Utilizing Technology in the ESL Classroom

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Having technology as a resource in the classroom can be extremely beneficial to students (and teachers).  Although each classroom set up is different, and some technology may not be possible to use during class, there are nonetheless numerous resources and technology-related websites that you can use with your teaching.  Many resources are available for basic activity engagement, such as listening, speaking, and pronunciation practice.  Other resources range from activity planning guides to daily articles for reading to games that focus on language learning.  We have compiled a list of helpful websites and resources in the downloadable Word Document. Click here to access the Word document. Here are the resource categories:

English Forward Pro Resource List

  • Adult Education
  • Beginners
  • Games
  • General ESL
  • Grammar
  • Listening
  • Miscellaneous
  • Pronunciation
  • Reading
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing

Feel free to explore and use what you feel will be appropriate and useful for your classroom.  Keep in mind that a few resources and activities here and there will let you have more variety in your class and more options for you to choose from.   Plus, you can keep what works well for the future!

Remember, not all websites and resources will be relevant to your class and curriculum, but it’s good to know what is available in case you need an extra activity or want to mix things up a little with your classroom activities.  Also, if you have created your own amazing activities or have found interesting websites/resources, please share and help other teachers out!


LINCS Logo Color 300dpi 1

The Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) contains a massive suite of professional development and other resources to support adult education across the country. One great resource is the “ESL Pro Resource Collection”, a collection of learning modules and other resources meant to increase the impact of ESL instruction. There are several resources organized into modules on important topics such as Integrating Digital Literacy or Work and Career Pathways.

To take a look at the resources available through ESL Pro, click here

Back to School Lessons

Teacher ConferencesA new school year is right around the corner! Is that a collective sigh we hear from parents? As families prepare to send their young ones to school, and your English learners prepare for fall classes, we’d like to share some lessons that promote language ability for your students to navigate these contexts.

Within the Timely Lessons section of the Portal, you’ll find a lesson on Teacher Conferences. In this lesson, your students can practice talking with teachers about their children’s goals, strengths, and needs. If you work with students who aren’t parents, this lesson is adaptable so that students can talk about their own goals, successes, and areas for growth in learning English.

Our new Intermediate Curriculum also includes a lesson on enrolling children in school, and another that walks adults through the process of enrolling themselves in school (from Unit 6: Education). These lessons cover the necessary paperwork, procedures, and conversations involved in these processes.

What other resources and conversations do you offer your students regarding their children’s and their own education? We hope you and your students have fall classes full of deep learning and community.

Classroom Activities & Communicative Language Teaching

marketing man person communicationEnglish Forward emphasizes communication and interaction using the English language. English Forward lessons contain activities meant to provide the real world-context and authentic interaction that students need to be comfortable using English in everyday life, work, you name it!

When preparing for class, think about how your students interact and engage with the language and with each other. How does it reflect what they need to do with the language in real life? How can it be applied to work, school, home, or other places in their community where they need to use English to interact and communicate with others?

There are a lot of great resources available on Communicative Language Teaching. One great resource is the “Activities to Promote Interaction and Communication” Toolkit from the Center for Applied Linguistics. This toolkit provides a great overview of Communicative Language Teaching and several activities that you can bring into the classroom. Some of them may even look a little familiar if you’ve been able to spend some time teaching with the English Forward Curriculum!

English Forward's Teaching Strategy Videos

Have you perused the "Videos" section of the English Forward portal? In addition to real classroom footage of each step of the Lesson Flow (featured during your English Forward Instructor Training), you'll find videos of instructors demonstrating various teaching strategies. For example, chalk talk, word sorts, line up, and think-pair-share are all highlighted. These videos provide a helpful opportunity to see how other instructors have implemented these strategies and how students may interact, in order to help you plan how to use these strategies in ways that best fit your students and a particular lesson. Happy watching!

Bringing in the Real World - Guest Speakers

Extension Activity Int 1.2 Looking for Housing

English Forward is all about bringing the real world into the classroom to reflect how students need to use English in day-to-day life in the United States. This doesn’t have to stop with realia. If your students are interested in getting a High School Equivalency or accessing vocational training, bring someone from a local adult education or vocational training program in to talk about opportunities for your students to join in! If they want to learn more about banking, bring in a banker! While this does require some work to coordinate, bringing guest speakers into the classroom is a great way to help your students engage with their community. It might also be a good opportunity for your students to educate the guest speaker on their needs and interests, too!

Lesson 1.2 Looking for Housing in the Intermediate Curriculum is a great example of how a guest speaker can come in and provide a valuable experience for students. This lesson has you bring in a housing professional, such as a real estate agent, property manager, or landlord to discuss finding a home in your community. Many lessons in the English Forward Curriculum suggest bringing in guest speakers as Extension Activities, but don’t limit yourself to our suggestions! Bring in a guest speaker any time it can be helpful! 

Using Can Do Lists for Student Self Evaluation

CanDoList2How does your program assess student needs, goals, and progress? While there are a variety of formal assessments such as BEST PLUS and CASAS that provide key data on students’ language acquisition, programs often need to create or adapt their own methods for informal, ongoing assessment. Furthermore, it’s important that students have the opportunity for self-evaluation, to gauge how class content is meeting their needs and helping them attain their goals.

We’ve received feedback from English Forward partners that it’s often challenging to find capacity and resources for exploring students’ needs and progress. To help with this task, The English Forward team has created Can-Do lists for each lesson in the curriculum. Each list is customized to lessons’ target vocabulary and phrases, and they include photos to aid in students’ comprehension. Instructors can use them to get first-hand feedback from students about what they’re learning in class, and to help shape future class content. You can find them at the end of each lesson, under the “Curriculum” tab on the English Forward Portal.

What other student self-evaluation tools do you use? We value learning from partners about their favorite resources, so please email us with any suggestions. 

Introducing the English Forward Intermediate Curriculum

 1.Int Curr CoverEnglish Forward is proud to introduce our new Intermediate Curriculum! Thanks to the insightful and skilled contributions from English Forward instructors across the country, there are six units of lessons that are sure to be engaging and relevant for your students. In response to requests from many of you, our partners, in this collection we’ve delved deeper into diverse fields of literacy that are necessary for students to thrive, such as financial and workplace literacy.

Unit 1, Survival Skills, includes lessons that have been adapted from the Beginning Curriculum, and addresses topics such as money, looking for a job, and looking for housing. It’s a fitting unit for short courses in which instructors need to cover essential topics over a brief amount of time.

Unit 2 addresses topics that are relevant to students’ daily lives, like introducing others in social situations, giving and receiving offers, and returning items when shopping.

In Unit 3, Finances and Common Agreements, students can learn language regarding financial literacy, including leases, utility bills, budgets, and credit cards.

Important language for health and healthcare is covered in Unit 4. Students will learn how to discuss information with their doctor, complete medical forms, and practice preventive care.

Workplace English is addressed in Unit 5. Students will explore job search skills, soft skills, workplace culture and safety.

In Unit 6, students will gain language to help them navigate education systems for themselves and their children, such as enrolling in school, and exploring continuing education opportunities such as college and vocational school.

Last, we’ve added a lesson on Becoming a US Citizen, which helps students learn about eligibility, the application process, and other pertinent details.

We hope the English Forward Intermediate Curriculum proves to be an effective resource for you to continue empowering your students. We welcome and appreciate your feedback—as you use this resource, please take some time to share with us about how it is working for you and your students. Thank you for all that you do for your students and your communities, and for your continuing partnership with us at English Forward!

Multilevel Classrooms

Pages from  5.Teaching Multi Level ClassesNow that you're well into your classes this Spring, we wanted to take the opportunity to revisit teaching multilevel classrooms. As you know, this is briefly touched on in the English Forward Instructor Training. Teaching a multilevel classroom is a difficult task. There could be another whole training just on multilevel classrooms! 

You can adjust your teaching in several different ways to accommodate students at different levels. Using realia is great because it gives students something to tie language to regardless of their proficiency level. You can also allow students to demonstrate understanding or communicate in nonverbal ways. 

To learn more, you can look at pages 9-10 of the Beginning English Forward Curriculum. Click here to be taken to the Beginning English Forward Curriculum! 


Reusing Supplemental Materials

PicCard5F Page 1All of the supplemental materials found here on the portal go along with at least one specific lesson in the English Forward curriculum. But that doesn’t mean you can only use them with those lessons!

Reusing supplemental materials in subsequent lessons or activities is a great way to review material students have already learned and help tie it to what they learn later in the class. All of the English Forward supplemental materials are versatile and can be used for a variety of activities. Picture cards are particularly flexible and can be used in many, many ways! 

Timely Lessons for the beginning of 2017!

Welcome back! It's hard to believe that we're already nearly one full month into 2017. Now that your English classes have likely already started back up, we wanted to take the opportunity to remind you of the Timely Lessons and other English Forward lessons that you can bring into class. 

Have a great start to your classes!

The Psychology of Thinking Versus Doing

We wanted to end 2016 by sharing a podcast with you all about the importance of taking the time to think, and thinking versus doing. The episode “The Psychology of Thinking Versus Doing” is from the podcast “Two Guys on Your Head”, which is produced here in Austin at the University of Texas. We thought this would be good to share because we, as instructors, need to make sure that we give our students the time to think before they do in class. If we want students to be able to engage with the language and use it well, we need to give them time to process before we can expect them to perform.

You may remember from the instructor training that an important part of the lesson flow and the principles is making sure that students have the time to process the language and think (Step 4) before we expect them to do something with it (Steps 5 & 6). Take this opportunity to reflect on how you give students the chance to think before you ask them to do, and how you might be able to further develop your ability (and your students’!) to provide the right space to think before you act.

