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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?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Working with Two Different Community Partners

The Frances Nelson Dental Center provides important care to un- or under-insured individuals.
by Ann Abbott

Sometimes students have difficulty choosing just one community partner with which to do their community service learning work. Some of my best students have broad interests and a strong desire to have a broad impact.

I almost always say no. It's really difficult to for even the most well-meaning students to work at two different places in the same semester. I usually encourage them to take the follow-up course--SPAN 332 Spanish & Entrepreneurship--and try their hand at a new community partner organization.

Some students do it successfully, though. And benefit from it. Read about one student who worked at  at ECIRMAC and also at Frances NelsonDental Center.

"I learned many transferable skills that are relevant to the medical field, like empathy, communication skills, patience, how to multitask, and how to work with people from different cultures. I also learned a lot more about the Champaign-Urbana community. Before this class I didn't realize how many immigrants lived in this area. I enjoyed learning about how the community works together to support these immigrants.


"I did an honors project working at Frances Nelson Dental center (SmileHealthy) as a translator. I learned more about the health care field and how certain things, like insurance, work. I also gained a lot of new Spanish vocabulary related to dentistry. And I definitely learned better time management skills, since sometimes I would be acting as an office assistant and translator at the same time."

If you could work with two community partners, which two would you choose and why?