Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Online Lesson about Social Entrepreneurship and Social Media Marketing

by Ann Abbott

I was very happy to get an email this evening with a link to an online guest lesson I gave a few semesters ago about social entrepreneurship and social media marketing. Normally when you do a guest lecture, nothing remains from it afterward. This was my very first attempt at teaching online, and I'm glad to have a record of it.

The course is called Social Media and Global Change, and you can see the course content on this blog.

And for even more information, visit the Global Informatics Initiative website.

We Need a Campus Infrastructure for the Work and Recognition of Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

I was pleasantly surprised to read, in an online newsletter from our provost, that the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will be taking a look at service learning from a campus perspective. 


I hope something will come of this! We need a solid support and reward system on this campus.
In the months ahead, each issue of Academic Affairs will report on the progress of these initiatives as well as new programs to enhance Access and Affordability and a committee to develop campus-wide Service Learning. If you would like to learn more about the Campus Conversation on Undergraduate Education, please contact Lauren Goodlad (Provost Fellow for Undergraduate Education) or Chuck Tucker (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Innovation).   

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Talking to Middle School Spanish Students about How to Use Spanish in Their Daily Lives

by Ann Abbott

It is always a pleasure for me to stay in touch with my former students. I love seeing how they develop in their personal and professional lives. And when they continue to have Spanish in their lives long after graduation, I'm especially thrilled.

I accepted this invitation from my former student Samantha Sutton, and I am looking forward to seeing her (albeit via Skype), her students and their project.

Dear ​Ann​,
​I hope you are doing well and are staying warm during this fantastic winter. ​
We are excited to  begin our very first PBL​ (Problem-Based Learning) experience​ in Spanish class! To read more on our PBL work in D41, please go to

Beginning March 7, our 7th grade students will begin their PBL where the students will be placed in collaborative groups to solve the following problem: By the end of 8th grade, you will have invested two years in learning the Spanish language and culture. How do you plan on using what you’ve learned? Are there ample opportunities for you do so? Unfortunately, most students do not use their new language skills and knowledge; therefore, they lose what they have learned. How can students use their Spanish outside of school? Create an action plan that current and future foreign language students could use in order to retain their language skills and cultural knowledge. You will present your plan to educators, community members, and foreign language experts.
In order to help the students solve this problem, we are hoping to invite experts in to speak with our students as an element of their research. This would take place during our classes the week of March 2nd.
Would you be interested in  speaking about this issue  to our class as an expert in foreign language? 
We would love to have you in person​​, but I know that may be difficult due to the distance.  We could even do the interview via Skype.

I appreciate your time and consideration of my request! I look forward to hearing from you soon!  I am also copying Hillary Shumate on this email as she is our PBL Coach and would be working with us to coordinate any guest speakers.
Samantha Sutton 7th & 8th Grade Spanish Teacher; Foreign Language Department Chair Hadley Junior High
And here is a message a received with more details. These students are doing fascinating work!

Their essential questions are:
  • How does one best learn a foreign language?
  • Why should someone want to keep their Spanish skills?
  • How does one best use a foreign language?
  • Why is it important to immerse yourself in a foreign culture?
  • Why is studying a foreign language important?

Their driving/guiding questions are (and students will think of more):
  • How does one best learn and retain a foreign language?
  • What are the benefits of studying a foreign language? (brain research, marketability, careers, college acceptance, global awareness)
  • Where can people go to experience authentic culture and language immersion?
  • What’s offered within our community to experience language and culture?
  • What types of experiences are lacking within our school/community to practice speaking Spanish?
  • What percentage of our community (District 41)  is Spanish speaking? 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Student Reflection

by Annette Popernik

Una Ventana Hacia La Esperanza

Imagínate estar enfermo de niño, ir al doctor, y cuando tengas que entregar los papeles, no tienes un número de seguro social. Tus amigos sacan sus licencias a los dieciséis años, pero tú no puedes sacar la tuya. Ellos empiezan a trabajar, pero tú no puedes. Cada día, hay el riesgo de que te deporten. ¿Por qué te pasa todo esto? Porque llegaste de niño a los Estados Unidos. Tus papás de trajeron. De niños, no tenemos un decir. Sin embargo, llegas a este país y tienes que sobreponerte, aún a los desafíos. El gobierno de los Estados Unidos decidió imponer un programa llamado DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals o Acción Diferida Para Ciertos Jóvenes) para que los niños puedan tener oportunidades.

En La Línea, frecuentemente nos encontramos con llamadas de hispanos en la comunidad quienes requieren información sobre DACA. Me rompe el corazón cuando le tengo que decir a un cliente que no cumple con los requisitos. No es un programa cualquiera. Es una oportunidad, una ventana hacia la esperanza. Si calificas, podrás obtener protección para no ser deportado, un permiso para trabajar dos años, un número de seguro social, y una licencia. Además, la aplicación es renovable. El trabajo de La Línea acerca de DACA es dar información sobre el programa y hacer citas para los talleres. El proceso parece ser simple, pero he logrado hacer un gran impacto en la vida de muchas personas. Me trae mucha alegría cuando puedo decirle a un cliente que cumple con los requisitos y le puedo dar una cita. Hay varios requisitos, pero algunos de ellos son que tienes que haber llegado a este país antes de cumplir dieciséis años y tienes que estar en la prepa, haberte graduado de la prepa, o tener tu GED (General Educational Development).

A través de nuestra organización, puedo buscar recursos en la comunidad para nuestros clientes. De nuevo, todo esto parece simple, pero logro traer mucha ayuda y felicidad a nuestros clientes. Por ejemplo, un requisito que se puede cumplir es el requisito de haberse graduado de la prepa o tener un GED. Parkland College da clases que se enfocan en la preparación para el examen del GED. Muchos no saben que estas clases existen. He ayudado a clientes a inscribirse en estas clases. Cuando ya estén inscritos, pueden hacer una cita para el taller de DACA. Esto representa lo que hacemos en nuestra organización. La Línea no siempre tiene una respuesta, pero siempre buscamos un recurso u otro camino para poder mejor ayudar a nuestros clientes. Reconocemos los desafíos de los miembros de nuestra comunidad para poder crear soluciones para estos problemas. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lesson Plan about Culture within Education Systems: Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

Here's an outline of my class today. The question we want to answer by the end of class is:
¿Sabemos cómo trabajar en la comunidad de manera culturalmente apropiada?

Warm up

In our last class we talked about mandatos-commands (Lección 5 in Comunidades: Más allá del aula). So I´ll start with some Simon-Says-style commands, that they have to listen to distinguish if they are for the whole class or just one student.
  • Levántate.
  • Levántense.
  • Salten.
  • Salten dos veces.
  • Da la mano a la persona a la par.
  • Den la mano a la persona a la par.
  • Siéntense.

Lección 6 in Comunidades

This lesson starts off with one of my favorite activities of all time: asking students how many continents there are. Then sharing with them how many continents other countries believe there are. This really hits home the idea that even things we think of as "facts," things we were taught in school as "facts," are embedded with our own culture and cultural values.

Then we'll continue through the series of activities that points out how culturally-specific a school setting is--in the content that is (or is not) taught, in the way the school day is structured, and in the way that students and families interact (or not) with school personnel.

What are some specific cultural issues in our own Latino community?

I want to always move students along a continuum of learning "in general" about cultures, culturally-appropriate behaviors and transcultural competence to learning "specifics" about the cultural perspectives, practices and products of our local Latino community. So I will hand out the pink telephone message pads again, and ask them to take down a message regarding the information I read to them (details omitted for privacy):
El Centro de Refugiados ECIRMAC esta indicado en la pagina estatal GetCovered Illinois como uno de los centros donde dan ayuda con asuntos de cobertura medica. Se que muchos necesitan hacer cambios o tienen preguntas sobre la cobertura medica de sus hijos. El Estado me dijo que todas las familias que tienen hijos y ya estaban aprobados para tarjeta medica recibieron correspondencia para que eligieran su proveedor medico. A quienes no respondieron al aviso o no enviaron los documentos requeridos de regreso se les asigno la compania Molina automáticamente. En el Centro de Refugiados la senora Carmen puede ayudarles con cambios o a resolver sus preguntas. Por favor llamen al 217-344-1111y hagan una cita para reunirse con ella si necesitan ayuda.
Asking students to take this down as a message pad is practice (over and over again we practice this) for what they actually have to do in their work. I've written before about how difficult this is for them and why. And then I'll ask them what this has to do with schools. I hope they'll understand that health insurance is an important issue for the children in schools.

What have you learned?

If there is time, I want students to take a moment to reflect on the first four weeks of the semester. I'll ask them to write the following on a note card:
  • What do you consider the most important thing you have learned so far in the classroom?
  • What do you consider the most important thing you have learned so far in the community?
Let's see what they answer!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Is community service learning compatible with communicative languageteaching?

I keep a notebook in my bag at all times, and these are the kinds of notes and reflections I write. I jot down my ideas about teaching. I take notes during meetings. I outline ideas for lesson plans and presentations. When I look back over my notes, I'm often surprised by what I wrote--because I forgot about it! I often find them useful, too, as a basis for blog posts (like this one) or other actions. Do you take notes about your work? Do you look back over them?
by Ann Abbott

Based on two semesters' worth of having Spanish students do social media marketing for a community partner, I am questioning whether certain types of engaged learning in a language class.

I say this because doing social media marketing and protecting the community partners Briand involves necessitates a high level of proficiency and accuracy that funeral language students possess. Let alone the knowledge they need to acquire about marketing and social media marketing.

In fact, I am not sure if I will do that kind of project again. The amount of editing that I need to do to students posts have to be accounted for and built in to the syllabus, either I dedicate more class time to the editing of students posts, or I request a teaching assistant who can do that work. In times of scarce resources, I can't be sure that I would be given a TA.

I remain committed to providing students with engagement activities that enhance their learning, and at the same time filling a community partners needs. However, without more departmental support these two things appear to be at odds especially when talkingabout social media marketing or any other kind of presentational, written work my students that demands high levels of proficiency and accuracy.

I was trained from the very beginning to teach languages with the communicative language teaching approach. The emphasis was indeed on communication, and in accurate statements that could be comprehended by the listener were considered successes. I still believe that. It's only in rare instancesthat we need to hold students to a different level. Or perhaps I need to hold community partners to a different level. Still, if community partners have the capacity within their organization to supervise and edit students Facebook posts for their pages,they probably wouldn't need my students to do the posts in the first place.

This is something that I'm still working through in my mind. In fact, just today I hope to student work on his resume in order to reflect the social media marketing that he did in my course last semester for a community partner. He valued the experience so much that he wanted to reflect it accurately and fully on his resume. So in some ways, what I might have considered a less than optimal results for the course was obviously seen as advantageous by the students. In fact, on their course evaluations students all wrote that the most valuable part of the course was there work for the community partner on social media.

It seems that I have more thinking and reflection to do about these issues of community service learning, community partners, communicative language teaching, engaged teaching, my time, syllabus design, and lesson planning.

What are your thoughts? Do you have insights that you could share with me,

Skype Visit with Diana Ruggiero's Graduate Class on Languages for Specific Purposes

by Ann Abbott

I was delighted when I received this invitation from Prof. Diana Ruggiero of the University of Memphis a couple of weeks ago:
First Happy Birthday Ann! My students in  my graduate course on how to teach Spanish for LSP read your article ad would love to see you! So we invite you next Wednesday Feb 11 at 3:30 CST to join us via SKYPE or FT to talk about your article and to meet you! We would love to talk to you! Again, felicidades y ojalá nos veamos pronto. Diana
Abbott, Annie. "Social Entrepreneurship and Community Service Learning: Building Sustainable Non-profits and Language Programs." Specialised Languages in the Global Village. Eds., Carmen Perez-Llantada and Maida Watson. Cambridge Scholars. 2011.​
Of course I said yes, and this afternoon I had a chance to talk Diana and her lovely students.

I began with a quick introduction, telling Diana's students that I think my work in general and that article in particular as part of discourse about the changing face and role of Spanish departments in the United States. Just this morning, my friend and colleague Prof. Gillian Lord at the University of Florida was quoted in an Inside Higher Ed piece about declining enrollments in foreign languages--including Spanish, for the first time ever. I was particularly struck by this line: "Lord said she also thought that Spanish and other programs had some modernizing to do."  

I totally agree. And I think part of that modernizing is offering students rigorous content, in Spanish, about topics not traditionally offered in a Spanish department (i.e., literature and linguistics). 

We then turned it over to the students and their questions. Honestly, I thought they would ask me questions about social entrepreneurship and the business concepts I cover. But no. Their questions were different, insightful and challenging. I loved them all!

