How Much Are the Peppers?

These short videos were created for teachers who are teaching lower levels of adult ESL.

Heide Spruck Wrigley
Jim Powrie
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Coalition of Limited Speaking Elderly (CLESE)
Literacywork International
Publication Year
Resource Type

The students in this series of video clips are Bosnians in Chicago who participated in an EL Civics class targeting elderly immigrants and refugees. A key concept illustrated here is that language develops more quickly and deeply if students get a chance to talk about things that matter to them. In the segments, students take a field trip to a farm where they pick their own vegetables and then go to a grocery store to compare prices. 

These short videos were created for teachers new to teaching lower levels of adult ESL, or for those seeking new ways to make instruction hands-on, relevant, and interesting for learners. The four video segments are accompanied by ESL literacy expert Heide Wrigley’s commentary, and she provides the pedagogical rationale for each.

The videos clearly and concisely illustrate what Wrigley outlines as six guiding principles for adult language and literacy learning:

  • Start with things that matter.
  • Nudge students to take risks with language in a supportive environment.
  • Link classroom and community.
  • Use English in different ways and in different contexts.
  • Connect oral and written language; receptive skills generally precede written skills.
  • Use authentic materials.

These video clips could be used in a number of ways by both classroom teachers and professional developers. Teachers can view them independently or with colleagues to learn more about teaching beginning English literacy, the language experience approach, and how to tap into students’ oral skills. Professional developers can use them in presentations or professional learning activities around community engagement, linking oral and written skills, hands-on learning, and bringing literacy to life in the adult ESL classroom.

Required Training


What the experts say

The question of how to make adult ESL learning meaningful and active for learners is not a new one, but a culture of “packets and worksheets” persists in our field. These videos illustrate how we can effectively get language and literacy “off the page” and into the hands of our learners in meaningful ways. We are shown both how to link our classrooms with our communities and how language and literacy can be taught with purpose and cohesion even at lower levels.

In “How Much Are the Peppers?” the viewer is introduced to both excellent pedagogy and clear rationales for these choices. These short video clips are useful for the adult ESL teacher to watch independently or for a professional developer to create a workshop that embeds these clips. The clips alternate between an expert rationale (from Heide Wrigley) and footage from real adult ESL classrooms.

Significant features include Wrigley’s principles for teaching adult ESL literacy, listed in the abstract above. The videos demonstrate the Language Experience Approach, moving from the prework in the classroom to an actual shared experience in the community (a visit to a farm), then back to the classroom for language and literacy followup work, and additional time in the community. Even for a new teacher or one new to adult education, Wrigley’s six guiding principles concisely summarize the essential priorities that should be embraced in our work with adult immigrants and refugees.  

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