Esol activities for illiterate adults

Written by cathryn whitehead
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Esol activities for illiterate adults
Activities relevant to English speakers of other languages help them to read. (Ableimages/Lifesize/Getty Images)

English speakers of other languages, commonly referred to as ESOL students, face obstacles when learning the components of reading such as vocabulary, alphabet and word analysis, fluency and comprehension. ESOL students study formal English in the classroom, but hear casual English spoken in the workplace, social situations and at home. Teachers must use motivational methods and provide students with access to relevant material and activities that make sense to ESOL learners.

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Print Media Activities

Provide magazines, newspapers and books that are relevant to those from different cultures. While some topics are a second nature to English speakers, they are completely foreign to most ESOL students. Consider text that deals with universal themes such as music and sports. Have students highlight words in passages that they do know and understand. Reinforce understanding with relevant filmstrips, movies and field trips.

Chanting Activities

Use chanting activities to practice speaking English words and phrases. Use short passages for choral and oral reading. Have the ESOL students follow along as a native speaker reads the passage, then have them read the passage using the English stress, pauses and intonation the native speaker used. Use a tape recorder or a camcorder, so learners can hear what they sound like.

Life Skills Activities

Help ESOL students learn skills they will use in everyday life. Practice activities including counting money, asking for directions, reading traffic signs, balancing a checkbook, and filling out a job application. Work on these activities in the classroom, then take a field trip into the community so students can try the skills with the group before they have to tackle them on their own.

Vocabulary Activities

Provide flash cards with the English word on one side and the translation on the other side. Use bilingual dictionaries instead of English dictionaries to look up words, as English dictionaries include words in the definition that ESOL students probably don't know. Look at picture dictionaries to clarify understanding of vocabulary words. Use visual aids such as pictures, graphics and actual objects to reinforce understanding of vocabulary.

Games and Music

Play games to increase English reading, speaking and writing skills. Do crossword puzzles and word searches. Split into small groups and play games of hangman, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Pictionary, memory and matching games. Have students share jokes, riddles, rhymes and tongue twisters. Provide recordings of songs and handouts of song lyrics. After students listen to songs and read the lyrics, provide cloze exercises that allow them to listen to songs and fill in blanks with the correct word.

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