Archive for December, 2011

“This is life-changing, it’s more than just English,” said one of our adult learners at Catoctin Elementary School.

The Fall Session classes wrapped up recently, and we are still hearing from our teachers about this past session. One of our volunteers, Jennifer Baker, works as an ELL teacher at Catoctin Elementary School. Jennifer dedicates nearly all of her time to teaching English; she works daily at the school teaching children English and she also helps lead the PEP Program at Catoctin Elementary School and teachers adults English weekly. Below is an excerpt from Jennifer about the program:

This is our fifth year of the PEP (Parents as Educational Partners) program at Catoctin Elementary School.  The PEP program helps teach second-language parents about our school, and makes them feel a part of our school community and their child’s education.  This year, we have worked with Loudoun Literacy Council to provide an Adult English Class in addition to the school information that PEP allows us to give to our parents.  Combining the PEP program and Adult English class has allowed us to quadruple the number of parents that we reach each week; our class size has grown from an average of 6 parents to 24!  Thanks to our amazing group of volunteers, we are also able to provide child care and homework help while the parents are learning English.  While we know that we are expanding and moving the program in a great direction, the real proof comes from the parents themselves.  A father who has three students at Catoctin and his wife in the newly formatted PEP program told us, “This is life-changing, it’s more than just English.”  We are looking forward to helping more parents at our next session, starting in January!

At Loudoun Literacy Council, we greatly appreciate our volunteers and all their hard work! Our genuine thanks goes out to our Catoctin Elementary Volunteers:

Jennifer Baker

Denise O’Kane

Claudia Rabe

Erin Taylor

Jacquelynn Hess

Katrina Davis

Michelle Coggins

Debra Neely

Renee Venegas

Also, a big thanks goes out to our other volunteers from McLean Bible Church who helped with the childcare!

Students and volunteers celebrate their Fall graduation.


Written by AmeriCorps Member, Janna Starr



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The Fall session for our Adult Literacy Program is coming to an end, and last night I had my final class for the Fall session. My class was a Beginning class with about 10 students on average who attended. Last night, we celebrated with cake and interactive English games (pictionary, charades, bingo). It was a great opportunity to end the class with a relaxed atmosphere and with more practice speaking and comprehending English.

After some reflection from last night’s class, I compiled a short list of things I learned from teaching English to adults. Some items listed are comical, others are serious, but everyone of these is just a snippet of what I’ve learned in my voyage of teaching.

What Janna has Learned (so far) about Teaching English to Adult Learners:

1. Always allow time for students to ask questions.

2. Bring extra class worksheets, especially during the first two weeks of classes. I had one class with 4 new students, that was a surprise.

3. Be silly. The more comfortable and fun you are, the more the students will feel comfortable to try and make mistakes.

4. About correcting mistakes- don’t be picky about correcting small grammatical errors, especially with the Beginners. They need the encouragement. “Thanksgivin is holiday favorite” is a great sentence! Praise the students!

5. Really emphasize the correct way words should sound, for example: Some students have a hard time saying the letter “p” at the end of words, like “ship”. Make sure you do emphasize that “p” sound, one of my students kept wanting to use the “t” sound for that word…had to fix that one quick!

6. Make sure the students get up at least once for an activity, it’s good to move around.

7. Be flexible. Sometimes as a teacher you might have to toss a lesson plan and improvise if the students are struggling or getting stuck.

8. It’s okay to expect a lot from your students. Although many students of our students have VERY busy lives with jobs, family, etc., don’t feel bad about giving homework and exams. This encourages practicing English at home and also stimulates critical thinking. However, if they don’t do the homework, don’t reprimand them.

9. Encourage, encourage, encourage.

10. Make material relevant to their everyday lives (ex: when going over transportation, bring in a local bus schedule).

Do you have any other lessons you have learned from teaching or tutoring? Feel free to share them under our comments!

-Janna Starr

AmeriCorps Member, Loudoun Literacy Council

Adult Literacy Program


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