How do you describe literacy abilities in really low level adult learners?


ESL cartoon

I haven’t really looked at any of this before, but I came across it the other day. Below is the TEC outcomes framework for describing ability levels for low level ESOL learners.

This is based on the Starting Points framework and applies to learners whose literacy level falls below step 1 in the Learning Progressions.

You can download the document that it comes from here on the TEC website. I’ve just reproduced it below in a list rather than table. Also, while this applies as a reporting framework for targeted ESOL funding, it’s also just a great framework for anyone working with really low level learners.

I like it because it reminds of when I was an ESOL teacher in a previous life. The framework breaks learning and developmental stages down by Speaking and Listening, then Reading and Writing.

I’m not sure that the levels system is so useful, but there is probably a reason for how it’s structured: 0, 0+, -1, 1, 2. It might have been easier to just have five bands, e.g. ESOL 1, ESOL 2 through to ESOL 5. If anyone can enlighten meas to the , please do so in the comments.

The idea is to use this as a kind of observation checklist with your low level learners so that you can report on or diagnose what they can and can’t do, as well as determine what the next small chunk of learning might be.

Level 0: SPEAKING & LISTENING

The learner:

  • Can convey and understand only limited meaning in conversations
  • Can identify and produce most sounds (e.g. recite the alphabet)
  • Has a limited listening vocabulary

Level 0+: SPEAKING & LISTENING

The learner:

  • Listens and responds to some requests for personal information (e.g. what is your name, address?)
  • Can use and recognise expressions
  • Can use formulaic language. (e.g. hi, yes, please, thank you)
  • Has a limited listening vocabulary of basic words.
  • Demonstrates understanding of simple verbal instructions

Level -1: SPEAKING AND LISTENING

The learner:

  • Can take part in short conversations about personal topics if the other person speaks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help
  • Can identify phrases, syllables, and begins to use sentence stress
  • Ask for simple directions/information and follows instructions
  • Identifies specific information in a conversation (e.g. numbers 1-100, weather, names, places)

Level 1: SPEAKING AND LISTENING

The learner:

Demonstrates through conversation that they have basic general and/or foundation understanding of  everyday contexts (e.g. asks questions, makes appointments, buys something in a shop) or can follow simple workplace instructions

  • Uses a variety of greetings and farewells
  • Uses strategies to maintain and finish conversation. These could include the following:
    • to indicate that the learner does not understand;
    • asking for more information;
    • slowing speech down; or
    • asking for meaning of a particular word
  • Uses verbal and non-verbal communication strategies
  • Listens to and is able to retell a short explanation, recount an event, or describe an event or story

Level 2: SPEAKING AND LISTENING

The learner:

  • Communicates and shows understanding in everyday contexts, including unskilled and semi-skilled workplaces
  • Is able to follow instruction to complete simple and routine tasks requiring a direct exchange of information or practical transaction
  • Uses some complex spoken sentence structure including use of tense (past, present), common contractions etc
  • Express meaning in a culturally appropriate manner including use of common New Zealand expression (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Pronounces words clearly
  • Demonstrates some fluency, with occasional pauses

Level 0: READING AND WRITING

The learner:

  • Can  hold a pencil/pen and is comfortable using it
  • Is beginning to develop some concepts about print (e.g. reading left to right, spaces between words)

Level 0+: READING AND WRITING

The learner:

  • Is beginning to identify letters of the alphabet independently
  • Is beginning to identify individual words, including high frequency words
  • Is beginning to form letters

Level -1: READING AND WRITING

The learner:

  • Can identify all letters independently
  • Recognises a number of individual words, including high frequency words
  • Is beginning to identify signs and symbols (e.g. street signs, caution symbols) and personally significant words and high utility words
  • Can form letters fluently
  • Can write some words independently
  • Is beginning to develop and review their own handwriting
  • Can complete a form asking for name, date of birth, address with the support of the tutor

Level 1: READING AND WRITING

The learner:

  • Applies literacy and numeracy skills for participation in everyday life, and in appropriate workplace contexts
  • Identifies signs and symbols (e.g. street signs, caution symbols) and personally significant words and high utility words
  • Reads a simple and short passage using visual aids and retains meaning from it
  • Can identify the first 300 words on the 1000 most frequent word list and write the first 200 words
  • Writes the alphabet in upper and lower case, in the correct order without prompt
  • Writes a simple sentence using basic vocabulary
  • Is able to write phonetically (spelling not correct but makes sense)

Level 2: READING AND WRITING

The learner:

  • Applies literacy and numeracy skills that are relevant to everyday contexts, including unskilled and semi-skilled workplaces
  • Can identify the first 500 words on the 1000 most frequent word list and write the first 300 words
  • Has a bank of words they can spell correctly
  • Is able to write a 4-5 sentence text about something that has been discussed or experienced in their life, or can  complete short forms in the workplace

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