In early 1997 as a newly-trained ESOL trainer, I met my new student. Doris had just arrived in the United States from Africa in early December with her husband. She spoke almost no English, and I certainly did not speak her language. In addition, the US certainly was a different environment from her home and she was very young. To say that she was facing challenges is quite an understatement.
I will confess that I “fell in love” with Doris the moment I met her! She had a gentleness and a genuineness that transcended all of our language barriers. Her smile just warmed my heart…and over time I came to see her great sense of humor, her dedication to learning and hard work, and her incredible integrity! And now, 13 years later, I and my husband count Doris (and her husband) as among our most beloved friends — almost like a second daughter.
We started with Laubach 1 and worked over the years on through other books. We went to the library together…Doris’ library card was her first formal piece of US-issued identification. We’d meet twice a week and sometimes Doris could hardly keep her eyes open because she was working two jobs at two different fast food restaurants. But she would always have prepared for our lesson and always greeted me with that warm smile. We laughed and giggled and went for walks to look at trees and flowers. From time to time we’d go shopping or out to lunch. And Doris became more and more accomplished at living successfully in the US – especially once she got her driver’s license.
I no longer tutor Doris because she now lives in Leesburg where she has continued to taken other literacy courses at the Loudon Literacy Council. However, we still see each other regularly: now we go to dinner and a movie every 6 weeks or so, and sometimes take day-long “field trips” to places like Baltimore’s Inner Harbor or the Smithsonian. Doris and her husband are considering applying for U.S. citizenship and we are looking forward to attending the ceremony and to a GREAT celebration of that event.
But the nicest thing is that every time we get together, we celebrate our forever-friendship…and give credit to LCNV for matching us up during that cold winter 13 years ago. Who would have thought that being a tutor could lead to having a wonderful extended family such as we now have with Doris and her husband! Thanks, LCNV!
~Sally Jaggar, former tutor, former LCNV Board member, current volunteer
I have recently had the pleasure of taking an online training course, administered by the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center (VALRC), on teaching beginner level literacy to adults. One of the most striking points that I’ve taken from this experience is how critical it is to contextualize lessons. Patsy Vinogradov states, “Keep in mind that older students come to ESL classes with tremendous life experiences…It is critical to tap into this life experience and build literacy skills within meaningful contexts.”
Generally speaking, adult learners have a great deal more autonomy than children. Most societies contain a rigorous apparatus of expectations for what a child is supposed to learn, whether or not the subject matter particularly compliments the child’s personal interest. While this view of education is on the decline, it still sharply contrasts with the realm of adult learners. Adult learners are attending class purely by choice. In most cases, their assessments (test scores, teacher comments, etc.) are not reviewed by a higher institution that will play a role in determining their next step in life. They are thus less likely to absorb new information if they are bored with the subject matter because there are fewer consequences.
Conversely, learning a language can be both entertaining and fascinating if the topic matters to the students. The adult learner will also more easily remember the information if it directly applies to them and their life experience. Like Vinogradov states, we should tap into this. Students seem to do their best with English during the moments when they aren’t thinking about it. Finding a topic that engrosses them to such an extent that it transcends the anxieties of English will dispel their fears.
Wikipedia’s Simple English feature might be a great place to start. By going to the front page of English Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org), you can select ‘Simple English’ under languages on the left hand tab. This option allows you to view Wikipedia articles written in a more basic form. Find out what your students want to know outside of English and have them look up articles and report back. If your student is already an expert on a topic, ask them to find the article and critique it. This exercise can keep students engaged with English outside of the class room.
~Matt Arnold, AmeriCorps Instructor
Are you a tutor who would like to use a book with audio complement with your student? Maybe you’re interested in browsing LCNV’s library, but can’t come by during regular office hours when the library is open. Now you can browse the library anytime by going to LCNV’s LibraryThing page.
The LibraryThing project is a progression of the library reorganization begun in the summer of 2007. Our wonderful volunteer librarians worked with staff to review various online cataloguing tools and selected LibraryThing, a website which combines detailed cataloguing with social networking, for its flexibility and ease of use. Most cataloguing tools let you list only media such as books and CDs, but we wanted to list our “none of the above” items such as handmade flashcards and games. Please note that this is a catalogue of the library’s offerings, not a circulation system; once you know what you want, please call us at 703-237-0866 and we will send the item to you or pull it out for you to pick up if we have it on the shelf. Please also remember to check out no more than five items at a time.
Each item has at least one tag or flexible keyword. We’ve chosen to use the call numbers in our library as tags. The librarians are adding more tags (e.g., literary genres and subject matter for our readers, and media type such as games) and cover art so you can get a better idea of the books’ contents. Also, if a title was checked out while the librarians were doing the initial round of cataloguing, the title won’t be added until it is returned to the library.
Browsing is easy:
Go to the Council’s main page www.lcnv.org.
Click on the Tutors tab.
Click on Tutor Resources in the sidebar.
The library’s contents appear in list form. Click on the top of any column to sort the list by that column. You can also use the search box in the top right corner (circled in red in the screenshot below), or browse the tags.
In this example, if you would like to know the library’s holdings that involve grammar, type grammar into the box and click on Search. Here are the results:
If you would like to view a list of call numbers, click on Tags (circled below). You can see that we also have tagged genres and non-book media with their media type (DVD, audio CD etc.) in the box below.
Our librarians have worked very hard for months to make this available to you and we all hope that you find it a useful tool for your teaching. If you have feedback or questions about our library or how to use LibraryThing, please e-mail the librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like help selecting something, please call or e-mail Elise Bruml if your student is in the ESOL tutoring program (703-237-0866 ext. 106, email@example.com), or me if your student is in the basic literacy program (703-237-0866 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org).
~Rebekah Bundang, Basic Literacy Tutoring Specialist
For those of us in the Family Learning Program, the last two weeks have been a bit frustrating. As the snow piled up with each storm, frustration eventually turned to resignation as school closure announcements flashed across television screens. In retrospect, much of what transpired seems a bit of a blur. The days when the LCNV office was actually open were filled with anticipation of what Mother Nature might do next in addition to a flurry of phone calls to students about plans for class. During a Spanish language phone call to a very beginning student, after telling her that classes were cancelled for that evening she jokingly said, “Well, I guess we just won’t learn English.” I replied, “I am not certain when, but I promise we will start, and it’s never too late.” Our classes were scheduled to start the first week of February; here we are two weeks later, hoping to get started tonight. Even though it seems like it’s “too late,” there is much to look forward to this semester; our teachers and students are more than ready to get started. This might be our third attempt at a first day of class, but it’s nevertheless important to celebrate all beginnings.
~ Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist
This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Census kickoff event for Arlington County. The event was held at the Ballston Mall, and served to recruit temporary census workers and showcase services in the area. The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia was one of the services present, along with Arlington Employment Center, Escuela Bolivia, and Car Free Diet. It was a lively afternoon with music, free giveaways, dance performances and a visit from Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada.
If you or any of your advanced students have some extra time and would like to participate in the upcoming census, visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census/ to find out about the available job opportunities. Temporary census workers can earn up to $20 an hour and bilingual workers are encouraged to apply.
~Courtney Pergal, AmeriCorps Instructor
It’s the beginning of a new week, and like many folks in residential neighborhoods around Falls Church, my street has yet to be plowed. However, that did not bother me this morning as I woke up to the sun reflecting brightly off of the mounds of snow in my yard. Being the clever gal that I am, I had already driven my car to the Literacy Council Parking lot (with the help of my snow-savvy roommate). All I had to do this clear and frigid morning was to walk a few blocks to work.
It was with this peace of mind that I set off down the lane with my sweater, vest, heavy winter coat, scarf, gloves, and imitation UGGs. Confident that I had outsmarted Father Winter, I stretched and shook off the lingering feelings of cabin fever. Today was going to be a great day. I got about ten yards down the road before I slipped on the ice and landed flat on my backside.
So maybe my expectations for today were a little lofty. Still, it’s good to be back.
~Erin Andrews, AmeriCorps Instructor
Fairfax County schools have delayed school for 2 hours on Tuesday, February 15, 2010. Therefore, morning classes offered by the Literacy Council will be canceled on Tuesday. However, evening classes will be meeting as regularly scheduled.
LCNV offices will be closed Monday for President’s Day. No classes will be held on Monday, February 15th. Classes will resume Tuesday morning, February 16.
Because of snow, all LCNV classes are cancelled this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (February 8th, 9th, 10th). Just a reminder: we always follow Fairfax County Public Schools’ snow cancellation policy. Stay safe!
Looking for a fun way to volunteer this spring (which seems so far away at this point in time)? We are now recruiting volunteers for Reading: A Family Affair (RAFA), the Literacy Council’s fourth annual celebration of families reading together. This year, it will take place on Saturday, March 20th. RAFA promises to be bigger and better than ever, with more space to spread out and brand new offerings, such as performances, storytelling, children’s authors, and more.
What are some of the volunteer opportunities available for RAFA? We need ushers, snack room attendants, hall traffic monitors, performer helpers, room assistants, and more! We have two main shifts available – opening (9:15 am-12:15 pm) and closing (12:00-3:00 pm), plus a few mid-day shifts and a cleaning-only shift at the end of the day. We are also looking for people to help out in the weeks leading up to the event, as well as setup volunteers on Friday, March 19th.
This is an excellent volunteer opportunity for adults and teenagers 13 and up (accompanied by a parent). If you are interested, please fill out this Google form. I will get back to you within a few days. Thanks so much for your willingness to help out with our great event!
– Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers