Summer Snapshot #2, 7 Years on Lake Street, is the second in a three-part series written by Minnesota Literacy Council volunteer Henry Hietala.

A hand holding up three fingers

Purpose:  To help beginning level learners develop phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds (Yopp, 1992). Phonemic awareness prepares learners to sound out and spell new words.

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  None


Pyramid of Bloom's Taxonomy Labeled from the bottom to the top: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating

“Good learning starts with questions, not answers.” –Guy Claxton

Critical thinking is required in the workplace, in educational settings, and to address everyday challenges.  In ESL classes, teachers often ask only factual questions that rely on short-term memory, such as “What did Lee Pa do yesterday?” and “What is the capital of Minnesota?”  While memory is an important skill, teachers should ask questions and plan activities that dig deeper. Even in beginning level classrooms, it is essential that learners are asked questions that challenge them to think critically.

“The students at Katie’s table are always heard laughing—even when the content isn’t all that exciting,” according to her volunteer coordinator Kara Rotramel. This fall, Katie McAvoy celebrates 10 years as an adult literacy volunteer at Forest Lake Adult Basic Education. What has kept her coming back year after year? Read Katie's story.

A black silhouette of a man's head with a blue brain inside and three question marks above

Purpose:  To practice recognizing and correctly using irregular past tense verbs

Preparation Time:  5 minutes    

Materials Needed:  A whiteboard, a list of 6-10 irregular past tense verbs. For example: go-went, have-has, buy-bought, make-made, take-took, see-saw, think-thought, drive-drove


For our third annual Volunteer Appreciation Picnic, we collected thank you notes from Open Door Learning Center students and created a board to display their words. We wanted to be sure to share these words of gratitude with volunteers who could not make the picnic.

Silhouettes of business men and women standing and talking with multi-colored speech and thought bubbles over their heads

Purpose:  To review vocabulary in an engaging and interactive method, or to preview new vocabulary for a reading.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Materials Needed:  Index cards with vocabulary words written on them (enough for one per student; words may be repeated)


silver stopwatch

With pre-beginning and beginning level English classes, it can be an ongoing struggle to get everyone speaking English at the same time. Rather than trying to firmly restrict the use of the first language throughout the entire class period (which can be exhausting and counterproductive), set “English Only” periods where you ask the students to speak only English for a set amount of time while they complete a communication activity, such as a mingle, a walking dictation, a dialogue, or a gap fill.

“It’s learning for my heart.” This is how LaRue Unglaube describes her experience as a math tutor at English Learning Center in Minneapolis. LaRue’s philosophy is reflected in her creative, encouraging and patient ways as a teacher.  


Hands holding up letters to spell the word tips in capital letters

Purpose:  To help beginning level learners develop phonemic awareness and increase spelling skills with a fun and interactive activity designed to get them out of their seats!

Preparation Time:  10 minutes to create a word list and letter cards

Materials Needed:  A word list with 6-10 words and letter cards (each card will have one of each letters from the word list).




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