Literacy Program Frequently Asked Questions

Planning and Content

  • Libraries have online materials and resources that you can use! We highly suggest helping your student get their own library card if they don’t have one. We have a partnership with the LA Public Library, and every School on Wheels student is eligible for an e-card no matter where they’re located. Click here for information to share with their parents or guardian to sign them up.
  • Newsela: Sign up for a free account. Search for articles for “Lower Elementary School” to start. Once you choose an article, a drop-down menu in the top-right corner allows you to adjust the reading level of the article.
  • There are many sources for books on video. Some are read-alouds, and if you’d like your student to read independently, simply mute the video.

Learning takes a lot of repetition! When you work on any skill with your student, you are creating or strengthening a neural connection in their brain. Once your student has practiced that skill enough times, the connection will become automatic, like building a habit. 

  • Encourage them to practice between your sessions, and spend a little time at the beginning of each session reviewing what you learned the last time to help them strengthen that skill.
  • Practice patience with yourself as you reinforce skills. You’re planting seeds at every session and results take time.

Learning English and learning to read at the same time is a big job for your student. Remember, your student’s home language will help them learn to read English. You are a wonderful English-language resource for them!

  • A general rule to remember is that the more your student learns to speak and understand English, the easier reading will become because they know the words.  Seek out topics that interest them, then have conversations or read out loud to them about those topics. 
  • When you come to a new vocabulary word, write it down to practice later. They can effectively practice their literacy skills through reading, writing, speaking, listening, and even drawing.  
  • Connect the material in your tutoring sessions to the knowledge they already have. For example, when you look at the pictures in a story, can they describe them in their home language? Can they talk about a story in their home language? Can they relate a personal experience to the story that you’re reading?

For more ideas, see 6 Essential Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners.

This is common! Start by helping them develop a “growth mindset”, meaning that they know they can learn and understand more through hard work, the use of effective strategies, and help from others. Our Social and Emotional Learning Program offers lesson plans and activities to help. 

  • Focus on building their love of reading by researching something that interests them together. If you need to read text out loud to them, it can help them build their phonemic awareness and vocabulary. 
  • While your student reads aloud, make note of words where they struggle. This will help you find patterns to address specific reading skills.
    • Remember to switch between activities frequently. For example, devote 10 minutes to a worksheet, mini-book, or activity from the Word Knowledge curriculum, then take a break! 
  • Think outside the book – Use the lyrics of your student’s favorite songs (as appropriate), news articles, interviews with celebrities they like, poems, movie scripts, etc.
  • School on Wheels’ program for 5th-8th graders includes options for English-language skill building that adapts to their current level. Click here for more information on the Academic Program and Freckle.
  • The Literacy Program team is happy to talk about your student’s learning plan. Please don’t hesitate to schedule a time through the link in your program emails. 

Please refer to the emails you’ve received from the Literacy Program Team or contact for details.

Engagement and Personalization

This is very typical! 

  • Our suggested routine is a great way to set expectations, which can help them concentrate on a task more successfully. Explicitly tell them the plan for each session, but remember that not all young students fully understand time. However, showing them a plan can help them know what comes first, second, third, etc. 
  • If 10 minutes is too long for them to focus on a task, add in additional breaks. Adjust your plan to fit their attention span. 
  • Include movement in your plan! For example, trace out letters with their fingers in the air, or make letters with their whole body. Ask them to bring over something from the other side of the room that starts with a “p” sound, like a picture. Dance during breaks.
  • First, include your student’s genuine interests. There is something written about everything, and you will be able to find materials that your student is enthusiastic about. 
  • Exploring familiar topics will boost their confidence while providing learning opportunities.
  • Don’t hesitate to have informal conversations with them about topics they love, or to watch short videos on that topic. During the discussion, make note of new vocabulary words for future practice.

Personalizing activities to your student’s interests is one of the best ways to encourage a love of reading! 

  • Let your student become the teacher. Start by planning how they will present their expertise to you. While they teach you about what they love, listen, participate, and ask questions. 
  • Research the topic they love together, and do your best to find reading materials at their level. 
  • Other great ways include: holding a conversation on that topic, reading out loud to them about that topic, writing about it, watching short videos about it, learning historical context, and maybe even going on a virtual field trip. 

Our Social and Emotional Learning Program has wonderful lesson plans to use if your student can’t think of many personal interests to tell you about. Try filling out the Book of Questions, Wonders, and Curiosities, or use the entire lessons titled “Intellectual Humility and Curiosity” and “More Curiosity”.

Advocacy and Communication

It depends. To ensure confidentiality for your student, contact your School on Wheels coordinator and ask whether your student’s parents or guardians have given permission to communicate with their teacher or school.

Please don’t hesitate to talk with our Literacy Team! Refer to the emails you’ve received from the Literacy Program Team or contact for details.

Click here to return to the Literacy Program Curriculum and Best Practices.