ESOL Games in the Classroom

Last week we did a post on different games that can be played in the adult ed classroom. This week we’ll go over a few games that will be beneficial to the ESOL classroom. These are variations on popular games that you can continue to modify for your students.


Taboo (thanks to ESLInsider)
This is a great game that works well with almost all levels of learners. To play this game first divide your class into two or more groups (more for larger classes) and place one chair (one for each group) in front of the room facing the class. So if you have two groups then you’ll have two chairs in front facing the class.

Have a student from each group come forward and sit in those chairs. The teacher then writes a word on the board (which is behind the two students), so that the rest of the class can see. The groups have to give the students sitting in the chairs a clue to the word that is written on the board without actually saying it. They can say synonyms, antonyms or other words associated with it. The students sitting in front have to guess the word. If you like you can give the team who guesses first a plus one and then have another set of students come forward to sit and do it again.

20 Questions (Thanks to
This game is a variation on the traditional ‘Twenty Questions’. Unlike the traditional game, which starts with the question ‘Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?’, this version starts with the question-master stating the general topic of whatever he or she is thinking of (animals, countries, foods, sports, actors, actresses, singers, bands, movies, T.V. shows) or another topic related to whatever your students have recently studied.

Put the topic cards face down in a pile on a table at the front of the classroom. Ask for a student to volunteer to be the first question-master. This student then comes forward and takes the top card and thinks of something relevant to the card’s topic. After writing this on the piece of paper, he or she then states the topic. Players begin asking ‘Yes or No’ questions. If the question is grammatically correct, the  player earns a point and the question-master answers it. If the question is not grammatically correct, another player may try to ask the same question correctly for the chance of earning a point. If any player thinks he or she knows what the question-master is thinking of, he or she should say so. If it is not correct, the question-master earns one point and play continues as before. If it is correct, the player guessing earns three points and becomes the next question-master.

Searching for Jobs Online

The nature of looking for jobs has changed. We are no longer looking for ads in newspapers, but searching for things on the internet. If your student is interested in finding a new job, try going over these sites with him or her. is designed to help people find a  job and to help employers find employees. Users post their resume, network or initiate contacts with other interesting people who can introduce you to potential employers or leads to employers.  You can search for jobs without an account, but must create an account to apply or save the job search. It is free to join, but I suggest signing up with your student to make sure they do not sign up for unwanted things. Then, you can either upload, copy/paste or build a resume. If you choose to build a resume, it could take some time, but it is set up in a very easy to understand format.

When you search for jobs, you can type in the job title, keywords, or geographic location. Once you see the jobs, you can sort them by date, job title, company and location. is dedicated to promoting job awareness. companies post jobs to this site daily. It is designed to be user friendly. Registering with CareerBuilder is free. Leave the postal code field blank if you plan on applying for a job outside the US.

You can find jobs, set up job alerts, post a resume and search for jobs through popular job categories on the main menu. If you are unsure how to spell a city name, you can always look up a city by the first few letters of their name under “City List”. If you are interested in setting up a job alert, select the “alert icon” and enter your criteria. You can enter up to three job categories, three cities and mileage radius and receive email alerts on a daily or weekly basis. You can change your alert by selecting “edit” under “My searches”.
Idealist posts jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities in nonprofits.
Craigslist posts  several part-time and full time jobs. Be cautious with who you are responding to and never give information that is too personal (like your social security number). Some restaurants will post when they have an open call for servers to apply.

Top Stories in Literacy: May 29

Top Stories in LiteracyClay County Literacy Coalition ‘visionary’ receives state award
The Florida Literacy Coalition recently named Lisa Leiby of Clay County as Outstanding Literacy Volunteer for her work with the Clay County Literacy Coalition. The award recognized a literacy volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional service and commitment in either tutoring or program operations

Connect2Compete Announces the Ad Council’s First Campaign to tackle Digital Literacy
Connect to Compete (C2C), Inc. today announced a national three-year Ad Council campaign to promote the importance of digital literacy and motivate individuals and families to access free community resources and training. The multimedia public service campaign, which will be developed in both English and Spanish, will begin in January 2013.

InCharge Receives $148,750 Grant from Chase to Provide Financial Education and Counseling
InCharge® Debt Solutions was awarded a $148,750 grant by Chase Card Services, a division of JPMorgan Chase & Co., to help support an educational program focused on providing financial education and counseling to local community members.

