RI adult education minigrants 2005/6

about the minigrants:

In 2004, adult educators undertook a process whereby practitioners developed criteria for professional development minigrants, after which a call for participation was issued. Those criteria appear below, along with a brief review of the process we undertook. We discussed various kinds of professional development - and how or why such activity has been helpful (or not) to us in our various roles (teachers, program administrators, professional development providers). We brainstormed qualities of good professional development as well as possible professional development activities we could undertake. Qualities named included professional development that has depth, occurs over an extended period of time, is ongoing and supported (by program directors, grants themselves and within a culture that promotes continued learning).

Possible activities include peer mentoring/master teacher exchanges, observation of one another's classes (within / across programs), manager shares - to discuss programmatic issues), and professional development days, such as those provided to public school practitioners; We also talked about inquiry and mini-grant projects, program-wide shares, book/article discussion groups and study circles. Johan Uvin recently mentioned the importance of professional development that focuses on adult learning - how do adults learn? How can we work to optimize learning? - as a powerful topic, along with examinations of learner persistence and learner retention.

Other ideas discussed for possible professional development activity:

- integration of technology into adult learning
- workplace education
- me to substitute teach at your program so that staff can observe one another's classes (you don't pay me to sub; you may, however, wish to pay a substitute teacher if you'd like a particular teacher to come to your program)
- use funds to enable program staff to meet and share ideas regularly - possibly while simultaneously encouraging learners to meet to develop learner leadership within programs) and/or use funding to pay for substitute teachers in order to not disrupt classes. (This is a chronic and critical issue. Many practitioners dislike using class time for PD, feeling it cheats students of time they need. Others feel that this investment in PD ultimately serves students well as it strengthens our ability to provide quality instruction. Yet others consider middle ground - use the time for students to meet together to share ideas, work on learner leadership, view/discuss videos, peer-tutor, etc.)
- offer minigrant/stipends for programs and /or individuals to pursue program shares (some funding for meals, teacher time)

LR/RI disseminates information about conferences and professional development activities, and helps coordinate and facilitate practitioner sharing sessions, and had also facilitated practitioner-based research projects. Given the relatively low number of practitioners working on research projects (in 2004) and the opportunity here to broaden the scope to include different sorts of professional development activity, it made sense to open this piece of the process to the field, to determine how you/your program could best make use of these relatively limited funds. In many instances, professional development is occurring within programs, but not always across them, nor do we have sufficient opportunities to learn from one another.

In order to allocate the funding productively, LR/RI began a process whereby stipends can be disbursed for the range of activities listed above. Some (such as observation within programs) are low or no cost; other require food, materials, and all require (either to reflect and write, meet and share) time. As we consider the transitions ahead of us in terms of adult ed as a system, this is one opportunity to develop our ideas and see where they take us.

Applicants were asked to develop a proposal outlining

- purposes, goals and intentions in undertaking the work - What do you hope to accomplish? What will be positively affected by your/your progam's participation in such an undertaking?
- planned timeline/process - What will you do? What's the timeline?
- anticipated outcomes - Will you write a report, host a sharing session or workshop to let others know about the work you did and its possible applications to their work? - collaboration/resource utilization - How/will you combine funding/ resources with existing program resources and/or funding for professional development to maximize the usefulness of your time and funding Will you be working with another program or other programs or individuals?
- so what? Why do you care about this project/undertaking and what do you believe it will contribute to the field?
Written reports will be posted to the LR/RI website; workshops, materials that might be developed, or processes that are otherwise documented will also be shared through the website.

Scheduled PD activity/events for the program year, and related on-line resources:

ongoing shares

RI conference, May 11, 2006

Other conferences - calendar at http://www.brown.edu/lrri/bulletin.html

Local/national list servs (see, for example, http://www.nifl.gov/lincs - click on Discussions button

New teacher orientation: http://www.brown.edu/lrri/teacherorient.html

The following projects are being undertaken during the 2005/6 program year:

Bob Geake is continuing advocacy work with adults with developmental disabilities through ENOBLE: ENabling Opportunity by Lifelong Education

His continuation proposal"

We are asking for this mini grant to help in a small way with the continued development of E.N.O.B.L.E., a volunteer based organization that is striving to implement a new way in which adults with dis! abilities can receive continuing education.

