Sunken Gardens

Located about 10 minutes from the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront hotel where the 32nd  Annual Florida Literacy Coalition conference is being held, Sunken Gardens is a great and easy stop to unwind for a couple of hours.

The Gardens

Pay a visit to St. Petersburg’s historic Sunken Gardens. Over 100 years old, Sunken Gardens is St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum. These lush gardens cover four acres and are a treasured piece of the city.

sunken gardens Prepare to enter a place of tranquility once you step foot in this tropical paradise. Enjoy strolling among 50,000 plants (over 500 species) and relax with the sight and sounds of birds as you explore the winding paths. With a rock garden, waterfalls, and a wishing well, Sunken Gardens is a pleasurable activity for the off-hours during your conference stay.


Sunken Gardens was originally a lake that George Turner purchased, drained, and turned into a tropical garden so captivating that by the 1920’s, he was able to turn it into a business. Turner’s family continued the tradition for three generations until the city of St. Petersburg came together to purchase the garden as a way of continuing and honoring George Turner’s original vision.

Today, the Gardens are a cultural and educational center in St. Petersburg, offering workshops and weekly events for people of all ages to enjoy. Visit the Sunken Gardens’s website  for detailed information about events.


Hourssunken gardens map

Monday – Saturday 10 am – 4:30 pm
Sunday noon – 4:30 pm

Last admission is sold at 4pm daily.


  • $10 Adults
  • $8 Seniors (62+)
  • $4 Children (2-11)


St. Petersburg: Home of the 32nd Annual Florida Literacy Conference

Registration is in full swing for the 32nd Annual Florida Literacy Conference which will be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel  from May 4th-6th. Be sure to register now to enjoy our early bird pricing.* With hotel amenities and the many attractions St. Petersburg has to offer, everyone is sure to have an enjoyable experience during their stay.


Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront • 333 1st St S • St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Conveniently located about 25 minutes from the Clearwater International Airport, the Hilton boasts plenty of amenities.  Daily parking will be available for $6. Guests of the conference can enjoy a discounted room rate of $116 available for stays anytime from May 2nd through 9th. This room offer is only available until April 11th. Reserve your room today!

The Hilton Bayfront is located in the center of many attractions. Keep reading for a brief overview of what St. Petersburg has to offer.

*valid until March 5th

Dali Museum

dali museumGo and experience the results of a collaboration turned friendship between two of the 20th century’s world-renowned artists: Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination is an exhibit that displays the world shared by these two giants of imagination.* It will take you through paintings, story sketches, photographs, audio, and more that detail the friendship and professional relationship these two cultivated. Also be sure to explore the rest of the museum during this family friendly activity.

*runs January – June

Museum of Fine Arts

Florida-St-Petersburg-Museum-Fine-Arts-Front-FacadeLocated only half a mile from the hotel, the Contemplating Character Exhibit at the museum is just one of the exhibits that will be available for viewing at the Museum of Fine Arts. Go and explore the Neoclassicist, Romanticist, and Realist art styles of the 18th and 19th centuries in an exhibit that features 150 rare portrait drawings and oil sketches of artists, their loved ones, and famous figures. It even includes portraits of George Washington and author Oscar Wilde.


If you’re looking for a meal between your conference sessions or a nice drink to end the day, Tangerine restaurant and the Dali Bar are conveniently located in the hotel.  If you’re exploring the area around the hotel and get hungry, choose from multiple restaurants such as Gratzzi Italian Grille, Z Grille, Meze 119, or Crowley’s Downtown.

                Be sure to check back for future spotlights on attractions!


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

4th of July Resources for Literacy Practitioners

When typing “4th of July” into the Google search bar on my computer, the top three suggested words are crafts, recipes, and fireworks. While such suggestions aren’t surprising, these traditions don’t speak to the reasons as to why July 4th is a federal holiday. It’s possible, maybe even probable, the adult learners whom we serve don’t know its importance either- especially when Americans adopt holidays such as Cinco de Mayo (or create others like Cinco de Cuatro) without much knowledge of the holidays’ origins themselves. I hope someone understands that reference.

