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News & Updates for January 2019

newsThis month:


Your 2018 WINS for Literacy

What a wonderful year!

We're looking back at 2018 in gratitude, and with a little bit of awe. So much was achieved, and there are so many wonderful possibilities ahead.

The 2018 list includes:

WIN #5: New pathways
WIN #4: A special anniversary
WIN #3: Amazing students
WIN #2: Amazing volunteers here to see the full list, including WIN #1!

As always, our abundant thanks to you, our steadfast supporters, volunteers, and friends. All these successes belong to you, and we are full of gratitude.


Welcome back!

Spring semester underway

WELCOME BACK, all our amazing volunteers! We hope you had a restful holiday break and that you're all ready to go for the new year.

The spring semester has started! We’re very excited to be welcoming so many of you back, and to see new classes starting.

We still have few open classrooms at various days and times throughout the week, so if you’re thinking about tutoring this semester, there's still time to confirm your class. We have students waiting to begin regular classes and we’d love to give them the life-changing chance to start learning English this semester.

If you’re ready to get your class on the schedule this semester, talk to Courtney: or 713.266.8777.


Notice anything different?

We want to hear from you!

Longtime MAM Literacy Advance tutors will notice a few changes in ESL classroom journals this year (check out that great new photo on the cover, just for starters!), but we want to hear from EVERYONE about your experiences with them.

Please keep us updated with any feedback you have after your first few lessons. You can write your reflections in the journal itself, or share your thoughts with Colleen.

Thank you for keeping reflection a central part of your classes again this year - it's crucial for your students, as well as for you as their tutor. MAM Literacy Advance journals have been named a Promising Practice by ProLiteracy U.S., and include some best practices in Adult Learner Persistence (as well as being a source of information for you and for us, your support staff). If you have questions about the journals - please let us know!


Opportunities: Enrichment & Social

Get together with your fellow volunteers

We know that there's strength (and joy!) in numbers, and we commit to supporting our volunteers in multiple ways. One of those is providing regular opportunities for continued learning, and another is making sure you have spaces to unwind, meet each other, and form communities of your own!

Our 2019 calendar is starting off with two such opportunities:

Enrichment Workshop: Keeping Your Classroom Active

Volunteer Social: Spring Semester Kick-Off

Use the links above to learn more, and find how to RSVP for either or both of these events.


Top Tutor Tips

Getting off to a GREAT start

Your students may (understandably!) be nervous when they start their new class this semester, and we know it can sometimes feel uncomfortable to try to break the ice. However, tutors set the tone for community-building in classrooms, and your smile will go a long way towards making your group feel at ease.

Your first two or three lessons will focus on students meeting each other, and setting up the reflection journals they will use all semester.

We estimate these activities will take two full lessons, possibly three for some groups, but please do not rush through them, and let them take longer if that's what's necessary for your group. Especially in lower level classes, you may feel like the tutor is doing a lot of talking in the beginning, but it’s important that students have clear expectations about their class. Reviewing rules of the Literacy Advance program also ensures they’re understood well enough that your classroom remains a safe and welcoming space.

We know you know how valuable it is to limit tutor talk time, and though the first lessons of your class are a specific exception to the rule, you can still encourage students’ active participation as they get to know each other. As you’re working with students to set up journals, consider adding in a few active moments to help break the ice:

  • Don’t just tell students about important locations, like Diana’s office or the bathrooms - show them! Take your class on a tour of MAM Literacy Advance, speaking slowly and encouraging students to take pictures with their phones along the way if that will help them.
  • When students are introducing themselves, ask them to stand and point out their home country on the world map in your classroom.
  • Pair before you share! Group students into partnerships to review and discuss information in their journals before opening up conversation to the entire class.

Meanwhile, learn more about how a Sense of Belonging and Community helps drive student persistence, and if you have any questions or comments about the strategies suggested here, contact Courtney at, or join our powerful online community Literacy Advance Tutor Support Group!


Quality Resources from ProLiteracy

The latest edition of Notebook

ProLiteracy's Notebook is full of resources for those involved in adult education - and that's YOU!

In the latest edition:

Reading: Teaching Editorial Cartoons

Numeracy: "Stand and Talks" for Math

Writing: 6 Ways to Use Picture Books

Writing: Writing With Pictures

Exploring Resources


Theme of the Month

Looking ahead to February

Theme of the Month returns in just a few weeks with February’s theme: Taxes. We’ll have lots of resources to share with you next month, but it’s not too soon to start planning!

This month, remember to point out the Student Information Board to your class, where they’ll find important, timely information about events and activities going on in their neighborhood. The information on the board changes often, so students are encouraged to look at it every week.

This month, students will see information on the board about where they can find FREE tax preparation centers close to home. BakerRipley has a dozen centers in the Houston area to help families with FREE, quality tax preparation. You can help your students find the closest location to their home so that they don't seek out paid services this year.

Students can take a picture of the flyer with their phone, or take a copy home. Extra copies of the BakerRipley Tax Center flyer are available in Information Center in the lobby.

Theme of the Month Calendar in Full:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
Theme of the Month on hiatus for January
February Taxes Tax deadlines; free services at Neighborhood Tax Centers (including MAM main campus on Blalock)
March Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; Houston roads; special events in the Houston calendar 
April Money & Banking Houston Money Week; banking options; Promise Credit Union; dangers of Payday Lending and better alternatives
May Housing Paperwork needed to sign a lease; rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners
June  Jobs How to apply for jobs; interview skills; what's typical in a US-style resume 
July  Getting Ready for School  Getting kids ready to go back to school; options at school including after-school care and clubs
August Shopping & Restaurants  Houston Restaurant Weeks; loyalty clubs and benefits; online shopping risks and benefits 
September  Immigration & Citizenship  Requirements for U.S. citizenship including eligibility, paperwork, and fees
October Health    Health Literacy Month; questions to ask the doctor; advocating for your own health; open enrollment in the ACA
November Libraries   What's available at your local library? What does the library provide online? 
Theme of the Month on hiatus for December

Every month, we will feature resources and ideas that match the theme. Discovered something excellent? Let us in on your secrets! Talk to Colleen with ideas and new resources that match the theme.


February's just around the corner

Taxes, taxes, taxes...

When our Theme of the Month returns in February, we'll focus on Taxes.

Our friends at BakerRipley will offer FREE tax preparation at multiple sites across Houston. You can find a full listing in both English and Spanish, along with a map, at this link.

One of the biggest sites is Memorial Assistance Ministries. Last year, 71 volunteers prepared 3,236 free tax returns at MAM, saving our neighbors nearly $1 million in tax preparation fees. More than $4.7 million in refunds were issued from the MAM location!

Please tell your students about this FREE service. There are flyers in the Information Center in the Wilcrest foyer, or students can take a photo on their phones. If the students have questions, please refer them to Diana Delgado, the MAM Literacy Advance Transition Coach.

NOTE: Here's a checklist from BakerRipley, indicating what students should bring with them to make their tax meeting as productive as possible.


Bad weather? Not sure if class is on?

Step One: Check Facebook

We know that weather in Houston can be unpredictable. Sometimes we don't have a lot of notice that we'll need to close the office and cancel classes, and we don't always have time to call everyone. 

Facebook is a quick and easy way to update lots of people at once, so the Literacy Advance Facebook page always has the most up-to-date information about closings in cases of bad weather.

If you think there's a chance we might be closed, please check the page rather than calling the office. Look for this image, and click on it for the latest update:

You can check the Facebook page even if you don't have a Facebook account, so please bookmark the link above. And remind your students to do the same!

Of course, if the bad weather is local to your neighborhood, and you're the one who needs to cancel class because you're concerned about driving, please do call us and let us know.


Student Success Spotlights

Don't miss our Student Success Spotlights!

You helped make them possible.


Calendar Highlights

What's ahead? Mark your calendar!

calendarWe always want you to be up to date! So highlights of the Literacy Advance calendar are summarized below.

A more complete calendar can always be found online here, or you can check our Facebook Events page

Spring Semester 2019:
Monday, January 14 - Friday, May 24

Spring Graduation
Tuesday, May 28 (TBC)

Closed for Easter:
Friday, April 19 & Saturday, April 20


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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