Developing materials for LESLLA workplace learners By Betsy Lindeman Wong, M.A. Adult ESOL Instructor and Trainer Fairfax County (Va.) Adult and Community Education Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center
Research-based Best Practices in adult ESOL literacy What do we know about instructional strategies that have proven effective in helping adult ESOL learners to develop literacy skills as they build English language proficiency?
The “What works” study “What Works Study for Adult ESL Literacy Students” (Condelli, Wrigley, Yoon, Cronen, & Seburn, 2003) Data collected on 495 students representing more than 30 different languages in 13 adult ESL programs. Two cohorts of students followed for 9 months. Assessed at entry; after 3 months; after 9 months. Three key instructional strategies fostered growth in English literacy and oral communication skills: Varied language-skill practice and student-to-student interaction. Use of the native language to clarify instructions and facilitate group work. Connection of classroom activities and materials to the “outside world.”
Classroom research at the National Labsite for Adult ESOL (known as the Lab School), a partnership between Portland Community College and Portland State University in Oregon, probed what happened during beginner-level pair activities (Harris, 2005). Videotaped pair interactions showed that negotiation of meaning among peers is an important part of language acquisition. Among other things, pair or small group work leads learners to negotiate meaning with each other when they don’t understand -- an essential skill for the workplace.
The National literacy panel The National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth (August & Shanahan, 2006) was commissioned to examine instructional practices supported by research. The Panel found that cooperative learning involving group problem-solving scenarios or tasks had a positive impact on student learning when combined with direct instructional approaches and a focus on form. For instance, literacy learners would benefit when letter-sound association exercises were incorporated into lessons on specific knowledge and skills, such as those needed for a job.
Bringing literacy to life: issues and options study A two-year research study conducted by Wrigley and Guth, described in Bringing Literacy to Life: Issues and Options in Adult ESL Literacy (1992), recommended instructional strategies for meeting the needs of ESOL literacy learners in multilevel class settings. Among the recommendations: Cooperative projects Organizing the class into groups -- at times heterogeneous, at times homogeneous Ongoing, informal assessments to get a feel for learners’ needs, abilities, and challenges Peer teaching
Components of Successful esol workplace programs What do we know about ESOL programs that have proven effective in helping adult ESOL learners to reach their full employment potential and succeed in the workplace?
Esol and workplace training: an integrated approach A 2003 report co-published by the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium, the National Institute for Literacy, and the Center for Law and Social Policy recommended creating programs combining language and literacy services with job skills training. Wrigley and a team of experts in adult ESOL literacy based their recommendations on non-experimental research in the fields of adult ESOL and training and from site visits and interviews at ESOL programs.
Employment/training programs for esol adults: 3 components The report recommends that employment and training programs for ESOL adults include instruction in three components: General workplace communication skills Job-specific language “Soft skills” to navigate U.S. workplace culture
Learner-centered workplace instruction GussGrognet’sPlanning, Implementing, and Evaluating Workplace ESL Programs (1996) research brief recommends needs analyses to determine the employer’s desired workplace outcomes for employees – and the employees’ “on the job” needs and future goals. Lesson planning should include gathering texts and materials used at the job, such as manuals – and adapting them as needed. Checklists, learner-generated learning logs, and portfolios are useful program assessment tools.
How does learner-centered esol workplace instruction look? GussGrognet (1996) writes that, as with all effective adult ESOL instruction, workplace instruction should be learner-centered – to wit: The learners and teacher together determine curriculum and generate materials. Problem-solving activities are essential and allow learners to contemplate what they might say or do in a given situation. The teacher is a facilitator and learning partner. Learners “experiment with language, negotiate meaning, make mistakes, and monitor and evaluate their own language learning progress.”
Discussion From all of these research findings, what guiding principles “jump out” at you? How would you synthesize these findings and apply them to the creation of LESLLA workplace materials? ------ Let’s look at a checklist that attempts to do just that …
A checklist for workplace materials for leslla learners Do materials … Incorporate essential literacy components into workplace curriculum topics? Meet the needs of LESLLA learners alongside learners with greater literacy skills? Prompt peer interaction and collaboration? Reflect texts used at work (manuals, forms, memos)? Explicitly teach job-specific vocabulary? Balance literacy and workplace skill development? Allow for problem-solving and critical thinking? Provide a means of informal assessment?
