Professional Development Workshops

Championing the front line in Adult Basic Education.

At First Literacy we know that supporting the front line in Adult Basic Education (ABE) helps ensure that adult learners receive the high-quality education they need to reach their full potential.

First Literacy professional development workshops provide free, evidence-based training and materials for Adult Basic Education teachers, program administrators, and counselors of adult literacy programs across Massachusetts. We know that professional development isn’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why we tailor each workshop to the unique needs of our participants by soliciting educator input at registration. Because we don’t rely on federal funding, we are able to adapt our workshop topics based on educator requests, not public mandates.

In addition to our free workshops, we provide a library of online resources that can be accessed at any time. We offer ready-to-use lesson plans, worksheets, tools, and First Literacy Grant project presentations. All resources can be adapted and incorporated into your own classes.

To be notified of upcoming workshops, be sure to sign up for our mailing list! For more information about our workshops or resources feel free to contact Bryan McCormick at

Register for Workshops

Thanks to our hybrid classroom technology all workshops are offered both in person and online via Zoom. 

First Literacy is located at 160 Boylston Street, Boston (ACROSS from Boston Common, NOT in Jamaica Plain). We hope you will come in to see us, and to learn and catch up with your colleagues in person.

When registration is open, titles will be active links in blue to click, learn more and register!


High School Equivalency (HSE) Test Changes In Massachusetts

Presenter: Michael Farma
Friday, September 29, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM


This workshop will cover policy changes to the HSE exams in Massachusetts and compare the GED and HiSET exams. The workshop will also include strategies to help students pass the exams with higher scores.


Less is More: Running an Efficient Classroom

Presenter: Alex Babbist  
Wednesday, October 4, 2023 (hybrid)
2:00 – 4:00 PM
Wednesday, October 18, 2023 (online only via Zoom)
2:00 – 3:00 PM


In this workshop, participants will explore classroom routines and tools to simplify both their workload and their learners’ experience. By drawing on the Montessori concept of the “prepared environment”, teachers can create a classroom flow that encourages learner independence and ownership while also more easily addressing the range of levels and learning needs the adult learner brings to the classroom. Participants will come away with practical ideas for both the ESOL and Adult Basic Education classroom. 

Tutor Training Intensive

Presenter: Judithann Walz
Friday, October 13, 2023 (in person)
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Friday, October 20, 2023 (in person)
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM


The Tutor Training Intensive will provide tutors and volunteers skills to assist teachers in classrooms both virtual and in-person. The participants will gain new strategies to help students become more confident and skillful. Objectives include developing an understanding of the learning process and implementing new strategies for effective working relationships with teachers and students.  Participants will have continued coaching upon successful completion of class.

Secrets for Success in the First Few Years Teaching ESL 

Presenter: Debbie Centamore 
Wednesday, October 25, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM


This workshop will share all the secrets for teachers new to the adult ESL classroom. The workshop will discuss how to reach students in one class, even though they have different levels of English. Participants will also come away with tricks to teaching pronunciation, and how to ensure teacher immediacy and increased student engagement. There will also be plenty of time to touch on questions and concerns that participants have.

From Novices to Navigators: Cultivating Agency in Beginning English Language Learners

Presenter: Sarah Lynn 
Friday, October 27, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


Many of our beginning level English language learners are new to classroom learning. In this three-hour practice-oriented workshop we will explore simple tools, activities, routines, and classroom systems to develop our students’ “learning-to-learn” skills, so they may become more effective, confident, and self-directed learners in class and beyond.


Going To Work: Unlocking Job Readiness Skills In Your Adult Basic Education or English as a Second Language Classroom

Presenter: Kelly Folsom
Wednesday, November 8, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


Employers often cite “soft skills” (job readiness) as the most important barrier to employment at any level. Job readiness courses empower low-income, lower-skilled populations to take control of their lives by helping them to better understand employer expectations, teaching time, conflict and stress management, and developing higher self-esteem among students. In this highly interactive workshop, we will practice activities and use tools that can help students develop job readiness skills in any Adult Basic Education or English as a Second Language classroom.


Grant Writing for Adult Basic Education

Presenter: Barbara Garner and Amy Letteney
Friday, December 1, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Wednesday, December 13, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM


Interested in raising funds for a project but not sure how to? Tired of submitting proposals and getting turned down?  In this workshop you’ll examine the overall proposal process and learn how to identify appropriate funders and write persuasive proposals.

Teaching to the Test: A Practical Guide to Prepare Immigrants and Refugees for the Citizenship Interview

Presenter: Andy Koppel
Friday, December 8, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


This workshop will highlight the information most relevant to preparing immigrants and refugees for citizenship interviews. The workshop will include sections on background, general methodology, specific methodology, and practice interview customization. Examples will also be shared from more than six years of experience. The workshop will conclude with a simulated in-person interview with a recent student from The Immigrant Learning Center.


Volunteers Are Here… Now What? How to Foster a Volunteer Friendly Workplace

Presenter: Sandy Simpson
Friday, January 12, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, January 26, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM


This workshop will address the specific needs of your work setting in developing volunteer materials. We will develop a toolbox for training and mentoring volunteers. We will participate in role plays, group brainstorming, paired production, individual needs assessments and lectures. You will have access to a host of strategies for working with your volunteers.


Exploring Morphemes: Word Study for Vocabulary Development

Presenter: Lisa M. Brooks, Ed.D.
Friday, February 9, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


In what ways can morphology study increase students’ vocabulary and comprehension skills? This session will provide an overview of the Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek layers of the language, focusing on how to teach skills from the Latin layer. We will explore how to introduce morphemes and ways to practice them in isolation and in context. Come discover some hands-activities to reinforce this level of advanced word work.


Essential Coaching Skills for Staff Supervision

Presenter: Alice Tilton
Friday, March 1, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, March 15, 2024 (Zoom only)
1:00-2:00 PM


Providing effective supervision to teachers is essential to retain staff and provide a welcoming and productive learning environment. Given that teaching is often done with limited direct observation, it is important to coach teachers so that they can use their own professional goals and self-awareness to build their skills. This workshop will focus on key coaching techniques to help teachers thrive in the classroom.

Enhancing Your Lessons with the Power of AI

Presenter: Andrew Shapira
Friday, March 8, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


You’ve probably heard about some of the amazing things that ChatGPT can do. It’s one of several new artificial intelligence “chatbots” that have begun to transform business, healthcare, education, and many other fields in the past year. In this workshop you will explore how ChatGPT, Bard, and other chatbots can be used in the adult education classroom. In addition, you will learn how to take advantage of the artificial intelligence features in educational tools like Quizizz and Padlet.

Adult Mental Health First Aid Training Certification

Presenters: Emile “Mike” Boutin & Luella Benn
Friday, March 22, 2024 (in  person)
12:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, March 29, 2024 (in person)
12:00 – 3:00 PM


Mental Health First Aid is an internationally recognized training program that teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training provides instruction in the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it builds mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness. 


The Ugly Truth About Standard English 

Presenter: Christian Saunders
Friday, April 5, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


As a teacher you want to give your students the language that will be the most useful, will allow them to communicate with as many people as possible, and take advantage of all the opportunities that a good language user has. So a type of English called ‘Standard English’ seems very attractive. Especially when you are told that this is the English that is used at schools all over the world, in dictionaries, by newsreaders, and even the smart assistant on your telephone. But what exactly is ‘Standard English’? In this workshop we will take a journey from the 1500s to today, and discover the origins, the evolution, and the hidden prejudices behind Standard English. This knowledge will transform the way that you interpret and teach language.


Working with adult students with overt or hidden disabilities is always a challenge. In this workshop we will explore some mindsets, assessments, strategies and tools for working with students with disabilities, including learning disabilities.


Understanding and Mitigating the Impacts of Stress on Student Performance

Presenter: Jennifer Rampsi
Friday, May 3, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


Stress is a factor in the lives of many people. It is time that educators gain insight on how stress may play a role in student performance in the classroom. Participants will gain an understanding of the variety of stressors students experience, what an instructor can do to assist students impacted by stress, and what resources can be accessed to help mitigate the influence of stress on student performance.

Tips and Tricks for English Pronunciation Success 

Presenter: Debbie Centamore
Friday, May 10, 2024 (in person)
1:00 – 4:00 PM

Please note, this workshop will be held in person at the following location:
The Brazilian American Center in Framingham
560 Waverly St
Framingham, MA 01702 


This workshop will provide hands-on, experiential activities and theory to address teaching pronunciation to English Language Learners. We will learn about first language interference and strategies to aim at producing native-sounding words. Dr. Seuss books have a lot of helpful secrets, let’s discuss them! Even native speakers of English teach pronunciation incorrectly, why is that?

Launching Our Students’ Summer Learning

Presenter: Sarah Lynn
Friday, May 17, 2024 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


For our students, a break from classes often means a break from learning. In 3 short months, students can backslide, losing recent learning gains and precious momentum. In this 3-hour workshop we will explore habits, strategies and incentives we can establish in our class, so our students have the tools they need to maintain their own learning momentum during those summer months.​

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