High school diplomas presented at IRSC ceremony
Throughout the 2011/2012 school year, the graduates earned high school credits in IRSC’s Adult High School or completed preparation and passed the General Educational Development (GED) exam at IRSC Adult Education sites throughout St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties.

Protesters Gather to Oppose Cuts to Adult Education
Hundreds of people gathered outside Tuesday’s meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District board to show their support for adult education. If the programs go away, protesters say more than a quarter million people will be shut out of classes they need to make a contribution to society.

Memorial Day Lesson Plans!

When Memorial Day first was proclaimed a U.S. holiday in 1868, it was a solemn day set aside to remember and honor the nation’s war dead. While it is still celebrated for that reason, many people recognize it as a day off, start of pool season, and a reason for sales at different stores. Take the time this Memorial Day to learn more about the holiday and different ways to celebrate it with your students.

If you are looking for writing practice, try watching a video on Memorial Day Across America or look through a slideshow of pictures. Share how you celebrate the holiday with your student and  ask if they are willing to share how they celebrate or a memory from their past. You can then have the student write a journal entry reflecting on their experiences or write down the key words mentioned in the video or your student’s story to go over.

If your student is more advanced or interested in history, start by looking at this graphic interactive slideshow focusing on the history of Memorial Day. You can also use an infographic of the history of Memorial Day to read through together. Once you’re done learning about the history, try a fill in the blank to check reading comprehension.

Memorial Day can be a great opportunity to incorporate civics in an ESL curriculum. Use this Pre-Intermediate English Lesson on Memorial Day to learn about the holiday and then test comprehension with a quiz. The EL Civics for Memorial Day site has a brief passage on traditions of the holiday and then questions you can ask your students to test comprehension and start conversation on the topic (i.e. How are you celebrating this year?). You can also practice a CLOZE exercise to understand verb tense.

Other lesson plan sites

Memorial Day Lessons and Teacher Resources- Lessons Page

Memorial Day Teacher’s Resources- Teacher Vision

Free Memorial Day Lesson Plans- Yahoo

Games in the Classroom

“Games greatest potential is that they’re worlds in a box. They allow you to create a world that somebody can be in and take on an identity. People learn most deeply when they take on a new identity that they really want.”

James Paul Gee, University of Wisconsin- Madison

The word is “plaid”

When I was growing up, I loved playing all kinds of games. I’m pretty sure Red Rover and Hi Ho Cherry-O were tied for my favorite, but my enthusiasm for different games only grew throughout time. Games were a way to bring a group of people together on an even playing field. I led a service trip to a homeless shelter in DC a few years ago and this was the first real experience working and interacting with the homeless for most participants. Many were scared, nervous, unsure how to act or what their place was. So what did we do to remedy the anxiety? We played charades. Teams were divided at random so each team had students on the trip and adults who were in the shelter. The socio-economic divides that people were nervous about seemed to disappear when someone was trying to act out rainbows or toe jam.

Besides bringing people together and creating memorable experiences, games are also beneficial to the learning process. Your students will be putting what they learn to practice. Students increase math skills by rolling a dice and counting spaces. Word games encourage building vocabulary and other literacy skills. Overall, students enhance their problem solving and critical thinking skills by playing games.

Here are some ideas for games. Remember, games are meant to be played together, so join in the fun!

Scrabble is a tremendously educational game that fosters literacy and language skills. I get anxious and only can remember small words when I play, which might be the case for some of your learners. If this is the case, try scrabble junior first. Scrabble junior has large yellow letter tiles and players match letters to words already written on one side of the board. The other side has an open grid where your learner can create his or her own words. Feel out what is best for your student. Once your student gains confidence, encourage them to bring it home to their family for practice and fun!

Boggle is a great tool for teaching letters, words, spelling and matching skills.  is played with a tray of 16 letter dice, which is shaken to get 16 random letters. Players have three minutes to find as many words as they can in the grid, according to the rules listed in the game. In Boggle Junior, the game comes with six-sided letter cubes and numerous picture cards that have the name of the object spelled below. Players place a card on a blue tray and use 3-4 letter cubes to copy the items spelling or they can hide the written words and spell the word just using the picture.

This is a new game that is a combination of Bingo and a matching game, great for enhancing quick thinking skills. It relies on a player’s ability to spot pictures and match them quickly to the words and pictures on his or her play card. The first player to complete a line wins. This would work well if you are working with an ESL student. Feel free to create your own game with words/pictures you are learning!