Case Study: apartment complex employee ESOL class, 2011 16 weeks of ESOL workplace classes at a five-building apartment complex in 2011. Class met twice a week for 1.5 hrs./class. Human Resources representative and three supervisors emphasized the learners’ development of oral communication skills to interact more effectively with building residents, colleagues, and management. The HR representative also emphasized the need for all learners to read and fully understand portions of the HR manual; instructor given page numbers to cover with learners.
class profile 11 learners, all of whom had Spanish as the L1 7 housekeepers 3 painters/maintenance workers 1 landscaper Varying levels of education and English proficiency All could read and write basic words in the L1. 3 of the housekeepers had 3-5 yrs. education in L1; basic speaking and listening skills; and could write some simple words in English. 4 of the learners had advanced skills in all 4 areas. 4 learners had intermediate-level literacy and speaking skills; stronger oral than written skills.
Analysis of learners’ needs A group “brainstorming” needs analysis revealed that learners wanted to improve their English in order to communicate more effectively at work – and to … Read to grandchildren and help with schoolwork. Prepare for reading/writing part of citizenship exam. Enroll in GED preparation class. Develop more grammar and literacy skills, as this had hindered progress in previous ESL classes.
Ongoing assessment Each Tuesday class started with a discussion of how learners had used English, at work and at home, since last Thursday’s class. Learners completed a weekly language log describing what they had learned in class and how they had used English outside of class. Two versions – one for LESLLA students The questions changed slightly from week to week to explore particular competencies or use vocabulary we’d practiced in class (e.g., “What cleaning supplies did you use last week?”)
Workplace themes Class explored workplace themes pertaining to three broad categories: Basic communication strategies and expectations Following directions and instructions Workplace procedures and HR policies Thematic vocabulary related to:
Grouping strategies Three ability-level learning “teams,” named after sports teams, for tasks focusing on form Two teams had intermediate-advanced levels of literacy and oral communication skills and functioned on independent group tasks. Instructor worked with three LESLLA learners and provided direct literacy instruction in pullout. Periodic mixed-level “color” groups to practice oral communications In some cases, native language allowed in groups for clarifications or explanations.
Types of materials: Binder ring card sets with conversation or scenario prompts “Sound” and word grids with beans Class set of picture dictionaries Excerpts from employee handbook, rewritten for direct instruction with LESLLA learners Time adjustment, performance review forms Original dialogues and role-play prompts Jazz chants “Learning team” literacy skill-development materials based on workplace topics
A look at materials Let’s look at some materials developed for six themes in the ESOL workplace class. How do they reflect the criteria on the materials development checklist?
Theme: communicating with residents and “Small talk” Picture dictionary used for weather terms Mixed-level groups: Round-robin conversation starters (see right) Learning teams: Activities based on HR manual section, “Communicating with Residents” (See Handout Packet 1) Binder ring with index-card prompts, for small groups: “It’s hot out there, isn’t it?”“Are you from around here?” “Do you know where the meeting is?” “How long have you worked here?” “The walls look beautiful!” “Do you know if we’re supposed to get more rain?” “Do you know when the elevators will be fixed?”
Guess meaning of unfamiliar words from context.
Use a dictionary to find the meaning of words.
WORKPLACE COMPETENCIES: Residents do not like to be ignored if they try to engage in conversation with you. Be friendly! If you don’t know the answer to a query, direct residents to the front desk – don’t guess!
Learning team activities Advanced-level team: Reads excerpt from HR manual, “Communicating with Residents”; guesses meaning of highlighted words; checks definitions in dictionaries & compares to guesses. Intermediate team: Unscrambles 10 simplified sentences from manual excerpt. LESLLA team: Reads 6 simplified sentences summarizing manual excerpt; completes phonics and comprehension activities.
Sample LESLLA Activity 1. Look at the story. Circle the words with “th”.