  • How do students respond to a course like social entrepreneurship?
  • Since I teach entrepreneurship as a process, not just a final product, how do I teach students the patience and persistence you need whenever you tackle an entrepreneurial project? In other words, in a culture that wants things easy and quick, how do you teach them about failure, frustrations and knocking on door after door that gets shut in your face?
  • What do I think a Spanish program should look like?
  • Isn't it a problem that professors and community members come from very different realities, very different perspectives? How can faculty be "engaged" when they are so different from many of the community members? (My answer: focus on problem solving, focus on a project, focus on collaborating, and that will unite faculty and community members.)
  • This kind of engaged teaching takes time, energy and money, yet departments and colleges don't want to give money for community service learning. How do you handle that?
  • How do you teach in this way to students who don't have a sense of engagement, solidarity, community, communal work.
Then Diana asked me if I had any questions for them. I did!
  • Do you feel like you could teach a course on social entrepreneurship? 
Yes, they said. They'd like to take the course first, then teach it. And when I said that many people feel like they can't teach a course in languages for specific purposes if they haven't been specifically trained in that area (business, medicine, etc.), one of the students said, "You learn!"

Yes. You learn.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spanish a Plus in the Job Market

by Ann Abbott

I received this information about job possibilities yesterday. Here are a few thoughts:

  • It's so important to give your students really good learning experiences while they are with you--in the classroom and for their honors projects. (Liz's blog posts were part of her honors project in my classes.) You are helping to set them up for success. Although of course, they make their own success, too!
  • Then, it's so important to stay in touch with your former students. LinkedIn is one way. I stay in touch with a lot of former students through Facebook, too.
  • Finally, when you do stay in touch with your students and follow their personal and professional stories, share them! Let your current students know about what former students are doing in their professions. Our students need examples, role models. Liz is definitely one of them.
  • Although Liz is interested in speaking to all Spanish majors, I am convinced that students who study abroad and take experiential learning classes are the real stand-outs in a job interview. They have concrete, client-based examples to share about the work that they have already done in Spanish. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Spanish Community Service Learning: First Day of Class

by Ann Abbott

I have shared my first-day-of-the-semester lesson plans before.

I think the first day is really important. You have a chance to make a big impression. So I always teach. I don't go through the syllabus and tell them I'll seem them next time.

So here's what I did on the first day of class of the Spring 2015 semester. It walked them through our never-ending cycle of class, community, class, community...


I thanked students for signing up for this course. I know that it is an elective and that for many students it doesn't officially "count." It takes a special student to take one the unique work for this class and to show solidarity with a vulnerable community.

Then I put them into pairs, told them to talk five minutes (hablar sin parar) about why they are taking this class. They had many reasons--speaking Spanish, keeping up their Spanish after a study-abroad experience, a friend took the course and recommended it, etc.


I told students that they will have to work 28 hours in the community. Our work in the class will help prepare them for their work in the community, and their work in the community will inform our class discussions. I showed them the wiki that they will use to sign up and previewed some of the choices they have for their community partners.


Before playing the video below, I wrote these phrases on the board:
  • Algo que ya sabías.
  • Algo que no sabías.
  • Una pregunta.
I told them to take notes while watching the video below so that they could then write down a sentence for each phrase.

Students were very interested in this video. And most of the information was new to them.


Then I passed out telephone message pads. I told them that the situation in the video isn´t just happening in Texas. Our community is also impacted by the border crossings of young people.

I read this message from a local Latino leader. Students had to listen and take down the information on the telephone pad. That's hard! They saw that they had a lot to learn, even with just the Spanish language. But of course it also shows an example of the needs that they will encounter in our community. 
FAVOR: tengo un estudiante de High School que tiene cita con inmigración en Chicago el día 4 de febrero a las 9 am. Este estudiante no tiene a sus padres aquí ni a ningún adulto que maneje. Si alguien va a ir a Chicago ese día por favor comuniquense conmigo si pudieran darle ride a este muchacho. Yo pago la gasolina. La persona que lo lleve no necesita entrar con el a su cita, puede dejarlo afuera del edificio y esperarlo ahí. La cita no tarda mas de una hora. Si alguien esta interesado en ayudar por favor avisenme. Gracias!

So that's it. My first class of the new semester. We talked about class, then the community, then did classwork, then talked about community needs. And that's what we'll continue to do all semester.

Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities

by Ann Abbott

I love teaching "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities." I focus the course on social entrepreneurship, I teach them basic business principles, we analyze them at work in specific nonprofit examples, and we focus on doing all of this in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways.

Here's the syllabus for "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities."

On our first day of class this semester, I covered many of the fundamental elements of the course.

