About JohnAsanchez

AmeriCorps VISTA at FLC

Goodbye, FLC

John and intern, Amanda Terrell at the 2013 Florida Literacy Conference

John and Amanda Terrell at the 2013 Florida Literacy Conference

Some people say they’re not much for goodbyes, and then start saying goodbye. When I left New York, I gave my friends a two-week notice after having known that I would become an AmeriCorps VISTA with FLC for at least two months prior. I guess you could say I’m not one of those people. Instead, I took the time before I left to do things worth remembering and say things worth listening to without falling under the monotony of gonna-miss-yous and the like. I’d like to do that now.

When I first began here at FLC, I was excited to be a part of an organization that provided support to the community-based literacy programs throughout Florida—I had tutored before and considered going into TESOL for a year or so but decided teaching wasn’t for me. While sitting at my desk early in my year of service, I researched and found eye-opening statistics on the correlation of literacy and poverty, how low literacy skills affect a person’s life, and how much more of a chance an adult has at success if they receive their GED certificate.

As telling as the numbers were, it wasn’t until the FLC Annual Meeting at the Florida Literacy Conference, after what had already been two days of plus-12-hour event coordination and many cups of coffee, when I truly understood just how much of an impact we make on an adult learner’s life. During the meeting, students were allowed to come to the front of the room and read their stories.

After several student stories, a tall, slender man, who seemed too frail to be 35, approached the microphone with a paper in his two shaky hands. He told his story of how he came from a low-income family and dropped out of school to work in a factory in Ohio, where his right hand got severed in the machinery. Soon after the occurrence he quit, and having little money, he became homeless and soon developed an addiction to crack cocaine.

His rock bottom came when he ended him up in a hospital after he broke bones in both his legs escaping a garbage truck that had loaded his bed, a dumpster, into its bed. He then enrolled in a rehabilitation program while in jail and started taking adult education classes to take the GED test.

At the time he read his story to the audience, he still remained drug-free and passed the GED just a few weeks earlier with plans to enroll in a state college. His success after such hardships was what made me realize how valuable our work is. Of course, I already knew the correlation between education and poverty, but no amount of statistics could legitimize our work more than his story ever did.

I’ll never forget that story and how it’s just one of the thousands of stories like it. That’s what our work does for the people we serve; it enables and empowers them to find success. And that’s why I’m glad I made a living working as a VISTA rather than making a killing doing something less meaningful.

-John Sanchez, AmeriCorps VISTA

Pinterest for Nonprofits

A How-to Pin for Nonprofits

A How-to Pin for Nonprofits

As part of FLC’s Social Media Month, FLC has put together tips and strategies for using social media platforms as a nonprofit organization. If you’ve missed the first two webinars, check out the Twitter webinar on Thursday, November 21 at 12 p.m. This week we provided a webinar on the 3rd most popular social media site in America: Pinterest!

Pinterest is an image-based social media site that was created in 2010 where users can share photos with their followers and create collections of photos based on a theme. Each individual image is called a “pin” and the collection on which the pin is posted is called a “pin board.”  A user that follows another can decide to share a specific pin with their followers and “re-pin” it to one of their boards. Finally, there are “likes” and “comments” that function the same way as they do on Facebook. Pinterest users are more often than not women. They make up 80% of the 700 million users on the site.

Pinterest is beneficial for nonprofits for several reasons. Pinterest is known for having outstanding SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This allows for an accounts pin board to be found from an ordinary Google search even when the person who searched it doesn’t use Pinterest. The site also directs back pins to where they first were originated, so it’s a good idea to pin content that originated on your website or blog—this will take a user who clicks the pin to be brought to your organization’s site.

Driving traffic back to your website so that people can read about your mission and what your organization does is one of the biggest reasons why businesses use Pinterest. In fact, Forbes has found that Pinterest pins can significantly drive sales. Why not drive donations too?

There are some things to keep in mind when you’re beginning to choose content for your Pinterest. Above all, remember that Pinterest is a photo-sharing site. Articles and blog posts aren’t going to be as popular here, so if you want to post a blog on Pinterest, make sure to have some sort of image that people would want to re-blog. Photos of a tutor or student who has completed their GED are also good ways to supplement a blog post.

Other useful content to post are Infographics and Inspiring Quotes. Infographics are basically a graphical representation of statistics about a certain theme. You can find inspiring quotes with a simple Google search, and then use Quozio.com to make them look more appealing. Infographics can be found at Visual.ly or Infogr.am. The latter allows you to create a basic account and try your hand at making literacy infographics. Useful Pinterest accounts to follow include Larry Ferlazzo, GCFLEarnFree, and ABC Life Literacy.

Here are some good strategies to use when you first start pinning:

  • Research Keywords
  • Follow Other Literacy/ Education Organizations
  • Plan:
    • Peak times- 2pm to 4pm or 8pm to 1am
    • Don’t forget the weekend
    • Diversify target audience with several Pin boards
    • Promote and Integrate with Social Media
    • Get followers to your Pinterest
    • Link Facebook/Twitter Accounts

FLC Presents Social Media Month

social media wordleJoin FLC’s Annie Schmidt and John Sanchez for lunch on the first three Thursdays of November to learn how you can use and improve your social media outreach! Each session will be a half hour long and start at 12:00 p.m., and they will be focused on WordPress, Pinterest, and Twitter, respectively.

Each webinar will be a short, informative session focused on a select social media platform to learn how and why to create an account for your program. You will learn tips and strategies for starting or improving upon your social media outreach for your program. We will go over the basics of the social media platform, including who uses it, how to create an account, how to use it for your literacy program, what to post, and strategies for making the most out of the platform.

If you’d like to only attend one or two of the webinars, you can do just that by simply checking off which workshops you’d like to register for at the webinar registration page. To register, please click here. Hope to see you then!

November 7- WordPress

November 14- Pinterest

November 21- Twitter

Comparing Halloween and EL Dia de Los Muertos

HalloweenCultural differences are often found to cause misunderstanding between ESOL students and their educators. What’s even more common is for teachers to give lessons based on American holidays, so students better understand our culture. Another activity that literacy practitioners could do with adult literacy and/or ESOL students is provide an comparison of the American holiday Halloween with the Central American holiday El Dia de Los Muertos.

For those of you who don’t know much about the holiday, El Dia de Los Muertos (literally Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1 of each year. Although festivities occur in various Central American countries, it is predominantly celebrated in Mexico. It is believed that the spirits of dead loved ones visit their families on this day, but the families choose to celebrate the dead relatives’ lives instead of mourning them.  There’s distinct food, clothing, and traditions similar to our Halloween.

Rather than teaching a lesson on Halloween that many of your adult learners have gone through and are expecting, why not compare cultural traditions? Whether your learners are ESOL students or adult literacy students, this idea can even be fit to incorporate collaborating with a mixed group of students. You could prepare a short overview of both holidays, or use your students’ diverse backgrounds to teach the others about their holiday traditions.

Whatever the level of your learners is, you could use this idea to cater a lesson that benefits them. Whether you use Venn Diagrams or a 5-paragraph essay, students can both provide information to the class on what they know and engage with the material, bringing a foreign holiday to something more familiar.

To get you started, here are a few resources worth checking out.


Teacher Boot Camp’s Halloween Activities Guide

History Channel’s Halloween Videos and History

5 Minute English’s Halloween Lesson

Day of the Dead-

Denver Public School’s Day of the Dead Lessons

National Geographic Day of the Dead Overview

Inside-Mexico’s Day of the Dead Page

ESOL Courses Day of the Dead Lessons

Check Out the Florida Literacy Textbook Exchange

FLC has officially launched the Florida Literacy Book Exchange which connects adult education and literacy programs that have used or overstock textbooks with programs that can put these materials to good use. Now, programs in need of textbooks can browse the exchange to find books put up for either donation or trade by both other literacy programs and publishers.

When accessing the site, the first page shows basic information including the title of the book, its publisher, and where the donor is located. More detailed information about the book appears after one has selected a specific listing. Books found on the exchange site are available upon request on a first come, first serve basis. If you find a book that you’d benefit from using with your program, click ‘request books’ to complete a form and the donor will be notified of the request via email.

Although there have been several donations posted on the site already, FLC is and will continue to be seeking other programs with overstock or older (gently used) materials. If you have textbooks to donate, please consider creating a listing for these resources on the Florida Literacy Book Exchange.

To offer books through the exchange site, click ‘donate or trade books’ on the top right corner of the access page and complete the following form. Once approved by the admin, your books will appear as a listing on the site and will be available for anyone interested to request. When someone submits a request for your books, you will receive an email and can make arrangements to transfer the materials.

The book exchange can be accessed through our website at http://www.floridaliteracy.org/bookexchange.

For more information on how to donate books through the exchange, please email sanchezj@floridaliteracy.org.

Special thanks to Douglas Farrell and DOTNET Global for the developing the Florida Literacy Book Exchange.

2014 Florida Literacy Conference Registration Now Open

2014_LogoRegistration is now open for the 2015 Florida Literacy Conference scheduled for May 7-9, 2015, at the Hilton Daytona Beach. What’s even more exciting is that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the conference.

With over 13 tracks to choose from, sessions are designed to be informative and cover a wide variety of topics all focused on the theme “Open Books, Open Minds.” Register before March 7, 2014, for a discounted, early bird registration fee! In addition to this offer, when you register 10 people, you’ll get 1 additional free attendee.

2014 Conference Registration Rates

Member, Early Bird – March 7, 2014 $215
Non-Member, Early Bird – March 7, 2014 $240
Member – Before April 25, 2014 $240
Non-Member – Before April 25, 2014 $265
On-Site – After April 25th, 2014 $280
Register 10 attendees and Get 1 Additional Free Attendee

For more information about the Florida Literacy Conference, please visit http://www.floridaliteracy.org/floridaliteracyconference.html.

Why Adult Education and Family Literacy Week Matters

AEFL Week 2013Education is the single-most important criterion for predicting a person’s success. Virtually no one would disagree with such a statement. What’s surprising, however, is that many of those who support education often subscribe to the systematic notion that adult education programs are inferior to k-12 schools.

Take government policy in Florida, for example. Florida spent $9,572 per k-12 student in 2010 compared to less than $1,000 per adult student. Clearly, the idea that adult education matters*just not that much*permeates throughout society.

The reason for this supposed hierarchy at least theoretically makes sense. Many people view adult education as a ‘second-chance system,’ which is false yet understandable. People assume adults without their high school diploma weren’t failed, they failed. Thus to support adult education, that is to support the education of adults who have already failed to graduate, would be investing in our most unproductive members of society rather than investing in our future, right?

We in the field know better.  As part literacy practitioner or administrator, part advocate, we’re the ones who must inform our community that illiteracy is in fact still a crisis. Furthermore, this crisis not only affects those with low-literacy skills who can’t participate in society but also those who are functionally literate.

2.4 million people in Florida haven’t received their high school diploma. According to GED Testing Service, the Florida high school graduate, on average, earns $7,115 more per year than a high school dropout. This amounts to $17.3 billion each year that isn’t being circulated in the state’s economy. By ignoring the 2.4 million people in our state without a high school diploma, we’re doing a great disservice to ourselves and our progress.

More often than not, others don’t understand what having little to no education does to a person. For one, low education directly relates to an increased chance of living in poverty. In 2005 21% of families with no HS diploma were living below poverty, compared to 7.1% of those with HS diplomas. Having no high school diploma means a person struggles to find work, and the struggle will only become more difficult as it’s predicted that 63% of jobs will require postsecondary education by the year 2018. However, it doesn’t end here.

Low-literacy skills follow a person into all aspects of his or her life and those of his or her family members. It’s not uncommon for an illiterate individual to avoid admitting that they’re “dumb.” Instead, they avoid participation in their children’s academic life, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Even placing a lunch order in the presence of friends becomes a terrifying experience. But at least these examples aren’t life-threatening.

You know how some people self-diagnose themselves with WebMD instead of going to seek a professional opinion? Those with low-literacy skills often disregard symptoms of a condition, because they can’t afford a visit to the doctor. On the occasions that an individual visits a doctor and receives a prescription, they’ll have enormous difficulty understanding the medicine bottle’s instructions.

Even if a person understands how many pills to take, they might not understand when to take them, if food is required with their consumption, if alcohol is permitted to drink, etc. To guess in this situation is a serious health risk. The American Medical Association states that “individuals with low health literacy incur medical expenses that are up to four times greater than patients with adequate literacy skills.” This costs the health care system billions of dollars each year for unnecessary doctor and ER visits.

Why there is less than 2% of the necessary funding being provided by our government is beyond me. It’s sure not due to lack of results. In Florida, 67.7% of test takers passed the GED test to receive their high school diploma. With their newly acquired credentials, individuals are able to follow their dreams and improve their as well as their family’s quality of life in all regards.

As for improving the future of adult education, one thing is clear. As Dr. Irwin Kirsch noted this Monday at the First PIAAC, Then What? Live Webcast, “Adult and continuing education needs to play a larger and more strategic role in our immediate and long term goals.” In order to improve the lives of others, we must first improve the capacity of adult education.