2. Copy the words with “th”. 3. Circle “True” or “False.” You can talk about the weather with residents. TRUE FALSE You don’t need to communicate with residents. TRUE FALSE 4. Fill in the missing words. Then, copy the story. It’s important to ________________ with residents. You can _________ “small talk” with them. Communicating with Residents It’s important to communicate with residents. You can make “small talk” with them. You can talk about the weather. Maybe they will ask you questions. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer. Say, “I don’t know. You can ask my supervisor.”
Assessment: Language Logs Language logs were distributed each Thursday and collected each Tuesday. The version at right was used initially for everyone and then for the LESLLA learners. The log allowed me to see where and how learners used English outside of class – and what individual needs were. Last week I practiced English. I:
Theme: responding to complaints Learner-generated complaint lists used as basis for jazz chants. Oral practice of responses to complaints led to reading practice. Pair role-plays responding to complaints: LESLLA learners practiced one-line responses; others wrote and presented dialogues between a resident and employee. (See Handout Packet 2) Binder ring with index-card prompts, for small groups: “Your vacuum is too noisy!” “The trash room smells bad.” “The floor is wet, and you forgot to put up a sign!” “Your sprinkler got me all wet!” “The paint smells terrible!” “When are you going to clean the windows?” “There’s a crack in the walkway!”
ComPlaints Unit objectives Literacy focus: Differences between “y” as initial and final consonant Contractions: “I’ll” for “I will”; “I’m” for “I am” Focus on form: Use correct intonation and stress in speech. WORKPLACE COMPETENCIES: You must always be polite and respond to a complaint from a resident. In certain cases, you may want to explain the reason for a problem (such as a delay). Need to follow up and report complaints to your supervisor.
jazz chants The Floor is Dirty (5 beats) The floor is dirty. The walk is slippery. The paint is smelly. The flowers are ugly. The vacuum is noisy. The trash is stinky. They’re working too slowly. Thank You for Letting Me Know (7 beats)
Thank you for letting me know. We’re doing the best we can. I’ll go fix it right away. I’ll mention it to my boss. I’m sorry you feel that way.
Theme: requesting leave Jazz chants to practice short phrases needed to call in sick or late Dialogues and role-plays based on scenarios from employees Employee time adjustment form used for reading and writing practice Binder ring with index-card prompts, for small groups: “Call your boss. Tell him you’re sick and can’t come to work.” “Tell your boss that you need to take off June 15 because you have an Immigration appointment.” “Call your boss. Explain that you had an accident and will be late to work today.”
LEAVE Unit objectives Literacy focus: Sight-reading words used on a form (“leave dates,” “hours,” “time”) Writing dates as day/month/year Focus on form: Contractions (I’m, I’ll) Language for polite requests (I’d like, May I) Using “from” and “through” for start and end dates (See Handout Packet 3) Workplace competencies: Calling in sick or late Asking in advance if you know you’ll need time off Requesting vacation leave for a different time than your colleagues Filling out a time adjustment form
I’m going to be late today (7 beats) I’m going to be late today. I can’t come to work today. I feel very sick today. My car will not start today.
Thank you for understanding(7-8 beats) Thank you for understanding. I really appreciate it.
Voice: at end of sentence Can I take a message? (6 beats)
Can I take a message? Can you spell your name, please? Can you call back later?
Mid-way /sound assessment 1. Who is this? 2. How are you today? 3. May I take a message? 4. She’s out with him this afternoon.
Theme: job safety/WORKERS’ COMPENSATION Picture dictionary to teach vocabulary related to workplace safety equipment and procedures. Employee handbook job safety rules used for vocabulary/ reading exercises. Literacy team used 6 simplified sentences as a basis for phonics and reading practice. PRESENTATIONS In teams, learners were responsible for simplifying and presenting Workers’ Compensation information from handbook. Literacy team read simplified sentences on Workers’ Compensation and presented to class. Native language allowed for clarification during presentations.
Job safety/workers’ compensation objectives Literacy focus: Initial consonants w, b and initial consonant clusters: fl, cl Scanning a text to find key words. Focus on form: Stress on three-syllable words. Paraphrasing language from a handbook. (See Handout Packet 4) Workplace competencies: Properly using job safety equipment and following job safety procedures Warning colleagues as to potential dangers Reporting an accident Knowing when and how to request Workers’ Compensation
LESLLA activities: workers’ compensation Circle the words in the story. WORKERS’ COMPENSATION Workers’ Compensation is insurance. If you have an accident at work, you get benefits. If you can’t come to work, you get money. The money is for your living expenses. Workers’ Compensation and Watergate pay for your medical bills. Every Watergate employee can get Workers’ Compensation.
LESLLA activities: workers’ compensation (Continued) Write the missing words. Then, copy the story.
Workers’ Compensation is _____________________ .
If you have an _________________ at work, you get money.
If you can’t come to work, you get __________________.
The money is for your living ______________________.
LESLLA activities: workers’ compensation (Continued) True or false?
If you have an accident at work …
You get benefits from Workers’ Compensation. TRUE FALSE You need to come back to work right away. TRUE FALSE You need to pay for your medical expenses. TRUEFALSE You get money for your living expenses. TRUEFALSE
Assessment: Outcomes Learners were able to perform workplace tasks that called for literacy skills, such as:
Filling out a time adjustment form.
Completing a brief memo to request FMLA leave.
Reading safety instructions on paint/cleaning products.
They also demonstrated an enhanced ability to perform oral communications tasks, such as:
Two began using computer resources to prepare for the citizenship exam.
Management assessment Supervisors reported signs of progress among the English language learners, including: Employees now able to effectively communicate by phone in English, particularly when calling in sick/late. Employees speaking at staff meetings. An employee with only basic English proficiency stopping into the HR office to express how valuable the English class had been to her.
Language log comments “Tell me four things you said in English last week outside of class.” I needed cleaning supplies. I asked my coworker how was her weekend. I talked about the weather with the residents. Excuse sir, the unit 4521 needs a lot of work Mike, if you need help, let me know Mike, the paint do you looking it’s in paintshop #3 I told my coworker I needed a brush Doe, I need take one day off because I have Immigration appointment. I’m asking one resident when he ask me about the lobby floor. He told me the lobby floor look shiny. I Say thank you for let me know. This is a beautiful day, isn’t it? I talked to my coworker about basketball in English.
references August, D., & Shanahan, T. (Eds.). (2006). Executive summary. Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Available: http://www.cal.org/projects/ archive/nlpreports/ executive_summary.pdf
Burt, M. (1997). Workplace ESL instruction: Interviews from the field. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Burt, M., Peyton, J. K., & Adams, R. (2003). Reading and adult English language learners: A review of the research. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. Condelli, L., Wrigley, H.S., Yoon, K., Cronen, S., & Seburn, M. (2003). Instruction, language, and literacy: What works study for adult ESL literacy students. Available: http://lotos.library.uu.nl/publish/articles/000176/bookpart.pdf Cunningham Florez, M.A., & Terrill, L. (2003, July). Working with Literacy-Level Adult English Language Learners. Washington, DC: Center for Adult English Language Acquisition.
References (continued) GussGrognet, A. (1996, June). Planning, implementing, and evaluating workplace ESL programs. Washington, DC: Center for Adult English Language Acquisition. Available: http://www.cal.org/caela/esl_resources/digests/PLANNINGQA.html
Harris, K. (2005, November). “Same activity, different focus.” Focus on Basics, 8(A). Available: http://www.ncsall.net/?id=988.
McGroarty, M. (1993). Second language instruction in the workplace. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 13, 86-108.
Peyton, J.K., Moore, S. C., & Young, S. (2010, April). “Evidence-based, student-centered instructional practices.” CAELA Network Brief. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Wrigley, H.S., & Guth, G.J.A. (1992). Bringing literacy to life: Issues and options in adult ESL literacy. San Mateo, CA: Aguirre International. (ERIC No. ED 348 896)
Wrigley, H.S., Richer, E., Martinson, K., Kubo, H., & Strawn, J. (2003). The language of opportunity: Expanding employment prospects for adults with limited English skills. The Center for Law and Social Policy, the National Institute for Literacy, and the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium.