Does My Student Have a Learning Disability?

February 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Announcements, Class, Development, ESOL, Family Learning, Teaching, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on Does My Student Have a Learning Disability?
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the most common concerns of tutors is that their student has a learning disability.  At the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia we use the term learning difference, because we are not equipped to diagnose nor take financial responsibility for testing that would be required under federal law with the term learning disability.  LCNV accepts students regardless of any kind of disability they may choose to disclose, and tries to meet the needs of all beginning readers and writers. Yet, LCNV does not provide any screening or diagnoses; tutors are not in the position to diagnose or suggest any labels.  Still, if you suspect that your student may be struggling beyond what you would consider typical growing pains, please consider some of these struggles and solutions.

Learning disabilities are multi-dimensional and occur on a continuum, so you may notice varying degrees of certain behaviors in different people – maybe even yourself.  Over the next few weeks, check back in this space for brief descriptions of some typical learning problems and ways to help learners succeed in spite of them.   Attention is necessary for all learning – if we do not attend to something, we send a signal to our brain that it is not important so it does not get stored fully in long-term memory, making it unavailable for future use.  For example, if a student is texting while you are explaining the difference between long and short vowels, this material may sound vaguely familiar to him/ her later on, but it will not be stored sufficiently for him/her to apply the information later.

Students who struggle to attend their tutoring sessions may do the following: make frequent and careless mistakes on schoolwork and on the job; fail to attend to details; appear not to listen when spoken to; have trouble sustaining focus for a long period of time; struggle to follow through on things; approach tasks in a disorganized manner; fall short of organizing their materials; and lose things frequently.

If this sounds like your student, first remember that many factors can interfere with attention including life stressors such as loss of a job or fear of this loss, lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition, etc.; your student does not necessarily have a diagnose-able condition.  However, attention is essential to learning, so if your student struggles with any of the behaviors listed above, you might want to try some of the tips below.

  • Minimize distractions as much as possible – reserve a room in the library rather than work in the open part where there is high traffic; turn off cell phones; clear the table of unnecessary papers; don’t interrupt your student with questions and conversation while they are learning – stay focused yourself!
  • Notice how long a student is able to attend to one task and break instruction into separate, discrete segments – i.e. 15 minutes of phonics practice, 10 minutes of word reading, 15 minutes of passage reading etc.  If possible, schedule tutoring for shorter periods and meet more frequently for regular review.  Review often.
  • Pace yourself and your student – do not be tempted to move too quickly as every learner needs time to digest and master material before they can absorb new materials.  If the material is at the appropriate instructional level, all learning should build in a logical way so that one skill flows into the next.

Molly Chilton
Basic Literacy Tutoring Specialist
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 237-0866

“Lose Yourself in the Service of Others”

January 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Announcements, Class, Development, ESOL, Family Learning, Teaching, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on “Lose Yourself in the Service of Others”
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Mahatma Gandhi

Join our big family of LCNV Volunteers and get Northern Virginia reading, speaking, and understanding English.

Contact or 703-237-0866 x 111 to attend the next Tutor Training!

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia has hit the ground running this year. We’ve got our ESOL Tutor Training AND Spring Classroom sessions coming up. We need volunteer teachers, class aides, and tutors to help improve the literacy skills of area adults who are eager to learn and become full members of the community.

Our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) one-on-one Tutoring Program provides individualized, goal-oriented English instruction to LCNV adult learners. We need more volunteer tutors to work with students on a waiting list, who need help with speaking, listening, reading, and writing English.  If you are looking to help somebody individually, as well as have the flexibility of setting your own schedule and volunteering in your own neighborhood, this could be a good fit for you.

Each tutor is trained, matched with a student, and encouraged to meet weekly for an hour and a half at a location convenient to both the volunteer and the learner. The Literacy Council provides intensive tutor training at our Falls Church office prior to starting an assignment (there is a $40 fee to cover the costs of training materials). The next THREE-DAY training will take place in Falls Church on January 21, 28, and February 4 (all Saturdays) at 9:30 am-3:00 pm.  All three days are required.

Our Classroom Programs offer beginning level ESOL classes to adults that focus on helping students improve their English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.  The classes also provide information about American culture and life skills important to the workplace, community, and family.

If you enjoy working with people, learning from others, and are available to give 2-4 hours a week for the next few months, our Classroom Volunteer Opportunities may be a perfect fit! Take a look at the class schedules online: and contact me to sign up!

Absolutely no teaching experience or knowledge of foreign languages is required for any of our volunteer positions!  Contact me to find out more and to get started!

Ruba Marshood Afzal
Director of Volunteers

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
at the James Lee Community Center
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 237-0866 x 111

Jongsoo Gets a Job!

August 22, 2011 at 2:45 PM | Posted in ESOL, Favorite, Staff, Student Stories, Tutoring | Comments Off on Jongsoo Gets a Job!
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Our tutors are doing great work everyday, working toward their student’s goals.  Through quarterly reports and correspondence, sometimes we get to share their joy.  Please read below to share tutor, Marla Diamond’s, story about her students Jinsuk and Jongsoo:

“Jinsuk, Jongsoo’s wife, exploded with the news!  She was so excited when we spoke she could hardly speak.  Yet, she knew she was spoiling Jongsoo’s surprise of telling me first.  But who can blame her?  This has been a several-year quest.  We’re all so proud and thrilled!

Jongsoo Lim, an LCNV student for the past two years, recently got a job as an electrician with Metro.  This is an extraordinary accomplishment for him.  He was trained as an electrician in Korea, and was able to pass the exam in the U.S. to get licensed as a Master Electrician. Yet he has struggled to find full-time employment, in part because of his limited English comprehension and conversational skills which hampers his success at job interviews.  And, he has had difficulty learning electronics which has hindered him in passing exams that some employers, including Metro, require as a prerequisite to employment.

Nonetheless, Jongsoo was not to be deterred.  He has spent most of his time since arriving in the U.S. four years ago studying English and trying to learn electronics on his own.  All the while applying for whatever jobs he could find to apply his skills as an electrician.  But, he also needed to support a family.  So, he took part-time jobs (often several at the same time) regardless of whether his skills were required, to earn whatever he could.

In the two years we have studied together, Jongsoo has maintained a sense of humor and optimism that is to be respected and admired.  He felt sure that one day his efforts would reward him and he was right!  After three prior unsuccessful attempts to pass the exam with Metro, he finally passed.  That, however, did not lead to an immediate job offer.  He had to pass a practical exam, be interviewed, and fare well through reference checks; all of which generated significant anxiety for him and his family as getting this job was so critical.  In the end, Jongsoo succeeded and he began his new job in mid-June.

His job with Metro is important in so many ways.  He has a steady income and benefits that none of his part-time positions provided.  His confidence in himself has soared.  He has opportunities for promotion.  Jongsoo is already looking forward to being able to take his family back to Korea next year.  This will be their first visit since arriving in the U.S. in 2007.  Notwithstanding the sacrifices Jongsoo made to get to this point, he had to endure yet one more during his first week on the job – he missed his son’s graduation from high school.  Yet, he remains proud and happy and eager to do well and be an outstanding employee.  His American dream fulfilled. “

If you have a student success or challenge to share, please contact our program staff or comment below!

-Marla Diamond, ESLT Tutor

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.