Teaching Low-Level Adult ESL Learners

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a picky girl

¬°•| مُشرِِفَة سابقة |•°¬
31 يناير 2010
Among Stars
What has the field learned about offering instruction to literacy level (low or beginning) adult ESL learners? This digest provides information on how to identify and assess the instructional needs of adults learning to become literate in a second language; it discusses general techniques that facilitate instruction for these learners; it provides a sample procedure for combining some of these techniques; and it describes classroom materials appropriate for low-level adult ESL learners.

Techniques for Working With Low-level Learners

Knowles and other educators maintain that adult education is most effective when it is "experience centered, related to learners' real needs, and directed by learners themselves" (Auerbach, 1992, p. 14). Bell and Burnaby (1984), Holt (1988), Holt and Gaer (1993), and Wrigley and Guth (1992) list techniques that involve beginning level learners as active participants in selecting topics, language, and materials.

1. Build on the experiences and language of learners. Invite them to discuss their experiences and provide activities that will allow them to generate language they have already developed.

2. Use learners as resources. Ask them to share their knowledge and expertise with others in the class.

3. Sequence activities in an order that moves from less challenging to more challenging, such as progressing from listening to speaking, reading, and writing skills. Move from language experience activities to picture-word connections to all-print exercises.

4. Build redundancy into curriculum ......., providing repetition of topics. This will help overcome problems related to irregular attendance common in adult classes.

5. Combine enabling skills (visual discrimination of letters and words, auditory discrimination of sounds and words, spacing between letters and words, letter-sound correspondences, blending letters to sound out words, sight vocabulary) with language experience and whole language approaches.

6. Combine life-skill reading competencies (reading medicine labels, writing notes to the children's teachers, filling out forms) with phonics, word recognition, word order, spacing words in a sentence, reading words in con...., and reading comprehension.

7. Use cooperative learning activities that encourage interaction by providing learners with situations in which they must negotiate language with partners or group members to complete a task (See Bell, 1988).

8. Include a variety of techniques to appeal to diverse learning styles. For example, merge holistic reading approaches such as language experience with discrete approaches such as phonics.

An Integrated Approach to Literacy Instruction

The language experience approach (LEA)‹which uses learner experiences as lesson .......‹is a way to introduce multiple activities that appeal to learners' diverse backgrounds and preferred learning styles while offering instruction in language that is both comprehensible and interesting (Taylor, 1992). The following is an example of a modified LEA lesson that could be used with low-level learners.

1. A shared experience, such as a field trip, a common situation, or a mean- ingful picture is a stimulus for class discussion.

2. Learners volunteer sentences about the experience and the teacher writes the sentences on the chalkboard.

3. The teacher reads each sentence aloud, running her finger under words as each is pronounced, verifying that she has written what the student has said.

4. When the story is completed, the teacher reads it aloud.

5. Learners are encouraged to join in a second and third reading of the story.

6. A number of activities can follow at this point:

* Learners copy the story;

* Learners underline all the parts they can read;

* Learners circle specific words (e.g., words that begin with a designated sound, common sight words such as the);

* Choral cloze: The teacher erases some words, reads the story, and asks learners to supply the missing words;

* Writing cloze: The teacher types the story, leaving out every fifth word. During the next class the teacher passes out the cloze and asks learners to fill in the missing words;

* Scrambled sentences: The teacher types the story. During the next class the teacher distributes copies of the story to the class. Each learner cuts the story into strips so that there is one sentence on each strip of paper. Learn-ers scramble the sentences and rearrange them in the proper sequence;

* Scrambled words: More advanced learners can cut sentences into words, scramble the words, and rearrange them in order.

Selecting Appropriate Classroom Materials

Using concrete but age-appropriate materials with adult learners enhances instruction by providing a con.... for language and literacy development. A basic kit of materials might consist of the following objects, games, and materials.

1. Realia: clocks, food items, calendars, plastic fruits and vegetables, maps, household objects, real and play money, food containers, abacus, manual for learning to drive, and classroom objects;

2. Flash cards: pictures, words, and signs;

3. Pictures or photographs: personal, magazine, and others;

4. Tape recorder and cassette tapes, including music for imagery and relaxation;

5. Overhead projector, transparencies, and pens; video player and videos;

6. Pocket chart for numbers, letters, and pictures;

7. Alphabet sets;

8. Camera for language experience stories‹to create biographies and autobiographies;

9. Games such as bingo and concentration: commercial or teacher-made;

10. Colored index cards to teach word order in sentences, to show when speakers change in dialogue, to illustrate question/answer format, and to use as cues for a concentration game;

11. Cuisenaire rods to teach word order in sentences, to use as manipulatives in dyad activities, and to teach adjectives;

12. Colored chalk to teach word order, to differentiate between speakers in a dialogue, and to illustrate question and answer format;

13. Poster, butcher, and construction paper;

14. Felt-tipped pens, colored pencils, and crayons;

15. Scissors, glue, and masking tape; and

16. Children's literature: for learning techniques for reading or telling stories to children (See Smallwood, 1992, for ideas on using children's literature with adults.).

Providing instruction to adults acquiring ESL literacy is a challenge. When approaches, techniques, and materials are suitable for adults, are related to their real needs, and promote involvement in their own learning, there is a greater chance of success.Grace Massey Holt
California Department of Education​
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