News & Blog

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Stand up for Stand Out

Blogger: Tom Rodgers (Literacy Coordinator)

Stand Out is an excellent comprehensive textbook series for an English language learner. The series features textbooks and workbooks at a variety of levels that are appropriate for many learners, and also align with the CASAS testing system.

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Guest blogger: Phil Wittry
Phil is a Senior I.T. Manager and has been a tutor with the Adult Tutoring Program since April of 2017. 

 

I came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan in 2017 after serving as a literacy and GED tutor in Cincinnati. I had grown to love the 1-1 connection in helping students, especially adults, make the leaps to achieve goals for themselves and their families. When I moved to West Michigan, I wanted to do similar volunteering with the Literacy Center.

Navi Gill is an AmeriCorps member who served as a family literacy tutor before becoming a family literacy ELL instructor. 

One of the very first learners I was matched with was a young woman named Sah. Sah came from Burma to the United NaviStates as a refugee after spending many years in a refugee camp. She sought out the services of the Literacy Center because she wanted to improve her English conversation and reading skills in order to be able to help her child succeed in school and to find meaningful work. At first I was admittedly nervous to meet with someone who had overcome so much in their short life, but Sah’s kind demeanor and welcoming smile during our first lesson immediately put any anxieties I had to rest.

Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

Banza Mukalay grew up in Congo, the second largest country in Africa. After attending school for 12 years, he graduated Banzaas a mechanic in 1996. Banza got married after high school and a year later, two major things happened: he and his wife became pregnant with a girl, and a war began.

Banza and his wife escaped the war while his wife was pregnant and hid in a neighboring village. Once the war was over and his home town of Kalemie went through a regime change, Banza’s family moved back home. The peace did not last long, and a new war began in 1998. It was at that point that Banza and his mother, wife, child, brothers, and sisters, fled across Lake Tanganyika into Tanzania.

On November 6, 1998 Banza and his family became refugees and were sent to live in the refugee camp. He would live there for 15 years, and three of his four children would be born in the refugee camp. During that time, he worked as a security guard for World Vision, a social worker for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and was ordained as a pastor by the United Methodist Church. Banza led a church in the refugee camp for two years before finally gaining access to the United States.

Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using The Change Agent in Adult Education

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)Through the Lens of Social Justice copy

In an effort to provide a greater number of resources for our tutors, the Adult Tutoring Program has worked to add new materials to the reference section of our tutor library. One newly added title is “Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using the Change Agent in Adult Education.” This book may be used in tandem with the Change Agent, an adult education newsletter, or independently as a reading resource for learners or a guide for cultural competency in addressing social justice issues.

The three chapters explore social justice as it applies to the adult learner, looking to connect the classroom with the larger community to which our learners contribute. Chapter one explores how social justice issues can be addressed through a learner’s literacy goals. The topics available for reference range from life skills materials to personal narratives, to High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation. Both the life skills materials and the personal narratives are structured for easy use in tutoring sessions, enabling these examples to be directly applied to the lesson. Outlines are given for pre- and post-reading activities, encouraging learners to engage in social issues that affect their daily lives. Final support is provided for learners hoping to engage in civic action to better their communities.

Citizenship: Passing the Test

Blogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Tutor)

 

For any English language learner living in the United States, the Citizenship test is daunting. Every step of the process, IMG 2915 copy copyfrom filling out forms to memorizing 100 civics questions, can be challenging. If your learner is preparing for their citizenship test, the Literacy Center of West Michigan has many resources to help them study and prepare.

Citizenship: Passing the Test is a series of textbooks available in the Tutor Library. This series consists of three books ranging in level from low beginning to intermediate. The first, titled Literacy Skills, is written for low beginning level learners. This book comes with an audio CD and introduces learners to relevant vocabulary through writing, reading and listening activities. Some examples of vocabulary words include flag, president, state, and Washington, D.C. This book is great for learners who are just beginning their literacy studies.

A brief introduction to our newest staff member, Queyonna Hunt

I’m Queyonna Hunt, the new Literacy Coordinator of the Adult Tutoring Program with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. I am writing to introduce myself, and will provide you with all the best tidbits so as not to bore you. So, let's start with a list of all the odd jobs I have had before becoming a Literacy Coordinator.Queyonna

The first job I ever had was a cashier position at Popeye's Chicken n' Biscuit; I was 16-years-old. At 21, I worked at a tattoo parlor with intimidating looking people with the softest hearts. Ink'd Up Tattoos was where I learned not to judge a person by the way they look. I sweated and toiled on a homestay farm in the U.P. and traveled to countless music festivals across the U.S. as a food vendor selling gourmet tacos.

Written by Maria Bacerra, a learner in our Adult Tutoring Program, for our Winter 2018 edition of The Reader

My name is Maria. I’m from Mexico and I came to U.S.A. when I was 19 years old. At that time I had only been married for 1 week.

My dream was to have a family. When I came to the U.S.A. it was so hard for me because everything was new; new people, new country, different traditions and everything new. I missed a lot my family and friends. The time was passing and I accustomed through the years.

 Dancing with Strangers | Stories from Africa

Blogger: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

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Today we will be examining a stage three book from Oxford Publishing’s award-winning series, Dancing with Strangers: Stories from Africa.

The series has a worldwide reputation for providing learners with an enriching reading experience. The book includes four narrations, a CD for following along, before and after reading activities, and a glossary for vocabulary building.

The four stories presented in the book take readers on rich journeys through vibrant settings with relatable characters. From inside a bar within the bustling streets city of Johannesburg to an uncomfortable seat on a plane back to South Africa; to a dance floor in Tanzania then off to Uganda to read about two strangers brought together by accidents of war. These stories were written by African natives M.G. Vassanji, Jackee Budesta Batanda, Jack Cope, and Mandla Langa, who give an authentic insight into a vast, diverse culture.

Guest Blogger: Anna Roseboro. Anna is a retired educator and has been a tutor with the Adult Tutoring Program since April 2017. She and her learner, Saw-ku, venture through lessons with an excitement that is evident whenever speaking with them. Their work together was recently featured in The Reader where Saw-ku shared his experience as a Burmese refugee.

Anna Roseboro for LCM

Tutoring adults one-on-one is a learning experience. Though I’m a retired teacher of English Language Arts and a former speech coach, tutoring an adult from Myanmar is a challenge for me because I’m so ignorant. Yes, ignorant. Thankfully, the Literacy Center of West Michigan understands that even experienced educators, though passionate about teaching, have much to learn. It’s the reason Literacy Center required me to attend workshops on how to interact learners from an unfamiliar country who neither shares my history or culture, language or alphabet.

Fun With Grammar

Blogger: Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Capture2When we think of grammar, our minds usually wander to the days in our past, stuck in a stuffy classroom in high school where we had to diagram dull sentences. Grammar is one of those skills that is part of the essential building blocks of the English language, and can vary significantly across languages. I really think we take for granted the “ear” we have developed over time, which helps us use, or intentionally not use, the correct grammar when we communicate. For this reason, grammar can be difficult for tutors to teach effectively and in an engaging way.

Azar’s Fun with Grammar is full of fantastic communicative activities to practice various grammar topics. While many of the activities are more geared towards a classroom setting, all lesson plans and worksheets can be adapted to be used in tutoring sessions. The activities are also labeled by proficiency level.

Here is an example of an activity called “Detective”:

Pearson and Penguin Active Readers Series

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)

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With varied topics in both fiction and non-fiction, Pearson and Penguin Active Readers combine short stories, reading activities, and an audiobook into one compact text. Titles range from classic American and British literature to important historical figures and cultural events. Some titles we have stocked in our library are The Secret Garden, Nelson Mandela, The Three Musketeers, and Frankenstein. Each printed reader comes with a CD of the complete audio recording.

Each text begins with pre-reading activities designed to engage a reader’s prior knowledge on the topic, to introduce main characters, and to encourage learners to make simple assumptions about the story. Each chapter has corresponding illustrations to provide context and reinforce a character’s emotions, relationships, or current actions. As many of our workbook series do, these stories highlight new vocabulary and provide definitions at the bottom of each page.

Miranda

Guest Blogger: Miranda Buckwald. Miranda has been part of the Literacy Center of West Michigan and the Adult Tutoring Program as an AmeriCorps member since August 2017. She tutors six English Language Learners and also facilitates our English Conversation Club. 

 As an AmeriCorps member, I serve the Literacy Center as a full-time tutor. This means I have a caseload of learners that I meet with every week and I run an event called Conversation Club.

Working closely with the Adult Tutoring Program has shown me that the best thing we offer learners is flexibility. Since August, I’ve met with learners all over Grand Rapids who have unique backgrounds and goals. I’ve met learners who work full time and learners who are raising families. I’ve met refugees, single-parents, some studying for their driver’s licenses, some working towards citizenship, and others who just want to help their children with homework.

I see these qualities reflected in the individual goals of every learner, and I get to help them work towards these goals. Sometimes, this means meeting twice in one week to study for a citizenship test scheduled the next Tuesday. Other times, it means showing a learner how to text. I’ve learned that every task, big or small, is important to my learners in their everyday lives.

We have recently re-organized our Tutor Library to make it more accessible to all our tutors. You will receive more detailed information whenever you visit us at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, but as an overview, we would like to offer you the following highlights:

  • All our supplementary books have been color-coded according to genre.
  • Textbooks and reference materials have been rearranged, and now they are ordered alphabetically.
  • We have created a catalog that will help you find the most appropriate material for the level and needs of your particular learner.

