Category: Heritage Language Education

Are Heritage Language Learners More Proficient Speakers than Writers?

A text bubble with Spanish writing


  Alberta Gatti
  Syelle Graves


The Study

This page features details about ILETC’s 2020 publication in Foreign Language Annals, entitled “Are Heritage Speakers of Spanish Significantly Better at Speaking than at Writing? Results of an experiment on writing and speaking proficiencies—actual and perceived.”

Summary Published on OASIS

View the summary below; download a pdf of it here.

The summary has been published on the OASIS (Open Accessible Summaries in Language Studies) website, here, where it can also be freely downloaded.

OASIS_summary_Gatti Graves Are Heritage Speakers for ILETC SITE

Visit the Publication

Visit the publication on the Foreign Language Annals website: DOI

Full Citation

Gatti, A., & Graves, S. (2020). Are Heritage Speakers of Spanish Significantly Better at Speaking than at Writing? Results of an experiment on writing and speaking proficiencies—actual and perceived. Foreign Language Annals, 53(4),  940–941.

Survey Instrument Published on IRIS

This study’s survey instrument has been openly shared for use here on the IRIS database (a digital repository of instruments and materials for research into second languages). The survey can also be downloaded on the ILETC website, here.

Video Abstract

The video abstract below has also been published by Wiley on the Foreign Language Annals website, at



Heritage Language Learner

A student who is raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speaks or at least understands the language, and who is to some degree bilingual in that language and in English. Based on Valdés 2000.


The language a person listens to, hears, or sees (in the case of sign language) that has communicative intent.


The process of meaning-making, in our case, from and through language, that is both creative and critical. As the multiliteracies movement advocates, meaning-making “should be regarded as a dynamic process of transformation, rather than process of reproduction.” Writers, in this sense, are not just replicating conventions, but questioning and transforming them.  ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis


“The ability to use language in real world situations in a spontaneous interaction and non-rehearsed context and in a manner acceptable and appropriate to native speakers of the language. Proficiency demonstrates what a language user is able to do regardless of where, when or how the language was acquired.” ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners 2012, page 4.

Heritage Arabic eBook (HAeB)

Here you will find resources on teaching Arabic heritage language learners (HLLs). These pages aim to provide instructors with research and pedagogical materials that address the unique cultural and linguistic backgrounds of heritage language learners of Arabic as well as the need for more context-based and project-based learning activities to be used with these learners. These materials maintain that language learning must be rooted in the language used by students in their communities, and that they be culturally relevant to them. The HAeB pages include reviews of research on heritage language learners and classroom activity ideas for your university-level classroom. These materials are intended to complement the leading Arabic language textbooks used at U.S. universities by providing additional, research-based support for heritage language acquisition.

For more information, visit the CILC Heritage Arabic eBook (HAEB) page.

Project Background

Since 2015, the Center for Integrated Language Communities (CILC) – a National Language Resource Center housed at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) – has been producing diverse Arabic language pedagogical materials for college-level Arabic classes for heritage language learners (HLLs). This project was developed in response to the long-standing focus on Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) in U.S. Arabic language teaching, and to the recent instructional shift towards incorporating spoken Arabic into the curriculum. While this shift helps to more accurately mirror the linguistic reality of the Arab world, it also creates a situation in which heritage language learners either vastly outpace absolute beginners in speaking and listening or are pushed to learn (spoken) dialects other than those they are familiar with. Hence, the goal of this project is to offer free, open-source materials for heritage Arabic instructors to better address the needs of their students.

Implicit vs. Explicit Knowledge

There has been considerable debate in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) regarding the usefulness of explicit rule-based instruction for language acquisition. Since many Arabic textbooks focus significantly on explicit grammatical instruction, these debates are important for Arabic language instructors to consider when developing their course plans. VanPatten (2016) is one of the most vocal proponents of the idea that “based on the nature of language as mental representation and the nature of acquisition…explicit knowledge cannot become implicit knowledge or help its development” (650). He argues that explicit and implicit instruction are very different processes and result in the acquisition of very different kinds of knowledge.

Many of the activities that we offer on this website focus much more on developing and reinforcing implicit knowledge than on explicit grammar instruction. This is because most of the leading textbooks in the US already concentrate considerably on explicit grammar instruction. Educators who are looking for explicit grammar instruction activities already have significant materials available to them. Also, HLLs have a strong base of implicit knowledge with respect to their heritage language from which further proficiency and literacy may be developed through classroom activities. The heritage language materials offered here aim to help students gain some metalinguistic awareness of the differences between “dialect” and MSA. We encourage educators to engage in regular discussions with their students about the struggles they may encounter when learning MSA as a new register of Arabic.

Main Goals of Materials

The main goals of these materials are to develop:

  1. Linguistic awareness: What knowledge should Arabic HLLs have about the sociolinguistic dynamics and ideologies rendered by the Arabic language (including the social contexts and values attributed to different varieties of language) in order to evaluate and feel confident about their usages of different registers in different contexts?
  2. Communicative competence: What do Arabic HLLs need to be able to do with both MSA and their colloquial variety in order to communicate in the Arabic speaking world as well as in their US communities?
  3. Literacy practices: What literacy practices in colloquial Arabic (such as text message exchanges between family members, social media posts, etc.) do Arabic HLLs already engage in that may serve as a bridge to MSA literacy?

Heritage Telecollaboration – Home

The proliferation of digital communication platforms has greatly enhanced opportunities for long-distance interactions and intercultural experiences, and several effective forms of telecollaborative language learning have arisen in the field of foreign language instruction. Language teachers can connect students to target communities through web conferencing, email partnerships, social networks, and other synchronous and  asynchronous channels. Despite mounting interest among educators in telecollaboration and intercultural competence,  successfully incorporating these technologies within the structures and demands of traditional language classrooms and programs is no simple matter.

Heritage language classes are particularly ripe for telecollaborative learning. Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) have complex linguistic identities, and benefit greatly from academic experiences that engage their awareness of cultural and linguistic contexts and their points of connection.

Partnering with universities in the US and abroad, the Heritage Telecollaboration project (HT) at CILC has designed and piloted telecollaboration modules for heritage Spanish and Mandarin Chinese courses at four-year and community colleges. This website provides free access to the sample modules, as well as to a collection of reviews of relevant research, suggestions for free telecollaborative technology tools, and information on relevant conferences and professional development opportunities for telecollaboration in language education.

For more information, visit the CILC Heritage Telecollaboration (HT) page.

HT News: Fall 2016

From the desk of Valeria Belmonti.

Greetings from the Heritage Telecollaboration team!

We hope that everyone had as enjoyable and productive a summer as we did. Below are some updates from our projects and activities.

Project Development

During the summer, we finalized the design of two telecollaborative modules which will be piloted this semester in Professor Cheng’s Heritage Chinese class at Hunter College, in partnership with Professor Guo’s English class at Inner Mongolia Normal University in Hohhot, China.

This semester we will also begin to analyze the data collected in the other pilots that were run by HT faculty last year. The findings of this research will eventually be disseminated through publications; we will release more information about our studies and publications towards the end of this semester.


As communicated in June, our HT projects will be presented at the upcoming ACTFL Convention in Boston. Below you will find the details of our presentations. We hope to see you there!

Telecollaborative Mobile Apps

Presented During:  ACTFL Roundtable Presentations III
Friday, November 18, 2:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
Room: Exhibit Hall A & B1

Roundtable Presenter: Valeria Belmonti

Participants will be introduced to freely available mobile applications that can assist in connecting students to other speakers or learners of the target language and engaging them in telecollaborative projects. Programs’ interface and setup will be demonstrated, followed by a discussion on sample learning activities and teaching ideas.

Heritage Telecollaboration and the Construction of US Latin@ Identity

Saturday November 19, 8:00 a.m.–9:00 a.m.
Room: Room 261

Session Presenters: Laura Villa, Aránzazu Borrachero, Michael Rolland

How can heritage language educators use telecollaboration (TC) to tackle questions of language variation and identity? Presenters will offer insights from two pilot courses connecting US Latin@ students from diverse areas and backgrounds, encouraging students to rethink Latin@ identity while working to expand their linguistic repertoires.

