Friday, March 30, 2012

Broaden Students' Images of Hispanic Cultures

Rescate. Does this image fall within your imaginary for "Hispanic cultures" ? It should.
by Ann Abbott

In yesterday's post I wrote about the necessity to always switch students back and forth between the cultural "close-up" that community service learning (CSL) provides and broader perspectives about immigration, policy issues, diversity among Latinos (racial, socio-economic class, countries of origen, etc.), to name just a few.

That is hard to do!

Not only does it take really skilled lesson planning to accomplish that, it also assumes that students in all Spanish classes throughout the curriculum are also exposed to a variety of Hispanic cultural realities.

Unfortunately, the visual images in the traditional Spanish curriculum are stale. And many courses in the college curriculum do not include visual imagery much if at all. It's often all text, all the time.

Fortunately, I continue to be amazed at the wealth of images that flow across my Twitter stream and pop up on Pinterest. Images that truly reveal something about many different Hispanic cultures. Images that capture the "now-ness" within Hispanic cultures. The playfulness. Images that would actually grab a student's attention.

Here are just two samples of images that go beyond flags, market scenes and plazas.

Photo representing "Tatuaje" on Photo Vocab.
Photo Vocab. Spanish Word of the Day. These images are beautiful, striking and thought-provoking. I don't know how helpful a random stream of vocabulary is, but the visual impact of the photos is what I would care most about for my students.

I also like that this site uses images from all over the globe. That might seem contradictory on a site for Spanish vocabulary, but I think that we paint ourselves into a "provincial" corner when we insist on separating Hispanic cultures from the global context of which they are naturally a part.

The Iconics, by Mexican photographer Olga Laris.
Olga Laris, Mexican photographer. I saw this image on Zambombazo and I immediately wanted to know more about this mixture of iconic imagery and the freshness and playfulness of the its reinterpretation. In traditional Spanish curricula, Frida Kahlo seems to be as close as it gets to contemporary art. But Mexican art can also look as sharp and "new" as Olga Laris's work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

CU: Volunteer Opportunity

by Ann Abbott

Thinking about being a social worker? Interested in issues of mental health? Want to diversify your community service learning (CSL) work during the last part of the semester to expand your understandings about the Spanish-speaking immigrant community in Champaign-Urbana? Please volunteer to work with Vida alegre and Prof. Lissette Piedra.

Fun Activity about Current Events for Spanish Community Service Learning

Students watched this interview with a Guatemalan businesswoman. (On left, choose "Videos" then scroll down to Unit 3 videos.
by Ann Abbott

When students do Spanish community service learning (CSL), they can get a myopic view of Latinos in the US. They form close relationships with the individuals with whom they work, but it's necessary to always bring them back around to the larger context. Today, in "Spanish in the Community" we did that in several ways.

1. Share. In pairs, students had five full minutes to simply share about their work in the community: what they have done lately, how it is different than at the beginning of the semester, what their goals are for the rest of the semester, etc.

2. Become informed. We did part of Lección 15 from Comunidades: Más allá del aula--¿Son noticias para nosotros? (pages 98-101). For a fun get-up-and-move-around activity (p. 100),  I did the following:

  • Print several different articles from today's edition of La Raza (a Spanish-language newspaper from Chicago). If you have 20 students, you need 10 articles; 30 students, 15 articles; etc.
  • Cut each article in half and mix the pieces up thoroughly.
  • Hand each student one "half" of an article.
  • Tell all students to stand up, talk to one student at a time and find their "other half."
  • Tell students to sit down with their other half and summarize the halves to each other so that they have the full story.
  • Have students write a few sentences connecting the information from the news story to what they have learned in the course, in the community and/or in the classroom.
Students had fun finding each other, and it really helps to give variety to the format of the class.

3. Expand our notions of Latina/o immigrants. I reminded students that when we do Spanish CSL, we are working with Latino immigrants who are receiving a service from our community partner organization--after-school tutoring, counseling, nutrition training, etc. However, we must always remember the diversity among Latinos:
  • not all Latinos are immigrants
  • certainly not all Latino immigrants are undocumented
  • not all Latinos (immigrants or not) are service recipients
To illustrate this, we watched a video interview from Comunidades. In it, Ruth Montenegro, originally from Guatemala, talks about her work in quality control within a US company. (The videos that accompany Comunidades are free, just click on the link and look for this one within the Unit 3 videos.)

4. Examine our notions of success. Ruth Montenegro is obviously a very successful businesswoman. But it is important for us to consider that our ideas about success are determined by our cultural perspectives. Students did the activity on pages 94 and 95 in Comunidades that gives them several scenarios and asks them if they consider them to be "successes" or not. This is always a very interesting activity. Given the examples, you can see that our notions of success are gendered and are often individualistic and primarily about economic/material success. Other cultures may favor a more social and group-centered idea of success. When we start our next class period, I will ask students to answer these questions (maybe on video): 
  • What would success look like for you in your CSL work? 
  • How would you know if your work was successful or not?

The louder the Spanish class, the better!

Today's class worked substantially on all four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. It also hit on all 5 Cs: communication, cultures, comparisons, connections and communities. Which activity worked on Comparisons? Which activity focused on listening comprehension? Speaking of success: would you define this as a successful lesson plan? What constitutes a successful lesson plan? As always, please feel free to use any of these idea with your students and leave your suggestions and comments here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Exit Tickets in a College Spanish Community Service Learning Course

My prompts and students' exit tickets in "Spanish in the Community."
by Ann Abbott

Exit tickets are a new concept for me. On Twitter and Pinterest, I follow many language educators who teach K12. I was curious about the "exit tickets" they mentioned. (Just google "What is an exit ticket" and you will see lots of definitions and resources.) 

