For Educators



First Literacy is proud to support educators in ABE and ESOL programs throughout Massachusetts with free professional development workshops to 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 and the state.

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)

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)

Administrative Topics

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)

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)

First Literacy Lab 2017 Project Presentation Resources

Sessions by Topic and Program

Original Synopsis: Our summer gardening project will have two components. ABCD Mattapan will provide ESOL instruction to a multi-level group of students. We will focus on vocabulary related to the environment, gardening, plants, and vegetables. We will help students use language to describe and talk about their gardening process, and compare gardening in their home countries and in the United States. Once a week, students will work with a garden educator at the City Natives teaching garden where they will learn hands on skills in gardening and farming.

Gardening Pre and Post-Evaluation (.pdf)
Resources for Gardening and Language Learning (.pdf)
Planting Flowers Story (.pdf)
Know When to Plant What – Mother Earth News (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: Established in 2003, the ESOL Program increases self-sufficiency of ATASK clients, all Asian women who are survivors of domestic violence. The program serves at least 30 women each year, 30% of whom are residents of ATASK’s shelter and another 30% of whom are former residents. The proposed project will reduce the proficiency level range of learners in each ESOL class, increase the time spent in reading and writing instruction, and the frequency of this instruction. As a result of the project, FY 2017 learners will make greater gains in English proficiency, particularly in reading and writing skills, and those entering the program at SPL 0 and 3 will have increased program persistence when compared to learners in FY 2016.

Tips for Developing Reading Comprehension (.pdf)
Lesson Plan Form (.pdf)
CBC Business Problems Worksheet (.pdf)
CBC Business Problems Worksheet #2 (.pdf)
ATASK Class Levels Work Worksheet (.pdf)
ATASK Class Levels Worksheet (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: Established in 2003, the ESOL Program increases self-sufficiency of ATASK clients, all Asian women who are survivors of domestic violence. The program serves at least 30 women each year, 30% of whom are residents of ATASK’s shelter and another 30% of whom are former residents. At present, 3-4 volunteers from Suffolk University plan and teach courses to small groups of learners each semester, the proposed project will maximize the impact of these volunteers on English acquisition by ESOL Program learners. FY 2017 learners will benefit through: (1) more engaging, more effective volunteer-led instruction; (b) more timely intervention by the ESOL Teacher when volunteers are struggling and/or learners are dissatisfied; and, (c) fewer weeks over the program year without volunteer-led instruction.

College Student Volunteer Recruitment Flyer (.pdf)
College Student Volunteer Applicant Interview Questions (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: This project aims to provide video lessons targeted towards Chinese learners of English who want to improve their pronunciation and learn more outside of the classroom. The videos will be accessible via WeChat, a very popular social media application, and will include instruction, practice, and assessment of various pronunciation topics that are particularly challenging for Chinese speakers due to language transfer. The instruction will be light-hearted, fun, and involve pop culture and current events to keep students’ interest and make learning enjoyable. Students will also be able to engage with the videos by asking questions, commenting on the videos and sharing with friends.

BCNC Contrastive Stress Card Game (.pdf)
Instructions for WeChat Video – Intro (.pdf)
WeChat Survey (translated) (.pdf)
Listening Quiz (.pdf)
BCNC Literacy Lab Presentation Handout (.pdf)
BCNC Instructions for WeChat Video – Lesson 1 (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: BCYF is seeking to develop a program that will assist students in learning more efficient techniques of writing. Students will develop proper habits of writing for use in both passing the state HSE exam as well as developing confidence to express themselves at the next step (community college/skills training) in a manner that is acceptable to academia or workforce development. In this project, we will combine evidence-based techniques for teaching writing with keyboarding as these are necessary skills for passing high school equivalency and obtaining success in community college and/or skills training. Research indicates that 50% of HSE candidates failed the exam the first time. 25% of those failures are on the ELA Writing exam. Many of these failures are due to poor essay writing skills.

Original Synopsis: The Digital Memoir Project will support 16 low-income immigrant seniors in recounting and preserving their experiences through authentic images and text. Students will meet 1 ½ hours weekly for facilitated conversation and writing exercises using carefully selected prompts. At the end of the 12-week project, students’ stories will be professionally assembled into an e-book that can be shared online or printed for purchase. Ultimately, the Digital Memoir Project participants will improve the oral and written English skills and confidence while creating a meaningful keepsake that can be passed on across cultures and generations.

