News & Blog

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Reading & Writing: Weaving it Together

Blogger: Thomas Rodgers (Literacy Coordinator)

Learner and tutor pairs often tell me that writing is the one topic that presents the most difficulty for them. Fortunately, we have a great resource called Weaving It Together that can help. 

Interviewed by: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

Diedrea copyQueyonna sat down with Diedre Deering and her learner, Malvin Brooks, during one of their tutoring sessions in the Literacy Center's tutor library. Diedre is the Executive Assistant at the Literacy Center, and she and Malvin have been meeting together since May 2017.

What did those first meetings look like?

Malvin and I met for the first time at the Van Belkum library branch. For the first couple of weeks, we just got to know each other. From the very beginning, I was impressed at Malvin's dedication. He is so faithful about doing his homework and always shows up for tutoring even though he works two jobs.

What was your proudest moment as a tutor? 

I would say my proudest moment was when Malvin received his score on the second [reading] test he took after we started working together. He had a significant jump in score on that second test, and it showed that everything we'd been working on was helping him improve.

From Pro Lingua Associates: A Phrasal Verb Affair 

Blogger: Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

October Supplementary Photograph copyFor most people studying English, learning how to use phrasal verbs is a significant challenge. They are semantically and grammatically complex, and often use verbs with different meanings. 

Unfortunately, those of us who are native speakers use these phrasal verbs frequently throughout our daily conversations and in writing. The Longman Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs currently lists 12,000 different entries; this can confuse learners of all levels.

For learners who are interested in working on phrasal verbs, I recommend “A Phrasal Verb Affair.” This bright pink workbook is hard to miss in our tutor library and includes an audio CD with conversations from the lessons. 

A Second Chance at a Dream: Rachida's Story

Written by Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Rachida was born in Algeria, and always dreamt of working in the very competitive healthcare field in her country. Instead, RachidaRachida graduated with a degree in Marketing and took a position as an administrative assistant in the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy.

When Rachida moved to Grand Rapids in December of 2017 to join her husband, she saw an opportunity to change her career. It was a second chance for her dream: to start from the beginning of her journey into the healthcare field.

Johana Rodriguez Quist Hired as Family Literacy Program Director

The Literacy Center of West Michigan is pleased to announce Johana Rodriguez Quist as the new director of its Family Literacy ProgramJohana Rodriguez Office Shot 2018, a program that strengthens the connection between home and school by addressing the literacy needs of adults in children’s lives.

“Our Family Literacy Program aligns parents’ education with what their children are learning in the classroom,” said Dr. Wendy Falb, executive director of the Literacy Center of West Michigan. “Johana’s experience supporting parents in the public schools gives her a deep understanding of the need for teaching parents the language skills necessary to break the generational cycle of low literacy.”

Interviewed by Thomas Rodgers (Literacy Coordinator)

Paul Conlon began working with his learner, Livingstone, in 2016. Paul was a retired teacher who had worked with children for more than 30 years, but was admittedly a bit apprehensive about working with an adult. He quickly learned that adult learners like Livingstone are often highly motivated to learn.

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September's A-Z Textbook | Focus on Grammar

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)

Focus on Grammar pictureFor adult learners hoping to improve their literacy skills, grammar can seem like an insurmountable barrier to fluency. For their tutors, grammar can be an out-of-reach concept tied to knowledge they acquired in early school days. Thankfully, the book Focus on Grammar structures grammar instruction in an accessible and relatable way.

With the sheer amount of information needing to be covered in English grammar, most adult literacy textbooks choose between covering the basics for everyday use or exploring advanced usage more necessary for higher education.

Focus on Grammar marries these two opposing needs into one series. With five levels ranging from beginning to advanced, learners can build their grammar fluency at any stage of their learning path.

Kari Sovereign served as an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Center last year, and is returning this year for a second service year. She spoke with Libby Wahlstrom about her experience. 

Why did you want to become an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Center? 

During my Capstone for my Master’s Degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I got involved Kari Sovereign copy copywith the Literacy Center as a volunteer tutor. I was matched with a learner from Burma, named Say Paw, and I continue to be her tutor to this day. I received information about the AmeriCorps program through my professor at Cornerstone and was immediately interested in the opportunity for teaching experience and connecting with the Grand Rapids Public Schools community.

Describe your role. What is your job like?

My official position is an ESL instructor, but we as AmeriCorps members have many roles in the community. Last year, I taught ESL classes at Cook Library, Buchannan, Burton, Dickinson and West Godwin schools in the morning and in the afternoon. My learners were adult beginning learners of English with children that attended Grand Rapids Public Schools or Godwin Heights Public Schools.

Interviewed by Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Kalista Castine is a retired educator of adults and children within Special and Alternative Education.  She has previously tutored with children at the West Michigan Children’s Dyslexia Center.  She has been working with her learner Justin since February of this year, and the two have already seen significant improvement in his reading score. Justin is from Detroit and is working toward earning his GED.

Tell me about working with Justin.

Justin is a resourceful and persistent person, especially in his quest to improve his reading and spelling skills. We started August Justin Kalista 1working with what he knew and have built up our lessons from there. I continue to remind him that he is learning how to unlock literacy for himself. The first six months have flown by, and we are set to continue for as long as we need to or can. 