So today I tried it in my class. 

1. Signature Search. First we did a signature search about their spring break activities and the transition back into their CSL work. 
Encuentra a alguien que…
1. haya viajado en avión durante las vacaciones.

2. haya visto Los juegos del hambre.

3. haya hecho un trabajo voluntario durante las vacaciones.

4. haya hablado español durante las vacaciones.

5. haya hecho su trabajo en la comunidad ya esta semana.

6. haya hecho algo interesante/curioso durante las vacaciones.

2. Comunidades activities. Then we did the activities in Lección 14 from Comunidades: Más allá del aula (pages 89-93). Our guiding question was, ¿Por qué emigrar? The activities from the book  covered these topics:
  • Push and pull factors.
  • The dangers inherent in several border crossing methods (coyotes, rafts, trains, etc.)
  • What happens during and after an immigration raid.
  • Our rights when we deal with police and immigration officers.
3. Video. Using one of my Pinterest boards, we watched a brief video clip from  Which Way Home? a documentary. (Just click on the image at the link and it will take you the documentary's website.)

4. Exit ticket. I asked students to choose one of these sentence starters (another term I have learned from my K12 friends!), complete the sentence and turn it in before leaving the class.
  • Hoy aprendí que...
  • Me gustó/gustaron...
  • Quiero saber...
I found it interesting that the answers showed no clear patterns. They picked up on different parts of the lesson, but all the answers showed that the students were engaged and paying attention to what we talked about in class. That is reassuring! Here is a sample of some answers:
  • Hoy aprendí ... qué es una redada; que la inmigración puede ser muy peligrosa; que las redadas son más complicadas de lo que parecen ser, ya que también dañan a los niños deportados; que los inmigrantes se suben a los trenes para llegar a los EE.UU. y yo no puedo imaginarlo (el peligro, etc.); que no es necesario abrirle la puerta a la policía si no tienen una orden.
  • Me gustó... la película que se llama Which Way Home y quiero ver toda la película; la información de esta clase porque es muy interesante y quiero conocer más sobre la ley e inmigración.
  • Quiero saber... más sobre cómo deportan a inmigrantes locales y las estadísticas de deportaciones en Champaign Urbana; qué pasa si eres una mujer embarazada y te quieren deportar o si te casas y se muere tu pareja antes de recibir tus papeles; más sobre lo que pasa durante una redada y la deportación.
There were two "exit tickets" that really encouraged me. I think they show real learning because they focus on the questioning that students are doing about their previous beliefs.
  • Aprendí que necesitamos considerar que los medios no nos dan toda la información sobre los factores que les motivan a los inmigrantes a cruzar la frontera.
  • Es difícil tener una opinión segura de la inmigración ilegal... Pero es importante aprender las dificultades porque en el pasado, totalmente creí que está [sic] malo.
Those answers motivate me!

Have you ever used exit tickets in a Spanish CSL course? In any college-level course? Have you picked up other teaching ideas from your K12 colleagues? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Student Reflection

by Tessa McGirk

During one of my visits to Salt and Light, there was an incident. I was helping in the Clothing Closet, as usual, when a scuffle broke out in the back corner of the room. Seconds later, a young mother came to the front desk with her child in tow and began to complain to one of the Salt and Light workers. She claimed that another client of Salt and Light was hoarding the baby clothes by taking them all off of the rack and piling them into the corner, and then proceeding to take off hangers and stuff the clothes into bags. The young mother declared that she did know the other client had already claimed the baby clothes and so began to look through them for sizes that would fit her child. As she did, the client who had supposedly claimed them already swatted at her hand and began to speak “in her native language,” as the young mother put it.

While this type of hoarding is generally not approved of, the young mother did not handle the situation with much tact. She began yelling at Salt and Light workers and swearing, and after a minute, went back into the back corner. Another argument broke out –one that was bad enough to be stopped by the head of Salt and Light. Both families were ejected from the Clothing Closet, and were warned that they must not simply take every piece of clothing, but must look at the sizes and take only those that they could use. My supervisor asked if my partner and I had seen anything, but, like all the other workers there, we only saw the aftermath.

A mí, la situación me asustó. Es la primera vez que algo malo había ocurrido cuando estuve en Salt y Light. Estaba sentada en una mesa con unos niños cuando, de repente, algunas personas empezaron a  gritar. Mi primer pensamiento fue de proteger a los niños porque no sabía qué ocurría. Después de que ellos salieron, tuve dos pensamientos. El primero fue una reacción emocional: me avergoncé que no tenía la confianza en los otros humanos que no van a doler a nadie. No sé si es porque estuve en un ambiente relativamente extraño o si porque en realidad no confío en los extranjeros. Ojalá que sea la primera razón.

Mi segundo pensamiento fue que yo quiero cambiar el mundo. Suena tonto, pero es la verdad. Quiero cambiar la realidad de estas personas para que no necesiten luchar sobre algo como la ropa. Yo quiero ayudar a todo el mundo. Me siento triste cuando pienso en las situaciones cotidianas que muchas personas experimentan. Relata a los lenguajes, sí. Si nadie puede comunicar, no podemos arreglar nada. Tal vez con mis habilidades cono el español, por lo menos, yo puedo aliviar algunas luchas.

