“I don’t know what to write.” Helping Students to Generate Ideas

March 23, 2015 at 2:28 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LCNV will be celebrating its learners and volunteers at its Annual Recognition Ceremony on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Coupled with the event is this year’s student writing contest – My Hopes and Dreams. (See last year’s student writings here). In this three-part blog series, we will focus on this year’s contest to explore using a process writing approach to help our learners improve.

Drawing mostly from research in K-12 and post-secondary settings, the Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) Just Write! Guide suggests that a process writing approach, analyzing written models and pre-writing activities are three instructional strategies effective in adult education (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, 2011). Let’s explore those strategies in turn.

Writing as a process

How often do we have our learners write sentences to practice a grammar structure or key vocabulary? Fill out medical forms and job applications? Write thank-you letters or essays?

The way we approach teaching writing varies depending on the kind of writing task. One of the main approaches to writing focuses on accurate use of grammar, spelling, etc. We can have students study and try to imitate a model. Another approach, a process-oriented approach, focuses on steps and multiple versions of a piece of writing.

Rather than a one-and-done approach whereby students write something for the teacher grade, a process-oriented approach embraces writing as non-linear, filled with multiple opportunities to plan, expand ideas, get feedback from others and revise. What the various descriptions have in common is the belief that writing instruction should be based on what skilled writers actually do (Hedgcock, p. 605). As we will see in the sample lesson below, learners can benefit when a combination of approaches is used.

Coming up with ideas to write about

A distinguishing factor of a process-oriented approach is the initial focus on coming up with ideas. It comes as no surprise that reading and writing support each other (Hedgcock, pp. 603-604). Looking at a model sets the stage for what the learners can write. Let’s look at a sample lesson—suitable for tutoring or classroom—that involves students in analyzing a model and other pre-writing tasks. Students will use this reproducible picture story to think about their hopes and dreams.

In the sample lesson plan, students follows this basic sequence: think about what they will hear/read based on the pictures in the story; listen or read a story about what someone wants to do in the future; answer comprehension questions; brainstorm ideas related to the topic/questions; answer the questions for themselves; interview each other; write (with or without model sentences). In this way, students are practicing and drawing from all four language skills—listening, speaking, reading and writing—as well as building their vocabulary and working with useful grammar structures to prepare for their own, albeit rather structured, goals story.

Other stories to use:

• Picture stories drawn and written by real adult learners from Prince William County (pp. 29-31 of the PDF). Before writing their story in words, students can be asked to illustrate it – literally, to visualize themselves in the future.

• For intermediate and up or readers at a 4.5 grade level, “My Goals” by Prince William County student Reham Katoon in Our Voices. Students can be asked to discuss how they are similar to and different from the writer. They can organize their ideas into what are their dreams, why, what is hard, who supports them, who else can help them – asking themselves journalistic questions.

More than just the writing contest

“Preparing adult learners for further education or work advancement requires that educators help learners improve their writing skills and increase confidence in their ability to write.” — TEAL Just Write! Guide

How do you help your students come up with ideas?

In the next blog, we will look at providing feedback, building confidence and helping student writers keep their audience in mind. Remember, contest submissions are due by Monday, April 13!

Good reads:
How to teach writing by Jeremy Harmer – in the LCNV Library
• The writing-themed issue of Focus on Basics, a quarterly publication of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL)
• The writing-themed issue of Progress, Virginia’s adult education and literacy newsletter
A Process Approach to ESOL Writing Instruction: The Basics from Prince William County Schools Adult ESOL Program

Bibliography:
Hedgcock, J. S. (2005). Taking stock of research and pedagogy in L2 writing. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning (pp. 597-613). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. (2011). Just write! guide. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://teal.ed.gov/resources

Xavier Munoz, AmeriCorps Member/ESOL Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia

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Celebrating Our Selection as a Neighborhood Builder

March 13, 2015 at 1:08 PM | Posted in Community | Leave a comment

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On March 12, LCNV staff and board celebrated the organization’s selection as a Neighborhood Builder with Bank of America. As we work to provide our adult learners with English literacy and language instruction, this investment in our organization enables us to continue performing vital work in our community.

Learn more about our selection as a Neighborhood Builder

Crestwood Class Photos

March 9, 2015 at 4:14 PM | Posted in Family Learning, Student Stories | Leave a comment
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Congratulations to the Family Learning Program students who received perfect attendance at Crestwood AM in February, as well as all the learners participating in class speaking activities.

Instructor Training for Tutors Starting at 11am on March 7

March 6, 2015 at 5:43 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For anyone who has registered for LCNV’s two-day Instructor Training for tutors this Saturday – due to snowy conditions, we will be delaying the start of the training Saturday morning. The new start time is 11:00am.

Training is now scheduled to run from 11:00am to 4:00pm this Saturday, March 7, to allow all attendees enough time to arrive at the community center safely. In case of further delays or cancellations, we will post another update on our website, so please check back on Saturday morning.

If you have any questions or concerns, or are unable to attend, please contact THopkins@lcnv.org. Thank you for your cooperation!

All LCNV Classes Canceled and LCNV Administrative Offices Closed Today (March 6)

March 6, 2015 at 9:43 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All LCNV classes are canceled today, Friday March 6, due to Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) closings. In the event of inclement weather, LCNV classes close according to the FCPS system.

LCNV administrative offices are also closed today. See more information about LCNV’s inclement weather policy: http://www.lcnv.org/about-us/inclement-weather-policy

Stay safe and warm!

All LCNV Classes Canceled and LCNV Administrative Offices Closed Today (March 5)

March 5, 2015 at 8:43 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All LCNV classes are canceled today, Thursday March 5, due to Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) closings. In the event of inclement weather, LCNV classes close according to the FCPS system.

LCNV administrative offices are also closed today. See more information about LCNV’s inclement weather policy: http://www.lcnv.org/about-us/inclement-weather-policy

Stay safe and warm!

All LCNV Classes Canceled and LCNV Administrative Offices on Two Hour Delay (March 2)

March 2, 2015 at 7:07 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All LCNV classes are canceled today, Monday, March 2, due to Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) closings.In the event of inclement weather, LCNV classes close according to the FCPS system.

LCNV administrative offices are on a two hour delay today. See more information about LCNV’s inclement weather policy.

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