 Learner English

Blogger: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

August 2018 copyLearner English, this month's reference spotlight, is a resource staple for many teachers and trainers of English language learners. We believe it can also be helpful to you as you work with your learner on navigating the English language. Learner English is designed to help you predict your learner's possible errors by examining their mother-tongue. 

Limerick Lessons with Steve and Maria

Interviewed by Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator) 

Steve Loar is a retired university professor of art, design, and woodworking. He now works as a sculptor, and his piece “Black Seam” won first prize in the 2018 West Michigan Art Competition. He has been working with his learner Maria since February 2017. Maria is a native of Lima, Peru.

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How did it feel when you first started tutoring?

"Tutoring is a chance to be like that great teacher you had.. or maybe the great teacher you didn’t have. The first fear is in the beginning. Starting is scary – then you and your learner become partners in a quest." 

Guest blogger: Franciel Palencia
Franciel is a learner in our Adult Tutoring Program and wrote this article for The Reader, our quarterly learner newsletter. 

Franciel Palencia

My name is Franciel. I am from Venezuela which is the country in South America near Columbia and Brazil. I have two kids: Santiago and Andres. Santiago is 9 years old, he is in 4th grade and he loves to play soccer. Andres is 7 years old. He is in 2nd grade and he likes to swim and play Legos all time.

My husband’s name is Jose Luis Rivas. We have been married for 12 years. He likes to wake up early and read the bible, while he drinks his coffee. We met in college UPEL-IPB (pedagogical).

Leandra Pogson is our AmeriCorps Bilingual Support Advocate. She is a native of the Dominican Republic, and lived for several years in Puerto Rico. Leandra just signed on for an additional year of AmeriCorps service, and spoke with Libby Wahlstrom about her experience. 

 

Leandra

Why did you want to become an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Center?

Belonging to AmeriCorps gives me the opportunity to gain experiences and get closer to the community, while also allowing me to collaborate with the purpose of supporting the Family Literacy Program.

Describe your role. What is your work like?

I am the liaison between the learners and the program. I provide support to the team and collect data. Also, I provide orientation and information to the learners according to their needs and sometimes I serve as the recruitment agent for the program.

Table Topics Present | Family Conversation Pack

Blogger: Thomas Rodgers (Literacy Coordinator)

We are pleased to share with you the newest addition to our library: Table Topics Family Conversation Pack.

July Family Conversation Pack

 Blog Author: Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

After dedicating her time to raising her children for several years, Anna Jean Cater decided that she needed to do Annasomething for herself. She was certified as a math teacher in her home country of the Philippines, and had worked as a cashier at Meijer for a few years between her move to Grand Rapids and the birth of her first child, but she knew that she wanted a new career. She said, “I want to start where my weakness is, which is English.” A friend told her about the Literacy Center of West Michigan, and she enrolled in an advanced blended classroom/online ESL course. During that class, she improved her English, earned a Silver National Career Readiness Certificate, and through our online software, learned about various careers and how to navigate technology systems.

Blog Author: Chad Patton, Director of the Customized Workplace English Program

Minh was born in Vietnam and came to the United States when he was just 12 years old. A straight-A student in Vietnam,Minh Minh describes himself as an “ambitious guy” and a go-getter. Since coming to the United States, he’s been a student at GRCC and GVSU, a manager at Walgreens, and an international businessman. He is now a Quality Supervisor at Praxis Packaging Solutions in Grand Rapids.

The path to his current role at Praxis took some time. Minh started in the Production Control department before applying for an accounting supervisor position. At that point, his work ethic was evident, and it caught the attention of Praxis’ CEO, Rick King. The only barrier inhibiting Minh’s career path? His English language skills.

Punctuation, Prepositions, and Plurals- oh My!

Blogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Family Literacy Tutor)

June 2018As an AmeriCorps tutor, I’ve had the chance to use many different textbook series supplied by the Literacy Center. I've come to know that because each learner has different proficiencies and goals, it’s essential to have a textbook that is appropriate and engaging. 

Today I’m going to discuss one series that I’ve found particularly useful: Grammar Wise.

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Grass Roots Press Biography Audio Books

Blogger: Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Is your learner interested in reading about real people who made a positive impact on the world? If your answer is yes, we encourage you to visit our tutor library to check out the Grass Roots Press Biographies by Terry Baker. Learners can read about individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Ceasar Chavez, and Elizabeth Fry. The best part? These books come with an audio CD and a free online workbook.

Guest Blogger: Kari Sovereign. Kari is an AmeriCorps Family Literacy Program instructor. She teaches English classes to parents in local school districts. We're thrilled that she is returning as an AmeriCorps member again next year. 

The Family Literacy English class that I teach at Cook Library Center quickly fell into a routine last fall with a group of Karidedicated English language learners. It was during the second week of classes that a woman with what appeared to be a large growth on her back came to class. Maria introduced herself and told us she is from Guatemala and has lived in America for 14 years. She is happily married with six children, five of them boys, and the baby is a girl.  With the help of the other women in class, she quickly assimilated and the session moved along smoothly. 

Novel Scenes | Introduction to Low Intermediate

May 2018

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)

For English language learners first starting out with their English literacy skills, it can be difficult to find reading materials appropriate for their ability and interests.

The traditional adult literacy workbook addresses everyday literacy skills necessary for survival in the community and the workplace, but it may miss the mark on exciting and engaging subject matter. For tutoring pairs interested in reading short stories, but need the structure of a workbook, Novel Scenes is the perfect fit.

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