A Good Match

April 6, 2015 at 10:29 AM | Posted in Student Stories, Tutoring, Volunteers | 1 Comment
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Student Laura and tutor Paula

Student Laura and tutor Paula

The first thing I notice about Laura every week is her sparkling eyes and infectious smile. No matter what challenges she has faced since our last meeting, Laura never misses a tutoring lesson. I think of our time together – mostly in the small meeting room at Westover Library in Arlington – as her “clean, well-lighted place,” a place where Laura can sit down, open up her Laubach book and focus on the week’s lesson.

Since we began meeting in 2012, first at a Falls Church library that is temporarily closed for renovation, I have seen Laura gain confidence in herself and an improvement in her reading level. She is currently looking for a second part-time job. The main challenges in finding one are her current job schedule at a major grocery chain and the time she spends caring for her aging father. However, no matter what trials come her way, Laura never gives up. It is a joy to know her and see her every week. Not only is she an eager student, Laura has become my friend.

Written by Paula Cruickshank, LCNV Tutor

Tutor Tip: Citizenship Tutoring: Are You Up to the Challenge?

September 4, 2014 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Tutoring | 1 Comment

The journey to citizenship can seem daunting for tutors and students alike, but LCNV resources can help.

Image from Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A recommended resource available in the LCNV library.

Image from Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A recommended resource available in the LCNV library.

Adults come to LCNV to learn to speak, read or write English, but their reasons for doing so vary. Many want to get jobs or improve their standing in the workforce. Some aspire to read to their children at bedtime or advocate for them at school. Others seek to continue educations interrupted in faraway lands long ago. And some come with the dream of becoming citizens of the United States of America. From the tutor’s perspective, no goal can seem as intimidating as preparing a student for the citizenship test.

Tutors often wonder if their students are ready to embark upon the citizenship journey. Over the years, LCNV has witnessed a wide variety of learners successfully attain this goal. Some have been college graduates or fluent readers in their native languages while others never graduated from high school or learned to read in their home countries. It very much depends upon the individual, the person’s motivation and the time devoted to preparation. Regardless of the student, tutors should seek guidance and resources to offer the best possible instruction.

One of my personal goals has been to assemble small groups of tutors with specific areas of expertise who are willing to serve as resources for their peers. The citizenship arena, in particular, seemed to have a pressing need for such a resource. We reached out to our tutors in this regard and were delighted with the response. In June we launched the Tutor Resource Group on Citizenship Test Preparation with tutors Claire Brown, Joan Huber and Mary Voldnes from the BAL program and Jan Auerbach, Steve Cooper, Ed Faggen, Anne Jillson and Bob Stump from the ESOL program. Each individual in the group has successfully prepared one or more students for the Citizenship test.

I spoke to one tutor who has already sought guidance from this group. Karen has been tutoring Andrea, a 30-something year old woman from Peru, since 2011. Andrea works as a nanny and is required to speak Spanish to her charges, thereby limiting her ability to practice English. Nevertheless she is a hardworking, dedicated student who has shown significant progress each of the four times LCNV assessed her skills. Now she wants to work on becoming a citizen. “Why citizenship and why now?” I ask.  “She wants to vote. She wants to have a say,” Karen says. “But she put it off because of the expense.”  A hefty fee of $680 covers the cost of the application plus fingerprinting.

“In my heart I have felt she was ready for some time,” Karen says. “But it still feels like a responsibility to do this with my student. It’s a little scary. That’s why as soon as I read about the group, I wrote to them. They immediately responded with a lot of advice and ideas. They even commented on each other’s responses.”

LCNV also has acquired other resources for tutors and students working towards this lofty goal, including a series of books by Lynne Weintraub called “Citizenship: Passing the Test” from New Readers Press. The books in this series include “Literacy Skills,” “Civics and Literacy” and “Ready for the Interview.” We are currently able to provide one of these books free of charge to every student actively preparing for the test. The others can be purchased or borrowed from our library. The LCNV library also contains flash cards, audio and video material and other books from sources including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If you are thinking of helping a student with citizenship, here are some tutor tips to get you started:

  • Check the web site for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for valuable information and resources. Go to http://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship.
  • Write to us at Tutoring@LCNV.org for a consultation with the Tutor Resource Group on Citizenship Test Preparation and a complementary student book.
  • Visit the LCNV library shelves on citizenship.
  • Advise your student to pursue the application when you are fairly confident that the student can pass. Otherwise it is an expensive proposition. ( Ed Faggen )
  • Leave adequate time for memorization of 100 civics questions.
  • Drill for spelling. “Spelling was the hardest for my student. I’d pick three to four of the sentences in the Weintraub book and have him write them ten times for homework. I’d then test him on them during the next session. After a while, he was doing fine, except for some words. I’d have him write only these ten times and test in the next session.” (Bob Stump)

Additional resources exist in our surrounding community. Hogar Immigrant Services (Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington) offers Citizenship Workshops where staff attorneys and trained volunteers help eligible applicants complete citizenship applications. The next workshop is on Saturday, September 13 at Arlington County Department of Human Services and costs $40. For more information, visit Hogar’s website.

Do you have a story about preparing a student for the citizenship challenge?  Would you like to serve as a volunteer consultant on our team? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to share with our community of tutors by commenting on this post.

Carole Vinograd Bausell

Carole Vinograd Bausell


Carole Vinograd Bausell, Ed.D. is an English language and literacy specialist and Director of Tutoring Programs with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.

For Instructors: Learning English with Technology In-service

January 17, 2014 at 4:30 PM | Posted in Training, Tutoring, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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IMG_5373Do you have questions about using technology with students?  People say you can find anything and everything on the internet, but where do you start? If you feel overwhelmed, take some tips from LCNV instructors, Laurie Hayden and Alexandra Roncal. They will guide you through over a dozen websites and apps to help your students practice English skills. Using free or free versions of resources, they will cover grammar, oral reading, reading comprehension, speaking/pronunciation, and listening skills. Volunteers with basic working knowledge of computers and internet browsing are invited to bring laptops, tablets, or smartphones to practice exploring and bookmarking/downloading these exciting resources.

To whet your appetite and see an example of the fun ways to practice English with your student, check out duolingo.com! This is free!

James Lee Community Center
2855 Annandale Rd.
Falls Church, VA 22042

Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 6:30-8:30PM

Tell us if you are coming and if you are bringing a electronic device!

To register contact info@lcnv.org or call 703.237.0866 by January 24, 2014.

Katie Beckman-Gotrich, Programs and Training Administrator
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

New Year, New Citizens: Helping Adult Learners Achieve

January 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Posted in Student Stories, Tutoring, Uncategorized | Comments Off on New Year, New Citizens: Helping Adult Learners Achieve
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Candelario Chavez _Bob Stump

(l to r) Candelario Chavez, student, and Bob Stump, tutor

The Literacy Council is pleased to report that last year thirty students passed the citizenship exam and/or were sworn in as citizens last year. Each naturalized student undoubtedly came away from the ceremony with his or her own memories of the most meaningful part.  For Candelario Chavez, this moment occurred at the end of the ceremony when the song “Proud to Be an American” was played. “It’s a beautiful song, and I never heard it before,” recalled Candelario.  “It stabbed my heart.” Given the amount of material to master, preparing for the citizenship test can be an arduous process for those students who began their tutoring with limited oral English and/or no reading and writing skills.  “It’s  hard work to learn all that,” Bob Stump, Candelario’s tutor reported.  “The tutor has to be very patient, and the student has to work hard.” Our naturalized students generally believe that the rewards  of having become citizens more than compensate for all the effort involved in becoming one.   For Seetha  Perumal, Brenda Franks’s student, becoming a US citizen fulfilled a dream.  “This 4th of July she waved her naturalization ceremony flag and celebrated her first Independence Day,” Brenda reports.  Candelario feels that he now receives more respect from people with whom he comes in contact.  “People give immigrants (who are not citizens) a hard time,” he said.  He is especially looking forward to voting in the next election, as is Maha Emara, Kate Radkowski’s learner. Mickey Sweeney shares that her student, Salwa Sherwany, is “happy and thrilled,” having obtained the goal of citizenship. “It will make life easier for her, especially arranging her trips to Kurdistan to visit family,” Mickey says. She adds “And, being the positive person she is, I think she will be a wonderful US citizen.”

Passing the test can radically change individuals’ sense of themselves.  This was recently the case for one of our tutoring students who had extremely low self esteem because he had been told all his life that he was not smart enough to learn anything.  When he passed the test with no trouble, his confidence and feelings of self-worth soared. Tutors’ admiration for their students’ citizenship achievements shine through their reports. “Faraidoon is a very basic literacy student,” Ed Faggen wrote.  “He exhibited a remarkable memory…He worked diligently, learning to recognize the words for reading and how to write the needed vocabulary…I am very proud of him.” Tutors are often surprised to find how deeply the experience of helping their students achieve this milestone has affected them.  As Kate Radkowski wrote, “After Maha passed her citizenship test, it really allowed me to see the power of an individual helping someone else achieve something so important.”

Interested in helping an adult learner, visit the events page to register for the next tutor training workshop.

Reprint/revision of original article by Elise Bruml, former Director of Tutoring
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

Tutor Tip: Navigating the Road to Student Success

December 20, 2013 at 6:08 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Tutoring | Comments Off on Tutor Tip: Navigating the Road to Student Success
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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

The Affordable Care Act Continued:

October 4, 2013 at 4:08 PM | Posted in Tutoring | Comments Off on The Affordable Care Act Continued:

Be assured, the government shutdown does not affect the roll-out of the new Health Insurance exchanges that opened yesterday, October, 1st.  Hear more from Monday’s Diane Rehm Show.

Also, for those seeking guidance on healthcare choices, local agencies are equipping volunteers and staff to act as “Navigators” for the public seeking health coverage.  A navigator is “An individual or organization that’s trained and able to help consumers, small businesses, and their employees as they look for health coverage options through the Marketplace, including completing eligibility and enrollment forms. These individuals and organizations are required to be unbiased. Their services are free to consumers.” From the glossary on Healthcare.gov 

Area navigators can be found through:

Northern Virginia Family Services at 571.748.2500 or their Director of Health and Mental Health Programs, Cyndy Dailey [cdailey@nvfs.org]

Legal Services of Northern Virginia at 703-778-6800 or send an email to help@lsnv.org.

For material designed for students, October 4th’s issue of Elizabeth Claire’s Easy English News will feature an article on the Affordable Care Act.

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

From the LCNV Library: Easy English News

August 6, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Tutoring | Comments Off on From the LCNV Library: Easy English News
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Easy English News is a monthly newspaper written in simple English and controlled vocabulary for high-beginner and intermediate readers, with special features designed for English language learners who are newcomers to the U.S.

Each issue features…
•    News stories of special interest to newcomers
•    Articles about American events and holidays
•    Civics and citizenship information
•    True stories written by readers
•    Consumer information
•    Health and safety tips
•    “Life in the U.S.A.”
•    A crossword puzzle with answers in the same issue
…and more!

A recent Easy English News issue included national news, articles on summer safety around
water, popular events and national holidays in the summer months, healthy tea drinks, the birth of the United States, a national park feature, and features to help build language skills.

LCNV Volunteer Tutors only:  Check out the latest issues from the LCNV Library for two weeks at a time; earlier issues can be checked out for the standard two-month loan period.

The LCNV Library is open during the Council’s regular office hours Mon. – Fr., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Returns can be made during office hours or after hours to the After-Hours Book Return located just outside the Council’s entrance door inside the James Lee Community Center (open Mon. – Sat., 9 a.m. – 10 p.m., except holidays). Renewals can be made in person, by email (library@lcnv.or) or by phone (703-237-0866).  Questions? Contact library volunteers at the email address above.

Reminder: Do you have LCNV library books that are due? Please return or renew!

LCNV Office Closed on 10/26/2012

October 24, 2012 at 2:37 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Announcements, ESOL, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on LCNV Office Closed on 10/26/2012

On Friday, October 26, 2012, LCNV’s main office will be closed all day due to the installation of a new HVAC system at the James Lee Community Center. Staff will be working from home and will be accessible by email. The AmeriCorps Launch is not affected by this closure and will take place as planned. This closure is unexpected, and we apologize for any inconvenience.

POSTPONED – Volunteer Open House in Lorton

October 23, 2012 at 8:29 PM | Posted in Class, ESOL, Family Learning, Teaching, Tutoring, Uncategorized, Volunteers | Comments Off on POSTPONED – Volunteer Open House in Lorton
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* Due to the expected severe weather, this event is postponed. We will announce a new date soon!

Open House: Learn about Adult Literacy & ESOL Volunteer Opportunities!
Monday, October 29, 2012, 7:00 pm
Lorton Library, 9520 Richmond Hwy, Lorton, VA

Come hear about how you can make a difference as a Literacy Council volunteer!

LCNV’s mission is to teach adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English, so they are empowered to participate more fully and confidently in their communities. LCNV’s approach is to involve volunteers as the English instructors for our adult learners. With LCNV training and support, volunteers help their neighbors directly. The Council has a dire need for more volunteers in and around Lorton.

Volunteers can serve as tutors, who work one-on-one with a learner, or as classroom teachers or aides who work with groups of 10-15 adults at a time. The Council also offers many non-teaching opportunities, from helping out in our office, to supporting special events and outreach. If you are interested in promoting adult literacy in Lorton, we’ll find something that fits your interests!

Join us on the evening of the 29th to learn about the Council’s work and how you can help someone in your neighborhood develop the English skills necessary to succeed!

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Ruba Afzal, LCNV’s Director of Volunteers, at 703-237-0866 x 111 or volunteers@lcnv.org.

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