Intercultural Discussions with Foreign Partners Using Smartphones

Saturday, November 19, 8:00 a.m.–9:00 a.m.
Room: Room 204B

Session Presenter: Valeria Belmonti

The presentation shares a task-based model of telecollaboration in which students complete intercultural activities with foreign partners using the free mobile application WeChat. Sample tasks, assessments, excerpts from student chats and presentations, and the feedback of from students and instructors will be discussed.

PLEASE NOTE: Even though two of our sessions will take place simultaneously, you can also obtain more information about our projects by stopping by our booth during the convention!

Our Chinese HT projects will also be presented at the NECTFL 2017 Conference, which will take place in New York City, February 9–11, 2017. For more information please visit:


On October 1, we will conduct a professional development workshop for the language faculty at Bennington College, VT. The topic of the workshop will be Telecollaboration and Technology for Language Teaching and Learning. If you are an educator interested in organizing a technology professional development opportunity for your language teachers, please contact Valeria Belmonti at


During the summer, we established a partnership with the UNI-Collaboration network, a European-based platform aimed at supporting the organization of online intercultural exchanges among universities. Our HT coordinator, Valeria Belmonti, has joined the Uni-Collaboration Liaisons Team and she will be, together with Sabine Levet at MIT, the US liaison to the UNI-Collaboration organization.

Inspired by the work of the Uni-Collaboration network and by the continuously growing interest for our Spanish HT projects, we are also in the process of creating a virtual network dedicated to US Spanish educators interested in designing domestic telecollaboration projects to explore topics and issues related to Latin@ Identity in the US. Stay tuned for more information.

Valeria Belmonti is the Associate Director of Technology at CILC and Coordinator of the Heritage Telecollaboration project.

HT – Spanish Modules


Materials for Modules

Many of the materials listed in the modules are specific to one of the cities participating in the pilots. The historical, regional, and political contexts in which your institution situates itself should help dictate what materials are most meaningful to your students and your class. Regardless of which materials are used, it is important that students have access to visual or audiovisual materials that provide meaningful input and help prepare them for the activities.

Proficiency Level(s) and Language Use

The modules were initially designed and piloted for Spanish heritage language learners in the Intermediate High to Advanced High proficiency range (ACTFL proficiency scale, 2012). However, modifications can be made to adapt them for a variety of proficiency levels. The materials are in English, Spanish, or in both languages. Activities can be conducted in Spanish or English depending on the proficiency level of learners and the specific goal(s) of the activity.

Guidance for Creating and Evaluating Writing Assignments

​Additional guidance on how to create effective writing assignments can be found here.

Student Reflections: Conventions, Formatting, and Spell-Check

Some website creation tools do not check Spanish spelling. Students may be instructed to write their blog posts, replies, or reflections in a Word document using a Spanish spell-checker, then cut and paste their text to the website.

Group Work

Some activities in this course are planned for small groups (3-4 students). Instructors should match up a small group from one school with a small group from the other school. These groups may change during the semester so students have a chance to work with different peers.

Learning Objectives

The activities were developed to support the following learning objectives:





Write, read, listen and speak clearly and effectively

Use analytical reasoning skills

Use information management and technology skills effectively for academic research and lifelong learning

Integrate knowledge and skills across disciplines

Differentiate and make informed decisions about issues based on cultural and political value systems

Work collaboratively in diverse groups directed at accomplishing learning objectives

Identify and compare specific urban spaces in cities that have been impacted by and continue to be impacted by migratory movements from Spanish-speaking countries

Understand the intercultural dynamics that the Latinx presence adds to the urban fabric and cultural diversity of cities at various levels: individual, communal, cultural, and governmental


Read and listen critically and analytically, including identifying and evaluating major assumptions and assertions of an argument

Write clearly and persuasively in varied academic formats and across a variety of contexts, purposes, audiences, and media

Develop skills to critique and improve one’s own and others’ texts

Become aware of dialectal and register differences in Spanish, as well as the social consequences of their use

Develop the ability to use formal and informal registers in Spanish according to context and choice

Create original works as a means of personal or group expressions

Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, employing a variety of digital environments and media

Demonstrate research skills using appropriate technology, including gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing primary and secondary sources

Understand and use web applications

HT Module – Family and Migration

Produced by
Aránzazu Borrachero, Valeria Belmonti, and Katherine Entigar

Download Module as PDF

Preparation and Resources


Students will work independently and with their peers from both institutions (C1 and C2) to:

  1. investigate their family origins, including their migration histories and reasons for coming to the United States
  2. explore the relationship between their family’s country of origin – its history, politics and economic context – and their family’s migration experiences
  3. investigate how the history and politics of the United States are related to their family’s migration history


  1. Documentary: Harvest of Empire. Dirs. E. López and P. Getzels (2012)
  2. Information for creating in-text APA citations and APA-formatted References/Works Cited sections:
    1. In-text citations (APA style)
    2. Creating a References/Works Cited Section:

Technology Resources/Requirements

  1. Class website
  2. Video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime [to be used with Mac/Apple users]

Activity 1: Contextualizing Family Histories

The purpose of this activity is for students to learn about the broader economic, political, and social contexts surrounding the migration of their families to the United States through a documentary film and through individual research.​

Preparation for Videoconference

Harvest of Empire

Show the first 15–20 minutes of Harvest of Empire in class and discuss it with students. What are some initial impressions, reactions, and questions that emerge for them in watching this first block of the documentary? What are some ideas that surprise them? What did they already know? Assign the rest of the movie for students to watch on their own in preparation for next steps in this module.

In class, divide students into small groups to discuss Harvest of Empire. Have each group choose 1–2 countries they are interested in and assign 1–3 additional countries to each group for discussion. (The goal is for all eight countries to be covered by the different student groups in the class.) See below a list of suggested questions for discussion of the countries included in the film. In addition to focusing on individual country histories, have students discuss the questions included in the Conclusions block below. When students have finished their small group discussions, debrief as a class, building upon student ideas and offering additional insights as needed.

  1.  Questions (adapted from original online resource [no longer available]):
  2.  Puerto Rico
  3.  Why was the United States interested in Puerto Rico? Cite historical facts and economic factors.
    ii.    How has the United States benefited from Puerto Rican migration? How have Puerto Ricans benefited?
    iii.    What type of discrimination have Puerto Ricans faced in the United States?
  4.  Guatemala
  5.  What did Arbenz try to do in Guatemala?
    ii.    Is the United States responsible for the killings of Guatemalan soldiers? Why or why not?
  6.  Mexico
  7.  What is the meaning of the statement “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us”?
    ii.    Describe the relationship of Mexicans in the southwestern United States during the last 150 years to U.S. society, culture, and economy. What role(s) have Mexicans played? Do you think this is fair? Why or why not?
    iii.    What does the story of the Mexican doctor tell us about immigrants from Mexico and why they come to the United States?
    iv.    What have been the effects of NAFTA in Mexico? What about in the United States?
  8.  Cuba
  9.  How do you explain the fact that, during the first half of the 20th century, Cuba was both independent from and dependent upon the United States?
    ii.    Why did the Cuban refugees come to the United States after the Cuban revolution? What were they hoping to find, create, and/or change about their lives and those of their families?
  10.  The Dominican Republic
  11.  Why did the United States initially support Trujillo? Why did it stop supporting him?
    ii.    What have the experiences of immigrants from the Dominican Republic been in the United States?
  12.  Nicaragua
  13.  How would you describe the Somozas?
    ii.    Who helped put an end to Somoza’s domination?
    iii.    What did the Sandinistas do in Nicaragua?
    iv.    Explain the “Iran-Contra” scandal. Why was it a scandal?
  14.  El Salvador
  15.  The United States has historically been supportive of, or at least permissive to, political regimes which advocate and employ torture as a means of suppressing the general population in El Salvador. Why?
    ii.    The United States has historically admitted Latin American military leaders into the School of the Americas who later return to their countries and enact policies and actions that violate human rights. Why do you think this continues into the present day? Would you have supported Bishop Romero? Why or why not?
    iii.    What does the following quote from the documentary mean?: “When you finance and train a group of uniformed butchers who perpetrate massacres and destroy entire towns, you cannot say that people are emigrating, but rather that they are fleeing.”
  16.  Conclusions
  17.  Explain the title of the documentary.
    b.    What is its thesis (main idea and goal)?
    c.    What advantages and challenges do many Latin American immigrants experience when they arrive in this country?
    d.    Does the United States have a moral obligation to help people in the countries in which it has created instability? Why or why not?
    e.    At the end of the documentary, Juan González says: “We are all Americans of the New World and our most dangerous enemies are neither one nor the other, but the great wall of ignorance that exists between us.” What does he mean by this?
    f.    What most surprised you in the documentary? What did you find revealing? What did you find painful? What was inspiring to you?
    g.    After watching the documentary, have your perceptions of immigration, and the political, social, and economic contexts in which it takes place, changed?
    h.    What is the “spirit of America” that is mentioned at the end of the documentary?

(See additional teaching resources here.)

Background Research

Depending on the students’ research skills and experience, instructors may have to review and practice how to search for appropriate sources both online and offline, how to cite sources within a text and in the References/Works Cited section, how to avoid plagiarism in its different forms, how to summarize information in support of an argument, and other relevant topics.

​Inform students that they will conduct independent research about the political, social, and economic circumstances that existed in their families’ countries of origin leading up to and during the years in which their families migrated to the United States. Remind students to look for explanations, not simply descriptions or data. Suggested questions to guide students’ investigations include the following:

Set the political stage for your family’s country of origin at the time of their migration. Who were the country’s leaders? What political groups were in power? Were there other political actors, either inside or outside of the country, at the time?

  1. What was happening in the world at this time? What was the country’s relationship to the rest of the world politically and economically?
  2. What was the political, economic, and social state of affairs in your family’s country of origin at the time of their migration? What effect did such a context have on the population? How did this influence some people’s choice to immigrate to the United States?
  3. Are the immigration stories of other individuals and families in your country similar to your family’s story? In what ways? What, if anything, is unique about your family’s story?
  4. Were there any actions taken by the United States in your family’s country of origin which influenced its stability, safety, and/or ability to provide opportunities for its people? Consider economic, political, and/or social forces, pressures, and tensions across borders and between leaders and political groups.
  5. How was immigration from your family’s country of origin depicted by the U.S. media, politicians, and other public entities at the time? Find a news story or report that provides an example of this public discourse. How are immigrants from your family’s country of origin described and how is immigration described in broader terms? What stands out to you about this, if anything?

​Important: Remind students to take notes while they do their research, which they will then share with the rest of the class and with their peers at C2 by uploading them to the class website as a blog. In addition, have students create a Reference list for the sources they have consulted, which they will also include in their uploaded notes.

Task: Videoconference

Inform students that they will be meeting with the students at C2 to discuss their research and collaborate on new understandings about family migration and the historical, economic, and political contexts in which it takes place. In preparation for the videoconference, ask students to read their C2 peers’ research notes (see “Pre-Videoconference Activities: background research”), write three questions they want to ask them, and publish them as a question bank in the project home site. Sample questions include the following:

  1. What have you discovered in your research that you didn’t know about your family’s country of origin? Is there anything that you still want to find out?
  2. Have you had a chance to discuss your findings with any other member(s) of your family?
  3. If so, what was their response to your sharing the research you completed?

Have students discuss the questions they have generated in small groups with the students at C2 via videochat. When students have completed their chat with their peers at C2, have them upload their notes on the conversation to the class website in blog format.

Post-Videoconference Step

In-Class Discussion

  1. Ask students to read at home the notes uploaded by their C2 peers.
  2. Meet as a class to debrief about the videoconference experience. Ask students to reflect on what they found interesting, surprising, troubling, inspiring, etc. about their conversations with the students at C2.
    1. What new insights do they have about their own family backgrounds and histories, as well as the broader community histories this may reflect?
    2. Ask students to identify any patterns, similarities, differences, and/or unanswered questions that emerged in their discussions with the students at C2.

​How might this new knowledge contribute to knowledge sharing and solidarity building?

Activity 2: Exploring Family History through Interviews

The purpose of this activity is for students to learn about their families’ migration stories through interview-based research, and to compare these histories with those uncovered by their peers at C2.

Preparation for Videoconference


Have students write short blog comments on the class website in which they discuss what they know about their families’ personal migration histories[1]. Ask them to reflect on the following. How did your family get here, when, and why? Invite them to include anecdotes that they are comfortable with sharing. When students are finished, have them each comment substantively on another student’s blog, asking clarifying questions or drawing comparisons and contrasts with their own posts.

Family Interview

Prepare students to conduct research about family migration histories and experiences. They will accomplish this in the form of interviews conducted with a relative from their parents’ generation or from the previous one. In addition to the interview, students may include pictures of photographs, artifacts or other realia shared by their relatives, or create drawings of their own. It is important to inform students that interviews can bring up sensitive topics, memories and emotions, and that they must get permission from their interviewees to include any of the information collected, while also agreeing to omit anything that interviewees prefer to keep private. Interview questions can include some of the following:

  1. Tell me about how you came to the United States. Why did you emigrate from your country?
  2. Why did you choose the United States?
  3. What and who did you leave behind in your country of origin?
  4. Do you have any contact today with the country where you come from?
  5. Have you visited your country of origin since you have been in the United States?
  6. What language or languages are spoken in your country of origin and in your region of the country? Do you speak it/them with your family here or back home?
  7. Do you think it is important for your children to speak the language(s) of your country of origin and/or your region of the country? Why or why not?
  8. Did you study English before coming to the United States? Have you studied English since you’ve been here? Explain.
  9. In what language do you dream? In what language do you think?
  10. What is it like to live between two countries, two cultures, and two languages?
  11. Did you bring an important personal object with you when you emigrated? Why did you bring this with you? Do you still have it? If so, would you mind if I took a picture of it?
  12. Do you have a photograph of yourself or another artifact from the time before you migrated? If so, would you mind if I took a picture of it?

Have students post to the project home site their completed interviews along with an image; for example, a photograph they took of a family artifact, an image they drew to document the experience, or something else. Ask them to include a short (3–5 sentence) description of this image, including an account of why they chose it to represent their family’s immigration story.

Ask students to read at least two interviews (one from a C1 peer and one from a C2 peer) and comment on them on the home site.

 Task: Videoconference

Ask students to form small groups (3–4 students). Inform them that they will work together to discuss with their C2 peers the artifacts they posted to the project home site and their interviews with their relatives. Instruct students to take notes on the ideas and themes that emerge during the telecollaboration, paying attention to similarities and differences between stories, perspectives, and experiences. Some ideas and questions to discuss with their C2 partners may include:

  1. What was it like to research your family’s migration history?
  2. What new facts and stories did you learn?
  3. What feelings and reactions did this bring up?
  4. What commonalities and/or differences have you detected between your family’s migration history and that of other students in C1 and C2?

Post-Videoconference Step

In-Class Discussion

Have a class conversation addressing students’ observations about the experience of exchanging images and family migration histories with the students at C2. Some guiding questions may include:

  1. What was it like to share your family’s migration history with the students at C2, and to learn about their families’ stories? What feelings and reactions did this bring up?
  2. What commonalities and/or differences emerged in your family’s migration history compared to that of other students in your class? What about the students at C2?
  3. What role did/does language play in the telling, recording, and reporting of your family’s migration history? Are there some experiences, details, etc. that need to be expressed in one language rather than the other? Explain.
  4. Are there any general themes/ideas that have emerged in our shared immigration backgrounds? How might these ideas be a basis for building shared understandings and solidarity among immigrant groups?
 At Home: Written Reflection

Prepare your students to reflect on this experience in a written response. Invite them to draw upon their research and the activities they have completed in this module to write a 2–3 page essay summarizing what they have learned. They should write in narrative form, rather than responding to questions point by point, about the topics listed below. Prior to assigning the written reflection, discuss the rubric with the class. See a sample reflection at the end of the document. Remind them also to include the bibliography that they have used. These reflections will be posted on the project home site and shared with their peers at C2 for comments/feedback.