Technology in Adult Literacy Webinar

As technology becomes increasingly more advanced, educators often wonder what the best ways to use these advances to their advantage. In an effort to get adult literacy educators to implement new technology in their teaching, LINCS region 1 supported the Improving Adult Literacy: Using Technology to Support Learning and Motivation webinar.
This webinar brought together a panel of practitioners throughout the LINCS network to engage in discussion on how to use technology to support learning and motivation. Themes of the discussion revolved around access to technology, use of apps and tools in and out of the classroom, and production of learning materials by both students and teachers.

Along with a high level of participation from the attendees, the discussion also focused on several promising apps which could be effectively used in adult literacy and education. Below is a list of resources suggested by the webinar’s panelists:

NCTN’s Words2Learn Project: [IPhone, Android] By taking advantage of infusing mobile phones with learning, this app has various tiers to climb while students improve their vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Lensoo Create App: [Android] This app combines voice recording with a virtual white board. Practitioners can record lessons and then share them with their students to review while outside of the classroom.

Google+ and Google Hangouts: [Online, IPhone, Android] The Google social network Google+ is arguably one of the best platforms to work with students. The “Circles” feature allows a person to share information with specific people and “Hangouts” allow for video chatting up to 9 people at once. Google Drive is also a great place to share learning materials virtually as well as help edit a student’s work via using Drive through the Hangout feature.

Show Me App: [IPad] This app, only available for IPad, allows teachers to create and upload lessons for their students to watch and review. Teachers can also review lessons already uploaded onto the app and use those as well.

Remind101.com: [Mass texting service, Iphone, Android] This app can be downloaded by a teacher to use as a free, one-way mass texting service. As the title suggests, the app is great to send quick messages to your students’ phones to remind students what to bring to class tomorrow or what the homework is, etc. The free service has limited use.

Other shared resources include a list of various sites, like TV411, Khan Academy, USALearns, and TeacherTube.

Access the recording here to learn more.

Adult Learners in College Benefit from Prior Learning Assessment

When adult learners begin at a college, they often have to manage their schoolwork, jobs and family obligations, to successfully receive their degree. One can imagine this being quite an exhausting task. Fortunately, many colleges have found a way to receive credit for what adult learners already know with prior learning assessment.

Prior learning assessment isn’t available at all colleges. However, it can be especially beneficial to adult learners, who have years more experience than the typical college student. Florida colleges offer several options to receive credit for skills and knowledge which students have gained prior to attending their institutions. One such option is credit by examination where a student may take an exam to either earn college credit or to skip a college course. Florida State College estimates that this method is often “less than half the cost of tuition.”

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program. More than 2,900 accredited institutions of higher education award credit for satisfactory scores on CLEP exams. CLEP offers a way to receive credit for “what you know.” Although not every institution accepts the CLEP, there are 33 exams available- each for a traditional college course. Most exams are 90 minutes long, and all but College Composition are administered on computer (CLEP-CBT). Preparing to take an exam on computer is still far less time and money than having to attend a course.

A student may also take the Defense Activity Test and Examination Services Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). These are aimed at general education courses and allow a student to skip these courses. There are 25 DSST available for students to take. Another useful exam is the College Course Challenge exam. With these exams, students can receive a letter grade on their transcript yet only if they pass the course. There are 13 CCCE assessments in various subjects.

Along with credits by examination, many colleges also take non-college programs, such as military training into consideration. Most colleges have a specific mode of transferring these skills learned outside of college into credits.

As for the future, Senator Marco Rubio has endorsed prior learning assessment. He has argued that federal student aid should include offerings at adult students, and endorses prior learning assessment such as “online courses or degree programs that give you credit for work experience.” Perhaps there will be even more opportunities for transferring prior learning into college credit in the future.

For more information on prior learning assessment, check out your local colleges website or the following links:




Registration for FLC Tutor Training Courses Now Open

FLC would like to invite literacy tutors to register for the next round of ESOL and adult literacy tutor training courses. Each course begins September 9th and ends September 29th. During this time, participants may work at their own pace as long as they complete the coursework by the end of the month.

Participants will be able to incorporate new knowledge and strategies into their tutoring sessions with their adult learners. Topics include how adults learn, phonemes, language experience stories, lesson planning, and more.  These topics are targeted to improve a tutor’s skills and confidence when working with adult learners. After completion of the course, participants will also receive a certificate of completion courtesy of FLC.

To register, click here. If you’d like to see a demo of the course, please visit www.floridaliteracy.org/training and click “Login” to create a new account. Then, follow the “demo directions.” We look forward to another successful round of tutor training courses.