ELL Resources

One of the three keys to being a successful tutor is to have a clear philosophy of teaching and learning.  Many of our volunteers are not trained teachers, but a holistic or naturalist approach to learning a language is an excellent methods. In other words, teach English by using English.  Languages are social and are learned best through hearing and seeing relevant uses of the language.  

That said, many New Americans are unique learners.  They are often pre- or non-literate, which means that they might not be able to read and write in their home language, and they might have attended little or no formal schooling.  Colleen Shaughnessy has produced an excellent Guide to Working with Non-Literate Learners


If her principles are still more general than you would like, here is a typical sequence of topics to work with.  

  • Alphabet, numbers, names, addresses: the immediate needs. 
  • Days, months, seasons, the weather, food, clothing: important everyday concepts to master.  
  • Apartment, neighborhood, community: widening the circle of relevance.
If you want to try a more systematic approach to teaching reading, in particular, your instincts will probably be to help break words down into syllables.  For the pre- or non-literate learner, you might even try to get down to every sound.  This article from Focus on the Basics is a nice guide to teaching adult readers.
“Reading Skills for Today’s Adults” is a bit of an old-fashioned looking website, but it provides many short readings that are considered anywhere from a .7 (pre-beginner) to 4.5 (intermediate reader). The site also contains audio files, so a learner with internet access can listen to the short reading and/or read along. This resource is used extensively at the Fargo Adult Learning Center.  http://resources.marshalladulteducation.org/reading_skills_home.htm
The Minnesota Literacy Council is a fabulous resource in many ways, but if you want a systematic, well developed curriculum, this site is the place to start.   Minnesota Literacy Council:  beginning, intermediate, and advanced curricula. http://mnliteracy.org/tools/curriculum-lesson-plans
If your learner scores below the beginners level on the LaRue assessment, the Minnesota Literacy Council also has a set of  Basic ESL transition skills: http://mnliteracy.org/tools/curriculum-lesson-plans/basic-esl-transitions-skills
Health Literacy is an important sub-set of literacy education for New Americans, and the Florida Literacy Council has produced two versions of a Health Literacy Guide.  One is for high beginners, the second for low beginners: http://floridaliteracy.org/health_literacy_curriculum.html
Each document also comes with a teacher’s guide!
The LaRue assessment can give you a clear picture of a learner’s strengths and weaknesses, and can give you a score by which to measure progress in 4 or 6 month intervals.  You can find the assessment tools on our website or on their original host site:  http://www.mcedservices.com/ESL/Littest.html
Additional resources
The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) has a section on Refugee and Immigrant Integration as well as many English Language Learner resources.
The Spring Institute has been a long-time collaborator with the Office of Refugee Resettlement and is home to many useful resources.

The MLC and CommonGround developed a fantastic resource for one-on-one tutoring that, if used thoroughly and properly, provides three years worth of instructional material! The curriculum is available via dropbox here:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2a0noemh9zfwn7x/AAAixFqWoPUMs_s7OYyRFBOSa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: