Sunday, August 31, 2014

Business Spanish Lesson Plans: Week 2

Week 2
by Ann Abbott

Business Spanish, Week 2

Monday | Labor Day, no class

Wednesday | Exito comercial, Capítulo 1, Actividades

1. Vocabulario, p. 3. I'll ask students for the following:
  • Dos pares de sinónimos.
  • Una palabra de la lista que es una extensión de otra palabra en la lista.
  • Describe la relación entre la gerencia y la mano de obra.
2. Stations. I'll set up three stations.
  • Al teléfono, p. 12. On one end of the room, I'll have my laptop set up with the dvd that plays audio. Students will answer question 1, a-e.
  • Comprensión y comunicación, p. 20-21. On the opposite side of the room, I'll ask a student to use their laptop to play the dvd with the video of the consecutive interpretation. Students will need to answer two of the "Al ver" questions.
  • Geografía, pp. 13-16. I'll have pages printed out with the questions, and they will have to answer them.
3. Conclusion. We'll do some interactive geography quizzes together. I'll pull from these:
Taller de asesoría. Visita con la cliente.

Spanish Lesson Plan about Twitter with Activities

by Ann Abbott

I used this lesson plan with my Business Spanish students last week. They were very active and seemed to really enjoy it.

Be sure to teaching students this vocabulary: @ arroba and # almohadilla.

Also let them know that the Spanish in the tuits is not always perfect/academic Spanish.

If you use it, I'd love it if you let me know how it goes for you and your students. You can contact me at @AnnAbbott on Twitter or at via email.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Business Spanish: Wrapping up the first week

by Ann Abbott

I have two goals for my teaching this semester:
  1. On Sundays, plan my classes for the upcoming week.
  2. Post those lesson plans on my blog.
Bold? Inspired? Lunatic? I'm not sure. But I do know that planning ahead, like I used to when I was a TA, will help me feel less crazed during the week. With 23 years of teaching experience under my belt, frankly, I can pull off almost anything. But I'd rather not.

These were my lesson plans for last week. The first week of classes.

Business Spanish, Week 1


1. Names. After calling roll and doing a few activities, I always quiz students on the other students' names.
2. Your idea of the course. In pairs, students introduced themselves, then talked for five minutes about why they signed up for the course and what they thought the course will be like.
FACEBOOK Students got out their laptops, tablets, phones and went to our Facebook page where I had put up all the links ahead of time. Feel free to like the page, too! UIUC Spanish Service Learning
3. My vision of the course. Students read my blog post about the three things I want to focus on in Business Spanish this semester. Then in pairs they had to share their reactions to the blog post. Together, they wrote one comment on our Facebook thread for the day, describing their reactions.)
4. I showed them this platform for professionals to share their information and showed them how it is more visual and creative than LinkedIn. I tried to show them how to search it using key words that interested them (e.g., ingeniería, informática, Honduras, Madrid), but my connection to the internet kept coming and going.
5. Consulting project. We looked at our client's current Facebook page. Students gave their first impressions and gave suggestions of things we could do to help them with their page.
6. Details of the course. Students quickly saw the details of the course in our university's learning management system.


Éxito comercial. We began with the "lectura comercial" in the first chapter of the textbook, but as I had suspected, almost none of the students had bought the book. That was fine, though, because I had prepared the day's lesson with that in mind.
1. Globalización. I talked to students for several minutes about the story of Giuseppe, my brother-in-law, and his businesses. Students had to take notes, and at the end prepare one question for me. Here are the main points I covered, designed to highlight how globalization is not just about huge multinational corporations.
  • My in-laws had a small sewing factory in northern Italy where they did prêt-à-porter work. 
  • When labor prices became too high for the contracts that the designers were willing to pay, they closed their "laboratorio" just like so many other in the same area.
  • With some friends, Giuseppe went to Hungary and started a clothing factory there. His "socios" were in Italy and got contracts from companies like Benetton and Armani Exchange. (This was a move from pret a porter to more mass-produced clothing with designer labels.) This was not a smooth transition!
  • The textiles often came from India and China. The machinery came from Italy. The workers were Hungarians from a small town.
  • When Hungary entered the European Union and labor costs rose again, Giuseppe and his partners kept the factory in Hungary but expanded into Ukraine where, among other things, they make motocross leather jumpsuits and accessories. 
  • Cultural notes: At the very beginning, the workers asked to be paid in food items (potatoes) instead of currency. When Giuseppe would cross the border into Ukraine, he would be driven by security professionals because of the bandits on the highways. He encountered corruption. (I won't publish the details!) 
  • The current political crisis in Ukraine (with Russia) is occurring in a different region of the country, but of course the political unrest has economic repercussions: the western European countries from whom they receive the contracts are leary about giving their contract to a factory in such an unstable situation.
2. Liderazgo y ética. Frases célebres. The book includes some famous quotes about leadership, and I had students google "Frases célebres liderazgo." One-third of the room had to look that up using, the other third used and the other third used They compared their results, which were indeed pretty similar. My point was for them to see that they can miss good information in Spanish if they only ever use Then in pairs they had to share their favorite quote and explain why they liked it. I told them we would choose one of the frases célebres as our class slogan.
3. Los números. The textbook has a great section on numbers, and the cultural differences one encounters with numbers. Here are the numbers I put on the board and the questions I asked:
  1. 2/5/68. What month was I born in? If I were in Argentina, what month would people think I was born in?
  2. 120 kilometros. Is Chicago 120 kilometers away from Champaign? Less? More?
  3. 42 degrees. In Madrid, is that hot or cold?
  4. 8h15. In Madrid, is that the morning or the evening? What about 20h15?
  5.,00. How much is this? (Hint: no, it is not one billion; that is what we say in English.)


1. Nuestro lema. As a follow up from the previous class, students got back together with their partners and chose the one frase célebre they wanted to pitch to the class as our class slogan. Their instructions were to get in front of the class and read the quote (with energy!) then explain why they think it should be chosen. They did a great job. One student tallied the votes, and the winning team will email me the quote so that I can add it to our Compass homepage and in other materials throughout the semester.
In pairs, students had to stand in front of the class, present the famous quote they chose and explain why they thought it should be our class's guiding slogan.

These two students are pitching the "frase célebre" that they chose.

2. Social media. Students indicated which social media platforms they use. Important: the only platform they all were on was Snapchat. Vocabulary: they needed to know almohadilla # and arroba @.
3. Twitter. We did a worksheet about Twitter that I prepared a few years ago, and it went really, well. At the end of the worksheet, we tried to distinguish between social media and social media marketing in the tweets included in the worksheet.
4. Social media marketing. As a conclusion, I emphasized that we have to distinguish between social media and social media marketing. That is what we will concentrate on this semester. I gave them two examples of possible posts and asked if each one was marketing or not.
  • Sólo hoy: suéteres de lana con 50% de descuento.
  • Estamos abiertos desde las 8 hasta las 22.
Many in the class correctly said that they were both marketing messages. I told them that marketing can be very creative, but it is also fundamentally about letting people know you exist, what you do, how you can be contacted and how you can make clients' lives better.

One student told me after class that she had an internship this summer as a social media marketer for a local company. Exciting! She will add a lot of wisdom to the course and our consulting project.

I hope this information will be helpful to other Business Spanish instructors. Please let me know if it is, if it isn't or if you have any questions. I'd love to read your comments.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Video Tutorials for Spanish Community Service Learning Students

by Ann Abbott

Here are some video tutorials to help with the various platforms we use in our Spanish community service learning courses.

Use the wiki to sign up for your community partner and to log your work hours each week.

Click on this picture to watch the video tutorial. 

Use MySpanishKit to work on your grammar.

Click on this picture to watch the video tutorial.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Lesson Plan that Illustrates Community Service Learning's Shifting Perspectives

by Ann Abbott

The first day of a new semester is always exciting. You get to meet your new students, and they get to meet you.

It's also a chance to set the tone for the whole semester. That's why I like to actually teach the first day, not just hand out the syllabus and talk about the textbook.

Here's what I did yesterday for my first day with my "Spanish in the Community" students. Feel free to use it yourself. Really, you could use it any day during the semester. It emphasizes the back-and-forth that is so fundamental to community service learning: creating connections to the people in the community yet at the same time viewing that individual's reality through a larger lens.

In other words, the academic content of the course often comes into sharp relief when connected to individual lives of the people with whom students interact in the community. However, we have to adjust the lens in the classroom and help them reframe those individual realities within the larger socio-political context in which they exist.

Day 1

1. I asked students what they thought the most pressing topic in US immigration was right now. One student replied with the answer I was looking for: children at the border. We talked a few moments about that situation.

2. We watched this video interview to get the perspective of a person who is actually experiencing the effects of this current crisis on the border.

3. Students read an interview with an expert from our campus, Prof. Ellen Moodie, to see the situation from an academic researcher's perspective.

4. In pairs, students compared and contrasted the information that was presented through each source. What did they both say? What did one say that the other didn't? What is the effect of listening to an individual talk about her own experience? What visual information did the video offer? What is the effect of reading (without hearing her voice) a professor's explanation?

