Literacy New Jersey helps adults become U.S. citizens

mind-literacy-volunteers-fox-valley-sum13In 2016, almost 200 Literacy New Jersey students were granted U.S. citizenship, meaning they can register to vote and do so for the first time, and become more active members of their communities.

Chin Vivian Hsieh is a 53-year-old woman who immigrated to the U.S. six years ago from Taiwan, and among her most challenging experiences here was just walking into a shop and go to the checkout counter.

She was scared, and thought people were saying ‘What’ya doing’, while they actually were saying ‘How’ya doing’. It was, in fact, this small misunderstanding, just one simple word, that made that she didn’t venture out on most days.

Finally, Hsieh joined a Literacy Volunteers group on English conversation and started to work 1-on-1 with a tutor from Literacy New Jersey in Middlesex. It was only then that her life begun to change for the better. In 2015, Chin Vivian Hsieh became a U.S. citizen. She says she now wants to vote for the American presidency, and that she likes the American life, the possibilities, and the freedom.

Hsieh is just one of the over 5,000 adults that benefit from Literacy New Jersey’s services each year. Literacy New Jersey is a statewide … Read the rest

Executing Great School Project Ideas

Books have been written about them and a number of different comedians talk about them as a part of their stand up routine. School projects. Many parents dread it when their child announces they need help and some creative school project ideas since that is usually the signal for days of roaming craft stores and surfing around online trying to come up with school project ideas that will impress the teacher.

School Project Ideas -Where to Get Help

Every child’s school project comes with the same instruction – that children should make all of the elements themselves. That might work for kids on say, a high school level, but if you know an elementary school child who has ever completed a big school project by themselves we’d love to hear about it because we certainly never have.

In fact, it often seems that in assigning such things teachers know that they are challenging the parents, rather than the children, to come up with the best school project ideas.

Whatever the actual theme of the school project, there is always going to be a fact-finding element. Fortunately these days there is one place to head that should cover at least the … Read the rest

More Seniors Need ESL Skills Improvement

Literacy Volunteers East Bay is planning to provide an ESL (English as a Second Language) course starting early January.

Melanie Decker, Director of the Senior Center, made clear that there is growing demand for this kind of service because the non-native speaking part of the population is increasing, and lack of transportation options make ESL lessons in really needed.

Literacy Volunteers East Bay ‘s membership grows every day, says Decker, and over the last two years, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the number of people who have only limited or no command of English, and as they don’t have adequate (if any) transportation options to attend an ESL class, our community’s seniors may feel even more alone and isolated.

LV East Bay is already offering transportation services for all of its members, so participants of the ESL class (spearheaded by social worker Ann Albano) could avail themselves of this. at. The ESL class also comes with instruction in conversational skills, as they form the basis of any language course.

Ann Albano says her goals for ESL instruction are the improvement of the partaking adults’ everyday communication skills, and the enhancement of their social interactions both in the community and … Read the rest

You Should Not Mispronounce A Student’s Name

Are you aware that if you mispronounce a student’s name, you are negating the student’s identity? Mispronouncing a student’s name may well be leading to resentment and anxiety which may lead to less academic progress.

Pronouncing the name of a student correctly will help build a positive school culture and is only respectful to students and their families.

Over the last decades, we’ve seen a national increase regarding students’ overall graduation rates in the U.S., but the dropout rate for immigrant or foreign-born students remains above the 30% mark,  well over three times the dropout rate for white, U.S.-born students.

See also this important video:

We know that for many English Language Learners (ELL’s), the mispronunciation of their name is all too often the first of many setbacks they are experiencing in the classroom, while they are already very unlikely to work with a curriculum that respects or reflects their specific culture, or meet teachers who are speaking their native language.

All these factors may hinder their academic progress. In San Jose, California, a junior at Rock Charter High School, a downtown San Jose College Prep Alum Program, is named Michelle-Thuy Ngoc, and her name is pronounced ‘knock twee’.

She … Read the rest

Results of the online collaboration project

I was reminded earlier this week that I hadn’t really said much about my own project in the course of these blog posts.  I think you will probably have gathered I’ve had a lot to reflect on and had an absolutely fabulous time in the Carolinas.

To be honest, it’s probably taken a couple of weeks since I’ve been home for the enormity of what happened to sink in. I was really pleased at how well-received the project was at the school, proud to have become a semi-finalist alongside another great US teachers –  and truly humbled that out of so many wonderful projects it won first runner-up in the collaboration category! WOW!

That means that we are well on track for the collaborative ways of working that were mentioned in my previous post and how impressive are our students with their world-class achievements!

But there are many people to thank who made the project possible, because a project like this isn’t just something done by one person:

  • all those who have been involved in our collaboration work – the most important all the children who took part in the projects
  • all those who have supported from school –  all
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NJ migrant children face new barrier: school

06_13_2014_border_crisis-jpg__800x600_q85_cropOne at a time, Maria Vasquez’s children crossed the treacherous border into the U.S.

They were fleeing violence and poverty in Guatemala, and lured to New Jersey with the prospect of getting reunified with their mother in Union County and start a new life.

Two of Maria’s children crossed the frontier all by themselves, alone, and as unaccompanied minors.

The children got caught by U.S. Border Patrol officers, who sent them on to New Jersey, where they soon encountered a new barrier: sign up for public school!

Maria Vasquez’ children are two of the more than 5000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that were placed with sponsor families in New Jersey by the federal government since end 2013.

