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Showing posts from December, 2014

Stop and Listen: What Are People Saying about Your Language Program?

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by Ann Abbott

We rush so much. The semesters are a blur. In understaffed language departments, there is a lot of motion, a lot of commotion as we attend to a myriad of tasks, sometimes pulling us away, sometimes pulling us toward our passion and our goal: to give our students an excellent education. We pass our colleagues in the hall with a quick nod and wave to students across the quad. We race through the days then disconnect during breaks.

Part of the busy-ness that makes us rush are the myriad ways in which we evaluate and asses our programs: surveys to write, administer, analyze and report; data to feed into the College's software that measures departments' strengths; annual activity reports that need to hefty enough to show you are working and meeting goals.

But sometimes, when you slow down, when you least expect it, you will hear vital feedback.

Here are some unsolicited comments I heard this semester:

"I love Spanish, but I don't want to major in it."&quo…

Student Reflection

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by Nicole Tauster

Study Abroad – Just Do It!Even though you have probably already heard this from everyone you know that has gone abroad, I am going to echo the sentiment that you should ABSOLUTELY spend a semester studying abroad in a foreign country!
If you think you don’t have time based on your major, 4-year-plan, or any other academic reasons, I urge you to explore your options further. At the time I went abroad, I was an education major and they really discouraged us from studying abroad. This is because most people typically study abroad their junior year and that’s when I had to take all professional sequence education courses that I couldn’t take anywhere else. So what did I do? I went abroad during the spring semester of my sophomore year. I thought I was going to be the only one who wasn’t a junior, but surprisingly enough there were several other people my age on my program. I also know people that have gone in the fall or the spring of their senior year. There are also lots…

Simple Gestures Mean a Lot in Community Service Learning

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by Ann Abbott
At the end of each semester, my students write thank-you notes to their community partner. (See page 150, Lección 23 ¨¿Cómo vamos a despedirnos?¨, Activity 23-1 in Comunidades: Más allá del aula.) During finals week I mailed the cards from the last couple of semesters with a hand-written thank-you note from me, too. It felt good to get them off my hands and into the hands of the people to whom they belonged: our community partners who do so much to train, develop and teach my students when they're in the community.
I received the email below from one of my community partners, and I wanted to just make note of a few things that stood out to me: Hand-written notes from students that express their thanks as well as specific examples of what they learned with the community partner are very appreciated. In a way, writing those notes during class is a simple thing to do. (Although I always work with students to help them edit their Spanish, vary their vocabulary--there is m…

Student Reflection

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by Nicole Tauster

Give in to WanderlustWanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel or longing to wander. People often say they’ve been bitten by the travel bug; once they start they just can’t get enough and want to keep going. I am here to say I am one of those people.
Almost exactly 2 years ago I left the Chicago area to spend a semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I knew it would be amazing; I hoped I would love it and come back with great stories and even better memories, but it was greater than my wildest dreams. Not just my time in Granada, which was incredible (I’ll talk more about this in another post), but the experiences I had outside of Granada were equally important.
Traveling to other parts of Spain and other European countries was an amazing opportunity that I’m so thankful I had. I learned so much about cultures other than my own, but more importantly I learned a lot about myself. Within Spain I could use my Spanish to help me get around: I could read a map o…

Student Reflection

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by Nicole Tauster


A Lesson from Volunteering at ECIRMACThis semester I volunteered at the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center in Urbana and helped with the clients that were Latino immigrants. Certainly they came to the Refugee Center for a great variety of reasons, some familiar and some foreign to me, ranging in degree of severity and difficulty. But the women who worked in the office that I interacted with—Deb, Guadalupe, Ha, and Maite—always did whatever they could to help their clients. Me? I think I was able to help about as often as I wasn’t. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t really all that helpful in fact. Sure, I could answer the phone and take a message if the caller wanted to speak to someone who was out of the office, but I didn’t necessarily have the knowledge to help some of the clients in certain situations. So I awkwardly hovered besides Guadalupe waiting for instruction, maybe pulling a file before returning to my place at an empty desk to answer the p…

Reflections on Teaching about Immigration in a Spanish Community Service Learning Course

by Ann Abbott
I didn't attend the ACTFL conference in San Antonio this year, but I was slated to be on a panel did send a screencast so that my fellow panelists could share my information. Click here to see and listen to the screencast: "Reflection on Teaching Immigration."
Here's the description of the panel:
Infusing Immigration Dynamics in our Global Classrooms
Immigration has historically been a controversial topic and can be difficult to discuss in a respectful way in the foreign language classroom. In this session, we examine strategies to incorporate this topic in the curriculum, and teaching methods and materials to utilize in university and high school language classrooms.
Presenter(s): Katherine Fowler-Cordova, Miami University; Annie Abbott, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Jennene Alexander, Monroe High School
I usually think of ACTFL as a place for me to share very concrete ideas, lesson plans, tips, etc. That way, people can leave with something very …

New Article: Spanish in the professions and in the community in the US

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by Ann Abbott

I'm very happy to see one of my writing projects now published: Spanish in the professions and in the US.

Barbara Lafford was the lead author and generously asked Darcy Lear and me to co-author with her.

Here's what I wrote about the article when I shared it on Facebook:
CSL and LSP are gaining steam, but there are some core issues that need to be addressed: 1) a curriculum focused on creating informed/resourceful bilingual professionals, not always so specific; 2) integrating LSP and CSL throughout the curriculum, not just at the higher-level courses; 3) making sure faculty are well trained in the foundational, ethical principals of CSL and LSP; and 4) building a solid research base.And here's the abstract:

Over the past two decades, Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) and Community Service Learning (CSL) in the United States (US) have gained traction in post-secondary institutions. Abbott and Lear (2010) established that CSL provides excellent opportunities fo…

Community Colleges in Illinois' New Growth Latino Communities

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by Ann Abbott

During the next few years, I will be working with the University of Illinois' Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) on a project that they included in their grant renewal proposal and that apparently was well received by the reviewers: helping community colleges to implement Spanish community service learning.

This semester, Dara Goldman, the Director of CLACS, and I began talking and brainstorming. 

This could be, I told her, an opportunity to build a model of capacity-building, linguistic understanding and transcultural competence in new growth Latino communities.

But it's not going to be easy...


What is a new growth community? The executive summary of a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation explains it in this way: This report examines coverage and access to care for Hispanics living in “new growth”
communities (those with a small but rapidly growing Hispanic population) and those living in
“major Hispanic centers” (areas that traditionally have ha…

New Americans Initiative: A Guest Speaker in "Spanish in the Community"

by Ann Abbott

We have our first guest speaker for next semester's "Spanish in the Community" class. 
Dear Dr. Abbott,
I am reaching out to you because I am interested in presenting to your Spanish in the Community class the New Americans Initiative project, a non-profit partnership with the State of Illinois that supports immigrants who are interested in becoming US citizens, in applying for Deferred Action, and community resourcing. The overall vision of this project is to develop a proactive campaign that celebrates what immigrants contribute to our community by encouraging local institutions to adopt policies that make Champaign County an Immigrant Friendly Community.  We are currently exploring the development of an Immigrant Friendly Community task force with local governments and immigrant community leaders.
I am representing the University Y on campus which is a participating organization in The New Americans Initiative (NAI) project. The Y's NAI team is reachin…

Networking for Business Spanish Students: Invite Former Students to Skype into the Class

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by Ann Abbott

Next time I teach this class, I will change the networking project.

For practice, I will have students look up Spanish-speaking professionals that interest them in LinkedIn and About.me, explain why there are interested in those people, and then practice "pitching" one of them to the class as someone to invite to talk to us via Skype.

For the real thing, I will have them actually pitch then invite the winners from a list of former students that I give them. (This semester students did this for practice one day.)

Here's the list of students I provided. My current students had to Google them and find out everything they could about them. Then they had to describe what they're doing now and one thing that they personally had in common with that person. For networking, you can't just come on strong; you need to find a connection, build on that, and then (maybe!) ask for a favor.

Hanna SoleckaKelley SheehanJessie FaussBenjamin BrodnerJill KruidenierMark W…
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by Ann Abbott

In keeping with my previous posts this semester about how to use a traditional textbook in non-traditional ways, I'd like to describe how my students and I worked on the last chapter we covered.

Students choose which chapter to study I cannot cover all the chapters of the textbook (Exito comercial) because I also allot time for student projects. So I allow students to choose some of the chapters that we cover.

This semester I allowed them to choose the last chapter, and they chose the very last chapter of the book: #14 "Las perspectivas para el futuro."

It's not very often that students get such a voice in what is covered in a course, and they responded very well to it. So don't just cover all the chapters that you think are important: ask them what they want to study!

Connect the chapter information to students' context The information in that last chapter included thoughts about what and how colleges should teach to prepare students to be lead…

Taking Phone Messages in a Spanish Community Service Learning Course

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by Ann Abbott

I already know that some (most?) of my colleagues think that community service learning and languages for specific purposes are not intellectual enough. Not theoretical enough. They've even used the term "Mickey Mouse" to describe the work.
If they only knew that I have my students practice taking phone messages over and over!
Why? Because it's difficult. It requires high levels of listening comprehension. They need complete accuracy. From all the information that is thrown at them, they have to understand it, re-arrange it, evaluate it, prioritize it and then re-write it for the message reader.
That's hard! 
And it's necessary for their work in the community. Absolutely necessary.
So despite what my colleagues would say if they knew (maybe they do know...), I spend time on this each semester. You can't help in the community if you get phone numbers wrong, misspell names, give incomplete information or leave unclear instructions.
I have real…

Spanish Community Service Learning Students: What They Learned, Want to Learn

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by Ann Abbott

How do you know what your students have learned? When do you know it?

We can give them tests to find out if they learned the answers to the questions we decide to put on the test. They can write essays, and we will know--among other things--if they know how to write essays. We can give quizzes and find out, sometimes, if they guessed correctly.

I'm not saying we shouldn't assess students' learning through quizzes, tests and essays, although sometimes those tools seems designed as "gotchas" or they show more about what students have learned along the way--e.g., how to structure an essay that receives an A--than what they have learned with us, in one semester, those short 15 weeks.

What I am saying is that we can also give students some control. Some voice. Let's just ask them!

One day this semester, I asked my "Spanish in the Community" students two questions:

What have you learned through your work in the community so far?What more woul…

My (Almost) Daily Writing Practice: What I Have Learned So Far

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by Ann Abbott

This semester I finally found what I had been looking for: a write-on-site group.

I write quite a bit already. I've published articles and two textbooks. I count my blogging as writing, even if it might not count in the university's eyes.

I know how to write. Sure, I can always improve and benefit from constructive criticism, but I knew I didn't need a writing coach to tell me how to write and to critique what I wrote. It's taken me many years, but I think I know a lot about the writing process, my particular writing process, and even what the final written product should be like. I didn't need a writing coach.

You can hire a writing nag, too. They keep you accountable, keep you on schedule. Yes, in a way I needed help staying on a timeline, meeting deadlines. But it wasn't that I didn't meet deadlines because I didn't have someone nagging me. In fact, I don't want anyone nagging me.

I wanted camaraderie. I wanted to look forward to wr…

Thank-You Notes to the Community and from the Community

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by Ann Abbott


During the last day of each semester, my "Spanish in the Community" students write a thank-you note to the person/people they have worked with in the community. They have to show their appreciation and mention something specific they have learned from them and their time in the organization.

It seems that the students in SOAR, the after-school tutoring program where several of my students work, also sends thank-you notes at the end of the semester.

Rejane Dias, my TA, send me the following message and the pictures in this post:

Hi Ann,

One of my students received this card from the elementary student she helped out while volunteering for the class. She shared about it with class this Wednesday. I told her to send a picture of it to me and we may put it on the blog. I thought it could be another way to show how this course really reaches out to our community and help the Latino children, and how college students taking Span 232 make a contribution to society.The l…

If you think everyone should just obey the law and respect authority...

by Ann Abbott

I hate allegories. I'm going to write one, though. Dedicated to everyone who thinks it's all about obeying authority...

You own a campus bar. (Substitute almost any small business; I just happen to be sitting on campus right now.) You become successful. You provide something that students enjoy, and you reap good financial rewards for what you have created. You're proud. You create jobs. You give back to the community. You and your family have a very comfortable lifestyle.

Suddenly, the cops start spending a lot of time at your bar. They come in. They don't necessarily do anything, but they come in. Uniformed. They also sit in their cars outside your bar. Watching. Just watching. But sitting there. They stand outside the door. On the sidewalk. They talk to each other. If there's just one, he even interacts with people on the sidewalk. Just saying hi. How's it going? Uniformed. Friendly. There.

It gives you the heebie jeebies. It gives your clients…

Engaging students in collaborative reading: Spanish in the Community class through democratic pedagogy

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by Rejane Goncalves Dias

This semester, I teach one section of "Spanish in the Community" and Rejane Goncalves Dias teaches the other. She has taught the course before, she is a PhD student in the College of Education, and she is passionate about community service learning. Below you will find the description of class activity she built around a reading we have students do. Thank you, Rejane, for your creativity, energy, research, and commitment to Spanish community service learning. --Ann Abbott
Collaborative reading helps students to use comprehension strategies while working cooperatively. Both of these aspects were highlighted when students worked together on their Lectura Académica: Latin AmericanMigrations to the U.S. Heartland. Changing Social Landscapes in Middle America”(Allegro & Wood, 2013). Collaborative reading was used for two reasons:
1.    - I wanted students to get a deep understanding of Allegro & Wood’s (2013) insightful discussions of issues relat…

Student Reflection: Nicole Tauster

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by Nicole Tauster

So you've decided to major in Spanish… Now what?

Maybe you already know, but for those of you (like me) that are still unsure about what to do with your degree in the future, I am here to share my humble insight.

As a senior—and someone that changed their major to Spanish in April of junior year (yes, it can be done!)—I have been getting that dreaded question more and more frequently: “Spanish, huh? So what are you going to do with that?” It’s one that used to make me panic because I did not know, I did not have an answer. But recently I have come to terms with that and realized that maybe I don’t know exactly what I want to with my degree in Spanish, but I am OKAY with not knowing!

Sure, I have ideas, but nothing concrete. The whole concept of career fairs, submitting resumes, and applying for “real-world” jobs is foreign to me; I used to be an elementary education major and we didn't have to worry about any of that stuff! So my senior year has been somewhat of …

First Day Back: We Must Discuss Ferguson

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by Ann Abbott

There's no way I could have stepped into a classroom today and not discussed the decision by the grand jury not to indict the policeman who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

1. Message: #BlackAndBrownLivesMatter I asked students to look at the image below and take a couple of minutes to compose their thoughts, their reactions.

#BlackANDBrownLivesMatterpic.twitter.com/J94YuIBHVR
— José Manuel Roque (@row_kay) November 26, 2014 2. You: What Are Your Thoughts? While they thought about things, I wrote #BlackAndBrownLivesMatter on the chalkboard. I handed each student a piece of chalk and asked them to go to the board and write down something they were thinking/feeling.


3. React: Dialogue, even in a small way, with your classmates Each student picked up their chalk again and put a "heart" by the phrase that they liked, agreed with, were struck by, etc.
4. Share: Expand the dialogue, move to face-to-face interactions It's not easy to talk to people ab…