Della Palacios: Ah-Ha Moments

I registered for the Florida Literacy Conference on a whim.  My rationale went something like this, “Adult and Family Literacy certainly applies to SensAbleLearning, LLC, I’ll go.”   It was a very good whim  I followed.

Souns® is a hands-on phonemic awareness program inspired by the Montessori Method.   Letter sounds are taught before letter names.  It’s a simple switch with brilliant results.  Brenda Erickson, founder of Counterpane Montessori and creator of  Souns® , designed it for ages  0-3, but I have used it as intervention with children in high school and Brenda has used Souns® with adult refugees.  (I learned  Souns®  for my two children, then ages 3 and 4, now 4 and 5. They learned to read so naturally using  Souns®, I had the thought, “So many kids need this.”  And SensAble Learning, LLC was born.

At the conference, I had my first experience using Souns® with an adult learner.  He inquisitively looked at the Souns® symbols (letters) and I explained quickly how the program worked the first time he happened by.  I realized quickly that his curiosity was more than piqued as he touched the letters and said the sounds with me.  I wondered if he could read, but I did not ask.

He left to attend a workshop but he soon returned and apologized for having to leave.  I asked if he would like to sit and work with me for a bit using Souns®.  He said yes.  We went through each letter sound, just as the program suggests.  Most of the sounds he learned very quickly.  I have the tracking sheet we used. He did not recognize many of the letter sounds initially, but we practiced and he learned.  Next, I began building words with him using Souns® symbols and the objects I have ready in my box of three letter words.  With each new word he built, a smile stretched from ear to ear displaying his delight in what I can only assume is a new understanding of this mysterious language code.  I wish I had more time with this young man.

I loved every ah-ha moment that came across the faces of trained professionals, tutors and scholars  as they “got” how teaching sounds first before letter names removes much of the confusion not needed for a beginning reader.  But, the ah-ha that will remain in my heart is the one I saw in the smile of the curious young man.

Della Palacios

Founder and Owner of SensAble Learning, LLC

I am a traditionally trained teacher who chose to put my career and doctoral work on hold to stay at home and raise children.  Last year, I met Brenda Erickson, founder of Counterpane Montessori and the creator of Souns® .  The trajectory of my life has changed as we have joined hands to make sure kids will read, and read well.   I tell her she will be the bridge from Montessori to mainstream.  She tells me,  Souns® will be the bridge from Montessori to mainstream.

2012 Conference Recap + Session Handouts!

The 2012 might have been our best conference yet! Record attendance, inspiring keynotes, resourceful exhibitors, interesting session choices, a beautiful location and of course, wonderful attendees.

Some top moments included Mawi…everything, adult learners reading their essays from the 2012 Essay book, State Literacy Awards Winners and watching part of Sarah Entine’s film, Read Me Differently.

We also had a lovely photographer, Ashleigh Marie, who took several wonderful photos of the event. They’ll be uploaded to our Flickr account very soon, but in the mean time, check out this sneak peek on our facebook!

There were several great presentations! Here are handouts from a few who have already sent me them. This list will be updated as more presenters email me their handouts. So if you presented at this past conference, share  your wealth of information with other literacy enthusiasts!

PBS-So much more than Sesame Street!
Gail Taylor, WEDU
PBS Fact Sheet
PBS KIDS Online Anytime
American Graduate
PBS Teacher Resources – Florida PBS Learning Media

Social Media: Marketing Made Easy
Annie Schmidt, Florida Literacy Coalition
Social Media Handout
Social Media Presentation

Florida TechNet to Stream Live from the Florida Literacy Conference!

Florida TechNet is proud to announce live streaming from this year’s Florida Literacy Conference. The five session presenters listed below have agreed to stream their presentation for those who are unable to attend the conference.

Please refer to the list below for dates and times. Streaming will be done through an Elluminate Webinar session.  The link will be the same for all sessions.

Florida TechNet to stream sessions at the Florida Literacy Conference

Join us at:

Session 1
Wednesday, May 9; 3:45 PM – 5:00 PM
Building A Local Database to Enhance Adult Career Pathways
Judy Johnson, Withlacoochee Technical Institute

Session 2
Thursday, May 10; 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM
The Top Ten Components of Building an Adult Education Career Pathways Program
Libby Livings-Eassa, June Rall and Luci Mello, Indian River State College

Session 3
Thursday, May 10; 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM
When Words Count: Fostering Story Writing in Adult Learners
Betsy Stoutmorrill, Adult Literacy Consultant

Session 4
Thursday, May 10; 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM
From Literacy to Post Secondary: Keeping Students on their Career Paths
June Rall and Luci Mello, Indian River State College

Session 5
Thursday, May 10; 3:45 PM – 4:45 PM
VALF Literacy Technology Petting Zoo
Sandy Newell, Volunteers for Adult Literacy

Social Media at Conference

The Opening General Session is only ONE WEEK away! Can you smell the Tampa Bay water yet??

One of our final posts before workshops start is to go over social media. We will be blogging during conference and giving recaps of great sessions and events. If you were at a session and had an amazing experience, let us know! We can set it up so you can blog during your breaks at one of the computer stations donated by Florida TechNet. You also can reflect on the experience as a whole and submit something after you’re back home. Either way, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

We’ll also have a text/twitter updates going on. If you text “Follow FlaLitCon2012” to 40404, you can get text message updates on room changes, silent auction updates, and session reminders. If you plan on checking twitter frequently, follow us at @FlaLitCon2012.

For those who love tweeting great ideas! Be sure to include #flalitcon so those not at the conference can follow the conversation.

Don’t forget to check out our Conference Pinterest to stay updated on all the hotspots and happenings!

Can’t wait to see you there!

Health Literacy and Conference

8:01 a.m.: A young man approaches your clinic window in silence, bending and flexing his fingers while looking you straight in the eye.

8:02 a.m.: The young woman standing behind him moans: Mijn hoofd doet pijn.

8:03 a.m.: A client calls: “A doctor friend thinks I might have fractured my tibia. What is a tibia, anyway? Is there some kind of over-the-counter medication for that?”

You’ve got a long day ahead of you!

“Say What?” is an interactive presentation that challenges participants to bridge the communication gaps that impact health literacy, especially due to education, language, culture and sensory challenges. Health literacy is the ability to obtain, understand and use basic health concepts, information and services in functional ways that enhance health. Presenter Chris Tittel takes health literacy into consideration every day in his role as public information officer and marketing director for the Monroe County Health Department. Health literacy is key to effective public relations and marketing, especially when researching, drafting and editing press releases, communicating one-on-one with members of the media and the general public and knowing where to refer anyone in need of particular services. “Say What?” also offers tips and tools that can help anyone working in the health care setting communicate more effectively with the general public, clients and each other.

Open Minds: The Latest Research on Adult Learner Outcomes

As a Florida adult educator, how open are you to using data and applying research? Research can apply to tutoring adults, counseling an adult learner, or making administrative decisions. If you like hearing stories, as told by numbers and adults, Open Minds may open your mind to applying the latest research. On May 10, join Dr. Margaret Patterson, Senior Researcher with Research Allies for Lifelong Learning (R-Ally), for this 3:45 session. Open Minds will discuss applying research on adult learner outcomes conducted in 2011 and 2012.

Are you open to looking at numbers? In 2012 R-AllyTM looked at outcomes data for adult education programs.* Data were from 2006-07 to 2010-11, the most current years available. Adult learners may have goals beyond learning English or basic skills. These goals might include getting or keeping a job. They may want to take the GED® test or go to college. If they meet a goal, they have made an outcome. Data on outcomes will reveal how outcomes change across time, both nationally and in Florida.

Are you open to hearing the rest of the story, beyond the numbers? In 2011 Dr. Patterson (with a team of researchers**) travelled to 7 different states to interview adult learners. The research team interviewed adults with GED credentials on their educational experiences from youth through adulthood. These interviewees included high school dropouts, immigrants, homeschoolers, and even 12th-grade completers. They didn’t hold back in sharing their stories. The outcomes they gained from their time in adult education may surprise you. This session will also consider their recommendations to adult educators. Find out what they suggested to make learning even better for future adult learners.


*The data source was U.S. Department of Education National Reporting System data.
** This study was originally funded by American Council on Education / GED® Testing Service.

Literacy Awards Banquet, have you bought your ticket?

The Florida Literacy Awards Banquet is on Thursday, May 10 from 6:30-8:30. It is our opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments in literacy over the past year. Awards will be given to adult learners, literacy practitioners, literacy programs, volunteers, and business partners. Dr. Gary Mormino from University of South Florida will be the keynote speaker.

It promises to be a very exciting and inspiring evening.

For more information or to register for the event, please contact Jordan Colern (

Bringing the Best of Classroom-Based Learning to Online Learning (and Vice Versa)!

Could you imagine an adult education classroom where students are just given worksheet after worksheet or book after book to read on their own?  How dry and boring would that be, and, more importantly, how quickly would those classrooms be empty because students leave due to sheer boredom?  Now imagine the exact opposite of that first situation: a fun, interactive, visually-stimulating classroom where all three types of learning styles are accommodated and everyone’s engaged.  Doesn’t that sound a million (or more) times better?

What sometimes is assumed (and we all know what happens when you assume) is that an online class can’t or won’t have the same components as a successful, engaging, and fun face-to-face class.  But yet, nothing can be further from the truth!  By incorporating varying technologies, you can absolutely do virtually all of the amazing things online that you do in a classroom!  Want to have small group activities so you can target certain learners needing certain skills?  Yup – you can do that online!  Want to have large group instruction so you can get the most “bang for the buck?”  Yes – you can do that too!  What about student study groups or peer tutoring sessions?  Oh, that can certainly be accomplished!  How about having guest speakers talk to your students about how the things they’re studying in class pertain to “real life” beyond the GED test?  That’s easy to accomplish!  And the list goes on & on…experiments or lab studies, field trips, games, videos, etc!

So what does it all boil down to when everything is said & done?  Innovation, technology, and the willingness to try something new and different would be my answer.

Do you want to know more?  Well, I can’t give away all of my “secrets” now, but if you come to the FLC conference and attend the session called “Florida Adult & Technical Distance Education Consortium: Making F2F Classes for Online Students a Reality” at 10am on Friday, May 11th, you’ll learn more!

2012 Silent Auction Preview!

I have had the pleasure to speak with some of you already but for those of you I haven’t, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jordan and I’ve been serving as FLC’s Event Coordinator Intern since January. My primary focus has been assisting in planning the 28th annual Florida Literacy Conference and I have to admit that I’m extremely excited about our Silent Auction this year. I wanted to share a few of my favorite items we’ll have at the auction for our conference attendees to bid on!

  • Two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. that Southwest flies. There are no blackout dates and checking luggage is always free with Southwest! Now there is no excuse to not take that tropical vacation you have been daydreaming of.
  • Admission tickets into Florida’s most exciting attractions including; Seaworld, Universal Studios, Bush Gardens, and any of the four Disney parks. Make a family fun day out of any of these auction items!
  • And my personal favorite auction items, three different photography packages for family portraits by Cason Photography. There is nothing like a beautiful family photo with Tampa’s natural beauty as your backdrop.

All proceeds from the silent auction will help FLC support community based literacy organizations with their training and program development needs. The auction will be open for bids beginning Wednesday, May 9 at 8:30am and will close on Thursday, May 10 at 3:10pm.

Besides the items aforementioned, we will have many more fabulous gifts to bid on so be sure to stop by the silent auction tables and bring back something for your loved ones!


Are there any items that you would love to see at our silent auction? Tell us about them and I will set out to see what I can do!

Food Network and St. Pete!

I often find myself watching the Food Network and seeing all of these amazing places. I’ll put the restaurant in a memo in my phone (an “in case you find your self in (insert area)” list) and often forget about it completely. THIS TIME I thought ahead for both of us. St. Pete has three restaurants, close to our hotel, that have been on various Food Network shows! Not only will you be able to go home and say you spent a week at a beautiful location, learned new strategies for working with adult learners, and met great people, you can also add that you ate at a restaurant that was on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!

Here’s the scoop!

Columbia Restaurant
Show: Drinking Made Easy
Distance from Conference hotel: 1.1 mi
Avg Cost per plate: $8/Tapas $20/Dinner, Drinks Vary 

Munch’s Restaurant and Sundrie
Show: Diners, Drive-ins & Dives
Distance from Conference hotel: 2.8 mi
Avg Cost per plate:  $7/Lunch 

Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine
Show: Heat Seekers
Distance from Conference hotel: 2.4 mi
Avg Cost per plate: $9/Lunch

There are also plenty of other great restaurants in St. Pete that are close to the hotel and may one day be on a TV show. Maybe YOU need to be the one to discover it and spread the word to all your friends? Some other places closeby and worth checking out include:

China Kitchen
Distance: 0.4 mi

Ceviche (Meet up with Conference Attendees on Tuesday night for Tapas Tuesdays!)
Distance: 0.3 mi

Z Grille
Distance: 0.2 mi

Gratzzi Italian Grille
Distance: 0.2 mi

Cafe Alma
Distance: 0.3 mi

Subway (Boxed lunch on Wednesdays for $4.50!)
Distance: 0.4 mi

Cafe 100
Distance: 0.2 mi

Kahwa Coffee
Distance: 0.2 mi

Midtown Sundries
Distance: 0.3 mi