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Effective Communication

From the classroom of Liz Andress, St. Paul ABE

A New Opportunity: Using Standards to Enhance Speaking and Listening Instruction in ESL

2015 ESL Institute Keynote – Suzanne McCurdy and Janet Sparks

As a field, we are moving forward! The WIOA legislation in 2014 and other driving forces are pushing us toward even more rigor in adult ESL classrooms. Content standards help to define the complex set of skills our adult learners need to transition into college, career training, and deeper engagement with their communities. In Minnesota, the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), along with the Transition Integration Framework (TIF) and the Northstar Digital Literacy Standards, work to define the many skills we teach in ABE. 

Wondering what it all means for an ESL teacher? This session grappled with how content standards help us to teach the vital speaking and listening skills our learners need; identified ways in which the CCRS Speaking and Listening standards and the TIF Effective Communication skills are already being addressed in ESL classrooms; and identified the ways we can use content standards to boost rigor in our classes and improve the oral language demanded of our learners in today’s world.

Download - PowerPoint Presentation
DownloadInventory of Listening & Speaking Skills

21st Century Skills Resources

The 21st Century Skills Resources from New World of Work offer a soft skills curriculum complete with lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, and two video series. The curriculum is divided into modules that focus on 10 critical skill areas:

  • Adaptability (Open to Change)
  • Analysis/Solution Mindset (Problem Solver)
  • Collaboration (Team Player)
  • Communication (Good Communicator)
  • Digital Fluency (Good with Technology)
  • Empathy (Sensitive to Others’ Feelings)
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset (Go-Getter)
  • Resilience (Plans for Success and Bounces Back from Failure)
  • Self-Awareness (Self-Understanding)
  • Social Diversity/Awareness (Sensitive to Difference in Backgrounds and Beliefs)

The assessment video series that was created to be used with each module is a particularly useful component, as it can be challenging for instructors to assess soft skills. These videos set up a scenario in which a certain skill is needed in order for the best outcome to be achieved. Each scenario contains three possible options, and viewers must apply what they have learned in the preceding lessons in order to choose the best one. The scenarios would lend themselves very well to both large and small group discussion, or they could be used as prompts for writing activities.

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Academic Language & Skills Are Everybody's Business in ABE!

Fall 2014 Regional Session

Is academic language only the language of school, or is there more to it? What should I be doing about it with my learners? Good questions! This session offered at each Fall 2014 regional event demonstrated that academic language is used not only in school, but at work and in our communities. It is language that gives all learners access to opportunities. 

See the session PowerPoint and handout linked here for an introduction to common characteristics of academic language, and come away with strategies to boost its use in your classroom!

Download - Academic Language PPT
DownloadAcademic Language Handout
Download - Useful Academic Language Resources


The Culips website houses over 400 audio episodes that can be used to teach "conversational English for everyday use." The podcasts are divided into 4 categories: Chatterbox Episodes, Catch Word Episodes, Simplified Speech Episodes, and Real Talk Episodes. The searchable website makes it easy to find an episode that discusses themes related to a variety of common ESL topics, such as wellness, employment, and hobbies. The podcast hosts are high energy and engaging, which makes listening to these episodes fun. The site is free to use at a basic level, while becoming a member allows users to unlock full audio transcripts for each episodes and learning materials.

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Film English

The Film English website is an expansive collection of video clips that can be used to teach a variety of effective communication skills by providing examples of gestures, body language, and other non-verbal communication that cannot easily be conveyed through sound alone. The searchable website also offers ESL lesson plans to accompany each video. The lesson plans are geared towards group work, and can be used to provide practice with brainstorming, making predictions, and supporting ideas with evidence. The website is free to use and does not contain ads. The video clips come from a wide variety of sources, many of them originating from outside of the United States.

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Growth Mindset Toolkit

Having a growth mindset helps learners to be more successful and persistent as they work towards their goals. This resource includes research about the benefits of fostering a growth mindset and videos and lesson plans that will help teachers talk about mindset with their students. There are ideas for giving praise, celebrating mistakes, and providing assessment and feedback that all work to build a growth mindset culture in the classroom. Using activities from the Transitions Integration Framework (TIF) is a great way to build your students' transition skills while also developing a growth mindset.

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