Session 1

“Whenever I Go Somewhere, I Have to Take My Daughters with Me”—An Enquiry into the Progress and Strategies Used for L2 Literacy Acquisition by Former Refugee Adults in New Zealand

There is increasing acknowledgement of the paucity of second language acquisition research involving adults and adolescents with little or no prior education. Practitioner-researchers seem well-placed to bridge the gap between research and practice and to posit evidence-based suggestions about suitable pedagogy. This 2-year study investigated progress in second language learning between two groups of adult learners from refugee backgrounds, those with 0-2 years of prior education and those with 8+ years. A national online assessment tool, recently developed by the New Zealand government, yielded the quantitative data. The study further enquired through interviews and observations about the strategies those without prior formal education were using to learn the new language and to move towards basic L2 literacy.

Results show that those with more prior education in their L1 progressed slightly faster than the group with little or no prior education. However, both groups showed their progress was marked by both advances and some regressions, perhaps due to ill-health or other constraints beyond the classroom. Classroom observations showed that strategies they used by learners were a surprising blend of methods used for hundreds of years in language learning, balanced with their own adaptation to modern information technologies. One of the more significant results is that the use of the first language to support second language learning seems to be essential for these adults to provide a platform of support, or in Vygotsky’s terms to extend “the zone of proximal development.” Interviews revealed that in all cases, learners’ overarching goal is to communicate in their new language to gain independence and dignity in their country of resettlement.

The research concludes with some tentative suggestions for practitioners. An awareness of the socio- cultural and educational backgrounds of learners and a recognition of their self-managing status, may potentially lead to new levels of authentic dialogue and negotiation of a curriculum that becomes a “real world” fit for both learners and teachers.


Autonomous Learning and Technology with Adult Refugee-Background Students

Incorporating digital literacy in the adult refugee-background classroom creates a rich environment enabling learners to benefit from a multi-faceted approach to language learning which incorporates blended-, flipped-, and project-based learning with mobile technology. In the past, access to technology and insufficient connectivity posed problems for autonomous learning outside the classroom. With an increased number of mobile apps and websites, in addition to wifi availability, refugee-background students have much greater access to technology than ever before. Working on online tasks and having the capability of face-to-face interaction with timely teacher feedback allows for increased exposure, allowing for students to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. Flexibility and autonomy in language learning can offer enormous benefits to the adult learner. Blended learning provides the possibility for this to happen.

This model also incorporates opportunities for the learner to collaborate with other learners and become independent speakers of English, thereby fostering autonomy. Through LEA (Learning Experience Approach) and narrative inquiry, students may be introduced to digital tools and be encouraged to take an active role in their own learning and story-telling. This model requires scaffolding, training, and modeling by the reacher and encourages teacher-student as well as student-student interaction. Inherent in digital literacy also is authenticity of tasks and projects which encourages “constructivism, connectivism, multi-literacies education for the 21st century, collaborative learning and the promotion of autonomous and lifelong learning” (Samuell, 2010).

This proposal of practice incorporates strategies to establish autonomous learning while integrating computer-assisted language learning. Independent as well as collaborative projects are facilitated by Web 2.0 tools and other interactive web forums, thereby enhancing the language learning experience. Websites explored and utilized may include but are not limited to: class communication: WhatsApp, Gmail, Typing Club; free website builder for classes/teachers (Weebly); dictionaries: Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary; Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English; listening resources: TED Talks, Voice of America–Learning English, BBC Voices; vocabulary building: Quizlet; news sources: Breaking News English, NPR Online; reading: free extensive reading downloads: Google Translate; YouTube; audio recording tools: VoiceThread, Audacity; and multi-modal storytelling: AdobeSpark and Book Creator.


Community-based Bhutanese Adult Refugee English Literacy Learning: Needs and Strategies

With the influx of refugees in the U.S. during the past decade, refugee adults’ English literacy learning is the main challenge for this population. However, current adult literacy research more focuses on adults with higher education and solid first language literacy. Little research gives attention to adult refugees with limited education and first language literacy. This one-year ethnographic study explores English language literacy learning of recently arrived Bhutanese refugee adults in the community setting in a Northeastern U.S. city. The data include interviews, observations, and artifacts. The findings demonstrate the unique social, psychological, civic, and cultural needs. Also, this study presents challenges of this group of adult learners in learning English literacy. The challenges are grounded in their refugee experiences, but also their limited schooling and first language literacy. This study documents the specific ways of this group’s literacy learning including peer study, repeated learning, and socialization into the English-speaking community. This study provides implications at the pedagogical and curriculum levels for English literacy learning of adults with limited first language literacy and education.


Immigrant Services and Connections (ISAC): Allegheny County’s Experience with Strength Based Service Coordination to Improve Access to Services

Using a multi-agency partnership ISAC provides strength-based, culturally-competent resource coordination to individuals experiencing language and/or cultural barriers to service. This facilitated discussion will cover the genesis of ISAC, program model and overview of self-sufficiency assessment rating improvements for enrolled clients.


Session 2

LINC Works—Literacy Learner Employment Project and Materials

Participants will learn about the LINC Works project (funded by Employment and Social Development Canada, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills) which embeds workplace skills into English language classes to allow for language and skill development for the increased successful integration of literacy learners into the workforce, as well as building skills and knowledge needed to maintain jobs. The pan-Canadian project looks at meeting literacy learner immigrants and refugees where they are at, and the materials target the language and skills learners need to move further along the continuum towards employment. At the beginning of our continuum, the focus is on language and upskilling. By embedding workplace essential skills at lower language levels, newcomers have time to gradually upskill. Further down the continuum, we add on training (e.g. First Aid and WHMIS) that prepares learners for workplace tests and for being safe workers. It‘s not only about passing the safety tests. It’s about learners really understanding the issues and procedures to keep them safe. The time that learners spend studying these materials allows them to articulate and learn the value and transferability of the skills as opposed to just focusing on technical skills. Our continuum finishes with the project connecting learners to employers in a facilitated and supported manner through a work experience course.

The project has developed a significant amount of materials that embed the needed skills at different levels of language programming (CLB 3 and 5; CEFR low A2 and low B1; ACTFL Novice Low and Novice High). These resources target the skills needed for entry level jobs which are a steppingstone for newcomer immigrants and refugees. The materials address employer concerns around communication and safety in the workplace. Materials include a module plan, lesson plan, skill building activity handouts, student reflection templates, and assessment tasks. All materials are Open Education Resources and therefore may be freely used and adapted. Materials will be made available to participants.

The project measures and evaluates any skill gains with an online pre/post Essential Skills test designed for the project and other NorQuest College literacy programs.


Exploring Culture Dialogically in the LESLLA Classroom

Despite the robust body of literature about teaching intercultural competence, little has been written on exploring culture in LESLLA classes. Educational materials about culture designed for LESLLA learners tend to be prescriptive and essentializing, displaying rules and norms without inviting dialogue or accounting for variation. The proposed presentation addresses this gap by dialogically exploring perceptions of adults in a mixed community-based ESL class—including many LESLLA learners—towards cultural themes. Data, which were collected over the course of a fourteen-week community-based beginning-level English as a Second Language course, include student interviews as well as student-produced texts and responses to texts exploring cultural themes. Students were eager to critically dialogue about culture, and they indicated increased cultural understanding and interest after a fourteen-week session. In the presentation, I will share a literature review on approaches to teaching culture, excerpts from student interviews, and examples from my own classroom. I will end with strategies teachers can use to assess and create materials that explore culture. The presentation aims to invite LESLLA instructors to consider how to reflectively choose materials, teach, and dialogue about culture in their classes.


Artists in Collaboration: Language Learning, Creative Practice, and Community Building

The Pittsburgh Office of Public Art organized a residency in the Public Realm matching four artists with four organizations that support immigrants and refugees. Participating artists and organizations will reflect on their experiences and takeaways for other adult language learning contexts. The pairings are: United Somali Bantu of Greater Pittsburgh with Lindsey Scherloum, Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh with Christine Bethea, Northern Area Multi Service (NAMS) with Molly Rice, and Literacy Pittsburgh with Mary Tremonte. Sara Cole of Literacy Pittsburgh will moderate this panel discussion.


Literacy and Social Semiotics: Meaning-Making in Local Classroom Language and Literacy Assessments

This research contributes to understandings of how refugee-background LESLLA learners make meaning from multimodal texts. Focusing on low-stakes assessment, it considers diagnostic and classroom assessment texts used in a local English as a Second Language and English literacy program for refugee-background adults.

Scarce research has been completed concerning social semiotics and the visual and multimodal literacy of LESLLA learners. Bruski (2012) and Altherr Flores (2017) are recent studies that have addressed visual literacy and meaning-making by this population. Altherr Flores (2017), the pilot study for this research, however, is the only LESLLA-related study that has investigated meaning-making in English language and literacy assessments from a social semiotic perspective.

The pilot study showed that assessments used for LESLLA learners display ideologies of (multi)literacy and assumptions of visual and multimodal literacy. The current study draws upon this previous research, further investigating the modes of still image, writing, and layout in assessment texts. It is concerned with how LESLLA learners construct meaning from such modalities, how they understand the aspects of a culture’s coded visual communication style, and how they interpret these elements working together to communicate an idea. Additionally, the research seeks to gain insight into how LESLLA learners engage with these low-stakes local classroom assessment texts.

The research questions are: 1) How do LESLLA learners from refugee backgrounds make meaning from the multimodal assessments? 2) How do they make meaning locally (of the tests)?, and 3) What kinds of implications or understandings do they perceive from the wider aspect of these assessments?

Data come from classroom assessment texts, student artifacts, and semi-structured interviews. Five sets of classroom assessments were analyzed (the program’s assessments, and four sets of revised assessments that were created based on data from the analysis of the assessment texts, data from the student artifacts of each iteration, and data from the interviews). Student writing on each set of assessments was analyzed; more than 110 students from nine classes at the program’s four levels (literacy, low-beginning, high-beginning, intermediate) participated in the study by providing classroom artifacts. Of these students, 29 participated in semi-structured interviews, which took place in the participants’ first languages with the assistance of refugee-background interpreters.

Data analysis utilized a critical multimodal social semiotic approach (Kress, 2010; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Pennycook, 2001). Data was coded according to themes of textual composition, interpersonal relationship, and ideational content.

The study’s results are useful for effective assessment design, materials design, and classroom pedagogy with multimodal texts. Recommendations for designing multimodal texts and assessments will be given.


Session 3

Education and Literacy As Metonyms for English: Adult Basic Education and Domestic Workers in South

The presence of English—and its link to education—is a worldwide phenomenon. Discourses about English are tied to everything done “in the name of education, all the exacerbations of inequality that go under the label of globalization, all the linguistic calumnies that denigrate other ways of speaking, all the shamefully racist institutional interactions that occur…” (Pennycook, 2017, p. xv). English’s global presence as a lingua franca is a growing issue in policy and research, including adult education research, around the world. And yet, reasons for the global growth of English continue to change and expand based on context, space, and history.

Within this paper, I center my analysis and discussion on the English language learning of South African domestic workers to examine the ways in which English is prevalent in discourses connected to literacy and adult education in a South African context. Further however, I focus on the narratives and experiences of these women as they play a crucial role in the history of South Africa and yet remain “among those who have had the least access to education” (Vanqa-Mgijima, Wiid, and duToit, 2013, p. 267). Drawing from the term metonymy, in which a word or term is understood to reference a meaning other than its stated definition, I contend that for South African domestic workers taking English language classes, “literacy” and “education” become metonyms for “English language education” and “English literacy.” These direct links between being “literate” and “educated” and knowing English become problematic for within this research, I discover that although South African domestic workers learning English often identify themselves as “illiterate” and “uneducated”, they concurrently ignore their abilities to speak, read, and write in their native languages. In other words, the strength of these women’s multilinguistic repertoires becomes obsolete while the symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1991) that English holds nationally is increasingly (re)produced in the personal and social spaces in which these women live and work.


Let’s Go to the Library! Building Connections to Community Resources Through Field Trips

The use of the identity approach within a poststructuralist theoretical framework allows us to view refugee-background adult language learners as multidimensional learners who are continually renegotiating their place in the classroom and community. Rather than accept studies that report findings that label learners with binary terms such as motivated or unmotivated, the identity theory recognizes that variables change and each of these adult learners are unique in their linguistic, cultural, and educational background (Norton, 2011, 72). The use of the identity approach proposed by Bonny Norton (2011) challenges accepted definitions of motivation in language learning. Gardner (1985) et. al. begin studying motivation through large surveys using the Attitude Motivation Test Battery (ATMB) (Ortega, 2013, 169). Of some of the main variables investigated in L2 Motivation Research include, several have potential for critical analysis using the identity approach to SLA. For example, attitudes towards the target language and its speakers are impacted by the learners’ identity in their new speech community. Attitude towards instructional setting, orientations, social support, inter-group contact are additional variables that relate to the power dynamics within a classroom environment. Additional motivational variables of special concern for a refugees within a new environment include ethnovitality (sociopolitical presence within a community), self-confidence when using the language (self-perceived communicative competence and communication anxiety) and integrativeness, (Ortega, 2013, 172). When studied in isolation, these variables and proposed dimensions fail to account for power dynamics within a classroom environment that may challenge or silence L2 learners and speakers. They also fail to account for the language learners self-perceived identity within their new speech community.

The Language Experience Approach and the use of storytelling allows for ELLA students of refugee-background to learn English in their community through experiential learning. It provides meaningful location-based content and encourages learners to describe their experiences and thus create their own story. Research with this student group well documents the use of Language Experience Approach and storytelling as a venue for healing and acknowledging the trauma in a trauma informed classroom (ex: Montero, 2018) and this presentation seeks to briefly introduce research behind the curriculum design provided. Attendees will go step-by-step through a unit designed to introduce students to their local community resource of a small branch library and its many services.

Short citations:

Montero, M. (2018). Narratives of Trauma and Self-healing processes in a Literacy program of

Adolescent Newcomers.

Norton, B. & McKinney, C. (2011) An Identity Approach to Second Language Acquisition.

Ortega, L. (2013). Understanding second language acquisition. London and New York: Routledge.


College & Career Readiness Standards in the LESLLA Classroom: New Videos for Teachers!

Minnesota is now in its fifth year of College & Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) implementation. These standards, released in 2013 from OCTAE, move adult educators to improve how we prepare adult learners for the workforce and post-secondary or career training, and also how we guide students to deepen their involvement with their communities.

Minnesota maintains that the CCRS are for all students, both native and non-native speakers of English, regardless of previous educational experiences. However, ESL teachers will of course draw from different pedagogical strategies to serve their learners, and adult English learners, LESLLA students in particular, will need different supports along the way as they reach these rigorous standards!

So how should CCRS “look” in a LESLLA classroom?   In this session, we highlight a free online classroom video series that answers this question and can make a significant difference in preparing teachers to implement the CCRS English Language Arts standards with non-native speakers of English who are emergent readers.

During the session, participants will have the opportunity to view clips of the new classroom videos, which feature instruction that is combined with teacher interviews to showcase strong, CCRS-aligned instruction in an ESL setting. Two of the videos are with LESLLA learners, and those will be our focus for this session. While viewing the video clips, participants will try out the video viewing guides, which were created to enable programs to easily facilitate in-person or distance professional development opportunities for teachers around the CCR standards. Participants will also discuss the video lesson plans and all supporting materials, which are provided online for free along with the videos. The presenters will share how the videos and accompanying materials have been used in teacher professional development in Minnesota, along with recommendations and lessons learned. At the end of the session, participants will discuss ideas for using these materials in their own programs. Participants do not need to have previous experience with the CCR standards to participate in this session.


Session 4

The Access Paradox: Providing Access and Promoting Linguistic Diversity in Nonformal Education

The purpose of this pilot study is to investigate the access paradox (Janks, 2010) in two, community-based organizations which offer language and literacy instruction for adults in the United States. The access paradox requires “provid[ing] access to dominant forms, while at the same time valuing and promoting the diverse languages and literacies of our students and in the broader society” (Janks, 2010, p. 24). In this context, the access paradox refers to the specific challenge of providing immigrants with access to the dominant, English language while promoting the diverse languages and literacies which students bring with them to the classroom.

The research offers an application of Janks’ (2010) interdependent model of critical literacy which argues for a teaching practice that integrates domination, access, diversity, and design. Collectively, these four elements create a “productive tension to achieve … equity and social justice” (p. 27). In her study on digital storytelling (DST) in an adult literacy program, Prins (2016) argued that the interdependent model of critical literacy, “can help educators ensure that they use DST to simultaneously unveil power asymmetries, provide access to socially valued literacies and other semiotic resources, recognize difference, and equip learners to design multimodal texts” (14). Drawing on Janks (2004; 2010) and Prins (2016), this research expands the application of the interdependent model of critical literacy to community-based organizations in the United States.

The context of community-based organizations in the United States is significant because of the recent change in federal policy. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed in 2014. This federal legislation has been implicated as a source of “narrowing” due to its increased attention to postsecondary credentials and employment outcomes (Belzer & Kim, 2018; McHugh & Doxsee, 2018; Pickard, 2018; Jacobson, 2017). If there has been a narrowing of this federal policy, how are community-based organizations able to address the access paradox?

As a pilot study, this qualitative research incorporates semi-structured interviews with program staff at two community-based organizations in the United States. Document analysis provides additional support for the consideration of the access paradox in this context. This study seeks to connect theory to practice. The results offer insight into how the program staff at the community-based organizations perceive and apply the access paradox at their respective locations. Building on Janks (2010) and Prins (2016), this study will examine specific teaching strategies or classrooms activities that the community-based organizations implement and analyze them under the interdependent model of critical literacy.


Beyond “Survival”: Affordances of Creativity in LESLLA Classrooms

Traditional materials designed for LESLLA tend to prioritize survival-based themes and grammar-centric tasks (Auerbach, 1985). However, research in other contexts has shown the value of creative/aesthetic texts, such as poetry, in promoting critical thinking, facilitating language learning, and connecting authentically to learners’ lives. This presentation will draw upon the theoretical framework of multiliteracies to explore how creative approaches can be used in LESLLA classrooms. I will begin by defining creativity and reviewing how it has been applied in adult language classrooms, including classrooms “in the margins” (Tin, 2011). Using classroom artifacts and survey data from the presenter’s classroom, I will argue that advanced literacy is not required to engage in creative activities; as emergent readers, LESLLA students can creatively employ multiliteracies to collaboratively explore issues relevant to their lives while learning language. After presenting examples of how students use multiliteracies to engage with language creatively, such as through collaborative poems, acrostic poems, and scrapbook pages, I will explore students’ perceptions of participating in critical creative approaches to language learning, including their perceptions of how their language skills in general develop over the course of a community-based ESL class. I will end by providing frameworks for using creative activities, as well as differentiating activities to meet needs of diverse learners. Finally, participants will brainstorm ways to develop activities for their own contexts.


Mobilising Students in the Face of the Refugee Crisis—A New Approach to Language Acquisition

North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T) is a student-run volunteer organisation which aims to educate and empower the refugee and asylum seeking communities in the North East of England. The project began in August 2016 when one Syrian family requested language support from Newcastle University and in response 6 students began teaching English for two hours once a week. Today, just less than three years later, N.E.S.T is now one of the major ways in which the region is able to support the forced migration population living within the Northern cities. With over 250 refugees and asylum seekers using the services and over 400 student volunteers managing and facilitating the project, N.E.S.T has become a large community where integration is central.

The project is based around language acquisition as this is the primary need of the majority of learners accessing support. Service provision totals over 20 hours every week and this is spread over the seven days. The weekly schedule includes: adult fiction reading, art classes, conversation groups, football and basketball sessions, community sessions, food donations, clothes donations, trips into the community, maths support and specialised curriculum teaching for children. N.E.S.T is unique because it is not just somewhere that learners come to learn or come to when they need support. N.E.S.T is a safe-space and a social hub. N.E.S.T is a community and a home for people who no longer have their own; a family for both the students who run the project and refugees who come to learn. It’s a diverse and exciting environment; a place that despite huge differences in age, race, religion, sexuality, culture and background life experiences, individuals work together in peace for shared progress.

This project demonstrates three things. The first is that there is a considerable unmet need for refugees and asylum seekers to learn English here in Newcastle. This need is identified by the learners themselves and the response of communities in the North East to the provision but also in the support of funders who have resourced the project generously. This need is heavily underestimated by many and expanding the knowledge of learners needs is vital to improving access to learning for LESLLA learners. Secondly, the project demonstrates that using student volunteers at universities is a revolutionary approach which is vastly successful and has undeniable benefits for all parties involved. It is now more than ever that start-up initiatives such as these should be explored and understood so that they can be built upon. Finally, N.E.S.T demonstrates that in a world where the news starts and ends with Brexit and where islamophobia, terrorism and helplessness are rife, there is hope and we can make a difference. We want to share our journey and talk about what we do in the hope that we may be able to learn and connect which the overall aim of improving the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.


Using Ed Tech to Support LESLLA: Findings from Field Testing Promising Tools

For just over a year, researchers from the EdTech Center@ World Education field tested seven education and workforce development technologies designed to extend learning opportunities and support career development of adult workers and learners often excluded from traditional educational opportunities or training and hiring practices. Our work has shed light on the affordances of the tools and characteristics of their use that best leverage technology to support persistence and learner success.

Guided by a qualitative approach and an activity theoretical framework (i.e., Engeström, 1987), we gathered a diverse range of data including documentation of the features of each of the tools and observational, interview, and focus group data from site visits in cities and rural areas across the United States. Sites included adult learning centers, community based organizations, public housing spaces, and workforce centers.

Findings from the study include several practical observations that LESLLA practitioners can draw on when considering integration of new learning technologies in their classrooms and programs. First and foremost, the study illustrated the potential of mobile learning to extend and personalize learning for working second language learners with emerging literacy and limited or interrupted formal education, who often have limited time to commit to formal educational programming. Another salient observation from the research is that programs or practitioners must employ the technologies to which learners have access; this finding shed light on the power of texting in learning and persistence support. Additionally, the presentation describes what the study revealed about use of diverse media (e.g., audio, video, emojis, and images) to support comprehension and communication in digital assessments, messaging, and online learning. The presentation shares the findings and features stories of end-users and learners who characterize the field testing participants that we met along the way.

The presentation concludes with a description of a free resource developed based on this research—the Workforce EdTech Repository (, which provides guidance and evaluation criteria for selection of educational technologies and offers descriptions of several exemplar online resources suitable for LESLLA.


Session 5

Multilingual Students with Interrupted Formal Education: Language Use and Instruction

The number of English learners (ELs) across the United States continues to grow. The influx of newly immigrated students is felt every day in K-12 school contexts, and teachers and administrators grapple with innovative ways to educate immigrant children who come to school with tremendous linguistic diversity, cultural richness, and academic challenges. The proposed workshop relates to developing literacy skills with Students with Inconsistent/Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). SIFE students, as defined by the New York Department of Education, are ELs who have attended schools in the United States for less than twelve months and who are two or more years below grade level in literacy in their home language and in Math (NYSED, 2018). New York State, and particularly the Hudson Valley, has experienced a surge of unaccompanied minors arriving to our secondary schools in the last 2-5 years, and schools are rising to the challenge of designing new high-interest, low-literacy programs to meet their academic needs.

The presenter will share the story of the complex linguistic ecology in one specialized, sheltered classroom at Queensville High School (QHS–a pseudonym) known for its strong support for ELs through its ESOL programs. The classroom is dedicated to newly arrived Guatemalan SIFE students (n=18) who are aged 15-21, and are receiving sheltered instruction in all their subject areas. These students are not just bilingual, they are multilingual – their home or first language is Q’eqchi’, they know Spanish from the school experiences that they had in Guatemala, and they are learning English at QHS. The focus of classroom instruction is to help students adjust to the norms of U.S. school, and to assist in the development of emergent literacy skills in ways that are appropriate for adolescents. The following research questions guide this research project: 1) How do newcomer SIFE students make sense of their linguistic worlds in high school? 2) How are emergent literacy practices being implemented at the high school level, and 3) What are teachers’ understandings of their students linguistic and literacy practices?

In this session, I will give an extensive background related to 1) the work being done with SIFE students at QHS, 2) information about the reading curriculum that is being implemented successfully there (Bridges to Academic Success, created in part by the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City), and 3) the journeys that these students have taken (and continue to take) to make their way into the realities of their lives in the United States. Session participants will be invited to share their own experiences working with SIFE students, and resources and techniques will be shared collectively.


LESLLA Learners’ Access to Healthcare: Insights from Participants in the Health Literacy Partnership

The connections between literacy and health are well-documented and no longer disputed—lower literacy levels are associated with poorer health outcomes and greater health inequalities among marginalized populations such as recent immigrants and refugees and those with lower levels of language and schooling. (CPHA, 2014; Hill, 2008; McKinney, 2008; Mitic & Rootman, 2012; Open Door Collective, 2017a and 2017b; Council of Ministers of Education, 2017; Rudd, 2015). A 2016 scoping review of research regarding Canadian immigrants’ unique experiences in accessing health care found that “there are unmet health care access needs specific to immigrants to Canada…the most common access barriers were found to be language barriers, barriers to information, and cultural differences. These findings, in addition to low cultural competency reported by interviewed health care workers in the reviewed articles, indicate inequities in access to Canadian health care services for immigrant populations†(Kalich et al., 2016, p.697).

Many experts (Canadian Public Health Association, 2014; Coleman et al., 2008; Hernandez, 2013; Rudd, 2002 & 2015; Shohet, 2018) suggest that to improve health literacy, two things must happen:

  1. we need to improve the knowledge and skills of the people who receive health information, programs, and services;
  2. and we need to reduce barriers created by the providers and systems that offer such programs and services.

Health literacy partnerships bring health and education professionals together to engage in these tasks and improve communication between health care providers and the at-risk communities they serve. These partnerships show promise for improving the health literacy of hard-to-reach populations (McKinney, 2008; Santos & Landry, 2008), and show the value of sustained dialogue between LESLLA and other disciplines since LESLLA classrooms are ideal contexts for improving health literacy in at-risk immigrant communities (Rudd, 2002; Santos, 2012).

This presentation will examine survey and focus group data from the innovative Health Literacy Partnership, a 2-year federally funded project between Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and the Mosaic Primary Care Network’s Refugee Health Clinic. Data from each of the three participant groups collected during the needs assessment phase of the project will be presented to reveal the overlap of areas of need as well as the particularities of each group.

The rich data represents a powerful voice from the field illustrating the challenges of healthcare access and navigation from the side of both LESLLA health consumers as well as healthcare providers.

Attendees will gain a better understanding of LESLLA participants’ experiences of accessing care, navigating complex health systems, and communicating with healthcare providers tasked with meeting their needs. These insights lend poignant support to the value of health literacy partnerships and the shared learning opportunities they offer.


Developing Autonomous Learning Skills and Content Knowledge in Adolescent SIFEs

In New York State, students with interrupted/inconsistent formal education or SIFEs are English Language Learners (ELLs) who have attended schools in the United States for less than twelve months and who are two or more years below grade level in literacy in their home language and/or two or more years below grade level in Math when they initially enrolled in U.S. schools due to inconsistent or interrupted schooling prior to arrival. This study looks into cases of Low Literacy SIFE, which is a subgroup of SIFE with literacy at or below third grade in their home language. Lower Literacy SIFEs are not yet fluent readers in any language and cannot use text as a resource to build new content knowledge. In addition, SIFEs are not familiar with general school culture and are not used to expected school behaviors and routines. Therefore, the focus of this study was to help SIFE build not only basic literacy, language and content knowledge but also classroom behavior and routines.

Five students are the focus of this case study. Three low literacy SIFEs and two former low literacy SIFEs. Two former low literacy SIFEs have entered the 9th grade as low literacy SIFEs but they have repeated the year so they no longer fit as SIFEs. However, because they are in the process of developing basic literacy skills and learning how to use text as resources they were included in the study. All students are from Senegal and two are sibilants with 4 years of age gap. Students are part of a large stand alone English as a New Language class. They meet three times a week for one hour. General format of the class is that students are introduced to language objective or skills they have to master as a whole class in the beginning of a class. The main focus has been learning different parts of speech and forming complete sentences. Most of the vocabulary used in this class is from ENL Social Studies class. The vocabulary is always introduced with visual or audio support. After the initial introduction and teacher modeling students work independently to master the skills. Two former low literacy SIFEs are able to work independently following the instruction. However, the literacy level of three new low literacy SIFEs vary substantially so their learning experience had been modified to meet their individual needs. Data was collected through various methods; writing samples from independent work, study pattern and quiz result data through online program called Quizlet, video recording, teacher’s observation notes, pre-test, post-test and writing samples from other content classes. Preliminary findings show students’ progress in autonomous learning skills and language development and its relation to their motivation, L1 literacy level, and prior school experience.


Session 6

The Development of an Agricultural-Based Literacy Programs in Petit-Goâve, Haiti

The city of Petit-Goâve is in the commune (county) of the district of Leogane in the western department of Haiti. The annual income for most of the farmers in Petit-Goâve is about four thousand (4500) Haitian gourdes, which is equivalent to 150 US dollars, and the adult illiteracy borders 65-80%. Therefore, three literacy centers were developed to address the literacy needs of the county. Using Paula Freire’s theoretical context for the development of the literacy program, a theme-based approach was developed that incorporated “real context” situations into each lesson. There are approximately 60 students in the program. Teachers are encouraged to engage students in the learning process by developing themes that address important issues relevant to their lives. Time is also given for reflection on how those issues impact their lives and more importantly, their ability to make changes to improve their lives. The themes selected by the learners were Agriculture and the Environment. These topics: Seed preparation for planting; fruit trees and forestation – garden, vegetables (plantains, yucca, corn, cabbage, etc.); protection for the soil, usage of plants to create new food products, and; identification of effective farming tools. For example, an objective of a lesson is to have students engage in a dialogue about vegetables when shown three-five pictures of different vegetables. The students are also taught to read and write the names of those vegetables with minimal support. Learners participate in planting and farming activities to further reinforce and provide real context for the lessons. Learners also apply their knowledge of the new material learned by participating in farming activities directly related to the lessons. This include: planting the vegetables learned that day, watering the plants, studying the soil, and picking ripped crops. Again, dialogue is strongly encouraged during the farming activity to further reinforce concepts learned and placing objects in a “real world context.” The crops grown are used for consumption and as an economic source sold in local markets.


Cohesive Instruction Through Shared Curriculum

Because of our adult ESL learners’ levels of education and inconsistent attendance, it’s a challenge for instructors to create cohesive, rigorous, and varied lessons that help develop communication skills. This presentation will help individual instructors and instructor teams provide quality language instruction (aligned with the CCR and ELP standards) by introducing them to Literacy Pittsburgh’s tri-leveled shared curriculum, a curriculum that has helped standardize and unify our agency’s instruction.

Our curriculum model includes four units focused on daily life topics: health, employment, shopping, and neighborhoods and targets vocabulary development, intense practice with “supporting language structures” (relevant grammar necessary for communication), literacy skills, and sustained speaking opportunities designed to help non-native speakers negotiate their new lives. Students encounter the curriculum through focused yet varied repetition and activities that carefully increase in difficulty. Students are assessed by their ability to demonstrate relevant literacy skills and use practiced language structures in extended, contextualized speaking opportunities.

We will share and discuss examples of stories and leveled “What to Teach” objectives that guide our instruction. We’ll also share activities that demonstrate how we scaffold our teaching to adapt to multiple learner levels and degrees of mastery.

Our goal is for instructors and program administrators to see how a shared curriculum creates a more rigorous and cohesive learning experience for students and a more unified teaching experience for instructors.


Refugee-Background Women’s Multiliteracy Practices: Intertextuality and Mobile Device Use

The TESOL Technology Standards (TESOL 2008) were designed to support teachers who desire to integrate digital literacies in instruction. However, like other frameworks, these standards assume that learners are “functionally literate in…native languages” (p. 21), leaving LESLLA teachers with little guidance. Other resources for digital literacy development with adult learners point to the need for instructors to be aware of learners’ L1 literacy levels, but do not necessarily provide explicit direction (e.g., LINCS ESL Pro’s self-study, “Integrating Digital Literacy into Adult English Language Instruction,” available at

One starting point for beginning to understand how to integrate digital literacies in LESLLA contexts are learners’ own practices with digital devices. Drawing on a multiliteracies framework (Cope and Kalantzis, 2009), the present ethnographic study examined the ways that refugee-background women used their mobile phones during English class. Data collection took place three times per week over eight months in one classroom, and included participant observation, interviews, document collection, videos, and photographs. Participants were 20 women who self-identified with 11 different ethnolinguistic backgrounds. Ten had never attended school previously; the rest had attended between three and six years. All were at beginning levels of literacy in English, and most were emergent readers/writers in any language (e.g., forming letters, directionality of print, etc.) Data were transcribed and analyzed thematically using NVivo qualitative data software (Saldaña, 2012).

Findings show that women in this classroom used mobile phones in sophisticated ways to create intertextual links (Castanheira et al., 2001) as they completed academic tasks: learners created, found, manipulated, and used mentor texts via mobile phones to make illustrations for stories, copy texts, look up definitions, and find spellings of known words. Photographing class texts allowed learners to transport and access texts in out-of-class spaces—underscoring the photographs’ potential for future intertextual connections. Learners’ photographs also served as ongoing resources for their teacher, who frequently asked for visual reminders of what had transpired in the previous class. Implications for pedagogy are discussed.

Castanheira, M. L., Crawford, T., Dixon, C. N., & Green, J. L. (2001). Interactional ethnography: An approach to studying the social construction of literate practices. Linguistics and Education, 11(4), 353–400.

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning. Pedagogies: An international journal, 4(3), 164-195.

Saldaña, J. (2012). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

TESOL. (2008). TESOL Technology Standards Framework. Alexandria, VA: TESOL. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from

TESOL. (2008). TESOL Technology Standards Framework. Alexandria, VA: TESOL. Retrieved March 20, 2019, fromÂ


Intercultural Communication in Health Literacy: A Public Health Implication

The presentation covers the pillars of trauma-informed care with cultural competency and humility. The goals are to review pillars of trauma-informed care, working with multiple cultural groups, and develop skills in intercultural communications. The trainer defines intercultural communication, as the complexities of power and oppression explored within communication. Once a person who provides services understands the complexities of cultural equity with communication, it creates a positive feedback loop where cultural competence informs humility and vice versa. Providers can learn from the people they support and from the world around them to flex services in a culturally and trauma informed way. The research study is a quantitative secondary analysis using information of a six-study program over a four-year period. While housing insecurity is not connected directly to health literacy, it is an area of indirect public-health. The results in this study have possible implications for possible application of other areas of immigrant and refugee health connections including literacy.

Learning Objectives: Participants will understand concepts of culture within the construct of trauma-informed practice. Participants will understand how power and oppression effect systems of communication within multiple areas of service provision. Participants will learn local, national, and international, disparities in health concerning areas of communication. Participants will understand theoretical concepts including systems theory, strengths-based practice, and relational-cultural theory. Participants will learn communication skills that apply to cultural competency, humility, and intercultural practice. Applications of intercultural communication to health literacy and skills to support LESLLA learners. Understanding study findings and indirect implications of housing insecurities impact on public health.


Session 7

Refugees: “We Also Have Interesting Stories to Share”

The increasing number of refugees in the United States impacts our classrooms and calls for immediate action. A major problem that refugees face upon arriving in the United States is the language barrier (Nykiel-Herbert, 2010; Prior & Niesz, 2013). In addition, refugees have been exposed to trauma, which is not only difficult to cope with, but can also hinder their social integration (Isik-Ercan, 2012; Taylor & Sidhu, 2012). Unfortunately, many refugees were exposed to teacher-centered classrooms (Tao, 2013; Vavrus & Bartlett, 2013), which can further affect their ability to interact and voice their opinions. Thus, in this presentation, I share activities that will enable refugee students to communicate with others despite their limited English proficiency.

Research shows that using music has constructive effects on people including their verbal and linguistic abilities (Gibson, Folley, & Park, 2009; Hoch & Tillman, 2012). For example, Milovanov, Pietilä, Tervaniemi, & Esquef (2010) found that there is a positive relation between learners’ affinity to music and their level of pronunciation. Herrera, Lorenzo, Defior, Fernandez-Smith, and Costa-Giomi (2011) reported that music can affect the reading readiness of both native and non-native learners. Given the effectiveness of music, language teachers should incorporate it in their classrooms.

In this presentation, I plan to share with language teachers how they can help refugees speak and connect with their peers in a stress-free environment. Using music, I demonstrate activities that will allow students to develop their English while conversing about topics that are of interest to them and which often allow them to invoke their background and culture. This is particularly important since refugees need to be assured that their prior experiences and knowledge matter and are of interest.

I will engage the audience by asking them to reflect on their own teaching and through giving rise to discussions about ways they are likely to use each song in their classrooms. I will also provide the participants with a handout with all the activities for future reference.


Preparing and Developing Teachers and Tutors to Work with Adult Emergent Readers: Our Work Continues

This presentation reports on the 2019 work of the EU-Speak Board in sustaining its online professional development modules for teachers and tutors of adult emergent readers. The EU-Speak Board is an extension of the multi-year Erasmus+ project known as EU-Speak that concluded in 2018. The mission of EU-Speak was to make a difference in the educational outcomes of immigrant and refugee background adults with little to no formal education and home language literacy by upholding the belief that everyone has the right to free, basic education. Research worldwide have shown that adults can reach high levels of oral proficiency and learn to read for the first time in a new language. EU-Speak scholars believe that the key to unlocking their potential is evidence-based and enlightened teaching. Toward that end, the project designed and delivered a suite of six modules in five languages which present cutting-edge research findings, innovative pedagogical approaches, and creative techniques. The modules target teachers and tutors with little training or preparation for working with this adult student population. Project researchers found that in most countries, teachers were not prepared to meet the specific and complex needs of these learners. The modules covered the following topics: (1) getting started in the classroom, (2) reading, (3) vocabulary, (4) language and literacy in a social context, (5) bilingualism, and (6) acquisition of morphosyntax. They were offered in an online format and were available in five languages. Module participants were teachers and tutors from 40 countries in which immigrants and refugees have resettled. Their participation was a unique opportunity to to exchange ideas and compare teaching and learning across contexts.

At the end of the Erasmus+ grant, the EU-Speak Board, which consists primarily of project partners, came together to find ways to sustain the important work and mission of EU-Speak. The EU-Speak Board now manages the six modules as intellectual property under a Creative Commons License, and has begun offering them again in the same format and five languages. The EU-Speak Board continues to prepare and professionally develop teachers and tutors who work with adults learning to read and write for the first time in a new language, and the mission of making a difference in these adults’ educational outcomes, through its efforts to not only sustain the six modules but to expand them into more languages that will reach a wider audience. The EU-Speak Board members share their message proudly: The Erasmus+ project may have ended, but the important work of research and teacher education continues!

Participants in this session will gain an awareness of what the EU-Speak Board has learned after offering these modules, including data on their impact, and the ways they have used this learning to revise and offer a newly configured set of online modules for practitioners around the world.


Refugee Access to Education and Employment in Wales: Barriers and Opportunities

This presentation reports on research conducted into the barriers to education and employment faced by participants on the UK government’s managed refugee resettlement programme, the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS). The presentation focuses on the linguistic challenges that the families have experienced since arriving in the UK. It draws attention to several ways in which UK Home Office advice, for the Local Authorities tasked with overseeing English language provision and integration, is “at odds with what is actually happening on the ground” (Simpson & Whiteside, 2015: 1). The findings from the study raise a number of issues surrounding managed resettlement programmes such as how integration is defined and measured (UNHCR, 2017), and how a two-tier system of asylum now seems to be in operation (Equality Local Government and Communities Committee, 2017). It is argued that the provision of effective English language education is key to integration and community cohesion; not so that language competency can be used as a “gatekeeping device”(Simpson & Whiteside, 2015: 6), but because “ESOL underpins equality of opportunities, and enriches the culture of our society” (Welsh Government, 2018: 1). To conclude, the article will put forward a number of recommendations for the organisation of ESOL provision for forced migrants resettled in areas that do not have large migrant populations.


Session 8

Digital Decade and L2 Finnish Literacy Classes—A Threat Or an Opportunity?

Based on the PISA results, Finland is often described as an educational wonderland where literacy and other basic skills are generally mastered. However, according to PIAAC 2012, approximately 11% of Finnish adults, many of them with immigrant background, lack basic literacy skills (Malin et al. 2013).

Grabe & Stoller (2011) propose that literacy skills are always strongly connected to social practices, and certain time and place; they also develop and change with e.g. technological changes and each society defines e.g., the sufficient level of literacy skills for certain purposes. In recent decades, Finland with other Western countries has changed, as Kupiainen & Sintonen (2009) state, into a digital information society where reading and writing skills are not anymore just for reading and producing texts; various devices and media used for reading and writing have a strong socio-cultural role in all the actions of the individuals and the societies.

We start this demonstration with the key elements of the on-going project “Getting a grip on basic skills: pedagogical design for teachers and advisers in immigrant education” (2017–2020) funded by European Social Fund. The in-service teacher training pilot implemented during the project promotes the skills of teaching personnel in supporting the development of basic skills of LESLLA learners. Then, we focus on two qualitative sub-studies which have been implemented over the project. The data consists of a) interviews of twelve LESLLA learners and two teachers, and b) responses to a questionnaire with open questions from ten LESLLA teachers. In the demonstration, we discuss e.g., the learning opportunities the use of ICT offers for the learners. We also discuss the teachers’ thoughts on the use of technology in LESLLA classrooms and their views on LESLLA learners’ digital literacy skills and the development of them.

In large frame of reference, we contemplate how to support the development of the learners’ language skills through ICT and what kind of social and semiotic digital practices (e.g. Thorne 2013) should be included in the curriculum and lesson plans to meet the needs of the learners. We will engage the audience to the demonstration by giving them time and place to share experiences and thoughts related to the topic and discuss the data we have collected.


Grabe, W. & Stoller, F. L. 2011. Teaching and researching reading. (2nd ed.) Harlow: Pearson Education.

Kupiainen, R. & Sintonen, S. 2009. Medialukutaidot – Osallisuus – Mediakasvatus. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press / Palmenia.

Malin, A., Sulkunen, S. & Laine, K. 2013. PIAAC 2012. Kansainvälisen aikuistutkimuksen ensituloksia. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja 2013:19. Helsinki: Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö.

Thorne, S. L. 2013. Digital Literacies. In M. R. Hawkins (ed.), Framing Languages and Literacies: Socially Situated Views and Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 192–218.


