Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Some literacy resources

Those of you who know me personally may know that last summer I started volunteering for the Miami Valley Literacy Council (MVLC). I’d meant to do so for a while, because my uncle Bill had volunteered for MVLC for several years, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I changed some of my volunteer commitments and made time for MVLC.

As it happens, I was just in the nick of time. Just a couple months after I started volunteering for MVLC, MVLC died (I promise it wasn’t my fault), closing down after 46 years (and less than one year after having moved into spacious new digs). Basic Literacy Tutor Training: Tutor Handbook
MVLC’s tutor training handbook
download (2.08 MB)
So the tutor training class I went through was MVLC’s last. I was paired with a student as part of the process of that class, and after MVLC’s closing I’ve continued to meet with my student.

My student got a part-time job with a local church and part of her responsibilities is setting up ESOL classes for Spanish speakers. This morning she asked if she could borrow the tutor handbook I got from MVLC. I’d scanned the handbook along with the handouts I received and the notes I took in class, so it was easy for me to make them available to her.

The tutor handbook, interestingly, does not contain a copyright notice, but even if it did, its copyright would be owned by an organization that no longer exists, so, having sent my student a copy of the handbook, I figured I might as well also post the handbook and my notes online here in case they might be useful to someone else. I guess they might also serve as a kind of memorial to MVLC.

LITSTART: Literacy Strategies for Adult Reading Tutors
Michigan Literacy Inc.’s excellent book for literacy tutors
(purchase online)
The handouts make reference not only to the MVLC tutor handbook but also to another resource we used in class, namely LITSTART: Literacy Strategies for Adult Reading Tutors, a book published by and available for purchase online from Michigan Literacy Inc.

Here are the links to the MVLC tutor handbook and to the class handouts and my notes
(all in Adobe Acrobat PDF format):
Basic Literacy Tutor Training: Tutor Handbook (2.08 MB)
Handout and notes from session 1 (77 KB)
Handout and notes from session 2 (380 KB)
Handout and notes from session 3 (371 KB)
Handout and notes from session 4 (441 KB)

Friday, April 30th, 2004
Today marks the end of my sixth week of observing at Stivers School for the Arts. I missed commenting at the half way point (I have five weeks of observing left), but so it's better late than never.

The most common reaction I get from friends or new acquaintances who are teachers when I tell them I'm studying to become a teacher is something along the lines of "What? You might want to reconsider that." And at school (Wright State, not Stivers) I've heard that a big part of the reason for the Phase I Observations is to let education students know what they're getting themselves into, in case they want to change their minds (a couple of my fellow Integrated Language Arts students have done just that).

There have been times during my observation that I've wondered whether I really do want to be a teacher. Teenagers in the best circumstances can be moody and difficult to deal with; kids who find themselves in bad situations are of course more of a challenge. I've had no real experience managing kids (dealing with programmers bickering over the temperature in an office isn't quite the same thing), and my college classes so far haven't dealt with the subject yet.

I need to learn how to deal with:
  • kids who sleep in class (my cooperating teacher's strategy is to let sleeping dogs lie)
  • kids who want to socialize rather than work (my cooperating teacher has the knack for dealing with this, but even for him it's an ongoing battle)
  • kids who refuse to do as they're told (anything from moving to another chair to working on a quiz)
  • kids who get upset when their teachers (me and my cooperating teacher) won't let them do something (go to their locker, go to the library, go to the bathroom, use the phone [use the phone?! in my day (god, I'm old) classrooms didn't have phones])
  • kids who don't come prepared (my cooperating teacher has lost this battle or rather chooses not to fight it other than through the gradebook; kids come without pencils or their books and more often than not do not do assignments on time)
When I decided to become a teacher, it wasn't because I was attracted to the idea of being a policeman.
This experience hasn't been bad though. Even after just six weeks I feel more comfortable dealing with the kids who don't want to be in school. And working with the kids who do want to be there, or who at least are willing to try, is what teaching's all about (how's that for a cliche, but nevertheless a true one).

I like working with kids one on one or in small groups. We're doing pretty basic stuff (how to use quotation marks has been the main thing this month), but it's fun to think of ways to try to make it interesting. Some kids seem to get a kick out of working with sentence that have their own names in them (and other kids think that's stupid). A lot of kids like to write on the board (they volunteer; the ones you have to ask to write on the board don't want to). One of my professors really advocates incorporating artsy/crafty things to teach kids about literature and grammar; I tried one of her ideas (character popups) with the reading lab kids and they seemed to like it.

Dealing with kids in small groups or individually is revealing. One kid who contributed a lot to my realizing how much I need to learn about behavior management was surprisingly willing to work when he was in a small group. Part of it was that he wanted to compete with two others kids, but part of it was that he was actually starting to get what we were working on. He can still be a challenge in the classroom, but it's good to know that there's another side to him.

Being at Stivers has made me think more about figuring out exactly what and where I want to teach. A good thing about Stivers is that it's walking distance from my house. Another thing is that it's a magnet school, so many of the kids do want to be there, at least for their magnet. Whether a suburban school would have more kids who want to be in school or who are willing to do what they're told, I don't know for sure. Something that has crossed my mind is that kids in a foreign language class might be more motivated than kids in an English grammar class. More on that later.
Friday, April 9th, 2004
Last month I took the Praxis II test in English language and literature. Today I finally received my score. Suffice it to say that I got well above the minimum score (167 out of 200) required by the state of Ohio, so I know enough about English, at least as Ohio's concerned, to teach it.

Of course I don't know enough yet about teaching, as far as Ohio's concerned, to teach. That requires yet another standardized Praxis test on pedagogy, which I'll take after completing a master's program in education.
Tuesday, April 6th, 2004
The professor of my ED303 (Intro to Educational Psychology) is love with the Gregorc Style Delineator?. She says that by knowing one's style one can know how one best learns and how one prefers to teach. By understanding the different styles (there are four), we can better understand differences in our students.

In class today we each completed the Style Delineator? word matrix, in which one ranks various words (such as objective, quality, aware, and spontaneous). Then we added our rankings according to the form to find out our style. Don't tell Gregorc Associates that we used photocopies of their form; apparently you're supposed to buy the form for $3 each ($2.18 each in bulk).

My highest score was a 27 in Abstract Sequential and 26 in Abstract Random. We'll learn more about the four styles (the other two are Concrete Sequential and Concrete Random) next class.

I'd never heard of Gregorc before this class, but all this reminds me of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? personality assessment tool. We did a mini-workshop on this a few years ago at a church retreat. There are 16 MBTIs. Mine is ISTJ (Introvert Sensor Thinker Judger).

The Meyers & Briggs Foundation warns against the "superficial use" of their tool, urging that it be administered only by qualified people. I dare say that might apply to Gregorc too. That's why my professor's spending so much time on this is so striking. Still, whether valid or not, all this is interesting.
Monday, March 15th, 2004
Today I started my Phase I Practicum, which is part of the process of becoming a teacher. In Phase I pre-service teachers (the term for students studying to become teachers) observe real classrooms. We're not there to student teach (that happens in Phases II and III), but we interact with students and sometimes, depending on the cooperating teacher (the term for the teacher whose classroom is being observed), even teach a lesson.

Spring quarter at Wright State doesn't start until March 29th, but because spring break in local school districts doesn't coincide with Wright State's, we have to start our observations during our spring break to be sure to get enough hours.

I've been assigned to Stivers School for the Arts, on Fifth Street in Dayton, which is convenient because it's walking distance from where I live in the Oregon District. Stivers is a magnet school, and students must audition to attend. My cooperating teacher is Joe Shindell, and he runs a proficiency intervention lab for 7th-12th graders who have failed sections of the Ohio Proficiency Tests or who have low scores on the Terra Nova achievement tests. The students spend half their time on computers doing drills and practice test in their target subject areas. They spend the rest of their time reading self-selected books and writing about their books.

I was only there for a few hours today getting acquainted. It's definitely going to be a different experience.
Saturday, March 6th, 2004
Today I got up early to get myself out to school by 7:30 so I could take the Praxis II test. Ohio requires its new teachers (teachers before the new system are grandfathered) to pass tests in their content area. Mine is English, of course, and was 120 questions to answer in 120 minutes.

Everyone complains about how difficult the tests are and how difficult it is to finish all the questions given that there's a minute per question (actually less if you consider the time it takes to read passages to which some questions refer). I surprised myself by finishing all the questions in just an hour. I'd marked in my booklet questions I wanted to review, and I spent the next hour doing so and changing some of my answers, but still I didn't feel pressed for time. Some other people I talked to afterwards did though, not finishing the last questions until the very end.

I think I did okay but won't get my score for at least four weeks. I'd gotten a copy of a study guide from the English department here at school, but I really didn't study all that much other than looking at literary terms (although I missed "picaresque" and "synesthesia," which were on the test). Many of the reading passages on the test I had seen already in my classes, which I guess is a good testament for the quality of Wright State's English department. Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," which I read a couple years ago in ENG250, Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," which I read last year in Brit lit, and Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV, which I read just this quarter, all were on the test. I even recognized that the character of Esperanza was from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, thanks to my adolescent lit class this quarter.

This isn't the end of Praxis tests though. After grad school I'll have to take the Praxis test on pedagogy, or the art of teaching. Ironically the professors at Wright State who've taught me anything about teaching have all said that standardized testing is bad, and yet Ohio requires teachers to take standardized tests. Several professors have also said that Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organization that creates and administers Praxis tests (as well as the SAT, the GRE and many other tests), is evil. For a nonprofit organization ETS spends a lot of money on advertising and lobbying to promote its products.
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