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AmeriCorps Members 2013-2014

AmeriCorps Members 2013-2014

Every third Monday in January, we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and as AmeriCorps members we participate in the national day of service event held in honor of MLK. AmeriCorps members are committed to service, so this day is an extension of our mission. We step outside of our service commitment and help other charitable organizations whose mission is to change lives in their communities. This year, we had the privilege of working with the Reston Association, focusing our efforts on organizing the multitude of toys, games, and electronics donated to The Closet.

All eight AmeriCorps members from Loudoun Literacy Council, Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, and BEACON for Adult Literacy came out to give a helping hand.  As the day began, we were first introduced to the founder of the city of Reston, Robert E. Simon. After a motivational speech by Simon, we were set to begin work organizing toys and games. Carrie and Renato began organizing and pricing stuffed animals, Xavier and Stephen made sure all the electronic games were operating correctly, and Tristan, Candace, Joe, and Shani organized the many pieces of puzzles and board games to be priced and sold.

We were able to learn a lot more about The Closet and how their organization plays a major role in the community. Founded in 1974 as a way to assist low-income families by supplying quality used clothing at affordable prices, The Closet has expanded and reaches communities in Herndon, western Fairfax County, and eastern Loudoun. To learn more about The Closet, please click here.

It was great to see the incredible amount of donations and it was even better to be a part of something that has such a direct effect on the community at large. Every volunteer worked without break, determined to organize and price as many items as possible. It was such a great experience to meet others who share the commitment to volunteerism.

Although our year of service ends in August, we will take this experience and continue volunteering our services at future MLK National Day of Service events.

Carrie Robinson

AmeriCorps Member 2013-2014

Loudoun Literacy Council

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Loudoun Literacy Council’s Family Literacy Department held its annual, Fall for Reading, on Sunday, September 8, at the Rust Library in Leesburg. This free event, now in its 5th year, promotes the importance of reading together as a family all year long. It is held in conjunction with National Family Literacy Week and is sponsored by Loudoun Public Library. This year’s features included a professional face painter,  an arts and crafts tent, refreshments and free books for all. The highlight of the day was magician Tom Lilly, with a presentation of “Books are a Blast”. He had lots of audience participation in his book-themed program and topped off the day by creating one-of-a-kind balloon animals for all of the participants. Each year, attendance continues to grow as more and more families in the community are made aware through local news outlets, flyers, and calendar postings. This year we were very happy to see returning families and some of our Head Start friends!

Each year, the library works with Loudoun Literacy to support this important endeavor and we rely on the generosity of the community to make it all happen. This year’s supporters included Ben Franklin, Giant and Wegmans, in Leesburg. In addition, we had over 300 volunteer hours donated by local girl scouts, teens, and others in the community. Thanks to all of you who were able to stop by and see us!

 

Written by: Tanya Bosse, Family Literacy Program Director

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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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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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Carrie:

Through the months of January, February, and March, I excitedly continued my efforts in the classroom teaching adult English language learners! As mentioned in an earlier post, the Adult Literacy Program staff and volunteers were positively overwhelmed with the amount of language learners signing up for ELL instruction. Over 40 students entered my classes for the winter term and the experience of teaching large classes was a very positive learning experience for me. Restructuring lesson plans to adhere to multi-level learners, having activities that kept my students engaged in the classroom, and modifying learning and language skills, were all components of teaching that I was able to adapt to enhance learning within the classroom. Because of the large number of students in the class, I was so grateful for my teacher assistants, Kathleen, Megan W., and Susan S. They were so great in the classroom, not only with the students but in offering me assistance and guidance throughout the classes!

For the winter term, we focused on units covering clothing, food, and health. It was interesting for me to see how much my students knew about the topic before we began to delve into the subject. I believe one misconception that I had as a new teacher was that the notion that “beginner” meant that my ELL learners knew little knowledge of certain subject areas. But as I began to teach these specific units, I came to realize and learn that my students understood many of the fundamentals such as the ins-and-outs of grocery store shopping, how to read store advertisements, and the basic parts of the body. The challenge of these particular units was the specificity of these topics such as the vocabulary associated with clothing, food, and health (i.e. cart vs. basket, headache, stomachache, etc.) as well as the grammar associated with the lesson. It was rewarding to see how students were able to strengthen their vocabulary skills and be able to use those words and incorporate them in to a sentence structure that was grammatically correct. By far, my favorite unit that I taught this term was health. I felt that it is one of the most important units to cover in a life skills based ELL course. As a class, we went over dialogs common to doctor visits and pharmacy visits and by the conclusion of the class, the students were able to construct their own dialogs about medication!

I cannot say enough that the winter term was such a learning experience for me. I feel more confident now entering the classroom for the spring session, teaching learners of multiple ELL backgrounds and adapting my lessons appropriately to all learners!

Susan:

Before this winter term began, I admit that I was nervous how the classes would be with new students and previous students mixed together in my classes.  After my first classes this winter, I learned that these students would come together and form friendships beyond the classroom.  Teaching this winter just was rewarding as the fall, and gaining the skills to assess students’ progression made it even better.  My confidence as an ESOL teacher has increased from this winter term, as I learn new techniques to use in the classroom and saw students responding to them positively.

This winter, my students learned about clothing, food, and health.  Students practiced dialogues, expanded their vocabulary and grammar, and completed surveys asking questions to classmates in the class and then at home to family members and friends.  This winter term, I also introduced my classes to a Weekly Log where students completed each week that asked them where they spoke, read, listened, or wrote in English outside of the classroom.

My favorite part of this term was taking my students from Cascades Library on a field trip to the grocery store.  Prior to the field trip, we spent a few classes learning the vocabulary about food and the grocery store. On the night of the field trip, we walked as a class to the store.  Then, the class split into two groups with me leading one group and my assistant, Jackie, leading the second group.  We gave the students a tour of the grocery store showing them the bakery, deli, produce section, frozen foods, and aisles.  After that, they completed a short scavenger hunt where they found food items in the store and listed the price of them. Finally, we went back to the classroom and wrote about their experience.  To be able to take what they learned inside the classroom and apply it to their lives was one of my most rewarding experiences so far this year during AmeriCorps.

This winter term went by so fast! I am thankful for my assistants, Jackie and Laura, for being able to add ideas and aide in the classroom.  The students were able to receive more one-on-one attention thanks to them.  Overall, I enjoyed watching my students grow and getting to know them.  One student received her library card and came in every night with new books, and one student received her green card along with her daughter.  I always hate the end of the term and having to say goodbye, but I look forward to hopefully seeing many of these students return this spring term to continue practicing their English skills and advance further.

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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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LLC_Color 2013 New Logo Crop

Over the past couple of weeks, the Adult Literacy Program Staff has been blown away by 130 ESOL students registering and taking part in our ESOL class instruction! The week of January 14th, the ALP staff registered students at five different site locations in Loudoun County with the help of 12 of our wonderful volunteers. We’d like to send a huge “thank you” to our community partners: Douglass Community Center, Sterling Community Center, Ashburn Library, Guilford Elementary School, and Frederick Douglass Elementary School for allowing us to utilize their space and resources.

We are so excited that our ESOL student population has increased and we, as a program, have the ability and the resources to cater to the overwhelming need for English classes. Our students come into the classroom with differing academic backgrounds; we have students with advanced degrees, university degrees, high school diplomas, and students with little to no education. Our youngest student is 19 and are eldest student is 76 years of age. Our
students come from 27 different countries and represent a multitude of nationalities and cultural backgrounds! Sixty-four percent of our students are taking our Beginning Level ESOL courses, with an equal percentage of students taking our Intermediate and Advanced Level ESOL courses. With such diversity in culture, as well as English proficiency, we are fortunate to have volunteers who are able to teach students with varying academic abilities and cultural nuances.

Additionally, for the Winter 2013 term we were able to expand our classroom instruction, establishing another class at Rust Library as well as a new class at Frederick Douglass Elementary School. Currently, the Loudoun Literacy Council offers 12 adult ESOL classes in eight site locations including Douglass Community Center, Rust Library, Ashburn Library, Cascades Library, Galilee United Methodist Church, Sterling United Methodist Church, Guilford Elementary School, and Frederick Douglass Elementary School. The passion that we hold for providing English classes to our students is evident with our community partners as well. Their dedication fuels our dedication to keep improving and making positive changes towards the ELL community as well as the community at large in Loudoun County.

The determination of our students to learn and understand the complexities of the English language is very inspiring. As registration came to a close, and classes began this past week, we were again reminded of the challenges the students face on a day-to-day basis. It is part of our responsibility, as ESOL instructors, to help our students take a firmer grasp on the English language as well as take a second look and do something constructive when we witness the injustices non-native English speakers face in this society.

If you would like to be a part of “changing lives through learning”, please contact the Loudoun Literacy Council at (703)777-2205 or e-mail us at tutor@loudounliteracy.org.

 

Carrie Robinson, AmeriCorps Instructor 2012-2013

Loudoun Literacy Council

17 Royal St., SW Leesburg, VA 20175

http://www.loudounliteracy.org

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