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References and PD Resources

for EAL Literacy

This section includes references that informed the best practices and resources (academic articles, websites, videos, tutorials, courses, etc.) for professional development and further learning on this topic.

This guide supports LINC service providers to meet IRCC objectives and support learners with complex needs, including those with physical, learning, and mental health challenges, and literacy barriers. The guide provides strategies for both instructors and administrators for each of the following:

  • Building reflexivity
  • Developing awareness of and addressing learner needs
  • Empathic communication

Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA). (2019). A principles-based approach to supporting LINC learners.

This site contains links to ESL and low literacy adult ESL resources, including curriculum, classroom activities, articles, and videos that aid teachers' preparation in an ESL literacy setting.

Atlas ABE Teaching and Learning Advancement System. (2021). Low-literacy adult ESL resources.

This document is relevant to those teaching semi-literate learners at intermediate CLB levels (CLB 4–6) who may be transitioning to employment programs.

Atlas ABE Teaching and Learning Advancement System. (2016). Transitions Integration Framework: An Atlas project to advance transitions instruction for all ABE learners in Minnesota.

This substantial book (PDF) is designed for instructors teaching adult ESL literacy learners. After introducing adult ESL literacy in Canada, it presents a framework of literacy skills for adult ESL literacy learners. It explores eight separate skill areas for reading and writing, along with strategies for developing targeted skills in each area.

There are also chapters on creating an effective learning environment, planning instruction, teaching oral language, teaching literacy skills, and materials and resources.

Bow Valley College. (2018). A practical guide to teaching ESL literacy.

This framework guides program administrators, curriculum developers, and instructors as they go through the process of developing curriculum to meet the needs of adult ESL literacy learners. It provides support for each of the stages of curriculum development:

  1. Understand needs
  2. Determine focus
  3. Set learning outcomes
  4. Integrate assessment
  5. Demonstrate accountability

Each stage includes guiding principles, as well as a key issue in adult ESL literacy instruction and related guiding principles for instruction.

Bow Valley College. (2011). Learning for LIFE: An ESL literacy curriculum framework.

This document lists 12 guiding principles for ESL literacy learner instruction that encourage success and empower learners with language, learning strategies, and life skills.

Bow Valley College. (2011). Guiding principles for teaching ESL literacy learners. In Learning for LIFE: An ESL literacy handbook [Support document].

This document lists 6 recommendations (i.e., promising practices) and a checklist that focuses on what an effective classroom for adult literacy learners would look like. It is designed for instructors, program providers, and others involved in supporting and teaching adult ESL literacy learners.

Bow Valley College. (2011). Building a classroom of excellence. In Learning for LIFE: An ESL literacy handbook [Support document].

Designed for program providers and instructors, this tool provides information on how to support adult ESL learners. It identifies common barriers to learning and addresses ways to do the following:

  • Identify learners with barriers
  • Help learners overcome barriers
  • Address learner barriers
  • Provide academic support
  • Set goals

Bow Valley College. (2011). Supporting ESL literacy learners. In Learning for LIFE: An ESL literacy handbook [Support document].

This handbook is designed for instructors, program coordinators, and others supporting and teaching adult ESL learners. It includes promising practices, classroom strategies, and a toolbox of materials and ideas for teaching.

Bow Valley College. (2009). Learning for LIFE: An ESL literacy handbook.

This web page provides resources, tools for program development, and resources for classroom instruction. (Many of the larger key documents are listed separately.)

See “Planning Tools” in Essentials for Classroom Instruction. These include excerpts from the ESL Literacy Curriculum Framework and include the following:

  • Classroom needs assessment guide
  • Accountability checklist for instructors
  • Theme unit and lesson planning guide
  • Portfolio planning and implementation

See “Stories from the Field” for inspiring accounts of innovations in programming in the area of adult ESL literacy.

Bow Valley College. (2017). ESL literacy network. Essentials for Classroom Instruction.

Bow Valley College. (2017). ESL literacy network. Stories from the Field.

This document can be downloaded for free from the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks website.

ESL for Adult Literacy Learners (ALL) is a benchmarking document designed specifically for adult ESL literacy learners.

Part 1 addresses key issues related to ESL literacy instruction, including the importance of oral communication, learning strategies, numeracy, digital literacy, and sociocultural knowledge. For each of these topics, there is a table identifying a progression of skills, knowledge, and strategies in three stages: emerging, building, and expanding.

Part 2 is the benchmarking portion. It includes descriptions of 5 levels of ESL literacy Reading and ESL literacy Writing, relating each of these to the CLB benchmarks. Each level includes a description of what learners can do at the level, examples of skill-building activities for the level, a description of conditions for learning and typical supports. Each level also includes three sample tasks, contextualized in study, community, and work, in each of the 4 CLB competency areas.

