Task: Asking for Change

Here are some exercises for Canadian and American English language learners to prepare for the real world task of asking for change.

Start by making sentences used in asking for change. (Click on the image below to download this worksheet.)

Brainstorm with students what they may need change for: a washing machine, a parking meter, a bus, a shopping cart, a pay phone and a vending machine are common answers.

Here is the Canadian worksheet with the answer YES. (Click on it to view it large on your computer and download it.) 

Click on the flag for the American version of the worksheet with the answer YES.  

Here is the Canadian worksheet with the answer NO. Click on the image below. 

Click on the flag for the American version of the worksheet with the answer NO.  

Once students have mastered these dialogues in class, they may be ready to leave the classroom and practice asking for change in the real world. I take students to a gas station convenience store. I approach the clerks first to ask if they are willing to assist in the activity. I assure them we will move aside if customers enter. I provide lots of change for the clerks, so they are not required to give away change. I exchange my coins for the clerk’s bills and hand them to the students. 

Students often tell me that their hearts are racing before they head up to the counter. What a feeling of success when they return with correct change! For many of them, it’s the first time they have used English in a real life setting to accomplish a task. It’s a memorable activity that brings the classroom study into a practical, useful context.

Classroom Word Search Using English Directionality

This activity is for absolute beginner ESL or literacy level English language learners, focusing on classroom verbs such as listen, speak, read, write, sit down, open, turn on, turn off etc., as well as classroom nouns, such as chair, desk, table, board, etc. A word search is a great way to reinforce this new vocabulary, but watch out for the direction words are written in.

This word search features vertical, horizontal and diagonal words. However, with an awareness that English directionality does not come automatically with this level of students and needs to become automatic, all horizontal words are written from left to right. Also, while some words travel upwards on the diagonal, in each case, they begin on the left. Other words travel downwards, from top to bottom.

There are also a couple additional special features. Numerous words almost appear twice, adding an extra challenge for students, as it requires them to look carefully and check exact spelling. There are also a few additional non-classroom related words for teachers only, to offer you a little challenge of your own while students work.

Click on the image to download the student worksheet and print it for use in your own classroom. Click here to download the student answer key. There is no answer key for the words added for teachers. How many can you find?

Teaching the Alphabet: Literacy 101

Adult literacy students range from pre-literate to non-literate to semi-literate to those from non-Roman alphabets. Some do not know how to hold a pencil. I’ve had students with no idea when their birthday was because they came from cultures where no one knew dates or years. Some students from non-Roman alphabets may know the names of all the letters of the alphabet but have little knowledge of the sounds of any letters. Trouble writing on the line, confusion between upper and lower case, and some letters backwards or reversed are all clues that a student may fit in this category of students. 

Just as in all lower level classes, because literacy students do not yet know the spelling and grammatical conventions of English and are learning them from you, it is very important to be consistent in your use of upper and lower case in board work.

When you assign alphabet practice for homework (or classwork), take time to go over each student’s work in class with a coloured pen. I suspect the reason many teachers don’t do this is because they don’t want to talk down to adult students or to place too much emphasis on something they deem an elementary school skill. The fact is if you have true literacy students, they put a lot of effort into an exercise like this. Tasks requiring fine motor skills take time to learn. Taking time to check their work acknowledges this effort and shows that you deem it important. Your students will correspondingly value the exercise more. I go over each letter and take time to point out when a letter is beautifully formed. I also point out when the proportions are not quite right.

Here are some tips for teaching the alphabet. At the bottom, you’ll find some alphabet sheets free for you to download and use in your own class. 

     1.  Start by introducing letters that have similar shapes, for example c, e, and o or l, i, t.  

     2.  Discriminate between shapes.  Focus the attention of students on differences. Don’t assume they already see them. Write the lower case alphabet on the board, naming each letter as it is written and repeat that several times.

     3.  Use alphabet hand-outs that have students trace over the letters and then write them themselves several times on the line. 

     4.  Name letters and have students circle them on a hand-out.

     5.  Demonstrate stroke order on the board, insisting that students use the correct stroke order. 

     6.  Teach upper case.  Use hand-outs with exercises asking students to match upper and lower case.  At this point, you might wish to draw students attention to the typewritten and handwritten lower case a, which often confuses students.

     7.  Play a concentration game with students matching upper and lower case letters.

     8.  Teach students when to use capital letters. 

     9.  Move on to sounds after students have fully memorized the names of letters. 

Check out Callan’s Beginner Essentials, which moves systematically through the sounds of the alphabet, using a scaffolding approach to build on knowledge. The book is “sanitized for your protection” in that there are no difficult to depict words or words students would be unlikely to encounter. Virtually every word is 6 letters or less and follows the spelling conventions of English. There will be plenty of time later for students to get discouraged by all the exceptions to the rule!

Click on the page below to download some alphabet practice pages for your own use. 

Page Directions for Low Beginner

I’ve created an interactive activity for low beginner ESL to practice page directions. Your class will run smoother if you can draw students’ attention to where the class is looking on the page you’re working on and make sure everyone is following. You’re welcome to download my materials to use in your classroom.

I let students take turns calling out different page directions and having their classmates move shapes at their desks to follow the instructions. This game can be played over and over until students feel very familiar with page directions.

First, students will need to learn vocabulary such as: up, down, left, right, in the middle, at the top, and in the corner

My activity uses the shapes circle, square, triangle and rectangle. You will need a set of shapes for each student (or each pair of students). Download them here.

First, you need to practice the vocabulary:

You can view it large on your computer and print it out here.

. Then, here are two worksheets for practicing the directions:

Vocab and page directions

You can download the activity here.