Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Art of Instruction

See what listening to Billy Joel generated by 4 of our participants.
Doodle Art created to one of Billy Joel's tunes,
One warm-up activity in Art Appreciation unit.

Wednesday morning group spent this past summer 
engaged in Art Appreciation

Why? Learners wanted to share their artwork and what they knew about art. This topic was a subject dear to many of our learners' hearts

Our goal? Increase reading comprehension strategies and critical thinking skills while simultaneously sharing learners' artwork and learning about artists - past & present.  

Experimenting with art techniques and examining specific art pieces was providing a platform for:  Expanding personal art techniques. 
 Increasing vocabulary.  Growing observational skills.  Interpreting visual and written texts.  Building critical thinking skills. 
 Enhancing team building skills.  Improving investigation skills.  Forcing summarization skills.  Developing and delivering presentations.  Sharing ideas, supported with evidence.  

Seem odd for an adult literacy organization? 
Not this one! We use topics learners care about the most. 
We deliver literacy education, with a twist.*

Why this content? Are you willing to persevere at something you don't care about? Something that gives you physical or emotional pain? Something you know you suck at?

Reading is hard for our learners. Yet, we want them to experience the joy reading brings to other people. We want them to use reading seamlessly as a tool to get what they want in life. 

To get to this moment, we've found that learners need to be engaged in the practice of reading. Using "stuff" (reading materials) they care about (regardless of the reading levels) increases engagement. 

Look at these faces in these photos from our 5/10/18 lesson about "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso. Do you see engagement?

Who are our learners? The readers in the Picasso lesson ranged from beginning to moderate skill level. Some could read only a few words. A few could say all the words well, but didn't understand what the texts meant. All spoke English. 

How do we pull this off? Some of the questions under investigation required intense reading; some questions did not. For example, one group focused on examining the work of art itself. 

Groups had print and electronic materials available. An introduction to "Guernica" and Picasso were listed on our learner website, but groups were not required to visit or limited to the info on our site. One group found info about Picasso on Khan Academy, another found info about Picasso's art periods, and one group started with a paper-version of the encyclopedia. 

Presentations: Each group read and interpreted different information in search of the information needed to present the one piece to the entire group. 

Learners (and facilitators) worked on decoding, pronunciation, and comprehension to build learners' abilities and confidence to present what they learned to the group. Not an easy task. Our hats off to the learners who persevered because they wanted to engage in this activity. And, our hats off to the mentors as they skillfully oversaw inclusion and skill building. 

Note: Our underlying structure comes from a constructivism POV with support from CCR Standards. Career pathways is relevant because several of our learners are aiming for art-related careers through SLCC-SATTS. Generic skill sets are being developed and refined. Specific job options are highlighted, as appropriate.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

Volunteer/Tutor Training Dates: 2018-2019

Thank you for expressing interest in volunteering with us!

We are always in need of good volunteers to work as tutors, on our Board of Trustees, in our office, and on special projects (e.g., marketing & fundraising). We appreciate your help in whatever way you wish to serve. For more information, please check out this list of volunteer opportunities. While all volunteers are expected to complete volunteer/tutor training we understand that not all volunteers will be tutors.

Our next training dates are:

___ Saturdays: September 22 & 29, 2018 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: September 19, 2018

___ Saturdays: November 3 & 17, 2018 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: October 31, 2018

___ Saturdays: January 12 & 26, 2019 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: January 9, 2019

___ Saturdays: March 16 & 23, 2019 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: March 13, 2019

___ Saturdays: May 4 & 18, 2019 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: May 1, 2019

All training is at our office at:
Literacy Action Center, 3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City UT 84115.

Note: We develop highly-trained, well-qualified volunteers. As such, in addition to participating in this two-day workshop, we also expect our volunteers to annually complete several on-line trainings, attend five tutor talks annually, and participate in at least one state-sponsored workshop. Upcoming Tutor Talk dates include: 9/29/18, 11/17/18, 1/26/19, 3/23/19 & 5/18/19. All Tutor Talks are 10:00AM-12:00PM on Day 2 of each Tutor Training Workshop. Please mark your calendar. Other opportunities will be shared as available. 

