Zach Lynn: A Potential VISTA has Great Potential

The non-profit world is hectic.  I’ve never been in an environment as fast-paced, demanding, exciting, and dynamic.  A day can start without me knowing it and end long after I thought I’d be leaving the office.  It’s not hard to get so caught up in my work that I forget lunch breaks even existed.  My mission is all-encompassing.  My current goal: find an AmeriCorps*VISTA.

New AmeriCorps*VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) start their journey by creating an application on the AmeriCorps website.  They can search through work opportunities based on their interests, areas of expertise, or location.  Some VISTAs want to stick with their community and find a non-profit organization in their neighborhood while others want to branch out and explore a new part of the country.  After some candidate selections and interviews, there’s a new bright and shining face in a lucky non-profit’s office, ready to make America a better place.

As a former VISTA at the Adult Literacy League, I had many hectic days.  Whether I was building relationships “in the field” with local community members or sitting in a cubicle writing reports, my days were full and exciting.  I was luckily given the opportunity to see my developments continue to grow when I was offered a position on the Adult Literacy League’s staff as the Volunteer Coordinator after my VISTA year of service.  Now I’m searching for a new VISTA to continue the great work for which AmeriCorps members are famous.

A strong candidate can handle a demanding workload and will create projects that enhance the organization in ways never thought of before… Such as creating a social media outreach plan, finding new ways to reach clients and volunteers, and develop new programs and projects.  VISTA development work strengthens an organization’s mission.

While I’m currently going through applications, I’m looking for candidates that have a strong goal for themselves, as well.  Good VISTAs know they can increase their own skills while also helping their community.  At the Adult Literacy League we want to maximize our VISTA’s potential by utilizing their abilities and helping them work on new skills.  Not only will it help them, but their growth will help us!

Central Florida needs great people that are hard workers, love variety, have goals, and want to serve people in their community.  Central Florida needs AmeriCorps*VISTAs.  Sign up today on the AmeriCorps website and change lives… Hopefully your application ends up on my desk!

The First Meeting

After learning more about adult illiteracy, I decided to start tutoring an adult learner. I signed up with the Adult Literacy League and was quickly assigned to a student who had been on the waiting list for some time. My past service experience has been limited to working in my church, after school programs, tutoring computer classes, but predominantly with children and young adults. Needless to say, I was nervous for my first meeting. I ended up chatting with several of my friends who are educators, and colleagues who have worked with adult learners. Where would I start? How do I manage not to belittle his intelligence and not assume that he knows certain things? Should I design this first meeting based on his intake form? What’s a realistic timeline to reach his overall goal of getting a GED?

Since there were so many different questions, I took some advice from one of our trainings: don’t plan a lesson. I decided that I would just talk to my student and get to know him. After all, the goal is to build a relationship. I brought the materials I received from ALL to the library so he could see what we are going to be working with. Once he showed up, I just asked him to tell me a little bit about himself. We went back and forth explaining our strengths and weaknesses in learning (hopefully he doesn’t feel like I’m incompetent for acknowledging so many), what brought us to Orlando, what sort of activities we enjoy, and most importantly, the reason why he has decided to take classes and learn how to read. Through this conversation, I found out that my student is very active in his church and is looking to be a minister. GREAT! Something to work with so we aren’t bored with workbooks and that what we are doing is relevant/useful. We decided that we would use workbooks, but he would bring his own materials from church so we can work with both.

The hour ended up going by very smoothly. I started out really nervous and fidgety, but once we started talking, we both were more relaxed and comfortable. We’ll see how it goes next week when we actually start working with the material, but for right  now, I feel comfortable and positive about this upcoming experience.

Gail Rice: Language Experience Approach

Since writing is one of the last skills to develop, native speakers of English who are not proficient in reading are less likely to be proficient in writing. Students that have been shamed in the past for their failures in writing, may dislike writing and write as little as possible.  ESL (English as a Second Language) learners may also experience the same problems because they are aware of their mistakes speaking English.  Thus, ESL and native speaking students are less likely to write because they do not want to see a paper loaded with red marks and corrections.

The language experience approach (LEA) is a powerful tool for tutors to use with any learner who has enough conversational ability to carry on simple conversations, even if that person has no reading skills at all.  It uses the language of the learner, dictated to and written down by the tutor, as the basis of the reading material.  The material is then familiar and understandable since it is based on the learner’s experience, making it easier to read.