We also would like to remind you that the doors of the Tutor Library are always open! 

You may come at any time to check our materials. You also may make arrangements to meet other tutors to prepare lessons together, talk about your challenges, or just to hang out! This is a space for you!

Looking forward to seeing you at the library!

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New content especially for you, our tutors!

With this brief post, we are starting a series of monthly articles directed specifically at the tutor team of the Adult Tutoring Program. In these articles, we will be talking about textbooks, reference books and supplementary materials in our Tutor Library, tutors’ stories, and other relevant information.

Our intention is to introduce materials that could be interesting and useful for you, our tutors. Also, we wish to create a space for you to share your experiences, challenges, and accomplishments as tutors at the Literacy Center of West Michigan.

Stay tuned!

January 2018 Schedule of Tutor and Learner-Related Events and Activities

 Tutor Talk: “Unpack your Feedback”

 Tuesday, January 9 at 2:00 pm or Thursday, January 11 at 6:00 pm

The sessions are held at the Literacy Center of West Michigan's office located at 1120 Monroe Avenue NW Suite 240 Grand Rapids, MI. 

January's Tutor Talk will focus on providing written feedback to learners to help them with their writing and communication. As a tutor, you may feel overwhelmed when deciding what to correct and how to provide learners with assistance on their writing. We will talk about the skills that have proven useful for us as well as provide new ideas to help learners with their writing skills. Both sessions will discuss the same topic, but are provided at different times for your convenience. 

To register, or to get more information, contact Thomas Rodgers at (616) 459-5151, ext. 13 or trodgers@literacycenterwm.org


 Conversation Club

GR Main Library:Tuesdays in January-- 16, 23 and 30 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Kentwood Library: Wednesdays in January-- 17, 24, and 31 from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

Conversation Clubs are a great opportunity for your learner to practice English conversation with other learners of English in a relaxed environment. Topics vary per session, and there is no need to register. You may also attend the Conversation Club to support your learner and others!

For more information about Conversation Clubs contact the Literacy Center of West Michigan at (616) 459-5151, or email info@literacycenterwm.org.


Tutor Orientations

Love your experience? Tell a friend to join us for an orientation! They can register online by clicking their preferred date/time below. Looking for more dates? Check out our event calendar

Thursday, January 4 at 6.00 pm

Friday, January 12 at 10:00 am

Wednesday, January 17 at 10:00 am

Friday, January 26 at 2:00 pm


As always, the Literacy Center staff and your Literacy Coordinator are available to support you with your tutoring. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. 

Take a moment to explore the 10 breakout sessions offered at this year's Community Literacy Summit. Interested in attending this half-day event on January 25? Visit the Community Literacy Summit event page to register today. Space is limited and the event will sell out. 

Alma Bouwens, a learner in the Adult Tutoring Program, wrote this article for the winter 2017 issue of our learner newsletter, The Reader

Now that I know what vacation is, life seems to be a whole lot better. There was a time when I didn’t know whatstrawberry vacation was. My father was Texas born and met my mother on the other side of the Rio Grande in Mexico. So before I was born, my father would bring up immigrants from Texas to pick vegetables and fruit in Michigan. My father married my mother in the United States, so that made her an American citizen. Every year they would travel for miles from state to state working on farms along the way. My father had a semi-truck and could fit all our relatives and friends in the back. When they would tell us stories about their travels, we would laugh and say “you were like Gypsys.”

Rebecca Thak, a learner in the Adult Tutoring Program, wrote the following article for the winter 2017 issue of our learner newsletter, The Reader. 

Hello! My name is Rebecca Thak. I am from South Sudan. I come from a very large family.My mom and dad lived with us. We were very happy. We lived in a small town called Mayiendit with my siblings, my five brothers and four sisters. We walked to school every morning. There was no school bus available. Every day when we came back from school, we read our books and did our homework before sunset, because we had no electricity, we had only lanterns. In 2003, I got married and moved to Kenya, I went to school to improve my English. From there, I found new friends and learned Swahili. I was very excited to learn a different language.

Guest Blogger: Doroty Delli Ficorelli

I’m a mother of two boys and a wife. I moved here from Italy two years ago with my amazing family, my husband Massimo, my two sons, Diego and Marco and my dog Lilly. Doroty copy

I still remember when my husband asked me to move to the US, I had my new house my friends and my job …. I worked two years for Coca Cola Company in Modena and 11 Years for F.R A., a manufacturing company. In both of these companies, I worked in administration. And this company became my second family during the time and for that reason it was a hard decision to leave my job.

Living in the US is a good opportunity for my sons. They are learning a new language and living in a different culture.

At the beginning it was not easy for me, because I didn’t know anybody and my English was really bad.

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