by Theresa Wall
Theresa Wall is an educational consultant specializing in second language and literacy acquisition. She has worked extensively with LESLLA learners, first as an adult ELL literacy teacher and then in her role as a learning support specialist, where she developed interventions to support learners. Theresa led a group of fabulous teacher-writers in the ESL Literacy Readers project with Bow Valley College and is preparing to pilot a biliteracy curriculum framework, where first language literacy comes first in support of second language and literacy learning, with adult newcomers in Calgary, Alberta.
We know that face to face classes with plenty of opportunity for hands on learning and interaction are a big part of best practice with ESL literacy.
We build field trips into our units, take pictures, and then talk and write about our experiences back in the classroom. Wrapping our heads around taking what we know works in the classroom into a digital environment seems a little counter-intuitive. However, as teachers, we pride ourselves on our ability to adapt to challenging circumstances and supporting each other, and this situation is no exception.
Fortunately, there are some resources out there for us as we shift our ESL literacy classes to digital platforms (for the short term, we hope). When face-to-face classes across the continent were cancelled, ATLAS (Hamline University) and Literacy Minnesota swiftly pulled together a panel presentation on working with beginning English language learners in an online environment. And, in place of LESLLA’s international symposium this summer, teachers and researchers presented on distance learning and including volunteers to support online instruction.
For the sake of space, I’m going to talk about out Literacy Minnesota’s webinar “Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: Virtual Instruction of Low Level ESL”. In the webinar, moderator Andrea Echelberger reminds us to keep things simple and be kind to ourselves before three teachers talk about their own experiences moving beginning level ESL and ESL literacy classes online. The teachers share concrete ways to teach beginning level ESL using a variety of platforms and materials.