Showing posts from March, 2012

Broaden Students' Images of Hispanic Cultures

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. Im…

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.

Read about Vida alegre.Read about Prof. Piedra's e-mail and correspond directly with her ( "We will need volunteers for Tuesday and Thursday nights 5:00-7 pm: April 10th until May 14th.Summer volunteers are welcomed.In the fall and spring, we will definitely be running groups."Post your hours on the course wiki, explaining that you worked for Vida alegre.

Fun Activity about Current Events for Spanish Community Service Learning

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 articl…

Exit Tickets in a College Spanish Community Service Learning Course

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…
Actividades Firma 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 fr…

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 ye…

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…

Websites that Help Spanish Students Learn about Responsible Social Entrepreneurship

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.  The Kony 2012 video went viral. A backlash ensuedInvisible Children posted a response.The nonprofit world engaged in a virtual discussion about the specifics of Kony 2012 and the nature of international development work in general. Here are just a few examples: Smart GivingMatters,"What Kony 2012 Can Teach Non-Profits About Marketing,"Is Kony 2012 Good or Bad?"The video's director seems to have had some sort of public breakdown.  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 bei…

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 Englis…

Student Profile: Sarah Leone

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:

As a University of Illinois undergraduate student, Sarah took both "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Entrepreneurship." For her community service learning work, Sarah worked at the Refugee Center.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.Sarah spent a year in Barcelona as a study-abroad student.Sara did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship at ACCION Chicago, gaining experience in the nonprofit world in gener…

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 a…

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

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 list…

Spanish Community Service Learning Students Need to Practice BasicOffice Skills

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 …

People Who Have Influenced Me

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 …

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

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 m…

Why Do Students Take a Spanish Community Service Learning Course?

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 …

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.
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.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…