March 24, 2011

Graphs and Global Health - A Great Tool for Your Next Adult Ed Lesson

In our health literacy workshops for adult ed instructors we encourage instructors to incorporate at least one health topic into every single lesson. That may seem like we're asking WAY too much because as we all know, time is always an issue in the classroom. But it really isn't all that hard to do! Health is such a major factor in all of our lives; all day, every day we make decisions that affect our health and the health of the community as a whole. What we eat and drink, washing our hands, taking our meds, and on and on. Because our health is so intertwined with all we do in life, it's easy to incorporate health-related information into any lesson. Take for example, a lesson on graphs and charts - check out this great video. It's perfect for an activating background knowledge activity to spark discussion at the beginning of the class, or the focal point of the lesson, around which you could have students work together to create their own graphs!


Try using this video in one of your next lessons. I bet your learners will be engaged in the lesson, and the video will foster active participation and lively discussion! Good luck!

March 18, 2011

The Literacy Coalition Takes on Digital Literacy

These are exciting times here at the Literacy Coalition. To enhance our efforts of raising awareness and addressing the problems of illiteracy in central Texas, we're spreading our wings and taking on the ever-growing issue of digital literacy. Many centrals Texans either do not have access to computers and broadband internet or are unable to access what is available due to affordability, lack of computer skills, and a perceived lack of content relative to their daily lives.

Enter the Learner Web! Through a nationwide partnership funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program through the U.S. Department of Commerce, central Texans will now have access to this innovative, online system of self-paced learning plans. The aim of the partnership and the Learner Web is to increase computer literacy and broadband use among low-income, low-literate, ESOL, and other vulnerable populations. The learning plans focus on digital literacy and consumer broadband education where students will learn how to use computers, how to access broadband in their communities, and how to use the internet including email, social networking, and job searching.

We've just wrapped up the pilot phase of the project and are ready to offer the Learner Web at computer labs in and around central Texas. The initial labs will include the San Marcos Public Library and the Austin Public Library with plans to expand the program to over 20 labs the coming months. Stayed tuned as this exciting, new project breaks ground!

March 15, 2011

Never a Boring Classroom!

Only one thing will get me out of bed early on Saturday—an LCCT training for literacy instructors. Maybe you don’t kick off your weekend by getting up early to talk about the fascinating world of language acquisition, but there are some seriously smart and fun people who do. The volunteers and staff instructors I meet through LCCT never fail to impress me with their passion, insight, and ability. Yet what I enjoy most of all is how our classroom becomes a community.

We’re like-minded: we all care about literacy and the people we serve. We’re driven toward a common goal: to learn and share what we know about good teaching. We reject that a classroom should be boring, repetitive, or pointless. We pursue the prop or image that engages people, the lesson that builds on itself, and we want meaningful communication most of all. Here’s a look at last Saturday’s ESL Instructor Training!

Interest Inventory Cards let students look at images and make associations: they depict people at work, a doctor, a person holding a map, etc. Participants rank them based on what’s important to learn in class vs. what’s less important. I’m amazed at how many different associations one picture can produce.

One picture on the cards has a little blond kid holding a boombox. People in the training have said this image represents music, technology, dancing, childcare, entertainment, spending money, and Justin Bieber. Now that I think about it, I guess those are all related.

Authentic materials are props to represent the real world in the classroom. A volunteer, Ray, uses an authentic toy cellphone to make an authentic imaginary phone call.

Hard at work planning an ESL lesson—this group’s topic was “Housing” and they did a great job. If you need to find a new apartment on craigslist, I highly recommend them!

Another group hard at work planning… wait, is that a Toblerone? This group is hard at work planning a lesson and eating a Toblerone.

Classrooms don’t have to be boring, and with the people who show up for LCCT trainings, they never are. We had teachers, writers, gardening enthusiasts, musicians… and each person had a unique story that would make them great company on the weekend. I wish I could write here about how awesome all of these people were, but I’m out of space. So if you want to meet great people who make the classroom a fun place to be, get involved with literacy! Go to

March 11, 2011

6 ways health literacy can make you a stronger instructor

Adult educators often wonder what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for one of our Health Literacy Instructor Trainings. I mean, how can one person manage to address all of life’s issues in just a few short classes a week? Well, let’s face it, that’s just impossible. But teachers know that learning is a lifelong journey and are always looking for new strategies to make their classrooms better. So, here are six ways our Health Literacy Instructor Training can make stronger instructors:

1. By offering a new perspective on their students’ issues outside of the classroom

2. By giving tools to engage every student and make lessons even more relevant

3. By creating instructors that are confident in handling student inquiries about healthcare issues affecting their learning

4. By illustrating how substantially students’ literacy skills affect them economically in the healthcare setting

5. By making it easier to keep class attendance up

6. By teaching them how to empower not only their students, but themselves as patients.

What this training won’t do is make instructors health experts or substitutes for healthcare professionals and social workers. Our goal is to, in a short three and a half hours, make instructors even greater resources for their students and strengthen their curriculum. Every student sees the health of their families as their top priority. By motivating instructors to create a bridge between literacy and healthcare, our hope is that the individuals they serve can spend more time learning and less time worrying about healthcare.

If you’re ready to learn more, e-mail me at to sign-up for our next central training on April 6th! We hope to see you there

March 7, 2011

First impressions

What a wonderful three weeks! Today marks nearly a month for me at the Literacy Coalition, where I am lucky enough to work on the trainings and curriculum side of LCCT efforts. Although my tenure is almost long enough to mean I’m already too biased to say this, I’ll go ahead anyway - the LCCT is one of the most organized and well-run organizations I’ve encountered. As you well know, the staff is incredible, and I’m nothing but consistently impressed by the work that this small but driven group of people tackles each day. I’d also argue that no other non-profit can compete when it comes to file structure. These folks know how to construct an online folder system! Sometimes starting a new job can mean getting a collection of thrown together papers and an unlabeled box that you have to sort through to make sense of anything, but the time the LCCT put into collecting and categorizing their work is well worth it. I easily jumped into their materials and started reading. Off I go.

In the coming weeks and months I hope to get to know more of you in my new role. I look forward learning more about the wonderful work at each of our partner organizations, and I welcome any questions you might have. This is an exciting time for the LCCT and I’m very glad I get to be a part of it!