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GED Spring 2013With a snap, Loudoun Literacy Council’s Spring GED class has come to a close. It seemed like only yesterday when I was waiting for the students on the first day, learning surveys in hand, determined to build the social studies and language arts portion of the class around the students’ personal strengths and needs. It immediately became clear upon the students’ arrival, however, that their strengths and interests would enhance the class far beyond any targeted teaching strategy ever could. One student, newly arrived in the United States from Pakistan, for example, expressed his interest in poetry by reciting a monologue from Hamlet. Additionally, something I was surprised by but shouldn’t have been, all of the students spoke enthusiastically of their own personal reading habits. One lady explained how she regularly read to her young daughter before bed, for example, and another young man pulled a copy of one of  Paulo Coelho’s books from his backpack and told us how his brother turned him on to the author, who he has been following ever since.

Over the semester, we were able to cover a lot of ground. In addition to reading and discussion centered around the content subjects of World History, United States History, and Economics, we spent a considerable amount of time looking at and developing the critical thinking skills that are needed not simply to do well on the GED, but also to be engaged citizens. A theme we focused on was “C.A.S.A.”, the acronym I use to refer to the comprehension, analysis, synthesis, and application skills that one should use when reading a text or looking an information-laden visual. I’ll never forget a lesson we did on Christopher Columbus during which we compared a textbook version of Columbus’s heroic discovery of America to a first-hand account written by Columbus himself, which explained how he wished to enslave the indigenous people he found in the new land. The students were able to look deeply into this history and reveal the bias that is always present in writing, even in more official sources like textbooks.They were also able to apply this history to the present by discussing their thoughts about why we celebrate Columbus today, and whether or not this is a good thing. GED Class Spring 2013

I most enjoyed working with the students on developing their writing skills. Even though we only spent a few weeks talking about and practicing paragraph writing, reading the last writing assignment the students turned in, I can state with full confidence that considerable progress was made. I was always excited to sit down and read the students’ weekly writing assignments, and was delighted to see more structured and developed paragraph writing as time went on.

Now that the course has come to a close, I am sad to see the students go, and hope that they will return for the summer term. I think of their passion, hard work, and motivation, and am left inspired. What does it take to study for the GED test while raising a family and working long hours to support them? I think of how some of the students do this with great resilience, energy, and happiness, and however cliche it is to say, my faith in the human spirit is bolstered. For this, I have the students to send my gratitude.

Written by Jerry Stewart, Adult Literacy Program Volunteer, June 2013

GED Class Spring 2013

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Susan’s Reflections:

This past Monday, I gave out certificates to my last class of the spring term at Cascades Library.  It felt that the class had just started, but the eight weeks flew by once again!

The spring term covered the topics of health, housing, and occupations.  At Guilford Elementary, my class learned about health.  Students learned the parts of the body, different types of aches and pains, and going to the doctor.  They completed different activities such as interviewing each other about how often they get headaches to role playing in the class about if they should or should not take aspirin for a fever.

Both classes at Guilford Elementary and Cascades Library learned about housing.  We talked about the different rooms in a house, what is outside a house, accidents that occur at home, housing ads, and making phone calls about places for rent.  Students worked with real housing ads in picking houses they liked and houses they did not like.  They also talked about their current house and their dream house.

Also, my class at Cascades Library learned about different types of occupations, forms of identification, reading job ads, practicing what you would say at job interviews, and how to fill out job applications.  Students worked with real job ads picking out jobs they liked and did not like.  They also interviewed classmates about their skills and what type of job they would like to have.  At the end, students had the opportunity to complete job applications.

As I continue to teach, I find myself growing as a teacher.  My lesson plans have developed from the fall term into much more detailed and thorough plans for this spring term.  This term, the materials were tougher for some students.  One of the biggest lessons I learned was it is okay to slow down and one lesson may take two classes to teach.   Again, I am thankful for my class aides, Jackie and Laura, who were there to provide more individualized help for our students!

Though another term has ended, I am glad to have had the opportunity to see students grow from their first day of class.  Some students have truly come out of their shells and progressed in their English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.  A few students did not know any English at the beginning of the term, and by the last class, they could make some simple conversations.   One student who also took the class in the winter now has a part-time job and has opened a banking account.

My favorite part of the class has been watching the friendships form in the classroom. This term, some students met for coffee and some students would call each other on the phone each week.   The forming of cross-cultural friendships has been one of the most rewarding parts of this spring teaching term and this AmeriCorps experience.

Carrie’s Reflections:

I cannot believe another term has gone by! This spring term, like all the rest, has been such a learning experience for me as a teacher. Teaching units on the health, the house and home, work, and family really opened my eyes to the complexities of the English language. My adult ESL learners were such an inspiration for me because of their determination to learn, correct and perfect the English language both in speaking conversationally and writing. As I was planning my lessons for this session, I was overwhelmed with the amount of grammar used and the longer dialogues present, but I quickly learned that my students were eager to grasp on to the challenges. And they thrived!

Throughout the 8 week session, I kept thinking to myself, “What if I was in their shoes? Would I be able to learn so much in such little time?” Honestly, I’m not sure if I could do it. And, I am so proud that my students, who have busy home and work lives, take the time to spend 2-4 hours in a classroom for two months and focus their energies on learning this complicated language. I was so impressed when my students were able to create their own dialogues using complex language skills such as contractions, the future with will, adverbs, etc. Also, incorporating dialogues into every class session really improved my students speaking abilities by way of better pronunciation and greater confidence levels. Having my students practice the conversation with their partner and saying their conversations aloud to the whole class, allowed them to eventually become comfortable speaking in the English language.

But I definitely could not have taught my two classes and seen so much progress in my student without my teacher assistants! I am so grateful for my teaching assistants Beth W. and Tina O. They are incredible in the classroom and their enthusiasm to help the students is so motivating to the students. I’m proud to say that they will both be taking on lead positions for the summer adult ESL session. They are going to do a fantastic job!

As the summer session approaches (the last session of the year!), I will bring new knowledge into the classroom.

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??????????We have been fortunate to have been the recipients of several book drives by local organizations in the last few months. Golden Pond School, in Ashburn, donated almost 700 books to our family literacy program, after an extremely successful book drive at the school. This is the third year that the school has held a book drive for us and we are grateful for this ongoing partnership. The Montessori School of Leesburg completed a special project for us in the spring, where they bought backpacks and new books for children so that we can then distribute them to some families who really need some extra assistance. The Frances Hazel Reid PTA donated 5 boxes of books to us from an annual book sale that they just completed. We’ve also had a couple of local families have Birthday Book Parties for us. Rather than bring a gift for the birthday girl or boy, guests bring one or two new books to donate to our organization. What a great way to teach your children about the importance of giving to others less fortunate! Donated books are used throughout the year in various ways; we give them to our Head Start families, they are given to children living in the Homeless shelters through our Sweet Dreams program and we work with reading specialists and ESL teachers at Loudoun County Schools to provide as many books as possible to families who might not have books at home. Thanks to all of you in the community for your donations and efforts!

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Julie Winter Class It has been a busy few weeks for the Adult Literacy Program as we have concluded our registration events and begun our spring session of adult ESL classes! We are proud to say that we have over 140 students currently enrolled in our beginner, intermediate, and advanced level classes. For the 2012-2013 FY, we have increased our student population 31% and 40% of our spring session learners are returning students! Additionally, for the spring session, the ALP program are educating students from over 25 countries who speak over 18 languages. Our growing student population could not have happened without the great efforts of our ALP volunteers, who have spent countless hours helping us at registration events and prepping for classes and tutoring sessions. We are also grateful for our community partnerships who graciously allow us to use their spaces for registrations and classes!

Now into our second week of classes, Susan and I have begun our lessons on the house and home and health. Already, we have witnessed the avid determination of our students who are intent in learning the English language. Both units are uniquely challenging to teach and challenging for the students to learn because they rely heavily on English grammar. Complex sentence structures and grammar nuances are hurtles that our beginning level students are eager to overcome.  Lessons on the simple past form of “to be” and how to use adjectives properly to describe nouns are just some of the grammar lessons that we have begun to focus on in the classroom. As beginning level teachers, it is important for both of us to make sure our students feel comfortable with the basics of English grammar, but also to be comfortable speaking and using conversational English. Conversational dialogues and pronunciation are prominent aspects of our teaching. We are now strongly urging our students to speak English, using the proper form of grammar, inside and outside of the classroom in their daily routines.

We know that the next six weeks will fly by, so we are absorbing our past and current teaching experiences, and are eager to continue teaching and growing along with our learners!

Carrie Robinson

AmeriCorps Member 2012-2013

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The Adult Literacy Program staff welcomed eight new volunteers to the Loudoun Literacy Council!  For the Spring Teacher/Tutor Training event, the ALP staff focused on cultural diversity, realia, chart levels, and adult learning on day one of training. We also chose to focus on tutoring on the first day of training, which allowed our volunteers to learn more about one-on-one tutoring ESL and ABE learners as well as to learn how to effectively gauge students’ goals and expectations.  The first day also included an immersion experience, in which one of ALP’s volunteers or students comes to teach a thirty-minute lesson in a language other than English. We were so excited that one of our volunteers, Elena P., joined us for this experience. As a Spanish speaker, Elena wowed our new volunteers, by introducing basic concepts such as the Spanish alphabet and basic Spanish grammar. After thirty minutes of instruction, our volunteers were exhausted! It was a great learning opportunity for all of us because it allowed us to catch a glimpse of how our ELL students feel when they step into our classrooms or when they enter a tutoring session.

Day two of training focused on LLC’s policies and procedures, curriculum and text, structure of an effective lesson, and lesson planning. The second day of training is essential for our volunteers because it allows them to produce their own lesson plan with the new knowledge that they have gained over the course of training. Our volunteers did a great job in constructing their own creative lesson plans! We are glad to say that all of our volunteers are anxious to get into a classroom as an assistant or to become a tutor for the spring term!

Congratulations to Beth, Clark, Claudine, Connor, Katie, Linneah, Sonia, and Tina!

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