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NIFL-ESL 2004: [NIFL-ESL:10447] Re: Freire and adult ESL

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From: Laurie Ketzenberg (
Date: Mon Sep 13 2004 - 23:25:20 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ESL:10447] Re: Freire and adult ESL 
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I used that Digest as the core of an in-service while coordinating a VESL
program a few years ago.  Instructors developed activities based on
students' writings; vocabulary lists were generated, based on students' own
hi/stories and real life experiences;   this gave them a chance to practice
language in a social way that was truly meaningful for everyone.  Teachers
guided them to create books and dialogues that had application in their
lives (job interviews, doctors' appointments) as well as auto/biographies
and other hi/stories.  The content provided a context within which to weave
and ultimately spiral upwards, plenty of grammar practice in a real life
context.  However, classroom focus always remained on the students' themes
and not on language itself.

Joy Peyton and JoAnn Crandall also wrote a useful Digest: Philosophies and
Approaches in Adult ESL Literacy Instruction

Laurie Ketzenberg
Temple University

> From: "Lynda Terrill" <>
> Reply-To:
> Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2004 16:31:54 -0400 (EDT)
> To: Multiple recipients of list <>
> Subject: [NIFL-ESL:10440] Re: Freire and adult ESL
> Dear listers: 
> For a more direct link to the NCLE/ERIC document mentioned below, please go to
> on the NCLE Web site. This Q & A,
> "The Freirean Approach to Adult Literacy Education," was written by David
> Spener for NCLE in 1990 and revised in 1992.
> NCLE digests and other materials are still available online and paper copy
> despite the many changes in ERIC.  For a list of digests, Q & A's and briefs
> available to download, please see
> Lynda Terrill
> Nifl-ESL Moderator
> Technical Assistance and Web Coordinator
> National Center for ESL Literacy Education
> Center for Applied Linguistics
> 4646 40th St, NW
> Washington, DC 
> tel 202-362-0700
> fax 202-363-7204
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On Behalf Of PAUL ROGERS
> Sent: Thursday, September 02, 2004 4:02 PM
> To: Multiple recipients of list
> Subject: [NIFL-ESL:10439] Freire and adult ESL
> I just came upon a very interesting ariticle on applying Freire's methods to
> adult ESL:
> 2Fncle%2Fdigests%2FfreireQA.htm
> How can the Freirean approach be adapted for use in ESL literacy education?
> Literacy teachers in the United States and Canada who work with adult
> nonnative speakers of English have attempted to apply Freire's general
> approach using compatible ESL teaching methods and techniques. In doing so,
> they have had to overcome two important difficulties. First, Freire's approach
> assumes that learners are highly knowledgeable about the culture in which they
> live, and that they are expert speakers of the language that they are learning
> to read and write.
> For nonnative speakers of English in predominantly English-speaking countries,
> neither of these conditions pertains. How can teachers pose problems for their
> classes to discuss in English, and then develop literacy lessons based on
> these discussions, if their students cannot speak English?
> A number of authors have suggested that beginning ESL students can develop
> problem-posing and dialogue skills rather early on in their acquisition of
> English. Teachers can foster the process by focusing their initial instruction
> on development of their students' descriptive vocabularies and teaching them
> to use questions to exchange information in English.
> Some familiar ESL methods and techniques that have been used by Freirean
> practitioners to develop students' descriptive and questioning abilities have
> included language experience stories, oral histories, Total Physical Response
> activities, picture stories, the use of flash cards to introduce new
> vocabulary and structures, and skits conducted with puppets (Wallerstein,
> 1983; Nash, Cason, Rhum, McGrail, & Gomez-Sanford, in press; Faigin, 1985;
> Auerbach & Wallerstein, 1987; Barndt & Marino, 1983).
> A second problem for ESL teachers is that the spelling and syllabic structures
> of English do not lend themselves to the syllabary method originally used by
> Freire in Spanish and Portuguese. How, then, can generative words be used to
> build word-attack skills in reading and writing? Ra£l A€orve, a literacy
> trainer for California Literacy, uses a whole-word and word-family method.
> Learners memorize the spelling of each new vocabulary word and place them in
> lists of other words on the basis of similar morphological structure or
> related meaning. For example, the word "American" might appear in two
> different word lists:
> in one with words like "African," "Dominican," and "Canadian," and in another
> with words suggested by students like "apple pie," "Statue of Liberty," and
> "rich" (A€orve, personal communication, October 10, 1988).
> Other practitioners adapt the use of generative words to the phonics method of
> reading instruction, where students learn the spelling patterns of English in
> order to be able to sound out new words they need to read and write. In
> languages such as Spanish and Portugguese, generative words contain syllables
> that can be recombined to form new words. In English, generative words are
> used to teach other words witht he same sound-letter correspondences or
> similar morphological structure (Long & Speigel-Podnecky, 1988). Still others
> have abandoned the use of generative words altogether in favor of other whole
> language techniques developed for English.
> How can the ESL curriculum be based on students' life experiences and cultures
> when teachers do not speak students' languages?
> In her book Language and Culture in Conflict, Nina Wallerstein (1983)
> emphasizes that ESL teachers and students typically come from different
> cultural, linguistic, and economic backgrounds that need to be recognized as
> equally valid. To bridge this experience gap, teachers must make special
> efforts to get to know the realities faced by students in their personal lives
> and communities, either by living among their students or by observing in
> class and in the community. Wallerstein recommends that teachers visit the
> homes of their students as invited guests to learn first hand about their
> lives and families. To learn about the cultural attributes of students,
> teachers should attempt to be present as observers at times of cultural
> transmission from the older generation to the younger (social rites and
> child-rearing practices) and of cultural preservation (festivals and historic
> celebrations in the students' neighborhoods). They should learn about times of
> cultural disruption by!
> asking students either in simplified English or through an interpreter to
> describe their immigration to the host country and to compare their lives in
> the two countries. Teachers should also become familiar with the neighborhoods
> where students live, walking in them with students, taking photographs, and
> bringing realia back to class to discuss. In class, teachers should observe
> student interactions, including body language, and take note of students'
> actions, because these usually reveal their priorities and problems.
> The teacher should also invite students to share objects from their cultures
> with others in class.
> Having a bilingual aide in the ESL class can also facilitate dialogue on the
> cultural themes and problems that generate the curriculum in the Freirean
> approach. Hemmendinger (1987) found cultural themes and problems for the
> curriculum through classroom observation and conversations with her Laotian
> Hmong students. Sometimes problem-posing activities resulted from the sharing
> of cultural information; at other times the discussion of a problem led to
> intercultural dialogue. In one instance, for example, she found a student
> closely examining all the potted plants in the class. When Hemmindinger,
> through the bilingual aide, inquired as to why the student was interested in
> the plants, she found that he was a practitioner of Hmong herbal medicine.
> This theme led to a discussion of Hmong health and medicinal practices as they
> compared to those practiced by the dominant culture in Canada and problems
> that students were having as they confronted the Canadian health-care system.
> Can the Freirean approach be used with
> competency-based approaches to ESL?
> Although some educators advocating the Freirean approach have criticized
> competency-based ESL as being a form of "banking education" (Auerbach &
> Burgess, 1985; Graman, 1988), other Freire-inspired ESL teachers have
> described their use of competency-based instruction within the Freirean
> framework to teach specific language skills and functions (Faigin, 1985;
> Hemmendinger, 1987). Working with Central American refugees in Washington, DC,
> Spener (1990a) adapted the Freirean approach to the selection and development
> of ESL competencies in the curriculum. In bilingual discussion workshops,
> Spener and his students engaged in posing problems in which the solutions were
> related to the learning of English. The product of each of these workshops was
> a class syllabus agreed on by the group that included the daily situations
> where students felt improving their English would help them most. For each
> situation on a class's syllabus, Spener wrote out specific ESL competencies in
> Spanish and!
> English that he would then bring back to class for the students to reject,
> modify, or approve for inclusion in their syllabus. The syllabus, which was
> called the study agenda, served as a guide to follow, allowing Spener and his
> students to incorporate other elements of dialogue and problem"posing in class
> sessions to enrich the educational process (Spener, 1990a, 1990b).
> References
> A€orve, R. L. (1989). Community-based literacy
> educators: experts and catalysts for change. New Directions for Continuing
> Education, 42, 35-42.
> Ashton-Warner, S. (1963). Teacher. New York: Simon and Schuster.
> Auerbach, E. R., & Wallerstein, N. (1987). ESL for
> action: Problem-posing at work. Reading, MA:
> Addison-Wesley.
> Auerbach, E. R., & Burgess, D. (1985). The hidden curriculum of survival ESL.
> TESOL Quarterly, 10, 475-495.
> Barndt, D., & Marino, D. (1983). Getting there:
> Producing photostories with immigrant women. Toronto,
> Ontario: Between the Lines.
> Chacoff, A. (1989). (Bi)literacy and empowerment:
> Education for indigenous groups in Brazil. Working Papers in Educational
> Linguistics, 43-62.
> Philadelphia: Language Education Division of the University of Pennsylvania.
> Collins, S. D., Balmuth, M., & Jean, P. (1989). So we can use our own names,
> and write the laws by which we
> live: Educating the new U.S. labor Force. Harvard Educational Review, 59,
> 454-469.
> Facundo, B. (1984). Issues for an evaluation of Freire-inspired programs in
> the United States and Puerto Rico. Reston, VA: Latino Institute. (ERIC
> Document Reproduction Service No. ED 243 998)
> Faigin, S. (1985). Basic ESL literacy from a Freirean
> perspective: a curriculum unit for farmworker education. Major essay for the
> degree of Master of Education, University of British Columbia. (ERIC Document
> Reproduction Service No. ED 274 196)
> Fargo, G.A. (1981). The power of literacy applied to traditional birth
> attendants, Saulteaux-Cree Indians and Hawaiian children. Paper presented at
> the 48th annual meeting of the Claremont Reading Conference.
> (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 201967)Freire, P. (1973). Education
> for critical consciousness. New York: Seabury Press.
> Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New
> York: The Continuum Publishing Corporation.
> Goodman, K. (1986). What's whole in whole language?
> Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
> Graman, T. (1988). Education for humanization:
> Applying Paulo Freire's pedagogy to learning a second language. Harvard
> Educational Review, 58, 433-448.
> Gudschinsky, S. C. (1976). Handbook of literacy.
> Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
> Hamayan, E., & Pfleger, M. (1987). Developing literacy in English as a second
> language: guidelines for teachers of young children from non-iterate
> backgrounds. Teacher Resource Guide Number 1.
> Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. (ERIC Document
> Reproduction Service No. ED 290 343)
> Hemmendinger, A. (1987). Two models for using problem-posing and cultural
> sharing in teaching the Hmong English as a second language and first language
> literacy. Unpublished master's thesis, St. Francis Xavier University,
> Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
> Hope, A., Timmel S., & Hodzi, C. (1984). Training for transformation, Vols. I,
> II & III. Harare, Zimbabwe:
> Mambo Press.
> Jurmo, P. (1987). Learner participation practices in adult literacy in the
> United States. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts.
> Laubach, F. C. (1947). Teaching the world to read. New
> York: Friendship Press.
> Long, L. D., & Spiegel-Podnecky, J. (1988). In Print.
> Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
> Nash, A., Cason, A., Rhum, M., McGrail, & Gomez-Sanford, R. (1989). Talking
> shop: a curriculum sourcebook for participatory adult ESL. Boston:
> English Family Literacy Project of the University of Massachusetts/Boston.
> Newman, J., (Ed.). (1985). Whole language: Theory in use. Portsmouth, NH:
> Heinemann.
> Noble, P. (1983). Formation of Freirean facilitators.
> Chicago, IL: Latino Institute. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 256
> 845)
> Rabideau, D. (Ed.). (1989). El espanol en marcha [Spanish on the March].
> Comite de Educacion Basica en Espanol.
> Shor, I., & Freire, P. (1987). A pedagogy for
> liberation: Dialogues on transforming education with Ira Shor and Paulo
> Freire. New York: Bergin and Garvey.
> Simich-Dudgeon, C. (1989). English literacy
> development: Approaches and strategies that work with limited English
> proficient children and adults (Occasional Papers in Bilingual Education, 12).
> Washington, DC: New Focus: The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education
> Spener, D. (1990a). Setting an agenda for study in home-based ESL classes with
> native speakers of Spanish. Unpublished manuscript.
> Spener, D. (1990b). Suggested structure for meetings of home-based ESL classes
> for native speakers of Spanish. Unpublished manuscript. (ERIC Document
> Reproduction Service No. ED 318 300).
> Wallerstein, N. (1983). Language and culture in
> conflict: Problem-posing in the ESL classroom.
> Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
> For Further Reading
> Association for Community Based Education. (1988).
> Literacy for empowerment: A resource handbook for community based educators.
> Washington, DC: Author.
> (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 321 593)
> Auerbach, E.R. (1989). Toward a social-contextual approach to family literacy.
> Harvard Educational Review, 59, 105-151.
> Auerbach, E. R. (in press). Making meaning, making
> change: Participatory curriculum development for adult ESL literacy.
> Washington, DC and McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta
> Systems. 
> Fauteux, D., & Alamo, M. (1991). Palabras de lucha y alegria [Words of
> struggle and joy]. Syracuse, NY: New Readers Press.
> Freire, P. (1985). The politics of education. New
> York: Bergin and Garvey.
> Rivera, K.M. (1990). Devewloping native language literacy in language minority
> adults. ERIC Digest.
> Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse on Literacy Education.
> Vella, J. K. (1989). Learning to teach: Training of trainers for community
> development. Washington, DC:
> OEF International.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> --
> ERIC/NCLE Digests are available free of charge from the National Center for
> ESL Literacy Education (NCLE),
> 4646 40th Street NW, Washington, DC 20016-1859; (202) 362-0700, ext. 200;
> e-mail: World Wide
> Web:
> Citations with an ED number may be purchased from the ERIC Document
> Reproduction Service (EDRS) at 1-800-443-3742; or at email:;
> or at
> The National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE) is operated by the
> Center for Applied Linguistics
> (CAL) with funding from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of
> Educational Research and Improvement, under contract no. RR 93002010. The
> opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or
> policies of ED or the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
> More NCLE Digests and Q&As
> NCLE Homepage
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