A Classroom Community

November 29, 2010 at 1:57 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, ESOL, Family Learning, Teaching | Comments Off on A Classroom Community

During the fall, both Learning Centers classes and Family Learning Program classes study the topics of community and civics. The fall curriculum therefore covers things like the school system, places in the community, time, money, and relationships. In the ESOLC class that I teach at the James Lee Community Center, we just finished looking at the different buildings and services that are part of our community. We learned about the library, the post office, the police station, supermarkets, drug stores, hospitals, restaurants, and banks.

As a wrap-up and review activity, I turned our classroom into a “community” and set up stations all over the room that represented the different buildings and services that we studied. I divided my class into small groups and the students had to travel around their community and complete different real-world tasks at each stop. For example, at the bank the students had to write a “check” to a classmate. At the library, students filled out library card applications with their personal information. Next they went to the train station where students looked at a metro schedule and followed a series of clues in order to figure out a secret train stop I directed them to. When they got to the supermarket, students looked through grocery advertisements and made shopping lists. At the post office, students wrote a letter to a classmate and addressed an envelope. At the restaurant, students browsed through menus and picked out what meal they would order for dinner.

This was a really fun and educational activity because it got students moving around and interacting with one another. Additionally, all of the stations involved real-life applications of the vocabulary and concepts I had been teaching about for the past several weeks. I think that it is really important for the students to see how the things that they are learning in class are directly applicable to their lives as members of the communities they live in.

-Alicia Nieves, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member

New Stories of Thanksgiving

November 24, 2010 at 1:50 PM | Posted in Class, Family Learning, Favorite, Lesson Plans, Staff, Teaching, Volunteers | 1 Comment
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Now that Halloween candy and costumes have disappeared from the shelves, ourthoughts turn to the next holiday on the calendar, Thanksgiving. As we plan our holiday meals,decorations, and travel plans, we might also reflect on the many Thanksgiving traditions in ourcommunities and schools. How will we share the diverse stories of Thanksgiving this year?

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kathryn Mitter Jacqueline Jules , a local children’s book author, has written awonderful book titled Duck for Turkey Day. She says she was inspired by ESOL students whotold her that on Thanksgiving they ate food from their birth countries rather than the turkey,stuffing and cranberry sauce often associated with the holiday. That reminded her of her ownchildhood, growing up with an immigrant father. “Turkey and pumpkin were American foods that were unfamiliar to my Swiss father,” Jules recalls. “He thought turkey tasted too dry, and we often ate duck on Thanksgiving. This memorymotivated me to write a story about a little girl who is concerned because her family is planninga nontraditional meal for Thanksgiving. Since I had so many students from Vietnam at the time, Idecided to make my main character Vietnamese. My students were thrilled. They gave me advice on names for the characters and other details I used in the story.” “My students at this Fairfax County School came from over sixty different countries. Many of them did not speak English at home. But Thanksgiving is a holiday for Americans of all faithsand births. After all, it recalls the landing of the pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. In many ways, mystudents were pilgrims—people who came to America for religious freedom or to find a betterlife. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the diversity in America and that’s what I set out to do inDuck for Turkey Day.” According to the book’s synopsis, “It’s almost Thanksgiving, and Tuyet is excited about the holiday and the vacation from school. There’s just one problem: her Vietnamese American family is having duck for Thanksgiving dinner — not turkey! Nobody has duck for Thanksgiving– what will her teacher and the other kids think?” The message of this story—that there aremany “right” ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, but they all have family in common—is a fresh, heartwarming take on the Thanksgiving story. Duck for Turkey Day isn’t the only children’s book offering diverse perspectives on the Thanksgiving tradition. Here are a few more to share with family and friends this year:

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message

By Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr.

Written by a chief of the Mohawk nation and adorned with vibrant acrylic paintings, this story adapts the Iroquois message of thanksgiving for children.



1621, A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill

A great choice for older children (ages 8-12), 1621, A New Look at Thanksgiving was written in collaboration with the living history museum Plimoth Plantation. The book provides the perspectives of both the English colonists and the Wampanoag people and features photos of museum reenactments.

Ankle Soup by Maureen Sullivan, illustrated by Alison Josephs.

Pets enjoy Thanksgiving, too! This delightful picture book gives “a dog’s ankle-high view of Thanksgiving Day in New York City” through the story of Carlos the French Bulldog’s cab ride past the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.


Gracias, The Thanksgiving Turkey by Joe Cowley, illustrated by Joe Cepeda.

Gracias, The Thanksgiving Turkey features colorful oil paintings and tells the story of a Hispanic boy, Miguel, whose father sends him a live turkey to “fatten up” for the holiday. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next!

Happy Thanksgiving

November 23, 2010 at 3:26 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Teaching | Comments Off on Happy Thanksgiving

My fellow AmeriCorps members and I have been looking forward to Thanksgiving for a number of reasons. Thanksgiving means feasting, vacationing, seeing family, and, of course, Thanksgiving lesson planning! This week we get to share with our classes all the fabulous Thanksgiving traditions such as family, giving thanks, and most importantly, food. We have collectively bought twelve pumpkin pies for our students, and probably have each eaten the equivalent of an entire pie. Tellingly, this is the second blog post in a row featuring pie. We like our desserts at the Literacy Council!

Although some of the students do not celebrate Thanksgiving, everyone was happy to talk about their families, their own traditions, and their favorite foods. After all, who can resist pie?

Have a great Thanksgiving!

-Kerrin Epstein, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member

Thank you for being

November 17, 2010 at 4:33 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community, Community Partners, Favorite, Staff | Comments Off on Thank you for being
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I woke up feeling awful this morning, my whole body aching as I tried to do my morning stretch. My sister just got over the same cold that laid her out for almost a week of coughing, fevers and general uselessness.  “Crap, ” I thought.  “I have so much to do,”  as I thought about the training, paperwork, and other projects I had piling up on my desk.  After a cup of morning tea with my dad and a peak at the apple pie I made for today’s potluck, I thought, “I can get through aches.”

After work last night, I made a quick stop at the grocery and then spent the evening hours in the kitchen with my little sister.  A little nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves warmed my kitchen made me really excited for the potluck.  So I took some Dayquil and I got myself ready.  When I got to the office despite my cold, I got a little work in before our celebration.  When we all gathered in the classroom it was so good to see some of our alumni staff and our AmeriCorps partners from Beacon Literacy.  The holidays are such a special time to celebrate the people the shape our lives.  I’m so glad I have such a great workplace to come into every day.

Katie Beckman, Program Assistant

LCNV Reunion

November 12, 2010 at 12:03 PM | Posted in Favorite, Staff | Comments Off on LCNV Reunion
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Not too long ago, we had the rare occasion to celebrate the whole staff being on site, together for the first time in over two years. Mothers and mom’s to be all in the same window of non-maternity leave. No one was away for a class, training or meeting. And most special of all, Matt was in from California! We really noticed it when we looked around the room in our staff meeting. It was really just really nice to look around and appreciate all the wonderful people I get to work with.

This week as an early holiday present, I framed an 8X10 photo that captured the day!

With the busy fall, at times, we’ve passed each other like ships in the night.  Having everyone assembled reminded me what a talented and dedicated staff I get to work with, and more importantly, the mission that holds us together.  The quality of the staff is a direct reflection of the wonderful community of volunteers and students we get to work with.  You all keep me inspired and challenged.  Thank you!

Katie Beckman, Program Assistant

Human Rights in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights

November 10, 2010 at 3:27 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Training | Comments Off on Human Rights in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights

As part of our AmeriCorps experience, and as one of the perks of living in the D.C. Metro Area, we can attend so many educational events at governmental and non-governmental organizations on various topics. Not too long ago, the AmeriCorps group decided to attend an event hosted by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) on the human rights situation in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. We learned a lot from the speakers about the types of human rights abuses that are taking place in Ciudad Juárez and how the Mexican judicial system has denied many of its citizens’ justice. Not only does the system have some corrupt public servants, but it also has serious flaws that prevent cases from even getting heard by a judge.

The event focused mainly on human rights abuses committed by the Mexican military and how a good number of these cases are never reported because the victims feel that reprisals by the military are a sure thing. This is why in order to get some type of justice, or at least to give the human rights situation in Mexico some attention, the victims have filed suit against the Mexican state at the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. The interesting thing is that the Mexican government has lost a number of these cases, but unfortunately, even though they won in court, the victims either had to flee the country or move to another part of Mexico because they feared for their lives. It was a great event and we hope to continue going to many more like it.

-Jose Flores, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member

Monster Mash!

November 3, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, ESOL, Family Learning, Lesson Plans, Media, Student Stories, Teaching | Comments Off on Monster Mash!

In light of Halloween coming up this weekend, my fellow Americorps members and I decided to take the opportunity to introduce our students to some of the holiday’s vocabulary and traditions in our classes.  I gave my students an article to read discussing the roots of the holiday and some of the ways people celebrate it in America.  We talked about all of the different kinds of costumes children wear on Halloween as they go door-to-door demanding candy from their neighbors–quite the concept if you consider that Halloween is an uniquely American holiday, so most of our students are unfamiliar with such practices.

I played the Halloween classic, “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett as part of a listening exercise in which students had to fill in the missing Halloween vocabulary words on lyrics print-outs. 

Purely for fun, I brought in several rolls of toilet paper and divided my class into two teams who had a couple minutes to turn one of their team members into a toilet paper mummy!  To end the night I read the class a spooky ghost story and rewarded Halloween Bingo winners with candy “treats.”

I loved watching my students let loss and have fun with all of the silly activities I planned because I know that the students really value the sense of community they develop in their classes, and a lot of bonding certainly went on during our Halloween parties.  Additionally, I find that when students are interacting with each other during activities that have them speaking on less artificial terms than say a pre-fabricated dialogue,  they are much more relaxed and the English just flows.

Alicia Nieves, AmeriCorps Teacher and Lead Teacher

Global Families

November 2, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Student Stories, Teaching | 1 Comment

Last week, I asked my level three students to write about their families. As they read aloud what they had written, I was struck by what diverse international lives my students live. While we are all familiar with globalization of the world in terms of markets, politics, and pollution, we seldom reflect on global families. These families are spread throughout different nations and  across cultural divides.

For example, a student from Cameroon revealed that he is the son of his father’s fourth wife. However, some of his brothers and sisters are in Cameroon, and his parents remained in Cameroon until their death. His family lives in more than one country. When the same student was asked about his goals, he replied that he wanted to be better integrated in American society. He plans to achieve this goal, in part, by getting married. If he stays in the United States, his marital path will be different from that of his father’s. His children, too, may have a different concept of grandparents than children with parents and grandparents raised in the United States.

Another student from the same class was born in Afghanistan. She has two brothers living in Germany and a sister who lives with her in the United States. Her sister is married and has a son. Her family is represented in at least two countries (she does not indicate whether any family members remain in Afghanistan) and is potentially influenced by three cultural ideas of family. Two other students have children and sisters who live Ethiopia.

All of the students who completed the writing assignment had family members who live in other countries. Although only about half the class did the homework, I am sure that many of the students we serve have global families. I often think about how differently people in other countries live; however, in my mind, these people are strangers. For many of my students, these people are family.

Kerrin Epstein,  Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Volunteer

A Time for Giving… and Tutor Trainings!

November 2, 2010 at 11:35 AM | Posted in Announcements, Basic Literacy, Calendar, Training, Tutoring, Uncategorized, Volunteers | Comments Off on A Time for Giving… and Tutor Trainings!

Title: LCNV Calendar: November 2010

Welcome to November –  a time for Thanksgiving, turkey (or tofurkey), and tutor trainings! Here’s the information about the next set of Basic Literacy workshops:


What: Basic Literacy tutor workshops

When (updated 11/09/10): Saturdays, Nov. 20th, Dec. 4th and Dec. 11th, 9:30 am-1:30 pm

Where: James Lee Community Center, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church, VA 22042

Who: All interested volunteers over 18, who can commit to at least 9 months of weekly tutoring

Why: Adult learners are waiting to be matched with a volunteer tutor, so that they can improve their reading and writing skills.

How: E-mail Belle at volunteers@lcnv.org or call 703-237-0866 x111.

Thank you for all that you do!

Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers

Election Day

November 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Election Day

This is one of my favorite days of the year.  I love to vote.  I love having the power to choose my leaders, voice my opinion on bond issues and show my support for democracy.  What an amazing privilege we have in this country.  And, our system truly does make it easy.  The polling places are centrally located in easy-to-find public buildings right in our neighborhoods, and open all day long.

Working at the Literacy Council with many adult learners from many different countries, I have truly come to appreciate our democratic process and the freedom we have to elect our leaders.  This really is one of the greatest gifts of living in the United States of America.  The results may not always go exactly the way of my choice, but the privilege and right to have a voice and be heard is more exciting than the outcomes.  I cannot imagine not voting on Election Day.  It’s the most powerful feeling in the world.  Please vote.  Please join your fellow Americans in the most exciting day of the year.

-Patti Donnelly, Executive Director

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