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U + Me Equals English Literacy

English Language and Literacy Volunteers SPEAK!

My Experience at AmeriCorps

It is a difficult task to describe my AmeriCorps experience and sum it up in a few short paragraphs. It’s been a life changing experience and I am not lying. I came to Pace University in New York City to work in the entertainment business as a Public Relations specialist. However, I began to volunteer at several events through the Center of Community Action and Research at Pace and through their newsletter, found this opportunity at AmeriCorps. I had no idea what I was in for when I got the volunteer position at AmeriCorps. I was placed at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) in the Lower East Side as a tutor and teaching assistant in their English Literacy classes. That happened close to one year ago.

Now I see myself working as an ESL teacher. After all the experiences I had at CPC, I became really interested in English Literacy in NYC. I began to create lessons and help out more and more in the classes as time went on during the year. I absolutely fell in love with teaching English to the adults in each class and just helping people. The AmeriCorps CVM program and CPC has been incredibly nice to me, giving me opportunities and experiences that I would never have imagined a year ago. Being in the classroom and office and working alongside a great staff at CVM and CPC has helped me grow into the committed, hard-working person I am now. I started college off with a rocky start, I must admit, but working for AmeriCorps at CPC has helped steer me to a better path and definitely a happier life. I cannot see myself working in the business field of PR like I had planned…The classroom is the only place I feel positive and can imagine myself to be.

Seniors Class

~Miki Tamura

Use Your Resources!

Teaching in the classroom is not the easiest thing in the world…especially when it comes down to teaching English. Along with the books that are available to you at The Center for Urban Education’s office, the internet is a great source. That is, if you know where to look. ESL teachers across the nation AND all over the world create websites with tips, lessons, and general information on teaching English. These I found helpful when I help create lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations for workshops, or tips on how to get a specific point across to the student. It is absolutely necessary to not only teach from the textbook, but also find lessons from outside that are interactive and make the learning experience fun.

Here are just a few websites with tons of information, lesson plans, activities, and tips on teaching English. It’s your job to make sure the class is not just reading out of a textbook. As we all know, going through high school and some college courses that we get bored of the material quickly. As committed as the ESL students may be in learning English, we have to remember to keep topics light and fun, and that by the end of the lesson, they have learned something! Break up all the writing work with general conversations. Ask simple questions about what students did over the weekend or even what they cooked and ate for dinner the previous night. So, look up online resources to help make the class creative and the way you teach fun, but knowledgeable!

~Miki Tamura

Lesson Planning for ELL

For AmeriCorps volunteers planning lessons to teach to students, an excellent resource is the Center for Urban Education (TCUE) office. There are books on different topics, from grammar to comprehension. My favorite books to create a lesson from are the ones with narratives. Short stories are excellent for the class to develop context comprehension and new vocabulary words. Even if you believe the story is too difficult for a lower level class, you can easily adapt the story by changing the vocabulary to simpler terms and bring pictures of things that are referred to in the story.

Over the summer, I was a teaching assistant in two different classes. One was a level 1 class and the other class was a level 4. The teachers from each of these classes gave me the chance to teach a lesson to the class for a day. So, when I went for my weekly meeting at TCUE, I looked at the selection of books they had available at the office. The one I picked out was called What a World and had many stories about cultures from around the world.  I chose stories that I thought would keep the students’ interest like the fattening room in Africa and the tales of Nasreddin Hodja. Since the stories were for higher level English students, I did not have to change them for the level 4 class, but I did have to adapt them for the level 1 class. It is really simple to do once you become conscious of what the vocabulary level is in a class. I made the story shorter, changed verbs to simple tense, and made sure that I had pictures that accompanied the text. The pictures help out so much when you cannot describe a noun easily!

The point of these lessons is to break the class away from rules and the textbook for a day to learn something interesting about the world. These stories help students learn more vocabulary and see the structure of a sentence and a story. They are also fun to teach! A lot of the stories and facts were things I never heard about before, so it was fascinating to me too when I learned about other cultures and their practices that I was not aware of before.

-Miki Tamura

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