Tutoring Opportunities at Offender Aid and Restoration

July 15, 2010 at 12:06 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Community Partners, Tutoring | Comments Off on Tutoring Opportunities at Offender Aid and Restoration
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In the United States, a staggering 1 out of 31 people are incarcerated, on parole or on probation, and it’s estimated that 75% of the prison population in our country struggles with literacy issues.  Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) helps men and women in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church transition from incarceration to the community by providing referrals and resources to these individuals so they can lead productive lives in our society and stay out of prison.  OAR works to restore individuals to wholeness, both pre- and post-release, by providing assistance with housing, food, clothing, employment counseling, and educational services.

OAR welcomes LCNV tutors to assist in providing one-on-one, drop-in tutoring to its clients at its Arlington office located at 1400 N. Uhle Street, Suite 704, Arlington, VA 22201 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.   The office is conveniently located at the Courthouse Metro on the Orange Line and there is also ample parking in the county lot directly in front of the building’s entrance (free after 6:00 p.m. weekdays.)

The educational needs of OAR clients range from developing basic literacy skills to preparing for the GED.  Tutoring sessions are supervised by experienced OAR employees.  The safety of volunteers is of paramount importance to OAR staff.  Volunteer contact information is never disclosed to OAR clients and all scheduling and contact with clients outside of the OAR office is managed by staff.  OAR provides a brief orientation to new volunteers in order to provide information about their policies and procedures and explain the special needs of their clients.

OAR also works with inmates in the Arlington County Jail providing educational and other services.  In order to tutor inmates at the jail, volunteers must complete a more comprehensive training program and a background check.

Please consider becoming a volunteer tutor at OAR.  To learn more about OAR’s mission, visit their website at www.oaronline.org. Lisa Bellamy, a member of LCNV’s Basic Literacy Training Team and OAR volunteer, is available to answer your questions about the tutoring experience at OAR.  Contact her at 703-812-5218, or BellamyL2@verizon.net.  If you are interested in working with this underserved population, please contact Rachel Sparico, OAR’s Director of Volunteer and Education Services at 703-228-7031, or by e-mail at rsparico@oaronline.org.

-Lisa Bellamy, BAL Tutor Trainer

Hum Along with ESL

July 15, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in ESOL, Family Learning, Teaching | Comments Off on Hum Along with ESL

You might recall from previous blog posts that I attended the National Conference on Family Literacy back in April.  While I was there, I attended a session about the relationship between singing and literacy.  The session described how singing and song-based picture books can be effective tools for families learning English.  When working with adults, it’s easy to feel skeptical about using songs and picture books to reinforce learning, but if the adults are parents or have children in their lives, it’s perfectly appropriate. Here are some reasons why singing can be a positive experience in the classroom:

  • Singing builds community for families and develops a rich oral language
  • Parents feel more comfortable with songs (rather than speaking) because they are able to use oral memory
  • Carrying a tune gives parents confidence even if the verses are new
  • Songs can be reinforced with books and print
  • Song-based picture books emphasize the following skills: alliteration, rhyme, syllable segmentation, alphabet knowledge, fluency, new vocabulary, and text comprehension
  • The phrasing in singing pushes language forward more than reading alone

Song-based picture books that are great to use in the classroom include

  • Songs with movement
  • Songs with repetition
  • Songs that are cumulative
  • Call and answer songs
  • Songs using instruments

The following song-related books can be found in the Family Learning Program’s library here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia:

Thanks to a recent generous donation of children’s books from the Bean Tree Learning Center, we now have a Caldecott Honor Book version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  This song-based picture book of a classic children’s folkloric song is by Simms Taback.  The images are mixed media and collage with cut-outs that show the animals the old lady consumes.  In addition to the traditional lyrics, other quips are embedded into the text.  The ending of this version is a bit morbid (unless you truly appreciate dry humor) and finishes off with the moral: “Never Swallow a Horse” and a historical tidbit about the origins of the song.

We also have The Wheels of the Bus by Maryann Kovalski, an adaptation of the traditional song.  In this version, Grandma takes Jenny and Joanna into the city to shop for winter coats.  She tells them about her experiences riding the bus as a child and they sing the song together.  They are so distracted by their singing that they miss the bus and end up taking a taxi.  The notes for the main verse are shown in one of the early pages of the book.

A picture book of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favorite Things, illustrated by Renee Graff pairs the lyrics of the song with warm illustrations.  The last few pages of the book include the lyrics and notes for the entire song.

The Reader’s Digest Children’s Songbook is a collection of over one hundred songs.  The sheet music for each song is compiled and organized in sections such as “Muppet Madness and Some Hits from Sesame Street,” “Songs Children Sing in Many Countries,” “Nursery Rhymes” and “More Nursery Rhymes” among ten other sections.

For more information about these books please contact familylearning@lcnv.org.

~Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist


July 14, 2010 at 9:48 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, ESOL, Graduations | Comments Off on Smile!

Many of us have been following the drama of the World Cup over the last couple of weeks.  We’ve all tuned in for the heartbreak, the ecstasy, the scandal, the…cephalopod.  A winner has been crowned, and a general catharsis has settled around the world.  Here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, my fellow AmeriCorps members and I are also experiencing an outpour of strong emotions.

The recent spring graduation parties marked the end of my teaching experience with LCNV and the last time that I will see most of my students, some of whom have been in my classes for the entire year.  As I near the end of my service year and prepare to head back home to Charlotte, NC, I already miss working with my students and fellow volunteers.

At my last graduation, my teachers got together and presented me with a small gift.  A toothbrush.  I know that this may sound strange to the readers of this blog (and most other people), but I was touched by this little hygienic tool.  My teachers remembered that I was planning to return home and prepare to apply to dental school, and the toothbrush was a sweet way to say good luck.  I have had some wonderful experiences at LCNV: working with passionate teachers, teaching inspiring students, and now, the gift of plaque-free gums.  It just doesn’t get any better.

Thanks, again Cindy, Laurie, and Kay!  I will miss teaching with you this fall.

~Erin Andrews, AmeriCorps Instructor

LCNV Never Sleeps

July 12, 2010 at 2:08 PM | Posted in Announcements, Basic Literacy, Calendar, ESOL, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on LCNV Never Sleeps

Lazy summer days? Not here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia! Although there aren’t any events happening this month, we are busy gearing up for the upcoming fall session. In particular, we are now recruiting for volunteers to attend the ESOL tutor trainings next month.

The ESOL Tutoring Program works with non-English speakers (who are likely illiterate in their native language) who want to work on speaking, understanding, reading and writing English.  Currently on a waiting list to be matched with tutors, these adult students are eager to improve their English literacy skills by working one-to-one with a trained volunteer.

Each tutor is trained, matched with a student, and encouraged to meet weekly for an hour and a half at a location convenient to both the volunteer and the student.  The Literacy Council provides intensive tutor training at their Falls Church office prior to starting an assignment (there is a $40 fee to cover the costs of training materials). The next three-day training will take place in Falls Church on August 14, 21, and 28 (all Saturdays) at 9:30 am-3:30 pm.  Absolutely no teaching experience or knowledge of foreign languages is required.  All that’s needed is your willingness to promote adult literacy in the community and serve others!

This volunteer opportunity is perfect if you want to:

  • Help people learn English, but feel more comfortable working with someone one-on-one rather than teaching in front of a group;
  • Enjoy the flexibility of setting your own schedule with your student;
  • Receive satisfaction from seeing an individual’s progress from month to month;
  • Follow the structure of established, time-tested instructional materials, but still have room to be creative with your own ideas.

Please contact Belle Peñaranda at volunteers@lcnv.org or 703-237-0866 x111 for more information. You can also visit this page to find out more!

~Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers

World Cup Final

July 9, 2010 at 4:53 PM | Posted in ESOL, Graduations, News | 4 Comments

The World Cup only comes around every four years, and no other sporting event can match the excitement that it creates around the world. It is not just a game, it is a celebration of culture and humanity. The attention is fixed on one geographical region; this time it is Africa, more specifically South Africa. We have been reminded by South Africa that a nation has its own distinct sound and color. Many people around the world now know what a vuvuzela is and what it sounds like. You can also the drums into the mix. They were always present. In the end, as the president of FIFA Joseph Blatter said, “Africa has a unique sound.” As for the color, who did not want the green and yellow bafana bafana to win? Here we are, two days before the final and the only thing I can think of is that all good things must come to an end.

Octopus Paul has already made his prediction and here I make my. Spain will win 2-0. David Villa will score at least one goal. The octopus has a 6-0 record and I hope not to jinx it. At the Literacy Council, a number of us have followed the World Cup and greatly enjoyed the tournament. However, as we come closer to the last two matches, we also come to the end of our spring session of ESOL classes.  The success of our classroom students and the teams we watch in the world cup is bittersweet, as we will miss seeing both of them on a daily basis.  Viva España!!

~Jose Flores, Executive Assistant

America’s Salad Bowl

July 2, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Posted in Announcements, Basic Literacy, ESOL, Family Learning, Volunteers | Comments Off on America’s Salad Bowl

Literacy Council adult learners have reported a plethora of life-changing success stories as a result of the work we do at the Literacy Council.  Many are now reading to their children or grandchildren regularly, some have just received their driver’s licenses, others have been promoted or acquired employment, and at least 10 so far this year have passed the citizenship test.

Congratulations to all of our students and volunteers for these many achievements! As we celebrate Independence Day, we can also celebrate the fact that we are giving these adult learners the tools they need to become more self-sufficient, independent, and productive citizens.

However, there is also a more subtle collective benefit that is equally important: creating an environment that builds community and strengthens understanding and acceptance across all cultures. The Literacy Council is a variety of adult learners who are all trying to better-themselves and become more engaged in their community.

Among our nearly 1,600 learners, the Literacy Council has over 40 countries represented and 64 different native languages spoken.  All of these very different people from very different places all over the world are learning together, learning about each other, and creating bonds and friendships they never imagined. They all want the best for themselves and for their families.

It is our American tradition at its best to provide adults, who have a common goal of learning the English language and literacy skills, an opportunity to learn, without regard to age, ethnicity, gender, cultural traditions, home language, or learning style.  We teach literacy skills to students in a rich and diverse community, and the end result is a more compassionate, understanding, better educated community.  This is what it means to build a stronger America.  This is why we have something to celebrating.

~ Patricia M. Donnelly, Executive Director

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

July 1, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Posted in ESOL, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I took my Korean student, Sunny Koo, and a couple of other Koreans to a Nationals baseball game last Friday night. Last summer, in my LCNV Placement Advisor capacity, I interviewed a Korean man, Hae Young Lee, after he requested a tutor. His English was too good for the tutoring program, so he and his wife, Chung Yeon, are both studying English through Fairfax County’s adult education program. I arranged for a McLean Rotarian to be Hae Young’s “friend” so he can practice his English in an informal setting. Hae Young is the Washington editor for a Korean press service. He and his wife had been to professional games in Korea and Japan, but this was their first game in America.

Sunny had never been to a professional baseball game, but knew most of the rules of the game, since baseball is the most popular professional sport in Korea. We all got to see Stephen Strasburg pitch, which was a treat for all of us. President Obama was in attendance at the game. There was no public announcement that he was there but it must have been announced to the media because people in the stands started spreading the word. There was plenty of excitement all around. Here is a picture of the Korean couple, Hae Young and Chung Yeon Lee, which commemorates their attendance.

~Jan Auerbach, LCNV Tutor

Professional Development in Our Own Backyard

July 1, 2010 at 9:01 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Professional Development in Our Own Backyard

This morning I attended Congressman Jim Moran’s 2010 Non-Profit Grant Workshop in the Ballston area of Arlington.  My position at LCNV as Program assistant is not generally relevant to development/fundraising, but I attended the workshop to represent the Council and partake in free professional development.  Rep. Moran certainly packed it in–with a schedule starting at 8:30, there were 8 presentations with no break until the end of the workshop after noon.  Most conferences or educational course loads can’t fit the content of more than 3 or 4 presentations in a single day!

Rep. Moran clearly wanted to bring the resources of his office and its contacts to the non-profits of Northern Virginia.  It was a good opportunity for him to reflect on both his pride for our area’s standing as one of the most healthy communities and economies in the nation, while he also reiterated the need and support for our services.  He described the reality of government funds, saying that funds continue to be dispersed to successful programs but that their own pool of resources isn’t growing with the demand for services.  Stressing partnerships and dynamic fundraising, Moran introduced 7 speakers from different government agencies and nationally recognized groups, including National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, etc.  They all went over best practices for grant submission in the context of each organization’s mission.  I was particularly interested in the online training and website features that each organization has developed at various levels.  While government money may seem like heartburn and bureaucracy to some, it can open up doors with its reputation building affects and volume of funds. Rep. Moran extended his thanks to our non-profit community while reminding us that the less infinite opportunities for government funds will put stress on our program to provide more service with less reliable government support.

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