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Showing posts from April, 2012

Community-based Team Project Reflections

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Team: Danielle, Madeline, Stephanie and Christa
For our team project we collaborated with the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (AKA ECIRMAC) to help raise money and plan their Fifth Annual Refugee Center Fundraising Dinner. ECIRMAC is located in Urbana and works to aid refugees and immigrants that are settling in the area, and to help with the preservation and exchange of each person’s culture. Because ECIRMAC is a non-profit organization, they relay greatly on the community for donations in order to survive. Their largest fundraising event each year is their Fundraising Dinner. Part of our job to help the dinner included expanding awareness to the campus community and getting more students informed about the center and their mission. In order to promote ECIRMAC’s message and the event on campus, we contacted the Daily Illini and had an article written in it about the event, and what ECIRMAC is all about. We contacted the Greek community and asked for donations fo…

Student Reflection

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by Brianna Anderson



This past week was the last week of SOAR for the year. The students write thank-you cards for the tutors at the end of every semester—after so many semesters, the student I tutor has gotten slightly more creative than a standard “thank you” and this card included a drawing of a scary monster reading a book. He had already finished his homework for the day, so after receiving the card, my student and I went to the library to read for one last time. We grabbed his favorite book (which changes every week) from the shelf and sat down to read.
While we were reading, I thought a lot about how far my student has come—when I started working with him, he did not speak any English. I admit, we struggled with communication a little at first. Before tutoring with SOAR, I had never had an opportunity to speak Spanish with a child. Talking to a child in Spanish is completely different than speaking Spanish with an adult—the language barrier seemed much more p…

Job Interview Questions as Reflective Exercise in Spanish Community Service Learning Course

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by Ann Abbott


Spanish community service learning (CSL) is first and foremost about the mutually beneficial relationship between community partners and students. Our students should enhance their engagement with the academic content of the course while they meet the community partner's needs. So first and foremost, our students should have a rigorous academic experience. It's about the learning.

In second place, and really close to first place, is this objective: prepare students for the realities and complexities of today's professional workplace.

Whether our Spanish CSL students work in an agency office, a classroom or a trailer converted into a community center building, they are all working in professional contexts. They are working in an organization, working for it and representing it. During their reflection, students' experiences in those professional contexts can be focused solely on an academic-centered learning experience.

We can also use structured reflectio…

Community-based Team Project Reflections

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by Mary Kate Chlada



Nuestro proyecto es de mejorar el uso de los medios sociales por El Centro de Refugiados. 
Brittany y yo creamos mas información en el sitio web y en la página de Facebook del Centro. Entrevistamos a los empleados del Centro y pusimos más fotos en el sitio. También quisimos conectar el Facebook con el sitio web; creamos un link entre los dos. Nuestra meta es que los voluntarios puedan conectarse con el Centro cuando ya no están trabajando allí. Nos encontramos con algunos problemas. Los empleados del Centro están muy ocupados con cosas más importantes que los medios sociales. También no hay muchas oportunidades para sacar fotos porque la gente que viene al Centro tiene problemas muy serios. Es difícil mostrar el impacto del Centro en el web.
Los medios sociales son muy importantes para empresas sociales porque es un servicio gratis. El sitio web y el Facebook no cuestan nada pero alguien que busca el Centro en el internet pueden encontrarlo. Esto es muy import…

Community-based Team Project Reflections: Introduction

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by Ann Abbott


I am often asked what the difference is between my "Spanish in the Community" course (SPAN 232) and my "Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship" (SPAN 332) course. Here is the answer:



SPAN 232 “Spanish in the Community” SPAN 332 “Spanish & Social Entrepreneurship” CSL work 28 hours 28 hours Text Comunidades Enterprising Nonprofits Course content General introduction to CSL, immigration issues, and working in professional contexts Introduction to social entrepreneurship with focus on linguistically and culturally appropriate programming Homework On-line listening comprehension quizzes On-line quizzes based on textbook content Reflection Reflective essays Reflective essays Exams

Example of a Spanish Community Service Learning Final Exam

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by Ann Abbott


Writing an exam for a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course is never easy. Following the advice to "test what you teach and how you teach" carries some difficulties.

What I teach in the classroom is clear and the same for all students, but what they learn in the community is different for each student.How I teach in the course is also clear: listening comprehension homework, task-based communicative activities in class, content from Comunidades: Más allá del aula, and reflective essays through the semester. But how do you test "how" students learn in the community during a final exam? Ideally, the test would also be experiential. While I have been happy with the tests I have written for my "Spanish in the Community" students in past, this time I am trying something different. At home, students watch the above video of Newt Gingrich calling Spanish the language of living in the ghetto and his apology, in Spanish. (Thanks to Gillian Wa…

Student Refleciton

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by Haily Pribyl-Shay



Working with the fifth graders at Leal, I have begun to realize the challenges that come with being integrated into mainstream classrooms when a child’s native language is not English.  Every week I help students with their vocabulary and spelling homework.  Some of these students are Spanish speakers and others only speak English.  Nonetheless, I speak English with all of these students because that is how I am able to help them best in completing their work.  I usually help them with general definitions and grammar corrections.  In the first grade classroom, I try to speak in Spanish whenever I am given the opportunity.  It helps me in practicing my speaking abilities, but I feel bad when I am not able to think of a phrase or word to help a student with their assignment.  For example, there was an activity involving words to be placed under different categories describing what different animals ate, where they lived, and what they looked like.  I could not think …

Student Reflection

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by April Nwatah 


If someone asked to see pictures of my work in the community, and I showed them this picture, they might stand there looking confused and think that I misunderstood them. But with the Facebook Video Project, I spend every other Friday morning right here at my desk editing videos and uploading them onto a Facebook page for Spanish speakers in the community.  

Minus a couple of goofy videos that I made in the 8th grade for some of my friends, I don’t have much experience editing videos. Although I’ve had my MacBook for about 2 years, I never explored iMovie until this class. Some people learn things like editing by reading or watching tutorials then trying out what they learn. I just kind of learn as I go. I envision what I want a certain part of the video to look like, then I play around with iMovie to make it happen. If I can’t figure it out, then I Google it. But basically, every week is a new learning experience.
Sometimes the process is frustrating and I often need to…

What Is at Stake in Your Spanish Community Service Learning Classroom?

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by Ann Abbott


$100 were at stake in yesterday's "Spanish and Entrepreneurship" class.

We did the Kiva.org lesson plan that I do every year in which I donte $100 to a Kiva entrepreneur.

During the first round, some students simply "gave in," and let the other Kiva entrepreneur win. But by the second round, the larger teams were really arguing for their chosen entrepreneur. "But my entrepreneur has a large family, all women, and no men around to support them," one student said. "But my entrepreneur," another student said, "has a six-month-old baby who needs an operation. This loan might save the baby's life."

I translated the conversation above, but it is really wonderful to see and hear the students using their Spanish to accomplish something, to advocate for someone--and something--that they believe in.

Would they do that if $100 of my money weren't at stake? I don't know. But this makes me want to design even more clas…

Welcome to my blog about foreign language service learning!

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by Ann Abbott


I'm very excited that my blog is featured in an article about language educators and blogging in The Language Educator's latest issue!

Welcome, especially if you found your way here from the "Language Educator" article.

Blogging is a very important part of my teaching life. I'm passionate about foreign language community service learning (CSL). I love teaching about social entrepreneurship. I channel my inner entrepreneur through my Business Spanish course. And teaching about and through social media fits me perfectly: I love to listen and share. If you read anything about "how to blog," the first piece of advice is always to blog about something that you love. Check.

What do you blog about? What are you passionate about?

Maybe blogs for you are about reading. Me too. I like blogs that teach me how to do things. Or do them better. I confess to reading Failblog most days for some comic relief. I need blogs about simplifying, because I tend t…

Student Reflection

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by Haily Pribyl-Shay


In helping out in both my classrooms at Leal Elementary School, I have learned a great deal about my strengths and weaknesses as a Spanish speaker.  Walking into the bilingual classroom for the first time was intimidating to say the least.  I did not know anything about the classroom, how it was organized, or if I was going to be able to communicate with the students and understand them.  I think I was most afraid of being accepted by the students as a new volunteer whose Spanish speaking skills were intermediate at best.  There are two other volunteers in the classroom while I am in there, and they are fluent Spanish speakers that are able to communicate easily with the students.  I try my best to observe and learn from the ways in which they use commands and interact with the children.  I knew that this was going to be an incredible opportunity for me to practice proper pronunciation, verb conjugation, and overall vocabulary development.


My very first experience i…

Student Reflection

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by Susannah Koch
The last time that I blogged I was just getting started at Provena and now I have helped with many things, including the Latino health fair! La campaña de salud was set up by a group of M1 medical students from the UIC School of medicine. It was held at the church behind Provena on Sunday, April 15th after the Spanish church service at 1pm. Provena and the language services department was asked to help only two weeks before the day of the health fair so we had a lot of things to do in a short period of time.
Our main task, other than actually assisting with translating the day of the fair, was to translate a lot of information and brochures about the facilities that Provena has to offer. The flyers that I had to translate were difficult because so much of it was medical vocabulary and trademarked procedures and techniques that cannot be translated into another language. It took me some time to finish it and then Alejandra, Shannon (another volunteer) and I went over the…

Student Reflection

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by April Nwatah



Dictionary.com defines the word “empathy” as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” My experience with the Facebook Video Project has allowed me to experience empathy in a way that I did not imagine.  
Since I’m making videos for the Latino community in Urbana-Champaign, my partner and I decided that the best method of making these videos would be going to the locations that we want to talk about and filming the location, allowing us to show the information instead of just talking about it. Since we always give bus directions in our video, we make sure to take those directions to make sure that they are correct and simple to follow. So for example, when we did a video about the Urbana Free Library, we started off at Illinois terminal, followed our directions to go to Illinois Terminal, and took photographs and video clips at the library.
Making the videos this way has enabled me to visit vario…

CU: Volunteer Opportunity at the Latino Youth Conference

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by Ann Abbott


I received this e-mail from one of my students informing me of another way for SPAN 232/332 students--or anyone, for that matter--to help in the community, use their Spanish and get their 28 hours.



Hola Profesora Abbott,
One of my co-workers at the Office of Volunteer Programs is helping organize the Latino Youth Conference this Friday and she asked if I would pass this information on to you/our class in hopes of recruiting some volunteers. It would be a great way for volunteers to work with high school students, speak Spanish,and complete more hours without leaving campus!
Here is the link to register:
Latino Youth Conference Volunteers will lead high school students around campus. Pre-registration is required. Register at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2WY8X3R.
Thank you for your time and let me know what you think!
Gracias, Alicia Freter (Span 332)

Student Reflection

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by Brianna Anderson


In addition to practicing my spoken Spanish, volunteering with SOAR has allowed me to develop a greater understanding of the achievement gap, as well as working with students from different backgrounds.  The students that participate in SOAR are primarily from the bilingual program at Garden Hills Elementary and many of the come from low-income families.  They perform at lower reading and math levels than most of their peers and many of them are trying to learn English at the same time.  Some of the students have parents that speak little to no English themselves.


These differences can present several challenges—if the family has a lower income, the parents may have to work more and as a result, are around less to help the child with school work.  Or, perhaps they are just learning or refining English and may struggle assisting the child.  Sometimes these at-home challenges are mistaken for an environment in which the parents do not care.  This is one of the biggest …

Student Reflection

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by Susannah Koch


After many weeks of filling out applications and getting various medical clearances, I am a volunteer/intern with the language services department at Provena Hospital. I was getting nervous for a while about whether or not everything would get figured out in time for me to get my 28 hours. Now that I have started to help at Provena, I know that I will definitely get all the hours that I need because there is a lot to do. As volunteers/interns, our job is to help the language services department get its feet off the ground with our supervisor Alejandra Coronel. The program is relatively new in terms of having a larger presence in the hospital and making translation services more accessible to patients. It is something that most of us do not have to think about, being able to understand the nurses and doctors taking care of us, but there are numerous people in the Champaign-Urbana area who need the assistance of a translator in order to feel more comfortable with their m…

UIUC: Learn about about Issues Concerning Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia

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by Ann Abbott


There are so many interesting and important events that are pertinent to Spanish community service learning (CSL) happening on our UIUC campus in the next few weeks.

When we work in the community, it is important to distinguish between Spanish--the language--and Latin American--a geographical construct. We have Latin American immigrants in our local community who are not Hispanic and not Spanish speakers. Rather, they are from indigenous cultures and speak indigenous languages.

That is why I am so interested and excited about the visit and talks by this visiting scholar:

Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui
Bolivian sociologist, historian, activist, filmmaker and public intellectual of Aymara descent.

Founding Director of the Andean Oral History Workshop, she is a leading scholar of postcolonialtiy and indigeneity in the Andes. She published the classic, Oppressed but Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, 1910-1980, and numerous essays on subaltern…

Community Partner Speaking on Campus

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by Ann Abbott


It is so important that our community partners have a voice on campus. 


Our community-campus relationships must be mutually beneficial and mutually respectful. In part, we accomplish that by engaging our students in activities that meet a community-identified need. In part, we show our respect when we teach our students to view their community supervisors as experts.

But when we invite them to campus to share their expert voices among our faculty, we are inviting them into our "spaces" for our intellectual and academic benefit.

I'm so happy to see that Deb Hlavna, Co-Director of the Refugee Center, is speaking at a forum on our University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. Here is the information:


Surviving the Economic Crisis: Latina/o Migrants in the U.S. Heartland
A Forum of faculty, students, and community agencies working with Latina/o migrants Thursday, April 19th 3-5pm Levis Faculty Center-Music Room
Intersectional Approaches to Immigrant Health Res…

Champaign-Urbana: Upcoming Conference on "Responding to Immigrants"

by Ann Abbott


I just received the program schedule for an upcoming conference at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: Responding to Immigrants: Bridging Research and Practice to Meet the Needs of immigrants in New Growth Communities. It will be very difficult to decide which sessions to attend because so many of them look interesting.


I will give an hour and a half "how-to" workshop about using service-learning: 

How to establish a community partnership.How to explicitly connect the academic content to students' work in the community.How to incorporate structured reflection.How to assess and maintain your community partnerships.Do you plan to attend the conference? Are there any points that you think I should cover in the workshop? Leave a comment and let me know. And even if you can't make it to the conference, be sure to check out the many useful links and readings on the project's web site.

10 Language Magazine Articles Pertinent to Spanish Community Service Learning

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by Ann Abbott
I've been a language educator for two decades, but I didn't know about "Language Magazine" until I met one of the women from their booth at the 2011 ACTFL in Denver. Here are some articles that I found of interest.

1. A Day in the Life of a Learner. Although the focus of this piece has nothing to do with Spanish community service learning (CSL), I am very intrigued by the idea of shadowing Spanish CSL students in the classroom and/or in the community. The focus could still be on academic language. Or the focus coud be on any other issue: target language production; communication modes utilized (interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational); professional skills developed; etc.

2. Creating Your Own Space. This article about wikis gives some good suggestions for how a wiki can be used in a language class. Those are good ideas to use as starting points for brainstorming. A wiki saved my life. That's not much of an exaggeration. I use a wiki as the adm…