Sunday, April 15, 2012

10 Language Magazine Articles Pertinent to Spanish Community Service Learning

Language Magazine is a good resource for all language educators.
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 administrative basis of my Spanish CSL courses. With it, students can self-schedule, community partners can edit the information about their organizations, and I can assign students to create or edit information on the wiki for next semester's students. Using a wiki makes delegation possible.

3. Talking in the Library. Have you considered your local public library as a potential community partner? I had never considered using an on-line language-learning system as one component of a CSL ESL tutoring program. On the other hand, could your CSL students do a research project then present their findings in a helpful way to local Spanish-speakers at the public library? Or maybe they could give a class on immigration myths and facts that would be open to all community members.
Spanish CSL textbook.
4. Recognizing the Learner. This article focuses on the cultural differences between education in China and in the US. This is a really good entrée into a discussion about cultural differences in education between the US and Latin American cultures. I cover this in Leccion 6 of Comunidades: Más allá del aula, ¿Sabemos cómo trabajar en la comunidad de manera culturalmente apropriada? But because the differences between Chinese cultures and our own may be more "visible" to students, that can be a good way of leading them to look for more subtle differences in their education-based Spanish CSL work.

5. Teachers Doin' It for Themselves. Is our profession preparing foreign language educators to use CSL? As a pedagogy, CSL seems to be absent from bachelor's degrees that prepare students to be K-12 foreign language teachers. Even in the pedagogy course we use to train the graduate student teaching assistants in our program only introduces CSL because I give a guest lecture on it. So, no, it seems that we are not giving pre-professional training on CSL to our language educators. Therefore, professional development opportunities regarding foreign language CSL are vital. You can't "wing it" in CSL. But you can use CSL enhance your students' learning and reinvigorate your own relationship with the language, culture and teaching itself. Perhaps we need to have a conversation at the national level about what the professional development should look like. This article talks about the importance of professional development for language educators while presenting the advocacy efforts of the NEA and the MLA to transform our profession.

6. Crossing the Cultural Divide. To teach transcultural competence to our students, we must be transculturally competent ourselves. This article puts forth one model of transcultural competence that is not just about national/ethnic cultures, and I find that inspiring. I was also inspired by the anecdote about the teacher who involved her students in a project that resulted in the acquisition of new classroom furniture to replace the broken ones. It made me think about this: how about if my students analyzed the Daily Illini, our campus newspaper, for the use of the i word (illegal). Depending on what they find, perhaps they could write an op-ed educating students about the word and calling on the paper to use the word undocumented instead.

7. Spotlight on Service Learning. The title says it all.

8. Taking Teaching to Task. A very intelligent critique of approaches to language teaching. My favorite quote: " What if instead of teaching Spanish I, II, III, and IV, etc, we teach Spanish for business, Spanish for public services, Spanish for traveling, Spanish for medical professionals, etc." Yes!

9. The Digital N8tives Are Restless. I was especially interested in this article's approach toward hybrid learning, not as face-to-face or on-line but as face-to-face AND on-line. That is what I do in most of my classes. I walk into class, look my students in the eye, and then say, "Turn on your cell phones." Our classes are then a combination of face-to-face and on-line that, I think, makes them a richer learning expeirence.

10. Learning in the Active Voice. Examples of international service learning opportunities.

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