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Deconstructing the Task: Skill-Building and Skill-Using

Interactive instructional approach. 
Language experience approach. 
Digital literacy.

For convenience, the entire booklet or individual chapters can be printed by using the print icon in the Administration block on the left. 

Site: LISTN E- Learning Portal
Course: Course 4: Tools and Best Practices for Working with Literacy Learners
Book: Deconstructing the Task: Skill-Building and Skill-Using
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Sunday, 13 June 2021, 7:41 AM

1 Learning intents.

1. Apply Reading Continuum to deconstruct a reading task. 

2. Apply Writing Continuum to deconstruct a writing task.

3. Use Language Experience Approach to scaffold metacognitive tasks.

4. Apply Digital Literacy categories in lesson planning.

2 Interactive instructional approach: “whole-part-whole”.

"... Every task, even if large and seemingly overwhelming, is a series of small manageable steps that can be learned and applied” (CLB: ESL for ALL, p. 12) .

CLB: ESL for ALL outlines ESL Literacy Continuum for reading and writing skills. 

What is it and how can it be utilized in our instruction?

It is a valuable "resource that describes some of the skills, knowledge and strategies that ESL Literacy learners may need to acquire to support their daily activities. The continuum addresses the very specific "parts" or the technical aspects of literacy development. Instructors might find it helpful to refer to these detailed strands when a learner is having difficulty with a specific concept or task. The continuum can help an instructor identify which skills or abilities may be causing the learner difficulty. This information can be used to informally diagnose gaps in the learner's skills and to target instruction in a way that best meets the learner's needs. In addressing these developmental needs, an instructor may find it helpful to devise a series of simple tasks and activities that allow the learner to build related skills in a way that is appropriately progressive."(CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015: 105).

3 Reading continuum.

Let's take a look at a specific example. Learners in our group are working towards a CLB 1 task (e.g., reading a greeting card wishing someone to get well soon). Many of the learners in the group can easily identify a wishing well greeting card from other greeting cards. They are able to understand the message, sender and the recipient on a few similar cards. At the same time, a student Zulaila doesn't seem to be able to complete the task individually. I notice despair in her eyes. I'm trying to identify the gaps and find appropriate supports in this case. I browse through the ESL Literacy Continuum in reading (CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015: 108-123). I use the continuum to deconstruct the task to help Zulaila acquire necessary skills to progress. See the diagram below for example. 

SBA - skill-building activities. There is a list of suggested skill-building activities for each benchmark in CLB: ESL for ALL. For example, see p. 42 for CLB 1L.

4 Deconstructing a writing task. Individual activity.

Choose a writing task for benchmarks 1-4 from CLB 2012. Follow the process in the Diagram 1B to deconstruct the task you have chosen. This is an individual learning activity. You don't need to post it on the discussion forum.

SBA - Skill-building activity. Refer to the Writing Continuum pp. 124-137 in CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015. There are also available specific examples of SBA for each CLB in Part 2 of the document (e.g., p. 70).

5 Language Experience Approach (LEA)

LEA is an efficient way to engage Literacy learners in reading and writing practice through the use of personal experiences and oral language. "The LEA is as diverse in practice as its practitioners”. (Marcia Taylor, 1992). Read about the LEA basics on CAELA website.

I have applied LEA with the tasks that required the development and application of the metacognitive skills and, therefore, seemed particularily challenging at the Literacy level (e.g., keeping a learning log in student portfolios). In my experience, LEA has proven to be an effective way to scaffold learning reflections, and then record, share and review them as a class, in pairs, and individually. On the graphic, I'm using thsteps identified on CAELA website to describe the process that facilitates learning reflections with an Adult ESL Literacy group on a weekly basis. Here you can see an example from my class. Please be advised that the images used on the slides were modified for the purposes of this training. In your classes (with the permission from the students), use full images. When you access the presentation, hit PRESENT in the right top corner to see what it will look like in class or on paper. Try it with your students :)

6 LEA examples from colleagues.

Take a peek at the examples shared by fellow practitioners. What stands out for you? Do you see any advantages using LEA with Literacy learners? How can be mainstream learners engaged? Brainstorm ideas for possible LEA projects. Please share your observations on the forum thread (Task 1).

Digital Books by Shelley McConnell.

Kelly Morrissey here & here.

My sample from the previous chapter is here.

7 Digital literacy.

Digital literacy is no longer optional!

Basic computer skills have become a pre-requisite for success in employment and learning. The purpose of integrating computer skills in Adult ESL literacy instruction is twofold: developing learners' digital literacy to get things done in daily life and enabling the use of technology for further improvement of their conventional literacy and language skills. CLB: ESL for ALL (p. 24) outlines 3 categories of digital literacy. These categories can be used as a starting point in our digital literacy lesson plans. Based on the digital literacy categories identify a few items that you think will be valuable for learners in your class. Use tables below to guide you through the process. Share your ideas/findings on the discussion forum (Task 2).

8 Digital Literacy lesson plan.

How can we facilitate meaningful and personalized instruction of digital, language, and literacy skills at the same time? I'd like to invite you to evaluate a lesson plan against the strategies outlined in CLB: ESL for ALL, 2015. Access the document to peruse the strategies on page 23.

Please review the LP and use the table below. Think what you would do differently based on your context. This is an individual learning activity. 

DL Lesson Plan can be accessed here.

For convenience, the lesson plan is reproduced below.

ESL Literacy Lesson Plan: What's the weather like today in Toronto?

3 hours (regular time for hour classes) including 2 ten minute breaks

What's the weather like today in Toronto?

Real life task:

Use the web to check the weather (on the weekend or next 5 days) in the city where you live

By the end of the lesson learners will have

- checked and recorded current temperature in Toronto;

- checked and recorded weather conditions (e.g., sunny, cloudy, showers) in Toronto;

- watched and confirmed their recorded temperatures with a weather forecast video;

- checked and recorded the weather in their hometown if other than Toronto;

- discussed their notes with a classmate;


- getting things done

- comprehending information

- comprehending instructions

-sharing information

Digital Skills:

- locate and open a web browser

- access a website

- locate necessary information based on text, numbers and pictures

- use tabs to browse through text

- launch, pause or replay a video

Literacy Skills

- reading sight words (e.g., Toronto, weekend, Sat, Sun, cloudy, showers, sunny)

- navigate formatted text

- record information in a chart

- knowledge and understanding of the calendar


- understanding of temperature

- degrees C


Learners can use the same digital reading path to check the weather in different cities, at different times, outside the classroom, at home, teach their children how to do it by making a fun game, play a game with children at home, use when needed before planning a trip, etc.


Self-assessment checklist

Instructor's checklist

Learners have already turned on the computers.

Learning activities:

10 mins

Activity 1: whole class, explicit instruction

Project the computer screen and ask learners to locate a web browser. Double click on the browser to open it. If used double click check with learners if they now how many times they have to click the mouse to open the browser. Ask learners to locate the search box. Ask them if they remember or have recorded somewhere the class website ( Ask them to spell it while you are typing it in the search box.Direct learners attention to '.ca' in the web address, ask for its meaning, and elicit 'Canada'. Once the blog opens, ask learners to locate the weather box (on the right, blue box, a number, a picture, etc.). Prompt with questions and the cursor to elicit as much information as possible (e.g., What's the weather like today? What is the city? What is the country? What is the current temperature? Is it sunny, cloudy, rainy, cool, cold?).

20 min

Activity 2 (Individually with instructor's support):

Distribute the worksheet with digital task 1 (see attachment #2). Ask learners to follow the steps and fill in the chart individually. Support where necessary. Encourage learners to check their notes with a classmate sitting next to them.

10 min

Activity 3: whole class explicit instruction

Run open class feedback on the previous learning activity. Get learners attention to the screen. Follow the steps from Digital task 2.

20 min

Activity 4 (Individually with instructor's support):

Distribute the worksheet with digital task 2. Ask learners to follow the steps and fill in the chart individually. Support where necessary. Encourage learners to check their notes with their neighbors.

10 min

Activity 5: whole class explicit instruction

Run open class feedback on the previous learning activity. Get learners attention to the screen. Follow the steps from Digital task 3.

20 min

Activity 6 (Individually with instructor's support):

Distribute the worksheet with digital task 3. Ask learners to follow the steps and fill in the chart individually. Support where necessary. Encourage learners to check their notes with their neighbors.

25 min

Activity 7 (Pair work with instructor's support):

Ask learners where they are from (hometown or country). Elicit the spelling of hometowns and write them on the w/b for reference. Ask if learners know what the weather is like back home. Instruct learners to work in pairs. Distribute the worksheet with digital task 4.

25 min

Extension Activity 8 (Individually with instructor's support): Run open class feedback on the previous learning activity. Project the screen. Show the play video icon. Elicit what it means. Instruct learners to play the video as many times as wanted. While watching, learners pause the video and take notes of familiar words and numbers. After watching the video, they share their notes with a neighbor and then with the whole class. Distribute worksheet with Digital task 5 for additional support.

10 min

Checklist: Project the checklist on the screen. Complete it together. Discuss how learners can apply what they learned outside the classroom. Suggest ideas (e.g., show your children how to check the weather, make it a fun game at home, check the weather before planning a trip).

Flexi stage: time permitting or for more advanced learners

Learners practice weather terms, questions and answers using online flashcards ( posted on the blog: