HSE Graduates

Congratulations on getting your HSE Brittany
Brittany gave us some great advice to pass along to students working toward their HSE.

“Study, it’s not as hard as they say it is. As long as you study it’s not as hard as they say it is.”



In our students words…

Here at The Literacy Alliance we have a type of class called small group that is offered for students who read below a certain reading level, or are not pursuing the HSE. This class works solely on computers to build technological skills, and students focus mainly on basic academic skills. Our very talented teacher Sean has been teaching the small group for 12 years now with The Literacy Alliance.

Today we would like to showcase 2 exceptional students in our small group morning class at The Summit: LaQuaya and Sarah.

LaQuaya has been in Sean’s class for close to a year. She has always struggled with math and Sean and his tutors give her one-on-one help. She said it has been hard to juggle working 2 jobs and class but she still does her best to do as much as she can. She is determined to get her diploma.

LaQuaya’s favorite thing about the class is that Sean is a good teacher, he knows what he’s talking about and he is flexible to work around her busy schedule.

LaQuaya’s advice to fellow students is, “Stay focused, it’s hard, especially when you’ve got things going on in your life.”

Sarah has been in Sean’s class for about 1 year and she is looking forward to taking her High School Equivalency test in June. Her main goal for wanting to take the test is to be able to gain employment. She said it is hard to find a job without a diploma and employers don’t want to hire people without at least a high school diploma.

Sarah’s favorite things about Sean’s class at Literacy Alliance are, all nice people in her class and the helpful tutors.

When asked what advice she would give to a fellow student she said, “You can’t just take your test right away, if it’s a year or two, just keep plugging away. You’ll get it.”

Thank you ladies for participating and keep on working- you’ll get there!

How to combine social studies, language, and math into 1 lesson

Here at The Literacy Alliance, we’re always getting creative with how to deliver content. In this blog we’ve mentioned how we’ve built gingerbread houses to study geometry, and created plasma to study matter. We haven’t yet talked about any combination lessons.

One of our teachers at our morning location at The Summit recently came up with an interesting way to combine social studies, reading skills, language arts, and a little bit of math. The lessons are daily, and they’re called, “In This Day in Hisory.”

Below is a run down of the how’s and why’s of designing these lessons, written by our teacher: Amy…

Length of time: 30 minutes

Materials needed:

  • 1 pre-selected article of teacher’s choice
    • Article should be copied and pasted to allow teacher to make INTENTIONAL writing errors
  • Over-head projector (if presenting to a group)
    • This could be adapted to a worksheet
  • Marker to mark students’ corrections
    • Either marking capabilities on computer or…
    • Dry erase marker

Example of lesson: fast-track-day-in-history

I begin every class with an interdisciplinary study based on language, social studies, and a bit of math. I find an interesting article from the web site This Day in History according to the current date of class. I then copy-paste the article into a blank word document and then alter the spelling, capitalization, subject-verb agreement, punctuation, etc. I project this document onto my classroom monitor and have the students try to find the errors. They are basically becoming proof readers. As they find the errors, I mark the line of text with the correction.

Below is a paragraph from article done on January 25th:


Incorporate math by tracking time passed, and any other math like below:


My motivation for doing this lesson is two-fold. This activity presents social studies material in an interesting way, which our students need. This lesson is also heavy on language. The students are working with sentence structure, punctuation, usage, spelling, etc. all in one activity, and they are doing it three times a week. We spend about thirty minutes a day out of a three hour class on this. The language test on the TASC is a significant portion of the test with a multiple-choice and essay section which is why I devote so much attention to language study.

“Matter” in an adult education classroom.

Here at The Literacy Alliance we’re very fortunate to have a science expert on our volunteer tutor staff at our New Haven location. No exaggeration meant when I say “science expert,” as this tutor has worked on a travelling science teacher crew. I’ve seen this tutor’s work first hand; he is a mastermind at designing engaging science experiments that fit our non-profit budget, and even better, require very little material prep ahead of time.

This last week our resident science guy hosted a lesson covering “matter,” and here’s his recap of how the lesson went:

January 17, 2016, science lesson on the States of Matter, led by Steven Hackmann.


To begin our lesson, I fielded definitions of the word, “MATTER.” The class offered definitions of “everything that exists,” “anything that can be contained,” “anything with mass,” “things with density or that takes us space,” “physical substance.”

We talked about the definitions.

We identified the three primary states of matter: Solid – Liquid – Gas

We identified examples of each of these:

  • Solids in the room – Table, chairs, floor, ice (H2O as a solid)…
  • Liquids – water (H2O as a liquid), tea, coffee, juice,…
  • Gases – Oxygen, Hydrogen, Steam and Fog (H2O as a gas).

