NCALNE (Voc): Essential But Not Sufficient – Part 2

John B

The NCALNE (Voc) is a qualification that proves that you know the least that you need to know about embedding literacy and numeracy. I wrote about this here the other day.

If your interest perked up at the title of this post, you need to read this piece below by John Benseman.

I already posted about this when it came out. But I know you didn’t read it.

I want you to download it. Do it now. Click below. Go on…

Then comments, please…

NCALNE (Voc): Essential But Not Sufficient

Screenshot 2015-09-21 11.42.18

Skip this post unless you manage foundation tutors or work as a tutor in the adult literacy and numeracy sector.

Here’s the question:

  • Will the NCALNE training help my organisation develop more mature embedded literacy and numeracy practices?

Here’s the answer:

  • Yes. It’s a great start. But it’s the beginning of the journey. Not the end.

The criteria above have been out for a couple of years now. And the NCALNE training and credentials will help your tutors and your organisation move from emergent practices, towards more mature embedded literacy and numeracy practices.

I’ll do a breakdown of this with more detail as to what and how at some stage. But that will be a different post.

Just remember: the NCALNE on its own is not a silver bullet. You need to have full organisations support to get the kind of mature practice that the TEC describe in the table above.

Some further ideas:

  • What about measuring literacy and numeracy gains over a much longer time period.
  • What about measuring changes in what tutors actually do?
  • Think about what milestones tutors have to reach before you start to see improvements in learner outcomes? For example, NCALNE (Voc) plus… stuff: resources, organisational support, ongoing professional development.

The table is here below if you’re looking for a PDF version to share or print.

Hat Tip: Thanks, Damon Whitten for the wording in the heading and some of the ideas here.

Hand Stitched Leather Moleskine Journal Cover: Update On My Latest Addiction


I wrote about my most recent addiction recently. For some reason, I just can’t get enough of hand stitched leather stationary accessories.

It’s a weird obsession. But then I have a thing for luggage as well…

In the end, I went with design superiority and ordered the  leather journal cover made by Gfeller Casemakers.


I’m very happy with it. And it fits with the new (for me) aesthetic that I’ve been mulling over since reading Anti-Fragile by Nassim Taleb.

  • This is that it’s a piece of gear that wears in, not out. I want more stuff in my life like that.


And it has a place for my pen. This has been a big deal… how to attach a pen to my notebook.

I might be the only one that obsesses over little details like this. But I just love the fact that the pen holder also functions as the mechanism that holds the cover closed as well.


The leather will darken up over time as it absorbs oils from my skin, UV light, and coffee stains.

And with so much of my life now digital, I really enjoy the analogue experience of scribbling notes and drawings in my notebook.

It’s a literacy thing I think. There’s probably some science behind it. But it works for me and that’s enough.

Cashflow 101 Experiment – Part 3: Developing a Contextualised Numeracy Assessment

Screenshot 2015-09-20 10.29.25

Feel free to skip this one as well. This is an outline of how I developed the numeracy diagnostic I’m using in my experiment with the Cashflow 101 game.

The vocabulary diagnostic is here from the other day.

To play the game, you have to maintain a balance sheet. Like the one in the image above. This means doing some maths.

And some of the maths gets a bit tricky as it involves big numbers. This means that you need to understand place value and a few other things as well.

I looked back across a bunch of old balance sheets that we’d already used and came up with a list of several different kinds of calculations that players needed to understand and do.

From there I also worked backwards to some of the underpinning knowledge. I did this so I could check numeracy knowledge at the lower steps as well. I didn’t really need this for the group that I’m working with, but I wanted it in place for others.

In the same way that the vocabulary was mapped against the steps of the Adult Literacy Progressions, the numeracy concepts here are mapped against the Learning Progressions for Adult Numeracy.

From looking back over past games, most calculations require knowledge at step 4. There’s some multiplication, most of the work is using addition and subtraction. You also need some knowledge of percentages.

Here’s what I came up with for the step 4 additive and multiplicative calculations. Screenshot 2015-09-20 14.56.36

Screenshot 2015-09-20 14.56.52

The actual assessment is a bit longer as I wanted to check number knowledge and place value as well.

You can download a PDF of the current version of the numeracy assessment for the Cashflow game below:

If you use it, let me know. Feel free to cut it down to size. At 50 items it’s too big as well.

Cashflow 101 Experiment – Part 2: Developing a vocabulary assessment

vocab profiler Cashflow

Feel free to skip this one… It’s a bit on the technical side. But I wanted to document how I developed a couple of targeted diagnostic assessments. These relate to my Cashflow 101 experiment that I’m running at the moment.

This one relates to the vocabulary used in the game. I’ll do a separate post on the numeracy diagnostic that I created.

Cashflow 101 is a board game that teaches financial literacy. As you play the game you learn how the concepts work. But there is a bit of jargon and technical lingo to learn as well.

You also have to do some maths as you play the game. But that’s for another post. Ultimately, I want to gamify the course and qualification that I teach.

What I wanted to do here was develop a couple of assessments that test what people know before learning the game. These needed to focus on context specific vocabulary and numeracy skills.

Below is my process for developing the diagnostic assessments. These are my pre and post tests for the experiment.

Vocabulary Word Bank

First of all, I needed to come up with a bank of words to work from. I found a PDF version of the instructions online and uploaded this to the online Vocab Profiler.

I’ve written about how I’ve used this tool before. It’s not perfect, but it acts like a kind of filter to help me focus.

Once I submitted the text, the Vocab Profiler sorted the words according to frequency (in other words how often they are used).

I printed out the frequency lists and then made my own selection for the word bank.

You can see my print out and working in the image at the top of this page.

I used the lists to develop a word bank of technical words. Here’s a shot of the first page of the word bank. I’ve added in the definitions.

Screenshot 2015-09-18 21.18.57

The key is as follows:

  • 1K = First thousand words of English
  • 2K = Second thousand words of English
  • AWL = Academic Word List
  • Off list = Words not in the 1K, 2K, or AWL

In terms of the Learning Progressions that we use in New Zealand, most of the vocabulary that’s interesting is probably Step 4, 5, and 6. Mainly step 6 or Off List according to the Vocab Profiler.

From the word bank I developed the vocabulary assessment. Here’s a screenshot of the first page:

Screenshot 2015-09-18 21.24.28

On retrospect I think I was a bit overzealous. There were 38 words in my vocabulary assessment. That’s too many. Feel free to revise it for me.

My preferred format for vocabulary assessments is what I call a partial cloze. I gap out part of the word in a sentence. It’s simple and easy to do.

The person taking the test should be able to get some of the meaning from context. And a bit of a hint from the first few letters.

If they know the word, but can’t spell it they might have a go at writing it. But if they don’t know the word, the context and letters aren’t enough to give the game away.

When I mark it, I mark it once for correct spelling and then a second time for word knowledge (i.e. if it’s clear they know the word but just can’t spell it).

If you’re interested, you can download and use any of the following. Let me know in the comments if you do.

  1. Cashflow Wordbank
  2. Cashflow Vocab Pretest

Gamification 101: How To Turn The Course I Teach Into A Game


Technical stuff is hard to teach. This is because it’s… well… technical. As a trainer you have to work hard to make things understandable.

One way to do this is to turn it into a game. Or a series of games.

I’m interested in this at the moment because I’m experimenting with Cashflow 101. This is a game that teaches financial literacy.

My goal is to gamify the course and qualification that I teach. I want to incorporate some teaching of the concepts people need. But I want most of the emphasis to be on the game play.

I haven’t given up on my idea for Tutoropoly or some kind of cooperative board game where players have to work together to collectively win (or lose).

But I thought I’d tackle something a bit easier first. So I’ve devised a prototype. It’s more of a card game. And much easier to design and play.


The purpose of the game is to get people using the vocabulary that we use when we talk about our stuff. It’s kind of teacher vocabulary. It’s not very interesting to civilians. But it is the language of our trade.


So far, I’ve produced a paper version of the card game. We’ve had a couple of goes at this at home. The game play is Fish. But the next iteration will incorporate a few rules from Canasta to liven things up.

If I get around the finishing it, I might post the templates here. Anyone interested in a copy? Let me know in the comments.