Independence Day can be used for productive instruction with which to discuss both the fun, cultural traditions as well as the boring, American history aspects of the holiday. There’s just so many topics to choose from! Whether it’s how fireworks are made, writing narratives about how their 4th of July was spent, calculating how much money is spent on the typical barbecue foods, or teaching the history of Independence Day, you can pick from a vast amount of topics to suit your adult learner’s needs and interests.

It’s always a challenge to maintain student engagement, but with some creativity, even the history lessons could keep an adult learner’s attention. I challenge you to be as creative.

Below are some helpful ideas and links for your perusal. Incorporate these Infographics, YouTube videos and lessons, into your sessions, or use them as a jumping-off point to spark other ideas.

INDEPENDENCE DAY – English Vocabulary from JenniferESL on YouTube

Larry Ferlazzo’s additions to July Fourth Resources

Edutopia’s 4th of July Resources

Washington Post’s Top 5 Myths about July 4th

EL Civics Independence Day Lessons

Incorporating Easter and Passover traditions with Your Adult Learners

Cultural differences are just another barrier which adult learners must learn to overcome. Even the ways in which sects of the same religion, or for that matter same sects of the same religion in different locations, celebrate holidays differ in some way or another. That’s why this week you should take advantage of the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter to teach your adult learners about the traditions, origins, and significance, of these respective religions.

This can be quite difficult to do without coming across as proselytizing a religious view, but it can be done successfully. The best method to ensure that what you teach will not be misconstrued as attempting to convert your students is to state the facts about each holiday in a fun, nonthreatening way. It’s more important to use these holidays as a means of connecting adult learners with unfamiliar language and cultural traditions than it is to use them as a tipping point for spiritual realization.

With that said, tutors might want to look into these websites which cover the traditions of Easter and Passover, taken from Larry Ferlazzo’s EduBlog.

If you’re searching for lessons for ESOL or ELLs, check out the resources on these sites:

Paul Rogers- Digital ESOL with PUMAROSA.COM

PUMAROSA is a free ESOL website for Spanish speaking students. It is bilingual and phonetic, with voice. Currently it is divided into five levels: Beginner, Intermediate, American Civics, U. S. History and the 100 Questions that is part of the Citizenship test. It has been online for 9 years now, and will expand soon with additional lessons to be available for a small fee.

PUMAROSA has proven to be an effective Teacher’s Aid in the transition to an English Only classroom setting. It is also very helpful in a Blended class with “live” instruction combined with study on the computer. For example, I taught a blended class with a group of 10 and 11 year old children during the summer of 2012 in Tijuana, Mexico: The class met in a small computer lab 4 times a week for 90 minutes.

During the initial week, the students explored PUMAROSA, PRINCIPIANTE, focusing on the alphabet and numbers. We also read, studied and sang out loud nursery rhymes from one of my texts. I was a big hit, especially with my Hokey Pokey!

After a few weeks, we began to study verbs and sentences – adjectives, articles, pronouns and the verb TO BE.
 The students studied independently, repeating the exercises out loud copying my voice, which they could hear on the computer.

At a certain point I walked around and gave each student a “quiz”. 
I would ask them in Spanish to tell me how to translate a sentence from Spanish to English. 
They had to listen carefully and repeat in English and then listen – repeat again to improve their pronunciation. After a while, each student improved very well.

I also introduced texts I had written which included Grammar tests and a few Guided Readers (stories written in a second or third grade vocabulary with lots of cognates). I was pleased with the success I had with this group of students, primarily because it is usually difficult to keep the attention of children this age.

Currently, I use SKYPE with several students and have included more advanced lessons. There are many ESOL programs online for free or at a low cost. Grammar lessons can easily be found which include worksheets. In addition there are online course to teach English literacy to English speakers, Spanish literacy to Spanish speakers, GED, English to children, plus…. math and science, etc.

With online lessons, email, SKYPE, YouTube, FACEBOOK and cell phones, it has become very easy to set up a Digital Learning ESOL course that can be centrally located in any computer lab. Also, Computers For Families is the name of a program that can provide used, re-furbished computers to low-income families free or at a low cost. There is also a growing interest in providing this kind of approach with grant money.

Please contact me for more information.

Paul Rogers



You don’t know me

You watched me come to your class just like any other student. You greeted me with a warm smile and caring eyes. You asked me to have a seat in your inviting classroom. I watched you speak words I didn’t understand. I watched as the other students raised their hands to question your words. I sat in the cold seat as the minutes went by like hours. I heard you call my name, and I waited for you to ask me, who I was.

You don’t know the painstaking ordeal it took for me to get here this morning. You don’t know how it feels to wake up in the dark or the fear in my heart when I have to wait for the bus. You don’t know that I have no umbrella, or why my clothes are wet and unkempt when I enter your class. You think I can’t feel your disappointment in me.

You don’t know I am grateful that I have an opportunity to learn. You don’t know that despite my appearance, my color, my imperfections, I choose to look beyond your quizzical gaze.

You don’t know that last night’s cold dinner was from the dumpster outside that fancy restaurant, the one near the bridge where we sleep.

You probably wonder why I stare at you as you eat in front of the class. You don’t know the noise in my stomach is because I didn’t have enough change in my pocket for breakfast this morning.

You don’t know why I come to your class half-asleep. You don’t know how uncomfortable it is for three people to sleep in a car, to sleep with one eye open, just in case.

You don’t know how lucky I feel that, at least, we have a car.

You don’t know I am listening, I do care, and I do want to learn.

You don’t know the tremendous courage it takes to raise my hand to answer your questions. You don’t know the last time I was in a classroom and how they ridiculed me for not pronouncing the words correctly.

You don’t know that in your classroom, I am the luckiest person in the world.

You don’t know that I am your student.

-Submission by  Armando J. Gutierrez, Ed.D., The English Center

Roberta Reiss- “ESOL Conversation Clubs: Design and Delivery”

Just like any endeavor, successful conversation clubs require some careful thought and planning to meet the needs of the adult learners seeking to improve their listening and speaking skills.

The design should grow from the needs of the participants and your motivation for forming the club:

  • Is it a request from existing learners already active in your literacy program?
  • Is it an idea coming from tutors who see a need for their learners to get more conversation practice?
  • Do you need a way to keep learners on your waiting list connected to the program in a productive setting?

If you are meeting the needs of existing learners, be sure to ask them what they want to practice specifically.  Are they focused on life skills English, current affairs or grammar in use?  The content of your sessions should reflect their preferences.  It will also be feasible to have sessions with a start date and end date that build on one another.

If it is to help your learners on the waiting list start their learning before they are matched with a tutor, you should consider an open-ended, open-enrollment, drop-in model for the club.  This will require the facilitator to create stand-alone sessions with a different topic for every meeting.  It will also require skill in facilitating multi-level sessions with learners of varying skill levels.

Roberta Reiss

For any model, adult learners will appreciate having the chance to master and practice specific skills, whether it is life skill dialogues, grammar in use, or pronunciation.  This can be achieved with learning activities in which there is two-way interaction, time within the session to allow learners to plan what they might say, and a task with a closed solution or end product.

Within the session, the facilitator can rely on a set procedure no matter what the topic:

  • Announce the topic
  • Present vocabulary and allow for practice
  • Model the learning activity
  • Create pairs/small groups to do the activity
  • Walk through the room to offer help, monitor work flow and clarify the task
  • Have learners report back to the whole group

Meeting the needs and expectations of your adult learners is the best way to ensure attendance and gains in skill levels.

If you would like to see the full “Conversation Clubs” webinar hosted January 22, please click here.

Top Stories in Literacy: February 6

Financial Literacy Class Offers Skills Not Taught in School
The program also helps participants, many of whom left school before graduation, with job-readiness training and educational services like preparation for the high school equivalency diploma test. As an incentive to complete the program, participants receive a monthly stipend of $200.

Hundreds protest plan to eliminate L.A .Unified adult classes
About 300 adult education students rallied near downtown Tuesday afternoon, protesting a plan by Los Angeles Unified School District officials to slash the district’s entire adult education budget.

The growing alternative to English-Only Education
Instead of a strict English-only, several programs across the country have developed a two way immersion program of bilingual education. Native English speakers and non-Native speakers go to classes in both English and another language.

Jeb Bush and Bob Wise Release Roadmap for Reform: Digital Learning /Foundation
This is an older article explaining the digital literacy initiative set up by former governor, Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise of West Virginia. This plan is also tracking bills going through state legislature on this issue, including Florida SB 1402, which is currently going through the senate.

Brent Stubbs: Career Pathway to Nowhere- Why technology matters

Recently in Adult Education, the “shot heard round the world” was that the GED test was going the way of the computer. Many held their breath, wringing their hands and pondering how and why it made sense. (Note: Corrections programs have a real legitimate concern as to the logistics of how this is going to work) For decades the test had been paper-based, and we all know that a lot of people don’t know how to use computers or do not type proficiently…

…or so the thought process went.

Recently, my friend pointed out on this blog that more people are on computers than we think. I will set aside my judgment on whether or not everyone is computer savvy for a moment and even grant you that many are not. In fact, this post assumes that too many are computer illiterate. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to use a computer, just like someone who is illiterate can probably still hold a decent conversation. However, the question we should all be asking ourselves is, “What can someone do, today, without computer literacy?” Let’s get a little closer to home:

How good is our literacy program if it does not include digital literacy? If someone learns English but not the ability to navigate the web using that language, what have we given them? How good is our Career Pathways system if we are not empowering every student to gain digital competency that will translate to any career path?

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” -Bill Clinton

I know one thing. Employers (the ones with jobs) are not, on average, behind the times. They understand that technology = speed = efficiency = competitive advantage. Competitive advantage means you survive, thrive, and become a fixture, not a novelty in a community. There was a time that to get work meant you had to have air in your lungs and a pulse. Those days are long gone, especially in the Sunshine State. As we progress deeper into the 21st century, digital competency is the new basic skill. Just like businesses need a competitive advantage that starts with an even playing field, today’s prospective employee needs an even playing field so that their career path is not aborted prematurely.

That means skills: digital skills.

Is this your program?

What’s the Career Pathway’s connection? It’s quite simple. A Career Pathways model–be it via family literacy, GED classes or ESOL at it’s genesis–that leaves out technology is a “pathway to nowhere”.  A pathway to nowhere means a student getting a credential that means nothing. It means a student learning something that does not translate into a feeling of “making it” in life. Why? Because in their case, there is literally a digital divide between what they know and what they can do. Digital literacy (technology) is about closing that gap by giving our students a leg up in the 21st century jobs marketplace. 

Why Change?

What’s at stake is twofold. For one, we are playing catch up with the rest of the world. While we are wringing our hands about computer-based GED tests, somebody is doing this:

Instead of lamenting what we can’t do, we must start preparing for what we will have to do.

Second, it’s about what is best for our students. They come to us, many times, because they want a new chance at life. Because they lack certain basic skills, life is always lived somewhere between understanding and confusion. They come to us to gain those skills, and we ask them to dream again and create a plan for their career path–a path to their success. However, if digital literacy gained through engaging relevant technology is not a part of our process, we do them a great disservice.

We set them up for failure and frustration, again.

I think that answers the “why” question. What do you think?