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ELL Students Interview Volume One “Star” at Literacy Chippewa Valley

You most often see articles in Volume One and Chippewa Valley Family magazines written by staff members like Managing Editor Tom Giffey.  However, on Monday, Nov. 5th, the tables were turned, and Tom and the magazines became the subject of the interview.  This all occurred at Literacy Chippewa Valley when Tom was invited to speak to the intermediate and advanced learners in the English Language Learners (ELL) Class.

ELL Instructor Susan Santee-Buenger had been using Volume One and Chippewa Valley Family magazines as a teaching tool with her class. “I chose to do this because our learning theme for October was "community."  A couple of learners had seen the magazines, but no one had read them or knew that they were free community publications. My hope was that learning about community in a variety of ways using real life materials would help our learners feel more connected to and comfortable in the Eau Claire community,” Susan said.

In the class, they read the article “Classic Kids Books,” compiled by Volume One staff, from one of the latest issues. After discussing some vocabulary, they read it again for better understanding. The process of doing this served as an example of what they can do if they want to read Volume One or Chippewa Valley Family independently. Some learners shared with Susie that they have read other articles on their own time.

The ELL instructor then contacted Tom Giffey about coming to visit the class, and students spent time preparing for Tom’s visit by scanning the latest issues of Volume One and CV Family and doing many in-class activities focused on the magazine. Learners were asked to do the following:
1.    Browse the new issue of Volume One or Chippewa Valley Family
2.    Find a story written by Tom Giffey
3.    Work with a partner to find a short article or story they think would be interesting to read
4.    Work with partner to write answers to questions using complete sentences - What is the title of the publication? What is the title of the article or story? Who is the author? What section is it in? What page is it on? Consider the title and visuals, and predict what the story will be about. Skim the story for the main point or topic - what's the gist?

Learners also worked in groups to brainstorm ideas for questions that they could ask Tom about his job as Managing Editor at Volume One. Each student wrote down one question and, at the end of class, shared their question aloud as practice for asking Tom the question in English. 
The students were well prepared for Tom’s informal visit on Nov. 5th.   Fourteen ELL students from seven different countries asked him a variety of questions about himself and about V1 and CV Family.  For example, Tom explained to them how his grandfather emigrated here from Germany and worked by day and learned English by night. When asked about what he likes most about his job as managing editor, Tom said, “I always liked to write as a kid. This job is a way for me to make a living and be creative.” He added that he helps people learn about their community and connect with their neighbors.

The class also asked several important questions on how to get events in the publication, how to lay out the magazine so it all fits together, who takes the photographs, and who does the graphic design and cover design. The group found out that Tom, as well as the publisher and other editors, determine the content of the magazine. When asked how Tom gets paid, he explained that the magazines are paid for through advertising.

Students said that the magazines help increase their vocabulary, and they learn words that are currently used in today’s society.  And what did the students like most about the presentation? They could practice their conversational English skills in listening and speaking with a “star” in the Eau Claire community.  And Volume One and Chippewa Valley Family have definitely acquired some new readers.

The Family Literacy Class is held Monday-Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to noon in the Wilson Building, 510 S. Farwell St., Eau Claire, WI. For more information on Literacy Chippewa Valley’s free Family Literacy Class enrollment or tutor opportunities, please contact them at 715-835-0610.
About Literacy Chippewa Valley

Literacy Chippewa Valley is a community-based literacy organization that offers adults the opportunity to gain the skills they need to make a better life for themselves and their families.  We do this by taking the time to understand the unique needs of each learner and tailoring our services specifically to them. Using real-world applications to teach our students, we help them better retain their skills, empowering them to achieve their personal goals. Our free services not only help the learners and their families, they enrich the entire Chippewa Valley community. For more information, contact Executive Director Elizabeth Hart at 715-834-0222 or visit our web site at