Financial Literacy at Marion County Literacy Council

We’ve taken a varied approach to deliver financial literacy information to our students at the Marion County Literacy Council.

Dmitriy Usher

The biggest component of our Financial Literacy plans is the wonderful curriculum and great volunteers provided by United Way of Marion County. The volunteers from UWMC all come from the financial sector. These individuals, having years of experience in all aspects of banking, are poised to help our students from the most basic issues, such as personal finance and budgeting, up to the more complex issues like managing ones credit or home loans.

These volunteers will conduct classes, open to everyone, at our office. We spread the word throughout the community using flyers, free print space in local papers, mass-emailing of contacts, word of mouth, and travel to various locations in the community to spread the word in-person.

In addition to stand-alone classes, we also integrate the financial literacy sessions into existing classes here at the Literacy Council. We allot a small portion of class time from our college & career coaching program for financial literacy instruction. After all, when someone lands a job, they will need to be able to manage their income, right?

We’ve also asked our financial literacy instructors to speak to our various ESOL classes. When time allows, the ESOL tutor will dedicate a portion of their class time.

Along the way, we’ve formed some fantastic partnerships with like-minded non-profits who also occupy our building. We do our best to make sure financial literacy tutors will be available to meet with their students whenever they have a class here.

Jakita Allen: Financial literacy and the Adult Literacy League

There’s something about the combination of New Year’s resolutions and tax deadlines that makes most of us want to get our financial houses in order. Managing your money can seem like a daunting chore to anyone, but that can be especially true for adult learners.  While we certainly know several successful students, many often do not have the skills to create their own financial plan. Many students struggle not only with text literacy, but also with numeracy, or number literacy, which can make such chores even more intimidating. For the past nine months, the Adult Literacy League (ALL) has tackled this challenge for the students we serve, including those learning English and those with literacy skills below the 5th grade level.

The Adult Literacy League continuously provides training and support to tutors, so they can reach beyond the standard literacy curriculum to help students build lives for their families that are financially stable and sustainable. Tutors fight illiteracy on the front lines by working with adult learners on a one-to-one basis to help them achieve their personal goals. These goals are the benchmarks our students use to measure their own success. We often receive reports that say things like, “Now, I can read my paycheck!” Imagine reaching that milestone after already working for twenty years.

In our job skills classes, we have helped students write resumes, practice interview techniques, apply for jobs on line, and learn important job retention skills. In just the past year, at least 35 of our students have found jobs, 20 obtained first-time employment, and an even greater number have improved their work situation. This is one of the key outcomes we use to measure whether our students are gaining financial stability. We are also very proud of those students, about 20, who have continued their education to get a GED and/or post-secondary education or training.

Our “More for the Money” program offers classes to all students, including those learning English.  In this class, I helped students learn to make a spending plan by making financial goals, determining the steps they needed to get there, and recording their progress. We talked about things as simple as writing checks, how to manage a bank account, and keeping track of the money we spend. We used the “Control Your Money” workbook from New Readers Press, which is a little easier for students at the lower literacy levels. The Adult Literacy League is now working with an experienced volunteer to redesign elements of the FDIC “Money Smart” curriculum to provide classes for our students.

We are proud to report that our instructors, tutors, and students have reported more than 200 positive outcomes based on improved financial sustainability.  New jobs, better jobs, career training, workable resumes, job interviews, budgeting skills, new bank counts, and savings & retirement plans.  Improving these skills helps our students develop their basic skills and transform the future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Hope Lynn: What’s your money style?

I have style! Money style that is. Take a lesson from what I learned about myself to see how your money style can affect your past, present and future financial literacy.


I found this financial awareness quiz on line today, How Does Your “Money Style” Affect Your Life,  thanks to my subscription to Money Talks.  It’s a great website to learn about your money style and then learn from Ashley Barnett on how to turn the patterns of your relationship to money around.


As it turns out, I am an avoider!  I never wanted to be concerned with money. Everyone should have everything they need; no hunger, poverty, medical bills or illiteracy should deprive people of their human rights. My upbringing was based on the philosophy that with an education all things are possible.  I am an idealist, a child of the 60s.  I was so fortunate to have an education at a high ranking yet low cost city college in New York, and to have had a career in the field of my choice.  I shared what was important to me, a love of literature and writing with my students as my pay check was reliably deposited into my bank account and my retirement fund grew.  The funds were there when I needed to buy a house, have a child and replace a car. I lived the American Dream and am now a retired Boomer. Sadly, I know today that dream is quite fleeting for the next generation. I recently left the teaching profession after more than 30 years, and am now an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for The Florida Literacy Coalition.  I am aware that joblessness, poverty, hunger and illiteracy are growing as our economy struggles to resurface in troubled times.  More than ever we need to know where our money comes from and how it can be of best use. I know I can no longer avoid knowing about money!

Betsy Stoutmorrill: L2A Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

Adult learners can improve their literacy skills, but the challenge for tutors is figuring out the most important skills to teach.  Before beginning that first lesson, I suggest that adult learners need to understand and experience self-determination. L2A offers the tools to do just that for diverse learners.