An estimated seventy children are staying in various communities in Monmouth County, but the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement is not reporting counties where under fifty migrant children got resettled, such as Ocean County.

Across America, there are more than 100,000 unaccompanied minors staying with sponsor families. They are  expected to go to school while seeking legal status in a U.S. Immigration Court.

Bear in mind that these numbers do NOT include include minors who did cross the border … Read the rest

How Creative Is Your Teaching?

Creative Teaching… Does it frequently involve artwork? Does it involve drama? Does it involve music? Does it involve some practical activity? Or does it involve making choices about a tech tool to use? Problem-solving? Open-ended tasks? Self-directed learning? Collaboration? Peer feedback?

I can be creative – I have spent many hours following a knitting or cross-stitch pattern. I have followed dressmaking patterns. I can follow a piece of music when playing my guitar or singing. But I think that is a different sort of creativity to the creativity I use in class.

Perhaps creativity means using “creative skills”. Perhaps it means using “thinking skills”. Perhaps both have their place. Perhaps there is a place for following a creative pattern – after all, it can be quite relaxing to follow someone else’s instructions. And perhaps there is a place for creative thinking skills too – where we use those skills to express our thinking. And perhaps there is a whole host of other skills that are creative – perhaps it’s not what we do but how we engage our brain in the process and take “ownership”.

I was reminded this week that there is something called “divergent thinking.” Perhaps as educators, … Read the rest

How To Become A Literacy Volunteer

Before you can start working on things like syllables with any student, practically all literacy organizations will require you to attend an orientation & training program of some 10 to 20 hours.

Usually, the lessons and materials are provided for free, and the training takes generally place on evenings or weekend days.

These training programs are including subject areas such as goal setting, designing lesson plans, sensitivity training, dyslexia, and effective methods for teaching vocabulary, writing, preparing for the GED test via Math practice from, and even writing a short GED essay.

Well, as we know that the majority of  illiterate adults were trying to cover up their inability to write and/or read for many years, sensitivity training elements were implemented to help you help them with any form of shame,  negativity about school, or frustration, that may come up during one of your tutoring sessions.

The instruction on your lesson plans will provide you with good ideas about how to structure your tutoring sessions.You’ll learn which workbooks to use in relation to a student’s reading level or perhaps learning disability, and the best ways to keep your tutoring accurate and lively.

Before you get to work with … Read the rest

How Literacy Volunteers Help

Literacy Volunteers are believing that supported and well-trained volunteers can be highly effective teachers of adults.

Literacy Volunteers provides free, individualized student-focused instruction in basic literacy & English language capabilities.

Literacy Volunteers of East Bay (LVEB) includes some 80 volunteers, 1 administrative director, and Board of Directors of 8 members.

LVEB is serving around 80 adult learners every year through the organization’s group class leaders and well-trained tutors. Most students receive tutoring on an individual basis, but the organization also provide group instruction for local organizations or businesses who have a group of people that need their services.

Tutors are required to complete a training program of 15 hours and they continually are supported by a literacy specialist.

LV East Bay is an organization that provides services and/or referrals to adult learners who are at least 18 years old, and who live in or are willing to travel to LVEB’s  program area of Warren, Bristol, East Providence, and Warren.

The organization is financed by substantial donations from local businesses and citizens, the U.S. Department of Education, and money generated through an annual funding campaign.


  • Tutors are kept in shape through online courses.
  • They can stay in practice with new
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Helping Non-native Students Write English

I myself am an a non-native speaker of the English language, so I know from my own experience that writing in a foreign language is often challenging, and this is particularly true when it concerns academic work.

A considerable portion of the available research reports and study material in our study field is providing numerous tips and suggestions on how we can help undergraduate non-native speakers and writers.

Having said that, graduate students somehow seem to be receiving far less attention regarding this subject in the provided literature. Still, non-native graduate students are facing an even greater number of challenges when it comes to writing their academic pieces, and my personal experiences have also made that very clear to me. Time to do some research.

I asked several non native applied linguistics graduate students to share with us their experiences in the field of academic writing. I was asking them the following three questions:

  • What are your biggest challenges in writing that you come across as a non-native English speaking graduate student?
  • What helpful advice/assistance have you been receiving so far in grad school to help you with your writing?
  • What do you think that universities/colleges/graduate programs/study advisers could do
Read the rest

When A Reader Lacks Fluency

e588cfd6f99848030d69cac41b26404eWhen a child lacks fluency, he/she reads at a pace that is word-by-word, with little attention to phrasing. He/she may also be reading a book that is too difficult, where his/her attention is on decoding and not on comprehension and fluency.


  • Encourage the child to read a book that is easy. An easy book is one with fewer than 5 errors per 100 words.
  • Explain that reading needs to sound like talking.
  • Encourage repeated readings of easy books.
  • Encourage the reader to read to a younger child.
  • Encourage the child to read without pointing.
  • Provide guided practice with a teacher/parent for 5-10 minutes. Choose a reading passage that is easy and be sure both the adult and child can see it. The adult reads it several times to the child, who is following along. Then read it together once or several times, until the child is reading it with expression. Finally, have the child read it alone. Repeat daily for several months.

The Reader Reads Too Fast:

Some readers view the purpose of reading to say the words right without thinking about what the words mean. They do not view reading as a meaning-making activity and therefore, read to … Read the rest