March 2006

  1. Sally's Ramblings
  2. ESL Update
  3. Tapping into a New Resource: Class Wikis
  4. Tip O' The Month: Create a Community in the Classroom
  5. Immersion Works: Training Wrap Up
  6. Volunteer Spotlight: Evan Ellis
  7. March's Vignette: Alberto's Story
  8. Media Corner
  9. Bits and Pieces
  10. About Us

Sally's Ramblings

Top o’ the morning to you and Happy St. Patrick's Day! The ESL program has been blessed with the luck of the Irish, thanks to its many terrific volunteers. Hogar Hispano has over 300 volunteers working together to make this program a reality. Thanks for all of your hard work!

Have you signed up for one of our upcoming trainings? We are offering some fantastic opportunities designed to hone your ESL teaching skills. All of the trainings are held at the Hogar Hispano office. Stop by to meet our other volunteers and learn about what they are doing in the classroom-- who knows, you may also learn a thing or two. I hope to see you at one of these trainings soon!

Sally O’Dwyer
ESL Program Coordinator

ESL Update

Hogar featured in Justice for Immigrants campaign video:

Hogar Hispano’s English ETC program was honored to be included in a new video being produced by the
Justice for Immigrants campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The video, which will be distributed to every parish in the country, aims to promote a willingness to embrace newcomers to the country, volunteering with immigration assistance programs and urge viewers to consider their own immigrant backgrounds. You can download a portion of the video online.

Interested in learning more about the Justice for Immigrants campaign? Check out all of their materials and learn how you can get involved by going to their comprehensive and informative website.

You are invited to the Winter 2006 ESL training series:

It's not too late to sign up for workshops offered here at Hogar Hispano! They are excellent opportunities to learn, be inspired by fellow volunteers, and knock out that 10-hour training requirement! All classes are held in the Hogar Hispano office (6201 Leesburg Pike, Suite 307, Falls Church, VA 22044). If you are interested in attending any upcoming sessions, please RSVP to Belle Penaranda at 703-534-9805 x239 or

Saturday, March 18, 9 am-12 pm
Teaching Grammar to Adults
Trainer: Tom Bello
What do current research and practice suggest about the best approaches, methods and materials to teach grammar to adults? What exactly is grammar? How much grammar do adults need across the various levels of adult ESL instruction? Be prepared to have fun and share your own best practices!

Wednesday, April 12, 7-9 pm
Vocabulary Victorious
Trainer: Sandy Bertini
Have you ever noticed your students’ eyes glaze over when it’s time to learn new vocabulary? Or perhaps everyone but your most advanced students just looks confused because it’s too much to learn at once. Worry no more—in this workshop, you will learn tried-and-true techniques for teaching new vocabulary words to your students in exciting and effective ways. Arming students with new vocabulary words is one of the most powerful ways to help your students become more independent!

Saturday, April 22, 10 am-12 pm
Writing to Learn
Trainer: Jennifer Gisi Himmel
Writing is one of the most difficult skills to master for students learning English. Although speaking and listening should be the focus in your lessons, each lesson should include a little bit of writing in each class, even if you teach beginners! The trainer will teach ways to introduce writing into the current curriculum, and how to teach writing to students from beginning to advanced levels.

Sunday, May 7, 1-3:30 pm
Games Galore! (Ice Cream Social)
Trainers: Tess Manicke and Jeff Michno
Celebrate the end of the semester and the start of summer by playing games, hanging out with fellow volunteers, and eating lots of ice cream! There is no better way to encourage your ESL students to loosen up and have fun than playing games in the classroom. Not only are these games enjoyable for you and your students, but they are very useful in reinforcing lessons.

Tapping into a New Resource: Class Wikis

This semester, teachers at Christ the Redeemer and Hogar Hispano’s two intensive programs, English ETC and Citizenship Now!, are pioneering a new idea: class wikis. You may have heard of Wikipedia, a collaboratively-written online encyclopedia that is created by everyday people sharing specialized knowledge. Just think of the class wikis as smaller scale, simplified versions of Wikipedia.

The class wikis were started as an alternative to sending co-teachers an e-mail after class but quickly turned into a much bigger project when we realized that the wikis could be capable of a lot more. Thanks to the contributions of volunteers using the wikis, the sites have evolved into an archive of class summaries, a clearing house for ESL resources, a forum for sharing teaching ideas and tips, a centralized location for announcements and more. Above all, the wikis have begun to create an online teaching community.

Check out each unique class by clicking on the links below, or the screen caps above! (Citizenship Now!) (English ETC) (Christ the Redeemer)

Don't teach at the Hogar or Christ the Redeemer? You don't have to feel left out-- the class wikis are useful to any ESL volunteer. Plus, you may even get motivated to start your own!

Tip O' the Month: Create a Community in the Classroom

ESL teachers must strive to build a community of learners in their English classrooms. A community is a group where all members feel they belong. Community members usually share something in common.

Community building in the classroom is key to lowering anxiety among students. When students are comfortable, they are more willing to take risks and make meaningful efforts to speak English. Learners who feel that they are an integral part of the class are more likely to persevere in their studies. Classroom communities serve as an important support group for immigrants who are struggling to survive in the U.S.

There are three strategies teachers can use to build a community:

Break from the traditional teacher role.

In many cultures, teachers are viewed as authority figures who lead the class while the students passively listen. This autocratic teaching style is not helpful for community building. Students must view the teacher as a partner and a facilitator in the learning process.

Try these tips to reduce barriers between you and the students:
Make your class interactive.

Get your students involved in the language learning process. If you, the teacher, are doing most of the talking, you are talking too much! Let the students work together to foster relationships and to increase the amount of practice they get in class.
Right: Students at St. Mark's talk it up with each other!
Base class curriculum on learners’ lives.

Make students feel competent by talking about things they are familiar with—their lives, goals, family, culture, and homes. This allows authentic communication, boosts confidence and gives the students ownership of the class.

Immersion Works: Training Wrap Up

English ETC volunteers Guillermo Guevara, Lois McDonley and Kelly Walsh yuk it up at Hogar's latest ESL training.

Hogar Hispano kicked off its ESL Winter 2006 Training Series on February 25th with "Immersion Works," given by Hogar Hispano English ETC volunteer Amy White. Although Amy has only taught at the Hogar for a few months, she is an experienced ESL teacher, having received her TEFL certificate from the International Teacher Training Organization in Mexico. Amy's workshop explored learning a language through total immersion. What better way to demonstrate this point than by actually giving an entire lesson in a foreign language?

Amy demonstrated how to communicate a basic conversation in Portuguese by modeling the dialogue for the volunteers, stressing pronunciation and pacing, then by writing the dialogue on the board. By first working through the dialogue verbally and waiting to show her "students" the spelling, she took away any preconceived notions anybody may have had if they had read the dialogue first. Attendees learned how the language and words sounded before they read them, eliminating any chance for mispronunciation.

Throughout the lesson, Amy used specific teaching techniques to get her point across: Body Language/Facial Expressions, Drilling, and Back Chaining. She then divided the crowd into three groups to discuss one of the techniques she used, and apply that to a page of Speak Out.

The first two techniques, Body Language/Facial Expressions and Drilling, are fairly common, yet still very important tools for teaching a language. The third technique, Back Chaining, is less well known. Back Chaining is teaching a simple sentence backwards because we all have a tendency to remember the last thing we hear. By doing this, the students hear the last part of the sentence many more times than the beginning.

The volunteers had a wonderful time at Amy's training and got a lot out of it. They no longer have any doubt in their minds that immersion does work! Thank you, Amy, for giving such a fantastic training.

Volunteer Spotlight: Evan Ellis

Three and a half years ago, Evan Ellis began his diverse volunteer experience with Hogar Hispano by teaching ESL at Christ the Redeemer Church in Sterling. He has taught classes ranging from the basic literacy to the most advanced. Not only does he teach, but he has also served as the program’s site coordinator. Evan’s favorite part about his teaching experience are the friendships he has created with his students over the years. As for classroom activities, Evan believes that every activity can be made more enjoyable when there is a little friendly competition involved. He likes to do competitive word list games and can even turn Simon Says into a rowdy event! He always has plenty of candy on hand for these occasions.

Thanks, Evan, for all of your hard work!

Do you know a fellow volunteer who has gone that extra mile? We're looking for individuals to spotlight! Please e-mail Belle at with the volunteer's name and 2-3 sentences stating why we should spotlight him or her!

March's Vignette: Alberto's Story

Twenty months ago, in April of 2004, Alberto* boarded a bus that would take him to a startling new place. He left his dusty Guatemalan village to travel over 4,000 miles through Mexico and the United States to arrive in Falls Church, Virginia—a far cry from the poor pueblo he had called home his entire life. He was as afraid as he was alone.

Though he is twenty-two years old, Alberto’s lanky frame, dark hair and brown eyes lend him a boyish impression. His boyhood, however, concluded eight years ago. The school in his village, like all public schools in Guatemala, educates children free of charge until students reach the sixth level at the age of fourteen. While Alberto enjoyed school and hoped to continue and complete his education, his family was unable to afford the tuition required for high school. Faced with the impossible prospect of paying tuition, Alberto’s education came to an abrupt halt as he joined his father in the fields.

“The fields” is a tiny strip of land owned by Alberto’s father. The family’s labor yields potatoes, carrots and lettuce. The produce is sold at the local market where it barely supports the needs of Alberto, his parents, a brother and a sister. The labor of this subsistence farming begins before dawn when Alberto and his father gather their meager harvest which they carry to the market. In a good year, the profits harvested at their stall could be four dollars a day. Unfortunately, even a good year is not enough to sustain the family.

Alberto’s family is not unique. Guatemala hosts the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Central America. His family, like hundreds of others in his home country, share a constant hunger. There simply aren’t enough jobs in the destitute pueblos of the Guatemalan countryside, and starvation is persistent threat to those who dwell there. Guatemala’s larger cities are already teeming with unskilled laborers who have traveled from the many outlying impoverished pueblos in the desperate search for work. These circumstances led Alberto to take the long and treacherous journey on many, many buses that eventually deposited him in Falls Church.

When Alberto arrived in Falls Church, he moved in with another immigrant family. Though they welcome him, he still feels like a guest. Afraid to pose a burden on the household he avoids the clamor in the kitchen and eats things that can be consumed without preparation from convenience stores.

In the beginning, his new life had some parallels to his old. He was still rising before the sun but now he was heading not towards the potato patch, but to the local 7-11 where he would join other men standing on corners hoping to get a laboring job. Mornings waiting for contractors in need of laborers were mornings of anticipation, hoping that someone would hire him. These were mornings of remembering what is was to go without food, the cost of his trip north and the family at home depending on him, the chief wage earner at only twenty-two years of age. Mornings of waiting for trucks to arrive, waiting for a window to roll down, waiting for work.

The trucks would arrive and prospective employers would lean out a window to ask the crowd, “Anyone here speak English?” The few who spoke even a few words of English would be among the lucky to clamor into the truck for a day of work, an exhilaration Alberto was fortunate to get once a week. Most days he would stand on the corners for hours before turning home to worry about his family.

After waiting, hoping, and sending money home from the few jobs he was able to get on the corner, Alberto knew he needed to learn more English. He watched American television shows hoping to glean enough to be among the more employable English speaking laborers. It wasn’t enough. He needed work. He needed to send money home. He needed to speak English.

Alberto enrolled in one of Hogar Hispano’s English as a Second Language classes offered at St. Anthony’s parish in Falls Church. He attended his Saturday class religiously and studied hard throughout the week. He struggled to communicate with English speakers whenever the opportunity arose. Gradually, his English improved. He started to understand job supervisors and his luck began to change.

The stroke of luck came when Alberto was offered a full time painting position. Earning ten dollars an hour, he made twenty times the wage he had earned alongside his father in the market stall. He paints apartment buildings and houses, dutifully sending $1,000 of his earnings to his family in Guatemala. As he works he worries. He worries that he’ll lose his job. He worries about his family. Without his job he knows his family could go hungry again. He keeps $400 of his monthly earnings, just enough to pay his rent, buy food and a few other necessary items.

While other twenty-two year olds see movies, have beers with friends, go to sporting events or ask girls on dates, Alberto’s sole luxury is the cable subscription of the family he lives with. His labor-intensive job, responsibility to provide for his parents and siblings and English studies leave him time and energy for little else.

Alberto hasn’t taken the education opportunities his English class has afforded him lightly. He relishes the chance to come back into a classroom and has already progressed to the intermediate level. In January, Hogar Hispano will resume offering intensive courses. Alberto plans to be there; eager to increase the amount of time he spends in class. He knows that the key to supporting his family and even keeping his siblings from having to join their father in the field, unable to pay for tuition, is his burgeoning English skills.

When asked about his plans for the future, Alberto is only certain of his dreams. He hopes to save money so he can return to his village. Once there he wants to start a business and buy a home. Here, he wishes he had enough money for recreation or even a girlfriend. He wants to get married, hopes to have his own family one day. However, his struggle to provide for the others prevents him from spending on anything less than necessary for now. For now he hopes to continue learning English and in doing so knows he will expand not only his own horizons but those of his loved ones, on whom his success, hard work and continued education depends.

*Name has been changed to protect student's privacy.

Media Corner

Film: A Day Without a Mexican (2004) One third of the population of California are Latinos, Hispanics, Mexicans. How would it change life for the state's other residents if this portion of the populous was suddenly not there? Director Sergio Arau calls his film a "mockumentary." Yareli Arizmendi, married to Arau, co-wrote and stars in the film. She says it is their hope that lawmakers and moviegoers will recognize the valuable contributions made everyday by Latinos.

Book: Enrique's Journey, by Sonia Nazario (2006) Learn more about the realities facing some of our students, their families, and other Central and South American immigrants as they journey to the U.S. Why would they face such risks? Endure such hardships? Leave friends, family and lives behind? This book will open your eyes to another reality--another world, and offer new respect for the newest members of our community. Join Sonia as she follows the footsteps of a teenage boy in search of his mother---from the familiarity of his hometown in Honduras, through treacherous unknown lands in Guatemala and Mexico, to his final destination in North Carolina. Face dangerous travel atop freight trains, encounters with bandits, gangsters and smugglers, and witness the selfless hearts of so many others offering what little help they can along the way.

Each year thousands of Latin American children--as young as seven years old--journey northward in the desperate hope of finding their mothers who left them years before in search of work. The cruel reality: countless journey alone; many are raped or killed along the way; the lucky reunite with their lost mothers, yet often disillusioned. This is an honest, graphic portrayal of the reality behind much of illegal immigration; realize that it’s not an easy pill to swallow, but further opens the doors to compassion.

Bits and Pieces

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) update:

Many of you have probably heard about the extension of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for El Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans. Here’s the official update according to a press release by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): “In a continuing effort to assist El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in recovering from the natural disasters that affected the Central American region, the Department of Homeland Security has announced a decision to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an additional 12 months for all three countries.”

But what does this mean? Under TPS status, beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization. However, this does not lead to permanent resident status. Although we still await official guidelines from the Federal Register, we can paint a general picture of what to expect following last year’s procedure (This applies to those persons currently protected under TPS):

1) Applicants must fill out a new TPS application (free last year).
2) Applicants are to complete a new application for work authorization.
3) Applicants must file these forms with the USCIS by a date yet to be announced.
* Official fingerprints must accompany applications (can be obtained at the Application Supporting Center in Alexandria).

Costs for services last year were: - $175 for work authorization
- $70 for biometric services – fingerprints

The extension deadlines vary according to nationality: TPS designations will expire on September 9, 2007 for El Salvador and on July 5, 2007 for Honduras and Nicaragua.

For more detailed information on TPS – official definition, exceptions, to whom it may apply, etc. – visit the following website:

Know the facts about unfair employment practices:

Hogar Hispano, in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), provides workshops to both employers and employees to help understand and comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act. Ways in which we can help are as follows: If you suspect that you or one of your students have been denied employment because of appearance, accent, national origin or immigration status, please call the OSC workers hotline at 1-800-255-7688 or Freshta Nawabi at 703-534-9805 x241 for assistance. Employers can call the OSC hotline at 1-800-255-8155.

ESL volunteer positions available:
Paid positions available at Hogar Hispano: Buy a Hogar Hispano tote bag: Promote the Hogar Hispano ESL program and make a fashion statement at the same time! Tote bags are blue and black, and feature the Hogar Hispano logo. They're large enough to carry all of your teaching materials and more! The cost is $10 (plus $3 shipping). Send an e-mail to with your name and quantity needed or simply call 703-534-9805 x239.

Other training opportunities:

ESOL Basics
3/18/2006, 8:30 am-4 pm
McLean Bible Church
8925 Leesburg Pike Room 2400
Vienna, VA 22182
If you would like to attend, please contact Jann Murchie at 703-770-2946 or

About Us

Hogar Hispano is a non-profit organization that provides assistance to immigrants of all nationalities and religions. As part of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Hogar Hispano helps newcomers achieve self-sufficiency and successfully integrate into American society by offering a wide range of services at little or no cost. Hogar Hispano offers English as a Second Language classes, legal counseling and representation, naturalization assistance, job placement services, and social services.

We want to know what you think, so write or call us! Thank you for reading!

Sally O'Dwyer
ESL Coordinator, x222

Jodi Nemser-Abrahams
Citizenship Now! Grant Manager, x235

Larissa Jackson
LEAP! Site Coordinator, x245

Belle Penaranda
Associate ESL Coordinator, x239

Tess Manicke
Evening ESL Program Coordinator, x222

Christine Roach
English Literacy/Civics Grant Manager, x238

Jeff Michno
EL/Civics Program Associate, x250

Phil Spencer
Associate ESL Coordinator, x243

Hogar Hispano
6201 Leesburg Pike, Suite 307
Falls Church, VA 22044
Fax: 703-534-9809

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