All day doing paperwork, filling out forms, and then I'm off to see one of my one-on-one learners to do...
S'alright though. It wasn't all paperwork. She asked a question about those new Facebook privacy settings (which I could answer) and about organizing her Gmail (which I couldn't).
Then we looked through the exercises she'd completed after reading Pat Neuman's That's What Friends Are For.
We've been working through Ms. Neuman's materials - easy read stories for adults, available on NALD - over the past month. If you're interested, you might start with The Blanket. But be warned, these aren't the light and airy tales of Australian good humour. The Blanket, written by Neuman and illustrated by Margie Hildebrand (with design and set-up by Linda Turbyne and the support of the Pembina Valley Learning Centre in the Canadian province of Manitoba) is a tale of illness, loss, grief, anger and bittersweet resolution.
A 2004 story in the newspaper Morden Times (Morden is just southwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba) says Neuman's books arose from her frustration "at the lack of age-appropriate reading material for her Stage 1 and 2 students."
"There's just very little published material for that stage of adult learners," says Neuman.
And especially not for her students, most of whom come from Mexico.
"One of the biggest needs," says Neuman, "was for reading material easy enough for them to just sit down and read."
And so, over the years, Neuman wrote her own stories based on students' experiences and prepared accompanying worksheets, to give her students opportunities to practice reading and comprehension skills.
Eventually, she cast about to see if others shared her frustration. Then, equipped with letters of support, she and Learning Centre manager Cheryl Campbell obtained NLS funding for the creation of five well-received books.
"Laurie (Sawatzky of the Pembina Valley Language-Education for Adults) said she had given them to some of her students to read," said Neuman. "She said she didn't think any of her students were really ready to read books yet, and here they were, reading. They spent about two hours one night just sitting and reading."
And that's what it's all about for Neuman, early stage learners reading actual books and enjoying it.
My learner has been especially pleased with the worksheets, which offer lots of repetition with basic words. She's not ESL, but she is a new Canadian, and still weak in phonemic knowledge. In any case, the worksheets are considerably more dense than, say, what comes with the PRACE books (though PRACE also has fuller worksheets available).
For my own part, I've been trying to pay close attention to the exercises that seem most effective and engaging. I think I'm going to try to mimic the best ones when I pull together my own lower-level readers.
(More on that soon.)
FYI - the Pembina Valley Learning Centre, Winkler MB, offers adult literacy, computer and essential employability skills, and help for individuals wanting to participate in further employment and training. Winker is, well, just down the street from Morden. I don't know anything about Pembina Valley, except it seems to mostly be a road.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.