Building Literacy in the ESL Classroom

Teaching literacy in a multi-level ESL classroom can be a big challenge! There is so much to think about when writing a lesson plan for this kind of class! How do you include the lower level literacy students in your lesson, yet keep the higher level students engaged? Is it possible to meet the needs of such a multilevel class?

If you want to learn some of the tricks of the trade, you MUST come to hear Patsy Vinogradov, PhD, on April 11th! If you are going to give up a Saturday to attend a professional development course, this is the one not to miss! Not only does she have stellar academic credentials, she has published many papers on literacy education, and provides actual suggestions for activities that you can immediately use in your class!

Look at these websites for implementing literacy education into your classroom.  These are not merely academic or learning theory. They include practical tools for classroom use.


2)  This site has short videos that demonstrate literacy teaching methods. There are downloadable worksheets, flashcards, pictures, and other teaching tools. They also have a great article about the LEA method and teaching top down and bottom up. If you have never used the LEA method in your classroom, take a look at Patsy’s video, and begin to implement it! It’s “magic”!

Teaching low-literacy adults. Great demonstration from Reading Horizons.

One of the more recent published articles by Patsy Vinogradov, and Martha Biegelow, is:

Using Oral Language Skills to Build on the Emerging Literacy of Adult English Learners University of Minnesota, August 2010

Key Points from (quoted from site):

  • Balance meaning-focused and form-focused instruction
  • Connect instruction to learners’ lives
  • Use both bottom up and top down instruction
  • Connect the curriculum to issues that adults care about in the outside world (e.g., children, work).
  • Use students’ native language(s) as needed for clarification in instruction (e.g., directions regarding tasks and activities).
  • Vary opportunities for use of language in interaction and practice of language forms (e.g., communicative pair activities and short grammar drills).
  • Create learner generated texts. One way to do that is through the Language Experience Approach (LEA). LEA is where students share an experience, and then describe the experience to the teacher. The teacher transcribes the story. These words can then be used as a text for reading and then for a multitude of activities. Have the students:
    • Write about shared experiences
    • Transcribe conversations or student stories
    • Share learner-generated texts in newsletters
    • Write about a photograph or other visual
    • Write in a journal or dialogue journal
    • Provide texts for wordless picture books
    • Create photo books with captions
    • Create class posters.

Sign up for the professional development classes on April 11, 2015.