5. Conclusion: this is what we must do all semester long. We have to continuously shift from the close-up view on a person's words, stories, gestures, tone, etc., to the broader perspective of the policies and practices that combine to create the circumstances that shape individuals' lives.

What did you do on the first day of class? What challenges do you think are particularly important in a CSL course? Tell me your ideas in the comments, and have a great fall 2014 semester!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Word Verification

by Ann Abbott

Everything I read about blogging tells me that I should turn off the word verification for comments. And that made sense to me. It's a barrier. It's a bother. I don't really like going through that step on other people's sites.

So I did that. And, oh, the spam. So much spam! Awful, awful spam. Constant email notifications about spam.

I couldn't take it anymore. So I'm sorry, but the word verification step is back.

I love it when readers comment. I love it when you share your ideas with me. I learn from you. It's the same way when I do TA classroom observations: I go there to help them become more skilled instructors, but I always walk away a little better myself, too.

So please comment. Sorry that the spammers made me put back up that little obstacle between us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Video Lessons about Entrepreneurship that Spanish Students Will Love

by Ann Abbott

A wonderful resource for business Spanish students or anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship of any kind (commercial, social, academic, cultural, etc.): Lecciones de emprendimiento para principiantes. Diego Saez-Gil is a young, experienced, Argentinian entrepreneur who explains the entrepreneurial process in a friendly tone and with lots of very specific examples from his own experiences and others'.

After the introduction, there are eight lessons, each around 10 minutes. Click on the video above, and it should automatically take you through all of them. Or go to the website to see them separated out.

Language students will hear how business people talk about business concepts. In some cases it reinforces vocabulary and concepts from textbooks, and in other cases it introduces new vocab and ways of thinking about business. They will also see examples of businesses based on new media; textbooks tend to feature traditional business models almost exclusively.

I learned about Diego's videos from Leslie Forman, another young entrepreneur. Be sure to check out her materials and use them to teach students about the nuts and bolts of living and working abroad.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Engaged Humanities and Spanish Community Service Learning

When I think of the engaged humanities, these are the tenets that come to my mind and guide my work.
by Ann Abbott

Recently an old friend asked if I would be willing to go to her campus this year to give a talk. Yes! I love talking about Spanish community service learning (CSL), and I love the chance to see old friends in the places they work.

To organize the trip I needed to send her the usual--my CV, a photo, title of the talk, a blurb. But I also needed to write a paragraph describing my background and expertise in the humanities. Hmmmmm. Even though my PhD is in Hispanic literature, I have felt very distanced from the humanities for many years. When you do work in the scholarship of engagement, you can take a real beating from traditional humanists. "You make us look like a service department." "This isn't a vocational college." "Literature is the heart of Spanish programs." "There's no theory in what you do."

But in this precise moment in time (Israel's bombing of Gaza with 1,800 Palestinians killed; the riots in Ferguson; the Salaita case on my campus; immigrant children at our border in record numbers), I feel drawn back towards my training in the humanities, even literary analysis, because I see so many misreadings of people's words, so much de-contextualization of violence, and so little understanding of how power works.

So this was actually a timely exercise for me. And this is what I came up with:

Ann Abbott's work falls squarely within the engaged humanities, a strand within the broader humanities that strives to "connect humanities research and teaching with projects to advance democracy, social justice, and the public good" (Gregory Jay, "The Engaged Humanities"). After receiving her PhD in Hispanic literature in 1998, Ann began to turn her attention to critical analyses of the discourses about Spanish-speaking immigrants at the national level, within the local communities surrounding her university and within the profession of language teaching itself. For the past eleven years, she has incorporated Spanish community service learning into three courses ("Spanish in the Community," "Spanish for Business" and a course on social entrepreneurship), published curricular materials that connect students' learning to their local community contexts and written scholarly articles about both the student learning outcomes and the challenges of foreign language community service learning. During this period that many have called "the crisis of the humanities," the engaged humanities offers foreign language programs new ways to connect their scholarly expertise to community-identified challenges, and a new way to connect to students who increasingly want to see concrete outcomes to their education.

For me, the engaged humanities are quite different from a term that might be better known: public humanities and public scholars. (Here's a very good piece about public engagement and scholars, that illustrates what I actually think is just "public" without "engagement" the way I understand it.) Just like the difference between outreach and engagement is fundamental (outreach comes from an approach of "we the experts" helping the people who need us and our expertise; engagement is about partnerships, working on community-identified challenges, co-creating knowledge), a public scholar tends to be thought of as someone who writes op-eds, writes for audiences beyond other scholars, opines on current events in the media. The engaged humanities, however, are about engagement, in the ways I listed above.

Here are some links about the engaged humanities that might interest you.
How would you define the engaged humanities? How would you define your own relationship with the humanities more broadly? Let me know in the comments. Fighting to find a place at the humanities table can be a bloody battle; let's support each other. Or poke holes in the concept of engaged humanities. After all, critical analysis is what we do all day long.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Incorporating Authentic Sources and Businesses into Business Spanish Classes

Let's make Business Spanish real.
by Ann Abbott

All too often, students' work in Business Spanish centers around fictions. Students write business plans for fictional businesses that they will probably never launch. Business cases highlight real-life issues but often within the context of fictionalized characters and companies. The chapter on marketing culminates in students preparing ads that are built on some sort of fictional "Mad Men" fantasy world.

We can do better than that. We can engage our students in real business practices, with real business people.

My Business Spanish class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm going to divide the course into three parts:

1. Case studies. Some will come from the textbook, Exito comercial. Others will come from the University of Colorado, Denver's language case studies.

2. Consulting. I did this for the first time last year. My students had five consulting clients and each team of students had to do the social media marketing for their client. They learned a lot! They learned about contracts, meetings, aligning expectations, teamwork, and I hope they learned something about themselves, too. But five clients was really too much. The biggest problem I encountered was this: the kind of communicative competence we expect from students in class (not perfect, just comprehensible), is at odds with the grammatical perfection required when you are representing someone's brand on social media. So we will have just one client this semester: La Linea.

3. Project-based learning. I want students to see and study real-life people from Spanish-speaking countries who are in the business world. I also want them to see that "the business world" doesn't just mean multinationals and billionaires, like Carlos Slim. So, just like the image at the top of this post states, I'll have students do this:

*Use online sites (About.Me, LinkedIn, and others) to search for Spanish-speaking professionals.
Example: Mimi Guarnero is a wonderful example of a young woman from Mexico who has an interesting educational background and a strong entrepreneurial streak. I also want to show students this list of YouTube stars. It features several people from Spanish-speaking countries. I want them to see that "business" can take many forms, including digital communication and entertainment. Furthermore, this specific list shows that the Internet is not "English-only," and that students should use their Spanish skills to explore parts of the Internet that probably don't appear on their Google searches and other highly-filtered sites.
*Find one professional who interests you.
Students might be attracted to a certain city or region. They might be interested in certain careers. Maybe they want to find someone who graduated from the University of Illinois. Whatever the personal connection might be, I want them to pick someone who resonates with them on a personal level and then do research about them. Click on all the links. Google them to find out more. Explore maps and Flickr images about the place they are from. Go all out.
*Pitch that person as someone we should invite to Skype into class with us. 
I'll teach the students a formula for preparing an effective elevator pitch (3 minutes; or maybe even this 30-second model of an elevator pitch), then have them all give their pitch during class. Students will then vote on the top three. Working together as a class, we will then contact those three people and see if they can Skype into our class and talk to us about their business experiences.

I'll fill you in with more details as I progress. Do you have any advice? Any concerns? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Book about Heritage Language Learners and Relevant Teaching Theories

by Ann Abbott

My friend, colleague and renowned expert on heritage language learning Prof. Kim Potowski (U of Illinois, Chicago) has co-authored a recently released book:

Beaudrie, Sara, Cynthia Ducar and Kim Potowski. Heritage Language Teaching: Research and Practice.

Although the table of contents doesn't show a separate section on community service learning and heritage speakers, heritage speakers definitely benefit in unique and important ways from CSL courses.

Because Kim knows this, she also invited Prof. Glenn Martínez (the Ohio State University) and me to co-author a chapter in a handbook-in-progress. She is including a chapter on Spanish for the professions and community service learning, and Glenn and I would use this guiding question in our writing: What considerations are necessary when engaging heritage speakers in courses focused on Spanish for the professions and on community service learning?

I hope that you will read and benefit from Kim's newest book as well as the large bibliography she has built over the years.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Importance of a Conclusion in a Spanish Community Service Learning Class

How do you conclude your classes? Do your students walk away with a sense of accomplishment or confusion?
by Ann Abbott

At our upcoming new-TA orientation, Dr. Florencia Henshaw will lead a session on lesson planning. She asked me for my thoughts on what makes a good transition. This is what I replied.
  • Come full circle. Return to the introduction of the class and show students that they have accomplished what they set out to accomplish. In this way, they don't leave feeling that they just did busy work; they leave knowing that they went through the necessary steps to get to the final, logical step of that day's lesson.
  • Focus on information, not grammar. Focus on the communicative goal that was achieved. In other words, the conclusion should not be, "okay, so today we reviewed and practiced the preterit." Now that requires that there truly be a communicative goal to the class. So in a way, the inability to pull together an effective conclusion might very well be an indication that there was no communicative/task-based goal to the lesson plan to begin with.
  • What is the big picture? Connect the activities to the class, then connect the class to the course goals. Occasionally, ask students to provide the conclusion to the class. In 232 I often end the class by ticking off what we did that day and end by saying, "Now tell me, why do you think we spent our time together talking about these things? What connection do today's activities have to the goals of our course?"
  • Be explicit; students don't always recognize the learning in active learning. One of the main purposes of an effective conclusion is to leave students with an explicit acknowledgement of the learning that just took place, not just we did 1, 2 and 3. Too often, students in our classes misunderstand our communicative language learning, task-based, active-learning lessons as, "Well, I had a good time today, but I didn't really learn anything."
  • Briefly tie it all together. A good conclusion can be as short as a couple of sentences. It does not have to be boring or long.
I hope some of this is helpful, Florencia!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lesson Plan for a Spanish Community Service Learning Flipped Classroom

by Ann Abbott

An old friend from grad school, Kathy Fox, shared the above video on Facebook. Her son: 
"just accepted a job as an attorney in the law firm of Sonia Parras in Des Moines. He's been working for Parras part time for the last year and always speaks very highly of her. She specializes in immigration law, provided legal assistance to many of the victims of the Postville raid, and is co-founder of ASISTA, whose 'purpose is to centralize assistance for advocates and attorneys facing complex legal problems in advocating for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.' Very cool. Congrats, Son!"
Kathy then shared the video above, an interview in Costa Rican television with Sonia Parras about how to protect your children from abusive relationships. It's full of rich, detailed content, language and cultural perspectives.

Lesson plan idea


Listen to the video as many times as necessary to understand it.


Put students into teams and ask them to reformulate the information from the video into the following formats:
  • Short video directed toward young girls, not parents.
  • Short video directed toward young guys, not parents.
  • A poster with an eye-catching image and short bits of information. (Students can use Picmonkey or Canva.)
  • A weeklong series of Facebook posts for a local Latino Facebook group.
  • A resource sheet with local resources for anyone suffering abuse.
  • A Slideshare presentation of the highlights from the video interview.
  • A letter to Sonia Parras, thanking her for the information and telling her what the class plans to do with it.


Upload, make copies, share, pass out, announce, whatever it takes to make people aware of the information that students created.


Invite students, community members, community leaders, university administrators to a presentation of all the ways students created and shared information based on the video.

What else? What other ways could students transform the information? What other audiences should they target?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Emergency Instructions as Part of the Syllabus

photo by Geoge Hodan
by Ann Abbott

I promised myself I wouldn't start thinking about the fall semester until August. I'll be teaching two courses:
  • Business Spanish
  • Spanish in the Community
It's August 2nd.

So far I have had several conversations with a community partner organization that is going through personnel changes and setting new directions. I have also done a lot of email marketing of one of the classes that I teach. We're currently at nine students enrolled, and I need ten in order for it to not be cancelled.

To keep me grounded (because when I think about teaching my mind goes in a dozen different directions, one idea leading to the next, and the next...), I'll start with revising the course calenders and tweaking the syllabi.

This year we need to do something new with our syllabus and/or on the first day of class: discuss our university's emergency response recommendations and read a one-minute script to our students on the first day.

None of the classrooms are designed to protect us from a shooter. And let's not kid ourselves: we have tornadoes, yes, but we're not really talking about the weather in these scripts.

I will read the scripts, point out the exits and tell students things on the script that they already know. But saner gun laws in this country would be more effective than scripts.

International Community Service Learning in a University of Illinois Program

Photo by Alex Grichenko
by Ann Abbott

How should students choose a study abroad program? 

It's an important choice, and I think that the information online isn't too helpful:

I won't try to describe on this post all my thoughts about how students should choose a study abroad program. (I'll tackle that in the future.)

What I will say is that you definitely need a program that has a community service learning component. Or an internship program that has an academic support built in, e.g., reflective essays, portfolio-assignments and feedback along the way. 

Like the Costa Rica program we cooperate with at the University of Illinois. The article explains very well why integrating CSL into your study abroad is such a good idea.

Why? Because nowadays it's not just important that go abroad, it's important what you do abroad. You have to stand out from the crowd of other high-achieving college students who have studied abroad. And I don't mean this just as a resume builder. I mean this as: you will be a different person if you have high-quality, faculty-supervised experiential learning while abroad.