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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Student Reflection

by Araceli Pérez

Ya he estado participando en el programa de Abriendo Caminos por varias semanas y puedo decir con confianza que me ha encantado la experiencia hasta ahora. He tenido la oportunidad de trabajar con los niños, que he disfrutado mucho porque planeo ser maestra en el futuro. También  he podido participar en las clases que toman el grupo de control. Me ha gustado mucho participar en estas clases porque me ofrecen la oportunidad de conversar con las madres de familia.

Algo que me pareció muy interesante fue la conversación que tuvimos cuando hablamos del tema de las finanzas. Muchas de las madres hispanas confesaron no saber mucho de cómo manejar el dinero. Esto no me sorprendió mucho porque yo vengo de una familia hispana y sé que ellos también tienen mucha dificultad manejando el dinero y  sus finanzas, Todo esto me llevó a la conclusión que deberían de haber muchos más recursos e información sobre el dinero para las familias hispanas que no hablan inglés. Creo que esta información beneficiaría a las familias mucho. Después de la clase de finanzas muchas madres dijeron que se sentían mas informadas y tenían más confianza en su habilidad de manejar el dinero de una manera eficiente.

Otro tema de que hablamos que me pareció interesante fue de la educación. Muchas madres dijeron que tienen o han tenido problemas comunicándose con las maestras de sus hijos porque no había un traductor en la clase durante sus conversaciones. Otras madres se quejaron de la falta de libros de español en la biblioteca de Rantoul. Estos problemas que han tenido estas familias también son de falta de recursos. Las familias hispanas necesitan ayuda y recursos para estar adecuadamente informadas de la educación de sus hijos y para proveerles a sus hijos una buena educación.

Todo lo que he aprendido en Abriendo Caminos hasta ahora me ha inspirado a continuar ayudando a la comunidad hispana aun después que este semestre se termine. He podida ver de primera mano que los voluntarios son esenciales para que la comunidad hispana pueda salir adelante. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Advice for College Spanish Majors

Photograph of laptop, phone and eyeglasses on table, suggesting to Spanish students that they should "take a look" at opportunities across campus.
Take a look at your campus to find opportunities that will give you experiences and relationships that are complementary to your Spanish major. 
by Ann Abbott

Even though the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign is a huge university, it is possible for students to connect with faculty. I say this proudly: especially in the language programs.

I had many wonderful students this semester, and many of them happened to be freshmen. I took one of those freshmen out for lunch at the end of the semester to let her know that I saw great intellect, talent and creativity in her work in my class. I wanted to encourage her, as a freshman, to consider opportunities on our campus that match her abilities--as well as complement them--and that she might not have found on her own. Or that she might have found much later.

Let me share that list because I would encourage all students of Spanish to look into them.

More languages

This student already has Spanish and French under her belt. Someone who is so obviously good with languages should take advantage of all the wonderful languages we offer on our campus. (That's a rare opportunity, and students might not fully appreciate the value of having access to all these languages on our campus.) Let me say a few things about some of these languages.

Portuguese

Since this student already knows two Romance languages well, Portuguese would be a wonderful addition to her linguistic profile. There are many places and reasons to speak Portuguese, but Brazil is obviously a very important country globally. Furthermore,

Critical languages

For students who are willing to go out of their comfort zone and study a language that is very different from English and Spanish, there are many resources for studying critical languages. (If it were me, I would study Arabic.) The government offers the Critical Language Scholarship Program that sends you abroad. And our university offers many less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), not all of which are critical languages.

Career perspectives

Being able to speak many languages is a wonderful thing, but it is even better to combine that knowledge with some complementary skills. 

International careers
To start, it's good to see what other people who have studied Spanish have gone on to do. (The truth is that today, most Spanish majors are double majors; so look at what their other major added to their pre-professional preparation, too.) Here are three former Illinois students with fascinating international careers; you can learn by reading these posts, and you can also network with them as a fellow Illinois student.

Business minor

It's not necessary to study business in order to find a job after college, but something like the Business Minor could provide good, complementary knowledge and provide access to the College of Business resources. I know that many Spanish majors can't picture themselves in business. In many ways, languages and business can seem like two antithetical sets of values. But it doesn't have to be that way (see the examples above). 

Entrepreneurship opportunities
Again, I suggested something that many language students might immediately dismiss: becoming involved in entrepreneurship opportunities on campus. I told the student, "Don't think that entrepreneurship is just about technology! Or even if it is, don't imagine that students in the humanities don't have something very important to add to those projects." Be prepared to expand beyond your College and mingle with people from other Colleges.
  • Technology Entrepreneur Center. I know that technology is right in the name of this center and that it is housed in the College of Engineering. That doesn't mean that foreign language students can't jump in and learn from the resources and activities they offer!
  • Entrepreneurship at Illinois. You can find all kinds of information here. But here's my advice: jump in! Act on the information! Attend sessions! Speak up at events! People will welcome you.

Informatics minor

When I was an undergraduate, decades ago, I was a double major in psychology and Spanish. If I were stepping back into college today, I would still be a Spanish major. I would study Arabic as much as possible. And I would definitely apply to the Informatics Minor. Even if you think that computer science is not for you, that "other people" are good at that, at least click on the link and take a look. It will open many doors.

Conclusions

There. Those are the suggestions I have for that gifted student--and for any student of Spanish, really. When you're a freshman, you're just trying to get a feel for the place, the people and the culture of this huge place. But if you are lucky enough to find someone who recognizes your unique talents and can help you match them with opportunities on campus that you might miss, at least take a look. Try. A Spanish major is great, but you also want to be building a portfolio that builds on as many of the wonderful experiences on this campus as possible.

Did I miss any opportunities? Do you have different suggestions? Let me know in a comment.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Much Time Does It Take to Teach Spanish Community Service Learning?

Photograph of an old-fashioned alarm clock, representing the question of how much time it takes to teach a Spanish community service learning course
We have precise expectations about how much time Spanish community service learning students spend outside the classroom, but what about the time spent by those teaching the course?
by Ann Abbott

Recently, an interesting question came up about how much work it is (or isn't) for graduate teaching assistants to teach a Spanish community service learning course.

Here's some background on the concept of "time" in my Spanish in the Community course.
  • Students must work 28 hours in the community during the course of the semester.
  • 28 hours means that students work in the community 2 hours a week for 14 weeks out of a 15 1/2 week semester
  • It is a three-credit course
  • The class meets two hours a week 
  • Two hours of experiential learning equals one hour of classroom learning, according to some sources
  • The main grading tasks are three reflective essays and students' community participation self-evaluations
  • So, all in all, for three hours of academic credit, students spend two hours a week in class and two hours a week in the community
What about the person teaching the course? At first glance it seems as if you work less than others because you only teach two hours a week instead of three.

As the course coordinator, there's no question that I spend that "extra hour" setting up the community partnerships, maintaining those partnerships, responding to just-in-time requests for student volunteers, solving student problems with their community partner, helping lagging students find extra hours, etc. If you've put together one of these courses or taught one, you know what I mean!

But recently the question came up about graduate teaching assistants' time.

One thing is for sure, if our baseline is traditionally-taught, classroom-based course, then we will always have problems conceiving of workload equivalencies with experiential learning courses.

TA feedback

I think it would be a good idea to have feedback about the teaching load from the TAs who have taught SPAN 232. 

It's always best to go to the source. I can speculate about how they spend their time, but they know.


What is the "extra" work for TAs in Spanish community service learning courses?

  • First and foremost becoming informed about the local immigrant community context, which has to be accomplished through participation and following social media. In Spanish graduate programs, most TAs have little prior knowledge from their other work in the department. (That other work tends to center on the fields of literary analysis, cultural analysis or linguistics.)
  • To a lesser extent, learning accurate and complete information about state and federal immigration polices. Again, these are actually rarely known by TAS, but it is easier to find out about them through research. 
  • At the beginning of the semester, corralling all their students through the process of choosing and signing up for a community partner, which can be surprisingly time-consuming especially for students who fall behind or want a "different" experience.
  • Throughout the semester but especially toward the end, working closely with students whose placement is not working out or do not have their necessary hours and who need extra opportunities that must be arranged with community partners. 
  • Many campuses have a central CSL office that handles the push and pull of placing students with community partners and following up on those. My campus does not.

A possible way to equalize TAs' work

If the goal is to ask TAs to do more work in "Spanish in the Community" in order to even out the workloads among courses, I would suggest requiring a few more hours on TAs' part of direct participation in the community. That would give them a richer understanding of the community and of the students' experiences. I would not want to add more work for students in order to provide more work for TAs.


Conclusions

In sum, there are some semesters in which everything goes smoothly and the workload is pretty accurately reflected by the syllabus. But there are always semesters in which you have to do a lot of work because students have trouble beginning their work in the community, surprise events happen in the community (e.g., raids, election of an anti-immigrant President!), you need to field requests from community partners for extra volunteer events, or students realize they are behind on their hours (argh). 

What are your thoughts about the time required of TAs, instructors, course coordinators, students and community partners in a Spanish community service learning course?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Student Reflection

by Araceli Pérez


Tener la oportunidad de trabajar en la comunidad es una responsabilidad muy grande pero gratificante. Así que cuando la Dra. Michelle Cruz Santiago informó a mi clase sobre la oportunidad de trabajar en un programa de investigación en donde serviríamos a la comunidad hispana, inmediatamente me llamó la atención. La Dra. Santiago nos explicó que este programa de investigación, llamado Abriendo Caminos, buscaba descubrir si clases de nutrición ayudarían a la comunidad hispana a ser más saludable.

Para investigar este tema a fondo la Dra. Michelle Cruz invitó a muchas familias a venir al Centro Cultural en Rantoul. En el centro las familias se registraron para el programa y acordaron a venir cada jueves para recibir las clases de nutrición. Antes de tomar las clases, la presión, el peso, y medidas del cuerpo fueron tomados de cada miembro de familia. Esto ayudaría a la Dra. Michelle saber cómo estaba el estado de salud de cada familia antes de comenzar el programa.  Las familias también tomaron un cuestionario que les hacía preguntas sobre su estilo de vida. Por ejemplo, de qué tipo de comida comían en la casa, si hacían ejercicio regularmente, etc.

Otra cosa interesante de este programa es que no todas las familias que participaron en la investigación tomaron las clases de nutrición. Como el programa es una investigación científica hubo un grupo de control, que no recibía las clases de nutrición, y un grupo experimental, que si recibía las clases. El propósito de tener estos dos grupos era para tomar en cuenta que es posible que las familias se volvieran más saludables simplemente porque estaban participando en un estudio. En otras palabras, es posible que el efecto placebo aparezca en esta familia. Por esta razón se creó el grupo de control. Este grupo también iba al Centro Cultural de Rantoul cada jueves, pero en vez de tomar las clases de nutrición, ellos tomaban clases de otros temas como la familia, la educación, y las finanzas.

Una última cosa del programa que me gustaría mencionar es que las clases de nutrición trataban de involucrar a todos los miembros de las familias. Así que las actividades eran divertidas no solamente para los padres pero también para los hijos. Muchas de las actividades involucraron a la comida, entonces en cada clase siempre había mucha variedad de comida saludable que las familias podían comer. Los voluntarios, incluyéndome a mí, estaban a cargo de preparar la comida. En la foto de arriba se puede ver todo el tipo de comida que teníamos. Fue muy divertido ver como algunas de estas comidas eran nuevas para las familias hispanohablantes. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Task List for Directors of Spanish Community Service Learning Courses

by Ann Abbott

In some ways the Fall 2016 semester was on of my most difficult. 

But in one specific way it was the best: I scheduled specific times for taking care of all my weekly teaching tasks and did them. That's right, every week I graded, entered grades in Blackboard, and responded to student problems promptly. Preparing the final grades was no problem whatsoever because everything was ready to go. Hurray!