Click here to access the episode. It’s less than 8 minutes long, so it shouldn’t take up much of your day. 

Pairing English Forward with Other Curricula

 English Forward Lesson TemplateNo two ESL classes are the same, and in order to shape classes to be relevant to learners' diverse strengths and needs, it is helpful for instructors to have a variety of tools at their disposal. With this in mind, The English Forward Curriculum is designed to be adaptable, so that instructors can pair it effectively with other curricula. One useful tool that English Forward provides is the Lesson Flow, which can be applied to any curriculum to provide a class framework, and to shape lessons to be more interactive and conversationally focused. What are some effective ways to apply the English Forward Lesson Flow to other curricula? 

While many curriculum work books provide content and activities that usually focus on reading and writing, the EF Lesson Flow guides instructors through eight explicit steps that help learners process information, and a variety of methods to help learners practice speaking. Instructors can prepare for class by thinking through how components of a work book lesson fit into steps from the EF Lesson Flow. For example, are there pictures in a work book that will help activate learners' background knowledge for step 1 of the Lesson Flow? Are there questions in the book that will help check learners' comprehension for step 2? How can instructors model activities (Lesson Flow step 4) from a work book, so that low level learners understand instructions? To build upon reading and writing activities in a work book, instructors can use teaching strategies from the English Forward Master Strategies list to help learners practice speaking (Lesson Flow step 6).  

With the English Forward Lesson Flow, instructors have a useful tool to mold a variety of resources together into a cohesive lesson. The English Forward Lesson Plan template can be used as a planning and implementation tool for instructors to shape their own lessons from their chosen curricula. Click here to get the template! 

What are some ways you've paired other resources with English Forward? Let us know in the comments below! 

Timely Lessons for the rest of 2016!

As we finish up 2016, we wanted to remind you all of the Timely Lessons that you can bring into class before the end of the year!  

  • Fall Vegetables - A lesson introducing students to the Fall harvest and vegetables they can find in their own community. 
  • Daylight Saving Time - A lesson that prepares students to discuss Daylight Saving Time and their preferences around different daily activities. 
  • Thanksgiving - A lesson that prepares students to discuss Thanksgiving and what they're thankful for.
  • New Year's Day - A lesson that prepares students to discuss major life events and celebrating the New Year. 

Ongoing Professional Development

LINCS Logo Color 300dpi 1The English Forward Instructor Training is only one of the many opportunities at your disposal to receive high quality professional development in teaching ESL. As you know, under the “Webinars” tab on the menu above, we have two great webinars available for you to complete on “Integrating Health Literacy Into the ESL Classroom” and “Adapting English Forward to One-to-One Settings”. Additionally, LINCS (the Literacy Information and Communication System) has a Learning Portal with several good resources available on teaching ESL and a variety of other topics. The Learning Portal requires you to have an account, but signing up for an account is totally free. Click here to learn more about the LINCS Learning Portal and sign up.

Beyond these resources, you likely have opportunities for professional development provided by state and local adult education providers. Spend some time researching other opportunities in your community to keep learning! 

Create a Realia Station

7 Building a Realia ToolkitYou probably remember from the English Forward Instructor Training that bringing realia into the classroom is a great way of getting students to connect the language they learn in the classroom with the outside world. The English Forward lessons  suggest you bring in realia whenever it might be possible. Today, we wanted to write about creating a realia station in your classroom or building to give your students an opportunity to review and remind them of what they have learned. 

Set up a space in your classroom to serve as your station. Then, as you complete lessons that use realia, set the realia up at the station. Or, if you're able to plan far enough in advance, bring the realia in before you teach the lesson, and let students explore the realia as a way of preparing for the lesson and Activating Background Knowledge. The station can serve as a 3D word wall of sorts. 

If you're not quite sure where to start, you can use the "Suggestions for Building a Realia Toolkit" handout from the training to get some ideas. Or you could use the Needs Assessments and the Realia Toolkit Creator to generate a list of realia relevant to your students' interests and goals. 


Click here to download the "Suggestions for Building a Realia Toolkit" handout.

Click here to be taken to the Needs Assessments and the Realia Toolkit Creator.  

2016 National Welcoming Week

welcome week new 150ppi 0This year, September 16-25 is National Welcoming Week, a week in which immigrants and U.S.-born residents get together to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone into your community! To learn more and find an event near you, go to www.welcomingamerica.org or click here

Checking in on Student Goals

Pages from Student Needs Assessment BeginningAs the fall term starts, you're likely going to take some time in the first few classes to set goals with your students. As we know from the English Forward Instructor Training, working with our students to set goals, both for each student and as a class, is a way for us to make sure that we're bringing relevant content into the classroom. But what do we do after those goals are set? 

Taking time periodically to check back in with the goals is a great way to get students to reflect on the progress they have made. It's just as important for our students to see their progress as it is for us to see their progress. Revisiting the goals and asking students to assess their progress helps to remind students of the work that they have accomplished, and how it's helping them to reach their larger goals.

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