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CAELA Currents August 2007


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 2007 Articles

Adult ESL Electronic Discussion List


Briefs and Reports


New and Upcoming from CAELA

Adult ESL Electronic Discussion List

To subscribe to the Adult English Language Learners discussion list, go to

The purpose of the discussion list is to provide a forum for teachers, administrators, and researchers who work with adults learning English as a second language to discuss instructional practices, program design, research, and policy. The list is operated by the National Institute for Literacy, funded by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), U.S. Department of Education, and is moderated by Lynda Terrill of CAELA. Three special week-long discussions with content experts took place in the spring 2007. Watch the CAELA Web site ( for topics for upcoming discussions.

Teaching Writing to Adult English Language Learners
May 7-11, 2007
Facilitator: Sharon McKay

This discussion generated two major topic threads throughout the week. Participants contributed and responded to ideas of what works in teaching writing to beginning- and literacy-level students. The second thread topic was a discussion of writing standards for ESL writers. To read a summary of the discussion, click here. To read a biography of the guest facilitator, click here.

Content Standards in Adult ESL        
May 21-25, 2007
Facilitators: Kirsten Schaetzel and Sarah Young

Kirsten Schaetzel and Sarah Young hosted a discussion on adult ESL content standards development, implementation, and training. A variety of questions, ideas, and suggestions were shared by practitioners and professional development staff in many states and programs, including CAELA states Arizona, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. Although each state has undergone a different process for content standards development and implementation, some common ideas surfaced in the discussions: To read a summary of the discussion, click here. To read biographies of guest facilitators, click here.

Adult ESL in the Workplace        
April 16-20, 2007
Facilitators: Miriam Burt and Sharon McKay

The main topic of the discussion was the differing expectations for ESL workplace classes and for use of languages other than English at work. A few participants mentioned how important it was for all involved—immigrant workers, non-immigrant workers, managers, supervisors, and others—to have a clear view of the purposes of a workplace class and of realistic outcomes. Integral to this broad topic was the importance of clarifying the challenges and time involved in learning a second language to managers, supervisors, and to all involved in workplace education. To read the full summary of the discussion, click here. To read biographies of facilitators, click here


ESL Classics: Songs for Learning English.
Maureen Stewart. Printed in Canada, 2006 (

Author, songwriter, and publisher Maureen Stewart subtitles this book/CD (or cassette) and teacher’s guide as A Multi-Level Songbook Combining Classical Music and Illustrated Verses. While many adult ESL teachers have successfully used music to facilitate English language acquisition, Stewart may be unusual as she enlists famous composers (e.g., Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart) and famous pieces (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”) to help learners work on content and grammar. Each of the nine units introduces learners to a composer through a paragraph and a comprehension activity. The author writes theme-based lyrics to go with each song (e.g., doctor’s office theme, simple present tense grammar focus, with “Blue Danube Waltz”). This text is designed with the belief that adult English language learners have many and varied interests. The proficiency levels of the units are noted in the Table of Contents and range from Beginner to Intermediate/Advanced. The nine units contain exercises that focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing. For teachers who would like to add another practical activity to their repertoire, this teacher-developed resource may be of interest to teachers of adult English language learners.


Teacher Cognition and Language Education.
Simon Borg. New York: Continuum, 2006. (

The study of teacher cognition – what teachers think, know, and believe – is an important area in professional development. Teacher cognition and language education by Simon Borg gives a thorough overview of the topic. The first part of the book gives a history of teacher cognition research and summarizes the results of research at each stage of the field’s growth. It then focuses on teacher cognition in grammar teaching and in literacy instruction. The second part of the book examines research methods that can be used for teachers to reflect on their own learning and practice including self-report instruments, verbal commentaries, observation, and reflective writing. It ends with a framework for studying language teacher cognition. This book is a valuable addition to the resource collection of teachers who want to understand their own thought and belief processes and of professional developers who would like to work more effectively with teachers.

Briefs and Reports

UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Latino Policy & Issues Brief No. 16, May 2007. An Examination of Latina/o Transfer Students in California’s Postsecondary Institutions, Rivas, M., Perez, J., Alvarez, C., & Solorzano, D.

This brief examines the rate of transfers of Latino students from community college to four-year institutions in California. It finds that 40% of the Latino students enrolled in community colleges in the 2002-03 year indicated they wanted to transfer into a four-year program, but only 9% actually did so. The authors recommend institutional changes to aid transition for these students from two-year to four-year programs. Specifically, they recommend implementing the approved California Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (see in all community colleges. This curriculum ensures that community college students meet the requirements for the first two years of a four-year school. The authors also suggest using resources to develop a “transfer culture” and support connections between schools. Summer bridge and research programs for community college students should be expanded in the four-year programs. Finally, the authors propose that more research be focused on Latino community college students as they make these decisions in order to support continued education. This brief is important reading for any practitioner interested in helping learners make transitions from community college to other educational programs.


Immigration Facts No. 16, May 2007. Annual Immigration to the United States: The Real Numbers.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reviews estimates of the number of immigrants entering the United States during different time periods. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 1.1 million lawful immigrants entered the country in 2005, and 1.3 million in 2006. MPI notes that DHS does not include in their estimate lawful immigrant workers and their dependents who have entered with temporary status but intend to stay in the United States. DHS also does not include unauthorized immigrants. MPI estimates that the actual number of U.S. immigrants – including lawful immigrants, temporary workers, and unauthorized immigrants – averaged 1.8 million each year from 2002-2006. This fact sheet is of importance to educators interested in immigration trends and ways that those trends might affect their program, area, or state.

Pew Hispanic Center and Pew Internet Project, March 14, 2007. Latinos Online: Hispanics With Lower Levels of Education and English Proficiency Remain Largely Disconnected From the Internet. Fox, S. & Livingston, G.

This report is based on telephone surveys conducted June through October, 2006, in a sample pool of 6,016 Hispanic/Latino adults across the United States, ages 18 and over. Of those interviewed, 56% reported using Internet compared to 71% percent of non-Hispanic whites and 60% of non-Hispanic blacks. Limited-English ability and level of education contribute to these lower results. Adults who have not completed high school have uniformly lower rates of Internet use (32% for Whites, 31% for Hispanics, and 25% for African Americans). The summary finds that Hispanics/Latinos are less likely to have Internet connections at home (29% compared to 43% of White adults). However, many Latinos are connecting to technology using cell phones for calls (59%) and text messaging (49%). This report is important for educators seeking to understand patterns of Internet use of their students as they seek to build technology into their programs.


TESOL Academy in Boston
On June 22-23, 2007, six workshops were held at the TESOL Academy in Boston, Massachusetts. Two of these workshops were specifically designed for teachers of adult English language learners. "Assessment and Learning: Balancing Program Performance and Instruction," led by Toni Borge of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, focused on balancing assessment and instruction to meet state and national performance requirements. "Vocabulary in Language Learning: Background and Methods of Instruction," led by David Red of Fairfax County Public Schools, examined the learning and teaching of vocabulary development across all four skills and for different levels of learners. TESOL hosts various professional development academies, symposia, and online trainings throughout the year, in addition to the annual convention that takes place in the spring. See for more information. 

New and Upcoming from CAELA

Problem-Based Learning and Adult English Language Learners (April, 2007)
In this brief CAELA staff member Julie Mathews-Aydinli discusses how problem-based learning aligns with research on second language acquisition. The brief gives guidelines for teachers and administrators on implementing problem-based learning in classes or programs for adults learning English as a second language (ESL), and outlines the benefits and challenges of using a problem-based learning approach with adult English language learners. The brief is available in both html and pdf at

Coming in late summer/ fall 2007:

CAELA briefs

  • Workplace Instruction and Workforce Preparation for Adult Immigrants
  • Adult ESL Professional Development: State Capacity Building


What are factors to consider when planning for, setting up, and evaluating a workplace program for immigrant workers?

CAELA Online Resource Collection
Helping Adult English Language Learners Transition from Adult ESL Programs into Other Adult Education Programs, Vocational Programs, and Postsecondary Education

The CAELA Guide for Adult ESL Trainers
This comprehensive guide gives professional developers guidelines and specific strategies for conducting workshops and study circles on a number of topics of importance in adult ESL instruction including conducting needs assessments, planning lessons for multilevel classes, instructional strategies for working with literary-level learners, and teaching reading and writing.