  1. What is your family’s country of origin? Describe its historical, political and economic context before and around the time your family migrated to the United States.
  2. What do you know about the history and politics of the United States in relation to your family’s country of origin and to Latin America in general?
  3. What are the connections between the contexts described above and your family’s decision to migrate?
  4. What have you learned from working with your C2 peers? Analyze and explain similarities and differences between families’ experiences and stories.

Have students post the reflection on the class website. Ask them to comment substantively on and/or ask questions about two other reflections either by their classmates at C1 and/or the students at C2. For example, they can state that they like/identify with the reflection, but they should also think critically about what was said, why the creator did what s/he did, etc., and comment on this. Have students respond to one comment that they received about their own reflection.

[1]Please note: As an individual’s or family’s immigration story is both personal and powerful, instructors should be sensitive to issues of safety and privacy. Students’ decision to share – or decision not to – should be paramount and thus be respected without question. A related issue to be considered is the sharing of personal/family information on the project home site; given the current political environment, students may justifiably feel anxiety about issues of exposure related to their or their family members’ status. In such instances, we suggest that instructors consider employing alternative ways for students to share family stories that do not reveal any identifying information, e.g., writing a collective post for the class, anonymizing posting, etc.

Rubric: Reflection

Sample Reflection

Familia y emigración

Todos los estudiantes de C1 y C2 vienen de familias de inmigrantes, pero hasta ahora no nos habíamos interesado por saber un poco más de estas historias de inmigración: cómo es que estamos aquí o por qué nuestras familias- papás, abuelos o bisabuelos- emigraron. En este módulo de Familia y Emigración todos hemos tomado conciencia de dónde provenimos y de que, gracias a nuestra familia de inmigrantes, estamos donde estamos, con una mejor vida y con un buen porvenir, sin necesidad de pasar sufrimiento, de aguantar hambre por la pobreza o sin tener dónde vivir por culpa de decisiones políticas y económicas de los poderes que nos gobiernan.

​Mi familia viene de Guatemala. Al investigar sobre Guatemala he sentido que descubría un nuevo país. Hay tantas cosas que desconocía. He sabido que, antes de que los españoles llegaran, Guatemala fue la cuna de una civilización muy desarrollada, con 2,000 años de antigüedad: los mayas. No me voy a extender sobre la historia maya porque quiero hablar sobre las razones que llevaron a mi familia a emigrar, pero me ha gustado mucho saber que en mis orígenes hay una cultura indígena muy avanzada que se mezcló con la cultura española durante la colonización.

Voy a saltar hasta los siglos XIX y XX para hablar de la presencia de los intereses comerciales de los Estados Unidos en Guatemala, que se reflejan muy bien en la historia de la United Fruit Company en mi país. La United no estuvo presente solo en Guatemala, sino que se enriqueció con los productos de la tierra de varios países de Centroamérica y Sudamérica. He encontrado un poema de Pablo Neruda titulado “La United Fruit Co.” que dice:

la Compañía Frutera Inc.
se reservó lo más jugoso,
la costa central de mi tierra,
la dulce cintura de América. (Canto general, 1950)

Y así fue. Con la complicidad de las oligarquías guatemaltecas y gobiernos como el de Justo Rufino Barrios (1873–1885), Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898–1920) y Jorge Ubico (1931–1944) la United se convirtió en la fuerza económica más importante del país. Esta situación cambió con la llegada de Juan José Arévalo (1945–1951) y, sobre todo, Jacobo Arbenz (1951–1954). Arbenz intentó llevar a cabo una reforma agraria que iba en contra de los intereses norteamericanos. Por ejemplo, la United Fruit tendría que devolver tierras al Estado. Esto hizo que los Estados Unidos, a través de la CIA, apoyara un levantamiento militar contra Arbenz, a quien acusaron de comunista y loco.

A partir de entonces se desató una guerra civil en Guatemala que duró más de treinta años. La guerrilla campesina, el ejército y los grupos paramilitares de ultraderecha se enfrentaron y dejaron decenas de miles de víctimas. En 1982, otro golpe de estado militar puso en el poder al general Efraín Ríos Montt, responsable de un genocidio contra los indígenas. La violencia extrema continuó con otros presidentes hasta que se firmaron los acuerdos de paz en 1996.

En total, la guerra civil dejó más de cien mil muertos y cuarenta mil desaparecidos y obligó a más de cien mil personas a dejar el país. Mi familia sufrió en carne y hueso la violencia política de Ríos Montt. A mi papá lo obligaron a pelear con el ejército y después lo dejaron libre, pero un tío de mi papá, que se opuso a colaborar con el ejército, fue asesinado. Lo dejaron tirado en el monte, muerto. Enterarme de lo que mi familia pasó antes de llegar a Estados Unidos fue sorprendente.

Al leer las investigaciones e historias personales de los estudiantes de C1 y C2, he averiguado que muchos venimos de familias que buscaban un refugio para poder seguir viviendo, para salir adelante; que la mayoría de nuestros padres han venido a los Estados Unidos sin saber inglés y sin papeles, y superando grandes obstáculos; que nuestros países tienen problemas en común, como la desigualdad y la pobreza, que obligan a que las personas emigren. Aprendí que las políticas de Estados Unidos también son responsables de estos movimientos de migración. Estados Unidos es un país que, así como da, también quita y comete injusticias.

Bibliography Consulted

Aguilera, Gabriel. Realizar un imaginario: la paz en Guatemala, Guatemala, UNESCO/FLACSO, 2003.

Higonnet, Etelle (ed.). Quiet Genocide: Guatemala 1981–1983. Routledge, 2017.

Neruda, Pablo. “La United Fruit Co.”. Canto General. Spanish Poems. 2 mayo 2016

Sabino, Carlos. Guatemala, La Historia Silenciada: (1944–1989). Fondo de Cultura Económica de Guatemala, 2008.

Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. Dir. Eduardo Lopez y Peter Getzels. Independent Pictures, 2012.

HT Module – Access to Higher Education

Produced by
Aránzazu Borrachero, Valeria Belmonti, and Katherine Entigar

Download Module as PDF

Preparation and Resources


Students will work independently and with their peers from both institutions (C1 and C2) to:

  1. Compare the institutional similarities and differences between C1 and C2 through data collection, analysis and reflection
  2. Explore and expand their knowledge of the higher education system in the United States
  3. Reflect on their educational choices, including topics such as access, location, programming, and other institutional features
  4. Analyze issues of inequality in the context of higher education


  1. Readings and Videos: Below is a suggested list of resources that address each of the themes which appear in this module. Instructors are encouraged to select/add the resources that would be most meaningful for their particular group of students as well as the regional and demographic context of their institution.
    1. Community Colleges
      1. Las ventajas de un community college
      2. Colegios comunitarios; por qué elegirlos
      3. Colegios comunitarios, límites y desafíos (I, II, III)
      4. Los colegios comunitarios ofrecen educación para los trabajos que Trump sigue prometiendo; entonces, ¿por qué los castiga tanto?
    2. Educational Inequalities in the United States
      1. Educación de peor calidad y más abandono entre negros e hispanos
      2. La educación en Estados Unidos: un acceso desigual
      3. El sistema educativo de Estados Unidos presenta claras desigualdades raciales
      4. Cómo la desigualdad asfixia a EE.UU.
      5. “A Tale of Two Schools” (video)
      6. “Tale of Two Schools: Race and Education on Long Island – Part 1”
      7. “TEDxWashingtonHeights – Monica Martinez – A Latina’s Story of Attaining A Higher Education.m4v”
    3. Student Debt and Other Challenges in Pursuing Higher Education in the United States
      1. El impago de la deuda estudiantil se dispara en Estados Unidos
      2. Las razones por las que millones en EEUU no terminan la universidad
      3. Estados Unidos: ¿racismo y desigualdad en la universidad?
      4. Life of Privilege Explained in $100 Race [to be shown in class]
  2. Fact Books from C1 and C2: Depending on the institution of higher education, instructors may be able to locate Fact Books containing detailed information about the student body, faculty, costs, and other information about their home institutions. See the Queensborough Community College Fact Book for an example.

Technology Resources/Requirements

  1. Class website
  2. Video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Skype, or Facetime (to be used with Mac/Apple users)


This module will be most effective – yielding better class discussion – if the two telecollaborative schools differ in terms of demographics as well as institutional context (geographic location, professor and organizational characteristics, political surroundings, etc.). Ideally, the collaboration would be between a 4-year school and a community college.

Activity 1: Understanding and Analyzing Data

The purpose of this activity is for students to explore quantitative data about their institutions and the implications of these data vis-à-vis educational inequality, and to compare these ideas with their peers at C2.

Preparation for Videoconference: Reviewing Institutional Fact Books

Prepare students to collect data in order to write a summary (see Pre-Task B). Provide students guidance about what type of summary to write. (A helpful starting resource for writing a summary can be found at 10 características de un resumen.)

Have students review the data sources for their college (C1) and the partner institution (C2). Ask them to focus on salient similarities and differences between these two sets of data. What stood out to them as surprising, striking, and/or worth a closer look? Have students take notes on any data/information that they found worthwhile to discuss in class.

Divide the class into small groups and ask them to look for the following information in the Fact Books and/or other resources for C1 as well as C2. Inform students that some data may not be available in their institution’s Fact Book or in the equivalent resource for C2.

Student information:

  1. Student enrollment
  2. The three majors with the highest enrollment
  3. Percentage of men and women
  4. Average age
  5. Ethnicity and race, including changes in the last ten years
  6. Primary language(s) spoken
  7. Place of residence
  8. High schools that students graduated from
  9. Graduation rates in three, five, and six years
  10. Percentage of students with financial aid
  11. Average income of current students
  12. Outside employment, including number of hours worked per week
  13. Number of students per instructor
  14. Tuition cost

Instructor information:

  1. Ethnicity
  2. Gender and rank
  3. Workload (how many credits they teach per semester). If this information is not in the Fact Book, have students ask you or another professor.

Preparation for Videoconference: Class Discussion

After students have reviewed C1’s Fact Book, reviewed the equivalent resource for C2, and taken notes on the above information, have them reconvene as a class to debrief. What were their findings, and what was striking, interesting or predictable about them?

Prepare students to write a summary (350–500 words) explaining the major similarities and differences that they have found. Their summary should cover the following points:

  1. What new information surprised you about your college? What information surprised you about C2? What did you find unsurprising?
  2. What do you think a Fact Book like this tells us about an institution of higher education? What do you think it leaves out?
  3. What information might be different for a different type of college (community college, four-year college or university)? Why do you think so?

Task: Videoconference

Advise your students that they will be preparing to discuss with their partners at C2 the data they have found about the two colleges. Divide students in small groups and ask each group to prepare a list of questions that they would like to ask their peers at C2. The list might include questions such as:

  1. What did you learn about your college by reviewing the Fact Book? What surprised you? What confirms certain things you suspected or observed? Does this information change your perspective about your college? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think and talk about “inequality” in your educational institution? If yes, in which context(s) (with instructors and classmates in class, with classmates outside class, with friends, family, etc.)? Think about what inequality means in economic, racial, gendered, and educational terms.
  3. What do you think of educational inequalities in the US? Are they considerable or negligible? Why? What broader inequalities do you think they reflect?

Pair small groups of C1 students with small groups of C2 students. Have them pose their questions to each other via videochat. When students have completed their chat with their peers, have them upload their notes about the conversation to the class website in blog format.

Post-Videoconference Step: Class Debrief

Debrief about the videoconference in class. Ask what students learned over the course of discussing the similarities and differences between C1 and C2. In small groups or as a class, talk about the notes that students took during the conference sessions, and have them include the information they gathered from their Fact Books.

Prepare students to reflect on this experience in the reflection. Prior to assigning the written reflection, discuss the reflection 2 rubric with students. Inform students that they are preparing to write reflection 2, a 2–3 page essay (see sample at the end of this document) about their perspectives on higher education in general in the United States, and how this connects to their experience as a student in a 4-year college or a community college. Remind students to write in narrative form rather than responding to questions point by point. Invite them to incorporate the following themes, discussing what particularly interested them for each theme:

  1. Education in the United States: What have you learned in this module? What topics have you found interesting, and how do they connect to your own educational experiences? Evaluate the education you have received up to this point. Do you think that it has been a quality education? What would you change about the education you have received?
  2. The telecollaboration experience: What was the experience of sharing insights with your peers at C2 in the telecollaboration like? How do you think this added to your understanding of your own educational context and experiences, as well as of larger questions and struggles in education in the United States today?
  3. New ideas, new directions: As a society, what can we do to provide educational equality for all children? For example, you might look into issues of policy (affirmative action as applied to education, education policy, housing policy, voting policy, etc.); social issues like racial segregation or income inequality; teacher education/preparation; programming that supports marginalized students and communities; and so on.

Have students write and post the reflection on the class website. Ask them to comment substantively on and/or ask questions about two other reflections either by their classmates at C1 and/or students from C2. Have students respond to one comment that they received about their own reflection.

Activity 2: Exploring Positive Experiences and Challenges in Higher Education

The purpose of this activity is for students to explore the concepts of privilege and educational inequality as systemic and historically informed features of their current experiences in higher education, and to draw connections between these experiences and those of their peers at C2.

Preparation for Videoconference: Choosing Your College

Have students discuss the following question as a class or in small groups: “Why did you choose a community college or a 4-year college for your education?” Using the board, brainstorm a list of possible reasons, including such themes as finances, location/proximity, reputation, convenience of schedule, and so on.

Discuss the term “privilege” with students. Have them write one or two sentences explaining what they understand by “privilege.” Facilitate a conversation about these ideas and expand upon them as a class.

Create a list of words and/or sentence starters that relate to privilege. Suggestions include: privilege/privilegio, access/acceso, rights/derechos, finances/finanzas/economía, advantages/disadvantages/ventajas/desventajas, prejudice/prejuicio, barriers/barreras; Going to college is made possible when…/Asistir a la universidad se hace posible cuando… Use this list to create the questionnaires (see for guidance), which can then be posted as hyperlinks on the project home space.

Work with the instructors at C2 to agree on a timeline for students’ completion of questionnaires and the publication of results. Invite students to complete the questionnaires in one sitting by responding to the prompts in any way that makes sense to them. Students can be encouraged to write in Spanish, English, or a combination of both languages.

Once students from both C1 and C2 have submitted their responses, publish the results from class on the project home site in a side-by-side comparison with the responses from the students at C2. (See example here.)

After publishing the results, discuss them in class with students, inviting them to identify similarities, differences and patterns within and between the two groups, and asking students to formulate possible explanations for these differences. Have students work in pairs to make a list of questions for discussion that they will ask the students at C2.

Preparation for Videoconference: Watching Life of Privilege, In-Class Discussion

Show students the film “Life of Privilege Explained in $100 Race

Have students discuss the video in small groups using the following suggested questions as a guide:

  1. What is your initial reaction to the video? What is it like to watch this with your classmates?
  2. Do you think this is an effective way of teaching what “privilege” is? Why or why not?
  3. In an exercise like this, where do you think you would be positioned? Why?
  4. Is it important to know what your position in the “competition of life” is? Why?