Objective: Having in the past year, established a membership among adults with disabilities, parents and siblings as well as professionals already working with developmentally disabled adults, we have begun to assess the state wide need based on results of our survey sent out last June. While we are still getting survey responses from agencies and centers that provide services, the results so far show an even greater need than expected in our communities, and reaffirms our organizations purpose.

We now need to reach out that purpose to colleges in the state and recruit student and adult volunteers who will help us provide the types of education needed. We also need to establish a relationship with volunteer organizations who may be able to provide some of these needs as well.

In the coming year, we plan to promote E.N.O.B.L.E. by mailing pamphlets that spell out the need and with biographies of adults with disabilities who have overcome the obstacles this population faces to succeed in both education and in life to become vital members of their community.

We plan to meet with agency directors as a follow up to the survey, and with college student volunteer coordinators throughout the state to recruit teachers and mentors who can provide some of the educational services needed in their own communities.

We plan to expand E.N.O.B.L.E as well by following through with contac! ts made in the past year and expressions of support and interest from many people including Dr Robert Karl and the director of Disability Support Services at Brown University.

We plan also to promote ongoing education for adults with disabilities by continuing to recruit members from Rhode Island's Developmentally disabled population. There is strength in numbers and we intend to grow in order to make our goal possible.

Outcome: By continuing to grow and develop the resources needed to achieve our goal, we hope to be another step closer to that aim.By the end of next year we plan to provide services through these resources to Agencies and individuals who have presented the greatest need .

contact Robert Geake

Katherine Meyer

This is a proposal for a minigrant to work with Janet Isserlis to adapt her ESOL Basics Workshop, for Rhode Island teachers. Having attended the workshop, I believe it would provide an enriching and useful experience for our teachers and translate into more student learning. Because some elements of the workshop were specific to Massachusetts' reporting requirements, modifications to the original workshop would be necessary. Using a survey to elicit content RI teachers would like to see, we could ascertain what our community wants to know and include that. I bring to the endeavor my TESOL certificate training, which embodied the same values as Janet's workshop of participatory, student-centered learning; one year of part-time ESL teaching at the International Institute of Rhode Island; and my participation in and enthusiasm for Janet's original workshop. Nazneen Rahman at IIRI is willing to host the new workshop, which will give our teachers an extra incentive to be involved.


o Introduce to or re-inspire in adult ESL teachers a participatory, student-centered approach in the classroom.

o Focus on classroom activities that promote students' becoming independent learners.

o Involve teachers from various agencies in RI in setting the goals for the workshop (at the very least, people from the Genesis Center group shares); this process will build community and model goal-setting with students.

o Focus on new or upcoming RIDE reporting mandates, including setting student goals and measuring and documenting student achievement, and how to manage and fulfill them effectively using student-centered methods.

o Enable participants to use the methods and ideas to create and present their own workshop to other teachers, either in their particular agency, or in RI. The ensuing workshops would be based on the needs and desires of teachers, and would give teachers one of the experiences they want for their students: to take what they learn and apply it to their own situation. This will also promote professionalism in ESL teaching.


o At the ESOL share in December, announce the project and hold a focus group to ascertain what teachers are interested in learning from such a workshop. As a group, develop a survey for those present to bring back to their agencies to get more ideas from teachers. Ask for the results of this survey in 2 weeks. Organize the results.

o Decide with Janet what the timeframe should be.

o Publicize the workshop.

o Work with Janet to decide what content to keep or modify.

o Work with IIRI on logistics of hosting.

o Work with Janet to organize new workshop, including getting materials, handouts, props, technology, etc. and to develop participatory activities to model student-centered teaching

o Present the workshop in late winter, early spring.

o Teachers will return to their agencies and present the workshop in the fall of 2006.

Anticipated Outcomes:

o A 12-hour workshop in April 2006 for ESL teachers from various agencies in the state.

o Participants in the workshop will tailor and present it to other teachers in the fall of 2006.

o Participants will feel like part of a community of ESL teachers, with the result that more communication and sharing of resources, ideas, and techniques will take place between teachers from different agencies. This can be measured in part by participant evaluations and by follow-up workshops that get presented.

o New teachers will be afforded a substantial introduction to a student-centered approach and experienced teachers will be renewed by taking part in activities and working with colleagues. This can also be measured in part by participant evaluations.

o IIRI's hosting of the workshop will encourage more participation on the part of IIRI teachers, with concomitant benefits for them and for our students.

Summary of SABES workshops

Most participants were K-12 teachers new to adult education, who had taken on teaching ESL at night after a full day of working with young people. Others were volunteers or brand new teachers. Most were subject to Massachusetts Dept. of Ed. reporting mandates.

First Session:

Janet first passed around a sign-in sheet; then immediately began to model goal-setting with the group by asking each participant our name, what we do, and what question we wanted addressed in the workshop. She said she had thoughts and a structure for it, but that within that, the group could shift toward whatever was important to us.

Next, she asked what questions would be appropriate for us to ask each other to get to know one another, and wrote our responses on newsprint. She partially filled in a chart with categories of Name, Likes To, Other Job by asking us the requisite questions. Then she had us ask the questions of the person next to us. Finally, she performed the jazz chant "Personal Questions", which establishes boundaries so people don't feel compelled to answer intrusive queries. Janet modeled eliciting knowledge that people already know, and using the chart to stretch content: students provide the content; the teacher embeds the language structure in it.

After this, we engaged in free writing about the last class we taught, or any other topic, and we discussed what we wrote with the person next to us. This led to a group conversation, during which Janet elicited from us concerns in the classroom, e.g., multi-level classes, setting student goals, accountability to students/funders, building community, scaffolding, student fears, L1 knowledge, etc. Throughout, Janet mentioned good resources, like Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy MacIntosh

At her behest, we defined adult learners as parents, workers, college grads, teenagers, undocumented immigrants, and also as critical thinkers, people isolated by not having the dominant language or culture, and people who face discrimination. Janet handed out a Language and Literacy circular graphic organizer of What Matters to Learners.

Finally, Janet handed out slips of paper with sentences about adult ESL instruction on them, e.g., "Language learning is a recursive process and not entirely sequential." In groups of three, we discussed the sentences and then reported to the group what we thought about these sometimes provocative statements. Clearly, this was a way that students could talk about goals in the classroom. Also, I realized that during the course of the four hours, we discussed things in pairs, groups of three, and with all participants at once.

At the end, Janet handed out a number of articles and lists of resources. The articles covered Learner-Generated Materials, Dialogue Journals, Project-Based Learning , etc. I found these articles inspiring and germane to my own teaching.

Second Session:

First, we went around the circle telling our names and asking any questions we had. Then Janet asked us to draw a grid. She asked a comprehension-checking question to be sure we knew how to read a grid, and mentioned real-life grids that learners would encounter. She elicited things we wanted to find out, and had us make our own grid for a "Find someone who╔" exercise, which she said could be a recursive event in the classroom. We all did the exercise, which got us talking to each other right away.

Next, Janet led a group discussion about the issues of second language acquisition, including transferring L1 knowledge to the L2, how the L2 is learned, cultural/paralinguistic parameters, motivation, the environment/context, survival, preserving the L1, etc. Then she demonstrated transparency by explaining that she would hand out an article that we would all read, but she broke it into paragraphs and us into pairs. Each pair read one paragraph, discussed it, and reported to the group. This would be an effective exercise in my classroom, to break reading into chunks and to help students to be able to retell what they'd read.

We made a foray into the SABES resource room. What an inspiring place!

Then we tackled setting student goals. As Janet wrote on the board, we called out possible characteristics of a goal, e.g., short/long term, realistic, school's/funders'/student's/teacher's, measurable, sometimes culturally driven, or privileging certain goals over others. Who decides what the goals should be? Does the teacher guide or prescribe? Janet talked about using a student-centered, emergent curriculum to back into goals. One of her suggestions was to explain goals to students as something they'd already learned, e.g., learning that vocabulary was a goal and the goal was reached. Another idea was to look at how well students think they've done with various activities. Janet urged us to take the onus off the documentation of student achievement by doing the reporting as we go along. This discussion, with its specific ideas, made goal-setting seem more manageable.

Janet handed out yellow cards with one frame from the picture story "My Wife Doesn't Work". Each one had a woman homemaker/mother and the time. Janet asked us to work in pairs to create a lesson plan based on the picture. This exercise is always a good reminder of how much instructional richness can be gleaned from one simple prop, plus it emphasizes the value of lesson-planning. After we'd all made some kind of lesson plan, we called out activities and pedagogical purposes, e.g., cultural comparisons/gender roles, daily routines, dialogues, time, embedding grammar, building vocabulary, adverbs of frequency, etc. Finally, Janet handed out the whole sheet of pictures, which went together to make a story, and then asked us to plan a lesson for our own class which could be based on this or another picture story. To close, she asked what we learned in that session and wrote it on the board. This is another way to show students they're making progress.

Third Session:

To start, Janet asked us for our name and the time we left home to get to the workshop, then she asked us what lessons could be created from that list: Where did you come from? What time did you leave home? How did you get here? Who came earlier? Who came later?

Janet asked for feedback on the handouts, whose quantity had caused some consternation among participants. She also went over the agenda. I could ask students for feedback in the same way.

Next, we did free writing about our last class or a concern in the classroom, discussed our writing with a partner, and reported to the whole group what we'd discussed. Some of the concerns were: topical material vs. the Plan, how to put grammar in context, how to work with the same content in multiple ways, the significance of younger and younger "adult" students (16-year-old high school dropouts), whether the Frameworks benefit teachers or students, and how to set goals and identify the steps necessary to achieve them. In both the second and third sessions, Janet was responding to participant feedback about wanting to spend more time sharing classroom experiences and problems with peers in the group.

A couple of people brought in material they use to help students set goals. The people from Stoughton, MA have some experience now with their method, which they described, and which they find effective. It consists of a handout to get students started, and each student writes in a journal once a month answering these questions in relation to their goal: "What have you done? What will you do? How can we help you?" We discussed the importance of incorporating goals into content. From IIRI, I brought in the picture-based sheets we adapted from the Stoughton model, to which we added different categories of goals.

One idea to help students understand the concept of goals was to set a goal at the beginning of a class; at the end of the class, point out students' progress toward it. One technique I mentioned that I use in my classroom is to give students a checklist for comprehension of vocabulary words and questions they've worked on, so that they can see for themselves that they're learning. Janet re-emphasized ongoing documentation, preferably on a weekly basis, and she talked about other ways to engender students' self-assessment, such as, at the end of a class, a list of words learned, or a dictation of new words in context.

After another individual lesson-planning period, we discussed the article "Beginning Learners' Advice to Their Teachers"; then we proceeded to the Frameworks. Janet encouraged the Massachusetts teachers by saying that, as teachers, they were already doing what was required, but that now they had to document it in a particular way.

Victoria Richter, Pawtucket School Department COZ Adult Education


During the past year we have developed a 20-lesson interactive curriculum for beginner level students taught by a novice teacher. The curriculum includes minute-by-minute lesson plans, activities, handouts, games, TPR sequences, etc. The curriculum has been finalized and the master copy is being printed now. We would like to host a professional development event (Workshop) for interested teachers and administrators from all RI adult education programs where the curriculum will be introduced, walked through and, finally, a copy will be given to each participant or program.

We are seeking funding to provide remuneration for the presenter, cost of refreshments, and printing costs.


The purpose of the Curriculum is to assist new teachers in developing understanding of the ESOL teaching process using traditional as well as new communicative teaching techniques and various teaching methodologies. Teachers will learn how to work with all sorts of material which they will expand and improve in the process of use. They will be able to design their own comprehensive lesson plans and curricula using what they have learned in the Workshop. Since the Curriculum uses examples from some of the commercially published materials and Internet teaching resources, it will serve as an introduction to the most popular publications existing in the ESOL field (Jazz Chants, True Stories, Action English Pictures, Oxford Picture Dictionary, Discovery Puzzles) and encourage them to continue using these resources.

The purpose of the Workshop will be to introduce participants to the format and structure of the Curriculum, discuss its advantages and shortcomings, and to demonstrate some of the techniques as well as the use of the numerous handouts.


The expected positive outcomes of the Workshop will be a significant increase in understanding beginners' teaching goals, understanding and use of various effective teaching techniques , sharpening teachers' expectations of beginners' abilities, substantial increase in teachers' ability to write lesson plans and to understand continuity of teaching, some increase in theoretical knowledge of language acquisition.

A brief pre- and post- evaluation will be completed to measure the outcomes.


The Workshop will take place sometime in the period from March 1 to April 30. We will design a poster and send it to various RI Adult Education Programs, place an ad in the LR/RI Bulletin, advertise through personal contacts with instructors and administrators of the Programs.

We will print copies of the Curriculum as soon as we have a final count of the participants.


The importance of this project is manifold: the turnover of ESOL instructors in RI is fairly high considering the fluctuation of funding and scarcity of benefits. Many programs have to hire new teachers every semester. The majority of the teachers come from different fields of education, some from non-related fields. Many programs don't have enough funds and manpower to provide extensive training to the newly hired instructors and some programs cannot afford to buy textbooks. Even if the textbooks are purchased, they often arrive weeks later after the beginning of the classes. New instructors who teach beginner students face the most challenge: they are dealing with students whose needs are most urgent and whose educational level is often low. They need the knowledge and ability to approach these students in the most sensitive, effective and positive way. The curriculum provides just that type of knowledge and experience.

As mentioned above, the curriculum has been tested by three teachers whose ESOL teaching experience and knowledge have been shaped by it significantly. The Curriculum is self-explanatory and user-friendly, however, all the instructors who have adopted it have had additional training that facilitated its use. We believe that the Curriculum will be as beneficial to instructors from other Programs as it has been within our Program.

The Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI)


The purpose of this proposal is to request funding for teacher sharing of their learning from an online course. Two ESL Computer Teachers, Amy Hanson and Liz Westhead, will be participating in the on-line course "Integration of Technology Using the Internet" from The Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee and the Ohio Literacy Resource Center at Kent State University through their program Adult Education Professional Development (AEPRO). The course will take place in January and February 2006. RIFLI Lead, ESL Computer and Children's teachers and administrators will be invited to the sharing workshop. Prior to and following the workshop, there will be a series of four (4) moderated online discussions with ESL Computer Teachers about the successes, challenges and resources of integrating technology into the adult ESL curriculum. Also planned is a teacher share on topics of computer integration in the ESL curriculum. Teachers from area literacy organizations will be invited.


The goal of the teacher sharing is to have two practicing and motivated teachers share their professional development experience with other practicing teachers. One of the goals of the workshop is to foster collegiality and peer learning among our staff. Additionally, the workshop will be hands-on so that teachers can address their areas of deficit in integrating technology and develop specific, usable activities for their students. The online discussion will ensure that learning is ongoing and meaningful by providing a forum for idea exchange.


The outcomes include: (i) reporting of current trends in technology integration; (ii) fostering of peer/team/program learning; (iii) the opportunity for teachers to share in program staff development; and (iv) the creation of ready-to-use classroom activities using the Internet.

Planned timeline/process

1. A on-line survey will be sent to invited participants on February 20th with responses due by February 27th. The purpose of the survey is to identify topics of interest ( list to be taken from the topics taught in the AEPro course). This will form the basis for the workshop.

2. The workshop will be planned for April, 2006 after the completion of the online course (during school vacation when classes are not scheduled).

3. A series of four (4) moderated on-line discussions will take place prior and after the workshop among RIFLI staff about the challenges and successes of using computers in the classroom (week of March 20th, April 3rd, April 17th, and May 1st).

4. A teacher share meeting will be planned for Tuesday, April 4th.

*All dates are tentative


The proposal combines a commitment in funding from RIFLI for the AEPro course tuition. The workshop will extend the resources committed to this staff development to our entire staff. The share will provide collaboration among area literacy organizations.

Value of proposal

The integration of technology into the adult ESL curriculum is very challenging. There is no prescribed method - teachers must integrate their skills in language and technology and educational strategies. One of the best ways of doing this is through the discussion and hands-on based premise of this workshop. The online discussion will allow teachers to experiment, explore and share.

Read Karisa's final report.

Contact information: Karisa Tashjian, Civics and Technology Coordinator, 401-455-8041, Karisa Tashjian

page created January 10, 2006

updated 14 August, 2006

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