Work Readiness Curriculum for Low-Level ESL

Work Readiness Curriculum for Low-Level ESL

Since the ACES initiative was first introduced, one of the goals has been to encourage the integration of transitions skills at all levels of ABE and ESL instruction. This has been challenging at times for those who teach and strive to serve our lower-level ESL students, but a new resource developed by Kristin Perry of Hmong American Partnership (HAP) English School in St. Paul does an excellent job of making these important transitions skills accessible to a broad audience.

Work Readiness Curriculum

The new Work Readiness Curriculum from HAP is now available in the ACES resource library on the ATLAS website. It is located along with the resources to support the Developing a Future Pathway category of the TIF. Here is how the curriculum is described by the author:

“The Work Readiness curriculum was designed for use with low-level adult ESL learners (CASAS range 153-210), specifically adults with interrupted formal education. It has a speaking/listening and vocabulary-building focus. The curriculum consists of nine six-week units, each one focusing on one career cluster. All units include instruction on basic etiquette in formal settings, practice filling out job applications, practice reading simple job ads, job interview preparation, practice reporting problems at work, information about schedules and paychecks, as well as career-specific vocabulary. In addition, there are opportunities for students to get practical experience doing jobs within the classroom, such as making copies, greeting new students, and pushing in chairs.”

Breaking Language Barriers

In one of the lessons from a unit that focuses on jobs in the medical field, students practice categorizing, an important critical thinking skill, by sorting types of jobs. The task is laid out so simply. Students are told that in some jobs we help people (customer service) and in some jobs we help places (janitorial), and then they draw a picture of a person under the customer service jobs and a picture of a house under the janitorial jobs.

In a similarly structured activity from the same unit, students must decide if a problem is big, small, or very small. They then draw an appropriately sized circle under each the problem. I have presented several times on the topic of teaching critical thinking skills to low-level ESL students, and one comment that I have often heard is that all of our students know how to think critically. It is oftentimes the way that certain tasks are presented to them or the language that is used that can make it difficult for them to demonstrate this skill. That is what makes these lessons so great: they strip away the language barriers so that students can focus on doing the activities and building the skills within a framework that makes their unique learning needs the focal point.

Career Clusters

The nine units comprising the curriculum were designed to correlate with general ESL units that are taught in most classrooms. They focus on the following career clusters:

  • Medical
  • Construction
  • Factory
  • Community
  • Childcare
  • Art
  • Food Service
  • Retail
  • Driving

The idea behind this design is that when students are learning about transportation in their ESL class, they can also be exploring driving careers and their own future pathways.

Built on ESL Expertise and Best Practice

As I looked at the lessons from the Work Readiness Curriculum, I was repeatedly struck by the fact that they were created by someone who clearly understands what it is to work with students with limited English and access to prior education. There are wonderful photographs to illustrate the target vocabulary from the lessons, and students use simple graphic organizers to help them organize new information.

Another thing that I like about this curriculum is that many of the same skills are repeated in each unit so that students get multiple exposures and opportunities to demonstrate mastery. In the third week of each unit, for example, the focus is on searching for a job and students practice identifying what level of education is needed in order to obtain a particular job. One way they practice this is by reading a job ad and circling the appropriate information. In the fourth week of each unit, the focus is on interviewing, and students work on identifying required job skills. This is another really great feature of this curriculum: it has a very clear and logical sequence that takes students through all the steps in the job process from identifying one’s own skills to searching for a job and going to an interview.

Check out the Work Readiness Curriculum in the ACES resource library, under Developing a Future Pathway!

Stephanie Sommers, ACES Coordinator ATLAS