Volunteer To Teach ESL In Chicago: Literacy Works

logsmall1.jpegLiteracy Works is a Chicago-based organization that provides workshops, trainings and direct literacy (which includes ESL) services in connection with various non-profit organizations in the Chicagoland area. NGO’s which receive government funds for literacy/ESL programs in Illinois need to ensure that their literacy volunteers get trained – and Literacy Works provides this training, typically on two consecutive Saturday sessions.

The TEFL Logue’s first English language training in fact came from Literacy Works, and from none other than Executive Director Christine Kenny herself. The training consisted of a reasonable mix of theory (much connected to Paulo Freire, which seems, to the TEFL Logue at least, to overlap with several elements of communicative strategies, though perhaps for different reasons) and lots of practical activities and examples, including some thought-provoking discussion about cultural issues. The twelve-hour training I completed with Literacy works seems even more impressive in retrospect – it touched on ideas like how to check that your students are following a reading (ask them to make predictions, or to add to a chart about what you already know/what you want to know/what you learned) and other practical activities (sentence scrabble, journals where students write and the teacher replies, needs assessment).

Many of these topics came up again in my CELTA, where we had more time to explore them further – but my Literacy Works training meant I brought just a bit more insight to the table than I would have otherwise.

Volunteering to teach or tutor ESL in your own city is an excellent way to get a taste of TEFL as well as to start your learning process. If you’re in Chicago, I’d encourage you to check out the Literacy Works website and contact one of the member organizations directly or Literacy Works itself for information on how to volunteer. If you’re not in Chicago, use idealist.org or even your friend Google to find a similar organization near you.