Thursday, December 3, 2015

MCC Scholarships

Students can now begin applying for MCC Foundation scholarships for the 2016-2017 academic year.

The online form is available at:

Paper applications are also available in various locations on campus and in the President’s office. 
Deadline date is MARCH 1, 2016.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Teaching ELL Pre-literacy to Adult English Learners

I found the hand out on Developing Phonological Awareness that I got from the Iowa Culture and Language Conference (ICLC) 2015 to be very useful in teaching the ELL pre-literacy class we are now offering in Muscatine.  Most of the students who are attending this class are illiterate not only in English but also in their own language. 

Phonological awareness is the awareness of sounds and speech that a person makes or hears.  Here are the different types of phonological awareness in English:
  1. Word Awareness is the knowledge that words have meaning. Example: a student needs to know that the spoken word dog represents a creature that has four legs and barks before he or she can understand the meaning of the printed word dog.
  2. Rhyme Awareness is the understanding that certain word endings sound alike, and therefore contain the same sounds.
  3. Syllable Awareness is the awareness that words are divided into parts, each part containing a separate vowel sound.
  4. Phonemic Awareness is the awareness of the smallest units of sound in a word.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Acquiring English as a Foreign Language

I presented my master’s thesis at the MIDTESOL 2015 conference in October. The foci of my presentation were on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theories, curriculum design, and instructional strategies for teaching adult English learners.

SLA theories provide insights into how adult English learners acquire a new language. The foremost goal of any ELL course curriculum and instructional strategies is to assist English learners in acquiring the ability to communicate in English. Therefore, the available SLA theories should be examined when exploring second language development and learning outcomes of adult English learners. Here are some of the insights that I keep in mind when I teach my ELL students:

  • Collaborative learning encourages learners to use prior knowledge and experiences to construct new knowledge 
  • Adult learners accumulated a growing reservoir of experience which is rich in resources for the purpose of learning 
  • They acquire the grammatical features naturally, when learners are engaged in a meaningful use of the language
  • Comprehensible input is important for second language acquisition

  • Modified instruction should include elaboration, slower speech, gesture and provision of contextual clues 
  • Language competence acquisition occurs when second language learners acquire language one step beyond the level language that has been acquired by the learners.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Magic Behind Flipping Numbers When Dividing Fractions

While many of you may know how to divide a fraction, how many of you understand why you use the steps that you do?  At the Adult Numeracy Institute they gave me an excellent explanation, so I turned that into a video that you can watch below.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Turn Fractions Into Visuals

Growing up I was taught math in the traditional way.  The teacher gave me some symbolic notation such as 1/2 * 1/4 and then gave me a step-by-step process to follow to the solve the problem, and then we moved on to the next thing with more notation and procedure.  At ANI they present how that should be just one of three approaches.  We need to add in visual models and real world situations and experiment with starting in one of those modes instead.

Attached is a worksheet "Operations with Fractions" that asks the student to make pictures out of fraction problems.  Take a look, give it a try and reflect on how it goes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Get Inspired at Math = Love

Not having enough materials/resources is a common complaint among teachers.  I love following how a young teacher in rural Oklahoma, Sarah Hagan, is finding a way to thrive without using textbooks. Back in March NPR did a feature story about Sarah titled " The Teacher Who Believes Math = Love."

Since hearing that story, I have been a regular follower of her blog Math = Love.  If you ever need tips on how to make the classroom interactive or how to help students create their own textbooks, then look no further.  She updates her blog almost daily (where she finds the time, I have no idea) and she is truly passionate about her students and how she can help them learn.

Friday, November 13, 2015

HSE Success Story - Holly Hunter

By Cheryl Reidenouer, Career Navigator

Holly Hunter was one of the student speakers at the HSE May 2015 Graduation Ceremony.   Holly told her fellow graduates that “we got here . . . finally”.  She said her fear of succeeding, fear of failing, fear of what if I can’t do this and fear of what if it never goes anywhere kept her from getting her High School Equivalency Diploma in the past.  In September, Holly’s father-in-law passed away.  He was a very important person in Holly’s life, and she promised him she would do it this time.  She said this is for him, her four children, her husband, and her grandmother.  Holly said hope for a better future is what brought us here.  She ended her inspirational speech by telling the other graduates, “Let’s do this, let’s graduate!

Holly said she ran away from home in January of her junior year of high school. She said she was basically staying in a park and living out of her car.  She became ill because of malnutrition and improper care.  She developed bacteria in her throat that causes infections. It was first thought she had mumps in her throat. Eventually she ended up staying with her aunt and uncle and sometimes friends.  She eventually dropped out of high school at the beginning of her senior year as she was unable to keep up with school work.  Holly did have an IEP for extra help as she had been determined to have a reading disability.  Her mother stopped special services for Holly at the end of her junior year.  In April of her of her junior year her aunt helped her through the process of becoming an emancipated minor.  Holly eventually met her husband and they married when she was 18 years old.  She became a stay-at-home mom, eventually becoming a home day care provider for children of other family members.  Over the years she had jobs with a cleaning company, gas stations, and eventually AllSteel where she worked for 4 years.  She quit working there to care for her father-in-law who had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

After lots of hard work and many hours of study and preparation, Holly earned her High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) on April 24, 2015.  She began attending Muscatine Community College in August 2015.  She is now studying Business Management with an emphasis in Accounting.  Holly said she and her husband hope to eventually start their own business: an Arcade and Party Center where customers can hold birthday parties and other life events.

The Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) administered by Region 9 IowaWORKS are helping to cover Holly’s college tuition costs.  As a HSE program completer, EICC awarded her a voucher for 3 credit hours.  Holly’s hope for a better future has brought her far.  We wish her the best and many successes in the future.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Telling stories with data

I was lucky enough to spend two days doing math as if I were a student.  All of the teachers at the workshop were given some data that we care about -- HiSET testing data for all the states that use the HiSET test.

Our task was to tell a story.  Think about that.  We had pages and pages of numbers to look at and it all looked official and concrete and factual.  We had two stories to tell, actually.  The first was to use the data to say how Iowa was doing really well and deserved continued monetary support.  The other story we had to tell was how Iowa is actually struggling and needs money to help bring it up to par.  Below are a few examples of what we created and presented.

My group's effort.  On the left side we left out all the other states in-between to make it look like we were doing way better than everyone else.  On the right-side notice how we manipulated the size of the bars to make it seem like Iowa had a really tiny percent..

Infographics are a powerful way to present information.

Here they added a few sentences to make the story more explicit.

Always question the data!

Teachers can easily adapt this to their classrooms using data that their students care about.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Match up Fractions on the Number Line

This week I'm spending two days in Des Moines for the Adult Numeracy Institute.  The focus is on number sense (fractions, decimals and percents) and Data, Statistics, and graphs.  I enjoyed the first warm-up activity that was a match up.  This activity could be tailored to any level of math learner.   The directions are as follows:

Beforehand, the facilitator creates pairs of cards with equivalent values (for example 1/4 and .25 would be paired cards or 1/8 on one card and a picture of 8 connected bars with one bar shaded in on its match).  You can make the task more difficult by using pairs of more complicated numbers or concepts such as having the golden ratio on one card and 1.61803398875 on another.
  1. When you get to class, hand out one card to each student
  2. Students then find the person in the room that has the equivalent card
  3. Once they find their partner, they go to the board and place their cards on a number line
  4. Facilitate a discussion about how they know the cards are equal
  5. Since this activity has an anonymous factor it's safe to discuss whether cards are placed correctly and then move them if needed
Doing this activity gets students out of their seats and thinking.  They have to talk to each other to problem-solve what constitutes a match, and then they have to conceptually understand where the numbers belong on a number line, which prepares them for more advanced math down the road.  Any errors in mathematical thinking are quickly corrected in a safe environment.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Muscatine's Franklin Elementary teams with MCC to offer GED classes

Muscatine's Franklin Elementary teams with MCC to offer GED classes

While the article should state HiSET instead of GED, the Muscatine Journal does a good job of covering our new partnership with Franklin Elementary School.  We are hoping to grow this partnership and recruit volunteers for instruction.

Friday, October 30, 2015

When Khan and HISET meet. . .

While I have done similar projects to this one, on a more limited scale, it's nice to see HiSET do some of the heavy lifting.  Below you will find a new resource from HiSET copied from their website.

Khan Academy Math Videos
In collaboration with Khan Academy, the HiSET® program has identified videos and exercises that can assist you in preparing for the HiSET Math test. These training videos can improve the fundamental skills in Numbers and Operations, Geometry, Data Analysis and Algebra that you need to be successful on the HiSET Math test. See the Khan Academy Instructional Support Videos and Exercises (PDF) for more information.

Monday, October 26, 2015

HiSET Writing Test Changes in 2016

Starting in January 2016, HiSET is changing the Writing exam.

Switch Freely Between Parts

While the test is still 120 minutes total, they will now allow the student to switch back and forth between the multiple-choice part and the essay.  For most test-takers this will allow more time for the essay because the majority of people finish the first part with time left over.  I encourage everyone to take advantage of this extra time due to the other major change. . .

Essays in Context

The essay prompt is now in the context of two opposing-sides essays.  The test-taker must read the two essays and write a persuasive essay defending their side while acknowledging the opposition and citing the original texts.

HiSET provides "Scored Sample Writing Responses" here.  

If you want information on all of the tests for 2016, go to HiSET's 2016 Test at a Glance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Useful Math Links

Here are some links to math sites that I have found useful:

LINCS An excellent resource for connecting with other Adult Education folks across the country and finding tons of resources.

PHET Online simulations of math and science concepts.  These are very useful, engaging and fun.  The HTML5 ones work the best. 

Illuminations  These are lessons, games, activities from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

TEAL Math works guide from TEAL (Teaching Excellence in Adult Education).