Vita Education Services has a long history of delivering free instruction to adults through well-trained, volunteer tutors. Volunteers can choose from four Literacy volunteer opportunities: Basic Literacy, English as a Second Language, or Transitions tutoring; or serving as an ESL/Basic Literacy Classroom Aide; or in our Decisions program as a Decisions For Living tutor.
Our tutor trainings provide techniques that will help you become an effective tutor and our professional staff provides ongoing support as you work with your students.
Tutor trainings and tutoring have traditionally be held in person. Since the onset of COVID-19, we have transitioned to online instruction using a variety of platforms. Our classes and tutoring are currently being held virtually through on-line platforms. Unfortunately, we cannot currently accommodate additional volunteer tutors, so no tutor training sessions are scheduled at this time. Tutoring at BCCF is currently suspended due to COVID-19.
The students in Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide range of skills. The majority of Vita’s ABE students are not native English speakers; however, they usually are able to speak and understand basic conversational English. Their difficulty lies in reading and writing, particularly with more complex material. Volunteer tutors work with these ABE students individually and in small groups, helping them learn to read and understand progressively more complex material and to communicate effectively in writing. A Basic Literacy tutor may or may not have prior teaching experience.
English as a Second Language (ESL)
Vita’s ESL tutoring program helps adults who need to learn to speak English or wish to improve their English proficiency. It is not necessary to speak another language. Volunteer tutors work with these ESL students in small groups from Beginning to High Intermediate levels practicing the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing to effectively communicate in English for everyday situations in authentic contexts. These contexts include pre-employment and work situations, accessing community resources, achieving citizenship skills, and preparing for post-secondary training and education. Instruction is student-centered and contextualized. An ESL tutor may or may not have prior teaching experience.
Transitions tutoring groups help advanced ESL students develop both accuracy and fluency in speaking and reading in English. This allows students to move successfully from the ESL classroom into regular ABE classes or post-secondary education. The main objective of the course is for students to communicate their ideas as naturally as possible and be able to comprehend more challenging narratives. A Transitions tutor should have some prior teaching experience and the ability to teach basic grammar concepts such as verb tenses and sentence structure. They should also be able to facilitate extended sessions of discussion that challenge students to speak at length coherently and confidently.
Basic Literacy, ESL and Transitions
• Training: A 12-hour training in either ABE, ESL, or Transitions instruction provides tutors with an understanding of the adult learner, the techniques of effective tutors, and the responsibilities of a Vita volunteer. After training, tutors are individually interviewed and given a choice of tutoring opportunities. Availability, location in the community, and the tutor’s personal interests are used to determine placement.
• Requirements: Pennsylvania Adult Basic Literacy Education regulations require that Basic Literacy, ESL, and Transitions tutors have a college degree. All tutors must have good communication skills, cell phones and email, and have the ability to follow and print out pre-written lesson plans. Vita asks that tutors commit to a minimum of three hours of tutoring per week for an eight to ten week period of time. In addition, tutors must complete the Criminal Background checks and Child Abuse Clearance prior to starting their assignment.
• Support: Vita provides curriculum materials and lesson plans that focus on the accomplishment of specific sets of skills. Ongoing support is provided by Vita’s tutoring coordinators.
ESL/Basic Literacy Classroom Aides work with our professional teaching staff by providing additional support for small groups or individuals within the classroom. Teaching staff will provide guidance and materials for the classroom aide to use with our adult learners.
• Training: A 12-hour training provides classroom aides with an understanding of the adult learner, techniques for tutoring, and the responsibilities of a Vita volunteer. After training, classroom aides are individually interviewed and given a choice of tutoring opportunities. Availability, location in the community, and the tutor’s personal interests are used to determine placement.
• Requirements: Qualified volunteers must have a High School or High School Equivalency Diploma and be at least 18 years old. They need to be willing to work under the guidance of the classroom teacher and commit to volunteering at least once a week, for 2.5 hours each week for 12 to 13 consecutive weeks. Classroom aides must complete the Criminal Background checks and Child Abuse Clearance prior to starting their assignment.
• Support: Materials and instructions for the day’s work will be provided by the classroom teacher. The teachers and tutor coordinators will provide ongoing support.
Decisions For Living (DFL) tutors work one-to-one with inmates in the Bucks County Correctional Facilities, teaching a process that emphasizes self-awareness, personal responsibility, critical thinking, and goal setting. DFL provides inmates with tools to help them reintegrate more effectively into the community upon release.
• Training: A 10-hour classroom training, plus supplemental video training, and a tour of the Bucks County Correctional Facility. The training provides tutors with an overview of the DFL course, methods of effective tutoring, and the responsibilities you have as a Vita volunteer. After training, tutors are individually interviewed. The tutor’s availability and personal interests are used to place a tutor with a client.
• Requirements: Tutors must be at least 21 years of age. Bucks County Corrections regulations require that tutors have a Criminal Background Check demonstrating no criminal justice system involvement in the last two years. Vita asks that our tutors commit to a minimum of two hours of tutoring per week for a six to eight week period of time.
• Support: The Decisions For Living Facilitator’s Manual is provided in the training to guide you in teaching the course. Tutor-client matches are supervised and supported by Vita’s Curriculum and Training Specialist.