Understanding each factor is fairly easy, but the challenge is designing a lesson that presents the relationships among the factors.  Is there a sequence that truly presents the relationships among these factors?

Doing this activity in a small group helps us see the complexity of the relationships among these factors and the challenge — and potential — for helping adult learners gain self-determination. The activity ignites big discussions and tough questions: Can someone be proactive before knowing how to plan? Does someone reflect and readjust before valuing herself or after?

All that’s needed is a large sheet of paper, some markers, or sticky notes — and a little bit of self-determination!  Each time I provide this training I see amazing creative models for self-determination.

One group simply presented a blank page and the factors printed on 3X5 cards. They plan to create a representation with each adult learner — every learner designs a unique representation of self-determination!

Not only is that a fantastic idea, but it also is an excellent way to use the L2A concept of explicit instruction: I do; we do; you do.  This teaching strategy lets adult learners experience the concept of directing their own learning through modeling and practice.

Imagine picking “self-awareness” and modeling for the adult learner your thought process in through the “I DO.”  Thinking aloud about who you are… Drawing or using pictures to represent your talents… Listing weaknesses and ideas for improvement…

Think of working in equal partnership with the learner in the “WE DO” to explore her own self-awareness.

Picture encouraging the student in the “YOU DO” to choose the next factor and take you through her process.

Teaching literacy skills is the focus of what we do, but if we can build self-determination we have done more than teach literacy skills.  We have empowered the adult learner.

To view Betsy’s L2A webinar, follow this link.


2012 Grant Opportunity: Florida Health Literacy Initiative

Deadline next week – March 8th

Eighteen mini-grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded through the generous support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  The Initiative provides training, resources, and funding to assist Florida ESOL and family literacy programs to integrate health education into their instruction.  The objective is to help students develop basic literacy and English language skills while gaining information to make informed choices regarding their health and nutrition.

Applicants must be nonprofit or government-based organizations providing adult ESOL and/or family literacy instruction in Florida.  Services may be delivered via classes, small groups, and one-to-one tutoring.   If you have any questions, please contact our Health Literacy Coordinator, Maribeth Buie, at 407-246-7110, ext. 209.

Click here for the grant application and guidelines.

Jon Cajigas: Civics for ELL Educators

For many new immigrants, the challenges of moving to a new country have to do with more than just learning the language; they also need to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to function successfully in American society.  In order to provide these students with this knowledge, English literacy programs would do well to incorporate civics education into their curriculum.  Civics education programs seek to provide learners with not only information about the history, role and function of government, but also encourage them to become informed and involved members of their community. The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition recommends the following activities, appropriate for English-language learners at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of English-language proficiency.

Beginning Level

To teach beginning-level English-language learners in EL Civics classes about the different branches of government, teachers may want to focus on each branch separately. For example, the teacher can show the class a picture of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice and ask questions such as, “Who are these people?” “What are they doing?” “Why are they wearing robes?” With some vocabulary assistance (lists of relevant words like law, robe, benchjudge, rule, decide) and some role-play by the teacher and more proficient students, the class discusses the members and activities of the Supreme Court, possibly comparing them with the practices of courts in their own countries. Later, the class or small groups might work together on reading, fill-in-the-blank, or dictation activities. Finally, students can produce a brief written statement about the work of the Supreme Court.

Intermediate Level

For Intermediate-level English-language learners, teachers can create cloze activities about the executive and legislative branches and include additional information about American culture and history. For example, a teacher writes two paragraphs about the presidential election process, controlling the level of vocabulary, structure, and content of each paragraph to address the English level of the students. Partner A reads the first paragraph to Partner B. Partner B has the same text, but with certain words and phrases omitted. Partner B listens, perhaps asking some questions for clarification, and writes the missing words. Then Partner B reads the second paragraph to Partner A, who must listen, understand, and write a different set of words or phrases that are missing from his or her text.

Advanced Level

Advanced English language learners are usually concerned about writing, listening, speaking, and grammatical accuracy. With advanced learners, a teacher can invite guest speakers, such as representatives of the local government, to speak to the class about local decision-making, or students can debate issues facing the county and the state. To help students gain knowledge about the federal government, teachers can have them research and write reports on different sections of the U.S. Constitution, on landmark cases tried in the Supreme Court, or on events and individuals in U.S. history.


Center for Adult English Language AcquisitionIncludes links to publications helpful to practitioners working in civics education with adult English-language learners. Also includes an exhaustive bibliography of articles, reports, reference books, textbooks, and newsletters pertaining to EL Civics.

EL Civics “How-to” Manual (PDF) –This manual prepared by the Bronx Community College of the City University of New York includes information about setting up and running an EL Civics program based on the experience of one urban literacy program.

EL Civics for ESL Students Includes lessons, activities and worksheets on EL Civics.


America Saves Week: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically

The theme for America Saves Week 2012 is more than just a theme; it’s a simple set of instructions to help you save successfully. Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it, and then making the savings process automatic will allow you to reach your savings goal.

Set a Goal
You can save more by having a goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to withdraw from your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So what are you saving for? An emergency fund, a home, retirement, a car?

Make a Plan
Once you have your goal in place, make a plan of how you are going to save. To start, cut down on your spending and reduce high-cost debt. Next, keep track of what you spend and make a budget. Once you know where your money is going each month, you can cut down on unneeded spending and save the difference. Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions, and even the government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.

Save Automatically
It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Many employers allow you to divide your paycheck into different accounts through direct deposit. Take advantage by putting part of your pay into a savings account. If you get paid in cash, take a small amount to the bank to deposit into a savings account each week.

Join America Saves to get tips and advice year round and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

From the desk of THE meeting planner….

Well, the conference schedule is finally done. Now it’s time to notify the speakers. I hope the designer has the conference schedule page posted before the end of the week.  Jordan is working on the first draft of pre-conference email that’s going out next week. We’ll have a few surprises to unveil.

  • Don’t forget to we need to recruit some conference bloggers!
  • Need to post the Oprah interview with our keynote Mawi Asgedom!
  • Jordan is doing a great job on finding those silent auction treasures for the attendees. Make sure to find a way to reward her for her efforts!  THANKS JORDAN!

It’s only going to get worse.

Registration is about to move into full swing and Erin is ready.

We are two months out and I can’t wait.  I’ll get to see and mingle with some of the best attendees.  🙂


*Click on the picture to preview the 2012 Florida Literacy Conference schedule. –SOCIAL MEDIA GURU

Art Literacy at the Dali

“To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country”- George Washington

Did you know that Americans who read books, visit museums, attend theater, and engage in other arts are more active in community life than those who do not? Arts participants, especially readers, engage in positive civic and individual activities, from exercise to charity work, at a strikingly higher rate than non-participants (National Endowment for the Arts). For literary readers, the volunteer rate is 43%, nearly three times greater than for non-readers. As members working in the literacy field, we understand that reading opens several doors for individuals to become productive members of society. So what else can we do?

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, recognizes the importance of the arts and literacy. They have several adult, family, and youth education programs at their campus.  On their website, they provide teacher’s guides, lesson plans, and crafts for students of all ages. The teacher’s guide includes painting descriptions, key works from the collection, a biography of Salvador Dali, as well as a resource list for all their opportunities. This is perfect if you and your student want to go on a field trip or explore a different curriculum. The lesson plans cover a variety of subjects. It creates a multi-faceted learning experience where students are able to learn about Dali’s life and work, but also practice reading and critical thinking skills.

The Dali Museum makes several efforts to highlight student work and include education into their curriculum. They are also minutes away from the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, site for the 2012 Florida Literacy Conference, and contributed tickets to the famous silent auction.

Bethany Mead, the Education Coordinator at the Dali Museum, has a few words on the Dali’s Junior and Teen Docent programs. Read more to find out! Read about the Junior and Teen Docent programs

Gil C Schmidt: Play “Monopoly” For Your Financial Life

Gil C. Schmidt

Too many of us keep treating money like it’s not real.

Take “Monopoly,” the famous game of real estate buy and sell. It’s almost certainly the first thing we think of when the phrase “funny money” is mentioned. We even say “Monopoly money” for “fake” currencies or to describe how some people treat money like it’s just cheap pieces of colored paper, right?

Here’s the thing: Your level of financial literacy is directly tied to how serious and realistic your concept of money is. I do not mean that you treat money like an end-all and be-all. I mean that you have to learn to see money clearly for what it is: a multi-purpose tool that must be adapted to your needs and goals.

Notice my definition gives you three levels of control: your needs (that includes your wants, because your needs have to take precedence over your wants), your goals and ultimately, your money. That’s what financial literacy is all about.

Too many of us think that learning to be financially literate is too hard, too overwhelming to even attempt. So rather than start learning, we skip it altogether. But we actually know more than we think, and in fact, we are already on the path to financial literacy.

Now back to “Monopoly.” If you want to see how much you already know about financial literacy, then I suggest you play “Monopoly” with one simple change: use real money.

Now I don’t expect you to use $1,500 or even $150; I suggest you use $15.00 and adjust all prices, taxes and rents accordingly. In this version, buying Boardwalk wouldn’t cost $400 of “funny money,” but $4.00 of real money.

If you play the game until one player wins, you’ll find yourself automatically thinking about needs, wants and goals, because the game itself “frames” these and you make your choices according to your plans. For example, you may want Boardwalk and Park Place, but you need a red property for a monopoly advantage. Or you may want to build another set of houses on your monopoly and even need to (to stay competitive), but you’re too far from “Go” and have to pass major rents along the way, so maybe building will have to wait.

The purpose of using real money is not for you to gamble, but for you to realize that you already automatically do the basics of financial literacy. You balance needs and wants and control your money according to a plan. If you can do it in “Monopoly,” you can do it in real life…because you’re already in “the real game”: it’s your real money already in play.

Final thought: financial literacy is not some dull harness. It is fun and liberating, a truly powerful knowledge set that will change your life for the better. And if you can make progress in getting enthused and learning about it playing “Monopoly,” well, I did say it was fun, right?