Supporting Adult Language Learners in Immigrant Communities


How can VTS be used to empower adult immigrants who are learning a new language? CALTA21 had the honor of being invited to the VTS Online Summer Series to share approaches used in the design and implementation of our model. Listen to paneli…

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Migration Stories in the English Classroom

Migration Stories in the English Classroom: Using CALTA21 to Study Jacob Lawrence and the Migration Series
While preparing for the QCC Adult Literacy Program’s June Intensive classes, I knew I wanted to bring students to see Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series at MoMA. Currently on exhibition in its entirety, the series has been united for the first time in twenty years. The exhibit, titled One-Way Ticket, centers around all 60 panels of Lawrence’s canonical series and highlights representations of the black experience in America in the mid-twentieth century.
Having worked closely with the CALTA21 curriculum over the past few years, I saw an amazing opportunity to use the curriculum in conjunction with the Lawrence show. Examining portraiture, photography, and identity in order to learn English opens up a space to discuss students’ stories as immigrants. In the process, they are also learning ways and building tools to examine the histories and journeys of others. Thus, an exploration of the Great Migration and its significance in American history fit in wonderfully with the CALTA21 curriculum, once some small adaptations were made.
To prepare for the trip, we dedicated the prior class to exploring the work of Jacob Lawrence in its historical context. During a dynamic and informative guest lecture from Patricia Lannes, our students were introduced to the Lawrence series, as well as an overview of the history of Civil Rights in America, starting with the Declaration of Independence and stopping with the Voting Rights Act of 1964.
Using VTS to explore some of Lawrence’s panels in the classroom allowed students to engage with this history on both a personal and interpretative level, bringing human voices back into a now distant historical moment. Students had also previously received and reviewed museum vocabulary, as a part of the CALTA21 curriculum,  in order to build language to talk about art and engage with the works in a museum. Patricia’s classroom visit was a wonderful way to build the foundation for visiting the museum.
Wednesday turned out to be a beautiful day and the excitement was certainly palpable once we arrived at the museum. We made our way up to the third floor and, after a brief introduction, the class began to select works of art to zero-in on and examine critically, with the help of a worksheet from the CALTA21 curriculum.
While the chaos of MoMA made it difficult for us to discuss the experience as a whole group, I was able to go around and speak with students one on one. I was struck by the deeply thoughtful questions and observations posed by our students. One student noticed a transformation from the first to the last painting; the first panel shows the backs of the figures as they move through a train station and the final panel shows them facing forward in front of the train tracks. She understood this change as symbolic of a hopeful future and looking forward to a better life.
I’m excited to bring these questions and observations into the classroom and I look forward to hearing what our students have to say when I see them again this week!
-Valerie Smosna
Valerie Smosna is a Program Assistant and Instructor at the Queensborough Community College Adult Literacy Program. She worked as a Project Coordinator and Editor on CALTA21. Her background in art history and her focus on the intersection of art, social justice and underrepresented populations, has been instrumental to her work on CALTA21 and with the QCC Adult Literacy Program. She received her M.A. in art history from Bryn Mawr College and her B.A. from Haverford College.


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Professor Ahern and Her Class at the Katonah Museum

Last semester, Joy Ahern, Senior Adjunct Professor at Westchester Community College, implemented the CALTA21 curriculum in her Level 5 class. During the implementation, her students visited the Katonah Museum of Art twice and were given the opportuni…

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CALTA21 Goes to Philadelphia

Our next professional development institute will be hosted by the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia on February 25th, 26th and 27th.

Founded in 1898, the mission of the Fleisher Art Memorial is to make art accessible to everyone, regardless of…

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IMLS Grantees collaborate at the El Paso Museum

Three different recipients of IMLS Grants collaborate to create a new model for the Latino communities in El Paso, Texas.

Thanks to a Museums for America IMLS grant, the El Paso Museum of Art and AVANCE, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing…

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“I felt more comfortable this time at the museum”

“I felt more comfortable this time at the museum” said one student from Westchester Community College – and the rest of the students agreed with her comment. These students, from Lisa Hockstein and Joy Ahern’s classes, completed the CALTA21 “Identity…

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CALTA21 in Uruguay

Patricia Lannes was invited by Anilla Cultural and the Uruguayan public education system to conduct a workshop for museum professionals and educators on ways of using art to develop critical thinking habits. With the help of innovative modern technol…

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The recorded symposium is now online!

Did you miss the online symposium we hosted the other week? Or perhaps you want to revisit some of the segments that you have already seen? Now available is the full recording of the CALTA21 online symposium! We have broken it down into the five sepa…

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Experiencing the Museum: An Instructor's Perspective

Anida Pobric, an English Language Instructor and the Outreach and Assessment Coordinator for the QCC Adult Literacy Program, implemented the CALTA21 curriculum with her class this past winter. Anida, an immigrant herself, writes about her experience …

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Get ready for the Online Symposium this Tuesday!

Museums and Institutions of Higher Education Unite to Empower Adult English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL): June 3rd, 2-5 pm EST

Cultures and Literacies Through Art for the 21st Century, A National Leadership Grant, IMLS Funded Initiative is o…

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Presenting CALTA21 to Art Museum Curators in Detroit

Panel organizer and moderator Sandra Q. Firmin, Director and Chief Curator, Colorado University Art Museum invited Patricia Lannes, CALTA21 Project Director to be a panelist during last week’s annual 2014 meeting of The Association of Art Museum Cura…

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Register today for our online symposium!

If you haven’t already saved the date for our free online symposium on June 3rd from 2:00-5:00 pm (EST), please do so now! Registration is now open, so please register today for this live event at:


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