Creating a Financial Literacy Program: Being a VISTA and the Importance of Community Connections

Hank Hollins

I’m the AmeriCorps VISTA for the Literacy Council of Sarasota. For me, being a VISTA has been all about community connections. Having a plan about what I wanted to accomplish and sharing that plan with grant-makers and community leaders has led to a great financial literacy program. Now I’m there each week as the learners enjoy the resources which my service has helped provide. It’s extremely gratifying and fun to boot!

I had heard about the great success of programs which paired money management education with matched emergency savings programs. Financial education is combined with a free savings account and what the learner saves is matched up to a certain amount at the end. I decided that this was a combination with great appeal.

I first approached CredAbility ( They were very eager to help teach the workshops. As one community connection leads to another, my CredAbility representative passed along the name of a local Regions Bank associate she knew to be very involved in financial literacy and actively seeking non-profits to partner with. I talked to him, and he wanted to join us on this project: Regions would donate free savings accounts.

It was around this time I applied for my first grant. To my admitted surprise, I obtained a grant for the workshops portion of the program right out of the gate. The first grant I’d ever applied for! I was, however, only halfway there. The local foundation gave us money for the workshops but not the matching funds. I tried numerous things, calling local businesses and researching grants, exploring various ways of finding this money.

The connections I had already made, though, were where the solution lay. I reached out to my partner at Regions and asked if they might want to become more involved. He put me in touch with head of Community Affairs for the whole Tampa Bay region. We were both a little nervous, reaching so high up the chain of command, but it went wonderfully! He was very interested in our program, and Regions agreed to provide a $100 match to each of our learners for our twelve-week, twelve-class program. We were ready to go!

Now the classes are underway. The learners were given an introduction to banking during the first class, and learned the importance of setting financial goals the next. Next week, we will be covering the importance of paying yourself first. There will be classes on tracking expenses, budgeting, credit, investments, etc.

The classes are so much fun! We laugh and learn in the common room of one our Housing Authority complexes—yet another partnership—and I couldn’t be more satisfied. The most important part to me, though, was what I learned about community connections. I started with an idea and connected the dots between funders, community leaders, educators, and learners. In a way, I’m proud of this program as my own, but it really isn’t—it could go on without me. It belongs to the community.

Della Palacios: Ah-Ha Moments

I registered for the Florida Literacy Conference on a whim.  My rationale went something like this, “Adult and Family Literacy certainly applies to SensAbleLearning, LLC, I’ll go.”   It was a very good whim  I followed.

Souns® is a hands-on phonemic awareness program inspired by the Montessori Method.   Letter sounds are taught before letter names.  It’s a simple switch with brilliant results.  Brenda Erickson, founder of Counterpane Montessori and creator of  Souns® , designed it for ages  0-3, but I have used it as intervention with children in high school and Brenda has used Souns® with adult refugees.  (I learned  Souns®  for my two children, then ages 3 and 4, now 4 and 5. They learned to read so naturally using  Souns®, I had the thought, “So many kids need this.”  And SensAble Learning, LLC was born.

At the conference, I had my first experience using Souns® with an adult learner.  He inquisitively looked at the Souns® symbols (letters) and I explained quickly how the program worked the first time he happened by.  I realized quickly that his curiosity was more than piqued as he touched the letters and said the sounds with me.  I wondered if he could read, but I did not ask.

He left to attend a workshop but he soon returned and apologized for having to leave.  I asked if he would like to sit and work with me for a bit using Souns®.  He said yes.  We went through each letter sound, just as the program suggests.  Most of the sounds he learned very quickly.  I have the tracking sheet we used. He did not recognize many of the letter sounds initially, but we practiced and he learned.  Next, I began building words with him using Souns® symbols and the objects I have ready in my box of three letter words.  With each new word he built, a smile stretched from ear to ear displaying his delight in what I can only assume is a new understanding of this mysterious language code.  I wish I had more time with this young man.

I loved every ah-ha moment that came across the faces of trained professionals, tutors and scholars  as they “got” how teaching sounds first before letter names removes much of the confusion not needed for a beginning reader.  But, the ah-ha that will remain in my heart is the one I saw in the smile of the curious young man.

Della Palacios

Founder and Owner of SensAble Learning, LLC

I am a traditionally trained teacher who chose to put my career and doctoral work on hold to stay at home and raise children.  Last year, I met Brenda Erickson, founder of Counterpane Montessori and the creator of Souns® .  The trajectory of my life has changed as we have joined hands to make sure kids will read, and read well.   I tell her she will be the bridge from Montessori to mainstream.  She tells me,  Souns® will be the bridge from Montessori to mainstream.

