Saturday, March 1, 2008

March 2008: Part 1 of the Adult Literacy Double Feature


America Learns March 2008 Strategy of the Month
Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles

Since October 2003, we've highlighted strategies for 52 straight months via our Strategy of the Month e-newsletter. This month marks the first time we're highlighting two strategies at once (to see the other strategy for this month, click here). It's also the first time that we're recognizing strategies from an adult literacy program.

The strategies come from volunteers with the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles. The organization's Volunteer for Literacy Program strengthens and builds the capacity of literacy providers in the Greater Los Angeles community by recruiting and training volunteers to help improve the basic literacy skills of adults within and outside of the workforce. Providers include public schools, libraries, WorkSource Centers, and other community-based organizations.

As you're about to learn, the Literacy Network is also home to incredibly passionate, innovative volunteers.

Office of English Language Development - U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition highlighted these volunteers for their being recognized as America Learns Strategy of the Month authors.   Canada's National Adult Literacy Database and the Mid-Continent Comprehensive Center also posted news about the strategies on their websites.

Meet Maria Barham

Maria Barham

Maria tutors more than 20 hours a month at the Burbank Adult School, where she primarily serves low-level ESL learners. Originally from Australia (where she was a high school English teacher), she now enjoys helping students from many different countries and language backgrounds as they learn the language and culture of Southern California and the U.S. as a whole.

Robyn Wasserman, the Literacy Network's volunteer program coordinator, described Maria as "a fantastic volunteer who pays a lot of attention to detail and cares about the success of the learners. She creates lessons and activities that engage the learners while teaching them life skills."

Maria's strategy involves helping her learning partners who are unfamiliar with the Roman alphabet script to more easily recognize and pronounce the letters of the English alphabet. We hope that you and any adult learners you support will benefit from Maria's success, and that you'll especially appreciate and learn from the detailed guidance she offers in Step 1 around providing instructions to in English to those who do not yet speak the language.

The Strategy


Created by: Maria Barham, Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles
(America Learns Network member since 2007)
Topics: Alphabet; English Language Learners
Grade Levels: Adult
Arrangements: Two to five learners
Materials: A page with the alphabet printed on it

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Situation: I used this strategy to help teach the alphabet to a group of illiterate students who were not familiar with Roman script / the English alphabet.

My students had previously learned how to say the alphabet and how to write both capital and lower case letters. As speakers of a language that does not use the Roman script, the students were very hesitant about pronouncing the letters and were confusing letters such as C & S, G & J, M & N etc.

Step 1: Students were given a page with the 26 letters of the alphabet in the correct order.

They were taught the meaning of 'listen and circle'.

- Teach the word 'listen' by holding your hand behind your ear and saying slowly, "listen". Students physically hold their hand behind their ear and repeat "listen".

- Teach the word 'circle' by modeling to the students how to circle a letter of the alphabet on their page. Say "Circle A" and then draw a circle around the letter A on your page. Say "Circle B" and draw a circle around the letter B on your page. Have the students copy you by circling the letter A and then B on their worksheet.

Step 2: The teacher calls out one letter of the alphabet, such as C. Students find C on their worksheet and circle it. Partners check each other's work for the correct answer. The teacher continues to call out more letters until the students are comfortable with listening, circling and checking their partner's work.

Step 3: Now each student takes a turn at calling out one letter of the alphabet. The rest of the group circles the correct letter on their worksheets. Continue taking turns until all 26 letters are circled.

Step 4: Next, ask how the learner feels about school/his or her teacher. (If you're working with an adult learner who is not in school outside of your work together, you may ask about his or her work.)

Write "school" or the teachers name in another area of the page and connect the student to this new bubble with an appropriate line. For example, the student really connects with their current teacher or coach. S/he would write "Ms. Jones" on an area of the page surrounding the central circle and connect "me" with "Ms. Jones" using a darkened line. The key would note that the darkened line equals a strong connection.

Step 5: Using any other places, people, or organizations the learner is involved with, illustrate how the learner connects to his or her social environment.

More examples might be afterschool daycare, babysitters, favorite past times, vacation spots, grandparents, best friends, cousins, jobs, chores, clubs, sports, coaches, classes, or major fears.

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Maria by clicking the grey “Comments” link below.

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