One way I foster independent learning in my students is by ending our reading lesson with 20 minutes of individual or pair reading time. The students use this time to re-read the material that they have already practiced in verbal activities and choral reading. This is their chance to read the material again on their own or with a partner.
Since our classroom is quite crowded and doesn't have a lot of room to move around, we move over to a nearby assembly room to spread out and read. Sometimes I give students the option to read with a partner or alone. Sometimes I will give instructions to mix people up such as "read with someone from a different country" or "read with someone from the same country". Sometimes I will strategically pair students, either a higher student who can coach a lower student, or students at similar levels that will read well together. Sometimes I'll have students spread out and read silently to themselves. I always circulate around the room and listen for a few minutes to as many of the individuals or pairs as I can during 20 minutes. It gives me a great chance to see what students are capable of on their own, and to coach them individually.
Regular individual reading time has helped my students practice and develop independent learning skills. Adult students who haven't had any previous education in their native language are "learning how to learn" in addition to learning language. Fostering independent learning is a key component of "learning how to learn". How do you help your students develop independent learning skills?
The Teacher's Activity Guide for abc English: Book Two is now available. The Teacher's Activity Guides describe speaking, listening, reading, and phonics activities for adult English learners who are not literate in their native language. Download free sample lessons from both Teacher's Activity Guides here.
Printed books are available to purchase at the abc eStore or on amazon.com. PDF digital downloads of each book are also available at lulu.com.
If you have used any resources in the abc English series, please rate the books and leave comments at amazon.com. If you find these resources useful, please let your colleagues know about them!
I am currently putting the finishing touches on the Teacher's Activity Guide for abc English: Book Two. The Activity Guide describes a variety of interactive speaking and listening activities for each reading lesson in abc English: Book Two. The book will be ready in July 2014 both at this website and on www.amazon.com.
In the meantime, preview six free sample lessons from the Teacher's Activity Guide for Book Two, along with the Book Two slideshows that support some of the activities described in the Teacher's Activity Guide.
3. Teach easy multi-syllable words first - I've created a multi-syllable word list that progresses from simple words to more phonetically difficult words. The first groups of words contain simple closed and open syllables; the more advanced lists introduce syllables with blends, extra sounds, double vowels, soft c and soft g, -y endings, and -tion endings. It has worked well for my students to practice one set of 8 words per week, with a "spelling test" at the end of the week. A Post-it Note matching activity can make the words accessible to even the very lowest level students. Several activities and strategies for teaching multi-syllable words are described in the Teacher's Activity Guide for abc English Book Two. How do you help your students learn to read and write multi-syllable words?
Adult Emergent Readers learn reading skills best when they practice reading words and phrases that already have meaning for them. As a teacher, I can accomplish this by arranging lesson activities to present "meaning" first, before putting written material in front of students. I usually spend 20 to 30 minutes facilitating a variety of communication games, role plays, and interactive activities that relate to the written material before I have students open their books. See the photos and captions below for several examples. If you'd like more ideas, the Teacher's Activity Guide for abc English: Book One describes over 300 "Before Reading" activities that support the reading material in abc English: Book One.
Spelling lists are one way to introduce and practice phonics patterns. I choose eight words each week that represent a specific phonics pattern or skill. Suggested spelling lists and images are available at www.teachabcenglish.com under "Spelling". Students practice the words throughout the week with a variety of activities, then take a "test" at the end of the week. Here are a few ideas:
Use a projector to show the images. Discuss the pictures. Teach the words and have the students repeat the words. Write the words in a list and have students identify what element is the same in each of the words in the group. For example, in the picture above, we are practicing words with the long vowel sound "a": name, same, lake, take, date, late, plate, state.
* Post-it Note Scramble: Write the beginning sound, vowel sound, and ending sounds on separate Post-it Notes for each word on the spelling list. Mix up all of the beginning sounds and place them on the left side of the board. Mix up all of the vowel sounds and place them in the center of the board. Mix up all of the ending sounds and place them on the right side of the board. In the example pictured above, we are practicing words that have a "silent e", so we have a fourth group of Post-it notes to the far right.
Show an image on the board and choose a student to come select the correct Post-it Notes to make up the word.
* Mini White Boards: Use individual dry erase boards to practice the spelling words. Show an image, dictate the word, and have the students write the word on their individual white board. For low level students, post the Post-it Notes on the board again so you can point to individual sounds to help students along.
(You can make a set of individual dry erase boards for under $20 by asking a home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowe's to cut a 4 by 8 foot of melamine or "Shower Board" down into 12 inch by 8 inch pieces. You could also use a piece of white paper inside a plastic sheet protector.)
* Spelling "Test": At the end of the week, review the words one more time and then have students take a simple spelling test. Create a worksheet with the images, or hand out a small blank piece of paper (I use regular lined paper cut into quarters). Dictate a word and have the students try to write it independently. When the test is finished, review the words and have students check their own work.
Sample spelling lists can be found at the back of abc English: Book One and abc English: Book Two, and they can also be found at the bottom of the Book 1 Activities page on this site.
Have you tried using spelling lists with adult ESL students? What ideas have worked well in your classroom?
Our program's computer lab was recently updated with new computers and internet access. I've spent some time over the past few months looking up online English practice sites for Adult ESL Literacy Learners and have compiled many of my student's favorite activities here:
I've made this site the home page for the internet browser on each computer so it is easy for students to access the activities.
Feel free to use this with your students too!
Do you know of other websites that low level adult ESL learners enjoy? Please share in the comments below and I'll add them to the site!
This is my fourteenth year of teaching adult literacy learners. My first several years of teaching, I used flashcards to teach the abcs. Flashcards were great for playing games and as a hands-on student learning tool, but they were frustrating too. Sometimes the students were holding the cards upside down and didn't know it. Often cards got lost. Sets of cards got mixed up. With a large group of students, it was difficult to keep students busy with flashcards.
I later made a packet of worksheets to practice abc sounds and easy reading. I would make copies of the worksheets for my students. This was a step in the right direction, but I still found it frustrating to make so many copies that would end up going to waste. Students didn't have the organizational skills to keep the papers in order. If students missed a day (as they so often did!), they were missing the worksheet. Often, I would see students rummage around in the bottom of a bag and pull out a wad of crumpled up papers. I felt like it was very time consuming to help students keep papers organized.
Next I started printing packets of abc practice and easy reading practice that I would bind with a spiral binding through our district's printing department. It was exciting for students to feel like they had a real "book" that they could learn from. Not a children's book. Not an ESL textbook that was cluttered with too many words on a page for a brand new reader. A very simple book that students could open to any page and feel like it was within their grasp to read the text with a little bit of instruction.
Two years ago, I attended an Educational Technology conference and learned about self publishing. With sites like www.lulu.com and www.createspace.com, it is now very easy and inexpensive to self-publish books with top quality results. I updated the materials that I had been testing with my adult ESL literacy learners for years, and had it printed into a book. abc English: Book One was the result. I've used it in its current format for the past two years, and am very pleased with how students get excited about it. I keep a class set of 25 books that I use daily in class. After being introduced to the books, some students have asked to buy their own to take home. When I've made that an option for my students, many take the opportunity to buy their own copy of the book. Those who prefer not to buy the book can always use one of the class set books.
I'm really happy having a "book" for my low level literacy students. I make many fewer copies than I used to. I don't feel like I'm wasting paper every day. Students don't end up with wads of crumpled up papers in their bags. Students have reading materials in their hands and in their homes that is at their level. Best of all, students tell me that they practice reading at home with their kids and spouses.
If you've used abc English in your classroom, please share your experiences in the comments below. What other books do you find useful for literacy level adult ESL learners?
Here are the slides for the ITESOL Presentation. Please leave comments or questions below!