But what if learners make grammatical or other mistakes when dictating to the tutor?  What about mistakes that native speakers and ESL learners make in their own writing?

Some tutors feel that they should correct all mistakes and if not they are reinforcing those mistakes.  But such an approach defeats the purpose of the LEA and ensures that struggling writers will become more discouraged and less likely to write.

These issues and others will be discussed at the Tutor Celebration of Learning Seminar offered by the Florida Literacy Council and the Adult Literacy League on the morning of September 17, 2011.

Register Today for FLC’s Free Volunteer Literacy Tutor Symposiums

This month, FLC is presenting four volunteer literacy tutor symposiums highlightingtechniques and activities related to three facets of teaching literacy:

  1. Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences
  2. The Art of Teaching Speaking
  3. Teaching Writing

From Our Trainers

Roberta Reiss

“The Tutor Symposiums offered by FLC are some of the most energizing, productive events I have experienced in my role as a trainer.  We have the chance to focus on some of the best resources in our field.  It’s a real luxury to have an hour or two to explore and experience the theories and activities found in books that go beyond the typical core tutor materials.  There have been many times when I have gotten hold of a new resource, only to have it sit while other priorities took over my day.  This chance to come together with other tutors and discover the resource together is a great way to share.”

—Roberta Reiss, ProLiteracy America Certified Trainer & Lead Symposium Faciltator

“As a presenting trainer this year, I’m excited about the materials we will be using.  The Multiple Intelligences theory of “How am I Smart?” will be sure to stimulate discussion.  It will be fun to try some lesson plans and discover our MI.  The information contained in The Art of Teaching Speaking is so useful for those tutors trying to help ESOL learners speak English that is relevant to their goals and situations.  Encouraging our learners to speak can be difficult at times, so getting ideas and resources for stimulating conversation will be invaluable.

Some tutors may be asking why we are focusing a section on Writing, but we’ll find out why it is essential to teach writing as well as reading, and get useful tools for doing so.”

–Olive Burkard, ProLiteracy America Certified Trainer, presenting in Ocala and Orlando

Training dates and locations:

  1. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Jan. 8, Frances T. Bourne Jacaranda Library, Venice, FLTHIS TRAINING IS FULL
  2. 1-5 p.m., Jan. 15, Leon County Public Library, Tallahassee, FL
  3. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Jan. 27, Rasmussen College- Ocala Campus, Ocala, FL
  4. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Jan. 31, Adult Literacy League of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

Each training will be led by a ProLiteracy America Certified Trainer and is free to attend, but registration is required as seating is limited. 

Please contact Yari Payne at FLC with any questions – (407) 246-7110 ext. 203 or

These trainings are collaborative learning events brought to you by the Florida Adult Literacy Resource Center, a program of the Florida Literacy Coalition.  These workshops are made possible through the support of the Florida Department of Education, Division of Career and Adult Education

Celebrate Adult and Family Literacy in Florida This Month!

September 8th is International Literacy Day, and Florida Governor Charlie Crist has again extended his support by signing a proclamation recognizing September as Florida Adult & Family Literacy Month.

The Florida Literacy Coalition is again partnering with the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Parks Service to recognize and celebrate this worthy cause.  However, we’ve added an extra element to the partnership this year – five regional community events to promote adult and family literacy.  These events will take place at state parks in the following cities:

  1. Tallahassee, Sept. 8 at Maclay Gardens.  For more information call: (850) 245-9670.
  2. Jacksonville, Sept. 11 & 12 at Talbot Island State Park
  3. Apopka, Sept. 11 at Wekiwa Springs State Park
  4. Sarasota, Sept. 11 at Oscar Scherer State Park
  5. Hobe Sound, Sept. 11 at Jonathan Dickinson State Park

These events are being organized by local planning committees comprised of area adult education and literacy programs, libraries, the parks and other community stakeholders.

Many of our literacy programs in areas other than those listed above are also celebrating Literacy Month!  Click on the links below to learn more about additional literacy celebrations throughout Florida!

We hope you will attend one of the events referenced above to help recognize the importance of adult and family literacy in Florida.  One in five Floridians is functionally illiterate.  This means they cannot read their mail, complete a job application or read a book to a child.  For more literacy stats, click here.

If you know of other Literacy Month celebrations, let us know about them in the comment section below.