Literacy Connection

Tutor-to-Tutor: Making sight words interesting

Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 10:07am

The, of, and, a, to!

Those words don’t exactly stir the heart.  One of the first steps for a beginning reader on the path to coping better at work, reading their mail and supporting their kids in school is putting some time and effort into recognizing the most common words on sight.  Often time spent drilling these words can feel like a chore.

One of our tutors, Margaret Stuhr, was working on the Fry List of most common sight words with her beginning reading student and came up with a creative way to make practicing these words more interesting than just flipping through flashcards.  She created sentences and stories built mainly out of the Fry words. 

For example, the following sentence comes from the group of sentences about the first 50 words:

What is your name?

The first three words are bold because they are in the first 50 words of the Fry List.  “Name” is also on the Fry List, in the 2nd hundred words, so it’s a good word to be practicing.  It’s not bolded here, because this group of sentences is meant to focus on the first 50 words. 

Click here to try these materials out with your learners.  There are sets of sentences for the first 50 words and the first 100 words as well as two stories for the first 100 words, “To Write or not to Write” and “Water, Water, Water”.

This is the first post in what we hope will be an ongoing series where tutors share about their tutoring experiences, Tutor-to-Tutor. Thanks to Margaret for letting us share her experience with sight words today. You might want to share about successes or struggles you had tutoring, materials that you really like or tricks and techniques that work for you.

To share your tutoring experiences with other tutors, please E-mail a draft of what you’d like to share to Josh Anderson (janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info), Janet Wigodner (jwigodner [at] waukeganpl [dot] info) or Laura Sherwood (lsherwood [at] clcillinois [dot] edu). We want the blog to be a venue for sharing, feedback and collaboration amongst tutors.

Collections 2013

Post date: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 6:50am

Words, words, words. There were many words spoken on the night of April 30, but, when those words come from the heart, the soul, from the very depth of the writer they take on emotion, determination, healing and become very powerful. Those of us who attended the celebration of the publication of Collections 2013 heard from a mother who recognized that the gift from God of her son was only a gift for a short while. Her struggle to accept this knowledge was shared with us through words, powerful for us to hear, healing for her to express.

Another gentleman expressed the nervousness he felt when he had to read in class. We could all identify in one way or another with that kind of apprehension. It has happened to all of us.

Can you imagine the courage it took for a young lady who is barely out of high school to stand before the group and read her life story? She told how she was afraid to ask for help and when she did she felt that the teacher just couldn’t or didn’t know how to help her so she stopped asking. When she graduated her confidence level was rock bottom. She has never laid eyes on her diploma because she felt her skills were too low and she wouldn’t amount to anything. She did get help from the literacy program, and she is gaining strength in her math and reading skills. She says, “There will be a day when her light will consume the darkness completely….for now, this story is incomplete.”

Contributed by Ruth Woodruff


Adult Learners Get Published

Post date: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 6:47am

Each Spring, Lake County’s adult learners become published authors in an anthology titled Collections, thanks to the Literacy Volunteers of Lake County. Adult learners work with their tutors and instructors to submit their written work for the book. Collections offers a terrific opportunity for students to celebrate their writing achievements and share their stories.

This year’s Collections book release party will be held on Tuesday, April 30, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, in the Ray Bradbury Room of the Waukegan Public Library. Students will be presented with a copy of the anthology and have a chance to read their work for their friends, family, teachers and tutors. The written pieces are fun, heartwarming and insightful. Please join us for this celebration!

New reader at age 89

Post date: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 1:52pm

An elderly gentleman had a goal to read just one book. Enjoy his story and his advice to adult learners!


Training Opportunity: Learning to Achieve

Post date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 3:51pm

What’s this? 






It’s a neuron!  Learning happens when these little guys connect in your brain.  And when they don’t?  That’s when tutors have to get creative.

 Tutors have the opportunity to sign up free of charge for a full-day training on Reading Disabilities and Content Learning through the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois (LVI) in Chicago. 

Reading Disabilities
This session covers the considerations and strategies for working with adults with learning disabilities who struggle with reading. Topics will include identifying skills needed to be a successful reader, discussing the four common types of Reading Disabilities and investigating some instructional strategies that can develop reading skills.

Content Learning
This session covers instructional approaches that can help adults with Learning Disabilities learn content from written materials. We will examine how to support content learning using explicit instruction principles and flexible learning tools such as graphic organizers. 

Click here to connect to LVI’s site and get all the details about the training including information about registration. 

This training is Modules 5 and 7 of the Learning to Achieve series of trainings that distills best available research on Learning Disabilities in adults.  Even if you are not working with a Learning Disabled student or students, the Content Learning portion of the training will provide solid instructional principles and techniques for use with all adult learners.  

For those of you who attended the Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning session at WPL at the end of February, that was an abbreviated version of Module 4 from the same training series.  If you won’t be able to make the training but are still interested in more info about Learning Disabilities, check out the online courses available through LINCS

Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning, Part 1

Post date: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 2:16pm

On February 27, a snowy Wednesday, Barbara Babb and Marlene McLeod provided a training session about Strategy Learning and Explicit Instruction for twenty tutors at the Waukegan Public Library. Marlene spoke first, describing Strategy Learning.

A strategy is an individual’s approach to a task—it’s a “how-to.” We all use strategies in daily life, whether plotting a route to a destination, cooking a meal, planning an event. Strategies help adult learners plan to accomplish a task, perform the task, monitor performance during the task, and evaluate their results. 

Marlene described a visualization strategy for reading comprehension. The steps to this strategy are:

  • Read part of the passage
  • Pay attention to “sense” words (hear, feel, touch, smell, taste, see)
  • Pause when you come to a sense word
  • Make a picture in your mind
  • Continue reading
  • Add details

Imagine how helpful this strategy would be for a student reading a poem, a story or a passage describing an historic event. As a tutor, you invite the student to “make a movie in your mind” and ask the student what he or she sees, hears, feels. You can make a plan with your student to read the piece twice, first focusing on senses, then focusing on the action of the characters.

Marlene’s second example provides a strategy for the writing process called TOWER. This mnemonic stands for:

  • Think about the topic: brainstorm, use prior knowledge, perhaps do some background reading
  • Organize your thoughts: use graphic organizers!
  • Write a draft: put thoughts into sentences and paragraphs
  • Engage in revision: make changes and corrections
  • Review: see if the writing communicates the message

This strategy helps adult learners understand that spending time and making revisions are an important part of the writing process—that writing does not have to be perfect the first time.

Strategies provide the steps, the “how-to” that help students become independent learners. Do you have a strategy that you’d like to share—a tutoring approach that you find helps an adult learner? Email Janet, jwigodner [at] waukeganpl [dot] info and we’ll share your strategy!             

Marlene McLeod is a special education teacher, certified in the state of Illinois, who has worked in the field of special education for over 30 years. She has taught in the classroom as well as provided teacher in-services, workshops and skills training. Marlene holds a B.S. in Psychology and a Masters in Special Education from the University of Illinois. Marlene’s primary concentration is in mentoring, teaching and training teachers.

Submitted by Patricia Burns and Janet Wigodner


Welcome New Tutors!

Post date: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 12:57pm

A new group received adult literacy tutor training from Laura Sherwood and Josh Anderson in February.  We welcome you to the Lake County Tutoring Program and look forward to working with you!

The next tutor training session is planned for June, with an orientation session on May 30. Please contact Josh, janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info or Laura, lsherwood [at] clcillinois [dot] edu for more information.  

The tutor training manual is now available on the Waukegan Public Library Be a Tutor web page. 

Back row:  Kevin Kleine, Steve Knutson, Nancy Schabell, Peg Fredrickson, Barbara Blair, Amy Onan, Kathryn Polyack, Bill Scheddin

Center row:  Robert Hunter, Leslie Fretzin, Holly Staunton, Jim Meyerhoff, Lynette Ahlquist, Traci Crowley, Sarah Paveglio

Front row:  Laura Sherwood, Domenica DiCosola, Josh Anderson 

New Tutoring and Computer Help Lab at Grayslake Campus

Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 3:25pm

Now there are two opportunities for adult learners to drop in and receive additional help in reading, writing, math or computer skills. These sessions are open to any Adult Basic Education (ABE) or GED student—any student involved in our tutoring program. Volunteer tutors are available at the drop-in sessions, ready to help!

 The new! drop-in lab is at the CLC Grayslake Campus:

  • Wednesdays, 12:30 to 2:30 pm
  • March 6 through May 8, 2013 (note: closed during week of Spring Break, March 27)
  • Building 4, Room 423
  • Free! Just drop in!
  • Questions? Contact Laura (847-543-2327) or Cheryl (847-543-2024)

Also, students can attend the drop-in lab at Waukegan Public Library:

  • Thursdays, 10:00am to Noon
  • January  through December
  • Literacy Suite Classroom and Computer Lab
  • Free! Just drop in!
  • Questions? Contact Josh (847-623-2041 x225) or Janet (847-623-2041 x222) 

Click to see flyers describing the CLC Grayslake Tutoring Lab and Waukegan Public Library Tutoring Lab.



How much more fun can grammar get?

Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 9:50am

It’s exciting when someone brings fun and energy to a grammar lesson. Which is right: “Maggie and I are going to the store” or “Me and Maggie are going to the store”? Watch this Chalking Points video with your student to find out. Enjoy!


Just in time for Valentine's Day

Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 8:22am

Looking for some romance reading for February? Romance stories are popular in movies and in print, and adult literacy students may find a romance to be just right for February!  Consider reading these books with your student…

From the Waukegan Public Library Literacy Collection:

Mrs. Whippy by Cecelia Ahern   Emelda is 46 years old, recently divorced, and struggling with a new job. For comfort she turns to ice cream, and just might find love in its pursuit.  Reading level: grade 2. Pages: 75.

The Goddaughter by Melodie Campbell    Gina would like to just run her little jewelry shop. But, she’s related to the local mob, and she and her new friend Pete are reluctantly recruited to smuggle diamonds across the border…with hilarious consequences.  Reading level: grade 3. Pages: 144.

The Builders by Maeve Binchy   Nan Ryan lives by herself at 14 Chestnut Road. When Derek Doyle, a handsome builder, arrives to work on the deserted house next door, the two work together to unravel the mystery of the previous residents’ disappearance. Reading level: grade 4. Pages: 87.

Available at most libraries:

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks  Katie arrives in a small North Carolina town and seems determined to avoid forming personal ties. But she’s drawn toward Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children, and Jo, her neighbor. She begins to enjoy her new, close-knit community—until her past catches up to her. Reading level:  grade 6.5. Available in large print.  Safe Haven, the movie, opens February 14.

Janet Wigodner