Retro, Vintage, Time-Tested

Whenever my colleague Alison Simpson and I collaborate in facilitating professional development for ESOL teachers, we always seem to end up discussing our favorite materials, methods, and approaches from “back in the day.” Both of us started teaching adult immigrants in the 1980s, when resources for teaching ESOL were few and far between. But we did have our favorites, our tried and true repertoire that still serves us well today. Our nostalgia has been partly fueled by the prevailing emphasis in adult basic education on digital literacy and a somewhat rigid connection to College and Career Readiness standards—both of which have an important place in a teaching and learning repertoire, but not to the exclusion of other content and approaches to second language acquisition. We decided it was time to resuscitate our favorites in the form of a workshop: Retro, Vintage, Interactive Activities for the ESOL Class.

Planning for this workshop was fun. We sat down and brainstormed all our favorite methods, activities, and resources: Language Experience Approach. Problem Posing. Dialogue Journals. Using Grids and Graphic Organizers. Double Action Pictures. Cuisenaire Rods. Many of these approaches and resources—some of which we consider the basics—have gone out of favor, replaced by ever more specific and slick commercially published workbooks, CDs, and digital apps.  Based on our favorites, we designed a two-session, highly interactive workshop for teachers.

Registrations came in early and we soon had full enrollment with a waiting list.

It soon became clear that ESOL teachers were craving these interactive approaches, methods, and materials as well. A pad of flip chart paper, a few markers, a few visuals, and a lot of imagination were all we needed to interact, move, laugh, and learn. We memorized a song in another language in 10 minutes, using an old method called the “Vanishing Technique.” We did an improvisation activity as a way to teach vocabulary, getting out of our seats and away from worksheets. We exploited the heck out of the use of grids. Each activity was grounded in a rationale based on sound language acquisition theory and research and shared.

Feedback from participants was highly positive, and they left with practical tools for teaching and learning—appropriate for classrooms that are not digitally equipped or have Wi-Fi access. We are looking forward to session #2!

by Lenore Balliro

Learn More:

Resources from previous workshops are posted online on our Resources for Educators page.

See what other great workshops we have coming up (and register!) on our Professional Development for Educators page.