic with my decision.  I’ve been learning Spanish since I was 13 years old and up until last June my Spanish was only mediocre.  I was terrified to speak, zoned out whenever someone talked to me for more than 30 seconds in Spanish and fell asleep reading it.  But I could write.  Boy, could I write.  But, that’s probably because I was able to look up all the words I couldn’t think of off the top of my head.  When I got back from Spain, I was pretty confident with my Spanish skills and took on quite an undertaking.  I started talking with Frances Nelson Health Center about volunteering with them this semester for my community partner.  In their blurb, it says only work here if your Spanish is very strong.  Maybe Spain boosted my confidence, maybe my Spanish really is pretty strong, but I got my work there. 

This first post was suggested to me to be about my experiences with Spanish and I feel that my decision to double major in Spanish is a story required of that suggestion.  When I was a junior in high school I had completed all four levels of Spanish that I needed to not only graduate high school, but also college (at least here at UIUC).  I had an open space in my schedule and I could fill it with a study hall, two photo classes, or Spanish AP.  To this day, I still can’t put my finger on what drove me to take Spanish AP.  I had cursed it all through high school, dreading the exam that I didn’t prepare for, not putting nearly as much importance on that class as I had my sciences or math.  In my senior year I applied for the Spanish language scholarship, the one requirement I didn’t like: I had to take at least one semester of Spanish in college.  I was not going to continue with it.   Registration came and went for U of I and I registered for Span 204, or Spanish grammar.  First semester came and went and I received an A in the class.  Second semester came and Spanish didn’t fit into my schedule.  I got sad.  I missed it.  How was that possible?  How could I miss a subject that I had loathed in high school?  I decided to minor in it and took two Spanish classes the next semester.
At this point I had discovered my love for Spanish.  My life would not be complete without it.  It had to stay in my life.  A minor would not be sufficient.  I worked through my schedule and discovered I could double major in it.  I came in with enough AP credits.  And then, I applied to study in Spain.  That was the key to making this work.  And then I went to Spain.

I like to compare learning Spanish to running a marathon.  I’ve never run a marathon so the comparison might be off, but they always say that when running in a marathon you hit a wall and you have to work past that wall in order to finish the race.  In terms of Spanish, that wall is the first “ah ha” moment when things start to click: the point when you stop translating in your head and you start thinking in Spanish.  My wall was when I took Spanish AP.  We practiced for the exam by writing 200 words in 10 minutes.  At first it was difficult, but by the end of the year, it was like breathing.

I was helping a friend yesterday with his Spanish homework, and someone else asked if I was fluent, because according to her, I sounded fluent.  I said no.  My friend with the Spanish homework asked me: Have you ever been to Spain? Yes.  How long were you there? Six weeks.  Did you speak Spanish the entire time? Yes.  My friend smiled at me.  That was sufficient enough to tell me that I am in fact fluent.  I still disagree; there are many words, phrases and idioms that I do not know.  But I know enough Spanish to order in a restaurant.

What is "Real" Community Service Learning Work?

by Ann Abbott

I think that the following e-mail thread will be of interest to students, instructors and community partners. It illustrates how we may have unaligned expectations about what constitutes "real" Spanish community service learning (CSL) work.

Human services workers know that paperwork and basic office tasks are routine but necessary parts of the job. Students, however, may not know or value that work. What do they expect to do in a human services office? What do they want to do? What does learning "look like" to them? These are all important yet difficult questions for CSL instructors who must design mutually beneficial partnerships.

E-mail exchange #1: Student to TA

                       He visto tus comentarios sobre [community partner] y mi frustracion sobre no mucho trabajo y que estoy haciendo tarea muchas veces.  Estoy de acuerdo que no es el punto de la clase, y quiero hablar contigo sobre otras opciones de hacer trabajo, quizas con ESL o algo similar. No se que exactamente hay que hacer. Y para responder sobre sus comentarios de quizas estoy detras en mis horas, voy a hacer las horas en los fines de semanas que vienen en un programa que [community partner] ofrece para los ninos. Gracias

E-mail exchange #2: TA to Student with cc to Course Supervisor (me)

Hola [Student]:

                Gracias por escribirme sobre tu community parnter. También le mando a la Profesora Abbott este mensaje.
                Me parece bien que vayas los sábados para hacer las horas. Sin embargo, como tu dices, tal vez no termines todas las horas porque durante la semana no hay mucho trabajo que hacer en [community partner].
                Creo que podrías ver otras oportunidades en el blog y también podrías ver si puedes hacer terminar las horas adicionales con otro community partner.
                Vamos a ver que sugiere la Profesora Abbott.
                Gracias por avisarnos.

E-mail exchange #3: Course Supervisor (me) to Student with cc to TA

                I just want to make sure what "no much trabajo" means. Some students do not value answering the phone and greeting clients as work, and it is. Just want to check that first.
                In addition to [TA's] suggestions, please make sure that you have talked with [community partner employees] about what you can do at [community partner] when there are slow times. I for one would love it if you could come up with information to post on their Facebook page. (If you can't post directly, send items to me.) See if you can come up with a short video for their website. Be creative!

E-mail exchange #4: Student to Course Supervisor (me)

Professor Abbott,
The more I think about it I guess I really do quite a bit of work. I am constantly answering phones and the door, which I realize alleviates a lot of the work from the other workers when they are with clients. I also do interact with a lot of the clients and do translations and such. Tomorrow when I go in I will talk with [community partner employee] about the facebook page and see what I can do. As I told [TA], I also plan on helping out more with their Saturday kids program which I imagine will be much more interactive. Thanks for getting back with me.

E-mail exchange #5: Course Supervisor (me) to Student
               I can't tell you how happy I am to read your message. Not only does your work alleviate the other workers, it is very important to the clients themselves to see a friendly face and be able to speak in Spanish to the person who responds to the door and telephone. Thank you for your work at [community partner]!
                [Community partner employee] probably won't have much ideas about Facebook, but you and I can talk about that if shedoesn't have other projects for you.
                May I post your messages on my blog? I would delete your name and [community partner's] name as well, of course. I just think it would be helpful for my readers to see what students think. I hope so, but if you say no, that's fine, too!

E-mail exchange #6: Student to Me
By all means, you are welcome to. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spanish Community Service Learning and the Job Hunt

by Ann Abbott

I received an e-mail this morning from LinkedIn with links to two articles about career success that are, in my mind, indirectly linked to what we do with our students in Spanish community service learning (CSL).

1. "The Must-Have Leadership Skill" talks about the importance of emotional intelligence. I really feel like the the experience of doing community service learning plus creating activities that explicitly address seeing things from other people's perspectives contributes to students' emotional intelligence. In an interview and in job search materials, being able to demonstrate with examples that you were able to work successfully in a multilingual and multicultural environment and understand multiple perspectives should be positive indicators of future success. While students may examine multiple perspectives in other courses, our CSL courses ask them to put that into action.

2. "The Ten Worst Mistakes of First-Time Job Hunters" focuses on things that recent college graduates wish they would have done while in school. Learn Spanish should be top on the list! But CSL is an overlooked opportunity in the following items:

  • "I would have taken on a job or an internship in addition to my courseload." CSL work is a job! Our students have to work a minimum of 28 hours per semester, so it is an important part-time job for them. However, it's necessary that they think of it and treat it as such if they want to truly take advantage of its career-preparation opportunities
  • "I would have gotten more involved in career-relevant extracurricular activities." Again, CSL does this for them. Being involved in our community partners' day-to-day work and special events are career-relevant. Students can help community partners with event planning, internal and external communications, grant writing, building a social media presence and many other relevant career tasks.
  • "I would have kept better track of my achievements." Our students' reflective essays and exams are really a catalog of their achievements that they can later mine for relevant examples.
  • "I would have focused more on developing relevant skills." All our students work on customer service. And think of students who work with a particular student in an after school tutoring program: their "project" is to improve the student's academic achievement. With some smart "project management" thinking they can build a variety of tools to achieve and measure success as well as make recommendations for changes that can be implemented by next semester's tutor.