Community service learning + social entrepreneurship

The students in the course should already be familiar with community service learning, because the prerequisite for this course is "Spanish in the Community." So they still need to work 28 hours during the semester with a community partner, but in class the academic content focuses on social entrepreneurship.

Community service learning

Despite the prerequisite, I always have students signed up for my course who haven't taken Spanish in the Community. This semester, about two thirds of the students hadn't taken Spanish in the Community! That's a shame, because that course really provides a solid foundation, a real understanding of immigration issues, an up-close knowledge of our local Latino community. 

So I formed student groups--each student who had taken "Spanish in the Community" was matched up with students who hadn't. The "expert" had to explain to the others what they had learned in that course and give advice to the other students. Some of the advice was very practical, like where to work, how to get there, how to get your 28 hours in, etc. And that's good. The other students had to ask questions. As always, I told students exactly how long they had to talk (it was probably five minutes, but I don't remember right now), and made sure they talked that whole time.

Social entrepreneurship/Emprendimiento Social

Then I turned to the academic content of our course: social entrepreneurship/emprendimiento social. I emphasized that I want them to learn about entrepreneurship this semester as a process, not just a product. In other words, if we focus on the final outcome--a new business/product/organization/program/etc.--we are missing out on the vital process that leads to that final product. Or not. Maybe it there will be no final product. Maybe the process will end in failure. But going through the process itself is entrepreneurship. Is entrepreneurial. It is a mindset, more than a product that I want them to walk away with.

The entrepreneurship process

So what does that process consist of? Three steps.
  1. Reconocer oportunidades. I always tell students that many opportunities are hidden within problems. If you can solve people's problems, then you have a good entrepreneurial opportunity. I also emphasize that they can recognize problems that non-Spanish speakers will never see.
  2. Buscar recursos. Even though we often think first about money when we talk about entrepreneurship, I want students to know that there are so many other resources that they can acquire and use. Trust. Spanish. Friendships. A good reputation. A degree from the University of Illinois. And so much more.
  3. Crear algo de valor. First you must "create." Entrepreneurship isn't just about ideas. Lots of people have lots of ideas. You have to do. To create. To prototype. To launch. To try. To fail. To redesign/rethink. To get to the end point. And secondly, it must be something that other people value. If you create something because you are enchanted by it, but you don't bother to see if other people want it, you are in trouble. Other people have to think that your product/service brings them value. Listen. Observe. Ask. Then you'll be sure you are creating something that people will actually purchase and/or use.

Combine CSL and social entrepreneurship

When we put these two things together--CSL with its deepening understanding of our local Latino Community and social entrepreneurship--we end up with something very special. Something very localized. Something very attuned to a tightly defined target market. 

Our programs and services will be linguistically-appropriate. That might be Spanish. That might be English. It might be Spanglish. And in the Champaign-Urbana, that might be Q’anjob’al.

They will be culturally-appropriate. They will be offered in a convenient location for that community. In a trusted location because there is a lot of mistrust in our most vulnerable communities. They will be offered at a time that is convenient. There will be free babysitting if the community has many young children. Etc.


That is as much as I could squeeze in during one class period. This is not your regular Spanish class. Students need to be told explicitly what the expectations are, the reasons why we do them, and what the results will be (can be). The first class of the semester is always tough. You have to set them up for success--and I always like to show them what a typical class will be like. Participatory. Engaging. Active. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Choice Is Important to Students in Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

Last year I gave a talk about Spanish community service learning (CSL) at the University of Illinois, Chicago, invited by my friend and colleague Prof. Kim Potowski.

I told my "Spanish in the Community" students that people at UIC were interested in starting a course similar to ours, and I asked them what they thought I should tell my UIC colleagues.

  1. By far the most frequent piece of information was that they should offer students many options for community partners. 
  2. Second in frequency, they thought the UIC faculty should know about the advantages of a Spanish CSL course. Here are some specific advantages they mentioned: it increases students' confidence; it gives them many opportunities to practice; it helps them understand the real issues confronting local Latinos. 
  3. One student gave a piece of advice about the places where students work: they should be organized and well-structured. 
  4. One student said that the course should help students with common grammatical problems.
I'm not surprised by what students emphasized. I know that choice is very important to them. They probably don't know how much work it takes to offer them choices, but we do. And that is why those of us who work in CSL as lone wolves need to make sure we are always asking for as much departmental and institutional support as we can get.