A large part of me is frustrated that the world has even let this happen: that we have allowed the world to become so uncompassionate, to fall into such disrepair, that people will fight over anything. And that sometimes, they fight because they have to. I have never experienced poverty, and, in reality, I have no way of knowing which people who arrive at Salt and Light are in true need or are just there to take advantage of free clothes. But the fact that people feel like they have to take as much as they can carry –everything– in order to sustain themselves, makes me believe that they really do need it. I have to believe that: the alternative is that people are simply greedy, willing to take from those truly in need. Whatever the reason for the altercation, I hope that someday, I will be able to handle such situations with the grace and compassion and sense of justice shown by the workers at Salt and Light. I want to be able to use Spanish to help prevent fights and to fight poverty. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Student Reflection

by Tessa McGirk

An opportunity arose for me to broaden my volunteering and Spanish horizons: I volunteered as a translator for Central High School’s parent/teacher conferences. It was an incredibly enlightening experience. While I lived in Costa Rica for a summer and sometimes translated between my host family and my friends, I have never been a translator. This time, I was worried that the pressure would make me fumble with my words, or that I just plain did not have good enough skills to do a good job. However, I knew it would be a great experience and I really wanted to help, so I went!

The counselor’s office was a flurry of activity, with families coming in and out and Spanish flying all around. It was a bit overwhelming. The mom of my assigned family arrived, and we were off. She was so nice, and she cared a lot about her son and his future. She asked every teacher not only what she could do to help, but what her son needed to do to improve his grades. She wants him to succeed at his dreams of being a computer programmer as much as he does. I do not know if I have met very many parents like that. The second family I met was awesome as well. I met with the father and his son, a senior at Central. That was a really fun experience because, although the son was bilingual, he let me translate the things he and his teachers talked about to his dad. I still do not know why he did that, but it made me feel more like I belonged there helping, that my Spanish is enough to communicate. I was never questioned by either the teachers or the families about whether I was translating correctly; they all respected me and appreciated the fact that I was there.

One of the teachers confused me. He/She [note from Ann Abbott: we are using he/she here to protect the identity of the teacher] clearly has had a lot of experience teaching Hispanic students and even knows Spanish. I expected him/her to be very understanding of the hardships Spanish-speaking and even bilingual students face. Instead, he/she came off very blunt and callous. I understand that some students need stricter guidance, and the majority of his/her comments were instructive, but he/she said some things that could have been viewed as racist. Basically, when he/she talked to a student or parent, he/she grouped all Latino students together; he/she commented that they all were happy with their Spanish skills and therefore did not care about improving. I realize that, while this may be a trend he/she has seen during his/her years teaching, it seemed unjust to not only stereotype every Latino student into that one group, but to present that idea to Latinos. That just astounded me. I did not have the chance to talk to the students or their parents about that teacher, nor did I feel it was my place to confront her. I suppose I was expecting more from a teacher who sees and comes to know many Hispanic students.

Overall, Central High School provided an incredibly fun and enlightening learning experience for me. It solidified my thoughts about wanting to translate for at least a little while after I graduate this spring. It helped me remember why I love being bilingual. I think I may have gained more from this experience than I gave!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Websites that Help Spanish Students Learn about Responsible Social Entrepreneurship

Students connected the information at these links to our textbook chapter on responsibility.
by Ann Abbott

How fortuitous that on the week my Spanish and social entrepreneurship class was studying responsibility within social enterprises, Kony 2012 blew up. 
That set the scene for a lively class session about "Cómo ser una empresa social responsable.¨

What does being a responsible social enterprise mean?
I began by asking students to summarize in their own words the key points from the chapter on responsibility in Enterprising Nonprofits (our textbook for the course). Here are the points we emphasized:

  • The key (la clave!) to being a responsible social entrepreneur is communication.
  • That communication should be two-way: from the organization to the stakeholder (in the form of an annual report, for example) as well as from the stakeholders to the organization (social media would be one example).
  • Responsibility is about actually doing what you say you are doing. In other words, you must be always meeting your mission. (It always comes back to mission...)
What are some examples of how nonprofits communicate about their responsibilities? How does the nonprofit world monitor itself?
Then I assigned to each student the number 1, 2 or 3.
  1. Students in group #1 watched the Invisible Children response to their critics.
  2. Students in group #2 dove into Fundación Lealtad's website.
  3. Students in group #3 explored Tercer Sector's website. 
They had a little over eight minutes because that was how long the video ran.

Then I put them in groups. Each group consisted of someone who had watched the video, someone who had studied Fundacion Lealtad and someone who had explored Tercer Sector. I told them to do the following:
  1. Each person summarized what they had learned.
  2. Together they connected the concepts from the textbook chapter to what they had seen on-line. (When I do this again the next time I teach this course, I will give them a list of concepts from the chapter and ask them to connect each one--if possible--to what they saw online.)
We came back together as a class and shared some of the connections they identified in their small groups.

How responsible are the nonprofits where you work in the community for this class?

Ideally, students would have then looked up a nonprofit that they are personally connected to or aware of, but there was not enough time to do that in class.

In the end, a topic that is not always clear to students turned into a lively class period, especially because of the timeliness of the Kony 2012 issue. How do you teach about the topic of organizational responsibility for social enterprises? Do you know of other websites or resources that exemplify the theory of responsibility? Please share your teaching ideas here.

Student Reflection

by Theresa Calkins
As I said in my previous post, I am working in a bilingual first grade classroom at Garden Hills Elementary School for my volunteer hours this semester.  It is very interesting to compare the classroom environment at Garden Hills to the elementary classrooms I was in many years ago.  I also think it is interesting to consider that while all the teachers I have ever had, with the exception of my Spanish teachers, of course, have only ever taught class in English.

I often wonder how different my life would be had I grown up learning another language.  Neither of my parents speak a language other than English, and no one in my extended family speaks a foreign language.  To them, it is amazing that I have even made it this far with my Spanish!

This past week when I was in the classroom, the teacher, Mrs. F., spoke more English to the students than I have seen so far.  When you think about the fact that many of these students likely started preschool with hardly any English-speaking abilities, they have improved significantly and will only continue to learn more.  I think this is truly amazing and goes to show that the bilingual programs in the Champaign-Urbana community school districts are doing an incredible job to meet the needs of the students and families in this area.

As I said above, the environment in Mrs. F.’s classroom is different than that of the classrooms I was in years ago.  Every morning, the students spend a significant amount of time on the “alfombra” and Mrs. F. reads them a story, asks them questions about the work they just completed, or tells them about the next activity they are going to do.  During this time, I have noticed that Mrs. F. has created an environment of great respect between herself and the students.  The students obviously respect their teacher, but from what I have seen this respect is mutual.  Mrs. F. encourages the students to contribute to the discussion, whether or not their contribution is 100% relevant in the moment or if their ideas are completely farfetched. 

Additionally, something that really stands out to me is that Mrs. F. is always talking about the future with the kids.  While she mentions that they will be in second grade next year on occasion, she talks about the distant future regularly, such as the kinds of classes they will take in high school or what they want to be when they grow up (doctor, teacher, firefighter, etc.).  I think this is a great thing to do because it encourages the kids to think about their futures, to set goals for themselves, and know that the future is limitless and they can do whatever they want.  I truly believe that the students, ultimately, will be better people because Mrs. F. has created this respectful and optimistic environment for them.

Student Profile: Sarah Leone

Sarah Leone, working in the Homegirls Cafe garden.
by Ann Abbott

I am very excited to have my former student, Sarah Leone, visit my Spanish and social entrepreneurship class via Skype right after spring break. She lives in Los Angeles and works at Homegirl Cafe, a nonprofit that I have used as a case study for branding and linguistically and culturally appropriate programming for the past few years.

Here is some background information on Sarah:
Sarah Leone, left, gardening.

  1. As a University of Illinois undergraduate student, Sarah took both "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Entrepreneurship." 
  2. For her community service learning work, Sarah worked at the Refugee Center.
  3. Sarah took coursework in community informatics which included a team project to create a website for the Refugee Center. That website is still in use and serves the Refugee Center's needs well.
  4. Sarah spent a year in Barcelona as a study-abroad student.
  5. Sara did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship at ACCION Chicago, gaining experience in the nonprofit world in general and microfinance in particular. (Unfortunately, we no longer offer the summer internships because of funding cuts.)
  6. Sarah has a food blog with tasty, healthy recipes: Culinary Remedy.
  7. Sarah works at Homeboys Industries. Specifically, Sarah works at Homegirl Cafe in their urban gardening program. Here are some examples of Sarah's work: a gardening workshop series; her series of blog posts within the Homegirl Cafe's blog posts--Sarah's garden tips; a video of Sarah preparing income-generating items from the organization's garden.
Students will have the privilege of seeing and hearing Sarah talk about Homeboy Industries, Homegirl Cafe, urban gardening and more. In the following class period we will explore Homeboy Industries more closely and focus on these topics: branding and linguistically and culturally appropriate programming. I will share information about that lesson later.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Student Reflection: Susannah Koch

by Susie Koch

My name is Susannah (Susie) Koch and in my blog posts this semester I will share with you my experiences working in the community and in utilizing Spanish.  I have been taking Spanish classes since the end of middle school. Once I had started language classes I quickly realized how much I appreciated and was amazed by the human brain’s ability to be able to communicate in one language, let alone two or more. This interest also shows my interest and love of the anatomy and physiology of the body. I am currently pursuing a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Spanish, and I am pre-med and plan to attend medical school starting the summer of 2014. Although my classes in middle school and then in high school increased my love and passion for the Spanish language, my Spanish class senior year of high school did the opposite. The teacher showed little passion for the subject and did not challenge us in order to help us improve. I felt as if my knowledge was stationary and that my ability to communicate was actually decreasing as the year went on. As I started college at the University of Illinois the fall of 2009, I decided not to continue on with Spanish because my love of learning another language had been so drastically altered the year before.

Freshman year went by in a blur of difficult science classes and I found myself looking for a release. I started to explore my options as an undergraduate student and discovered all of the study-abroad options that our amazing school has to offer. I decided that I was going to go abroad for a semester and that I wanted to go somewhere Spanish speaking because I already had some knowledge of the language and the culture. In order to study abroad in Spain I needed to complete a number of Spanish classes at UIUC, and therefore, I started my Spanish class journey for the second time. I spent four months in Granada, Spain last semester and could not have had a better experience. Studying abroad is such a unique experience and something that I believe all students should pursue if possible. I am so thankful for that semester because it helped me take a step back and reflect on my life. For the first time in years I was actually able to relax and fully enjoy the classes I was taking because the material was not overwhelming. I am a better person because of my time in Spain and if all I had come away with from that time were the friends that I made, that alone would make it worth it.

My time in Spain re-sparked the love of language I once valued so much and pushed me to pursue a second major in Spanish. I did not know what to expect when I signed up for SPAN 232 this semester, but I am really enjoying the structure of the class and the core values that we are learning. I hope to improve my ability to speak in terms of confidence because my lack of confidence when speaking Spanish really hinders my improvement and experiences. Only time will tell, but I know that I will take away a lot from this class!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview with Radio Ambulante about Using their Podcasts with Spanish Community Service Learning

Listen to great stories in Spanish.
by Ann Abbott

As soon as I listened to the podcasts at I fell in love.

I shared the link with my Facebook friends and wrote, "It's 'This American Life' in Spanish." I pinned the site to one of my boards in Pinterest with some vague idea about how I would use it in my teaching. After I actually used it in class, I blogged about the lesson plan and how it incorporated Facebook. Then I shared that blog link on Radio Ambulante's Facebook page. I looked up Daniel Alarcón, the founder, and became intrigued about his award-winning writing. After I post this, I'm going to order his books at Amazon. Oh, and I also donated money to Radio Ambulante through Kickstarter. That is a lot social media sharing!

But I also had a dialogue with Radio Ambulante via "old-fashioned" e-mail. They are preparing a blog post about how educators have used Radio Ambulante, and below you will find my answers to their questions. I hope that you will listen to Radio Ambulante's stories. If you use it in a class, I'd love to hear about here. Or share your experience directly with Radio Ambulante--they are listening.

1. RA: How did you come across Radio Ambulante?
Ann Abbott: I honestly don't remember! It was probably through Twitter. I then put the link on my Facebook page and on my Pinterest board about teaching Spanish & social entrepreneurship to share it with others.

2. RA: What made you think of it as a teaching tool?
Ann Abbott: First of all, I am always looking for examples of authentic language and culture to bring into the classroom. The stories that you already have up are great examples of that! I want my Spanish students to be able to see the world through the cultural perspectives, practices and products of Hispanic cultures. Each of your stories are like a window into a very specific world. Second, because I teach social entrepreneurship in Spanish, I knew that Radio Ambulante as an organization would be a wonderful "case study" for my students. We were able to examine your mission statement and compare it to your actions; we examined your use of social media marketing and calls-to-action; and after spring break we will look at income-generating possibilities that build on Radio Ambulante's existing capacities. En resumidas cuentas, Radio Ambulante had it all: it's a fascinating organization offering high-quality cultural content.

3. RA: What was the most surprising response to the material that you got from the students?
Ann Abbott: I had listened to "Palabra prohibida" several times while preparing my lesson. I loved it. I knew my students would love it because it was about being a student, fitting in, going through culture shock, all things that they can relate to--especially those who have studied abroad. So in class, I gave them some time to explore the site, and then I played "Palabra prohibida" for all of us to hear. I faced my 30 students, and I saw them smile and heard them laugh and say "Awwww" in all the right places when the speaker tells about walking into his new classroom. Then, when the story switched to high school and he started talking about the word "nigga"--the vibe changed. Talking about race is so awkward in the United States! It was if people didn't want to make eye contact with any of the students of color in the room while we were listening. There was absolute silence and only a few nervous giggles at time. After the piece finished, I put them into small groups to talk about their reactions to the story and their own "palabras prohibidas" when they work in the community with Spanish-speaking immigrants for their community service learning work. The room exploded with conversations! The volume was louder than what was coming out of the speakers when I played "Palabra prohibida." It was like they were so glad to be given permission to talk about race and to be given "safe" parameters for the discussion.

4. RA: What benefits do you see to using material like RA as opposed to a more traditional curriculum?
Ann Abbott: When you teach things like my courses--"Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship"--there simply is no traditional curriculum. Examples from leaders in the field, like Radio Ambulante, are all I have to work with. But it's enough! My students read about the basics of social entrepreneurship, but with examples like Radio Ambulante they can see and hear what those abstract concepts--like linguistically and culturally appropriate programming; autochtonous solutions for locally-defined problems; mission-based management; strategic alliance building; etc.--mean on the ground.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spanish Community Service Learning Students Need to Practice BasicOffice Skills

Example of student "recado" that gives the wrong message.
by Ann Abbott

Once again I observed in my "Spanish in the Community" course that students need help with basic office tasks that they are called upon to do in their community service learning (CSL) work. 

Students may think that taking phone messages and filing documents is easy and even "beneath" them. 

My colleagues in Spanish may think that teaching this is not "intellectual." 

But semester after semester I see that doing these seemingly simple tasks reveals several things. First, we underestimate the complexity of the linguistic and cultural knowledge required to do these tasks in Spanish and with information from/about Spanish-speakers. Second, these tasks necessiate the use of many higher-order thinking skills:
  • First, students have to understand the information they hear on the phone (in the case of taking a message). This alone is difficult and requires a lot of negotiation of meaning and checking/rechecking their notes.
  • Then they have to synthesize and re-arrange the information according to the pre-determined format of a message form.
  • In the message section, they have to analyze the whole conversation in order to prioritize the information and select what information is pertinent.
  • They have to think from the perspective of the person who will read the message and ask themselves, will this person know what they need to do when they read this?
Still think that this is not what students need to be doing in a college course? Let's see some of the results from today's class.

We did the alphabetizing activity on page 86 in Comunidades. Very few students did the activity correctly. Not everyone knew that you needed to alphabetize the names by the last name. Many did not know to alphabetize by by the first last name. The majority did not know that Maria del Carmen was a first, not a last name. Only the heritage speakers--but not all of them--new the meaning of these items: Lic., Mª and Ing. 

In fact, it seemed to me that several students felt overwhelmed by this supposedly simple activity and just gave up. Other students stayed engaged with the activity but had many questions and doubts about it.

Taking messages
We did the phone messages from Lección 12 in  Comunidades. Again, even some of my very best students struggled to get complete and correct information for these activities. Half the students went out to the hall while the other half took down the message that I read. Mistakes or missing information became evident when the students from the hall had to read the messages and indicate whether they knew exactly what to do after reading the message. Many did not.

In addition to the activities in the book, I read the following to my students and asked them to take a message. Click on the photo above, read the student's message and then compare it to the text below: 

¨El 31 de marzo de 9-11 am todas las familias con hijos desde recien nacidos hasta seis años estan invitados a visitar el Crisis Nursery. Habra actividades para los niños y mucha informacion para los padres. El personal de Crisis Nursery estara disponible para responder preguntas. Este centro es un maravilloso recurso para todos aquellos que en algun momento enfrentan una emergencia y no tienen a nadie que cuide a sus hijos. Los niños pueden quedarse solo por unas horas o a pasar la noche mientras los padres resuelven su emergencia. Lo recomiendo altamente. Como las emergencias llegan sin anunciarse aprovechen esta oportunidad para conocer el centro y saber mas de este importantisimo recurso. Para mayor información, llamen al 337-2730.¨

The phone number is incorrect. The date and times have been placed in the wrong places on the message form. Most importantly, the sense of the message has been distorted. If you just read the student´s message, you would think that you needed to call this number and act immediately because there is a family with an emergency! Instead, the message was about an open-house event at an organization that exists for families when they do have a crisis.

I have good students. At this point in the semester they have been working in the community for two months. They struggle with these activities because they are much more difficult than we think.

Monday, March 12, 2012

People Who Have Influenced Me

This is at the top of my to-do list.
by Ann Abbott

Community service learning (CSL) is truly a collaborative effort. Every day that I teach I realize how lucky I am to have great students who go the extra mile (literally) to engage with our community partners. And all of this hinges on the good will, time and professionalism of my community partners.

But today I started thinking about a broader list of people I should thank. People who have mentored me, taught me, questioned me, prodded me, supported me, enlightened me, inspired me and much more.

Who would be on your list? Have you thanked them lately?

Bill VanPatten. He taught the methods course when I was a new graduate student TA. He taught us exactly the same way he told us to teach. What a great model.

Jim Lee. He gave me my opportunity to be a TA Supervisor. I learned even more about teaching and I got my first taste of collaborating with others.

Anna Maria Escobar and Louise Neary. I wrote machine-scored grammar items with them way back in the 90s. I would do things differently now, but we were on the leading edge of teaching with technology at the time.

Elena Delgado. She was my dissertation advisor. Without my PhD I wouldn't be where I am today. And my doctoral studies in literature helped me approach Spanish CSL with a critical, interpretive approach that I think enriches my teaching, even though I no longer teach literature. Elena helped me get a job as an Instructor back in 2000. It's in that position that I found my niche and grew into the work that I do today.

Darcy Lear. She gave me the push I needed to go from thinking interesting things to actually publishing them. She is my ideal collaborator and an honest, true friend.

Diane Musumeci. I don't think it is possible to feel more supported by your Head than I did with Diana. And I loved that she gave me room to grow.

Maida Watson. I went on her CIBER-sponsored program for Business Spanish in Spain. I came home with lots of great materials that went straight into my teaching. I appreciate that she pulls me into projects along with her.

Donna Binkowski. My biggest thanks of all go to her. She published my work when she was at Pearson, and I will forever be grateful for that. I love everyone at Pearson.

Holly Nibert. I have picked up so many important tidbits about teaching and mentoring TAs from Holly. Most importantly, though, I have learned through her to be mindful about my work processes--and to be kinder to myself. 

Patrick Dilley. So few people from my hometown of Clay City went to college, let alone got a PhD and went on to work in academia. Patrick and I both did. That alone will tie us together forever. That and the powdered donuts.

Gillian Ward. I admire her approach to using and researching technology in teaching. To me she simply is the next generation of leaders in our field.

Kim Potowski. Wow. A force of nature. I like her, and I feel a creative connection with her.

Marcos Campillo. Marcos got me on Facebook, and for that alone I am grateful. I love the creativity he puts into his teaching materials and his wide-ranging use of technology.

Beniamino Barbieri. I hate it when authors write sappy or insipid dedications to their spouse. That's not what this is. I learned about entrepreneurship and international business by listening to him, observing him and working in his office for one very trying year. I bring that into my teaching all the time.

Tifani Moot. She is my closest (four houses down, to be exact) example of a female entrepreneur. She's a big help to me in many practical ways.

Silvina Montrul. My current Head. I have learned about flexibility and creative problem-solving by watching her. She is also a model of productivity and passion for her research and writing.

Jose Miguel Lemus. He worked with me on the CSL course and administration. He cared it about as much as I.

There are many more people that have influenced and helped me. Dedicating yourself to CSL is not easy, and it is never something that you do all on your own.

