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Low-Literacy Adult ESL

Beginning and Literacy Level Adult ESL Students

This online collection from the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition contains links and citations for multiple articles, guides, and handbooks focused and adult literacy level readers. The resources in this collection were selected because they are evidence- based and provide suggestions and materials for practitioners working this particular population.

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TAGS: low literacy, beginning ESL, emergent readers

ESL Literacy Readers

This collection of forty theme-based readers features adult ESL learners engaging in everyday work and life activities. These readers, along with an instructors guide were developed to help ESL teachers to create comprehensive, theme-based lessons for adult ESL literacy learners. The themes were carefully chosen and are both of high interest to learners, and more importantly, relevant to their lives. Every effort was made to ensure the stories would authentically represent learners themselves as well as events and issues that a typical learner may experience. 

This resource includes free PDFs so teachers can print off the books for their classrooms, a learner page where learners can read and listen to the books online, and an instructor guide to help teachers create lessons based around the themes of the stories.

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TAGS: low literacy, emergent readers, beginning ESL, reading

Goal-Setting for Learning Management in Adult ESL Literacy

This blog post from Teach2LearnESL offers examples of goal-setting activities for literacy level learners. The post includes images of handouts and explanations of how they are used with learners.

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TAGS: low literacy, beginning ESL, emergent readers, classroom strategies

Making It Real: Teaching Pre-Literate Adult Refugee Students

This book is a great place reference for both new and experienced teachers. It covers a variety of effective practices for teaching low literate adult refugees, and describes techniques and activities that support these practices. It is divided into sections on teaching speaking and listening skills and reading and writing skills. Each of the sections on teaching language skills provides examples and descriptions of useful approaches, techniques, and activities. There is a checklist of language competencies that learners who are new to the language need to know, a section on teaching multi-level groups, and information on resources that teachers and service providers can use.


TAGS: low literacy, emergent readers, beginning ESL, reading, writing, speaking, listening, classroom activities, assessment, teaching strategies

Minnesota Literacy Council Pre-Beginning ESL Story Bank and Curriculum

This Pre-Beginning ESL (levels 0-1) curriculum was created with a grant from the Saint Paul Community Literacy Consortium to implement Bridge Prep components into curricula. 

This curriculum incorporates level-appropriate Transitions skills identified by the ATLAS program's Academic, Career & Employability Skills (ACES) initiative, as outlined in the Transitions Integration Framework (TIF) – such as Critical Thinking (e.g., categorizing and sequencing) and Self-Management (e.g., maintaining a binder of class handouts) – into every life skill unit. This curriculum builds literacy skills through regular practice with print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, fluency, and comprehension. In building literacy skills, it also prepares learners for success on CASAS assessments.

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TAGS: low literacy, beginning esl, emergent readers, phonics, reading, writing, speaking, curriculum

New American Horizons: Adult ESL Teacher Training Videos

This collection of 12 teacher training videos were filmed in adult ESL classes and feature a variety of teaching strategies and activities. For teachers interested in learing more about working with low literacy learners, there are three videos that address this level.

Lesson Planning for Life Skills: Betsy Lindeman Wong of Alexandria, Virginia, guides beginning level learners through highly structured to open-ended activities showing the progression of a life-skills lesson in talking on the telephone.

Building Literacy with Adult Emergent Readers: Andrea Echelberger of Saint Paul, Minnesota, works with a Whole-Part-Whole approach to teaching literacy, using a learner-generated story of a shared experience and demonstrating activities to develop beginning literacy skills.

Growing Vocabulary with Beginning Learners: Karli Boothe of Arlington, Virginia, demonstrates a contextualized approach to introducing and reinforcing vocabulary within a lesson. She uses a variety of vocabulary development strategies and activities to promote learners’ interaction and active engagement as they master words and concepts.

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TAGS: teaching strategies, classroom activities, emergent readers, beginning ESL, vocabulary, phonics, Whole-Part-Whole instruction

Phonics Pull-Out Kit

English language learners at many levels need additional assistance with building their phonetic awareness and strengthening their phonetic decoding abilities. This skill is particularly important for literacy level learners.The Phonics and Phonemic Awareness Kit provides a variety of activities that can be used with low-beginning to high-intermediate levels of English language learners.

Visit Website (includes information about other kits as well)


TAGS: beginning ESL, phonics, reading, teaching materials

Rigor, Relevance, and Respect for Beginning Adult English Learners

Oxford Picture Dictionary Author, Jayme Adelson-Goldstein, shares tips for laying the foundation of college and career readiness skills in beginning level adult instruction.

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TAGS: low literacy, beginning ESL, emergent readers, CCRS