At the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia we believe that literacy is a survival skill. We frame our English classes with this belief in mind, teaching English in the context of life skills and everyday language our learners will frequently encounter. Though our aim is for students to acquire English language skills in speaking, reading, writing, and reading and for them to feel empowered by this knowledge – I have noticed that our students have an added advantage that is unique to our geographic area – their fellow classmates.
In Northern Virginia, we are all so fortunate to be a part of a community that is rich in cultural diversity. We have the benefit of being exposed to many different languages, cultures, religions, and customs which allows us to expand our knowledge base and worldview. While our students are learning English, they are also learning about each other as they work together towards a common goal.
In just one of my classes I have fifteen students who represent twelve different countries and seven different languages. Last week this class was learning words of frequency; always, sometimes and never. We went around the room and each student provided a sentence in the context of daily routines for something they always, sometimes, or never do.
One student, a man from Mexico, answered that he sometimes goes to church because he only goes to church on Sundays.
The next student, a woman from Afghanistan, answered that she always prays because she prays five times a day.
The student from Mexico asked her to repeat.
So the woman repeated, “I always pray. I pray five times a day.”
The man asked again, “Five? I don’t understand.”
The woman then explained when she prays during the day and told the student that she is Muslim. This opened a discussion in the class about religious customs, what religions the students practiced and how they were different and how they were the same. The students used the words of frequency, expressed understanding of the concepts different and same, and posed Wh- questions to each other all in English – an entirely student led discussion that began from a desire to understand a culture different from their own.
As the teacher I can provide the English words and structures – but the students are each other’s greatest resource in their education. There is a vast collective knowledge in all of our classrooms and our students are so fortunate to have the opportunity to communicate with each other and learn so much more than English during their classroom experience with the Literacy Council.
If you haven’t kicked off your holiday season by signing up to gift wrap for LCNV, please consider a gift to our students today as you check out Cyber Monday deals! LCNV makes it easy for you by letting you know exactly what we need for our students on our Amazon Wish List. After you finish shopping for
yourself your friends and family on Amazon.com, click on this link, or on Amazon.com, click on the Wish List link in the top right corner of the webpage. Then, search for “Literacy Council of Northern Virginia” to see items that we currently need to serve our students. Our address is preset in the system so that you can easily have Amazon.com send the item directly to us. Many of the items are the children’s books that are used by LCNV’s Family Learning Program, which provides English literacy instruction for children (ages 2 – 12) and their low-income, immigrant parents in a supportive classroom environment, emphasizing the goal of parents increasing involvement in their children’s educational activities. The books are used for instruction within the curriculum, then given to the parents to take home to start their own at-home libraries!
Another easy way to support LCNV while searching for Cyber Monday deals is to search using GoodSearch.com, which donates a penny to your non-profit of choice every time you search! Click “Choose a Cause” on their homepage to easily start donating to LCNV today! The site even allows you to track your impact and how much you have raised for our learners. While you’re there, check out GoodShop.com, which allows you to shop at 2500+ retailers like Amazon, Target or Staples and up to 30% will be donated to your cause. You get to give back while doing the Cyber Monday shopping you need to do and save with over 100,000 coupons on the site!
Thank you for thinking of LCNV during the holidays. We hope you can take a break from all the busy-ness and join us for a potluck meal next week, on Tuesday, December 4, from 6 – 8 pm. You can find more details here: http://www.lcnv.org/events/annual-holiday-potluck.
Tags: AmeriCorps, giving thanks, Teacher Stories, thanksgiving
Thanksgiving has been a tradition for centuries. Traditionally, it has been known as a gathering where family and friends share a meal. Though the history behind it is rich, it seems that the Thanksgiving ritual has become eating as much as one can hold and then going back for seconds. Nevertheless, delving deeper than food, Thanksgiving is a day of reflection and giving thanks.
I am taking this time to reflect on the students that I teach here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Time and time again, I am grateful for each and every one of them. I appreciate their dedication and enthusiasm for learning English. Throughout these past few months, I have learned so much about their unique cultures, experiences in America, and willingness to learn a new language despite the barriers that they each may face. Collectively, this experience has allowed me to appreciate the diversity and cultural differences that not only are a part of America, but also define America.
During this holiday respite, our lives may be frenzied with work, traffic, stress, bills, school, and countless other time-consuming activities. However, I urge us all to remember that Thanksgiving is not simply about eating; rather, it is about stopping and enjoying what really matters in life—family, children, friends, good health, and well being.
Thus, on Thanksgiving, take a break from your hectic lives and take a moment to appreciate the people around you whom you love, as well as the simple things that we so often may take for granted.
Do you love books…or wandering around bookstores?
Do you like getting in the holiday spirit…and chatting with other happy holiday shoppers?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might like to volunteer for LCNV’s gift wrapping events at local Barnes & Noble Booksellers. We have arrangements with five of the local stores to wrap gift items purchased at those stores, while at the same time talking with folks about all the good things that LCNV does. These gift wrapping events are viewed as a fundraiser for LCNV. As people learn about the importance of our mission, they may be more inclined to make a contribution to LCNV via the donation jar.
One of the volunteer gift wrappers from last year shared: “It was heartwarming to see the generosity of the customers. It also made me feel good about doing this for a worthwhile cause.” Another volunteer said she liked the “opportunity to help LCNV and spread the word about the organization,” and added “I also appreciated the opportunity to expose a young man I’m mentoring to community service. It was nice to see people’s reaction to the whole experience.”
We would love to have you join our gift wrapping volunteers this year! Each gift wrap shift generally lasts three hours but a few shifts are a little longer (but no more than four hours). The Barnes & Noble stores where we will be doing gift wrapping this year include Clarendon, Fairfax, Potomac Yard, Seven Corners, and Tysons. Dates begin as early as November 23rd and go through December 24th. Click on this link to see a listing of the gift wrap schedule. To volunteer for a specific shift, please send an e-mail to email@example.com. Thank you in advance for your generosity!
Tags: AmeriCorps, esol classes, student stories, veterans day
We honor our veterans every year on Veteran’s Day. My father is one of the millions of veterans who fought and served their country. My father is an Ex-Navy Seal who fought in the Vietnam War in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He was drafted at a young age due to only being a part-time college student. My father never speaks about his time in Vietnam and will never to anyone. No one except for our family even knows he is a veteran. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, or Atheist you probably know a veteran. Whether you are pro-war or against war, you probably know a veteran. I am proud of my father’s service.
Sometimes we never really see the other side of a war when we are in armed conflict; this can become a pretty ethnocentric experience. One of my students grew up in Vietnam during the war. She is an extremely bright, curious, and amazing student that loves to learn and challenge herself. One day, in class, we were speaking about childhood and she shared her experiences with the class. She told us how she would hear bombs, gunshots, and fields burning every night. Her parents only allowed her to go to school and back home. She never had any friends, she never went out, and she never was allowed to do any activities. It was too dangerous to go outside; she had to stay inside and would complete her homework. On numerous occasions, the front line would get too close and she would have to go in the safe room, which her family had built in their basements. One day, she came home from school and no one was home. She waited for hours for her family to come home, but no one did. Her brother was actually severely injured in a bombing that happened in his work building. Her family was at a hospital because they saw her brother’s building collapse after the bomb. Thankfully, the brother survived. He still has large burns marks and scars down his shoulder and back. My student said that this was her childhood. She would not change it for anything because it is hers; it wasn’t pleasant, but this is what made her what she is today.
This week we honor those who have served; those who have witnessed; those who have experienced; those who have died; those who have survived; and those who have so much to share of their experiences.
Tags: ESOL Parent Meeting, ESOL Services, Fairfax County
Fairfax County Public Schools will be hosting its last ESOL Parent Meeting on November 13, 2012
(Tuesday) from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Woodson High School in Fairfax. Dinner and childcare are provided, as well as interpreters for Arabic, Farsi, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. Fairfax County Public Schools holds these meetings for parents to learn about ESOL services available to their children, the new elementary progress report, advanced academic offerings, preparing for college and career, and other services to support families.
The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia was present at the first two meetings. The first meeting was held at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria on October 10 and the second was at Chantilly High School in Chantilly on October 22. Parents were very interested in LCNV’s offerings and filled out forms to receive information about classes for next semester; they also showed interest in ongoing conversation classes. LCNV will also be attending the Parent Meeting at Woodson. A special thank you goes to volunteer Julia Zurkovsky who attended the Chantilly meeting on LCNV’s behalf and will be attending the Woodson meeting.
To learn more about the FCPS ESOL Parent Meetings, go to http://www.fcps.edu/is/esol/parents.shtml.
Photo: Samantha Poyta, Parent Education Coordinator for SCAN of Northern Virginia
and Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist LCNV
at Hayfield Secondary ESOL Parent Meeting on October 10
Carisa C. Pineda
Family Learning Specialist
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 237-0866 x 108
Tags: AmeriCorps, citizenship, civic engagement, esol learners, naturalization ceremony, USCIS
As an AmeriCorps instructor for LCNV, I try to provide a place for adult students to experience English. In this regard, October 11 was a gift – I was able to bring my students to one of two Naturalization Ceremonies, which the James Lee Community Center hosted. A new LCNV student, Candida, participated in the ceremony and is now an American citizen! The Naturalization Ceremony compliments the curriculum in LCNV’s Civics and Community term:
Where are you from? What’s your name? What languages do you speak? Speaking about basic personal information is a crucial life skill. At the beginning of the term, my class also practiced this skill to build a sense of community. We weren’t learning English alone; we were learning English with peers from eight different countries and five different language backgrounds. Before reciting the Oath of Allegiance, naturalization candidates stand when their home countries are called. There’s no mistaking what it means for individuals, who hail from dozens of countries, to initially stand separated by country, then as one as U.S. citizens.
But what is a “citizen”? When we practiced filling out forms with basic personal information, my class profiled important American figures and world leaders. Some students became familiar with President Obama, Governor Mitt Romney, and Governor Bob McDonnell for the first time. When the ceremony prompted the question of what it means to be a citizen, we demonstrated how a person with U.S. citizenship can elect Barack Obama or Mitt Romney this November for president.
Even further, the ceremony motivated two of my students to share that they too want to pass the citizenship test – a chance to avail them of LCNV’s tutoring services. Events like the Naturalization Ceremony are English-in-action, illustrating ways to expand LCNV lessons and activities into the Northern Virginia community.
Gratitude must go to the James Lee Community Center for co-hosting the Naturalization Ceremonies with LCNV, and to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for permitting our classes to join in the celebratory occasion.
Tags: charles beatley library, tutoring, volunteer communities, volunteer networking, volunteers
The Literacy Council supports its volunteers with events at the main office. Now, LCNV would like to try this at a local level and foster volunteer communities. Come to the Volunteer Networking Night! This event in Alexandria is our pilot attempt to do this. We hope you’ll come and share your experiences, challenges, and successes as a teacher, tutor, or class aide with the Council.
When: Nov. 5, 6:30-8:30 PM
Where: Charles Beatley Library, 5005 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22304
Hope to see you this Monday!
Tags: Family Learning, family literacy, National Family Literacy Day, National Family Literacy Month
What is family literacy and how LCNV involved? Family Literacy is multi-generational learning where adults and children are engaged together in the education process. Family Literacy looks very differently from program to program across the country, but all Family Literacy Programs have components in common.
The federal definition of Family Literacy includes four components:
1) Adult education (ESOL, basic education, GED, etc.)
2) Child education
3) Parenting skills (understanding the school system, supporting children’s learning at home, etc.)
4) Parent and Child Together (PACT) time – parents and children engaging in learning activities together
Because it has all four of these components, LCNV’s Family Learning Program (FLP) is a Family Literacy Program. How does LCNV’s Family Learning Program fulfill this definition?
1) Adult Education: While the Adult Education component can vary greatly from program to program and can include parents who are native English speakers to programs that are taught in a family’s home language, LCNV’s program focuses on ESOL instruction to adults. The adult participants in the program are parents, family members or childcare providers.
2) Child Education: In LCNV’s Family Learning Program, the adult students may bring their children to the children’s room where children’s teachers engage the children in a variety of ways . Morning classes with pre-school aged children emphasize pre-literacy skills such as introduction to books, fine motor skills, color recognition, etc. Evening classes which include school-aged children can provide homework help. The curriculum for the adults supports their children’s education whether the parents bring their children to the program or not.
3) Parenting Skills: The LCNV FLP curriculum provides teachers with content that is especially relevant to the parents they are serving. LCNV partners with schools, libraries and other organizations to provide parents with information that is relevant to them.
4) Parent and Child Together (PACT): A few times a month, the FLP classes bring the adults and children together for joint learning activities. Teachers also send home PACTs for families to do with their children at home. The adult FLP students receive children’s books for their home libraries. Throughout the semester they learn and practice reading the children’s books to encourage reading with their children at home.
For more information about LCNV’s Family Learning program please contact Carisa Pineda at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Family Literacy visit the National Center for Family Literacy