New Fall Classroom Schedules!

August 8, 2011 at 4:43 PM | Posted in Calendar, Class, Community, Community Partners, ESOL, Family Learning, Media, News, Teaching, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on New Fall Classroom Schedules!
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The weather’s starting to change, that means it’s time to get back in the classroom!

I’m happy to report we have confirmed class times and locations with all our classroom community partners and the new schedules are ready for the ESOL Learning Centers and Family Learning Program.  Click the Google Map below to see our classroom locations or where neighboring English Language services are:

Registration will be September 14th through 22nd and we’ll be advertising in the walk-able areas immediately around each class site but we encourage you to help our advertising campaign.  How can you help?  Ask your neighborhood grocer, library, community center or place of worship if you can post a copy of our schedule on their community news or bulletin space.  You can find a link to each schedule here:

FLP Class Schedule_Fall 2011

ESOLC_Master Schedule_Fall 2011

Conversation Classes_Fall 2011

Thank you for all your support!

Erin Finn, Director of Classroom Programs

Family Learning Success Story

March 21, 2011 at 11:07 AM | Posted in Class, Community, Family Learning, Student Stories, Teaching, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on Family Learning Success Story
Tags: , ,

I was recently asked by Elizabeth Magee the lead teacher at Crestwood Family Learning class to come and test a student because her due date was approaching quickly.   The intent of the test (normally given at the end of the semester) was to give a sense of closure to the student, the teachers, and also tie things up administratively.  I arrived at class shortly after the school nurse had concluded a presentation to the class; a few students were still having their blood pressure checked by the nurse.  I sat down with Conchi to test her and we chatted; her due date is March 30 and she is expecting another girl.  As we went through the questions of the oral test, she answered some questions quite well and like many intermediate students, struggled with others.  As a test administrator you are expected to remain objective, but when we reached a question about how parents can help their children in school, I had a hard time keeping myself from beaming when she answered, “We can read to them and write.”  Although the test measures the way students produce and construct the spoken English language and there aren’t “right” or “wrong” answers in terms of content, as a family literacy professional this answer was the gold standard.  Even though the content of Conchi’s answer won’t necessarily be reflected when her scores are imputed and calculated by the software we use, it is through this interaction with her that I know that the Family Learning program is succeeding and going beyond pure language acquisition and is teaching concepts that influence an entire family: her two year old daughter and her daughter on the way.  

-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist

The Importance of Childcare in Family Learning Programs

February 28, 2011 at 4:16 PM | Posted in Class, Family Learning, Student Stories, Teaching, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on The Importance of Childcare in Family Learning Programs

The other day I was testing a student at Higher Horizons asking her the usual scripted questions which she was able to answer with the relative ease of an intermediate student.  After the test was finished, although she knew I spoke Spanish, we proceeded to have a conversation in English.  She took great care in composing her sentences as she thanked me for taking the time to test her for the class.  She has two young children and had stopped by at the Higher Horizons Head Start center to see about enrolling her son in the Head Start program.  While she was there she saw a flyer for the Family Learning classes we offer there, picked it up, read it and said, “This is for me.  I am a parent and I need English classes with childcare for my children.”  Her situation is a reminder of the importance of the children’s room component  of our Family Learning Program.  For some of our parents, such our Family Learning classes are the only opportunity they have to study English.

-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist

Shining a Light on Virginia’s Adult Literacy Crisis (via Facts and Statistics for Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia)

September 24, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Posted in Advocacy, Community, News, Teaching, Testing, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on Shining a Light on Virginia’s Adult Literacy Crisis (via Facts and Statistics for Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia)

Just found this great blog today! We encourage you to follow its articles!

Shining a Light on Virginia's Adult Literacy Crisis Virginia Issues and Answers (, a public policy journal published by Virginia Tech, has just released its summer issue, focusing on literacy. The feature story, Virginia’s Not-So-Hidden Secret: The Adult Literacy Crisis, was written by Resource Center staff members Victoire Gerkens Sanborn and Hillary Major. The article highlights national and state statistics which reveal that more than 2 million adults in Virginia struggle with ba … Read More

via Facts and Statistics for Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia

Best Plus

September 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Calendar, Testing, Training, Volunteers | Comments Off on Best Plus

On September 11, the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia hosted a training given by Margaret Kiernan on administering the Basic English Skills Test (also known as the BEST Plus Test). The BEST Plus Test is used to determine the level of English competency of students enrolling in ESL programs. The Literacy Council utilizes the results of BEST Plus testing to place students in the appropriate program as well as to determine progress made by students after each semester.
Margaret Kiernan taught a full house of prospective testers the ins-and-outs of administering a BEST Plus Test. BEST Plus examines three dimensions of verbal ability, namely, comprehension, complexity, and communication. In order to get the highest score in comprehension, a student must demonstrate they understand the question without repetition and are able to give an appropriate answer. The score for complexity measures a student’s command over English syntax. Finally, the score given for communication evaluates the clarity of the student’s answers. If the tester can easily understand the answer, the student will receive the highest score.
Beyond explaining the complexities of scoring, Margaret Kiernan gave volunteers some insight on the emotions of the students they were soon to test. While new examiners may be nervous administering their first tests, the student sitting ninety-degrees to them would be doubly so. Testers should make the atmosphere relaxing and give as much encouragement to the student as the test allows. While it is easy to get lost in the intricacies of the BEST Plus test, Margaret did a great job grounding the test in its ultimate purpose, to effectively serve the needs of ESL learners.
Thank you to Margaret Kiernan and to all the volunteers who spent their September 11th day of service with the Literacy Council.

-Kerrin Epstein, AmeriCorps Volunteer

Registrations Are Here Again!

April 20, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Posted in Announcements, Calendar, ESOL, Family Learning, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on Registrations Are Here Again!

Spring cleaning will have to wait! LCNV is gearing up for our next round of registrations this week, and preparing our class sites is priority number one. We will be registering students who are interested in taking Beginning ESOL classes for the spring of 2010. Everyone is excited about meeting new students and seeing a few familiar faces. These classes begin May 3, which is only a bunny hop, skip, and a jump away. We will also be conducting registration sessions for students on an add-in basis for our Family Learning program classes, which are currently in session. Our updated class and registration schedules for Spring 2010 are now available for our ESOL Classroom and Family Learning programs, as well as a schedule for local conversation classes that are offered to students free of charge.

A helping hand is always welcome! If you are interested in being a tester or a greeter at any of our registration sites, email us! We especially need volunteers at our Crestwood, Lorton, and Herndon locations. Contact to find the site closest to you. We also have openings for class aides and volunteer teachers for Spring 2010. Visit our website for available opportunities!

~Erin Andrews, AmeriCorps Instructor

Dedicated Student Assessment Specialist of the Month: Laurie Hayden

March 31, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Posted in ESOL, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on Dedicated Student Assessment Specialist of the Month: Laurie Hayden

Our student assessment specialists volunteer their time to administer a conversational test to assess our students’ listening, language complexity, and communication abilities.  To become a student assessment specialist, volunteers must attend a 6 hour training to obtain their BEST Plus administrator certification.  We test our students at the beginning and end of each session in each of our 13 classes, something we could not achieve without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers.

Laurie Hayden recently retired from her career as a teacher and has wasted no time giving back to her community.  Laurie has been testing for LCNV since September 2009, and says she enjoys testing because, “seeing the motivation and desire of these folks to learn is inspirational.”  She, like most testers, enjoys the one-on-one time with the students.  The BEST Plus test asks questions that allow testers a brief glimpse into the lives of our students, and it’s always interesting to hear their stories.  Laurie is also a class aide at Woodrow Wilson and she tutors three women.  She loves teaching and through her interaction with her students, she realized how important testing is to our program.  “It’s such a small time commitment and it really is fun.  I know how desperately LCNV needs testers.  It’s got to be done and I feel useful.”

Recruiting testers can sometimes be a challenge, but Laurie is always ready and willing to travel and test at as many class sites as she possibly can.  We appreciate her positive attitude, her friendly face, and her dedication to our students!

~Courtney Pergal, AmeriCorps Instructor

Practice Makes Perfect

January 11, 2010 at 4:23 PM | Posted in Announcements, Class, Community Partners, Development, ESOL, Family Learning, News, Testing, Training, Volunteers | 1 Comment

LCNV’s Classroom Programs are busy gearing up for another session of classes starting with this January’s registrations. At every site we take the information and assess the students using the Best Plus Test. As always we need all the testers we can get, and with no training for new volunteers, we’d like to encourage our less active testers to come back.

I’m not sure about you, but I was trained as a Best Plus Test Administrator a long time ago. With the sporadic intensity of LCNV’s ESLC and FLP classroom schedules it’s not difficult to fall out of habit, even if you test every cycle. The initial training focuses heavily on the how and why of the test and more so on the computer version that LCNV isn’t able to use. The practice CD-Rom offers only practice administering and no practice assuring the accuracy of the scoring. When you need that practice but don’t want it to affect a student’s scores, there is now an option!

Using the Best Plus Refresher Kit, we held a training last night to recalibrate our scoring accuracy. After a brief introduction, we watched the video which reviewed each of the three testing components (Listening Comprehension, Language Complexity, and Communication) one at a time and then finally together for a general scoring practice. Though it was a modest turnout, the training really helped those of us that had the opportunity to attend.

“I feel ready and more confident about the upcoming testing cycle.”-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist

“The training video clearly reinforced the ways in which we should be scoring students. The training also identified several situations in which confusion about how to score an answer may arise, and explained what score should be merited in these situations.”-Erin Andrews, AmeriCorps

“It’s always good to have practice scoring tests and get back immediate feedback on your accuracy.”-Courtney Pergal, AmeriCorps

The opportunity to refresh is a great tool for new or out of practice testers. The training will be made available again and moreover, the DVD for the refresher is great for stand alone practice. If you’re interested in readjusting your scoring, please contact me and we can arrange something!

– Katie Beckman, Programs Assistant

LCNV Calendar, Announcements, and Volunteer Opportunities: December 2009

December 2, 2009 at 4:30 PM | Posted in Announcements, Calendar, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on LCNV Calendar, Announcements, and Volunteer Opportunities: December 2009

Can you believe that it’s December? In true LCNV fashion, things don’t slow down just because it’s holiday season. This month is all about post-testing and end-of-session graduation parties. There’s a lot going on!

Friday, December 4th, 10 am-12 pm (James Lee Community Center) – A Lexical Feast: Vocabulary Development for ESOL Learners with Oxford Picture Dictionary author Jayme Adelson-Goldstein. This workshop filled in less than 24 hours, but if you would like to get on the waiting list, please contact Lizette at

December 6th-December 24th – Volunteer to gift wrap at local Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores! This is a great way to raise funds for and get the word out about LCNV programs. Many three to four hour shifts are available. The most updated schedule is online here.  Please contact Caryn at to sign up for a shift or two, or to receive more information.

December 7th-December 14th – Calling all Student Assessment Specialists! Post-testing will take place during this time. We need LOTS of volunteers to help out at various sites throughout Northern Virginia. Please e-mail for more information.

December 29th-December 30th – LCNV will neither sell books or other media nor distribute allotments on these dates as we conduct our semi-annual inventory. This freeze will not affect the LCNV Library.

The LCNV office will be closed on the following dates: December 24, 25, 31, and January 1. Happy holidays!

– Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers

Finding My Teaching Style

October 15, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Class, Testing | Comments Off on Finding My Teaching Style

Everyone said it would be crazy.  Everyone said it would be hectic.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them.  They were, after all, speaking from experience as AmeriCorps alumnae and previous teachers.  Yet the problems you expect to have are never the ones for which you planned, and my first day of class was no different.  Terrified of running out of material in the first hour of class, I planned numerous games and activities for my students.  However, when my 15 minute introduction activity was over in less than two minutes, I could feel my pulse rate rising.  Adrenaline kicked in shortly after that, and my first week of class is still kind of a blur.  I do remember running around, frantically writing on the board, and mediating between teams of students (because even the most reserved students can become very competitive when a bubble gum prize is at stake).

I felt exhausted and drained after my first week of classes, and I was all but twitching as I left the library.  I was relieved that I had delivered a lesson from which the students seemed to learn and enjoy.  However, I was left wondering how I was going to keep this classroom energy going all semester.  As I prepared for my second week of classes, equipped with books, lesson plan, and detailed curriculum, I was still nervous about creating and maintaining an engaging learning environment for my students.  As my students filed into the classroom, I could feel my heart beat a little harder.  Then I did something.  I did something very simple.

I sat down.

As I sat, I greeted my students.  We chatted about each other’s weekend, gabbed about our days, and discussed what we were going to do in today’s class.  These colloquial introductions relieved much of my anxiety, and I found that I was calmer and much more comfortable leading my lecture that day.  My class that day was much more of a conversation than a lecture infused with many activities.  I don’t think my student got any more or less out of this different teaching style.  They still participated in the activities and paid attention to the lecture.  However, I do feel that I was able to better observe my students’ progress, because I was not so frantically worried about having to entertain them every second.  Now, I enjoy my classes and can better meet the needs of my students.

It took me three classes to find a teaching style that worked for me, so don’t worry if you still feel a little uneasy in the classroom.  Try out a couple of different teaching methods and you’re sure to find your mojo!

– Erin Andrews, Americorps Instructor

Next Page »

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.