Now on to grading exams!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Source for Spanish movies, songs and texts

by Ann Abbott

I always find great information in my Twitter feed. This afternoon I found this great resource for authentic cortometrajes, music and texts to use in my teaching: marco ele.

Click on "Actividades." Then choose either the type of material you are interested in--canciones, películas or lecturas--or the language level-- from ¨accesso¨ to ¨maestría¨.

Follow me on Twitter: @AnnAbbott. And take a look at who I am following. There is a rich exchange of ideas and resources about language education, social causes and Spanish.

Lesson Plan: Connect Classroom Learning with Community Service Learning Experiences

My students working in small groups.
by Ann Abbott

Sure sign that you taught with the Atlas complex: You leave the classroom and go straight to the water fountain to remedy your cotton-mouth.

Sure sign that you taught without the Atlas complex: You spoke little in class, mostly to give instructions and to answer student groups' questions while circulating through the room.

When we teach with Spanish community service learning, we are automatically giving up the Atlas complex. We know that we do not shoulder the entire burden for students' learning--they learn in the community and from the community members even when we are not around. 

But when the students are in the classroom with you, do you feel the need to be at the center of the classroom--literally and figuratively? We want to help students prepare for and then learn from their work in the community. But our classroom activities should be as hands-on, collaborative and student-centered as their work in the community.

Here is one example of how I set up one of my "Spanish in the Community" classes in a way that took me out of the center. Each student received a note-card at the beginning of class, and then we did the following activities.

1. Classroom-Community Connections. Write one example of a piece of information presented in the classroom that had a real-world connection to your community service learning work. Students had a few minutes to think, write and then share. Here were some of their (slightly edited) answers:

  • Escuché sobre una mujer que tiene miedo de ser deportada y en la clase aprendimos sobre los recursos para los inmigrantes.
  • Hablamos sobre las diferencias entre culturas en el aula. Varias veces noto estas diferencias en el salón de clase donde presto servicio. Por ejemplo, la maestra siempre dice las notas de los estudiantes en frente de toda la clase.
  • Lo que aprendi sobre los inmigrantes y sus derechos y el proceso para ser un ciudadano me ha ayudado a entender lo que está pasando en el Centro cuando vienen personas con estos problemas.
  • En la clase hablamos de como contestar el teléfono en una oficina. Este fue un buen ejercicio para mi trabajo en el Centro porque todos están muy ocupados cuando trabajo y tengo que contestar el teléfono mucho. (Several students wrote about the work we did in class about talking on the phone, taking messages, etc.)
Then students had to choose one of these statements:
  • Siempre hay una conexión directa entre la información que aprendemos en el aula y nuestro trabajo en la comunidad.
  • No siempre hay una conexión directa entre la información que aprendemos en el aula y nuestro trabajo en la comunidad.
The second statement won. (And that´s okay!) 

My role throughout this first step was to simply ask the question, tell students when their time to answer was up, and then ask them to share their answers. 

2. Student-Student Connections. On the other side of the note-card, write something you struggle with in your work in the community that our classroom activities have not answered for you. Again, students had a few minutes to think and write. Then I told everyone, ¨Stand up! Go around to your classmates, one by one, and tell them the issue that you struggle with/wonder about/etc. Ask them if they know the answer or can tell you how to find it." Here are some examples of issues they had not figured out yet:
  • From a student who worked at a health clinic: Palabras de medicina y cómo hablar en español con alguien que no sabe inglés ni mucho español (las personas de Guatemala). We have a large community of Guatemalans who spoke only or mostly their indigenous language.
  • From a student who worked at a human services office: A veces tengo dudas durante una conversación sobre el vocabulario de asuntos legales.
  • No entiendo por qué hay tantos inmigrantes en Champaign.
  • Tengo dudas sobre la diferencia entre el trabajo de ECIRMAC y La Línea. Parece que estamos haciendo la misma cosa. (This is very interesting because it gets at the ¨meta¨ level of how our human service agencies overlap. In this case, they do not, but that isn´t clear to the student.)
  • ¿Cuales son los requisitos para recibir una tarjeta verde? (Students--and you--can learn more about this topic by watching one of the videos from my textbook: From the left navigation bar, click on "Videos" and then click on the video " 10-2 ¿Cómo se consigue una visa?")
  • From a student who worked at a human services office: ¿Por que los archivos son de un sistema muy viejo? ¿Por qué no usan los ordenadores? ¿No hay suficiente dinero? ¿No saben cómo organizarlos? (Again, this is very interesting because it shows that the students are thinking about their partner organizations as organizations, not just the service recipients.)
  • From a student who worked at a school, in a bilingual education classroom: ¿Hay momentos cuando los estudiantes hispanohablantes pasan tiempo con los otros estudiantes? Después del segundo grado, ¿qué tipo de cosas hace la escuela para ayudar a los estudiantes a mantener su lengua materna?
Because the students worked in different organizations or had different experiences with the same organization, many of the students were able to have their questions answered by other students. That was exactly what I had hoped for! It showed that I was not the only "expert" in the room. Here is one example:

Student 1: When clients come to the Refugee Center, I help a lot of them fill a form for "la tarjeta médica." Even though I am perfectly able to help them fill out the form, I don't really know what a "tarjeta médica" is.

Student 2: I know! That's the card people have to show us at the Frances Nelson Health Clinic. It shows us that they qualify for our services.

Conclusion. Although we weren't able to answer every single question that students had, the activity served several purposes. It removed me from the "center" of the classroom and allowed the students to perform the roles of both learners (questioners) and experts. It revealed gaps in the curriculum so that I could decide what materials I should add for the following semester. It pointed towards questions that students could easily find the answers for themselves by talking to their supervisors in the community or with a simple Google search--because I, the instructor, am not Atlas.

Do you struggle with the Atlas complex when you teach? Do you have classroom techniques or activities that successfully take you out of "the center" of your students' learning? Do you think you might try the above lesson with your own students? Let's share our knowledge and our struggles, just like my students did!

Why Do Students Take a Spanish Community Service Learning Course?

On the first day of class, students explained why they were taking "Spanish in the Community."

by Ann Abbott

I know why I teach Spanish community service learning courses: I love to see students stretch themselves and increase their learning by solving real-world problems in real time with real people. 

But why do students take these courses?

At the beginning of the semester, I asked my "Spanish in the Community" course to write down their reasons. This morning I analyzed 14 of those answers, and here are the results:
  • 10: To practice Spanish. They said things like "tengo que practicar el español¨ and ¨quiero mejorar mi español."
  • 6: To help in the community.  "Quiero ayudar la comunidad" and "quiero ayudar [a] otros" were words they used to express their desire to both learn and serve.
  • 3: To prepare for my future career. One student wanted to work with children at a school because she plans to be a teacher; one student plans to be a social worker and sees the CSL work as connected to that profession; and one student said he/she wants to have a career speaking Spanish.
  • 2: To connect to international experiences. One student wanted to keep up his/her Spanish after a study-abroad experience, and another wanted to prepare for an upcoming stay in Honduras.
I'm not sure that their answers would have been different if the same question would have been asked in any other Spanish course. My experience is that students see Spanish studies primarily as language studies and they take the classes they can get. Although we may have other learning goals for them, I think we need to listen to that and integrate language learning into the entire Spanish curriculum in well-designed, explicit ways. (That may sound obvious, but research-based approaches to language learning are in fact not very well integrated into college-level Spanish programs beyond the basic language courses.)

Furthermore, we know that motivation is an important factor in second language acquisition. That's not an area of research that I am familiar with, but I'm sure that the literature would give us important insights into the connections between student motivations, Spanish CSL and learning outcomes.

But what I take away from these results is a reminder to be explicit in my teaching about the connections between students' motivations and the curriculum as I have designed it. 

Why do you teach Spanish CSL? Or why don't you teach teach it? Why do your students take it? Do you think the course you have designed matches with their learning goals? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lesson Plan about International Women's Day and SpanishCommunityService Learning.

by Ann Abbott

¡Feliz día de la mujer! Even Google is sending a message to women everywhere today.

And I, of course, want to send a message to my Spanish community service learning (CSL) students. About celebrating women. About celebrating female immigrants. About understanding the implications of gender in immigration issues. So here is what we will do in class today.
  1. Celebrate! Many of my US students may not even know about this celebration. I will felicitar all the women in the class. Then we will look at the images of greetings for International Women's Day at this web page. Students will pick one, say what woman they would send it to, and why.
  2. Inform ourselves on the issues. The gender issues related to immigration often go ignored. (I must confess, there are many things I have to ignore in this course because there is only so much I can cover!) Students will read this short piece about gender and immigration. Then I will ask them to search the Web for more information using these key terms: inmigracion, migracion, mujeres, genero.
  3. Bring the issue back to their CSL work. I will ask them to read the words of one of our local Latina leaders about el Día de la Mujer (below). Students must then choose one sentence from her post and connect it to something or someone they have seen in their CSL work. They will post their answers to our Facebook page.
Take the time today to celebrate the women in your lives and in your community. And take this lesson plan and use it with your students if you would like!

"Esto es para todas las mujeres fuertes que cada día se levantan con muchísimas ganas de hacer de ese su mejor día. Para todas las que lo dan todo por sus hijos pero que también saben reconocer cuando lo mejor que pueden hacer por ellos es dura, ser fuerte y decir que no. Para todas las que sueñan, las que se permiten segundos de su dia para entrar a un mundo de fantasía y disfrutarlo. Para todas las que aman con ternura, con pasión y que entregan todo su ser a la persona que aman. Para todas las que enfrentan los retos y las responsabilidades con coraje pero siempre con la femineidad de frente. Para las que a pesar de las mil y una cosas que tiene en su lista cada día aun encuentra tiempo para arreglarse cabello, pintarse las unas, y lucir bella. Para las que sin importar el físico se sienten bellas y se ven bellas porque la belleza por fuera es fácil de verla pero la de adentro no todos la exponen. Para las que se olvidan de prejuicios y se disfrutan del derecho de ser sexy, de lucirse, de gritar en silencio que son hermosas. Para las que aceptan que algunas veces lo único que se puede hacer es dejar que las lágrimas caigan y no por eso somos menos fuertes. Para las que dicen que si con mas fuerza cuando alguien les dice que no pueden hacer algo. Para las que se dan el derecho de mandar a todos lejos por un rato cuando sienten la necesidad de estar sola. Para las que se dan el derecho de llamar a alguien y pedirle un abrazo cuando eso es lo que necesitan. Para las que sin miedo dan el primer paso para una gran aventura o para un romance, para las que viven cada día con la misma fuerza que lo harían si fuera el ultimo día que tienen. Para todas ustedes, muy feliz día y a seguir disfrutando de ser mujer!"