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News & Updates for February 2019

newsThis month:


A note from the CEO

MAM clients take us many places...

“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others”.

When I heard these words, I knew right away that the speaker was a person of great integrity. No one who hasn’t experienced the ‘gift’ of giving truly understands this life lesson.

Over the past months, many of you have had contact with these “unexplained worlds”. It could have been the world of eviction, of losing a job, an unanticipated loss of wages, trying to navigate our immigration processes, reading a loan document for the first time or literally, a world with another spoken tongue.

MAM clients take us so many places! What a great way to experience the breadth and depth of humanity! Enjoy your travel in 2019 and I look forward to hearing what you have learned.

By the way, in case you were wondering, it was Barbara Bush who spoke about giving with such integrity. Isn’t she a wonderful tour guide?



Welcome to our newest team member

Phuc Nguyen: New Program Coordinator

We're overjoyed to be welcoming Phuc Nguyen to the MAM family, as the Wilcrest Program Coordinator. His regular schedule will be evenings, Tuesday to Thursday, and daytimes on Fridays and Saturdays.

Some of you will know Phuc already, because - like many staff and staff alums - he started at MAM Literacy Advance as a volunteer. Phuc volunteered as an ESL tutor throughout 2018 after completing his TESOL certification in 2017. He has great experience in the professional sector (mainly in accounting and finance) and now joins us in the wonderful and rewarding non-profit field, for new adventures. 

Please help us welcome him!


Your 2018 WINS for Literacy

We hope you didn't miss this wrap-up of a wonderful year...

We're looking back at 2018 in gratitude, and with a little bit of awe. So much was achieved, and there are so many wonderful possibilities ahead.

The 2018 list includes:

WIN #5: New pathways
WIN #4: A special anniversary
WIN #3: Amazing students
WIN #2: Amazing volunteers here to see the full list, including WIN #1!

As always, our abundant thanks to you, our steadfast supporters, volunteers, and friends. All these successes belong to you, and we are full of gratitude.


Office Volunteer Needed

We'd love your help!

You might have noticed - things are BUSY! Many classes have been starting over the last few weeks and along with all those new classes and students comes admin and paperwork.

Can you give us a hand with some of these tasks? Take a look at what we need here.


Help your fellow tutors

Give them the gift of an empty, clean room

Please help your fellow tutors start their class on time, by leaving your class on time!

We LOVE having so many students in classes this semester, but that means having to schedule many classrooms back-to-back. Please remember to start your journals 5 - 10 minutes before the end of your class so you can leave the room on time.

If you or your students need more time with your reflections, that's more than OK! The big table in the lobby is a place for you to spread out and take your time during our open business hours.


Training opportunities

Many ways to keep on learning

We know that there's strength (and joy!) in numbers, and we commit to supporting our volunteers in multiple ways. One of those is providing regular opportunities for continued learning.

Monday, February 18
Enrichment Workshop: Keeping Your Classroom Active

Saturday, March 30
Beginner Level ESL Classroom Activities

Wednesday, April 17
Presentation: Practical Tools to Help Tutors Take Advantage of Varied Abilities in the Adult Classroom

This presentation will be by Jayme Adelson-Goldstein, ESL teacher-trainer and co-author of the Oxford Picture Dictionary series – a favorite amongst MAM Literacy Advance tutors! 

Saturday, April 27
Annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium

Save the date! More details to come. This year, the symposium will be presented by Adult Reading Center, in conjunction with Literacy Texas.

Learn more about all of the above, and find how to RSVP.


Top Tutor Tips

Current events in the classroom

The Theme of the Month calendar (below) is just one way we bring timely, relevant information to students in the classroom. Another is through the News for You newspaper subscription, one of our most beloved resources.

Each week, we receive ten copies of the latest edition and display them in the Resource Room for you. Take one for each student to use in class, but please be careful that they don’t write in them, and remember to return them when you're done for the next group to use!

The stories in News for You are real-life, contemporary events published in Plain Language that's accessible to emerging adult readers. (Remember: Plain Language is not about "dumbing down", it's about making information accessible. This simplified newspaper allows adult students to read about adult topics in the language they're learning).

Each edition comes with a teacher’s guide to help structure your lesson, but there are so many more ways to use the newspaper! To prepare for your next Current Events lesson, consider spending time on the following activities:

1) Pre-reading: We often skip doing this because of time, but don't! Allowing students a few quiet minutes to skim the paper for photos and headlines will help create context for your upcoming lesson. Preparation is valuable!

2) Sequencing: After the class finishes reading an article together, pair your students up to sequence major events. What happened in the beginning of a story, the middle, and the end? By working together, they’ve just created a summary! Higher level classes might link this summary to cause and effect.

3) Crafting an opinion: When students work out of News for You, they’re doing so much more than just reading. They’re creating connections to outside information and forming new opinions (in English!) about the world around them. Ask students to reflect on what they’ve read, either orally or in writing, and discuss their opinions aloud to build confidence.

These are just a few of the ways we recommend using News for You in the classroom, but there are many more. 

A special reminder that we ask all volunteers to keep our classrooms neutral and accepting places. It is not appropriate for any of us to denigrate one political party or another within the classroom, or to otherwise seek to influence our students in their views or beliefs. Thank you for your help with this!

And remember to allow a few minutes at the end of class to reflect in your Tutor Journal on what worked best.

If you have any questions or comments about the strategies suggested here, contact Courtney at, or join our powerful online community Literacy Advance Tutor Support Group!


Theme of the Month

Taxes, taxes, taxes

Preparing taxes can be difficult and confusing for everyone. The resources for this month’s theme, Taxes, provide an extra focus on financial literacy, numeracy, and vocabulary for learners of all levels.

Beginner-level students can learn to name and recognize important tax forms, like the W-2, with materials from Living in America. Using the flashcards from this book is a great way to engage students while helping them to learn more about filling out their taxes. Pair students (especially those who don’t share a native language!) to quiz each other in class.

Another favorite, LifeScenes LifeSkills, provides exercises on taxes for students at the intermediate and advanced levels. With one exercise, students can practice calculating income tax deductions using the formulas provided. In another, students can read about the importance of IRA accounts and how to plan for the future with a tax refund.

Finding material on the internet is risky: it’s often difficult to tell what’s reputable and high-quality, and many literacy exercises are actually aimed at children, so not ideal for use with adults. This month, though, we’ve scoured the IRS website to select the best resources for your classes. In the Resource Room, you’ll find lessons about Payroll Taxes and Federal Income Tax Withholding and a fact sheet that includes a blank W-4. You can make copies of the fact sheet for each one of your students to practice in class.

Remember to point out the Student Information Board to your class, where they’ll find important, timely information about events and activities going on in their neighborhood. The information on the board changes often, so students are encouraged to look at it every week.

This month, students will see information on the board about where they can find FREE tax preparation centers close to home. BakerRipley has a dozen centers in the Houston area to help families with FREE, quality tax preparation. You can help your students find the closest location to their home so that they don't seek out paid services this year.

Students can take a picture of the flyer with their phone, or take a copy home. Extra copies of the BakerRipley Tax Center flyer are available in Information Center in the lobby.

The rest of the year:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
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 and better alternatives
May Housing Paperwork needed to sign a lease; rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners
June  Jobs How to apply for jobs; interview skills; what's typical in a US-style resume 
July  Getting Ready for School  Getting kids ready to go back to school; options at school including after-school care and clubs
August Shopping & Restaurants  Houston Restaurant Weeks; loyalty clubs and benefits; online shopping risks and benefits 
September  Immigration & Citizenship  Requirements for U.S. citizenship including eligibility, paperwork, and fees
October Health    Health Literacy Month; questions to ask the doctor; advocating for your own health; open enrollment in the ACA
November Libraries   What's available at your local library? What does the library provide online? 
Theme of the Month on hiatus for December

Every month, we will feature resources and ideas that match the theme. Discovered something excellent? Let us in on your secrets! Talk to Colleen with ideas and new resources that match the theme.


quality, free tax preparation

Tax Centers open NOW

Our friends at BakerRipley are offering FREE tax preparation at multiple sites across Houston. You can find a full listing in both English and Spanish, along with a map, at this link.

One of the biggest sites is MAM Blalock. Last year, 71 volunteers prepared 3,236 free tax returns at Memorial Assistance Ministries, saving our neighbors nearly $1 million in tax preparation fees. More than $4.7 million in refunds were issued from the MAM location!

Please tell your students about this FREE service. There are flyers (English and Spanish) in the Information Center in the Wilcrest foyer, or students can take a photo on their phones. If the students have questions, please refer them to Diana Delgado, the MAM Literacy Advance Transition Coach.

NOTE: Here's a checklist from BakerRipley, indicating what students should bring with them to make their tax meeting as productive as possible.


Notice anything different?

We want to hear from you!

Longtime MAM Literacy Advance tutors will notice a few changes in ESL classroom journals this year (check out that great new photo on the cover, just for starters!), but we want to hear from EVERYONE about your experiences with them.

Please keep us updated with any feedback you have after your first few lessons. You can write your reflections in the journal itself, or share your thoughts with Colleen.

Thank you for keeping reflection a central part of your classes again this year - it's crucial for your students, as well as for you as their tutor. MAM Literacy Advance journals have been named a Promising Practice by ProLiteracy U.S., and include some best practices in Adult Learner Persistence (as well as being a source of information for you and for us, your support staff). If you have questions or comments about the journals - please let us know!


Quality Resources from ProLiteracy

The latest edition of Notebook

ProLiteracy's Notebook is full of resources for those involved in adult education - and that's YOU!

In the latest edition:

Reading: Teaching Editorial Cartoons

Numeracy: "Stand and Talks" for Math

Writing: 6 Ways to Use Picture Books

Writing: Writing With Pictures

Exploring Resources


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:

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.


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

Spring Semester 2019:
Monday, January 14 - Friday, May 24

Closed for Easter:
Friday, April 19 & Saturday, April 20

Annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium
Saturday, April 27

Spring Graduation
Tuesday, May 28 (TBC)


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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