Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

dreamy imprints

Our friends and esteemed colleagues Johanna Pax-Milic and Guy Ewing have been working with the members of the LAMP adult drop in centre to create a photo narrative that will be opened to the public on June 10.

If you are in Toronto in June, check out this expression of experience and wisdom.

LAMP Community Health Centre
185 Fifth Street, Etobicoke, ON, Canada, M8V-2Z5
phone: (416) 252-6471

Monday, May 26, 2008

reading delights

over at the literacy wisdom blog wendell has asked us to

"tell me about the books or essays out there that support your reflections. What books and essays you re-read? Do you mine them for ideas or encouragement? for grand overviews or specific challenges? Are they the same titles you would put on a recommended reading list for a new literacy worker or your Member of Parliament? How many are Canadian titles?"
so add your reading wisdom by leaving a comment on his post.

Or write a haiku or 6-word literacy story.

Or become a literacy wisdom blogger and start your own float.

Friday, May 16, 2008

parade starts today

what are you doing here?

get over to the crazy wisdom parade.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

esl and literacy this summer

The Centre for Literacy of Quebec Summer Institute this June 26-28 is on ESL and Literacy this year.

To get us in the mood, from May 12-16, 2008 Heide Spruck Wrigley is co-facilitating an online discussion on assisting adult English language learners to increase their reading proficiency on the Adult English Language Learners Discussion List.

Here are the questions:

So here is my questions. Which one of these assertions really resonates for you? If you are an ESL teacher do you have examples from you students that either supports or disproves one of these points

You learn to read just once (this is also known as “breaking the code”; once you have developed phonemic awareness in one language and you know to decode one language), you don’t need to start all over with developing phonemic awareness in another language – you just need to absorb the rules of the new system – that is, you must learn how English works, not how literacy works.

Knowledge from the first language transfers to knowledge about the second language but transfer is not automatic. You may need to draw your students attention to certain common features of the language.

We make sense of the world by connecting prior knowledge with new knowledge. We gain meaning from print the same way. So if your knowledge of the world does not match the knowledge of the world that the writer assumes, the text is likely to be confusing to you even if your reading skills are ok.

Reading is an interactive process between the reader, the text, and the writer. The situation in which you read and write and your purposes for doing so play a role as well (think about opening a letter from the INS – now USCIS or a note from your ex-spouse).

When we read, we activate two types of knowledge – what we know about meaning making (top down processes) and what we know about language (bottom-up processes). It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of reading is comprehension.

Although control over bottom-up processes is important for learning to read, it does not follow that new readers must have mastered all sub skills before they can focus on comprehension. Using sub skills effectively enhances comprehension, but control over sub skills does not automatically lead to comprehension.

Language proficiency and reading comprehension are closely related. One way of increasing the reading skills of literate learners is to build language skills. One way of building students comprehension of (pre) academic texts, is to present such information orally (mini-presentations) and visually (through PowerPoints or video clips) so you can build understanding of concepts without your students getting mired in print.

Vocabulary knowledge is one of the key determinants of reading comprehension. Increases in vocabulary means increases in background knowledge and in reading comprehension, the same as in everything else, the more you know – the more you know

You can now download Heide's excellent book about ESL-Literacy practice, Bringing Literacy to Life (WORD DOC), from the Centre for Literacy of Quebec site.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

goals and spices

from an ESOL instructor practising in the US:

Learning a language is a bit like being in a small boat on a body of water. When students first begin learning a language, it's a bit like being in a small boat that is passing midway down a narrow stream. As the boat moves forward, the banks of the stream are passing by, so it is easy for the learner/traveller to have a sense of progress, and a sense of where they are going.

When you become an advanced student, however, you have a problem -- the small stream has opened up into an "ocean." There are no "banks of the stream" anymore; nothing to give you a reference point or a sense of direction. The language you've learned is now an ocean. It goes on forever, and you can move and see in any possible direction. It is now very difficult to have a sense of progress or a sense of direction. You can move your boat over to the region of legalisms and legal English, for example, and study those for a while...but when you finish, there is still something else to learn. And there always will be.

So what do advanced learners do? They have to develop new tools to give themselves a reference point and be able to determine where they are going and how they are progressing. They need a "nautical chart": a set of explicit goals, means to achieve those goals, and ways or milestones to measure your progress. Then we go through an exercise where the students have to develop five very explicit, specific goals for language acquisition, and how they will achieve those goals. For example, one student decided she wanted to learn the names of all the Italian spices, and what dishes they are used in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

shut down week

I guess you might be thinking that I took the whole shut down day thing a bit too seriously. Well sort of. But it wasn't electronic gadgets that were shut down -- it was me. Lots and lots of coughing and all the usual accompanying aches and gripes. Has anyone else had this one? I hope not. I am still feeling a bit rough but getting better. Posting will resume.

Friday, May 2, 2008

my husband norm

Here is a nice little diatribe by Stephen Fry (@ 2:25 until 3:55) about why work does not work:

May 3 is Shutdown Day.
I do not believe that "using computers, televisions and electronic gadgets is having a negative impact on society" or that "people are failing to socialize with each other" and "becoming outcasts" -- but it might not be a bad idea for the model employees to take a break. Maybe we should rent Liechtenstein.

Whatever you do -- have a great weekend.


FYI: QI is a BBC panel show where "none of the stellar line-up of comedians is expected to be able to answer any questions, and if anyone ends up with a positive score, they can be very happy with their performance." QI stands for 'quite interesting.' The theme for this episode was Europe.

Full disclosure: Julie Mollins is my sister.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

may day

Happy day to all you model employees, trapped or otherwise.

"A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops.
On my desk, I have a work station . . ."