Discuss students’ responses to these questions as a class, and build vocabulary to support discussion.

Preparation for Videoconference: Building Background Information

Have students read the readings and watch the videos selected for class. Have them answer guiding questions and post their responses along with a picture they have taken of a place at the college that has meaning for them (e.g., a public meeting place, a classroom where they took a class that made an impact on them, etc.). Inform students that they will be commenting on the posts by the students at C2 as well. Guiding questions might include the following:

  1. When you were making decisions about college, what institutions did you consider? What factors or characteristics of these institutions helped you make the final decision? What was most important to you?
  2. Did you consider other options? Which?
  3. The resources you have reviewed speak about educational inequalities in the United States. Respond to the following questions in a paragraph: How do these inequalities manifest in society? What are the causes?
  4. You already have had experience in the educational system of this country. What have you observed and/or experienced with respect to the forms of inequality that were raised? If you are comfortable doing so, give specific examples.
  5. Discuss whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: “There can be no equality in our society if the same educational opportunities do not exist for everyone.” Include supporting details and examples to fortify your position.

After students have published their own posts, have them comment on two or more of the posts that the students from C2 published. Also have them respond to the questions and/or comments made on their posts.

Task: Videoconference

Advise students that they will be preparing to discuss the topics of privilege and forms of inequality in higher education (including prejudices and barriers based on race, class, etc.) with their partner group at C2. In small groups have students prepare a list of questions they would like to ask their peers. Sample questions:

  1. What was your reaction to the video “Life of privilege explained in $100 race”?
  2. What other resources did you review from the Materials list? What did you think about them and what feedback would you give the creator of these materials?
  3. Do you consider your university a place for privileged students? Why or why not?
  4. Do you have classmates or friends who rely on student loans? What have they said about this?
  5. Why do you think that educational inequalities are so great in the US? What broader inequalities do you think they reflect?

Pair small groups of C1 students with small groups of C2 students. Have them pose their questions to each other via videochat. When students have completed their chat with their peers, have them upload their notes about the conversation to the class website in blog format.

Post-Videconference Step: Blog

Meet as a class to debrief about the videoconference experience. Ask students to reflect on what they found interesting, surprising, troubling, inspiring, etc. about their conversations with the students at C2. What new insights do they have about their own educational institution, as well as about the community and region where it is located? Ask students to identify any patterns, similarities, differences, and/or unanswered questions that emerged in their discussions with the students at C2. How might this new knowledge contribute to knowledge-sharing and solidarity-building?

Rubric: Reflection

Sample Reflection

Reflexión sobre las diferencias entre las universidades
College 1 es una universidad comunitaria y pública y College 2 es una universidad privada de cuatro años. Soy una estudiante de College 1 y, al escuchar a los estudiantes de College 2, me he dado cuenta de similitudes y diferencias que son positivas y negativas.
Una diferencia muy notable es el costo de la matriculación. College 1 cuesta por semestre $2,800 por doce créditos y al año cuesta un estimado de $4,800. En contraste, el coste de matriculación de College 2 es aproximadamente $40,000 por un año, más $9,000 para los estudiantes que quieran vivir en los dormitorios. Comparando las dos instituciones, está claro que algunos estudiantes deciden matricularse en un Community College por ser más económico que una universidad privada. El costo de ambas instituciones no es la única diferencia. También hay muchas diferencias en el currículo académico. College 1 no tiene un amplio y extenso currículo académico como College 2. College 2 tiene más variedades de carreras. Al tener un currículo académico más amplio y extenso, los estudiantes tienen más posibilidades de encontrar una carrera apropiada para sus intereses.
Una diferencia que me llamó mucho la atención es la cifra de graduación de ambas instituciones. En College 1, que es una institución de dos años, es 17% en tres años, lo que está muy por debajo de College 2, que es 67% en cuatro años. Me hubiera gustado que la cifra de graduación fuera más alta en College 1, pero al escuchar a mis compañeros hablar sobre los motivos por los que la cifra de graduación es baja, puede entender bien por qué algunos estudiantes no pueden graduarse en dos años. Factores como la economía de la familia, el tener que trabajar y las responsabilidades familiares impiden que algunos estudiante se gradúen a tiempo.
College 2 ofrece dormitorios, algo que College 1 no tiene. Me hubiera gustado haber asistido a una institución que ofrece dormitorios, ya que es una experiencia única. Desde mi punto de vista, los estudiantes que viven en dormitorios aprenden a ser independientes y responsables. No solo eso. Como han comentado algunos compañeros de College 1, nosotros vivimos con nuestras familias y estamos muy afectados por todos los problemas familiares que van surgiendo. Si viviéramos más lejos, podríamos enfocarnos más en nuestros estudios y menos en nuestra situación familiar.
Otra diferencia que hay entre College 1 y 2 es el espacio que los estudiantes tienen en la clase. En College 1, hay como 30 o más estudiantes en un mismo salón. En College 2, en un salón hay, como mucho, de 15 o 20 estudiantes. Cuando hay más estudiantes en una clase, a los profesores se les hace mas difícil ayudar a los estudiantes que lo necesitan. En cambio, donde hay menos estudiantes, los profesores pueden explicar con más detalle y de forma más individual para que el estudiante pueda entender la materia. Además, cuando hay muchos estudiantes en la clase, no todos participan y a veces ni siquiera llegan a conocerse. Pero, aunque las universidades privadas ofrecen clases más pequeñas, son muy caras y una gran cantidad de los estudiantes se gradúan con una buena parte de la deuda. En nuestra conversación con College 2, me pareció interesante hablar de “el estigma” que hay contra las universidades comunitarias. Hablamos de que en algunas zonas del país y en ciertas escuelas secundarias hay un sentimiento de que las universidades comunitarias son peores que las universidades de 4 años. Se piensa también que las universidades comunitarias son para personas que no tienen dinero o personas que no son inteligentes. Yo no era consciente de esto.
Encontramos que en muchas escuelas secundarias, la opción de asistir a universidades comunitarias ni siquiera se plantea y que muchos de los estudiantes de College 2 no sabían que era posible la transferencia de una universidad comunitaria a la universidad de 4 años. En cambio, hay escuelas secundarias en las que los consejeros nos presentan primero la opción de universidad comunitaria y nos hablan muy poco de la de cuatro años. Ambas instituciones ofrecen deportes, organizaciones y eventos sociales para los estudiantes. College 1 ofrece deportes para hombres y mujeres, como basketball, balonmano, natación, fútbol y otros más. También tiene organizaciones como el Drama Society, Creative Writing Club, Chemistry Club, Mock Trial Association, etc. Sin embargo, he obervado que College 2 también tiene asociaciones para estudiantes que se dedican a temas de justicia, de derechos humanos e incluso de derechos de los animales, algo que, por ejemplo a mí, me interesa mucho.
En general, creo que las universidades comunitarias son una muy buena opción para los estudiantes con menos recursos económicos, como es el caso de mis compañeros de College 1. También es buena opción cuando los estudiantes no saben qué especialidad estudiar. Es ridículo que estos estudiantes derrochen su dinero por un período de dos años a la hora de decidir su especialidad. Por otro lado, me he dado cuenta de que College 2 tiene mejor reputación y probablemente los estudiantes tengan mejores trabajos después de graduarse. Yo realmente no era consciente de que hay tantas diferencias entre estudiar en un tipo de universidad o en otra. Creo que durante la escuela secundaria no nos han dado suficiente información a mis compañeros de College 1 y a mí porque, por ejemplo, hasta ahora no sabíamos que en las universidades privadas de cuatro años hay becas. Si hubiera tenido esta información, tal vez habría solicitado estudiar en una institución como College 2.

HT Module – Encountering/Representing the Self

Produced by
Aránzazu Borrachero, Valeria Belmonti, and Katherine Entigar

Download Module as PDF

Preparation and Resources


Students will work independently and with their peers from both institutions (C1 and C2) to:

  1. introduce themselves to their classmates and the students at C2 by means of self-representations
  2. reflect about individual and intercultural differences or similarities as shown in their peers’ self-representations and their own
  3. reflect on and develop critical awareness of the power of visual information


  1. Self Portrait Collections (photography and painting):
  1. Collage:
  1. Readings:

Note: The articles are loosely organized by theme, but they touch upon intersecting topics. The instructor can select particular reading(s) for his/her particular class, and create an additional readings list for anything that is not included.

    1. Immigration and Identity
      1. Esculpir identidades: artistas ayudan a identificar a los migrantes muertos
      2. Niños nacidos en República Dominicana viven en un limbo de identidad por sus raíces haitianas
      3. A conversation with Latinos on Race
    2. Race/Ethnicity and Identity
      1. Los hispanos explican por qué no se identifican con las etiquetas sociales
      2. Afrolatinos en Estados Unidos: una visión que va más allá de la raza (Chron — Houston)
    3. Gender and Identity
      1. Redefiniendo el género en México
      2. Género e identidad sexual: la realidad asalta la ficción (ABC Cultura)
    4. Language and Identity
      1. Ser latino en Estados Unidos y saber español, una fuente de autoconocimiento y capital cultural
      2. Género e identidad sexual: la realidad asalta la ficción (ABC Cultura)
      3. “Se habla español”: de lengua vergonzante a cool, Estados Unidos ya es un país bilingüe (Infobae)
      4. Dime qué idioma hablas y te diré quién eres | Ivana Sánchez | TEDxYouth@BosquesDeLasLomas
    5. Poetic Self Portraits
      1. Nicanor Parra. “Autorretrato”
      2. Blanca Varela. “Curriculum Vitae”
      3. Rosario Castellanos. “Autorretrato”
      4. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. “A un retrato”
      5. Gustavo Pérez Firmat.
        1. “Bilingual Blues”
        2. “The fact that I am writing to you in English…”
    6. Identity in the Era of Selfies, New Digital Spaces; New Forms of Self-Representation
      1. La fotografía ha muerto, viva la postfotografía
      2. Por un manifiesto posfotográfico
      3. ¿Qué revelan nuestros avatares sobre nosotros?
      4. Lo que el palo para selfies revela sobre nosotros

Technology Resources/Requirements

  1. Class website
  2. Video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime (to be used with Mac/Apple users)

Activity 1: Introductions

The purpose of this activity is for students to get to know their classmates and their partner university peers by introducing themselves with a written self-description, and to draw conclusions about the similarities and differences between students in their school (C1) and the students in the partner school (C2).

Course Overview

Introduce course overview, routines and expectations to the class, particularly the protocol of working with peers from another school. Present the class website to students and demonstrate its use.

Explain how students will publish blog posts and comment on their classmates’ work and the work of the students at C2. Practice using the website as needed.

Preparation for Exchange/Commentary with Students at C2: Self-Introductions, Blog

Have students write a short blog post on the class website in which they introduce themselves to the students at C2. The post should offer autobiographical details in as natural a style as possible, using Spanish, English, or a combination of both languages.

Task: Reviewing/Analyzing Student Self-Introductions at C2

Have students read two self-introductions that the students at C2 have written and take notes for class discussion. Some questions they can use to review and analyze these self-introductions may include:

  1. What information is included in the self-introduction?
  2. What language(s) did they write their self-introduction in?
  3. What kind of person do you think this student is, given the small amount of information you have about them? Why do you think this way?
  4. What do you think you have in common with this person? What makes you different?
  5. What questions might you like to ask this person about their experiences in their town/city and in their college?

Post-Exchange Class Debrief

Have a class conversation about observations of the students at C2. Some guiding questions may include:

  1. What are your impressions of the self-introductions you read? What was it like to write your own?
  2. Are there commonalities and/or differences in your self-introduction compared to the self-introductions of other students in your class? What about the students at C2?
  3. Are there any general themes/ideas that emerge about C1’s educational, political, geographical, and/or sociocultural context? What about the context of C2? What comparisons/contrasts can you draw?
  4. Do you think that comparing individual self-introductions by students from two different educational contexts can reveal larger truths about the places where they study? Why or why not? What limitations might there be in such an exercise?

Activity 2: Self-Representations

The purpose of this activity is for students to explore the concept of self-representation as a creative process of social/cultural identity production, and to make connections with similar explorations by their peers at C2.

Preparation for Videoconference: Exploring Forms of Self-Representation

Review and discuss with students a variety of artistic self-representations (see sample links under Materials). Instructors may choose collections that focus on Latinx identity (1-5 under Materials) and ask students to compare them to collections that are not specifically Latinx (6 and 7 under Materials). Sample questions for the discussion:

  1. What are the elements, objects and ideas that the artists use to express identity?
  2. What identities are being explored in the portraits? What elements do artists use to express or reflect on these identities?
  3. Choose your favorite self-representation from the different collections and explain why you find it compelling in terms of its message and its aesthetic qualities.
  4. In what social and political context was this self-representation probably made? What features of the self-representation indicate this?
  5. Present to students some of the terms that will appear in class discussions: “identity” (cultural, gender-based, race/ethnicity, immigration experience, etc.), “syncretism,” “portraiture,” “self-representation,” “aesthetics,” etc.

Preparation for Videoconference: Class Readings (at home)

Assign some of the readings from the list to the class. Alternatively, ask students what readings they would be interested in (take a class vote, etc.). Have students complete the readings at home, and prepare to discuss them in class.

Preparation for Videoconference: In-Class Discussion of Readings

Discuss the selected readings in class. Here are some starting suggestions for questions that instructors can use as a guide for class discussion:

  1. Immigration and Identity
    1. (“Esculpir identidades”) For many immigrants, crossing the border means gaining access to the opportunity to forge a new, dynamic identity in a new culture. However, the difficult conditions of the journey across the border causes others to lose their lives along with their identities. Analyze how art contributes to their visibility. Do you have any creative ideas about what could be done with these sculpted faces beyond using them to help families identify their loved ones?
    2. (“Niños nacidos en República Dominicana…”) Compare the identity issues of the Haitian children in “Niños nacidos en República Dominicana…” to the situation of Dreamers in the US.
    3. (“A conversation with Latinos on race.”) Discuss the possible meanings of “identity” for immigrants based on your personal experience, the readings, and the testimonies that you saw in “A conversation with Latinos on race.”​
  2. Race/Ethnicity and Identity
    1. (“Los hispanos explican…”) Discuss the ways in which racial and ethnic identity come about and/or are chosen in the article. What is the relationship between racial and ethnic identity and being “American”? How do you think about your own racial/ethnic identity?
    2. (“Afrolatinos…”) Discuss the ways in which the relationship between being “Black” and being Latinx are explored in the article. What social and political ideas are discussed about living as someone who identifies as Afro-Latinx?​
  3. Gender and Identity
    1. (“Redefiniendo…”) Discuss gender identity in the story of Micah. Would Micah be able to identify him/herself with any of the poetic self-portraits you have read?
    2. (“Género e identidad sexual…”) Discuss the various ways in which the article explores gender identity and gender itself. What role can fiction play in creating possibilities for new ways of looking at and thinking about gender? Draw upon examples from the article to support your perspective (even if you disagree with the example(s) you use).​
  4. Language and Identity
    1. (“Ser latino…”) Discuss the relationship between language and identity as presented in “Ser latino en Estados Unidos…” How are language and identity related? Does your identity change depending on the language you use? Does identity change depending on where you are, or who you are with? Does identity change over time?
    2. (“Género e identidad sexual…”) Discuss the evolution of Spanish language use and learning in the United States as presented in the article. What predictions can you make about where this trend might be headed?​
  5. Poetic Self-Portraits
    1. Why would a writer choose a poem rather than an essay to speak about identity or self-identity?
    2. (Parra) What is the profession or occupation of the speaker in the poem? How do you know?
    3. Whom is the speaker addressing? What type of self-image is the speaker transmitting? Find instances in which the speaker uses humor for self-deprecation. What do you think is the effect of this self-deprecating voice on different readers (e.g., you vs. his students, etc.)?
    4. (Varela) What is the attitude of the speaker in describing her/his CV (positive, self-critical, etc.)? What is the meaning of “carrera” in the poem? Who or what is the “sombra”? What definition of “victory” does the poem provide?
    5. (Castellanos) What is the attitude of the speaker in describing herself (positive, self-critical, etc.)? How does the speaker appear to feel about social conventions (the use of the term “señora,” high culture, definitions of femininity and beauty, how suffering is expressed, etc.)? What about life cycles (motherhood, aging, etc.)? Find instances of the use of irony in the poem. Why do you think the writer made this choice?
    6. (Sor Juana) Whom is the speaker addressing? What is the “engaño” and why is it a lie? What does the final verse progression suggest (“cadáver,” “polvo,” “sombra,” “nada”)?
    7. (Pérez Firmat) What tensions and contradictions can you find in these poems? How are these tensions and contradictions expressed (in the creative use of language, in imagery, in other ways)? What does it mean that the poet’s voice does not “belong in English” and “does not belong anywhere else” at the same time?
    8. (Parra, Pérez Firmat) Compare the use of humor in Pérez Firmat’s “Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones” and in Parra’s “Autorretrato.” What or whom are the authors mocking with the use of humor and irony in these poems?
    9. Discuss how gender identity is played out in these poetic portraits. What words, ideas, emotions, and images appear in the poems to express and/or challenge gender identity?
  6. Identity in the Era of Selfies, New Digital Spaces, New Forms of Self-Representation
    1. How has the art of self-representation changed in the age of selfies?
    2. What are the consequences of these changes in how we understand art and identity? Are we “artists” or “creators” of our own identity in an era of instantaneous, publicly visible profiles and social media spaces? Explain.
      How are these changes contributing to blurring the differences between high art (the one we see in museums, for instance) and popular art?
      What are the consequences of these changes in how ordinary people express their identities?