Top Stories in Literacy : May 21

Top Stories in LiteracyEmployment Prospects Dim for Young Adults with Autism
Young adults with an autism spectrum disorder are less likely to continue their education or get a job after high school when compared to young adults with other disabilities, new research indicates.

Community Effort: Initiative to Boost Early Literacy Launched
Organizers in Lakeland launched a new effort last Tuesday to train volunteers and match them with children in an effort to improve early literacy. The program will start with six schools in Polk County and two in Highlands County.

First Lady Ann Scott Reveals Live. Read. Learn!
The First Lady, in partnership with the nonprofit Volunteer USA Foundation – with funding from Dollar General Foundation and Scholastic FACE (Family and Community Engagement) – unveiled the Love.Read.Learn!™ scrapbook style journal. The journals are designed to be one of the first gifts a child receives, reinforcing the state’s commitment to literacy and health.

$1 Million gift funds learning institute for adults at Penn State
More than 73 percent of working adults age 17 + have participated in informal learning programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A second $1 million gift from Bernard Osher Foundation will enable  the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Penn State to expand informal learning opportunities for adults age 50 and older.

2012 Conference Recap + Session Handouts!

The 2012 might have been our best conference yet! Record attendance, inspiring keynotes, resourceful exhibitors, interesting session choices, a beautiful location and of course, wonderful attendees.

Some top moments included Mawi…everything, adult learners reading their essays from the 2012 Essay book, State Literacy Awards Winners and watching part of Sarah Entine’s film, Read Me Differently.

We also had a lovely photographer, Ashleigh Marie, who took several wonderful photos of the event. They’ll be uploaded to our Flickr account very soon, but in the mean time, check out this sneak peek on our facebook!

There were several great presentations! Here are handouts from a few who have already sent me them. This list will be updated as more presenters email me their handouts. So if you presented at this past conference, share  your wealth of information with other literacy enthusiasts!

PBS-So much more than Sesame Street!
Gail Taylor, WEDU
PBS Fact Sheet
PBS KIDS Online Anytime
American Graduate
PBS Teacher Resources – Florida PBS Learning Media

Social Media: Marketing Made Easy
Annie Schmidt, Florida Literacy Coalition
Social Media Handout
Social Media Presentation

Financial Literacy from FLC: Credit and Debt

Credit? Debit? Cash?

Do you think you spend less when you pay cash than you do when you use a credit card or debit card?  Research says you do.  What do you think?

I love this example from Ashley the Money Talks Coach: She says that the whole question can be answered with ice cream! Read this to get the idea and check out her whole blog on the subject. .

Ashley says:   You spend less when you pay cash and the reason has to do with ice cream.  Yeah, you heard right… ice cream.

I love a bowl of ice cream after the kids go to bed.  It’s one of my favorite luxuries.  However, when I indulge in this treat more than about once per week I gain weight.  I know this, yet I still do it.  Once or twice a year I will eat ice cream every night for two weeks straight and then cry when the scale reprimands me.


I do it because the consequence is too far away from the action.  I want ice cream and I get an immediate benefit (happiness) when I eat it.  Of course, for every action there is also a consequenceBut the consequence doesn’t come right away.  I don’t see the numbers on the scale move for a few weeks.  So right at that moment, when I’m standing in front of the freezer, ice cream scoop in hand, there is only the benefit on my mind.  I know someplace down deep that I’ll regret it later but at that moment all I can see is happiness.

Same goes for your purchases.  When you buy something you get an immediate benefit.  When you pay with a credit card you don’t feel the consequence of that action until the bill is due, some 30 days later.

What about debit cards?  While studies show that you will spend the most with credit cards, they say you still spend more with debit cards than you do with cash. .  So again, this consequence comes maybe 7 to 14 days after the benefit.

But with cash the consequence is immediateYou have $20 in your wallet and then you don’t.  You can’t put it out of your mind.  You can’t “work it out later”.  The money is spent and gone in one motion.  Certainly makes you think twice about that purchase.

Have you done this experiment yourself?  Do you spend less when you pay cash?

Thank you Ashley for the quick lesson!

Now check out the Lesson Plan #3 to help your students learn the language of Consumer Debit and Credit, and watch a couple of videos on how and why people use credit cards.