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CAELA Currents August 2006


About CAELA Currents


This quarterly newsletter is published by the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) at the Center for Applied Linguistics and is offered free of charge. CAELA was created to help states build their capacity to promote English language learning and academic achievement of adults learning English. (See About CAELA)

If you have questions about topics presented or information that you would like us to consider including in the newsletter, please contact the editor at

To subscribe to CAELA Currents, send a message to In the subject line write “Subscribe CAELA Currents.”

CAELA Currents is prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, under contract no. ED-04-C0-0031/0001. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education.


August Articles

New on the CAELA Web Site

New Report from the Pew Hispanic Centers

New Resources in the Field

Focus on Web Links: REEPworld

CAELA Resources

CAELA Resource Database

The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers

New on The CAELA Web site


Reading and Adult English Language Learners

Recent reports on immigrant populations in the United States, and the results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) as it relates to the literacy skills of adult immigrants, have increased interest in the reading abilities of adults learning English. CAELA has developed a resource collection on Reading and Adult English Language Learners, which provides background information and resources on the topic of adult immigrants learning to read in English.

 Little research has been conducted with adult English language learners in ESL adult education contexts, because the complexities of the learner population and their learning contexts make research in reading somewhat challenging. While this collection does not provide a definitive list of research on reading for adult English language learners, it presents a good representation of what is available.

NOTE: To view resource collections on other topics, go to CAELA does not endorse any particular set of materials, and we encourage users of this collection to give thoughtful consideration to all resources and materials included. We welcome comments and suggestions at

The next resource collection will focus on Working with Literacy-Level Adult English Language Learners and will be available in September.


Who Are Literacy-Level Adult English Language Learners?

The latest Ask CAELA topic addresses the question, Who are literacy-level adult English language learners? Many teachers and programs in states with new and rapidly growing populations of immigrants have limited experience working with adults who had little or no opportunity to attend school in their native countries. As adult educators begin to talk about this learner population, some incorrectly describe them as “pre-literate” rather than “literacy-level,” “low-level,” or “beginning-level”. This Ask CAELA question and answer describes learners who are typical participants in literacy-level classes and offers resources for further study. To read other Ask CAELA questions and answers, go to



New Report From the Pew Hispanic Center

The Pew Hispanic Center has completed a survey of the nation, focusing on five metropolitan areas, to gauge attitudes toward immigration in the United States. A total of 6,000 interviews were conducted; 95% of the interviews were in English, 5% were in Spanish. The cities included in the survey were Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, and Washington, DC.

The following key points in the report were highlighted at the briefing.

  • The U.S. public is increasingly concerned about immigration.


  • The country is divided in our views on the impact of immigration and on possible solutions to problems it may bring, but across the country few people think that immigration levels should be decreased.

  • As a whole, the U.S. population is more positive about immigrants than we were in the 1990s.


  • People who know immigrants have more favorable attitudes towards them than those who do not; in general, people in areas with more immigrants have more favorable attitudes toward immigration than people in areas with few immigrants.

  • People with more education are less likely to see immigrants as a burden or a threat than those with less education.


  • The foreign-born are generally more positive about immigration and immigrants than those born in the United States.

To read the report, go to the Pew Hispanic Center Web site


New Resources in the Field


Problem-Posing at Work: English for Action (revised edition)
Elsa Auerbach & Nina Wallerstein. Grass Roots Press, Edmonton, Alberta, 2004 (780-413-6491;

Problem-Posing at Work is a revised edition of ESL for Action (published by Addison-Wesley, 1987), considered by some adult ESL educators to be a seminal learner-centered text for workplace English classes. The new edition includes two introductory units -- “Learning English” and “Working in a New Country.” Both units help learners and teachers use a problem-posing approach, which emphasizes thinking about and critiquing key topics as a classroom community. Seven other units deal with such topics as “Power at Work,” “Making Money,” “Health and Safety,” and “Moving Toward Equity.” The final unit, “The Big Picture,” includes a discussion of the global workplace and ways that learners (and workers) might think about the future. The text includes extensive, practical appendices (e.g., “A guide to problem-posing;” “Documenting workplace problems;” and a guide for teachers, which gives an overview of the intent and process of the book and information about each unit).
While the language level of the text itself might be difficult for beginning-level adult English language learners, the careful use of graphic organizers, accessible font type and size, and use of white space make the book useful for other learners at many proficiency levels. Novice instructors might find it somewhat challenging to use this text, because it does not involve the teaching of vocabulary and sample dialogues from a set curriculum, but the guide for teachers will be helpful.