Time and Sequence—Particular Challenges of Instruction for the Lowest LESLLA Learners

Adult learning theory states that adults learn best in concentrated “spurts”. The value of student cohorts is also established, as is highly skilled teacher scaffolding of information in class. However, at public Adult Education schools in the United States, student attendance is primarily voluntary and daily classes are open for registration year round. In my experience teaching in a class designed for LESLLA learners, I have found that the more educated students naturally already have some previous general knowledge of the school system and understand the importance of regular class attendance for educational benefit. These students make a commitment to come to class as regularly as possible. They profit from the level of instruction covering such basic skills as learning the alphabet, writing the alphabet letters, the numbers, one’s name, learning to read—skills that cannot be readily picked up piecemeal by those with emerging literacy, but need to be developed sequentially in order to evade educational gaps. These students can somewhat regulate their own educational “spurts” and take advantage of the scaffolding done by the teacher in class. However, other LESLLA students with the very lowest levels of previous education sometimes get further and further behind in class and stagnate in progress because they miss class, miss the scaffolding and important sequencing of information necessary for understanding language and literacy instruction. This presentation will aim to explore some possible solutions for educational advancement for students with low attendance. It will also examine challenges for consistency of attendance for certain population groups, as well as provide an opportunity for discussion about best practices for moving an entire class forward educationally. An often changing student registration list that works against the strength of a class cohort will also be reviewed.


Poster Sessions

Building Pathways: Developing Health Care Materials & Curriculum for Refugees

Health literacy is the ability of individuals to understand and utilize information regarding basic health information and services in order to make appropriate health decisions. For the tens of thousands of refugees who have resettled into the United States each year, navigating the healthcare system is a ubiquitous challenge. But, as a classroom teacher, how is one able to identify the specific barriers refugees face in accessing health care in order to teach these objectives in the classroom?

In the fall of 2018, as a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow, I was assigned as a Health Literacy Materials Developer with The Tucson Family Advocacy Program (TFAP), a multidisciplinary partnership of medical and legal providers at the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine. There, my task was to collaboratively develop research-based health literacy materials for refugee patients. I was able to gain perspective on the day-to-day barriers refugees face in accessing health care. Additional correspondence with local resettlement agencies was prompted, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC). With the development of these connections, the IRC presented on health literacy education to Pima Community College’s Refugee Education Program teachers, which began the collaborative processes to address health literacy objectives for refugees in the Tucson community. This prompted teachers to seek health literacy objectives that were directly applicable to the identified barriers refugees face. The viability, strength, and possible utilizations of these connections will be discussed in regards to strengthening classroom practice in teaching health literacy.

While there are health literacy materials developed and accessible online and through various organizations (CDC,, and Healthreach), they are not developed with the classroom context in mind. Teacher-friendly materials targeted towards emergent reader and low-beginning level classrooms are seldom to be found. To address this gap, my focus has been the development of materials accessible to these levels.

My plan is thus to present on the curriculum that I am developing and will have implemented which is based upon the principles of the Language Experience Approach and the Whole Part Whole Approach methodology and pedagogical framework. Principles of health literacy materials development will also be shared, including social semiotics in regard to the processes of contextualized and leveled materials for the refugee classroom (see Kress & Van Leeuwen, 1977, 2006 and Flores 2017). The presentation will provide a platform for collaboration regarding best practices in teaching health literacy in the adult refugee classroom. Activities, routines, and materials used will be examined: what worked, what didn’t, why, and potential modifications that would improve the learning and teaching experience in future practice.


Classroom Library: Books Chosen and Shared

Free voluntary reading, also known as pleasure reading, extensive reading, and sustained silent reading, refers to reading that is chosen by the student, not assigned nor monitored, which Krashen hypothesized is more facilitative of language development than traditional instruction (Krashen, 2009). Young-Scholten (2017) cited numerous studies showing the effectiveness and benefits of free voluntary reading at all levels for native, L2, and LESLLA readers. Successful implementation of extensive reading requires a sufficient choice of books at the students’ independent reading levels that are engaging and culturally rich. Other factors for success include the absence of tests, time devoted to reading, and long-term commitment from the teacher and program (Young-Scholten, 2017).

In 2018, the presenters (a teacher and administrators) began a classroom library to promote pleasure reading for immigrant/refugee adults and families in a community-based class, one of several in a families learning program. Learners in the program typically earn an annual income below 100% of federal poverty guidelines and have dependent school-aged children. Close to half attended fewer than 9 years of school.

Research has substantiated that “a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income” (National Institutes of Health, 2010). According to a meta-analysis of family literacy programs (National Center for Families Learning, 2013, p. 15), the literacy skills that parents acquire in such programs transfer to the sharing and promotion of reading in their homes “an “intergenerational transition of ability and effects of the home learning environment” (Sastry & Pebley, 2010, p. 796). In fact, parental reading has a stronger association with children’s vocabulary than parents’ level of education (Senechal, 2013, p. 46), thereby reinforcing the importance of instilling in parents a love for reading.

This poster session will review principles of an extensive reading program (Young-Scholten, 2017; Bamford & Day, 2004) and describe the particular context of this classroom library (i.e., program model and outcomes, students’ backgrounds and English proficiency). It will highlight the creation and expansion of the teacher’s classroom library, including the list of books, details of the checkout system, frequency data on students’ use of the classroom library, and photos of the classroom library.

The objective is to share information and resources on starting a classroom library for free voluntary reading in a community-based, multilevel ESOL/family literacy class, including challenges and keys to success from both an administrator’s and a teacher’s perspective. The ideas can be adapted for use by many programs with mixed classes of LESLLA and non-LESLLA learners. Visitors should leave inspired to create or expand their own classroom libraries.


Designing Research on Learner Perceptions with Adult Emergent Reader Refugee-Background Learners

There has been limited research into refugee-background learner perceptions of group work. Although group work addresses challenges of the multilevel classroom, some learners have developed negative perceptions of ability grouping (Danzi et. al, 2008). This calls for teachers to investigate perceptions of group work in their own classrooms to avoid groupings that learners are not invested in. I conducted a pilot study with five refugee-background learners in my class and another multilevel class in my English program that explored learner perceptions of group work. It revealed three important considerations for research design with learners with limited formal education: classroom concepts familiar to some learners might not be familiar to learners with limited formal education, participants might view any interaction with other students as group work when it is framed a certain way, and researchers have the opportunity to be deliberate about the role of the interpreter. These factors influence the creation of a common understanding of group work between researcher, participant, and interpreter.

Researchers have asked questions about Portfolio-Based Language Assessment, such as “Is peer assessment helpful?” (Drew & Mudzingwa, 2018). As with many studies, although the learners are adult immigrant English language learners, 70% of the participants in Drew and Mudzingwa’s study had some post-secondary education, while the learners in the current study are refugee-background adults with limited formal education. Anticipating a need to put group work in context for such learners, this semi-structured interview began with an explanation of group work.

I will discuss the results of providing such an explanation in the context of recent classroom activities, familiar to me as a teacher in the program. Participants indicated that they understood interactive activities as group work, the same ones that I understand as whole-class, not small groups. I will explore alternatives for interview design that can build a mutual understanding of a classroom concept between researcher and participant. There is a need to communicate the purpose of certain questions with the interpreter in interviews about learner perceptions. I will offer possibilities for being intentional about the role of the interpreter.

I will share these research considerations as an opportunity for collaboration between teachers of multilevel classrooms, teachers of emergent readers, and teacher researchers investigating their own classrooms. The presentation will invite discussion about what has worked or not worked in exploring learner perceptions of the classroom or group work. From this presentation about the pilot study, I will design a larger-scale study into learner perceptions of strategies for multilevel classrooms, possibly with a continued focus on group work. I will continue to develop and share curriculum that prioritizes group work in a way that learners are fully invested in.


Fake it Until You Make it: SLIFE Strategies for Succeeding in Higher Education

Every year, tens of thousands of refugees are resettled in the United States of America. Many of them are adults and by law have to take part in employment shortly after resettlement. Thus, they must accept the first job they are offered. In addition to working, some of these adult refugees choose to continue their education by enrolling in local colleges and universities. To further note, a number of these refugees have had interrupted formal schooling (as known as SLIFE) and limited first language (L1) literacy because they did not have access to education for several years. This complicates the process of second language acquisition and educational attainment. Within the field of Applied Linguistics, the topic of how L1 literacy level impacts a language learners’ process of acquisition has been neglected, leaving missing gaps in research (Bigelow & Tarone, 2004). To help address this gap, this study will provide insight of how adult refugees with interrupted formal education (as known as SLIFE) and limited L1 literacy use particular strategies to overcome various educational barriers in order to succeed in higher education. The study took place during the academic school year of 2017-2018 at a metropolitan university in the Northwest region of the United States. Using a case study methodology, it was investigated of how having an interruption in formal schooling and limited L1 literacy could impact success of these students completing college and learning English. Methods of data collection consisted of interviews with refugee university students and collection of artifacts (e.g. writing samples). For data analysis, the researcher drew on Bonny Norton’s concepts of identity and investment in language learning. The anticipation is that this research will identify multiple perspectives on identity and investment in a refugee context and how having limited formal education and L1 literacy can impact investment in language learning and in pursuing higher education. This research has important implications for future investigations of different refugee populations, as well as, language teacher preparation and language or refugee resettlement policy. In addition, this study will expand our knowledge of second language acquisition in refugee education contexts. Ultimately, it can can help scholars, teachers, and the target community better understanding how to help refugee students with learning English, their educational experience in universities, and lastly their resettlement process.


Health Literacy Coalitions for Improving Health in Our LESLLA Communities

Improving health care delivery for economically-disadvantaged immigrant and refugee communities is widely viewed as a national and international problem (Fratzke & Le Coz, 2019; Smith et al, 2007). Yet, the best solutions are always local. For this reason, an increasing number of cities and regions have formed health literacy coalitions – groups of stakeholders working together to improve health literacy in their communities (Sørensen, et al, 2018). As the number of coalitions continues to grow, to what extent are LESLLA practitioners involved? How have LESLLA populations benefitted from these coalition-building efforts?

This poster presentation aims to share information and stimulate discussion about creating and maintaining a successful health literacy coalition that specifically harnesses the expertise of LESLLA practitioners and responds to the needs of LESLLA learners (Author & Author, in press).

To accomplish this aim, our poster will:

  • examine why coalition-building is needed to tackle health disparities in disadvantaged immigrant and refugee communities
  • synthesize recommendations culled from experts who have successfully forged health literacy coalitions in the U.S.
  • explore lessons learned in the ongoing journey of a health literacy partnership in Canada which focuses on reducing barriers to healthcare access that LESLLA women face

Visuals and handouts will outline a series of action steps regarding:

  • how to find funding
  • who to partner with, and
  • how LESLLA as an organization can support coalition-building across regions

While the poster examines coalition-building efforts in Canadian and American contexts, the concepts and ideas can be adapted for application in other contexts as well.

Visitors to the poster will engage in dialogue about the potential for the LESLLA field to engage in health literacy coalitions and to advocate for health literacy interventions targeted specifically at the issues that disproportionately disadvantage LESLLA populations. They will leave inspired to initiate and sustain dialogues across disciplines to build health literacy partnerships, large or small, aimed at benefiting underserved health care consumers in their programs.

Fratzke, S., & Le Coz, C. (2019). Strengthening Refugee Protection in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.

Smith W.R.,, Betancourt, J.R., Wynia, M.K., Bussey-Jones, J., Stone, V.E., Phillips, C.O., et al. Recommendations for Teaching about Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and Health Care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 147, 654–665.

Sørensen, K., Karuranga, S., Denysiuk, E., & McLernon, L. (2018). Health literacy and social change: exploring networks and interests groups shaping the rising global health literacy movement. Global Health Promotion, 25(4), 89–92.


Meaning-Making in Official U.S. Naturalization Test Study Materials: A Case Study of LESLLA Learners

This study seeks to gain insight into how refugee-background LESLLA learners construct meaning from multimodal texts associated with assessment, specifically those related to the high-stakes U.S. naturalization test.

Making meaning from multimodal texts requires understanding headings, directions, images, graphic devices, top/down and left/right organization, and the relationships between such elements. Many materials designed for beginning English language learners rely heavily on visual cues, which this population may miss because of their emerging multimodal and visual literacies. Knowledge of how diverse populations make meaning from multimodal texts is thus crucial for designing tests and study materials, which claim to support other kinds of learning.

There are no official U.S. naturalization test study materials that have been created specifically for LESLLA learners. Pilot research on official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) study materials has shown the materials display ideologies of (multi)literacy and assumed (universal) referential background knowledge, positing that such study texts are likely ineffective for refugee-background LESLLA learners. Furthermore, Kunnan (2009) concludes the naturalization test itself is nothing more than a redesigned test of English literacy skills.

Following these critiques, the current study aims to provide insight into how LESLLA learners engage with official USCIS naturalization test study cards, and how U.S. naturalization assessment practices may be inadvertently biased against individuals with limited or extremely different literacy experiences. The research questions are: How do refugee-background LESLLA learners make meaning from the multimodal test study aids, i.e. how do they understand the materials? and What kinds of implications or understandings do they perceive from the wider aspect of these materials?

Data come from semi-structured interviews with six refugee-background LESLLA learners who originate from African and Near Eastern countries. Interviews occurred in the participants’ first languages with the assistance of refugee-background interpreters. The interviews elucidated how the participants understand and make meaning from the multimodal official USCIS flash cards. Data analysis utilized a critical multimodal social semiotic approach (Kress, 2010; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Pennycook, 2001). Data was coded according to themes of textual composition, interpersonal relationship, and ideational content.

Results from the study are twofold. They show 1) a disconnect between the multimodal content and composition of the study cards and how the participants understand them, and 2) a disconnect between the intent and use of the U.S. naturalization test as noted from the perspective of refugee-background participants.

The results will inform recommendations for multimodal text design and multimodal assessment practices of this population.


Normalising Fiction Reading in Adult Refugee Populations—A Collaboration with Martha Young-Scholte

North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T) is a student-run volunteer organisation which aims to educate and empower the refugee and asylum seeking communities in the North East of England. The project began in August 2016 when one Syrian family requested language support from Newcastle University and in response 6 students began teaching English for two hours once a week. Today, just less than three years later, with over 250 refugees and asylum seekers using the services and over 400 student volunteers managing and facilitating the project, N.E.S.T has become a large community where integration is central.

The project is based around language acquisition as this is the primary need of the majority of learners accessing support. Service provision totals over 20 hours every week and this is spread over the seven days. The weekly schedule includes: adult fiction reading, art classes, conversation groups, football and basketball sessions, community sessions, food donations, clothes donations, trips into the community, maths support and specialised teaching for children. N.E.S.T is unique because it is not just somewhere to learn or to come to when support is needed. N.E.S.T is truly a community which is family for both the students who run the project and refugees who come to learn. It’s a diverse and exciting environment; a place that despite huge differences in age, race, religion, sexuality, culture and background life experiences, individuals work together in peace for shared progress.

Many adults who came to N.E.S.T to learn English struggled to comprehend learning English for enjoyment, rather than studying grammar rules in order to pass exams at college. In 2018, N.E.S.T began a collaboration with a team of academics at Newcastle University, in the context of the Simply Cracking Good Stories project, and since then things have been changing. With a PhD student and two visitors, from Saudi Arabia, Italy and Brazil the project has developed a collection of engaging and accessible fiction books designed specifically for LESLLA learners. The books feature an eclectic series of culturally diverse stories which although are basic in language are targeted for adults. Research supports that reading for pleasure increases language proficiency and supports language acquisition. The collaboration between N.E.S.T and Simply Stories has started to instil reading habits into learners who may never have considered reading as a pleasurable activity before and who may never have had the opportunity to read fiction. The positive effects of this reading project have rippled across the programme and motivated learners’ progress in many other aspects of the N.E.S.T project. The aim of this presentation is to display the positive work of the collaboration project, inform those involved in the education of LESLLA learners of the benefits of this approach to learning and to seek advice and learn from others who may be interested in the work of N.E.S.T.


Preliterate ESL Learning Perceptions Inside & Outside of School Settings

As the student population in the United States (US) continues to diversify, the school environment increasingly does not reflect the home literacy environment (HLE) for immigrant and refugee populations. In adult basic education (ABE) programs, there is often an English Language Learner (ELL) track in which adults with varying levels of education may participate. The varied levels of education range from little to no schooling in their home country to graduate degrees. In my own experience teaching a preliteracy ELL course, students who had limited to no education experience in their own country repeatedly did not meet the state standards and had to repeat the course, sometimes for longer than five years in a row. Students who did have some education experience from their own country progressed much more quickly out of the pre-literate ELL course. Although there are numerous adult second language acquisition theories, there is little research on how the preliterate immigrant population perceive their own learning (Thieves, 2011; Thompson, 2015; Wood, 1985).

This populations’ children also experience challenges in school as their home culture and literacy experiences are not reflected in the school culture. Concepts of language and literacy are culturally defined and often reflect parent’s goals for their children (Carrington and Luke, 2003; Gillanders and Jimenez, 2004; Heath, 1983). The role of culture in these beliefs influences how parents engage with their children in the HLE. Sawyer et al. (2018) defines the HLE as, “the HLE comprises both formal, such as direct literacy teaching […], and informal interactions, such as adult-child book reading.†The dearth in research based on the parents’ beliefs about literacy in their preschool aged children has created a need for further investigation (Sawyer et al., 2018).

The primary interest of this study is to examine the beliefs of preliterate immigrant adults on their own learning. Additionally, the study will examine the beliefs of preliterate adult immigrants on their children’s learning. The results will inform HLE interventions as well as teaching practices, at the primary and ABE level, that may or may not support this population.

This research endeavor will be a qualitative phenomenological study. I plan to recruit 10 participants from the Toledo, Ohio area. I will conduct one semi-structured interview with each participant (Galetta, 2013). I plan to analyze the data using emergent, or emic, codes (Charmaz, 2008). I plan to audio tape each interview, transcribe each interview, memo in a cyclical and on-going manner, and analyze the data in a cyclical and on-going manner. I will present raw data at this conference as I will have just concluded data collection for this master’s thesis.


Reflecting on LESLLA Teachers’ Perceptions, Beliefs and Practices in a French Canadian Context

Recently, Quebec’s Auditor General reported several major issues regarding government funded French second language (FSL) programs. One major problem is that although a framework program was implemented for FSL instruction for literate newcomers in 2010, such official provincial resources do not exist for FSL instruction for LESLLA learners. With fast increasing numbers of refugees in the province of Quebec (from about 2000 newcomers with less than 8 years of schooling in 2013 to over 5000 in 2017), schools and educational centers have to adapt to this new reality and turn to the Ministries of Immigration and of Education for guidelines. Our research team was thus mandated by the Ministry of Immigration to identify the various stakeholders’ needs and to make recommendations to government officials.

The first year of this two-year mandate is devoted to documenting the teachers’ realities working in different locations with LESLLA learners, namely, by investigating learners’ and teachers’ needs as well as their perceptions of various aspects of their teaching/learning situation. In this presentation, we will report on the design and the piloting of a questionnaire and semi-structured interview protocols for LESLLA teachers.

The questionnaire first aimed at collecting important factual information missing from governmental statistics (e.g.: teaching experience, academic training). In addition, the questionnaire inquired into classroom practices as well as general beliefs on LESLLA learners’ needs and characteristics (Windel & Miller, 2012). More specifically, we delved into topics previously identified as relevant for teaching in LESLLA classrooms, such as awareness of students’ cultural background (Bigelow & Vinogradov, 2011; DeCapua, 2016), perception of students’ cognitive abilities (Huettig & Mishra, 2014), perceived importance of learners’ needs with regards to oral and writing skills (Mathews-Aydinli, 2008), class time dedicated to oral and writing practice (Choi & Ziegler, 2015) and classroom organisation (Condelli, Wrigley & Yoon, 2002). A semi-structured interview protocol, adapted from Benseman (2014), was also designed to shed light on teachers’ core beliefs that underpin their perception of their own and their students’ needs, as well as their pedagogical choices (see Phipps & Borg, 2009).

For the piloting of the instruments, two education centers were targeted in different regions of the province. The questionnaire was completed by 10 participants in the presence of the researchers, so they could give comments about its content and format. A sub-group of six teachers also participated in individual interviews for validation of the instrument.

The observations from the piloting will allow us to reveal possible biases and other issues to be corrected before the start of our large scale data collection in 2020.


Teaching Spanish Literacy to Adult Latinx Learners: Exploring Interest, Impact, Sustainability

Non-profit organizations are safe havens in the community where immigrants can find support during their transitional period of adaptation and adjustment to their new environment in the United States (Hung, 2007; Wilson, 2013). Many of these organizations have educational programs that focus on teaching English as a Second Language classes and on preparing immigrants to take the citizenship exam. However, offering literacy classes in the adult learners’ native languages occurs with less frequency (Tamassia, Lennon, Yamamoto, Kirsch, 2007). This study explores the benefits and challenges associated with incorporating a pilot Spanish literacy program at a non-profit organization located in Baltimore, MD. In addition, the implications for this programs’ continuance, as well as the adult learners’ perception and comments about this program are shared and analyzed.


Understanding Volunteer Adult ESL Teachers in Context: An Activity Theoretical Analysis

Although volunteer adult ESL teachers provide language instruction for nearly 12 million adult immigrants in the United States (Durham & Kim, 2018), this context has been “overlooked and understudied” (Matthews-Aydinli, 2008) in much of the research on L2 learning and L2 teacher education. This lack of research is of concern as the majority of volunteer adult ESL teachers are placed into classrooms with little to no prior training or experience teaching language or teaching adults (Chao & Kuntz, 2013; Pennycook & Coutand-Marin, 2003; Perry & Hart, 2012). In order to develop meaningful and effective professional development for these teachers, we need to better understand the nature of teaching and learning in volunteer-taught adult ESL classes (Crandall et al., 2008). Activity theory (Engeström, 1987) provides a useful framework for doing this by locating teachers within the social and professional worlds in which they live and work (Johnson, 2009). By examining the instructional activity systems embedded in volunteer-dependent adult ESL institutions, we can better understand how to develop training approaches that will help volunteers navigate adult ESL instruction.

This presentation shares findings from the first stage of an activity theoretical analysis, which seeks to document and explain the various instructional activity systems operating within the volunteer adult literacy center under study. Data collected and analyzed include interviews with volunteer teachers, students, and administrators, and field observations. Findings provide insight into the inner workings of the instructional activity at the site and indicate that pre-determined teaching materials control the ways tutors interact with students, teachers must rely on themselves and are left to develop and deliver courses without guidance, and classes offered often don’t meet students’ stated needs. These, along with other key findings, will serve as the basis for designing professional development interventions that are responsive to the systemic and local needs.


What Do Literacy and L2 learners Do with Their Smartphones?

Information and communication technologies (ICTs), already widespread in language teaching and learning, are growingly recommended and applied in language courses for non-/low-literate adult migrants and refugees (Van de Craats & Young-Scholten 2013; Kennedy 2015, Colucci et al. 2017). On the one hand, since the proposal of a “pedagogy of multiliteracies” (The New London Group 1996), the notion of literacy has included digital literacy, insofar texts are “increasingly mixed with other modes, such as image and symbol, across manuscript, print and electronic media” (UNESCO 2017:14). On the other hand, the experience of migration itself has changed since the diffusion of the Internet and digital communication media, which have redefined both social organisation of diaspora communities (Alonso & Oiarzabal 2010) and identities of “connected migrants” (Dimenescu 2008). The general upward trend in the access to and use of ICTs continues worldwide, though large digital divides persist across developed and developing countries, and across individuals along the variables of gender, age, education (ITU 2018; Deursen et al. 2011).

The familiarity that many non-/low-literate migrants seem to have with ITCs encourages the introduction of these technologies in literacy and language education. The research that we present investigates how non-/low-literate adult migrants use ICT spontaneously (i.e. without teachers’ guidance and independently of ICT based classroom activities) to scaffold their language learning. Thus it complements the main research trends, which focus on either digital competences development or guided use of technologies in educational settings (Demmans Epp 2017).

Most of the non-/low literate participants in language courses develope operational digital competencies through informal learning. By observing and indexing how learners spontaneously use them in educational settings, the research analyses:

the learners’ digital resources and needs, as a basis for most effective use of ICTs in language and literacy teaching;

the relevance of areas of origin, gender, age, education, mother tongue on ICTs access and use;

the effects of learners’ use of ICTs on the ways and pace of learning;

at what extent literacy learning modify ICTs uses.

The study is qualitative and used an ethnographic approach, through:

(a) interviews with non-/low literate students in 4 Italian language courses (1 attended by women with scarce familiarity with ICTs, 1 attended by young men with a high use of technologies, 2 mixed classes) and in 1 course on ICTs uses for migrants with low digital skills;

(b) classroom-observation in the same courses;

(c) acquisition and analysis of exemplary screen-shots of students devices (on participants’ voluntary basis, only for activities related to learning).

Participants were informed of their rights; teachers were involved in data collection. The research will end by December 2019.


Workshop 1

Supporting Students with Interrupted Formal Education

The acronym SIFE (Students with an Interrupted Formal Education) is used to describe students who have missed at least two years of education upon enrolling in a U.S. school or adult program.   Estimates of the percentage of SIFE students in the total ELL population range from 10% in NYC schools (NYCDOE, 2014) up to 20% of high school students according to Ruiz de Velasco and Fix (2000). These students often have limited or even no literacy in their home language and may also demonstrate serious gaps in content subject knowledge, especially mathematics. (Freeman and Freeman, 2002, and DeCapua and Marshall, 2011) The causes of these missing years of school may be attributed to war or political upheaval in the home country, as in the case of refugee children, or limited access to schooling in the home country for multiple reasons such as poverty, rural location, societal expectations for school attendance, or a need for early employment. (WIDA, 2015)

The session will explore the most common causes of interrupted education, for both refugee and Latino students. A review of culturally and linguistically appropriate classroom strategies to address the academic and non-academic needs of these students will also be the focus of the presentation. Specific suggestions for these students include creating a specific program to meet their unique needs, finding appropriate classroom material that can help build background knowledge and close educational gaps, and providing non-academic supports to help these students with their personal, social, and physical needs. Techniques for fostering resilience for SIFE learners will also be included in the session. Participants will discuss which of these supports would best meet the needs of their particular students and share challenges and successes with SIFE students in their programs.


To Define Is to Know: Shifting the Mindset of LESLLA Learners Towards School-Based Ways of Thinking

Educators are immediately aware of the linguistic, literacy, and course material challenges that LESLLA learners face. Less readily apparent are the challenges LESLLA learners face when encountering school-based tasks and associated ways of thinking. Because familiarity with such tasks and academic ways of thinking are built from an early age in formal education, teachers frequently do not realize that the tasks as well as the ways of thinking are bewildering to LESLLA learners.

The most commonly asked question in classrooms is the one that requires learners to define, i.e., “What is X?” (Cazden, 2001). When a teacher asks this question, it is not sufficient to point to the object or give an example of it. Instead, the learner is expected to provide salient characteristics, functions, and categories appropriate to the given term or concept. Knowing what something is and being able to provide a formal definition are separate abilities. In the classroom setting, “to define is to know”. This act of defining is a communication priority in formal educational settings (O’Keeffe, McCarthy, & Carter, 2007) and versions of this question are frequently found on standardized tests (Kunnan, 2017).

Western-style formal education develops specific cognitive pathways (Cole, 2005; Gauvain et al., 2011), or “academic ways of thinking.” These are essential to classroom success and pervasive in the workplace and everyday life in a developed society (Duran & Şendağ, 2012; Parrish & Johnson, 2010). The standard way teachers ask learners to engage in academic ways of thinking is through school-based tasks designed to develop and demonstrate mastery.

Defining is an example of one of the many types of school-based tasks requiring an academic way of thinking. Questions that ask for explicit definitions are not common in informal settings. In these settings, much of learning takes place through observing and imitating older family or community members in the practical application of information through concrete tasks (Paradise & Rogoff, 2009). Since LESLLA learners come from backgrounds of informal learning and have had no or little prior educational opportunities, school-based tasks and academic ways of thinking are largely unfamiliar to them and, like language and literacy, must be explicitly taught.

In this workshop, participants will engage in a methodical, explicit set of activities designed to (1) move LESLLA learners from pragmatic tasks to school-based tasks; and (2) shift their ways of thinking grounded in lived experience to abstract, formal academic ways of thinking. The sequence of activities includes learning and applying the principles of categorization to defining by determining the characteristics and behaviors that relate to the word or concept being defined. Once LESLLA learners have developed this skill, they can apply it across classroom settings.


Ways to Use the Heritage Language Hub in Instruction with LESLLA Learners

A great deal of instructional practice with LESLLA learners focuses on their learning the language of the country they have settled in. This makes sense, given that they need to participate effectively in the social, educational, and economic life of the host country. At the same time, research documents ways that available materials in learners’ first/native/heritage languages can promote language proficiency and reading and build a sense of agency (e.g., Bigelow, 2009; Bigelow & Vinogradov, 2011; Cummins, 2005; Cummins & Danesi, 1990; Polinsky & Kagan, 2007). Furthermore, Simpson (2017) argues that social integration should be multilingual, taking the migrants’ heritage languages into consideration. There is a growing interest in implementing multilingual approaches in language teaching (Council of Europe, 2001) and using native languages in adult literacy development (UNESCO, 2017).

In this workshop, presenters will give a brief review of this research and demonstrate an online hub of heritage language resources and links to collections of books, audio files, and other materials that participants can access, use in instruction, make available to learners, and encourage learners to use outside of class. For example, the site African Storybook,, contains illustrated books in 173 languages, rated according to reading levels and accessible by languages, titles, and authors. The idea of the hub was first presented at LESLLA 2018, and the hub is now hosted on the LESLLA website, The goals of the hub are to provide easy access to high-quality reading materials, in LESLLA learners’ languages, to make sure that individuals and communities can maintain their home languages and that younger members of the community can keep using their home languages and become literate in them.

Presenters will then briefly describe the outcomes of a survey of teachers and tutors, which was supplemented by interviews and focus group discussions, about the hub and how they might use it. Responses included curiosity, excitement, and anxiety and confusion about how they could use these materials in their classes. Participants will have the opportunity to explore the hub online to see how it works and the materials that are available.

Using a set of newly published guidelines for teachers on using the hub, participants will work together to develop ways that they can use the materials in instruction with learners in their classes and encourage learners to use them themselves or with their children and in their community. Finally, participants will engage in discussion of ways the hub can be improved and how they can get involved in building and reviewing the resources.


Interactive Literacy Activities: Making Learning Fun for Families

Family literacy programs take many forms, but they share a common goal of providing some form of adult and children’s education (often for youth birth to 8 years) to equip caregivers to support their children’s learning. Research indicates that these programs hold special value for English language learners, especially those with low-levels of literacy, since parents can learn language along with their children. Family literacy programs can also enhance parents’ leadership, self-efficacy, and confidence which are critically important for immigrant parents who are often excluded”ethnically, socially, and economically”from school-based activities or mainstream society. Programs also offer immigrant parents a place to tackle topics that they identify as significant to their families such as learning about systems or how to interact with schools, while building English language and literacy skills.

Interactive Literacy Activities (ILAs) are a core component of family literacy programs. ILAs provide rich intergenerational learning opportunities for parents and children to build literacy and language skills together. They also help parents become engaged and involved in their children’s educational development and achievement. In this workshop, participants will learn how to develop ILAs from start to finish and how to implement these activities in their classroom. Workshop objectives:

  • Review evidence related to the value of ILAs for developing language and literacy for immigrant families;
  • Discuss the connections between parent engagement and children’s academic success;
  • Outline key characteristics of formal and informal ILAs;
  • Explore how to develop ILAs and to support language and literacy development;
  • Discuss the fundamentals of ILA implementation as part of the components of family literacy programs (e.g. adult language and literacy development; children’s education; and parent education);
  • Develop an ILA to take-home and use in the classroom.

In small groups, participants will develop a language and literacy-based ILA using a planning sheet which includes theme, materials, prep work with parents, description of activity, and ideas for implementation.


Workshops 2

Using Video to Engage SIFE While Building Language & Literacy 

Bridges to Academic Success is a team of educators and researchers working out of CUNY Graduate Center in NYC and funded by the New York State Education Department. Our work has focused on the strengths and needs of middle and high school SIFE, with special attention to students with home language literacy at third grade or below, a subgroup we refer to as SIFE with Developing Literacy (SDL). These students are most at risk for dropping out because they have not yet developed the academic concepts and literacy skills in the home language to use text as a resource to build knew knowledge or communicate meaningful ideas in writing. As a result, SDL struggle to participate meaningfully in secondary classrooms where print is dominant mode for learning and communicating.

We have developed two courses for SDL, anchored in research-based principles from the fields of English as a new language and foundational literacy. SDL sit at the intersection of these areas, often separated in teacher education programs. These two courses work in tandem to build on the assets of SDL and target their needs. One course (Stand-Alone ENL) is designed to target the foundational skills SDL need to learn to read and write; the second course (Integrated ENL/ELA) develops the conceptual knowledge and academic thinking they need to read and write to learn.