Immigrant Memoir Project Stories (.pdf)
First Literacy Lab Presentation 2017 (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: This class will teach skills needed to effectively carry out the responsibilities of an administrative assistant. The class will run for 1 or 2 cycles depending on interest and will be 10 weeks per cycle. The students will learn skills such as filing and record keeping to phone etiquette and computer skills. We will connect with employers looking to hire administrative assistants and connect students to those hiring.

Charlestown Administrative Assistant Course (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: This class will teach proper articulation and grammatical skills while introducing tier 2 vocabulary words. The purpose is to enhance students’ chances of making a good impression on a job interview and obtaining employment while reducing the use and need for slang and increasing academic language in order to be successful students in college.

Original Synopsis: Computer Tool Tech Project “Free Way” will be a simulation of an Information Technology (IT) lab, where students from Mujeres Unidas Avanzando’s (MUA) ESOL/Computer class will work under the supervision of the ESOL/Computer instructor as an IT company. Twelve students will work on MUA’s staff and lab computers over a six-month period to upgrade, maintain, secure, customize/personalize, and back-up. If students run out of computers on which to work, students and staff will bring their machines from home.

Back Up (.pdf)
Internet Browser Security (.pdf)
Maintenance Sheet (.pdf)
Wheel Game (.pdf)
Mujeres IT Tools Tech Free Way (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: This project is the development and assessment of a digital spaced repetition system for beginner level English learners. Using Anki, an open-source program for combining text, image, and audio into digital flashcards, Project Literacy’s Beginner 1 teacher will develop decks of cards that will be accessible from any computer, tablet, or smart phone. These decks will help students recognize and distinguish English sounds, learn the spelling of sounds, learn 150 of the highest frequency vocabulary, and learn 6-12 basic grammar rules. While just 15 learners benefit in FY 2017, many more are likely to benefit thereafter.

Project Literacy Anki Resources (.pdf)
Project Literacy Deck 1 (.pdf)
Project Literacy Deck 2 (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: Quincy Asian Resources, Inc. (QARI) seeks additional funding to extend and fully integrate the extensive reading project funded by our successful FY16 grant. This will primarily consist of common planning hours during which teachers will collaboratively integrate the activities and strategies developed in FY16 into the broader ESOL curriculum.  Further, we will continue to share our findings with the field locally and, where possible, further afield.

Extensive Reading Curriculum (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: SCALE Connections is a program that will use volunteers to run small English conversation groups at SCALE in Somerville. Based on the experience of a successful model at an organization called Intercambio in Boulder, CO, SCALE Connections will also organize social and cultural events that will be open to the public, including potlucks, dances, and outings to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for English language learners (ELLs) to practice speaking and for English speakers to get to know members of the immigrant community as individuals.

SCALE Fall 2016 Newsletter (.pdf)
SCALE Pre and Post-Assessment Likert (.pdf)
SCALE Spring 2017 Newsletter (.pdf)

Original Synopsis: To strengthen our ESOL curriculum through integrating current curriculum into the Ventures textbooks to make sure the curriculum properly aligned with textbooks and be more practical for the adult immigrant learners. We want to adopt core practices, curricula, and methodology that are effective and replicate, and are based on methodologies that have proved successful at VACA. To purchase Venture textbooks for immigrant students, those are just arrived in the U.S., struggling to make their ends meet and have very little source of income.

Curriculum with Teacher Feedback (.xlsx)

Original Synopsis: We plan to provide two semesters of computer classes, 2.5 hours per week, starting with computer basics in the fall, and advancing to intermediate computer use skills in the spring. We hope to serve a combination of those adults already in our ESOL classes as well as others in the community seeking to enhance their computer skills. In the fall, we will provide introduction to computer basics for those with no computer familiarity, including the English terminology to describe hardware, software, functions and processes on the computer; introduction to MS Word and basic typing skills; and introduction to the internet, including opening an e-mail account and learning how to use it. In the spring, we hope to help students use parts of the MS Office Suite more effectively, including more advanced usage of MS Word, introduction to Excel, and the basics of PowerPoint including a final presentation.

Welcome Project Final Course Booklet (.pdf)
Welcome Project Teacher Resources (.pdf)

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: To create a book that includes ten historical East Boston immigrant stories with accompanying illustrations that students can relate to.

NOAH Community Voices – Part I (.pdf)
NOAH Community Voices – Part II (.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)