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Three Empowering Curricular Innovations for Service-Learning in ESL Programs



This article describes three service-learning projects implemented in three different ESL programs in the United States. Each description includes typical course goals, service-learning assignments, reflection activities, student learning outcomes, and pedagogical challenges. The first project was developing digital literacy through service-learning projects in southeast Michigan. In this ESL program, two groups of ESL students created two types of written publications about their service and civic engagement learning experiences. The documents were subsequently posted to the Internet. The second project involved international students at the University of Richmond. Students completed weekly service-learning by tutoring underserved children in a low-income urban neighborhood in Virginia. The third project at the University of Denver involved observing how students' attitudes changed throughout the quarter during the process of learning about and serving the homeless community using a series of five written reflections. The three service-learning projects presented in this article demonstrate how community engagement can promote a sense of empowerment in ESL students. This is accomplished by making them feel part of their community, allowing them to work cooperatively to develop authorial voice, increasing their audience awareness in writing, and fostering critical reflection that leads to a better understanding of social problems and civic responsibility.