Both courses are essential for SDL because although they need a class that explicitly teaches foundational literacy, it alone is not sufficient. Adolescent multilingual learners can and should engage with big ideas and more complex text. Withholding this complimentary course until SDL have learned to read and write would be tantamount to educational foreclosure. Therefore, Bridges advocates for SDL to take both courses simultaneously. These courses cannot realistically bring students to grade level literacy in a year. The courses are designed to build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills, preparing SDL to access and meaningfully participate in secondary classes beyond the Bridges year.

During this session we will guide participants through a series of activities that highlight the following:

  • The unique characteristics of SDL, viewed through a lens of assets and needs
  • Features of the Bridges two-course design
  • Bridges instructional principles and their research base
  • instructional practices that enact the principles


“I’m Lost, Miss”: Using a LESLLA Toolkit to Make Cultural Connections in the ABE Classroom

ESOL teachers, especially those trained and/or experienced in working with LESLLA learners, aim to deliver instruction that effectively addresses the culturally-influenced needs, perspectives, experiences, and learning preferences of their students. U.S. Adult Basic Education (ABE) teachers must address a similar range of psychosocial priorities in their classrooms, and these are also culturally influenced. However, it can be more difficult to recognize this, because ABE students in the United States are mostly not foreign-born and language barriers are more minimal. Several techniques and approaches that are effective with LESLLA learners also work well for ABE learners, including in math as well as other content areas. These include the Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm® (Marshall, 1998), the Language Experience Approach (Van Allen, 1976), kinesthetic learning and the use of manipulatives, culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995), and the incorporation of funds of knowledge (Moll et. al., 1992). In fact, although they are now mainstays in a LESLLA teacher’s toolkit, several of these techniques and approaches were originally developed with U.S.-born learners in mind. This presentation will review techniques and approaches that are effective with both LESLLA learners and ABE learners, explain why they seem to work, and detail their application in ABE classrooms with examples. Participants will discuss similarities between LESLLA and ABE learners, as well as pedagogical principles and frameworks that are useful and relevant when teaching both populations. Additionally, they will leave with concrete ideas and suggestions for how to successfully apply LESLLA-informed teaching in ABE classrooms. The presenter is a classroom teacher, originally trained in TESOL, who has over 10 years of classroom experience with multiple levels of ESOL (including LESLLA) and ABE populations.


Preparing Volunteers for Success: Effective Training Activities for LESLLA Volunteers

In order to meet the needs of adult ESL learners, organizations depend on classroom volunteers. For most volunteers, the most intimidating level to teach is low-beginning ESL or LESLLA learners. New volunteers often question their ability to communicate meaning and content to learners who have limited speaking skills, wonder where to begin when developing literacy skills, and can express frustration at the slow progress that is typical of many LESLLA learners. Oftentimes, training for new or experienced tutors focus on higher levels, leaving many of these questions and concerns unaddressed.

In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the volunteer tutor training that the Minnesota Literacy Council offers for literacy tutors. The workshop will go over recommendations for putting together an effective training for volunteers working with emergent readers, including built-in modeling, providing examples of learner work and language production, and managing expectations.

Participants will try out two empathy-building activities that put them in the shoes of LESLLA learners and form a foundation for best teaching practices that volunteers can refer back to again and again. Participants will also explore several hands-on activities that demonstrate the value of limiting teacher talk and the gradual release of responsibility when delivering instructions (the I-We-You method) while providing training participants the opportunity to practice these skills and receive feedback from their peers. All of the activities modeled in the workshop will be available for participants to take back and implement in their own programs to train volunteers.

The workshop will also provide opportunities for participants to share ideas for successful volunteer training practices that they are currently using, and allow time to discuss how the new activities and techniques can be implemented into ongoing volunteer training. Participants will also learn about free online resources for supporting volunteers such as small group pull-out kits and online training videos.


Benchmarking the European Framework for Literacy and Second Language

From the very start of the implementation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in 2001, it became clear that literacy is presupposed at the entry level. Most European countries, however, also had to deal with large numbers of non-schooled or low-educated migrants and refugees and highlighted the need for descriptors below A1. At the 2016 LESLLA conference in Granada a group of experts launched the idea of applying for a special Framework for this often neglected and vulnerable group of second language learners. In March 2018 the Council of Europe approved the proposal to develop a Framework of Reference for Literacy and Second Language Learning up to level A1 to inform and aid teachers, educational institutions, test developers and policy makers.

The Framework is currently being developed by a group of experts from five different countries (A. Feldmeier-Garcia, J. Kurvers, F. Minuz, R. Naeb, L. Rocca, K. Schramm and T. Tammelin-Laine), more countries will be involved in piloting and validating the descriptors.

In this workshop we will shortly introduce the background and design of the Framework and zoom in on the different scales that have been developed for reception, production and interaction in communicative activities both for oral and written language, on language use and language learning strategies and on mediation.

Participants in the workshop are presented a sample of the descriptors of several scales and are invited to judge the validity (is this really written interaction?), transparency (is it clearly and unambiguously worded?) and the difficulty level of the descriptors (what level would you judge this descriptor on a scale from 1-4?). Results of the group work will be discussed.


Workshops 3

Synthesizing and Sharing Professional Knowledge for Refugee Educators

Teacher education curricula and professional development seminars rarely prepare educators to work effectively with adolescent and adult refugee learners, who often have distinct educational and personal backgrounds that require targeted approaches. However, there is an ever-growing wealth of expertise within the LESLLA network regarding the language, literacy, academic, cultural, and psychosocial needs of these populations as well as promising practices and strategies to meet these needs. The goal of this workshop is to begin to synthesize this professional knowledge for the benefit of new and experienced practitioners alike.

The workshop will begin with a brief review of current research on what educators working with refugee-background youth and adults need to know and will highlight valuable existing resources for professional development. The presenters, experienced refugee educators, will share an overview of an ongoing action research project in which they revised an online teacher education course to incorporate pedagogical strategies for building awareness of and competencies for meeting the needs of refugee learners.

For the remainder of the workshop, participants will work in small groups to collaborate on synthesizing the research, resources, and strategies that were shared along with their own professional knowledge regarding their students and their geographical contexts to map out professional development and/or teacher education. Participants’ professional knowledge will be shared through the creation of a future online, open-access forum; ideas for ways that this exchange would be best established will be gathered during the session. This ongoing collaboration will engage the expertise of practitioners and consolidate a growing base of knowledge regarding refugee education.


Making Adult ESL Literacy Multisensory

The Orton-Gillingham (OG) multisensory approach to teaching reading and writing was originally developed for native English speaking children with dyslexia, and has been adapted for an adult ESL context. To improve literacy instruction for LESLLA learners, a few teachers were trained and then piloted using OG multisensory materials and strategies to teach grapheme-phoneme correspondence and encoding 1 syllable words. Results of this action research will be shared. Additionally, participants will assume the role of the learner in an interactive demonstration of the instructional strategies. Presenters will show how to make inexpensive multisensory instructional materials. Finally, participants will explore how multisensory literacy instruction might be embedded in their adult ESL program.

A demonstration of the OG 3 part drill can be viewed at the link below, beginning at 2:57.


TAP into Workplace Literacy

Teaching, Accessing, and Practicing (TAP) workplace literacy instruction is crucial to helping adult immigrants with limited education and literacy, who are learning English, become employed and successfully earn a living (e.g., Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006; Elander, Harrington, Norton, Robinson, & Reddy, 2006; Parrish & Johnson, 2010). In recent years, researchers have emphasized the importance of both comprehending written texts and producing the language used in job-focused contexts, orally and in writing (e.g., Friedberg, Mitchell, & Brook, 2016; McKeown, Crosson, Artz, Sandora, & Beck, 2013; Ucelli & Galloway, 2017).

Teachers of workplace readiness literacy need specific strategies and supports to help this population of learners develop work-related literacy skills. Skill- and trade-specific vocabulary needs to be accessible in order to navigate through a day’s work load. Processing, learning, and using context-specific, multi-meaning vocabulary must have equal instructional time to support correct usage and comprehension of work-related practices. Workplace literacy also involves reading and writing, starting with job listings and job applications; and moving to preparation of resumes and completion of employment forms and understanding (and possibly writing) training manuals and reports. Vocabulary is the base for learning and for language and literacy comprehension. This base is solidified via reading and writing. While this learner population may have the job skills needed, they lack the language and literacy in English to show mastery of their technical skills.

This presentation will introduce teachers working with this adult immigrant population to learner-centered, cooperative learning strategies and supports for implementing workplace literacy instruction and helping learners move successfully into real-world contexts. Presentation components will include a brief review of the research behind the demonstrated strategies and demonstration of approaches to choosing target vocabulary to rehearse, examine, explain, apply, and look for in real-world and workplace settings that these learners seek to enter. Additionally, practical reading comprehension strategies to understand job-related content, standards, and expectations will be discussed to help teachers help learners understand the connections between vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension, job/skill knowledge, and workplace success. Finally, the presenters will discuss and demonstrate strategies for successful real-world/workplace writing.


Cultivating Teacher Identity Development Through Participatory Filmmaking

Until recently, LESLLA scholars have devoted scant consideration to asset-based education practices with English as a second language learners (ELLs) of refugee backgrounds and preservice teachers (PTs). As the number of low-educated ELLs keeps increasing, there is a call for socially-just pedagogical practices to deepen professional development and academic success. Recognizing emergent bilingual adults’ linguistic and cultural assets, this semester-long exploratory action research advances digital community inquiry and LESLLA scholarship by examining (1) PTs’ experiences and identity expressions in an upper division online English for Speakers of Other Languages course who collaborated on a community media project. It also explores (2) the practical relevance of implementing a multimedia project with adult learners of refugee backgrounds and PTs.

This presentation centers on a participatory film developed in a third space of a community-based classroom to embody issues of concern, explore and express fluid identities. The findings reveal that multimodal authoring enabled participants to counter deficit discourses, raise cultural self-awareness, and express diverse perspectives and identities within an inclusive community of practice while developing competence with multimodal literacies, or multiliteracies. By legitimizing unique realities, preferred oral and visual communication modes, practical skills, cultural learning practices, such as observation, modeling, and storytelling, participatory filmmaking can become an authentic meaning-making, advocacy, and critical reflection tool. In this presentation, I describe the pedagogical framework, instructional aims, constraints, and outcomes with an emphasis on multimodal literacy practices, community relationships, oral traditions and illustrate PTs’ identity expressions and experiences in a community-based ESL classroom in the Southeast of the US.


Engaging Points of View: Using and Authoring Non-Fiction Virtual Reality Film

with major media channels such as the New York Times and CNN incorporating 360 video into their news websites. The claim is that “immersive storytelling” will give participants a deeper experience. The hope is that the immersion will encourage a visceral reaction to respond, in many cases to an injustice, or at the very least, to learn more about an issue that seems distant to one’s immediate life.