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.

Learning to Achieve: Help for those working with students with learning disabilities

Roberta Reiss

Learning to Achieve (L2A) is an interactive series of professional development modules focusing on meeting the needs of adults with learning disabilities (LD) seeking instruction in literacy programs.  The three on-line “prep” modules and the eight “face-to-face” modules are research-based instruction provided by the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS).  Whether on-line or in-person, each module is designed for approximately 90 minutes of interactive learning to inform and train adult tutors or service providers.

L2A Online Modules:

  • LD and Neuroscience: The science and research supporting neurologically based LDs
  • LD and English Language Learners: The unique needs of special populations learning English
  • LD and Accommodations:  Reasonable and appropriate accommodations to improve learning

L2A “Face-to-Face” Modules:

  1. Definition of LD: Providing six basic consensus statements that define and identify LD
  2. Self-Determination: Enhancing self-advocacy to empower adult learners
  3. Legal Issues, Self-Disclosure, and Confidentiality:  Protecting the rights of the adult learner
  4. Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning:  Research-based strategies to augment adult learning
  5. Reading Disabilities: Providing a clear picture of reading preferences, difficulties, and disabilities
  6. Written Expression Disabilities:  Identifying and improving transcription and generation challenges
  7. Content Learning:  Learning with a purpose and sequence for a degree, credential, employment, citizenship, or life goal
  8. Workforce Preparation Strategies:  Preparing adult learners with basic and applied skills for employment success

Dr. Betsy Stoutmorrill

During October and November, L2A trainers Betsy Stoutmorrill and Roberta Reiss provided five full-days to train 174 literacy volunteers, adult education instructors, service providers, and program administrations.  Trainings were held in Lady Lake, Marianna, Lake City, Palm City, and Port Charlotte. The training session provided an amazing opportunity for professionals and volunteers from a variety of literacy programs to work together and gain knowledge of not only specific learning disabilities but also of research-based strategies and teaching tools.

“Providing the L2A modules to four different groups was an amazing and enlightening opportunity for me,” says Betsy Stoutmorrill.  “I was inspired by all the dedicated volunteers and professionals who asked tough questions and invested their time to attend this training to improve their teaching and understanding of learning disabilities.”

The hope is that additional training days can be offered throughout Florida to introduce more people to L2A or for those who attended a training to complete the online modules.  Thanks to the partnerships between LINCS, the Florida Literacy Coalition, and the individual sponsoring regions, this training will make a difference in the educational and personal success of many adult learners and support the growth and development of the professionals and volunteers who dedicate themselves to adult literacy.    Funding for these trainings were provided through grants, but more funding is needed to continue these important trainings.

“I talk to so many literacy program directors and coordinators who fear that volunteer tutors feel inadequate to the task of working with adult learners with learning disabilities.  This training has allowed us to demystify the topic and to share the best practices based on the most current research.  Judging from the feedback so far, I think we have gone a long way in addressing the challenges,” states Roberta Reiss.

Roberta Reiss: Five important tips for a great conversation club

Roberta Reiss

1.  Research grammatical structures that are challenging for English learners.  Chose only one or two per session for participants to focus on, practice and perfect.

2.  Always model an activity first, i.e. show by example what you expect the participants to do or achieve.

3.  More true conversation occurs if your activity is designed around “closed tasks.”  For example, ask a participant to reproduce a drawing based on the directions offered by his or her partner.

4.  Design “two-way tasks” for your activities so that an exchange of information is required.  For example, asking one learner to tell a story to another learner requires only that the second learner listens.  The “two-way” version of this activity would be to ask a learner to interview a partner and report the information back to the whole class.  This activity requires listening, questioning, answering and clarification.

5.  Try to include new vocabulary, a few idioms and a few verb phrases in every session.

Roberta Reiss: Top 3 things to keep in mind when facilitating a multi-level conversation class

1.  Start a class by reviewing challenging vocabulary or vocabulary necessary for the task/discussion.  More advanced participants can improve their pronunciation while beginners expand their vocabularies.

2.  The facilitator should circulate through the room when pairs/groups are working on a task.  Offer encouragement, be available to answer questions, and help with pronunciation.

3.  Let learners “negotiate” language.  Create activities during which pairs or small groups of learners try to make themselves understood within the pair/group in order to achieve a product, find an answer or reach a goal. They then report back to the whole group.  The more advanced will be able to help out the beginners.  If by chance a pair/group of beginners is formed, the facilitator should join them for a while and assist.

Learning Disabilities

Unlike physical ailments, learning disabilities often go undetected because they are hard to see and many people do not understand the signs. They also differ from person to person, so two people can have the same disability, but different challenges. Learning disabilities can affect a someone’s listening, speaking, reading, writing and/or mathematics skills. As many as 1 out of 5 people in the United States has a learning disability. It is estimated that 27% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school, creating a need to address learning disabilities in adult learners. This fall, Florida Literacy Coalition is hosting a series of professional development workshops focused on Learning Disabilities. Here are a few words from one of our facilitators, Roberta Reiss.

Roberta Reiss

“Over the years I have worked with hundreds of capable and well-trained literacy tutors.  One refrain I heard quite often was, “I can’t help you with an adult learner with learning disabilities.  I just don’t have the expertise.”  It turns out that working with a learner with a reading or writing disability involves easy comprehension strategies that are just “good teaching”.  The FLC’s upcoming events on Learning to Achieve, a program based on the latest research, are designed to help volunteer tutors understand Learning Disabilities, learn about the legal protection offered those who have these disabilities, and examine teaching strategies that have proven success.  Of course, no one is expected to diagnose a disability or offer legal advice, but the program lays a great foundation for understanding the rights of adult learners with LD and seeing why the strategies work.  I hope you can attend one of the several sessions held around the state, and would love to see you at one of mine!

In the meantime, here are a couple of interesting websites to take a look at:
http://www.ncld.org
http://ldonline.org

Hopefully you will be able to join us this fall at one of the statewide workshops. Click here for a full listing of locations and program descriptions.

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 payney@floridaliteracy.org.

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