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Getting to Know the Learners: Needs Assessment and Self-Discovery Activities.

Three streams of learners. 
Ten instructional strategies.

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Site: LISTN E- Learning Portal
Course: Course 4: Tools and Best Practices for Working with Literacy Learners
Book: Getting to Know the Learners: Needs Assessment and Self-Discovery Activities.
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Sunday, 13 June 2021, 6:18 AM

Learning Intents.


1. Identify the differences between mainstream ESL, Literacy ESL, and L1 literacy students.

 2. Become aware of the multitude of scenarios and learner profiles that may require additional literacy supports.

 3. Review strategies in teaching   Adult ESL literacy.

 4. Connect Best Practices in literacy instruction to own context and practice.

Adult ESL Literacy context.

What makes teaching Adult ESL Literacy different?

CLB: ESL for ALL (2015) provides a chart to help us identify the differences between 3 streams of learners. Take a peek at page 6. For convenience, the chart (CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015:6) is reproduced below.

Along with the three scenarios below, there are many other possibilities including learners in each stream with learning or physical differences which shape their individual learning capabilities.

"Adult ESL Literacy learners work toward the same language learning outcomes as literate ESL Learners (as outlined in the Canadian Language Benchmarks), but their learning does not progress as quickly because they lack transferable literacy concepts,knowledge,and strategies from their first language; they are working on both language and literacy at the same time. Because of this, ESL Literacy learners need considerable support, instruction, and guided practice in acquiring and applying literacy skills and strategies”. CLB: ESL for ALL supports instructors in providing this guidance to literacy learners. It is assumed that instructors will use this document in conjunction with the Canadian Language Benchmarks 2012 (CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015: 1).

Adult ESL Learners: some distinctions.

Use the chart on p 6. in CLB: ESL for ALL to peruse the middle column pertaining to Adult ESL Literacy learners. Go through the learner characteristics and think what additional supports you will need to plan for to meet Adult ESL Literacy learner needs in the classroom. Post your ideas on the Forum (Task 1). See example below:

Having "little or no awareness for the purposes of uses of literacy” means that I have to ensure that learners begin to understand the role of literacy in Canadian society from the very first day in class. In my experience, I often assisted learners with understanding and responding to the government correspondence or notices from their landlords. In most cases, learners showed me the letters or important notices after the deadline for their reply or required action had passed. Clearly, my group of learners lacked the understanding of the purposes of the government correspondence. This resulted in my practice of showing examples of letters and notices, emphasizing the importance of an official letter/document, advising learners to bring the government letters in as soon as they find them in their mailboxes, teaching learners to locate and understand the dates in the letters, and differentiating between an official/important correspondence and the junk mail.

Your turn:)  Please post in Task 1 on the forum. For convenience, the chart is reproduced below:

(CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015: 6)

CLB and CLB L learners.

What is the difference between a CLB1 and a CLB 1L learner?

CLB: ESL for ALL (p. 31) recognizes that ESL learners (mainstream) and ESL Literacy learners will be working towards CLB learning outcomes at different pace and will require different supports. For benchmarks CLB 1-4, there is a comparative profile of ability.

See the Profile of Ability for a learner at CLB 1L in reading, and identify the differences. For convenience, see the reproduction of CLB 1L below:

(CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015:41)

Individually, check the differences between CLB 1 and CLB 1L in writing.  Answer the same question in relation to levels that are currently in your class. For example, if you teach CLB 4-3, look at the differnces between CLB 3 and CLB 3L as well as CLB 4 and CLB 4L in both skills.

Ten Instructional Strategies.

In order to differentiate and meet the needs of the adult ESL Literacy learners in both specialized ESL Literacy and mainstream LINC/Adult ESL programs instructors need to be strategic.

There are various strategies to support differentiated instruction. We are going start with the 10 identified in Learning for Life: An ESL Literacy handbook (pp. 78-84)

  • View learners holistically
  • View learning as a social activity
  • Teach thematically
  • Create a print-rich environment
  • Create a classroom routine
  • Start with oral learning
  • Give plenty of time for practicing
  • Respect learner's knowledge while providing them with new understanding
  • Establish outcomes
  • Incorporate technology

See the graphic view of the ten strategies on the right. Before tapping into reading, think how each of the strategies on the graphic can be implemented in your classroom. Peruse the strategies in Learning for Life: An Adult ESL Literacy Handbook (pp. 78-84) to confirm your ideas. This is an individual learning activity.

Best Practices in mixed-ability classes.

CLB: ESL for ALL recognizes the challenges associated with teaching both streams of learners in one class where instructors have to be strategic in order to address Literacy learner needs "while also addressing the language learning requirements of literate 'mainstream' learners.” Peruse the strategies (CLB: ESL for ALL, p.11) and identify what strategies you have already been using and at least one that you can apply or enhance in your teaching practice. Share your finding with the colleagues on the forum (Task 2) :)