What a relief! In the past, my calendar showed my teaching times (of course) and my office hours. But I used my office hours to address whatever was on my desk, answer emails, decompress, any number of things that push and pull all of us during a normal workday. I would also make my office hours available in Doodle polls for committee meetings. But this semester, I guarded my office hours carefully and used them to catch up on my grading and prep immediately following class.

So in that spirit of organization and prioritization, I'd like to share my detailed list of tasks for directing my Spanish in the Community course. I think it might be similar to tasks anyone does for any Spanish community service learning course. I'm also including it in my "Spanish Community Service Learning in a Box" post where you'll find everything you need to start or spruce up your own course.

Course Director Task List: 

Spanish Community Service Learning Course

Course Materials

⏰ Previous semester. Contact Pearson sales representative if necessary.
  Order Comunidades: Más allá del aula packaged with MySpanishkit.
✅  Contact Pearson sales representative if necessary.

Learning Management System (Blackboard/Compass at my university)

 Previous semester, ideally, but any time before classes start.
  Order course site, and copy from previous year.
  Change assignment dates: Reflexiones, Community Participation Self-Evaluations.
  Change assignment dates within the course calendar for the MySpanishKit grammar folders.
  Enroll TA.

MySpanishKit

 Previous semester, ideally.
  Click on “MySpanishkit” ➤ Click on “Sections” ➤ Click on “Add Sections” ➤ Create new section and name it “SPAN 232 Spanish in the Community [Current Semester].” Wait just a little while for the section to be created and added to the list. (If you don't have an account already, set up your account and gain access to MySpanishkit through your Pearson rep.)
  Copy Course ID and post it on the homepage of the Compass/LMS site so students know how to enroll.
 Click on “Assignment Calendar” ➤ Click on “Grammar Resources” ➤ Following course calendar, drag grammar folders to the appropriate due dates.
*For my course, I assign one folder for each of the first six weeks: 1) Adjectives; 2) Direct objects, the personal “a,” and direct object pronouns; 3) Gustar and similar verbs; 4) Commands: Tú; 5) Preterit vs. imperfect; 6) Pluperfect subjunctive and the conditional perfect. For the other six weeks, students choose which grammar concepts/folders they feel they need to work on. I expect each student’s choices to be different. OJO: students’ grades will not show up in the Gradebook if the grammar folder has not be assigned; therefore, each week students should inform you (slip of paper in class? Email?) of which grammar folder they chose to complete for that week. Otherwise, at the end of the semester you will need to go through each folder and tally the students who have completed each grammar folder.
  In class the first week a grammar folder is due, spend a few minutes showing students how to access and complete the quizzes. This avoids confusion and the need to answer many student emails.
  Each week, enter grades in Compass/LMS for the work they did in MySpanishKit. This is important because it can be confusing to them to do work in MySpanishKit yet their grades are calculated in Compass/LMS. This also reinforces their weekly habit so that after six weeks when they are free to choose their own grammar folders they don’t lose track of the habit.
  When students choose their own grammar item, have them hand in a note with the grammar folder they did/will do.

Course Wiki

 At the beginning of the semester, before classes start and students begin signing up.
  On the front page, update information about community partners if necessary.
  On each community partner’s page, remove names of students from previous semester.
  On front page, at bottom, update course and section information.
  Create new pages for each section’s work log. From the existing work log, copy the title and example and paste to the top of each new work log.
  During the semester, check the work log weekly and communicate with students who appear to be behind on getting started or short on hours.

Teaching Assistant

 At the beginning of the semester, or when you know for sure who the TA will be.
  Put textbook in TA’s box.
  Enroll TA in Compass/LMS.
  Contact Pearson sales rep to give TA access to MySpanishkit
  Provide the link to the Instructor’s Resource Manual (IRM) for the scripts for the listening comprehension activities in the textbook.
  Tell him/her about the Comunidades Companion Website. You can find the audios and videos mentioned in the textbook here, and they can be incorporated into classes to make them more dynamic. I think the videos are especially valuable. The site isn't very intuitive, so do the following: Go to "Select chapter" --> Select any chapter --> Click the "Go" button --> Navigate using the categories on the left (Audio, Video, etc.). 
  Provide link to course wiki.
  Schedule meeting before classes start to explain course, pedagogy, expectations, etc.
  Ask TA to attend one student orientation (preferably at the Refugee Center) to understand one of the community partners and their expectations for the students.
  Tell TA that they will be expected to communicate extra volunteering opportunities to their class and actively encourage them to participate.

Community Partners

 Several weeks before semester begins.
  Email all partners.
  Ask if they still want to receive students the next semester.
  Share link to their wiki page to see if they want to update it.
  Inform them of semester calendar, including breaks/vacations.
  Arrange any volunteer orientations.
 Throughout semester.
  Email partners every two weeks, then once a month.
 At the end of the semester.
  Remind them of the upcoming end of the semester.
  Ask if there are any problems with students. 
  Send thank-you notes form students.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Student Reflection

This colorful, cheerful, bilingual classroom is where Alicia volunteered this semester.
by Alicia Barbas

Mis últimos días trabajando como voluntaria en una escuela primaria me han ayudado a aprender más sobre los estudiantes hispanohablantes pero también sobre la vida como inmigrante en esta sociedad. He aprendido a relacionar la información que aprendimos en clase a las vidas cotidianas de estos estudiantes y de muchas personas en este país. Aunque haya terminado mi trabajo para el semestre, es aún más importante que siga luchando por los derechos de todas las personas después de los cambios recientes en el gobierno y en la sociedad.

Mientras trabajaba con los estudiantes, sabía que muchos de los que hablaban español como su primer idioma seguramente venían de familias inmigrantes, las cuales podrían incluir personas indocumentadas. Por ejemplo, un día, un estudiante muy inteligente me comentó que iba a faltar muchos días de la escuela en Diciembre porque su familia iba a pasar cerca de un mes en México. Mientras pienso que faltar la escuela no es lo mejor para un estudiante de kindergarten, esto confirmó la importancia de familia y las conexiones con el país materno que muchos estudiantes tienen.