Darcy Lear and I co-wrote an article about how Business Spanish CSL students can be encouraged to "package" their Spanish CSL work in job search materials: "Marketing Business Languages: Teaching Students to Value and Promote Their Coursework." The article refers to several activities in Comunidades: Más allá del aula that explicitly walk students through the steps of transforming their academic CSL experiences into professional assets.

In short, academic CSL is much more than just job training. But it gives students a unique opportunity to prepare themselves for the competitive job market.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Champaign-Urbana: Volunteers and Donations Needed for Mexican Mobile Consulate Visit

by Ann Abbott

Please contact Jill Capes ( if you can help. This is a very important event for our community. SPAN 232 & 228F students can use these hours if you think you will fall short of 28.

Volunteers Needed

The Mexican Consulate will visit Champaign-Urbana on November 4 -6 to process passports and consular identification cards. Spanish-speaking volunteers are needed to help individuals fill out forms. Other volunteers (Spanish not required) are needed to play with children while their parents complete the paperwork and ID process. Volunteer shifts are listed below.

Friday, November 4
1:45 – 5:00 pm
5:00 – 8:15 pm

Saturday, November 5
8:45 am – 12:00 pm
12:00 – 3:15 pm

Sunday, November 6
7:45 – 11:00 am
11:00 am – 1:15 pm

Location:              Centro Romero at St. Mary’s Church (link to map)
                                612 E Park Street
                                Champaign, IL 61820
    Near the 6 Orange and 7 Grey buslines.

If you or your group is interested in volunteering or you have questions, please contact Jill Capes at with your name(s), availability, preferred role (helping with forms or children), and phone number(s).

We are also looking for breakfast contributions for Saturday or Sunday. This includes breakfast foods and drinks such as soda and coffee. Please contact Jill at or 217 778 4202 if you or your group is willing to contribute.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Articles of Interest in Hispania 94.3 September 2011

by Ann Abbott

Although there are no articles in the latest issue of Hispania that are specifically about community service learning, I would just like to briefly point out a few items of interest.

*I have met Eva Rodríguez-González at conferences, and I was happy to see an article that she co-wrote with Martha Castañeda: "L2 Speaking Self-ability Perceptions through Multiple Video Speech Drafts." When I first began teaching Spanish CSL, my students did their reflections through "diarios digitales" that they recorded on a webcam. Although I don't do those anymore, I was very interested in the article's information about students' use of video speeches.

*"Profe, can we have an extra credit assignment, please?" How many times have you heard that? I don't give extra credit because I think students should focus on doing a good job on the regular assignments. Still, the title and abstract of David Alley's article--"The Role of Extra-credit Assignments in the TEaching of World Languages"--have piqued my interest. Perhaps I can find a good reason to give extra credit assignments that are truly about extra learning.

*My Business Spanish colleague and friend, Mary Long, recently co-edited a book titled Mexico Reading the United States, and I was happy to see a very positive review of the book and Mary's article in this issue of Hispania.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Community Service Learning and Spanish Composition

by Ann Abbott

This semester I am teaching a special honors section of Spanish composition that involves community service learning. Students have the same CSL requirements as students in "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," but during class and for homework they have the same requirements as all the other Spanish composition students. The students are wonderful, and I read their writing with interest and delight.

Honestly though, it has been a real challenge to integrate the two components: Spanish composition and CSL.

Of course, written reflections are the obvious points of contact between the two. But what should they write about? How can the actual content of Spanish composition link to CSL?

I  know there are many very good answers, and I'm sure that my readers can share their wonderful ideas. However, this is another case, it seems when we foreign language teachers face a lack of teaching materials.

Just the other day I received a sample copy of Developing Writing Skills in Spanish by Javier Muñoz-Basols, Yolanda Pérez Sinusía and Marianne David (Routledge). I was very happy to see that the content of the book went beyond the typical genres: description, narration, argumentation and exposition. Instead, they also dedicate chapters to advertising, legal & business documents and technical writing. I was also very happy to see an activity-approach to every chapter. Students actually have to do task-based activities in order to learn about each genre and analyze them. That was such a relief from the typical "read this and discuss this" approach. Furthermore, it's not a grammar book disguised as a writing book, as so many are. Yet out of a 37-page chapter, four sentences are dedicated to students' actual writing. At the very end of the chapter, of course.

That is why I use Modelos. It really focuses on the process of writing. Students don't get to the end of the chapter and read: Now write an essay about this. They're given strategies, tactics and tools to use throughout the writing process--from generating ideas to finally editing their language. Unfortunately, its approach has no connection to CSL or the role of writing in the "real world" of Latino immigrants and those who work with them.

The closest we have (that I am aware of) to a book that integrates a process approach and real-world Spanish is Kim Potowski's Conversaciones escritas: Lectura y redaccion en contexto. First of all, the chapters are thematically-organized, not just genre-organized. (Why do  textbooks with chapter titles like "La descripción" and "El ensayo argumentativo" teach students what makes a good title?) That's what writing is about! We write about things. Sure, genre is important--and Conversaciones escritas covers them--, but when we decide to actually write about something it is because we have something to say about something. Furthermore, the chapter topics are pertinent to a Spanish CSL course. In fact, the very first chapter is "La inmigración." Because the book emphasizes US Latino experiences and perspectives, Spanish CSL students will come away better informed about many aspects of the community members' lives. Finally, students do activities, analysis AND writing throughout each chapter. That sends a clear message that writing is a process--and that it is part of thinking, doing and analyzing, not something that happens once you have done all of that preliminary work. There's so much more to say about Kim's wonderful book, but suffice it to say that I will use it the next time I teach my special section of Spanish composition with CSL.

However, I think we can identify gaps that still exist. Any book about writing and Spanish CSL would have to also include the following:

  • Translation. Some brief but explicit instruction on translation. After all, our students must constantly do that in the community even though they have no formal training it. 
  • Letter writing conventions. Students do write a letter in the very first chapter of Conversaciones escritas, but from my experience teaching Business Spanish, they need a lot of guidance about the formalities of letter writing--from what greetings are appropriate to how to close. (I have read "Sinceramente" many, many times!) Our students who work in schools often need to write letters to the parents. Our students who work in offices could help write letters and e-mails (a constant part of work life for all of us) if our community partners new the students were well trained in matters of form and formality.
  • Pamphlets and fliers. Our community partners struggle to keep up-dated brochures about their organization and timely fliers about the events that are constantly occurring in the community. The writing needs to be visually appealing, easy to read with graphic elements that enhance the message and  in a simplified language that even people with lower levels of literacy can comprehend. 
  • On-line content. I haven't seen any composition book tackle this. Writing for the web is very different than writing an academic article with dense paragraphs that fill 15 pages. Students need to know what keeps someone reading on the web--short paragraphs, snappy anecdotes, multiple examples and all the multi-media content that can be embedded. Which is one reason why script-writing or story-boarding for videos should also be part of a CSL composition course.
These are my thoughts based on many years of working with community partners, students and non-profits in general. Ideally, a Spanish composition CSL course would have content that informs students about the communities within which they are working and would introduce writing genres that our community partners use and need. 

Immigration: An Example of Interdisciplinarity as Best Approach to Complex Topics

by Ann Abbott

Sometimes when I am teaching my "Spanish in the Community" course, I feel the weight of the entire Spanish curriculum--even the whole university curriculum--on my shoulders!

  • How can students be successful Spanish CSL students if it is the first time that they are not using "classroom Spanish"?
  • What (erroneous) assumptions do students make about the bilingual classes where many of them serve when they don't have a background in the theory of bilingual education?
  • Do students really understand why people leave their home countries if they don't know about pertinent US foreign policy, world events and history?
  • Might students view community members' interactions with the law as isolated events without realizing how ICE and Secure Communities have created a constant "ghost presence" in immigrants' lives?
  • Just how developed are students' critical thinking skills and media literacy? They need those to disentangle themselves from the barrage of negative messages about immigration that we all receive daily.
Thankfully, our students take many courses while in college, and some of them help them fill in the gaps. Just the other day, one of my students made very articulate connections between NAFTA, losses in specific Mexican job sectors and immigration. I think this came in part from a political science course he had taken. In the past, students with an education background have been able to inform all of us in the classroom about education policies that affect Latinos. Those are shining moments when the students do the interdisciplinary work for you.

It's also heartening to know that we have many colleagues across campus who are researching and publishing on many facets of immigration. Picking up the latest issue of Inside Illinois, I was excited to read about two such projects.

For our students' sake, immigration and immigrants should be topics that show up repeatedly across disciplines and throughout the curriculum within each discipline--especially in Spanish courses.

Community Service Learning at ACTFL 2011

by Ann Abbott

In just about one month I'll be flying to Denver for the ACTFL 2011 Convention. It's exciting for me because I get to see old friends from grad school, friends who were once TAs that I supervised and friends from publishing, especially the Pearson/Prentice Hall world languages team. 

If you will be at ACTFL, let me know! I'd love to meet up.

I will be giving a session titled "How to Prepare Service-Learning Lesson Plans: Synthesizing Best Practices" on Friday, November 18 from 3:45 to 4:45 in Room 304 of the Colorado Convention Center. Here is some more information:

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 already use. Examples include adding SL activities to standing lesson plans as well as building new plans.

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.

By doing a search of the program, I came up with these other results for service learning:
However, I know that this is just a partial list because my own title didn't show up in the search! I will search out more sessions and report on them from the conference.

Here are some more sessions that I interest me.
1. Holly Nibert will talk about her work with international TAs in her language program coordination and TA Training: "Promoting the Intercultural Competence of International TAs in the Classroom." 
2. Bill VanPatten's talks are always informative, and he has two this year.
3. For Portuguese, Fernanda Fereira will talk about "Improving Speaking and Writing Practice in Spanish and Portuguese."
4. Audrey Heining-Boynton is a wonderful speaker and will be involved in several sessions, including one about communities.
5. My colleauge from German who always does wonderful things, Cori Crane, will speak on "
Teaching Emotional and Evaluative Language in the German Classroom"

Once I have the printed program in my hands, I will search for more CSL presentations. If you're giving a presentation, please leave a comment so that we can all know!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Help at Central High School's Parent-Teacher Conferences

by Ann Abbott

Helping Spanish-speaking parents communicate with their children's English-speaking teachers during parent-teacher conferences is both important and rewarding. My students always learn a lot, gain confidence and understand better the challenges that both students and parents face within the educational system.

Again this semester, Central needs our student volunteers. Use this opportunity to ensure that you get 28 hours of work this semester. Students from past semesters are welcome as well, and no one needs a criminal background check to do this work.

Be sure to read about the vocabulary used during parent-teacher conferences and about one student's experience.

Here is the note from Central High School's Ms. High:

"My name is Janet High. I am now scheduling parent teacher conferences for Central High School. We were hoping to again get your assistance with translators.  Our conferences are scheduled for Thursday the 27th of October from 5pm through 8pm and Friday the 28th of October from 8am through noon.  If you know of anyone that might be interested, could you please have them email me at  Any help would be greatly appreciated!  Hope you are having a great day!"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Blogging about Spanish Community Service Learning, Social Entrepreneurship and Business Spanish

by Ann Abbott

Somehow I took a longer vacation from blogging than I intended. I missed blogging!

We're already at the mid-point of the Fall 2011 semester, and I will begin my blogging routine again. As usual, I will cover the following topics. But if there is anything you would like to see me cover that is not listed, please let me know! Furthermore, if you or your students would like to be guest contributors to this blog, I would be delighted to highlight your experiences and perspectives. But here is what you can expect from me:

  • Highlights from conferences I attend.
  • Reviews about articles and books that focus on Spanish or foreign language community service learning (CSL).
  • Reflective posts from my honors students who are doing CSL.
  • Lesson plans and classroom activities that I use with my own students. (Many are tied to Comunidades: Más allá del aula.)
  • Profiles of former students who are doing interesting things in their professional lives and with languages and cultures.
  • Updates to the running Spanish CSL bibliography. (Please add to the list if I have missed something!)
  • Local (Champaign-Urbana) opportunities for students and others to use their Spanish to help in the community.
  • Information about events that highlight issues of concern to local Latinos and Spanish-speaking immigrants everywhere.
I hope to hear from you in the comments, in person, on Facebook or Twitter (though I must confess that I'm as behind on tweeting as I am on blogging).