Registration is required. We currently accept registration delivered by mail, email (, or in person at our office. The cost of this training is $35 for anyone who tutors through our program. (This training is $135 for anyone tutoring for some other program or on his or her own.) Regardless of your tax situation, no part of this training fee is tax-deductible. The entire amount goes towards this 2-day training as well as five tutor talks, staff support if you're volunteering with us, and a one-year membership. (Some scholarship funds may be available upon request.) 


Literacy Action Center

Volunteer/Training Registration Form
(please print)

I am interested in attending training on:
(You must attend both Saturdays to complete this training.)

___ Saturdays: September 22 & 29, 2018 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: September 19, 2018

___ Saturdays: November 3 & 17, 2018 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: October 31, 2018

___ Saturdays: January 12 & 26, 2019 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: January 9, 2019

___ Saturdays: March 16 & 23, 2019 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: March 13, 2019

___ Saturdays: May 4 & 18, 2019 (9:00 AM - 3:30 PM)  Closing Date: May 1, 2019


Mailing Address:

City, State Zip Code:

Phone number:


Please make your check for $35 (or $135) payable to: Literacy Action Center
Bring your check (or cash) in to our office or mail this form and your check to Literacy Action Center, 3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City UT 84115.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tutoring Scenarios: Producing Independent Learners

Tutoring style or methodology truly impacts
who is doing the learning and how independent the
learner will be tomorrow when the tutor isn't around. 

Please read the two tutoring scenes below. Think about the following questions:

  • Who is doing the learning in each method? 
  • Which tutoring method builds an independent adult?

Tutoring Scene 1

Yesterday, a learner asked for help with a fraction problem in Khan Academy. The learner's task was: 

3/5 + 2/3 = n

The tutor immediately looked at the math problem in question and told the learner exactly what to do. The only thinking the learner did was to multiply two sets of numbers (making the denominators common) and adding the numerators. The tutor never asked what the learner knew or provided a framework for the learner to be included in solving the problem. No notes were taken. No examples were set up with annotations in the learner's notebook. However, the learner did get the answer correct in Khan Academy.  

Tutoring Scene 2

Around the same time, another tutor helped a learner examine a percentage-based story problem.

The sale price of a table was $123. 
This price was 20% of the original cost.
What was the original cost of the table?

After the learner read the problem aloud, this tutor asked, "How can you turn these words into an equation to solve."

The learner wrote:  x + 20 = 123

The tutor asked, "Will this equation bring you a reasonable answer?"

The learners said, "I don't know."
The tutor said, "Solve the equation."

The learner next wrote:   x  + 20 = 123
                                              -20     -20
                                               x  =  120

The tutor asked, "When you plug in your answer for x back into the equation, does the number make sense? Then explain it to me."

The learner said, "103 plus 20 is 123. That fits."
The tutor said, "I wonder what the numbers represent. Go ahead and label each number for me please."

The learner wrote:  original price        20%                 sale price
                                         120        +    20               =      123
                                                      marked down

The learner looked at the labels for a moment, then said, "The original price is cheaper than the sales price. What's wrong?"

Then the tutor and learner went on to talk about how sales in stores work, what the learner usually did with a sale, and built meaning around how to write 20% as a decimal, and the math operation needed to complete the equation. 

The learner then went on to write notes on a notes page labeled "Percentages" with examples and explanations for converting percentages to decimals and solving percentage equations. The learner wrote the page number in the index on the inside of the learner's notebook cover. 


  • Who is doing the learning in each method? 
In Tutoring Scene 1, the learner just followed the tutor's directions. The learner in fact learned nothing. The learner still didn't know what to do with the next problem because the learner didn't know what was being done with this problem. The tutor, on the other hand, reviewed her knowledge and selected what was appropriate to share based on the constraints of the problem.

What about in Tutoring Scene 2? The tutor let the learner explore and try out what she thought was correct. The learner showed what she knew. The tutor could see and hear the learner's "wheels turning" (mind working), but she still let the learner follow-through with her thoughts. The tutor offered questions that provided opportunities for the learner to step back from the work to make decisions. The learner was definitely the person learning. With help, the learner then went on to create a notes page that let her consolidate what she'd been doing. Now she has a plan for how to attack future percentage problems. 

  • Which tutoring method builds an independent adult?

Tutoring Scene 2 wins hands down! This scene describes the type of tutoring/teaching interactions we expect from our tutors as they facilitate academic growth. 

How can you tutor/teach more like the tutor in Tutoring Scene 2?