Also available for teachers is Problem-Posing at Work: Popular Educator’s Guide (Wallerstein & Auerbach, Grass Roots Press, 2004), which explains the problem-posing approach, tools, and strategies in more depth.



Focus on Web Links


This Web site is being developed by teachers, learners, and administrators at the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP) for adult English language learners and teachers in Arlington County, Virginia.Because of its clear and simple directions, level-appropriate activities, and high-interest topics (so far, family and health), this site is useful to a wide audience of beginning-level learners and their teachers.

The main section of interest to non-REEP students is the English Practice Page at This section introduces learners to the site with clear audio and visual instructions for using a mouse and for navigating pages using back, next, and home buttons. Family and Health are the topics currently available under Pick a Topic, although more life skills topics are in development. The introduction, stories, and related activities in the Family English section explore issues of concern to immigrant families. For example, Hanna's story addresses the importance of reading and some of the difficulties that adult learners may face (in Hanna’s case, not having access to books in Amharic). Her story also validates the idea that telling stories to and talking with children are time-honored, appropriate, and effective building blocks to literacy. Each learner story includes a narrative introduction and a conclusion that clearly identifies issues and possible solutions. The stories in this section are fictional, but they are based on the real experiences of REEP learners and other immigrants.

The English for Health section addresses six topics: the body, healthy life, food, health problems, emergencies, and medicine. In this and the rest of the student section, clear audio prompts are used as well as photographs as visual prompts.

The About this Site section ( gives background information about the project and a set of learner-and teacher-friendly links. According to the Web site, “The goal of this project is to provide adult English language learners with level-appropriate, Web-based activities that target life skill areas, while also preparing students to use the Internet as a tool for learning and participating in their communities.” Although the Web site is still being developed, it seems to be meeting these goals.




CAELA Resources

Upcoming Briefs

 The following briefs will be available soon on CAELA’s Web site.

Supporting Adult English Language Learners’ Transitions to Postsecondary Education (Available September 2006)
Written by Julie Mathews-Aydinli, this brief describes features of transition programs and suggests research-based strategies for the adult ESL classroom to support students' transitions to postsecondary education.

Content Standards for Adult ESL Instruction (Available September 2006)
Written by Sarah Young and Cristine Smith, this brief reviews content standards for adult ESL instruction and reports on research on the use of content standards


Aligning Content Standards with Instruction and Assessment for Adult ESL Instruction (Available September 2006)
Written by Sarah Young and Kirsten Schaetzel, this brief discusses the connection between content standards, classroom instruction, and assessment.


CAELA Resource Database

We continue to add to CAELA’s resource database (see “Research” on our Web site, to allow and encourage practitioners to find the research that supports CAELA’s growing body of “how to” resources. The collection provides a broad picture of diverse approaches to addressing issues in teaching adult English language learners. CAELA’s research collection pulls together references to research, case studies, articles, books and monographs, statistics, and dissertations, with a simple search engine that allows searching by author, word or phrase, document type, date of publication, population (or group) of interest, likely users, and so forth.

Numbering over 120 references, the database brings together work from the United States, Australia, Canada, and Great Britain. Some of the references explore the central tasks of building teacher and program expertise and determining which methods work best with which learner populations; describe how the field is evolving; and give perspectives on the field that draw on insights from other disciplines, such as economics and demographics.

In upcoming issues of CAELA Currents, we will describe documents in the database and resources for conducting research, both in North America and abroad.

For assistance with using the database, contact CAELA and ask for Craig Packard (362-0700, extension 504) or write directly to:



The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers

Work continues on the CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers. The first draft of the guide was introduced to the nearly 100 adult ESL specialists, professional developers, and teachers from 24 states who attended CAELA’s state capacity-building trainings in March and April. (See April 2006 CAELA Currents at The guide includes Information for Trainers, Workshop Modules for Trainers, Study Circles for Facilitators, and Resources for Trainers. The guide is being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education and CAELA state team members. It will be revised and made available in late 2007.

For more information about the guide, go to