Homework Sharing

March 28, 2010

Hi fellow tutors,

I am tutoring a wonderful student named Rufus who is at Wilson Level 1.2A, and wanted to let you other tutors know that I recently put some things in the Homework Sharing Notebook (in the Library) that I’ve worked on with Rufus.  The first thing is a lot of sentences I’ve come up with for reading and dictation.  I’ve found the ones in the Wilson books great, but needed more, so I’ve written some, and thought I’d share them.  Sight words are in red and vocabulary words are in black.  I also got an idea for homework from the notebook of scrambling sentences and letting Rufus try to unscramble them (thanks, Rebecca!)  Well, he loved doing this and asked for more of those.  So I wrote out more of those and put those in the notebook, too.

I think if we all take a few minutes now and then to run off a copy of some of the more successful homework sheets we’ve come up with, we could save each other some time.  There are lots of good ideas in that notebook!

Betsy Dain

AL AmeriCorps

September 5, 2008

Hello to the DLC community! I have been introduced to many as “the new Regina,” so in case my name didn’t stick, I wanted to take this time to introduce myself! 🙂 My name is Lark and I officially began my year of service through AmeriCorp Tuesday. Having worked in many different environments, including another non-profit, DLC is a breath of fresh air. It is so wonderful to walk into work and see happy people! People who care! While I have enjoyed other roles I have taken, the environment has never been this welcoming. Regina still has nothing but positive things to say about her experience and I really hope/think my experience will be the same.

So far, my few days here have been great. I have already met with my student once, and her excitement is contagious! Even though I had met her previously during student interviews, I have to admit I was a little nervous sitting down to talk with her at length. Her story, and why she wants to read, is inspiring and beautiful. She said that her grandchildren pester her to read to them, so she finally gathered up the courage to come to us. I have a feeling each of your students have similar stories about why they came to DLC and I’d love to hear them. Having taught before, it is really a motivating factor seeing how much my student wants to be here (versus 18 yr old college freshmen who would rather be anywhere BUT English class!). I just hope I can live up to her expectations of me!

In closing, I know I have some huge shoes to fill, but I look forward to the challenge. I hope to meet all of you in the upcoming days ahead. I know Charlotte (ESOL AmeriCorps) and I are new faces, but I can assure you both of our hearts are in the right place!



August 12, 2008

Gramma used to call my brother and me her little day brighteners. We’d run over to her house, eat her candy, play endless card games, listen to her recreate the old Main Street (back when times were good), and make Grampa laugh until he cried. They were the best times. Love and sweetness and warmth and laughter. And a little guilt about not running over more often, but not too much. And the candy made that better, too.

Christine brings me back to those times. Each lesson she tells me more about her children and her grandbabies, who are brilliant and perfect and no trouble at all. Her grandbabies beg for her to spend the night, so they can snuggle into her bed and make her proud by following her instructions on how to pour juice on their own – without a drop spilled. She brings it all back – the unconditional love, patience, laughter, warmth, joy, life, admiration, and abundance. She brightens my day, and makes me think of this poem:


all this time
the sun never says to the earth,

“You owe me.”

what happens
with a love like that–

it lights the whole


Trip to the Museum

June 3, 2008

Mahmood and I made a field trip to the Nasher Museum near Lakewood Baptist Church and Duke University to get out of the classroom and celebrate his climb from Step 2 to Step 3. Congratulations!

IT’S FREE for Durham residents and folks like Mahmood who go to school in Durham. He just used his student notebook as his school ID.

We walked around the “Birth of Cool” exhibition and the permanent collection. While I was more enchanted with the modern stuff, Mahmood much preferred the older works. We read the brief descriptions together, tried to find the oldest pieces (some dated back 2000 years), and talked about the various forms art takes. Mahmood taught me about some of the history of iconic images in Islam tradition, and we wondered how some of the more unusual artifacts might have been used back in the day.

All that stimuli made sitting down to snacks at the Nasher cafe all the nicer. It was a break from the regular classroom routine. Sitting outside on a nice spring day, we talked about family and summer plans over soup and salad, before reviewing through a few pages of homework. Then we headed to Lakewood for the Spring Celebration, feeling pleased that we had already given each other some quality time outside of class.

The “bed” trick

June 3, 2008

If your student is confusing b/d, try the “bed” trick!

Make the letter b with your left hand (forefinger comes to the thumb to make the circle of the b while the other fingers are straight) and the right hand forms the letter d using the same method. Initially Tell your student to imagine the ‘e’ for the word bed between their right and left hands. Quickly they can learn to apply this method on their own. Now when a student is confused with a b/d, if they do not do the bed trick on their own, just ask them to try it. When prompted to do the trick they can quickly realize they have been using the wrong letter and can determine the correct one!

My tutor is a wonderful tutor. She taught me how to do reading and spelling and build my confidence up. I hope I get another tutor great like her. Thank you center for helping me.


Scribed by Diamond.

Elkonin Boxes

Lanternfish ESL’s website provides numerous ESL resources that can be used for adult literacy lessons. I’ve become a regular user of their resources on Elkonin Boxes. The site’s authors explain that:

“Elkonin boxes can be used to teach phonemic awareness by having students listen for individual sounds and marking where they hear them in the boxes. Each box in an Elkonin box card represents one phoneme, or sound. So the word sheep, which is spelled with five letters, has only 3 phonemes: /sh/ /ee/ /p/. Segementing words is one of the more difficult skills children acquire. It is also one of the best predictors of future success in reading. Elkonin boxes are a physical segmentation of words into phonemes.”

“Though not originally intended for teaching spelling, Elkonin boxes can be used to practice spelling from a synthetic phonics point of view. The Elkonin boxes available here are modified somewhat to give children more room to write when they encounter a digraph such as /ee/ or /sh/. Moats (PDF File) recommends this technique for spelling:

‘Because it helps fix phoneme-grapheme correspondences in children’s minds, this technique supports children’s spelling, reading and writing development” (Moats, American Educator, Winter 2005-2006).’”

I’ve been most excited about using them during our spelling tests. I give Emmett a page that contains the appropriate Elkonin boxes for the 10 words included in the test and then dictate each word aloud, drawing out the sounds as I dictate the words. The Elkonin boxes clue Emmett in about how many sounds he needs to include and whether any of them are digraphs (bigger boxes), welded sounds (I outline them in green), or blends. We repeat the same test several times over several lessons until he is able to get all of the words on his own, and then I give him the test without the Elkonin boxes. (I also give him worksheets with images on them to complete for homework.)

While very useful at every step, it seems to me that Elkonin Boxes would become increasingly useful as a student encounters digraphs, welded sound, and blends. Emmett has a hard time recognizing all of the sounds in consonant and digraph blends (e.g., bl, gr, shr) and tends to leave out one of the two sounds unless he knows to look for the second sound. The Elkonin boxes have been a great help!

The website provides templates (like the one at the top of this post) that you can print out as is or modify to use with your student. It also provides sample worksheets that include a combination of vocabulary words with Elkonin Boxes.

I’ve also referred to the following sites for additional info on Elkonin Squares and other phonemic awareness activities to use during lessons:


To say that Emmett was excited about today’s primary would be a HUGE understatement. After 56 years here in the U.S., he voted for the very first time, patted his ‘I voted’ sticker, and yelled out, “I’ve got the right! I’ve got the right!” He added, “I’ve got the power, now. Now I can get some things done.” He worries that too many people in this country don’t realize that they have the right to vote, regardless of whether or not they have been in prison, have a record, or can read well. He hopes that one day even prisoners – those who are still locked up – will be able to cast their votes, too. We should all count.

A couple weeks ago, Emmett and I attended the civic literacy workshop at the DLC to learn more about the candidates and the voting process. Then we went over all of the choices together and filled in a sample ballot. Emmett decided that he would be more comfortable if I went with him to the voting booth, so we filled out the ballot together and then fed it into the machine. I couldn’t help asking him several times if he was absolutely sure about his choice for democratic candidate (he’s for Clinton, while I’m for Obama), but he just chuckled and said he was sure. Ah well. As he put it, he’ll be happy to have any democrat back in office. I’ll just celebrate the right to disagree with him – two adults with different but equal opinions – and the right to voice them, loudly.

Emmett & Rebecca

New connections…

January 24, 2008

I love this new study by psychologist Carol Dweck. It focuses on young learners, but I think it applies to all of us:

A new study shows that if you teach students that their intelligence can grow and increase, they do better in school.

About 100 seventh graders, all doing poorly in math, were randomly assigned to workshops on good study skills. One workshop gave lessons on how to study well. The other taught about the expanding nature of intelligence and the brain. The students in the latter group “learned that the brain actually forms new connections every time you learn something new, and that over time, this makes you smarter.” Read the rest of this entry »

Vote Vote Vote

January 14, 2008

Hello DLC Community,

I am posting an exert of a letter that a DLC tutor and friend, Manju, sent through email. It has some great information on voting in NC primaries and beyond.
Go out and register! Go out and vote!



The NC Primaries are 5/06/2008.

Closer to then, you can go to the Durham People’s Alliance website for their endorsements:

If you want to register as a voter, or switch your
address, you can download the form here:
www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/hava/northcarolina.pdf .

In order to vote on a given day, you must register by the 25th day (Last day to register to vote: Apr. 11) before that election. You can find your polling place, and most other info, at

My friend Whitney May works at the County Board of Elections at 706
West Corporation St., Durham, NC 27701 (near the Durham School of the
Arts), so if the process is intimidating for you, too, she may be a
good person to ask for (I was so happy to see a familiar face when I
walked into the polling place last year!).
Important Dates:
2008 NC Primary Election: May 6th
Last day to register to vote: Apr. 11
Absentee Voting: Mar. 17 – Apr. 29
One Stop Absentee Voting: Apr. 17 – May 3

2008 General Election: November 4th
Last day to register to vote: Oct. 10
Absentee Voting: Sep. 15 – Oct. 28
One Stop Absentee Voting: Oct. 16 – Nov. 1

…Presidential Election…
At glassbooth.org, you can take a quiz to reveal the presidential
candidate whose views and actions match yours most closely, and where
you split with candidates.
If you are under 35, at apps.facebook.com/theleague (whether you have
citizenship or not, whether you are registered as a voter or not) you
can vote for a presidential candidate in the League of Young Voters

The system of “democracy” in this country is deeply flawed, and the
systematic exclusion of all kinds of oppressed people from even the
flawed system (youth, poor people, prisoners, immigrants, people of
color, (and added by Yashna…people with low literacy skills!) and more) makes it so much worse. Still, I believe in using my access to voting privilege with gratitude for those who struggled hard and gave their lives to win the right to vote across the world. And
sometimes it even makes a big difference. I like to think of it as a
good pinch of salty, healthy cynicism mixed in with a pot of deep
longing for true democracy in this land. I’ve found voting confusing
and intimidating at times, so I wanted to offer my buddies an
explanation of how to do it, in case you’re so inclined.