Appropriate materials are particularly important for ESL Literacy learners. The goal in the ESL Literacy class is that learners will be able to interact comfortably with authentic materials found in the real world. However, at certain phases of their ESL Literacy development, teacher-made and adapted materials may be most suitable. There are two main factors that need to be considered, clarity of language and format.
Clarity of Language
ESL Literacy learners benefit from having substantial context in their materials. Pictures related to the text and realia (real, concrete items) help learners understand what they are reading. The amount and familiarity of vocabulary are also important features to consider. Introduction of new written vocabulary should follow considerable interaction with the words orally. Introduce new words in limited numbers in written materials with sufficient opportunity to interact with them numerous times. Short sentences are easier to read and complex
structures should be avoided if possible at the earlier phases of development. New readers also find sentences written in the active voice much easier to understand than those written in the passive voice.
Format of the material
Design features of material are critical features of text difficulty. The more white space on a page surrounding the written text, the easier the page is to read. Font size and type are two other important features affecting text difficulty. Larger fonts minimize barriers to understanding in ESL Literacy materials. At the earliest phases, using a 16 - 20 point font is helpful. While occasional words or phrases that might be seen as signs or on forms (STOP, EXIT, NAME, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) may be written all in upper case letters, sentences written all in upper case are difficult to read. The choice of font type can affect the ease with which an ESL learner can read material. Generally, sans serif fonts are considered easier to read than serif fonts. Choose a font that is basic, similar to printed letters, such as Comic Sans MS, Univers, or Arial. Avoid fonts with decorative features.
Learning English while learning to read and write for the first time is a daunting task. It may take learners quite some time to reach the end of Phase 3. The ESL Literacy Benchmarks provide a framework to help learners move through the stages from being a non-reader to reading fluently. They reflect both "top-down" (Whole Language) and "bottom-up" (phonics) theories of learning to read. In this context we can offer a rich learning environment for people who may never have experienced a formal educational setting.
Canadian Language Benchmarks www.language.ca
|Previous||Table of Contents||Next|