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Friday, July 12, 2013

Questions That First-Time Spanish Service Learning Students Can Ask Veteran Students

by Ann Abbott

Teaching Spanish community service learning (CSL) requires that you ask students really good questions. There is so much unexamined information that most people carry around in their heads about languages, lanugage learning, immigrants and immigration. You have to ask good questions to cut through all of that.

However, more and more in my teaching and lesson planning, I am drawn to creating activities that require students to formulate their own questions. And when they have to ask them to a real person--a classmate, the instructor, a roommate, their family members, the community partner, etc.--all the better!

So I was particularly struck by list of questions in a recent blog post that I read about helping freshmen learn time management skills from upper classmen

Encourage students early in the term to “interview” an upper classman about how they handle college demands and manage their time. Here are some questions they may wish to ask:
  • How and when do you study?
  • What do you now do differently than you did when you first started college?
  • What advice do you have for freshmen in regards to study skills and time management?
  • What resources on campus have you used that have helped you be successful in school?

In my role as Director of Undergraduate Studies for Spanish, I will use this in one of the monthly workshops we have planned. Students just entering the Spanish major could learn a lot from the seniors.

But the same process would be very useful for students who are just starting a Spanish CSL course. They're almost always very nervous, as well excited, about it. I would ask them to adjust the questions to make them appropriate for interviewing former Spanish CSL students. Then I would ask them to actually do this! I think it can be accomplished mostly through the Facebook page I use with my current and former students.

Finally, it's important to learn from experts how to formulate good questions. So, I would add this final question to the students' list: 

What other question should I have asked?

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