Tutor Tip: Navigating the Road to Student Success

December 20, 2013 at 6:08 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Tutoring | Leave a comment
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How much can students progress in the tutoring program?  The answer may lie in what they do at home.

Earlier this month, LCNV offered a three-hour training for a few new volunteers to join our corps of assessment specialists in the literacy program. These individuals perform an important activity for the program—the periodic testing of students to benchmark their progress. The goal is to assess students after every 40 hours of instruction on measures of word recognition and reading comprehension.

So many factors influence the amount a student learns in 40 tutoring hours, but we are convinced that practicing skills during the week is one of them. Adult learners understand the importance of learning to read, but they may believe that tutoring sessions in and of themselves will enable them to meet their goals.  This is not always the case.  The most successful learners routinely practice their skills on their own and complete homework during the week.  Some carve out time at home, others make creative use of minutes spent on public transportation. Tutors who create manageable assignments and convey the importance of doing them can help students join their ranks. 

Practical Application. One assignment that fits neatly into a ten minute time slot consists of studying new sight words and reviewing those already learned. Sight words are those words the learner memorizes so that they can be recognized instantly. Prominent among them are common phonetically irregular words such as the word said. A learner must recognize a word instantly on sight five to ten times for it to be considered a sight word.

The learner (or tutor) prints each prospective sight word on a separate index card, and prepares the reverse side with an illustrative picture and sentence using the word. The learner practices reading a word, using it in a sentence, and then reading the word again. The back of the card serves as both a prompt and a means of checking accuracy.  This technique is modeled by the tutor and practiced until the learner is able to replicate it independently. Tristen Mimiaga, one of our AmeriCorps volunteers, suggests hole-punching small index cards and stringing them together on a metal ring.  “It makes them more portable and easier to pull out of a coat pocket when the student has time,” he said.

It is reasonable to begin by assigning two new words a week as homework and to increase the number of words only when the student shows the capacity to easily master more. To learn more about teaching sight words, view a short video by ProliteracyMedia at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJiIWhqVHgQ.

One way to increase motivation and jump start the homework habit involves having learners set skill-specific goals (such as the number of new sight words they want to learn in a given period of time) and then participate in tracking their own progress via a check list or graph. To learn more about increasing motivation in English language learners, read an article by Donna Moss and Lauren Ross-Feldman at following link: http://www.cal.org/caela/esl_resources/digests/sla.html

Do you have difficulty getting your student to practice skills between lessons? What ideas do you have for motivating students to do homework or creating assignments that can fit into tight schedules?  I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment on this post.

Carole Vinograd Bausell, Ed.D. is an English language and literacy specialist with LCNV.

Carole Holiday Spirit

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042


LCNV AmeriCorps teachers volunteer at George Mason University’s Alternative Break Program

December 17, 2013 at 4:56 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community, Teaching | Leave a comment
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Recently, LCNV AmeriCorps teachers,  Tristen Mimiaga, Xavier Munoz, and Shani Brown, agreed to voluntarily host a teaching workshop for the Alternative Break Program at George Mason University.  Here is the back-story from new AmeriCorps teacher, Tristen Mimiaga, on how this came to be:

“I was a member of the Alternative Break Program (AB Program) for two years; one year I only served as a member and the following year as a trip leader. The trips within the AB Program are designed and led by students. The theme/focus of the trip vary – not all trips do the same thing. For my trip in particular our focus was, and still is, education. So, I thought of the idea of providing a workshop for them because during both years there was little guidance available on teaching English at the school with whom we were working.  I got in contact with a friend of mine – who happens to be a leader for a trip leaving in January about possibly providing a workshop related to teaching methods/how to teach. So, this is how it came to be.

It ended up being a small workshop with three participants, but they were all very eager to learn and highly engaged.  We spoke about the qualities of good and bad teaching (and how to avoid bad teaching), the importance of modeling, how to use different types of dialogues within the classroom especially with various learning levels, and how catering to different learning styles can motivate students and prevent boredom from the sense of repetition.”

Click here to see more photos from the workshop.

Interested in finding out more, email info@lcnv.org or call the office at 703-237-0866.

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

New Year Brings New Changes to LCNV

December 17, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Elise Bruml

The beginning of the New Year will bring some changes to the Literacy Council.  Our long-time colleague, Elise Bruml will be retiring from the staff after 10 years of service as the Tutoring Program Director and ESOL Tutoring Specialist.  She served as a volunteer tutor and placement advisor for at least five years before joining the staff.  It is impossible to measure the professionalism, expertise, and program development Elise contributed to the Council over those 15 years.  I know that many volunteers, learners, Board members and community members share my deep appreciation of Elise for all that she has done for our community.   Like all dear friends who chose to take a new path, Elise will not be leaving entirely.  No one ever leaves the Literacy Council family.  Elise will maintain her commitment to ESOL learners by serving as an ESOL placement advisor, and will continue to share her academic expertise by serving on task forces and committees.

The Literacy Council Board and staff also approved the next three-year strategic plan in November, in which we will bring considerable changes to the Literacy Council over the next few years.   Board and staff have identified capacity building and financial stability as two organizational priorities which will be realized through increased communication and outreach, program re-design and re-structuring, and exploring new business partnerships and opportunities.  With a hopeful expectation for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the Literacy Council wants to be prepared to meet the educational needs of the likely growth in capacity that may result from many adults eager to jump on the path to citizenship.  We look forward to an exciting year of research, restructure, and program re-design, leading LCNV on a path to serve our learners more efficiently and effectively.

Patricia M. Donnelly, Executive Director
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

LCNV Selected for World Bank Group Community Connections Campaign

December 13, 2013 at 12:27 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


LCNV  was once again selected to be part of the World Bank Group Community Connections Campaign, which runs from now through December 31. In order to be part of the campaign, 10 employees had to nominate LCNV. Then, in the first year of the campaign, LCNV needed to receive at least $500 in designated pledges from at least 10 donors. We received over $1,000 in donations through this campaign in 2013.

This is the World Bank Group’s own workplace giving program, through which employees and retirees can give back to their community in the Washington, D.C. region through payroll deduction. It is administered by the World Bank Community Connections Fund (WBCCF), a separate nonprofit organization that was established to facilitate charitable giving by Bank Group staff and retirees. Bank Group employees and retirees can make pledges to up to ten organizations on the Campaign list. If over 55 percent of World Bank employees participate in this campaign, LCNV will be eligible for matching proceeds from WBCCF! 

Details about the World Bank Group Community Connections Campaign can be found here: http://bit.ly/18qc1Go.

Name Change by National Literacy Organization Shows LCNV Family Learning Program is On Point

December 12, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The National Center for Families Learning www.familieslearning.org adopted its new name last month.  I was initially surprised by the name change (formerly The National Center for Family Literacy), but I am pleased with the implications of the new name.   While the NCFL was already promoting these programmatic characteristics,  I believe the new name explicitly encourages the inclusion of family and school engagement, adult and early literacy, and so much more.   With this name change, LCNV’s own Family Learning Program now has a very parallel name to the national organization that serves as a leader in our service delivery.  For more information on NCFL’s decision to change its name visit this Q&A http://familieslearning.org/PDF/NCFL_Rebrand_QA_BlogLink.pdf.

Read more about LCNV’s Family Learning Program.

See a great story about a recent LCNV FLP program.

Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Program Specialist
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

Cautionary Tale: How State Law Limits Adult Language Learners’ Options

December 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Imagine what that would feel like to someone to be told basically, ‘You’re getting kicked out of school,” says Janet Sparks, teacher at the Ronald M. Hubbs Center in Minnesota.

Interesting article from Minnesota Public Radio really captures  how program policies present challenges for adult language learners, many of whom are asked to leave the program because they have not progressed a reading level in the requisite time. In adherence to Minnesota State Law, the Ronald M. Hubbs Center has no option but to let  students go if they  have not progressed a reading level every 30 days.  This scenario leaves ousted students with little to no options for continued English and Language learning.  While measurable outcomes and standards based on milestones are important, it is also a cautionary tale about being too inflexible with those standards. Many of these students already face difficult life situations and this policy puts them that much further behind turning their lives around.


LCNV Class Update for Dec. 11

December 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Only LCNV morning classes (before start time of 12:00 p.m.) were cancelled in keeping with inclement weather policy at http://www.lcnv.org/about-us/inclement-weather-policy.

All LCNV classes with a start time of 12:00 p.m. or later will remain in session.
Any questions, please call the LCNV office at 703-237-0866 or email info@lcnv.org.

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

Today Dec. 10, All LCNV Classes Are Cancelled and the Offices Are Closed. Stay Warm and Safe!

December 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LCNV offices will open at 10 a.m. today. All classes are cancelled due to FCPS being closed. Stay safe!

December 9, 2013 at 8:56 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Attention: LCNV classes will be closed Dec. 9 due to inclement weather policy. Offices will be open at discretion of Executive Director. http://www.lcnv.org/about-us/inclement-weather-policy

December 8, 2013 at 11:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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