To change matter from one state of matter to another you need to change the temperature.
For example:

  • To change H2O in its solid state to H2O in a liquid state, the temperature must increase.
  • To change H2O from its liquid state to a gaseous state, the temperature must increase even more.
  • The entire process can be reversed if we decrease the temperature, causing the gaseous H2O to condense and become liquid H2O. Continuing to decrease the temperature the liquid H2O can reach a freezing point making solid H2O.

We set up an experiment with an set of ice cubes to determine: “on which surface (black plastic lid, metal lid, Styrofoam cup) will an ice cube would change from a solid to a liquid in the shortest amount of time and on which would it take the longest time?” The students were asked to make a hypothesis (educated guess or a “what do you think” statement). The ice cubes (all about the same size) were placed on the surfaces to begin the experiment.

We moved on to a second experiment to create a Non-Newtonian Fluid that acts like a liquid and also acts like a solid.

Each student received:

  • a cup
  • a spoon for mixing
  • about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • and about 1 -2 teaspoons of water.

The students would mix the cornstarch and water until it combines, looks smooth, and is of the consistency of honey. As they reach this stage, they will feel resistance to their stirring, in some cases enough resistance to nearly break their spoons. At this point they could observe their substance.

Students were instructed to pick some up in the spoon or in their hand. If they tip their spoon, the mixture will flow like a liquid back into their cups. However, if they take a finger and push on the mixture in the spoon, it will get hard. The Non-Newtonian fluid will act like a solid if pressure is exerted upon it. If pressure is released, it will act again like a fluid.

[In scientific terms, the viscosity (resistance to flow) of the liquid increases when pressure is applied to it.]

One of the students wondered if it was a reusable substance after the water would evaporate from the mixture. He was sent home with this as an experiment and encouraged to come back with his observations.

This will begin our movement into the lessons on Atoms, Molecules and the Periodic Table.

As they left, they checked the progress of the ice cubes. They were able to see that the ice on the metal lid had the largest pool of water, followed closely by the black plastic lid and with the smallest amount of water was the Styrofoam cup. We will discuss these findings at the beginning of our next lesson.

-Steven Hackmann

Gingerbread Geometry


‘Tis the season to be jolly!

Welcome to The Literacy Alliance’s first post on WordPress. What better way to inaugurate this blog than with a holiday post?

Here at The Literacy Alliance, one task we have stepped up to in the world of adult ed., is to help adult learners study to pass the state administered test, so that they can earn their High School Equivalency Diploma. Let me explain a little more for those of you who are unfamiliar with adult education in Indiana…

  1. Indiana’s high school equivalency diploma is called an HSE. Most of you know the term GED, but the GED was done away with in 2014.
  2. To earn the HSE, test takers have to take and pass the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion).
  3. TASC has 5 tests: math, reading, social studies, science, and language arts.

For those of you who have completed high school, think back to all of the math you had to learn up to the 12th grade. Now picture taking a single test that contains all of that math…Yeah. It makes us shudder too.

So how do you help adult learners cram 12 years of math into their heads, retain that information, and then use it to pass a 7 1/2 hour test? By making the learning process a memorable experience.

This takes us to today’s story!

Two of our brilliant teachers recently decided to mix holiday cheer with geometry, and the result was Gingerbread Geometry!!


Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

To start the lesson out, the teacher first began by introducing the word “geometry.” “Geo” means world, “metric” means measure, put them together and you get “measure the world.” Then she reviewed 3 shapes: rectangles, squares, and circles. She asked the students to describe each shape; the hardest part for students was describing a circle. The students kept trying to say, “A circle is round!” to which the teacher would say back, “I don’t know what round means.” In the end they decided on what you see on the board below.


After deciding on how to describe shapes, the teacher moved on to talking about what perimeter is, and what area is. Again, she asked the students, describe what perimeter is. She pitched some scenarios at them, “Say I have a rectangle, one side is 7 inches, the other is 2 inches. What’s the perimeter?” Students would shout out answers like 7, 9, and finally 18. Then she’d say, “18 what?” Once they finally had the magic words, “18 INCHES,” she’d ask them, “How did you get those answers?” 

Once everyone was on the same page for how to calculate perimeter and area, it was time to start the construction process. The students were armed with a worksheet to fill out, and a gingerbread house to construct in groups of 3-4. Groups were made by assigning at least one high level student, one beginning level student, and students of levels in between. The teacher purposely assigned students at different levels in the same group to make sure that the students could use each other for help, and build team work.

Most students started out measuring the individual pieces to figure the perimeter and area…


Students recorded their measurements on their worksheets. The goal, aside from practicing geometry with hands-on experience, was to encourage the students to divide up the work to first of all make sure that everyone stayed busy, and to practice team building skills. Even adults sometimes need to be reminded how to work as a team.


In total the lesson probably took about an hour, but the end results were worth it…