Lesson about Activism in Spanish Community Service Learning Course

by Ann Abbott

My classes are usually loud. I'm proud of that because the volume rises when I manage to take myself out of the center of the class and let the students communicate with each other as they analyze, create, compare, share, etc.

But for most of today's class, you could hear a pin drop.

Here's what we did:

1. A mind map of "los activitistas." I divided students into groups of three. One group did their mind map on the board, and the others did theirs on a piece of paper. I gave them three minutes to write as much as they could, then we looked at the group's mind map on the board. I then invited one person from each group to go to the board to write additional information they had on their mind maps. Curiously, no group wrote any negative associations with "los activistas," so I talked to them a bit about the negative stereotypes that exist in the US about activists--that they are hippies, lazy, unrealistic, etc.

2. Pictures of activists. Today in Springfield, IL there is a rally for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. I put up pictures from a private Facebook group to which I belong that is for and about immigrants in Champaign-Urbana. I showed a picture of people in the bus, leaving CU for Springfield and asked, "¿Tienen pinta de activistas?" The point, of course, is that they look like normal every-day people, but they were on their way to a rally to demand political change. They are activists. I showed other pictures of the day's events, too.

Later I will analyze students' responses.
3. Activism "stations." I gathered links to ten different examples of activism. I tried to include a lot of different variety in terms of level of commitment and approaches. I posted the links to our Facebook page so that students could easily link to the different sites. In the classroom, I taped up sheets of paper--one for each link and a few simple questions about that link. (I'll post them all below.) Students needed to go around to the different "stations," explore the link, then write their answers on the sheet of paper on the wall. (This is another example of my bring your own device--BYOD--approach to teaching.) Our classroom had never been so silent! Everyone was reading and writing. You can see--and hear--it for yourself in the video above.

4. Synthesis. I paired students and asked them to talk about these questions: Do you identify with the term "activist"? What kinds of activism are you involved with, if any? What are your reactions to the examples of activists/activism that you explored in the previous activity?

Do your community service learning students identify as activists? Do they have good models of how they can be effective activists? Share your teaching ideas in the comments.
  1. Presente.org http://presente.org/  ¿Es un grupoactivista? ¿Qué hacen?
  2. Immigrant YouthJustice League http://www.iyjl.org/ ¿Decir tu estatusmigratorio publicamente ser una forma de activism? ¿Cuáles son los riesgos?
  3. University YMCAStudent Organizations  http://www.universityymca.org/student_programs/ De esta lista,¿qué organizaciones son para activistas? ¿Qué causas te interesan más?
  4. Speaking at a SchoolBoard Meeting http://spanishandillinois.blogspot.com/2010/03/model-to-show-students-how-to-move-from.html ¿Escribir unacarta y hablar en una reunión pública son formas de activismo? ¿Los profesorespueden ser activistas?
  5. The Walk of theImmigrants http://www.facebook.com/groups/120945614590134/ ¿Crear una páginaen Facebook es una forma de activismo? Explica. ¿Le darías un “like” a unapágina sobre una causa?
  6. Leaders of Social andPolitical Change in Latin America http://www.americasquarterly.org/leaders_of_change.html ¿Hay que ser políticopara ser activista? ¿Es posible hacer cambios importantes a través delactivismo?
  7. Solidaridad 2.0 https://twitter.com/Solidaridad20 ¿Tuitear es unaforma de activismo? Explica. ¿Retuitear lo es? ¿Mandarías un tweet sobre unacausa?
  8. Twibbon.com à Causes ¿Ponerle un “twibbon”a tu foto de perfil es activismo? Explica. ¿Lo harías tú?
  9. Capitol Tax Questionof the Day http://capitolfax.com/2012/11/26/question-of-the-day-1500/#comments ¿Votar en esta encuesta es una forma de activismo?Explica. ¿Votarás tú?
  10. El Padre Greg http://www.homeboyindustries.org/life-at-homeboy/father-greg ¿Es activista? ¿Cómo? ¿Qué relación hay entrela religión y el activismo?
After looking at students' mental maps, a few things stood out: 
  • They understand very well activists' role in protesting, marching and being dedicated to a cause in order to effect change. 
  • Most of the concepts overlapped among groups. However, some groups had unique thoughts: art as part of activism, local/nacional/global, 99%.
  • My second class included the more "negative" concepts in their mental maps that were missing in the first class: extremistas, pueden ser violentos, ideas radicales, peligrosos, izquierdistas.
  • When students added concepts to their mental map after looking at the websites during class, they added things like "Personas 'normales'", "la tecnología", "religion", "informan/educan".


  1. I am inspired by your work, Ann. Thank you for all that you do.


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