For Educators

Our recent Digital Literacy Instruction professional development workshop
Digital Literacy Instruction professional development workshop

First Literacy is proud to support educators in ABE and ESOL programs throughout Greater Boston.

We provide free professional development workshops to ABE and ESOL educators, including teachers, administrators, and counselors. Workshops are co-led by our Director of Programs, Lenore Balliro and one or two adult educators from our partner programs. We post all written workshop resources organized by topic to share them with programs and organizations around Greater Boston.

In the 2015-2016 school year, we introduced a series of ESOL Teachers’ Networking Circles as a response to a need in the field for collaboration and resource sharing among teachers from different programs and neighborhoods. In 2016-2017 we are expanding the program to offer ABE Teachers’ Networking Circles. Resources and handouts from the circles can be found below.

First Literacy Lab 2016 Project Presentation Resources

Sessions by Topic and Program

Original Goal: Students in intermediate to upper level ESOL classes, after choosing a topic of interest, will meet weekly to discuss works of fiction and non-fiction. They will benefit through improvement of subject content knowledge, develop critical reading skills, and increase their vocabulary, together with experiencing the joy of reading in English for personal enrichment.

CLC Book Club Evaluation (.pdf)


Original Goal: Hands-on experiments grounding students in science fundamentals will be researched, developed, and tested in class, part of students’ Hi-SET preparation. Experiments and lessons developed will be incorporated into the program’s curriculum.

Addressing Stem Through Science Experiments (.pdf)
Percent And Snow Fall (.pdf)
Percents and Smoking (.pdf)


Original Goal: Students will be connected with volunteer and job-shadowing opportunities. Curriculum will be developed and tested, developing students’ survival and employment skills through targeted vocabulary, math, and use of technology.

Career Exploration PowerPoint (.pdf)


Original Goal: Material to develop students’ problem-solving and employability skills will be developed, tested, and incorporated into the program’s ESOL curriculum and shared with the field.

Problem-Based Learning (.pdf)


Original Goal: A curriculum for low-level English learners will be developed and piloted. Curriculum will be shared with the field.

Basic Life Skills and Digital Literacy (.pdf)
Digital Resources For Life Skills Curriculum (.pdf)
Trip To CVS (.pdf)
Rubric For Life Skills Field Trip (.pdf)

Original Goal: Material to be used for one-on-one tutoring of literacy students will be developed and tested. Project includes the initial and follow-up training of tutors.

Basic Literacy Tutor Training (.pdf)
Tutor Training Grid Agenda – 4 Sessions (.pdf)
Binder Index (.pdf)
Books and Print Resources (.pdf)


Original Goal: Program students with interest in becoming teachers in childcare, pre-school, or K-12 settings will be provided with information, career guidance, and volunteer placement, enabling them to explore and begin careers as bilingual, bi-cultural educators. The model and materials will be shared with the field.

Teaching Track For ESOL Students (.pdf)
Careers In Education and Childcare Application (.pdf)
Careers In Education Flyer (.pdf)
English For Careers In Education and Childcare – 1st Class (.pdf)

Original Goal: A writing curriculum designed for individual students and used in one-on-one tutoring will be developed and tested. This curriculum will prepare program students for the Hi-SET high school equivalency test and strengthen writing skills for future education and employment.

Individualized Writing Curriculum (.pdf)

Professional Development Workshop Resources
Organized by Topic

The resources below were generated by facilitators of professional development workshops sponsored by First Literacy. Some of the categories contain resources relevant to both ESOL and ABE programs. Feel free to adapt them for your own use, and please cite the original authors if you share the material outside of your classroom. Thank you.

Teaching ESOL

Approaches to speech/pronunciation instruction involving areas such as intonation, linking, word stress, and thought groups.  Sample exercises and activities for students at various ESOL levels are included  as well as strategies for integrating lessons into your class.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Session 1 – PowerPoint (.pdf)
Session 1 – Agenda (.doc)
Session 2 – Power Point (.pdf)
Session 2 – Agenda (.doc)
Planning Your Implementation (.doc)
Implementation Worksheet (.docx)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Five “T” Sounds (.doc)
Intonation Practice Exercise (.doc)
Linking Practice Exercise (.doc)
Content Words Exercise (.doc)
Thought Groups Exercise (.doc)
Compound Word/Phrase Exercise (.doc)
Reducing Vowels in Structure Words (.doc)
Intonation Practice Using Kazoos (.doc)

In addition to a discussion of how adult education students can benefit from the phonics instruction, the assessment of students’ decoding and encoding skills are addressed. Instructional techniques and activities are also presented, with participants’ considering how they can start to  incorporate phonics instruction into their instruction.

Incorporating Phonics Techniques – First Lit (.doc)
Phonics Workshop Agenda (.doc)
Schwarz Using Phonemic Awareness with ESL Students (.doc)
Greene phonics inventory assessment (.pdf)
schwarz ADULT ESOL STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES (.pdf)

This workshop explores the intersection between producing photographic images and language, and how this relationship could be applied to ESOL instruction.  It presents ways that adult learners can develop their ability to express themselves in English, improving their vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills through the construction of written narratives in the context of their own photographs.  A variety of approaches to pairing students’ personal photographs and storytelling are considered, including possible themes, English-level considerations, and in and out-of-class activities.

Resources from Session 1:

Visual Storytelling PowerPoint (.pdf)
Visual Storytelling Short Guide (.pdf)
Producing and Reading Images in the Adult ESOL Adult Classroom (.doc)
Workshop Storytelling Exercise (.doc)
The Pedagogical Possibilities of Photo-Story Production (.pdf)
Photography and Writing Teacher’s Reflection (.pdf)

Resources from Session 2:

Photographs Lesson Plan (.pdf)
Visual Storytelling Additional Resources (.pdf)
Text Messaging (.pdf)
Who Am I? (.pdf)
Reporting The News (.pdf)
Freedom Trail (.pdf)

This workshop includes not only approaches for experiential writing activities and projects, but also strategies and practices to create a culture of writing for English Language Learners. Writing as communication and expression is also emphasized.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Session 2- Experiential Writing Agenda (.doc)
Approaches to Experiential Writing (.doc)
Notes on Audience and Editing (.doc)
Creating a Culture of Writing (.doc)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Personal Description (.pdf)
Writing about a Friend (.pdf)
Developing a Sense of Place (.doc)
Table of ESOL Writing Activities (.doc)
Images of Home Countries (.doc)

Teaching ABE/ASE

A wealth of writing activities are shared, primarily for teachers of Pre-ASE and ASE students, for native and non-native speakers of English alike. Activities address a variety of learning objectives and include students’ writing for different purposes: personal, professional, and academic. Also considered are student self-assessment of their writing and holistic assessment and feedback by teachers.

Some Objectives of Pre ASE, ASE Writing (.doc)
Perfect paragraph checklist (.docx)
Ideas for Teachers, Pre-ASE, ASE Writing (.doc)
Interview for Wacky Paragraphs (.doc)
New Writing Rubric (Oct. 2005) (.pdf)

Digital Literacy and Technology

Coming soon…

All adult education teachers and administrators want to create a community and provide support for their students and staff, both during and outside their time at the program. In this workshop, participants learn how to use the free and easy Weebly website builder to construct a web space where students and staff can access activities and resources on a web page, meet via webcam, and share work and ideas with each other via a blog.

Resources for this workshop are located online: click here to access.

College and Career Readiness

By intentionally building and establishing a college-going culture from intake, you will be able to help broaden your students’ educational expectations and career possibilities.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Session 1- Agenda for College and Career Readiness (.doc)
Session 2 -Agenda for Project-Based Classroom Activities (.doc)
Session 2 – PowerPoint Overview (.ppt)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Suggested Activities (.doc)
Employer Hiring Exercise (.xlsx)
Question Worksheet (.doc)
Handout on Lecture Note-Taking (.doc)
Note-Taking Sample Quiz (.pdf)

This workshop presents approaches and resources for working with adult students individually to develop foundational skills they need to effectively transition to college and succeed in their careers. Topics addressed include the identification of skills needs of individual students, recommended progression of tasks keyed to personal career goals, creating action plans to reach those goals, and documentation of students’ work.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Action Plan (.doc)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Session 1 – Handouts (.pdf)
Session 2 – Handouts (.pdf)
Transferable Skills Self-Assessment (.doc)

Interactive and hands-on, this workshop introduces teachers and others working with ESOL learners, at all levels, to the new “Life Skills, College, and Career Readiness Guide for ESOL Learners,” developed through a collaborative effort of ACLS, SABES, ESOL practitioners, and the national Center for Adult English Language Acquisition Team. The Guide lists and describes a wealth of ESOL classroom activities that prepare students for their “next steps” by developing their life skills and college and career readiness skills (all while addressing the Mass. ESOL Curriculum Frameworks). In addition to exploring The Guide as a whole and some of its recommended activities, participants discuss strategies for using it to help plan ESOL instruction in their classes and programs.

On Life Skills, College, and Career Readiness Guide (.doc)
What We Learned from Research (.doc)
Agenda – Life Skills, College (.doc)
Caela Guide 2011 (.pdf)
NCTN CAELA PPT (.ppt)

Student Engagement

This hands-on workshop explores approaches to managing and improving adult education students’ attendance short term and long term. Among the issues considered are different types of attendance policies and ways to administer them, establishing and maintaining relationships with students, and using tough love and flexibility in your attendance counseling.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Session 1 – Managing, Improving Students’ Attendance
 (.ppt)
Session 2- Managing, Improving Student Attendance (.ppt)
Approaches to Attendance Summary (.doc)
Managing Attendance, Sample Scenarios (.doc)
Classroom Environments and Practices (.doc)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Sample Attendance Policy 1 (.doc)
Sample Attendance Policy 2 (.doc)
Sample Attendance Policy 3 (.doc)
Sample Attendance Policy 4 (.doc)
Your Action-Plan Activities (.doc)

This workshop focuses on approaches to keeping our students connected and even engaged during those “down” summer months, when classes are not in session. User-friendly practices and resources are presented and discussed.

This workshop explores various ways that some of our students may become true leaders within our programs:  in student advisory councils, as mentors, tutors, teaching assistants, teachers and program ambassadors.  Also considered are ways that student leadership may be extended beyond our program, into our communities.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Cultivating Student Leaders Agenda – Session 1 (.doc)
Cultivating Student Leaders PowerPoint – Session 1 (.pptx)
Cultivating Student Leaders Agenda – Session 2 (.doc)
Cultivating Student Leaders PowerPoint – Session 2 (.pptx)
Action Plan (.doc)
Globalization and the Role of Adult and Continuing Education – article (.pdf)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Skill Bridge Handout (.pdf)

Administrative Topics

General Teaching Approaches

Grounded in research and practice, this workshop focuses on the roles of both teachers and students, in the context of English language acquisition. A strong case is made for increasing student-speak and using multiple instructional modalities, keeping our students and how they learn front and center in the teaching process. Special attention is given to instructional approaches that promote student recall and articulation.

Overview and Planning Materials:

Session 1 – Brain-Based ESOL Instruction PowerPoint (.pdf)
Resources for Further Learning (.doc)
Action Plan (.doc)
Session 2 – Brain-Based ESOL Instruction PowerPoint
 (.pdf)

Sample Exercises and Student Activities:

Retrieval Practice Guide (.pdf)
Dictation of Quotes
 (.doc)
Multisensory Approach to Spelling (.doc)
Multisensory Checklist (.doc)
Reading, Oral Fluency Activities (.doc)
Recall Activities (.doc)

ESOL Teachers’ Circles Organized by Topic

ABE Teachers’ Circles Organized by Topic