Después de aprender un poco sobre las familias de algunos estudiantes, empecé a reconocer los efectos en la educación que el énfasis del inglés puede causar. Por ejemplo, los cinco estudiantes hispanohablantes en la clase en la cual trabajaba estaban separados del resto de la clase casi todos los días mientras hacían actividades diferentes porque por lo general, aprenden el alfabeto y otras palabras en español en vez de en inglés. Esta observación me hizo pensar en la idea de aislamiento que podrían sentir los estudiantes hispanohablantes en el futuro si los otros estudiantes los identifican como “diferentes” o inferiores. Por esto, hice un esfuerzo para asegurar que los estudiantes hispanohablantes se sentían iguales y que disfrutaban de aprender, tanto académicamente como culturalmente. Aún así, el hecho de que la clase esté diseñada de una manera bilingüe, en comparación con una clase que se basa solamente en inglés, puede unificar a los estudiantes y ayudar que obtengan una mentalidad abierta y respetuosa.

Después de trabajar como voluntaria e intérprete un día en una escuela secundaria, aprendí que la mentalidad de la educación es aún más importante en un nivel mayor. Noté que muchos estudiantes no tienen motivación para aprender y hacer un esfuerzo en la escuela porque piensan que si vienen de una familia inmigrante, indocumentada, o de bajos recursos, el trabajo es lo más importante y que no tendrán los recursos financieros o académicos para asistir a una universidad. En este caso, también aprendí que por esto, es esencial que desde pequeños, todos los niños entiendan que hay formas de obtener las mismas oportunidades que otras personas, y que pueden hacer cualquier cosa en la vida si tienen ambición. Tuve que mantener esto en mente a la hora de trabajar con estudiantes de kindergarten, porque esta mentalidad se empieza a formar precisamente durante la edad que tienen estos niños.

A la hora de hablar y leer en clase, realmente reconocí la importancia de apoyar a estos ciudadanos durante este momento de sufrimiento y preocupación después de la elección. Además de que muchos programas no van a ser realizados, como DAPA y DACA que ayudan con el aplazamiento de la deportación de muchas personas indocumentadas, el hecho de elegir a Tremp como presidente significa elegir a una persona racista que quiere deportar a todos los inmigrantes y crear un “muro” entre los Estados Unidos y México. Esta elección ha creado un país dividido en el cual piensan muchas personas que el racismo y la discriminación son cosas aceptables. El día después de las elecciones, miraba a los niños en mi clase que vienen de muchas culturas diferentes, y tenía miedo por ellos. No es justo que estos niños tengan que crecer en un país que no les acepta. Por esto, es esencial que no solamente apoyemos a los ciudadanos indocumentados, pero también que entendamos los obstáculos a los cuales se enfrentan, que ellos sepan que están incluidos en esta sociedad, y que tengamos compasión por todas personas. Pienso que en este momento, es más importante que nunca luchar por derechos y una vida feliz para todos. Por esto, no pienso terminar mi trabajo voluntario aquí. Pienso seguir ayudando a la comunidad hispana pero también pienso seguir educando a las personas que me rodean. El futuro de esta clase, la comunidad hispana, los derechos de todas las comunidades de minorías, y la vida en este mundo depende de nuestra habilidad de vocalizar y luchar contra estas injusticias. Por esto, no puedo realmente expresar la importancia de los valores culturales que he aprendido en esta clase y en mi trabajo voluntario durante este semestre. Me han inspirado a luchar y a apreciar y apoyar a todos en esta vida.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Student Reflection

by Alicia Barbas

Últimamente, mis experiencias en la clase bilingüe me han enseñado la diferencia entre los niños en el nivel individual, y por lo tanto, entre las formas de las cuales se debería ayudar a cada estudiante. En mi última entrada, hablé sobre las conexiones con cada estudiante, pero mi trabajo más reciente me ha enseñado la idea de trabajar individualmente de un nivel completamente diferente y con diferentes actividades. Por lo general, siempre he entendido la importancia de hacer conexiones personales, pero a través de mi trabajo voluntario, también he aprendido que cada estudiante aprende y avanza de una manera diferente, y por eso, es importante enfocar en sus fortalezas para ayudar con esta educación.

A la hora de hacer nuevas actividades con los estudiantes, les suelo ayudar a mejorar su conocimiento de los números. Primero, señalo a los números de 1 a 30 en una página y les ayudo a contar. Una observación curiosa que tuve es que la profesora me dirigió de practicar los números solamente en inglés con todos los estudiantes, mientras las letras del alfabeto cambian con la lengua materna de cada estudiante. De igual modo, noté que tuve más problemas al contar los números con los estudiantes que hablan el español con fluidez porque conocen mejor los números en español, y entonces suelen equivocarse y confundir los números entre 11 y 19. Sin embargo, entiendo que es más claro y seguro enseñar las matemáticas en un idioma solamente, porque lo más importante en esta materia es que los estudiantes puedan adquirir las habilidades básicas que son necesarias para comprender los conceptos. El hecho de trabajar cuatro horas durante muchas semanas seguidas me ha ayudado a observar el avance de cada estudiante con el tiempo. Por ejemplo, una estudiante que habla español y con la cual trabajo cada vez que estoy en la clase ha podido superar los números de 11 a 19 en inglés esta semana, después de tener muchos problemas durante varias semanas. En este sentido, me siento gratificada de poder ver la mejoría de cada estudiante.

Después de practicar los números, suelo ayudar a cada estudiante con la escritura de palabras en inglés y en español. Aunque una parte importante de este trabajo es ayudar con la escritura física de cada letra, también es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer qué palabra están escribiendo. Lo que he observado más a menudo es que, naturalmente, los que hablan inglés nativamente no conocen las palabras en español, y los que hablan español no conocen las palabras en inglés. Aun así, algunos estudiantes que hablan el español conocen algunas palabras en inglés, y algunos conocen todos las palabras en español que les enseño, mientras algunos estudiantes que hablan inglés o español no conocen muchas palabras de ningún idioma. Por eso, es esencial que yo cambie la forma de enseñar con cada estudiante. Con algunos, tengo que ayudar a identificar las letras y los sonidos dentro de una palabra, y con otros, simplemente les tengo que preguntar si conocen la palabra y lo que significa en inglés o español. Siento que estoy aprendiendo mucho sobre cómo trabajar con diferentes actividades y en diferentes idiomas, pero también con cada mentalidad, personalidad, y nivel de conocimiento de los estudiantes individuales.


Generalmente, antes de empezar estas actividades diferentes, hago un esfuerzo para aprender sobre cada estudiante. Les pregunto cómo fueron sus fines de semana, qué hicieron, y cuál fue su parte favorito. Esto no solamente les motiva a los estudiantes para trabajar conmigo, sino también me ayuda a aprender un poco sobre las cosas que les gustan hacer y cómo son sus vidas con sus padres y en casa. Es importante trabajar individualmente con diferentes personas para hacer conexiones con los estudiantes y para aprender que cada persona tiene una cultura, una historia, una personalidad, y una mente diferente. Cuando uno aprenda esto, crea la posibilidad de enseñar los conceptos eficientemente, de experimentar con otras culturas y lenguas, y de realmente entender al estudiante como persona.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Connecting College Students with Alumni: A Classroom Networking Project

This image lists the seven steps of the classroom project for networking with former students of a Business Spanish class, which are also listed in the blog post.
Look below to click on the links from the slide above.

By Ann Abbott 

On Friday I will give two talks. One is a noon-hour workshop on service learning, and the other is a quick description of a classroom project for our School's Share Fair. Here's what I will share in the second talk.

Connecting Students with Alumni: A Classroom Networking Project

Making the transition from language student to working professional can be a difficult and mysterious process to our current students. In my Business Spanish course, students work on a networking project that connects them to former students who were in their seats just a few years ago but are now in the working world. I will share the specific steps and resources I use for this activity—from researching alumni LinkedIn profiles to writing a “cold” networking email. This activity can be adapted to any language and any course.  On their end-of-the-semester course evaluations, several students listed this project as one of their favorite components of the course.

1. Research alumni.

I am connected to many former students through LinkedIn. I assign each current student in my class one of my former students to research through LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc.

2. Prepare pitch.

If you Google "Cómo preparar un pitch," you will see lots of videos and posts, and they all concentrate on how to pitch your business idea to get funding. Instead, this is the formula I like to present to students to pitch any idea: 1) Define the problem (and why it matters). 2) Describe the current solutions (and why they are insufficient). 3) Explain your idea and why it solves the problem (better, cheaper, faster, etc.). So in my class, each student has to "pitch" the alum who they researched to all the others in the class as one of the three people we should contact. For example, 1) We want to find jobs abroad, but we don't know how to do that; 2) You can go to the Career Center, but you won't find specific names of alums you can contact; 3) This person lives and works in Europe, so we should contact her/him for advice.

3. Vote.

After listening to all the pitches, students in the class vote for the three alumni we should reach out.

4. Form three teams.

Once we have identified the three alumni we want to contact, I re-arrange the students into three teams, one per alum.

5. Review etiquette of networking emails.

I ask students to read all the resources listed in this blog post: "Helping Students Sharpen their Networking Messages."

6. Write, edit, send email message to the alumni.

It might surprise you how much you need to help students edit and reshape their messages. Give yourself plenty of time to give feedback and edit before they send. They should also include you in their message. I also alert my former students ahead of time that they will receive a message from my students. I let them know that I totally understand if they do not have time to respond!

7. Share results: 1, 2, 3.

This is the fun part! If or when students receive replies from the alums, then you can share with all the other students. I share them on my blog, but whatever your mechanism, I suggest archiving the responses so that you can share them with future students. You can also use them as you promote your course and program to potential students.


Students appreciated this project.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Amid Falling Enrollments It Is Imperative to Advertise Your Spanish Courses

by Ann Abbott

I'm our department's Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work hard with our advisor, Tasha Robles, to try to increase the number of students in our courses and our major/minor.

It's not easy. And yesterday I was sad to see that our numbers are low compared to the Spanish programs in most other universities in the Big Ten. (By the way, Indiana University is doing something right!)

And it's even harder when students don't have enough information to get excited about our courses.

As of right now, with just a couple of days before students begin registering for spring 2017 courses, this is our situation:

  • Several sections of "generic" courses don't have a title or description in the online course catalog.
  • The advisor has received no flyers about any courses.
  • I haven't seen any promotional materials for any courses except for Basque.
I'll share the checklist below with our faculty.


How do you advertise your courses to increase enrollments?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Service Learning Workshop for Liberal Arts and Sciences



by Ann Abbott

Next week I´ll give a workshop on Service Learning. My goal will be to help people from many disciplines envision how service learning can work for their courses and within our local community.


Workshop Description

Research shows that service learning helps students better understand "messy problems"--the kinds of complex, interconnected issues that challenge our communities and that lie at the heart of our disciplines. In this workshop we will start with the basics of service learning to understand what it is, why the AACU lists it as a "high-impact educational practice," and what it looks like in a variety of disciplines. Then we will turn to our local community. As we identify strengths and challenges within our cities and nearby areas, we will sketch out specific ways we can connect our courses and disciplines to community-identified needs. Service learning students are often eager, yet nervous to step outside the campus to learn and serve – so are many professors. After this workshop you will have a concrete idea for a service learning course or project and know the steps for its design and implementation.

Workshop Steps

  • Explaining how my courses are structured.
  • Giving examples from multiple disciplines.
  • Exploring strengths and challenges of our local community.
  • Connecting academic goals to those community-identified needs.
  • Detailing how to create partnerships.
  • Showing how to weave the community and the classroom together through classroom transitions, activities, homework and assessments.
  • Wrapping it all up with a one-month calendar that takes you from beginning to end. (This is something I created years ago and just ran into it the other day. It was like finding a $20 bill in your pocket--a gift.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Student Reflection

Alicia uses this alphabet book as she helps students learn their letters in the bilingual kindergarten class where she does her Spanish community service learning work
by Alicia Barbas

Durante los días más recientes de mi trabajo en la clase de Kindergarten en el International Prep Academy, he empezado a notar varios elementos que me ayudan a conectar con cada estudiante. Por la mayoría del tiempo, les ayudo a los estudiantes a aprender, a reconocer, y a escribir las diferentes palabras y letras del alfabeto en un libro. La dificultad de este trabajo es que el libro consiste en el alfabeto en inglés y también en español, y la forma en que lo enseño depende del idioma materno del estudiante y de cuánto conoce en este idioma.

Para los estudiantes que hablan inglés, simplemente les tengo que ayudar a reconocer como se llama la letra específica y cómo escribirla. Muchos estudiantes practican las letras de su nombre, y entonces no tienen tantos problemas pronunciando, reconociendo, o escribiendo letras como “a” o “b” en mayúscula y minúscula. Cuando terminan con la letra, identifican una palabra que empieza con esta letra que está en la misma página del libro, como “angel” o “baby”. Algunos estudiantes se confunden con letras como “t” y “f” en los dos idiomas porque son similares, pero lo reconocen después de un poco de ayuda. También es importante reconocer que hay letras en el libro que sólo pertenecen al español, y los estudiantes que practican en inglés automáticamente saben que no van a practicar estas letras, como la “ñ”, la “ch”, o la “ll”. Sin embargo, los estudiantes que practican el alfabeto en español tienen que reconocer estas letras y el sonido de cada letra (aunque muchos también conocen el nombre de la letra). Después de intentar escribirla, identifican la palabra en español que está conectada con la letra, como “ñandú” para la “ñ”.  La mayoría de los estudiantes tiene que practicar el libro entero del alfabeto, mientras otros solamente practican su nombre, que es algo muy importante de saber para el futuro. Con esta actividad, normalmente les ayudo a los estudiantes que tienen más dificultades con las letras o que no las conocen muy bien, pero he empezado a ver la diferencia y cómo mejoran sus habilidades con la escritura poco a poco. Pienso que es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer el alfabeto en su lengua materna, y el próximo paso es que puedan reconocer el alfabeto en los dos idiomas.

Personalmente, fue un poco difícil cambiar la forma en que enseñaba el alfabeto al principio, pero cada día que lo hago, se me hace más fácil. Voy aprendiendo no solamente cómo diferenciar entre los estudiantes que hablan español y los que hablan ingles, pero también la forma en que los estudiantes individuales aprenden. Esta forma de enseñanza es algo nuevo para mí, pero estoy aprendiendo aspectos importantes sobre el uso del español, cuánto aprenden los estudiantes en sus casas y en la escuela, y cómo conectar con cada estudiante. Al final de mi trabajo cada día, me siento muy cumplida y muy segura de que me gustaría enseñar el español en el futuro.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Insights from the 2016 Conference from the Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education

by Ann Abbott


This is just one example of the wonderful information that can be found at Rice University's CLIC website, Bridging Research and Practice.

Last weekend I was very happy to attend the Annual conference of  the Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education (CUALHE) at Notre Dame.

I wanted to attend the conference because in my role as Director of Undergraduate Studies in our department, I will need to lead the assessment efforts when our university goes through its accreditation process in a few years. (My awareness and interest in this level of assessment comes from presentations and conversations with Dr. Staci Provezis in the Provost's Office.) Indeed, I picked up many good ideas about assessment, and I hope that our department can follow through on some of them.

For me and my interests for our department, the highlights were these sessions:
  • "Teaching and Testing Interaction Competence" by Maryam Emami, Kevin García, Katharina Kley / Hélade Scutti-Santos from Rice University. They provided very good examples of how they explicitly teach pragmatics and intercultural communicative competence in their Spanish basic language program. (I loved seeing Helade again! She presented their model of assessment that included the stages of practice --> awareness --> classroom instruction --> practice --> awareness/homework --> assessment, in which they video record their final conversation practice and receive a grade --> practice.)
  • Keynote: ¨Proficiency and Pragmatics: Expanding our Repertoire of Language Assessment.¨ by Julie Sykes, University of Oregon. Julie gave a very inspiring talk with wonderful examples of pragmatics and with a very intriguing look at what they are working on in her program in order to create simulations of pragmatics. I'm looking forward to learning more as her work progresses!
  • "The Evolution of One Foreign Language Department's Electronic Portfolio Assessment Program." by Jessamine Cooke-Plagwitz and Katherine Barbe at Northern Illinois University. It was very interesting to hear how they have their language majors create a portfolio throughout their coursework in the major, an idea that could work for us. They offer three one-credit courses each semester, so that counts as "one" course for a faculty member's teaching load.
  • "Improving the Student Experience through Program-wide Assessment and Articulation." This was a very impressive study of the proficiency levels of students in their basic language program. We have never had a broad assessment like this, as far as I know. This is what I wrote to myself after seeing their results: "What are our goal posts? (It feels funny to use that term while here at Notre Dame at a conference that is held int heir athletic facilities.) We gather data, students create portfolios, we see what students can/cannot do in linguistic and cultural terms, ... but where does all this information sit in relation to what, developmentally, student can actually be expected to do? In other words, I think that we sometimes overestimate where students can arrive without immersion. Other times we underestimate what they can do intellectually and socially."
  • "Assessing the Impact of Community-Based Learning on Student Learning Outcomes in a Spanish Program." by Rachel Parroquin, Connie Mick and Shauna Williams from Notre Dame. Of course I was interested in this! I know all three women and respect them greatly. They have a wonderful CBL program, and their results showed that.
  • "Improving Equal Access in Lower-Division Language Courses: A Collaboration Between the Language Program Director and Accessibility Services" by Muriel Gallego, Ohio University. I am very interested in issues of accessibility for people with disabilities, so this session was inspiring and important.
And here are some of my overall thoughts about this question: What can I bring back to our department?
  • Other programs have an emphasis on intercultural competence and pragmatics that we don't have at any level. Kevin Garcia presented a five-step process that they follow with students: 1) Reflection on how language works; 2) Contrast that between L1 and L2; 3) Analysis of L2 structures; 4) practice in speaking and writing; 5) translingual/transcultural discussion and reflection (at home). I wrote to myself, "This is a good response to the MLA special report that calls for translingual competence, not native-like proficiency. So in the end, what are our goals for the basic language program (BLP)? What do we want to achieve? (It seems like right now we are only focused on language acquisition.) What does the university want tot achieve? Why do they require foreign languages? What do students actually want to achieve in these required courses? Lastly, what does our society need us to achieve to further our civic society?"
  • Conversation partners. Rice and Carnegie Mellon both have "conversation partners" for their language students. The partners are advanced undergraduates (at Carnegie Mellon, anyway), and they are paid for that work. Could we use Mi Pueblo in a more systemic way like this? Or should we implement the conversation partners model?
  • Our department excels at linguistics and second language acquisition research. However, there is a broader body of literature and research out there that people draw upon for their language programs. We should widen our perspective.
  • I like the idea of a required 1-credit portfolio course during students' senior year, like they have done at Northern Illinois University. I wonder if we could do that at a School level, not just the department level.
  • Robert Davis showed the organization chart of their Spanish basic language program at the University of Oregon; he is the director of the program geared toward L2 learners, and Claudia Holguin is in charge of the program geared toward heritage learners. That brought to my mind other ways to organize a language program. At Rice, like Stanford, the language courses are their own program; the linguistics and languages are a separate department. What other ways could we logically organize ourselves? When's the last time we thought about this? How do our new online courses fit in? Could experiential learning have its own channel?
  • How can we make our courses more inclusive for students with disabilities, from a social justice perspective? I was very inspired by Muriel Gallego's talk, but I'd like to know more about how we can do that. We need to do that.
  • Finally, how does the emphasis on pragmatics and intercultural communicative competence fit in with the cultural competence sections I wrote for Día a día: de lo personal a lo profesional? I mean, the perspective of the presenters was still very language based, whereas my sections in the textbook have a more conceptual framework and tackle social issues. How can these two approaches fit together?

Monday, October 10, 2016

How to Prepare to Be a Facilitator in Business Spanish Class

by Ann Abbott

As I've written here before, I like to have my Business Spanish students practice being facilitators. I think it's a very important skill to have in business, and I think they already have enough practice giving presentations.

But the fact that it is not a common academic assignment can create confusion. So here is one student's explanation to other students about how to prepare.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Tensions in Spanish Programs Cannot Hold

Picture of a wave representing the forces of change coming towards Spanish programs
by Ann Abbott

One of the hats I wear in my job is Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work closely with our advisor, I speak directly with potential students and their parents, and I am on our department's curriculum committee.


On the one hand, I am passionate about Spanish and how it can help students understand our world differently, better. Studying Spanish, studying abroad in Barcelona for one year, and doing the PhD in Spanish literature gave me many wonderful experiences and tools. That was back in the 80s and 90s. On the other hand, I see some very important tensions that make me wonder about the long-term growth of Spanish as a serious, engaged, intellectual program on US college campuses.


1. Spain-centric programs

Spain has central role in both the typical curriculum and in students' imagination of "Spanish," yet Spain is a small piece of the Spanish-speaking world and of Spanish-language cultural production.


2. Spanish as a tool

Many students want to study the Spanish language to add it their their resumes, whereas faculty and courses are aimed at the discipline of "Hispanic Studies," not (or not just) learning Spanish.


3. Heritage speakers 

With few but notable exceptions, Spanish programs are structured to teach Spanish as a foreign language, even though the number of heritage speakers in the US will continue to grow--and second-language learners need to learn about and with the Spanish speakers of this country.


These issues have been clear to me for a while now, but recently, in a one-week span, I saw them play out before my eyes in three different occasions.

Business Spanish Students' Social Media Posts

Students in my Business Spanish course are learning about bilingual social media marketing and creating posts for the Spanish-Advising UIUC Facebook page. The first week, almost all the posts were about Spain, except for the posts prepared by heritage learners that featured information about Latin America and US Latinos.

They were given free reign. They could post about anything. My only directive was that they post something that they believed would be of interest to our Illinois students of Spanish.

And that was Spain. 

Their posts were good. Their intentions were good. You could see as they were working together to create the posts that they were passionate and interested in the topic and in sharing their interest in Spanish. But the idea of "Spain"--as a study abroad destination, as a place to visit, as a historical place--predominated.


Dying to Get In! Documentary Screening and Student Panel

I attended a screening of this documentary a couple of days after my students turned in their Facebook posts. (By the way, it was a very good documentary that you can watch on YouTube.) After the film, there was a panel of three Latino student activists speaking about the documentary. They spoke about why they are activists and how other students can get involved.

I raised my hand and said, “I’m from the Spanish department, and we teach students how to speak Spanish, but how can we get them to be interested in Spanish speakers? (We know from reports on campus microaggressions that many students demean Spanish-speakers.)

Interestingly, the students mentioned my “Spanish in the Community” course (they did not know me or know that it was my course) as one way to do that. They said that not many students know about the course, and one student said she is a Spanish minor and she didn’t take the course herself, though she wanted to, because she was trying to just finish up her requirements. Then a Latina/o Studies grad student said that she had met many LLS students who were minoring in Spanish—and she was surprised by that—who want to learn more about their cultures in our classes. She suggested that our departments collaborate more.

So our Spanish program is not seen as integrated with Latino/a Studies, the courses that interest our heritage learners aren’t required (don’t check off a box, yet), and the issues and activism related to Spanish and Spanish-speakers in the US is not featured prominently in the required courses.


