DCLC News & Notes
November/December 2020............. In this issue...
  • ESL Conversation Club Goes Virtual
  • DCLC Students & Volunteers Speak Up about Literacy Funding
  • Advantages of a High School Diploma or its Equivalent
Online Conversation Club Enhances ESL Skills
by Sally Sapega

The four key skills of English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction are reading, writing, speaking and listening. When DCLC shifted to online classes this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ESL teachers worked hard to make sure students were building all four skills through the Zoom class sessions, assigned homework, and online resources.

But, not surprisingly, some of the benefits of in-person teaching were lost in the online translation. For one, DCLC’s adult ESL students weren’t engaging in the typical interaction that comes from being in a classroom setting—interaction that helps them build their speaking and listening abilities. According to DCLC ESL Instructor Marisa Russo, “We were looking for ways to supplement the ESL classes, give the students more practice.” The result was weekly online Conversation Club sessions, facilitated by Russo.

Under the guidance of Jenn Kacimi, DCLC’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, the virtual Conversation Club sessions were added in October.

Rather than have lessons, Russo comes up with topics that generate lively discussions. One tried-and-true topic is food.

“We talk about typical meals or foods in their home country,” Russo explains. She also tries more creative conversation-starters such as which foods the students eat when they’re sick. Answers range from lemon and garlic to dates.

During one session she asked the adult students to share something in their kitchen that they couldn’t live without—an ingredient or a utensil, for example. “One student who is normally very quiet came back from her kitchen with a smile on her face excited to talk,” Russo says. The indispensable items? An onion and a habanero pepper! Proof that simple steps can be the gateway to significant progress.

ESL students enrolled in DCLC's online classes are eligible to participate in the Conversation Club sessions. Students taking part hail from a wide variety of countries, including Yemen, China, Ukraine, Russia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bangladesh, and Haiti.

Adding a virtual Conversation Club for ESL students is just one way DCLC has been innovating and adapting to the new realities created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to Russo, the Conversation Club has allowed students to build skills, make friends, and stay encouraged during this difficult time.

Read an unabridged version of this article here.
DCLC Students & Volunteers Reach Out to Lawmakers,
Help Reinstate Adult Literacy Funding in PA
On Monday, November 23, Governor Tom Wolf signed a spending plan that funds Pennsylvania adult literacy programs in fiscal year 2020-2021 at the same level they were funded in 2019-2020.

DCLC students and volunteers did their part to bring about this positive outcome. They petitioned their legislators and Governor Wolf, writing letters and emails about the impact that DCLC's literacy programs have had on their lives. Here are some of the messages sent by DCLC students:

"For me the most important thing is to be able to communicate; because my English is improving, I got hired in my current job."

“The reason why adult education is important to me is to focus on a higher paying job.”

"I could only read news that happened in the US in my native language before I learned English at DCLC, but now I can read them in English."

“The program has helped me improve in reading. I started adult ed in 2015, but I have noticed a big difference in the last month, since I have been in the DCLC class. The class is helping me with math problems I didn't understand before, like word problems.”

One DCLC Volunteer Tutor got right to the point in her message: "Please help so that I can continue working with my student who is making great progress and one day will make us all proud."

Students in adult literacy programs across the commonwealth made their voices heard in Harrisburg, with the help of literacy organizations such as PAACE and COABE. At last count, 508 emails were sent to 93 legislators and other recipients throughout Pennsylvania. In addition, more than 250 letters were sent through the U.S. Mail.

If you would like to thank your legislator for supporting adult literacy within Pennsylvania's budget, you can use this form provided by COABE.
High School Equivalency by the Numbers
DCLC helps adults who have not finished high school prepare for a high school equivalency exam, such as the GED.

According to the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), a high school equivalency diploma provides significant advantages in the workplace. Consider these numbers:

$9620 How much more a person with a high school diploma or equivalent earns, on average, than a non-graduate.

53% The percentage increase in income over 10 years for individuals who have a high school diploma or equivalency.

63% The percentage of all U.S. jobs that require at least a high school diploma.

COABE's #MovingAheadWithAdultEd campaign focuses on re-engaging the millions of Americans who are in need of additional skills to compete in the workforce to recover financially from the pandemic. In addition to providing industry skills training, adult education programs teach literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, as well as offer high school equivalency classes.

DCLC is currently enrolling students for online learning in basic literacy, GED preparation, and ESL. Interested adults can complete this form, and they will be contacted regarding next steps.
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