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

Our 2023 calendar of Winter and Spring workshops is listed below.  All workshops will be in person here at First Literacy, but thanks to our new hybrid classroom technology we will also provide an online option via Zoom. Everyone who attends in person will receive a free book recommended by each workshop facilitator and will be entered in a twice-a-year drawing for a $250 gift card. If you come to five workshops in person, your name will be entered five times! The final drawing will take place in June.

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!


Student Engagement in the ESOL Classroom: Techniques and Activities

Presenter: Sarah Lynn
Friday, January 6, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, January 20, 2023 (via Zoom only)
1:00 – 2:00 PM


We all know that student talk-time and engagement is essential to learning English, and yet as ESOL instructors we so often find ourselves at the front of the class doing most of the talking! In this two-part workshop, we will explore communication techniques to increase student-talk time in whole class-instruction, and ways to structure and support collaborative and communicative group activities. 

How to Get It All Done: To Do Lists, Productivity and Priorities for Educators

Presenter:  Allison Reid
Friday, January 13, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, January 27, 2023 (via Zoom only)
1:00 – 2:00 PM


Adult educators must reconcile ambitious goals, high standards, and often limited hours. This can leave dedicated professionals feeling that they are never done – the to do list is simply too long. We will explore actionable strategies that teachers, advisors and others can use to assess and prioritize their to do list, and use their time — however limited — more productively. 


The ABC’s of PBL (Project Based Learning)

Presenter: June Murphy-Katz
Friday, February 3, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


Students often look for ways to express their gratitude for the learning, support and life guidance they experience in our programs. By the end of this workshop, participants will have a multi-lesson project in which students can unleash their creativity as they design expressions of their appreciation.

Building a Community of Readers in Your Classroom

Presenter: Brooke Machado
Wednesday, February 8, 2023 (hybrid)
6:00 – 8:00 PM (Note evening time slot)
Wednesday, February 15, 2023 (via Zoom only)
6:00 – 7:00 PM (Note evening time slot)


Do you wish to increase the amount your students read or create a stronger reading culture in your classroom? Have you encouraged your students to read more, but your efforts fall flat? Do you lack the time or resources, or are just not sure where to start? In this workshop, learn practical classroom routines that have successfully worked with adult emergent readers in the ABE classroom and hear one student’s perspective from how she went from non-reader to devourer of books. The strategies and ideas presented in this training are adaptable for use in both the ESOL and ABE classrooms with English-learning and native English-speaking students. 


Improving Students’ Math Outcomes through Neuroscience, Metacognition, and Anxiety Management

Presenter: Allison Reid
Friday, March 3, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


Few academic subjects carry as much baggage as math. Students and teachers alike may wonder if they have a math brain (short answer: yes), and what happens when we learn math or face anxiety about it. In this workshop, we’ll explore key neuroscience concepts including working memory, neuroplasticity, and metacognition. We’ll connect them to math anxiety and common experiences of struggling with math; and to teaching applications and practical first steps that adult education teachers can implement in their math classes. 

Adult Mental Health First Aid Training Certification

Presenters: Emile “Mike” Boutin, Jr, EdD ACC and Luella Benn, MEd
Friday, March 10 and 17, 2023 (IN PERSON ONLY; NO Zoom link)
12:00 – 3:00 PM
Attendance is limited to 20.


Mental Health First Aid is an internationally recognized training program that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need 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.

Beginning, Middle and End: A Step-by-Step Process for Teaching Writing

Presenter: Judithan Walz
Friday, March 24, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, March 31, 2023 (via Zoom only)
1:00 – 2:00 PM


This workshop will walk you through the steps from brainstorming to production to sharing. Teachers will learn a step-by-step process to help students produce writing with strong beginnings, middles, and endings. The workshop will take teachers through the steps of stand-alone sentences to a paragraph to a three and five-paragraph essay and how good writing translates into real-world applications. 


Designing a Writer’s Workshop: Bridging the Writing Gap for ABE and ESOL Learners

Presenter: Jennifer Rampsi
Wednesday, April 12, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Friday, April 28, 2023 (via Zoom only)
1:00 – 2:00 PM


Many advanced ESOL and High School Equivalency (HSE) students struggle to enter college-level composition courses. This workshop offers tips to help students “find their voices,” and build confidence in their writing abilities — a “bridge” between conventional instruction of the writing to the more rigorous demands of the College Composition classroom. The workshop will also include an opportunity for participants to experience the Writer’s Workshop model with facilitated writing time and group feedback following established protocols.


Keeping New Students Enrolled and Engaged

Presenter: Alice Tilton
Friday, May 5, 2023 (hybrid)
1:00 – 4:00 PM


This workshop will focus on best practices for welcoming new students into your program to encourage growth and limit early attrition. We will discuss practical ways to create a culture of belonging in students’ first days, with attention to both the physical environment and communication strategies. We will also focus on how to share classroom expectations in a way that is motivating for students, by focusing on their personal development goals.   

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