Major/Minor Fair

The Division of General Studies hosts a Majors/Minors Fair each year, and our advisor, a current student and I attended last week. In less than two hours we spoke to over 50 students who visited our table.
All were interested in the Spanish minor. None were interested in the major.

Our minor consists of six courses. Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP test receive credit for two of those courses, leaving them with only four courses to complete the minor. Very do-able!

The students who had taken the AP test were almost all white. They were already two courses ahead in our curriculum.

Of the heritage speakers who came to the table, almost none of them had taken the AP test. So they have to go through the entire curriculum, despite the fact that they probably have as much or more knowledge of “Spanish” as they second-language learners who took the AP test.

That makes me pretty uncomfortable. White students, it seems from my non-scientific assessment, are more likely to take the AP test in high school which is probably geared mostly toward second language learners anyway. Then they come to college and the second language learners have another leg up on the heritage speakers because they automatically already have credit for two required Spanish courses.

[Update: A colleague informed me that almost two-thirds of students who take the Spanish AP exam are heritage speakers. So perhaps this experience reflects the make-up of the student body at my university more than anything else. This is an interesting question that deserves follow-up.]

Finally, I encouraged students to consider studying abroad to complete the minor, and almost everyone—including heritage learners—were interested in going to Spain.

Conclusion

I don't have a nice, neat conclusion for this post. 

These things worry me, and they do have solutions. But the solutions aren't palatable to the people who would need to make the changes. 

But if we don't change our Spanish programs, eventually, we will be changed...

The Tensions in Spanish Programs Cannot Hold

Picture of a wave representing the forces of change coming towards Spanish programs
by Ann Abbott


One of the hats I wear in my job is Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work closely with our advisor, I speak directly with potential students and their parents, and I am on our department's curriculum committee.

On the one hand, I am passionate about Spanish and how it can help students understand our world differently, better. Studying Spanish, studying abroad in Barcelona for one year, and doing the PhD in Spanish literature gave me many wonderful experiences and tools. That was back in the 80s and 90s. On the other hand, I see some very important tensions that make me wonder about the long-term growth of Spanish as a serious, engaged, intellectual program on US college campuses.

1. Spain-centric programs

Spain has central role in both the typical curriculum and in students' imagination of "Spanish," yet Spain is a small piece of the Spanish-speaking world and of Spanish-language cultural production.

2. Spanish as a tool

Many students want to study the Spanish language to add it their their resumes, whereas faculty and courses are aimed at the discipline of "Hispanic Studies," not (or not just) learning Spanish.

3. Heritage speakers 

With few but notable exceptions, Spanish programs are structured to teach Spanish as a foreign language, even though the number of heritage speakers in the US will continue to grow--and second-language learners need to learn about and with the Spanish speakers of this country.

These issues have been clear to me for a while now, but recently, in a one-week span, I saw them play out before my eyes in three different occasions.

Business Spanish Students' Social Media Posts

Students in my Business Spanish course are learning about bilingual social media marketing and creating posts for the Spanish-Advising UIUC Facebook page. The first week, almost all the posts were about Spain, except for the posts prepared by heritage learners that featured information about Latin America and US Latinos.

They were given free reign. They could post about anything. My only directive was that they post something that they believed would be of interest to our Illinois students of Spanish.

And that was Spain. 

Their posts were good. Their intentions were good. You could see as they were working together to create the posts that they were passionate and interested in the topic and in sharing their interest in Spanish. But the idea of "Spain"--as a study abroad destination, as a place to visit, as a historical place--predominated.


Documentary Screening and Student Panel

I attended a screening of Dying to Get In! a couple of days after my students turned in their Facebook posts. (By the way, it was a very good documentary that you can watch on YouTube.) After the film, there was a panel of three Latino student activists speaking about the documentary. They spoke about why they are activists and how other students can get involved.

I raised my hand and said, “I’m from the Spanish department, and we teach students how to speak Spanish, but how can we get them to be interested in Spanish speakers? (We know from reports on campus microaggressions that many students demean Spanish-speakers.)

Interestingly, the students mentioned my “Spanish in the Community” course (they did not know me or know that it was my course) as one way to do that. They said that not many students know about the course, and one student said she is a Spanish minor and she didn’t take the course herself, though she wanted to, because she was trying to just finish up her requirements. Then a Latina/o Studies grad student said that she had met many LLS students who were minoring in Spanish—and she was surprised by that—who want to learn more about their cultures in our classes. She suggested that our departments collaborate more.

So our Spanish program is not seen as integrated with Latino/a Studies, the courses that interest our heritage learners aren’t required (don’t check off a box, yet), and the issues and activism related to Spanish and Spanish-speakers in the US is not featured prominently in the required courses.

Major/Minor Fair

The Division of General Studies hosts a Majors/Minors Fair each year, and our advisor, a current student and I attended last week. In less than two hours we spoke to over 50 students who visited our table.
All were interested in the Spanish minor. None were interested in the major.

Our minor consists of six courses. Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP test receive credit for two of those courses, leaving them with only four courses to complete the minor. Very do-able!

The students who had taken the AP test were almost all white. They were already two courses ahead in our curriculum.

Of the heritage speakers who came to the table, almost none of them had taken the AP test. So they have to go through the entire curriculum, despite the fact that they probably have as much or more knowledge of “Spanish” as they second-language learners who took the AP test.

That makes me pretty uncomfortable. White students, it seems from my non-scientific assessment, are more likely to take the AP test in high school which is probably geared mostly toward second language learners anyway. Then they come to college and the second language learners have another leg up on the heritage speakers because they automatically already have credit for two required Spanish courses.

Finally, I encouraged students to consider studying abroad to complete the minor, and almost everyone—including heritage learners—were interested in going to Spain.

Conclusion

I don't have a nice, neat conclusion for this post. 

These things worry me, and they do have solutions. But the solutions aren't palatable to the people who would need to make the changes. 

But if we don't change our Spanish programs, eventually, we will be changed...