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Focus On Basics

Volume 3, Issue D ::: December 1999

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Readers,

Working on this issue, I couldn't help but think back to the last adult basic education (ABE) class I taught. It was an English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) literacy class that met for six hours a week. I taught reading, writing, and math to ESOL speakers who had pretty good command of oral English and varying levels of literacy in their first languages. After reading these articles, I long for a chance to do it all over again, differently.

Elsa Auerbach describes five current approaches to teaching ESOL writing and the different messages each approach sends to students. She urges teachers to be thoughtful about the instructional choices they make, and to keep in mind the signals their choices send. While her article is geared towards ESOL, the approaches she outlines are equally applicable to native English speakers. Bui Thi Nguyet Thanh, an ESOL teacher and former ESOL student, was devastated by the methodology used by one of her ESOL teachers. With this in mind, she carefully crafted her ESOL writing classes to meet her new immigrant students' psychosocial as well as academic needs. This story,  includes a variety of teaching tips.

What does research on writing instruction offer to adult basic education? Much, we learn, as Marilyn Gillespie takes us through the evolution of the process writing model, into research on spelling, and finally to studies of the social role of writing.

ABE teacher Rebecca Garland discovered the social role writing can play: the instructional approach she used, which involved a particular kind of journal writing, had an impact on the social setting in her classroom. As her students shared their stories, they developed a sense of community and self confidence. Learner Chhoeup Chhoeun describes her experiences in this class. 
Mary Russell wondered about the mismatch between learners' interest in the mechanics of writing and teachers' focus on self expression. Her questions led to a research project that provides us with some very telling insights. Her report, reminds us that what we understand about writing is not necessarily the same as what our students understand.

Many readers of Focus on Basics have asked us to include some specific teaching activities. I am happy to announce a new column, "Focus on Teaching." Thanks to Shirley Brod, ESOL teacher from Colorado, for sharing her techniques with us.

NCSALL is proud to announce the publication of its first edition of the Annual Review of Adult Learning and Literacy. Available from Jossey-Bass, this scholarly book includes eight articles on topics of importance to the field. Archie Willard, founding member of the learner organization VALUE and a leader in the field of adult basic education, wrote introduction. For information on how to order the Review, click here.


Barbara Garner

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL