Friday, November 21, 2008

ESOL Grammar Activities

I've added a new page for ESOL Grammar Activities to the Skills for Life website. Like the other activities pages, this contains direct link both to our quizzes and to quizzes on other people's websites.

This change reflects a change in some of my teaching this year. I am supporting a number of learners who don't speak English natively and I want to address some of their difficulties with grammar. In analysing their difficulties in initial assessment, there were a number of common factors: endings to words (both nouns and verbs), articles (or, more correctly, determiners), prepositions and conjunctions. Of course the internet is alive with quizzes and other activities for grammar for English learners, but I've not previously found them greatly useful for this group of learners. Some of these people may have been to school in the UK for at least some of the time, some may not be literate in their first language, some may not have been to ESOL classes. Moreover the mistakes are presented in English literacy, for me in their main courses, and so perhaps a literacy approach rather than an ESOL approach is needed.

The most acute difficulty is with the endings for tenses and plural nouns. I certainly don't want to teach tenses in a formal way, but I do want to help them recognise and correct their errors. So I have started writing some quizzes for endings. It has been hard work writing even a few. I have also found a few relevant quizzes for the other topics on other sites. I have used these activities for explanation as I go along, rather than for reinforcement which is how I usually use quizzes. So far the feedback from students has been very positive. I hope the page will develop in the coming months.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Literacy Changes Lives

Just a quick word to help promote the Literacy Changes Lives full report from the National Literacy Trust, (summary here.) This follows an American model to gather together a number of adult literacy-oriented statistics, particularly those from the research of John Bynner and Samantha Parsons. Two points:
  • Firstly, the document firmly reinforces the notion that people with poor literacy skills are particularly isolated from the benefits of our advanced industrial society. I often think that Government gets too obsessed with the idea that poor literacy skills hinder our industrial progress, whereas the real problem is that it hinders people's lives. I get asked all too frequently why is literacy needed to do hairdressing or to be a care worker or whatever, and I usually find myself answering that you will need literacy to write records and so on. What I am thinking is that I believe you need literacy for yourself and for the families you may bring up in the future, but it is rarely the right time to talk about this.
  • Secondly, it is great to have all these statistics in one place. I have done some sessions for trainee FE teachers in the past, and this document makes the whole issue clear.