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News & Updates for November 2018

newsThis month:


Special Announcement:

A new chapter

We are delighted to announce that:

Literacy Advance has joined forces with Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM) and the two agencies will now operate as one entity. Our work together will be known as "Literacy Advance, a MAM program".

Both Literacy Advance and MAM are excited by the possibilities of this new partnership and we hope you are too! Please find more details here.


Wrapping up fall classes

We're close to the end of the year!

Many ESL and ABE classes will be wrapping up in November. THANK YOU, wonderful volunteers, for all of the instruction, support, and guidance you’ve given to students this semester!

We navigated the fall semester with a nearly-full class schedule and would not have been able to see as many students in classes without YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

As your fall class winds down, please remember that a few upcoming activities must be integrated into your remaining instruction time. Your students will need to complete:

  • CASAS post-test
  • goals check-in, and
  • end-of-class survey.

See your tutor journal for the specific dates of when these events will happen for your class, and ask us if you need any clarification. We need all students to complete these activities before beginning their next class, so please save enough time during your final class sessions to work on them.

And it's certainly not too soon to begin thinking about YOUR next class! Read on for more information about what we’ll be up to in the spring.


Planning for spring semester

The fun never stops!

The spring semester will kick off on Monday, January 14, 2019 – and we’re already excited! We’ve started slotting tutors into the schedule of spring classes and we’d love to have more options confirmed before the fall semester ends.

The more classes we can confirm this month, the more we’re able to schedule students’ next class before they leave for the holidays. This means fewer calls, texts, and voicemails, and more students in your classes, faster!

You can take a look at our ESL tutor needs for Wilcrest here.

If any fit your schedule, drop Courtney a line to start confirming your next class.


Holiday Closings

Mark your calendars, and tell your students

It's that time of year when there are parties, and people are travelling, and scheduling gets that little bit harder to predict. PLEASE let us know if you're going to miss a class - give us as much time as possible to arrange a substitute, so that your class can continue uninterrupted.

And remember to tell your students, more than once, when the office will be closed! Every single time Literacy Advance is closed, we still have students who come to class - and that's a wasted journey for them. Even if you think your students know - remind them again!

Here are the Literacy Advance holiday dates:

Literacy Advance CLOSED for Thanksgiving:

Wednesday, November 21
Thursday, November 22
Friday, November 23
Saturday, November 24

Classes start again after Thanksgiving on Monday, November 26, at 8 am.

The last day of classes for 2018 is Saturday, December 22.

After that date, classes are closed. Some staff will be working for much of the holiday break, but please make an appointment before coming by the office - the person you want to see may be out, or we may be offsite at training, and we wouldn't want you to have a wasted journey. Please also be patient if it takes us a little longer than usual to return emails and phone calls.

Thank you, and happy holidays to all our friends and supporters!


Tutor Enrichment Workshop

What can you find at your local library?

This month, we’re coming back from the holiday and jumping right in to our next Tutor Workshop. Over in our Tutor Support Facebook Group, many of you have been talking about libraries and how to integrate library activities into your classes.

On Monday, November 26 from 12 pm – 1 pm, staff of the Houston Public Library will be in the Wilcrest Computer Lab to tell you all about the resources and programs they have for YOU. Some will aid your lesson planning, and some will be to share with students to enrich their learning.

If you plan to attend, please sign your name on the sign-up sheet on the Wilcrest Resource Room door or get in touch with Courtney.


Looking ahead to February

Taxes, taxes, taxes...

After November, our Theme of the Month takes a short break until February, when we’ll return to focus on Taxes.

The conversation couldn’t be more timely, because our friends at BakerRipley have just started recruiting volunteers for the 2019 tax season! BakerRipley provides FREE tax services to low- and middle- income families in the Houston area, and you don’t need to be an accountant or tax expert to help out.

In addition to tax preparers, there are volunteer roles as intake specialists and translators at several BakerRipley campuses. You can view more information and sign up to volunteer at – remember to choose “Tax Centers” as the type of volunteer opportunity on the sign-up form!


Farewell Irene!

And a huge THANK YOU for everything

We'll soon be saying goodbye to someone special - Irene Evans, Development & Board Liaison, will be retiring in mid-November. We know she's looking forward to a lot more time to herself - but we're sad to be saying goodbye after more than 11 years on staff (and before that, as a volunteer tutor).

You know that no one ever FULLY leaves Literacy Advance - so we're sure you'll be seeing Irene around from time to time. 

Thank you for being amazing, Irene! We know you'll keep on being amazing, whatever you decide to do next :)


Alley $10 Tix

A Christmas Carol - benefiting Literacy Advance!

The Alley Theater's $10 Tix program rewards patrons who bring a specified item for a designated charity with the opportunity to purchase up to two tickets for a minimum of $10 each on a designated Sunday preview performance.

And the Alley Theater has invited Literacy Advance to be part of this great program!

Performance: A Christmas Carol
Designated date: Sunday, November 18
Specified item: A new children's book or ream of white office paper

Tickets only available in person at the box office on November 18 from 11am to curtain time. $10 Tix seats are located in section B and subject to availability. Cash or check only at time of purchase.

THANK YOU to the Alley Theater for their support!


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:

weather information

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.


Theme of the Month

November: Libraries

In November, we’re talking about Libraries. Libraries are about SO MUCH MORE than borrowing books!

They’re a community hub and a safe, supportive environment for your students – many of whom are newcomers to Houston – to learn, make friends, and find the information they need.

We’ve brought back the Oxford Picture Dictionary for its vocabulary-building lessons specifically about what students can find at the library. Beginner and intermediate students can practice key words and phrases that can be built out into conversation models. With the tools they learn in your class, students will be ready to confidently enter a library and talk to staff to find what they need.

Puzzles are a great way for all levels to reinforce vocabulary! We’ve provided a number of word searches and crossword puzzles related to library activities that your students can use for extra practice. Students can work on these together, or bring them home to complete with their families. We’re especially thinking about our students who are parents and caregivers this month, because libraries are such a fantastic space for families (and because it's Family Literacy Month!). If some of your students have children, plan to review the Poetry Parent Activity that links in to the library’s reading recommendation for children.

Intermediate and advanced level students can dig into a problem-solving activity focusing on language for locations and directions, available in the fan-favorite resource, Talk-a-Tivities. Working in pairs, students will browse diagrams of library shelves to find the titles they want. Then, students can read about the multiple benefits of public libraries and engage in team debate to support arguments about which services are most beneficial to their neighborhood.

Stop by the Resource Room at your site to browse these and other options for your classroom!

Planning ahead:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
Theme of the Month on hiatus for December & January
February Taxes Tax deadlines; free services at Neighborhood Tax Centers 
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 
May Housing Paperwork needed to sign a lease; rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners

There's no right or wrong way to use the Theme of the Month calendar. Some months you may use it a lot, and other months less so - we hope you'll continue to be responsive to the needs and goals of the particular students in your class. But we hope this will be a fun addition to your lesson planning, and we'll be providing focused resources and lesson ideas on each topic throughout the year.

Want ideas, or to look at resources that match the themes? Talk to Courtney: 713.266.8777 or


Top Tutor Tips

Community engagement

With all of the talk of libraries and taxes this month, we’re really reminded of the importance of community engagement in the Adult Literacy classroom. That is, your students are not just learning English for learning's sake, but they’re really learning the English that they need to get engaged, and stay engaged, with their new Houston communities.

You’ve heard us talk about relevance as a major driver of Adult Learner Persistence, and it continues to be increasingly important that the language that students are learning relates back to real experiences. Resources out of LINCS, funded in part by the US Department of Education, remind us that through real-language experiences, adults can make faster strides towards self-sufficiency.

In your own classrooms, you ensure that instruction is connected to students’ real-world experiences through regular journal completion. You’re working with students to define their learning goals, and supplementing your English No Problem! core instructional material with additional resources that link resources back to individual goals.

Did you know that Literacy Advance has been recognized by multiple community partners, including ProLiteracy national, and the United Way of Greater Houston, for our innovative student and tutor journals? We’re proud of that, and proud of your time using journals in the classroom.

If you have any questions or comments about the materials or strategies suggested here, contact us at


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.

Literacy Advance CLOSED for Thanksgiving:
Wednesday, November 21
Thursday, November 22
Friday, November 23
Saturday, November 24
Happy Thanksgiving!

Literacy Advance fall semester ends December 22

LAST DAY of classes in 2018
Saturday, December 22

FIRST DAY of classes in 2019
Monday, January 14


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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