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  • 1. Approach to Assessing ESOL Literacy<br />Oral Skills Come First<br />Because literacy means comprehending and expressing meaning through print, reading and writing activities must always be intimately connected with meaning. For this reason, learners have to first understand the words and be familiar with the patterns of sentences they are learning to read and write. For example, a student who knew all the sounds and symbols of the Greek alphabet, but had no knowledge of Greek vocabulary, would still not be literate in that language. <br />In line with this principle, Literacy Level A focuses mainly on listening comprehension and early speech production. The main goal is to help students put into their heads the meaningful words that they will eventually be reading and writing. In addition, pre-reading and pre-writing skills are developed in the context of the new vocabulary. Level B reviews and recycles the content of Level A while adding a new layer: engagement with meaningful reading and writing tasks. Finally, Level C provides practice in more complex literacy activities, further expands vocabulary and sentence-pattern knowledge, and serves as a launching pad into core ESOL classes.<br />To make an example of one lexical item: in Level A students will be able to understand, say and copy the word “hat” (and ask about the price); in Level B students will be able to read the word and to write it as the letters are dictated; and in Level C, students will be able to write from memory, “Hats are on sale.”<br />Alignment with Core ESOL standards<br />Standards have been organized into six areas: Basic Literacy Skills, Communication, Employment, Consumer and Community Education, Health and Nutrition, and Transportation and Travel. <br />The first of these, Basic Literacy Skills, is the only area that is unique to the Literacy curriculum. It includes the skills that well-educated ESOL learners already possess, from phonemic awareness and proper pencil-grip through reading and writing meaningful sentences. <br />The Communication area includes standards in reading clocks and calendars in addition to the social language and personal/family information standards found in the core ESOL Communication area.<br />One area of the core ESOL standards, Safety and Security, has been eliminated. In the Literacy standards, these standards have been placed in either Health and Nutrition or Transportation and Travel.<br />The numbering system<br />The new literacy standards have a simplified numbering system. Each standard’s number has three parts. The first part refers to the Literacy level (A, B, or C). The second number refers to one of the six content areas (e.g., Employment), while the final number refers to the specific standard. For example, because Employment is the third content area, the first standard listed for Level B in that area is B3-1.<br />Understanding ESOL Literacy Levels <br /> <br />No or Low LiteracySome (Limited) LiteracyVery Low or NoOralGroup 1Low/no oral No literacyGroup 2Low/no oral Some literacy SomeOralGroup 3Some oral Low literacy Group 4Some oral Some literacy <br /> <br />All of the learners represented in the above table are low-educated and require instruction in literacy before entering a regular ESOL class. <br />Those with “some literacy” may have attended primary school for a few years. <br />Those with “some oral” may have lived in the U.S. for some time and acquired basic oral language for employment or other survival needs. <br />To meet the different learning needs of these four groups, the three levels of ESOL Literacy are structured as follows:<br />Literacy Level A -- Groups 1 and 2 (all low-oral)<br />The main purpose of Literacy Level A is to provide low-oral learners with knowledge of basic English vocabulary and sentence patterns. <br />It offers intensive practice in listening and speaking in a print-rich environment. <br />Exit criteria include mastery of pre-reading and pre-writing skills as well as listening comprehension and some speech production. <br />Literacy Level B -- Group 3 <br />The main purpose of Literacy Level B is to develop reading and writing skills by building on learners’ oral knowledge of English. <br />Much of the target vocabulary overlaps with that presented in Level A, and instruction blends all four skill areas. <br />Learners with some oral but absolutely no literacy may need to start in Level A.<br />To move to Level C, students will need to perform basic reading and writing tasks.<br />Literacy Level C -- Group 4<br />In Literacy Level C, learners further develop both their oral competence and their literacy skills. <br />Course content may overlap somewhat with that of Foundations, but material is presented at a slower pace. <br />Depending on test results, some learners may move from Literacy Level C to Beginning Low or Beginning High instead of Foundations. <br />For discussion: Should educated Non-Roman Alphabetics (NRAs) be in this level?<br />Another diagrammatic view of the Literacy Levels is as follows:<br />Literacy LevelsAll are Low-Educated (except NRAs in Level C)ESOLLevels<br />LOW ORALLOW ORAL<br />ANo literacyESOLFoundations(Literate in Roman Alphabet)Some Literacy<br />SOME ORAL<br />BLow Literacy<br />SOME ORAL<br />CSome Literacy(+ Educated NRAs)<br />