DATES FOR YOUR CALENDAR
MBCAL Board Meetings4th Thursdays, call for
location and time
No meetings July, August, and December
From the editor:
As the year draws to a close, it might be a good time to look at some of the thoughts other people have on the subject of adult literacy. The MBCAL Chair Phil Fultz aims his columns at tutors and students in our local community. Other writers may cover a broader perspective, but both can be valuable to our thinking. Here are some samples.
ARE WE DUCKS OR UNICORNS?
"We Are All Ducks: Othering and Enlightened Self-Interest in the Nonprofit Sector" by Vu Le "I thought we were all unicorns, making the world better by stabbing injustice in the face," you may say. But we are also ducks. Sometimes, without realizing it, we see ourselves as nice people standing on the bank of a lake throwing bread at hungry ducks in the water. "Your bread helped fifty ducks," we say to our donors.
But why do we think of the people we serve (ducks) as "others?" Groups that make more money than other groups may feel that they only need to benefit their own group members. But what about the groups that make less money? These people are also part of our society, and we are going to meet them in many ways in our communities now and in the future.
To connect this thought to adult literacy and to tell people who read why they should care about people who don't, think about your wider community. Bringing everyone up to a functional level benefits not just them (ducks) but also those who help them (unicorns). The good flows both ways as those people who learn to read as adults may still become bank tellers, teachers, or auto mechanicsall people who contribute their individual talents to the whole. Maybe these are people worth investing in for our own sakes, not just theirs.
"All of us are ducks, sharing one lake....The success of our world depends on us believing that we are all interconnected. Only when we get people to realize that we are all ducks, can we all be unicorns."The Nonprofit Quarterly, Fall 2019, 32-35
MARGINAL THINKING by Phil Fultz One of the problems we as tutors have is our students' lack of self-esteem. That's not surprising since their inability to read has subjected them to ridicule, and a feeling of failure for most of their lives. Here's some help.
MBCAL newsletter Oct-Nov-Dec 2019 p.2
This is most easily used when you are reading text on a computer screen. Simply adjust the right margin so that it cuts off some letters Then ask the student to tell you what the truncated word is. Because the student has significant experience after all, s/he's been using the language, rather than reading it, for yearsit will be clear to the student what the word must be. The effect for the student will be that s/he sees that s/he has insight, intelligence, and even fluency that had never been a part of his/her assessment. With that consciousness, students and tutors can make progress more quickly and thoroughly.
The process is similar with the printed page. When the student is reading from the page either alone or echoing, at the page there is usually the beginning of a thought or statement that will be completed after turning the page. Again, the tutor asks, "What is the next word (or thought) beginning on the next page." Here it is possible that the student will come up with a synonym for the actual printed word. Excellent! Here's an opportunity to show, not tell, the student what synonyms are. Suddenly, the student feels more in control of this troublesome language, and both student and tutor have a really good day.
CALENDARS by Phil Fultz This is the time of year when many of us receive one or more calendars in the mail or from friends or merchants, often more than we can even begin to use ourselves.
What to do with the extras? How about giving them to our students? Certainly our students understand the need for them to keep appointments. These may be as simple as a child's birthday or as important as keeping a court date. Doctor's visits? Rent payments? Garbage pick-up days? All can be entered in the little blocks on your calendar in words or pictures. The squares are not large, so there isn't room for many words. Students will have to choose what words or symbols will remind them of what they need to know. If you wish to refer to your calendar, you will have to carry it with you. Looking at it and writing in it regularly will help develop a habit of reading and writing, even a little at a time. If our students become more comfortable by starting with smaller bits of language, that will be a step forward to proficient use of their new literacy.
"HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT WE KNOW? Mysteries of Language Acquisition" by Richard Lederer "Language is like the air we breathe. It's invisible. It's all around us. We can't get along without it. Yet we take it for granted. But when we truly listen to the sounds that escape from people's faces and luminesce on their computer screens, we discover how mysteriously intricate language is.
"To begin with the most basic of questions, how do we ever learn what words are? Language is like a flowing stream sweeping onward with few discernible breaks in the flow. When we hear someone speaking a foreign language that we do not understand, we find that we cannot pluck words from the rushing river of speech. To an infant in the early stages of development, what ultimately becomes its native tongue is at first also a foreign language. Studies have shown that even for adults, who already have a vocabulary, the physical cues that divide spoken words are vague and unreliable.
MBCAL newsletter Oct-Nov-Dec 2019, p.3
"Try, for example, to stake out the boundaries between no notion and known ocean, buys ink and buys zinc, meteorologist and meaty urologist, cat's kills, cat skills, and Catskills.
"Even when we acquire our words and their meanings, how do we learn to string words together into statements?
"I'm thinking about a group of scholars. There are five of them. They are from Lithuania, they are old, and they are experts on Shakespeare. Now describe these men, using all the information I have just provided. Voila! Your cluster of words is almost certainly 'those five old Lithuanian Shakespearean scholars.' Every native or experienced adult speaker knows to put the adjectives in the order above. How do we learn the exact order of that sequence demonstrative pronounnumber-adjective-nationality-adjectivenoun, marching in a line? ....
"Now picture a building. Five feet from that building is parked a bicycle. Now state the relationship between the building and the bicycle using the phrase 'next to.' Just about every speaker of English will say, 'The bicycle is next to the building.'...
"Young children are as likely to say 'The building is next to the bicycle,'... but somewhere around three years of age, they learn to prefer, 'The bicycle is next to the building.' even though no teacher teaches them such a sequence. Apparently, some internalized rule informs us that we place the larger object or more important person second in a sequence in the same way that we know to say, 'My sister met the Pope' rather than 'The Pope met my sister.'But who teaches us such a rule, and how do we learn it?
"In order to speak, we humans must possess a highly complex set of internalized rules that enable us to utter only the permissible sequence in a given language even though we are unlikely to have any conscious knowledge of the rules. In school we learn that pronouns can replace nouns....Thus 'I looked the word up' and 'I looked it up' are legitimate English sentences. But, how do we learn that we can't replace 'I looked up the word' with 'I looked up it'?....
"Whether or not we have intellectually mastered the intricacies of distinguishing transitive from intransitive verbs, we know exactly when we can and cannot use them in a sentence. Even if we have never studied the rules of grammar in school, we human beings learn them deep down in the circuitry of our brains.
"What do we know about language that we do not know we know?"
GREETINGS OF THE SEASON
We at the MBCAL wish all our friends, colleagues, and supporters a happy holiday season however you choose to celebrate it. Special thanks go to Daniel and Sona Stork, who upgraded their membership to Life Members, and to MJ Fiocco, who recently became an MBCAL board member. Welcome! Daniel and MJ are also tutors.
We tutors will also rejoice in students who have gotten new or better jobs, learned to deal with present and past participles in order to be able to express themselves more clearly, and managed to pronounce correctly the previously unpronounceable. Sometimes small successes can be as important as bigger ones.