Preparation for Videoconference: In-Class Brainstorm for Creation of Self-Representation

Ask students to start planning the self-representation they would like to create. Have them jot down a short (100 word maximum) written self-representation in class, which can include poetic words and/or phrases as well as longer stretches of text. Instruct students to use any language (Spanish, English, or a combination of both languages) that they think would be meaningful. Once students are finished, have them discuss their work in small groups (3-4 students), and then debrief as a class. Suggested questions for class discussion:

  1. What new ideas do you have about the aspects of identity that we have discussed, and how do these ideas relate to you? What aspects of yourself do you want to share? What aspects do you want to keep to yourself?
  2. What elements would you include to represent yourself (objects, people, places) and why? What do you want to say about yourself with these elements?
  3. What language choices are you making in creating this self-representation? If you don’t use any language, is there a reason for that?
  4. Do these places, activities, objects/images, and words/phrases that you have chosen identify you as Latinx, American, a combination, or something else?
  5. If someone that doesn’t know you sees your object/image, place or activity, would that person guess your age, nationality, gender, occupation, language practices?
  6. How does the city or town in which you live figure, if at all, in your self-representation? How does your identification with this locality influence the way you see yourself, if at all?

Preparation for Videoconference: Creation/Upload of Self-Representations to Class Website (at home)

Ask students if they have any final questions or thoughts before they create their self-representations. Review vocabulary, ideas, and other topics they may need to clarify. For homework, have students create their own self-representations using personal photographs, digital images, text, or a combination of different materials. Have students create a digital version of their self-representations (if they are not already in a digital form) to be uploaded to the class website. Ask students to upload their self-representations to the class website when they are finished, along with a short explanation of why that image represents them (150-300 words).

Preparation for Videoconference: Commentary on Self-representations by Students at C1 and C2

In preparation for the videochat, have students reflect on the self-representations their classmates have uploaded to the class website, as well as the self-representations done by members of their telecollaboration group. Ask students to post a comment on one C1 student’s and one C2 student’s self-representation. Some questions to ask students to consider include:

  1. What elements, ideas, and themes emerged in your classmates’ self-representations? What choices did they make that were similar to yours? What was different? What about the self-representations of the students at C2?
  2. How did you, your classmates, and the students at C2 use language in self-representation? What does this say about how you identify with and experience language?
  3. What themes stand out in our collective work that may represent shared ideas about community, city and regional life, and how habits of self-representation change across generations?

Task: Videoconference

Ask students to form small groups (3-4 students). Inform students that they will work together to discuss their work and the work of their peers at C2. Have these small groups discuss students’ self-representations via the videoconference platform selected for this class. Guiding questions for the telecollaborative discussion may be generated by the whole class.

For the telecollaboration with students at C2, instruct students to take note of ideas discussed with their peers that they find interesting. Some themes they can keep in mind include: self-representation, identity, culture, gender, immigration, race/ethnicity, language, technology, syncretism, regionality, community. Provide students with a graphic organizer to support note-taking (see sample at the end of this document) if needed.

Post-Videoconference Step: Debrief, Creation of Group Summary

After finishing the telecollaboration with students at C2 bring the class back together to discuss this experience in small groups. The questions below can be used as guidance for the chat, but additional questions for discussion may be generated by the whole class.

  1. When you saw the self-representations of your colleagues from C1 and C2, what did you think? What are your general observations?
  2. Is there an image or text (besides yours) that has particularly struck you? Explain. (It can be from C1 or C2).
  3. Discuss three ideas that appear in various C1 texts and images. [Discuss major themes that emerged from the C1 texts and images in terms of regionality, language practices, individual and shared identity, community, etc. What did the C1 students find important to share? What did this say about them?]
  4. Discuss three ideas that appear in various texts and images of C2. [Discuss major themes that emerged from the C2 texts and images in terms of regionality, language practices, individual and shared identity, community, etc. What did the C2 students find important to share? What did this say about them?]
  5. Compare images and texts looking for patterns of similarities and differences. [Compare these themes and make deductions about the similarities and differences of C1 and C2 students, their respective schools, their communities, and their respective regions/cities.]

Using student responses to the questions above, work with the group to create a group summary (1-3 paragraphs) of their telecollaboration experience. Inform students that this summary will be shared with the students at C2 as a class post. Post this summary to the class website and invite students from C2 to comment.

Post-Videoconference Step: Written Reflection

Debrief with students about the telecollaboration. What was the experience like? What did they learn about their peers at C2? What did they discover about their own work, about themselves, and about C2 through this experience?

Prepare students to reflect on this experience in a written response.

  1. Prior to assigning the written reflection, discuss the reflection rubric with students.
  2. Inform students that they will write a reflection, which is a 2-3 page essay (sample provided at the end of the document) about what they learned in relation to self-representation. Remind students to write in narrative form rather than responding to questions point by point. Invite them to incorporate the following themes, discussing what particularly interested them for each theme:
    • Creating my self-representation.What elements did you choose for your self-representation? How did they work together to generate the final product?
    • The telecollaboration experience.What ideas emerged in the discussion of self-representations, including the cross-comparison of images and texts? What did you learn about sharing self-representations with the students at C2? (For example, what new ideas do you have about individual and shared identity, region/city, language practices, and community?) What other observations did you make during the videochat experience?
    • New ideas, new directions.After observing all the self-representations, would you change yours? If so, how? What new ideas do you have about the process of creating a self-representation? How did this experience help you explore and understand your ways of expressing your identity?

Post-Videoconference Step: Commentary on Work by Students at C2

Have students post their reflections on the class website. Ask them to comment substantively on and/or ask questions about two other reflections either by their classmates at C1 and/or the students at C2. For example, they can state that they like the self-representation, but they should also think critically about what this self-representation said, why the creator did what s/he did, etc., and comment on this. Have students respond to one comment that they received about their own reflection.

Graphic Organizer

Rubric: Reflection