Challenge Grant Met!

April 30, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Announcements, Development, Donors, News | Comments Off on Challenge Grant Met!

Thank you for helping to turn our learners’ goals into realities. Because of your loyal support of LCNV, we are celebrating a great milestone: meeting the $20,000 challenge offered by an anonymous donor!

I mentioned this challenge in a post here on February 1, and you responded!  The challenge was designed to encourage community support and increase Council funding from individual donors. New or increased gifts from individuals received between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010 would be matched dollar for dollar up to $20,000. Because supporters like you enthusiastically stepped up to the plate, you helped us meet this challenge in just nine months!

More than 260 individuals either became new donors to LCNV or increased their giving to qualify for this challenge – meaning that over 75 percent of you participated! The donor was so thrilled by the outpouring of gifts by December that the donor generously gave LCNV the first half of the challenge grant. Within days of fully meeting the challenge, the donor sent the final payment. We are so grateful for the opportunity that this challenge grant presented!

LCNV has fared reasonably well during these tough economic times. Though we experienced a significant decline in government support (from 50 percent of our operating budget in 2006 to 33 percent in 2010), with your generous support, we have sustained our organization without cuts to staff or programs for our students. We have adapted by developing a diverse funding portfolio that relies not only on the government, but on hundreds of foundation, corporate and individual donors – like you! That way LCNV’s programs are not solely dependent on one particular source of funding.

Like spring flowers, LCNV wants to grow so that we can meet the continuing demand for adult education programs in our community. We have much potential, with a strong board and staff, dedicated volunteers and a strategic vision for the future. Your continued support will help us move beyond just sustaining to growing again!

Visit to make an investment in LCNV today.

– Suzie Eaton, Sr. Director of Development

A Dedicated Volunteer

April 29, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Tutoring, Volunteers | 1 Comment

I took tutor training in basic literacy from the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia in January of 1998.  Upon completion, I was offered opportunities to tutor at the Arlington County and Fairfax County jails.  I visited the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, talked to the teachers and the deputies and decided to volunteer there.

Among the many inmates I have tutored in the past twelve years one, in particular, stands out.  He was a mature man from the backwoods of West Virginia with no formal education who could neither read nor write.  He was intelligent, enthusiastic, and could recognize signs, some words, and could recite most of the alphabet.  We started with the alphabet, the sounds of the letters, phonetics, and, very soon, graduated to elementary reading materials.  We worked on printing and cursive letters.  Finally, we began a “correspondence” that was our continuing lesson plan – I wrote him letters and he answered them.  We ended each tutoring session with a letter from me which he answered for his homework.  Our times together were spent going over the letters, discussing vocabulary, spelling, using the dictionary, learning punctuation, and addressing questions.  When he was released some months later we were corresponding on an adult level and he was even reading books for young adults.  We continued to correspond after his release.  Unfortunately, he returned to the Adult Detention Center for post-graduate work which he pursued as enthusiastically as ever.  After his second release, I never heard from him again.

While tutoring basic literacy, I became interested in English as a Second Language and took the course given by the Literacy Council as well as several other courses given by the Virginia Institute of Lifelong Learning at Marymount University during the summers of 1999-2002.  The need for ESL instructors greatly exceeded that of basic literacy in the jail, and I was interested in switching to ESL.  I began tutoring small groups which grew until I was teaching my own regularly scheduled classes with 12-20 students.  From time to time, I substituted for the paid teachers.

In 2007, I was asked to take over ESL classes for one of the paid teachers who wanted to take a year off to be a stay-at-home dad.  I happily agreed and began teaching his intermediate ESL classes until he came back.  He never did.

I now teach two 1-1/2-hour classes a week as a paid employee.  I continue to volunteer as well.  I assist in giving examinations, GED preparation, use of the law library, and the like.  During the past year, when the County ran out of money to pay me, I reverted to volunteer status for the remainder of the term.  So, incidentally, did all of the other teachers employed there by the Fairfax County Public Schools.

I am likely to remain at the jail so long as they will have me.  I was recently asked why I have volunteered at the jail for more than a decade.  The answer was easy:  During my more than 37 years of “gainful” employment, I never had a job that gave me as much pleasure or satisfaction as being a volunteer at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

~Doug Fridrich, LCNV Tutor

Body Part Post-Its

April 28, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Family Learning, Teaching | Comments Off on Body Part Post-Its

A few weeks ago, in my Family Learning class at Sherwood library, we learned about the body.  It was an engaging topic for the students and presented many opportunities for interesting classroom activities.

One such activity was a body part post-it race.  I divided the class into two teams and asked for two “models” to stand at the front of the room.  Each student received a few post-it notes, and I explained that the team had to work together to label as many body parts as they could in the time allotted.

When I said “GO,” there was a flurry of scribbling on the small, yellow stickies.  Soon, the students were running up to their man to place the label on his body part.  After 3 minutes each team stood by their “model,” trying to regain composure after much laughter, and read me the body parts as they removed the labels.

This game was a useful assessment for me to gauge how well the students retained what we had previously learned, and it was also a fun, high energy bonding experience for the students.  It always brings me joy to see my students laughing and learning while working together.

~Courtney Pergal, AmeriCorps Instructor

LCNV’s Wishlist

April 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Board, News | Comments Off on LCNV’s Wishlist

Last Friday night, several members of our Board and senior staff met for a Board/Staff retreat.  The meeting took place at our new satellite office in Herndon, Connections for Hope.  We spoke about the topics of fundraising, programs, and governance.  The purpose of the meeting was to devise a strategic plan for the future of the Literacy Council.  In which direction are we going?  How are we going to implement our goals?  What additional resources do we need?

One of the exercises that we did was to imagine that we received a gift of $200,000.  How would we use it?  Some of the ideas were:

  • Establish an LCNV TV channel that supports what students are learning in class
  • Build partnerships with local television stations, creative design companies, and others that can help us with public outreach
  • Update our library with new books, CDs and other media materials
  • Hire additional staff with specific expertise such as learning disabilities
  • Enroll existing staff in national training seminars and conferences
  • Open a satellite office in south county where the need for ESOL services is great

As you can see, the wheels at LCNV are constantly turning.  We are always looking for new ways to grow and improve.  We are also constantly on the lookout for ideas on the best ways for us to accomplish these goals.  Post your ideas as comments on this blog, and let us know what you would like to see at LCNV!

~ Randi Littman, Director of Operations

Healthcare Reform: How will it affect our students?

April 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, News | Comments Off on Healthcare Reform: How will it affect our students?

In March, my head was spinning from all the healthcare talk. Everyone had something to say. Unfortunately, the dialogue was more focused on what the bill lacked or how it erred, than on effects that the policy might have on people. One aspect of the debate that I thought was particularly difficult to find information on was how it would affect the immigrant population. I recently read this Washington Post blog by Suzy Khimm, that brought an interesting perspective on some possible effects the bill could have on many of our students.  I thought that it answered several important questions I had about the new healthcare policy.

This was a helpful article that took an interesting stance on an important topic.  Check out the post and see what you think.

~Minta Trivette, AmeriCorps Instructor

Tutors Wanted!

April 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Announcements, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on Tutors Wanted!

The ESOL tutoring program really needs more tutors in Chantilly, Fairfax City, Reston and the Fairfax County parts of Alexandria. The student waiting lists are quite long in each of these areas. An ESOL tutor training workshop is coming up soon. If you are looking for a fulfilling volunteer opportunity and are available to tutor in any of these places, the ESOL tutoring program wants You! (Actually, we want you wherever you are available to tutor in Northern Virginia, but the need is currently greatest in these areas.)

The next ESOL tutor training workshop will occur on May 8, 15 and 22 from 9:30 until 3:30 here at the LCNV office. The registration fee is $40. Our wonderful training team will provide you with all the training you need to start tutoring effectively, and you’ll also receive the materials you’ll need to start working with the student with whom you are matched. You can register for the workshop by filling out the registration form which appears on our website (, or by contacting Belle Penaranda here at the Literacy Council. Belle can be reached at 703-237-0866-ext. 111 or at She will be happy to provide you with further information about the Council’s tutoring programs and answer any questions you may have.

Perhaps you already tutor for the Council, but have friends who might be interested in doing so too. If this is the case, please spread the word! We’d love to have them join us.

~Elise Bruml, Tutoring Programs Director

Instructional Routines for Adult Education Classroom Interaction

April 21, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in ESOL, Family Learning, Lesson Plans, Teaching | Comments Off on Instructional Routines for Adult Education Classroom Interaction

As you may have previously read, I recently attended the National Conference on Family Literacy in San Antonio, TX. While I was at the conference, I attended a lecture on an adult education/family literacy program in a public school in Springdale, AR. The presenters shared many ESOL activities that have been success for learners and instructors in their program. The population of the school district is 90% ESOL, mostly Hispanic with a few immigrants from the Marshall Islands. The session focused on instructional techniques and resources that are appropriate for adult learners. Some of the techniques discussed were demonstrated using a video of the classes in action.

The techniques demonstrated included:

  • Think/Pair/Share: This is a group work activity. The presenters encouraged programs to ask teachers to track the amount of time spent on group work they assign in class in minutes or percentages. This would allow for teacher self-awareness and prevent too much lecturing.
  • Compound Words and Matching Words Egg Activity
    • The teacher wrote compound words onto plastic Easter eggs and placed the students in small groups for them to match the two halves of the eggs.
    • After matching the egg halves, each group was given an assignment with the words. The activity can be modified for any words that match together, not only compound words.
    • It’s a great multilevel activity because the eggs can be color-coded or sorted by level of difficulty.
    • Follow-up activities can also be tailored to skill level, with some groups writing the words down, others creating short sentences and more advanced students tackling paragraphs.
  • Student Interviews
  • Alphabet Ball: This activity is very similar to the ball of questions created by our former AmeriCorps; this ball had the alphabet written out on it, when tossed the students had to say a word that began with the letter their finger was touching.
  • Paper Plate Sequencing: After reading a children’s book, the students placed the events from the book in sequence using paper plates. The students practiced sequencing vocabulary, such as “before,” “after,” “first,” “next.”
  • Total Physical Response to Music: In the video the parents were responding to a children’s song: “stand up, sit down”, etc.
  • Getting to know people in the school: Since these were family literacy classes in public school settings, one teacher had the parents experience a class with the school’s art teacher. Another group went outside with the P.E teacher and learned how to play kickball.

Other resources they mentioned for adults:

  • Easy English News (a newspaper targeted for ESOL students).
  • News For You (a newspaper targeted toward Basic students).
  • Smart Boards (such as mimio). We will have access to one at the James Lee Community Center in the Fall, thanks to a partnership with Fairfax County Adult Classes. Many public schools have this technology available.

Overall, the conference was extremely helpful.  I came away with many great ideas to implement in our programs here at LCNV, and I’m not done sharing them. Keep your eyes peeled for more!

~Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist

Registrations Are Here Again!

April 20, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Posted in Announcements, Calendar, ESOL, Family Learning, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on Registrations Are Here Again!

Spring cleaning will have to wait! LCNV is gearing up for our next round of registrations this week, and preparing our class sites is priority number one. We will be registering students who are interested in taking Beginning ESOL classes for the spring of 2010. Everyone is excited about meeting new students and seeing a few familiar faces. These classes begin May 3, which is only a bunny hop, skip, and a jump away. We will also be conducting registration sessions for students on an add-in basis for our Family Learning program classes, which are currently in session. Our updated class and registration schedules for Spring 2010 are now available for our ESOL Classroom and Family Learning programs, as well as a schedule for local conversation classes that are offered to students free of charge.

A helping hand is always welcome! If you are interested in being a tester or a greeter at any of our registration sites, email us! We especially need volunteers at our Crestwood, Lorton, and Herndon locations. Contact to find the site closest to you. We also have openings for class aides and volunteer teachers for Spring 2010. Visit our website for available opportunities!

~Erin Andrews, AmeriCorps Instructor

National Conference on Family Literacy

April 14, 2010 at 3:54 PM | Posted in Family Learning, News, Training | Comments Off on National Conference on Family Literacy

From March 11th-13th, I will be attended the National Conference on Family Literacy in San Antonio, Texas.  Each year the National Center for Family Literacy (the leading national family literacy organization) hosts the conference (most recently held in Orlando, FL and Louisville, KY- where the organization is headquartered).  The conference is a great gathering and exchange of professionals providing literacy services to families across the country.  It’s a great resource for ideas, materials and best practices in the field.  This was my fifth time attending this conference; my first time was seven years ago while working for another organization.

Since I’ve worked with the Literacy Council, the content of the conference is even more relevant and valuable; each year the conference offers something new with workshops ranging from ideas on low-cost parent and child activities to what research says about the benefits of family literacy.  At the 2008 conference, Erin Finn and I presented on student retention to an enthusiastic crowd of 100 people.  The hardest part about attending the conference is deciding which session to attend when there are many quality sessions occurring at the same time.  I was overwhelmed by the number of interesting topics at this year’s conference; I will inevitably need to come up with a ranking system.  In addition to great topics, this year, I was looking forward to inspirational speakers such as Michael Oher and Collins Tuohy, members of the real-life family that inspired the Blind Side.  While I was at the conference I took tons of interesting notes for future blogs, so expect to hear more soon!

~Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist

LCNV Calendar: April 2010

April 9, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Announcements, Calendar, Volunteers | Comments Off on LCNV Calendar: April 2010

It seems like we were just digging out of record breaking snowstorms a few weeks ago – now it’s 90 degrees out? Stay cool by attending an upcoming volunteer training at the Literacy Council.

Saturdays, April `10, 17, and 24: Basic Literacy Tutor Training – This intensive 3-Saturday workshop trains volunteers to tutor an adult who is learning to improve their reading and writing skills. Please click here for more information.

Wednesday, April 28, 6-9 pm: Classroom Teacher Training – This is a shortened version of our standard classroom training. We are currently looking for volunteer teachers and aides to help out in our Learning Centers classroom program for the spring session (May-end of June/beginning of July). Please click here for more information.

Save the date! The next ESOL Tutor Trainings begin on May 8th. Please click here for more information,

~Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers

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