Part 3 is a continuum of ESL literacy skills, addressing 9 key strands of literacy development for Reading and Writing.

Note: On the Canadian Language Benchmarks’ eLearning portal, you can access a free 20-hour self-directed course orienting you to ESL for Adult Literacy Learners (ALL).

Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB). (2016). ESL for adult literacy learners (ALL).

This document can be downloaded for free from the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks website.

This is a support kit for the CLB ESL for ALL benchmarking document. It includes approaches, strategies and classroom examples related to using ESL for ALL to help with:

  • Module/lesson planning
  • Assessment
  • Supporting learners in multilevel and mixed-level classes

The last half of the document includes sample module plans, lesson plans, and activity handouts for each of the 5 levels of ESL literacy described in ESL for ALL, along with a sample digital literacy lesson plan.

At the end of the document are illustrative learner profiles for each level, aligned to the ESL for ALL continuum strands, and matched with teaching strategies.

Note: On the Canadian Language Benchmarks’ eLearning portal, you can access a free 5-hour self-directed course orienting you to ESL for ALL Support Kit. When completed, you will receive a certificate of completion.

Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB). (2017). CLB: ESL for ALL support kit.

This portal includes self-directed training courses on a variety of topics. You will need to register to access the courses. Once registered, scroll to the bottom of the page and select CLB Literacy Training Courses.

CCLB E-learning Portal.

This resource includes a simple test to assess native language literacy in English, Amharic, Arabic, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, and Swahili.

College of Education + Human development (CE+HD). (2016). Native language literacy assessment (NLLA). University of Minnesota.

The framework provides a practical tool for planning and implementing transition programs for young adult ESL literacy learners. It includes support, good practices, and tools for each of the following stages:

  • Identify and recruit learners
  • Support and retain learners
  • Teach and transition learners

Collins, L., & Leong, M. (2007). Bridging the gap: A framework for teaching and transitioning low literacy immigrant youth. Bow Valley College.

In this video, Echelberger demonstrates how she helps adult emergent readers develop beginning literacy skills. She combines language experience stories with a Whole-Part-Whole approach.

Echelberger, A. (2004). Teaching ESL to adults: Classroom approaches in action, Volume 1, Building literacy with adult emergent readers [Video].

ECALA is a granting council that builds agencies' capacity to deliver their courses and funds 27 agencies within Edmonton. The “Resources” page of their website lists resources for foundational learning, and their “PD Calendar and Learning Opportunities” page lists free professional development opportunities related to adult literacy, basic digital skills, ELL, numeracy, and more.

Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA). (n.d.)

This guide is designed to support ESL literacy instructors, volunteers, and program coordinators who are attempting to use technology with ESL literacy learners. It lists guiding principles for the following:

  • providing access and institutional support
  • orienting ESL literacy learners to technology
  • pedagogical considerations
  • learners
  • instructors

The guide also lists online resources for professional development for teachers, as well as online teaching resources.

This resource can be downloaded from

This document includes sets of checklists and “I Can” statements” for Foundation and CLB 1L classes. These checklists can be used for needs assessment and focusing instruction.

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS). (n.d.) ISANS literacy curriculum guidelines. (Download from

LESLLA aims to support adults who have little or no home language literacy and are now learning to write for the first time in a new language. The work at LESLLA encompasses a multidisciplinary, multilingual sharing of research, pedagogical practices, and information on policy worldwide. Explore their Heritage Language Resources Hub to access family literacy resources in LESLLA learners’ home languages.

Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults (LESLLA). (n.d.).

The page has a walkthrough of learning approaches, literacy levels, skills, and professional development, and a list of in-house resources that teachers have created to fit their learners' needs.

This collaborative hub of literacy resources links to websites, tools, techniques, curriculum, and professional teacher training. Printable resources, videos, and podcasts are posted on their page, and in-house literacy resources developed by TIES teachers can be accessed using Google accounts. The hub aims to acknowledge ESL practitioners' excellent work and highlight the best practices for ESL literacy through collaboration with different service providers in Calgary and beyond.

The Immigrant Education Society (TIES). (n.d.). Literacy Centre of Expertise: A hub for English literacy resources.

This hub includes a list of ESL literacy resources (PDFs and videos).

Literacy Minnesota Educator Resources. (n.d.).

This document focuses on “a framework for biliteracy programming for adult English language learners who are both learning a new language and learning to read and write for the first time, in any language.” It includes the needs assessment, curriculum framework development and literacy assessment tools in four languages: Farsi, Nepali, Tigrinya, and English.

Wall, T. (2020). A curriculum framework for biliteracy learning with adult ESL literacy learners. Can Learn Society.

The following are additional references that informed the best practices.

Abbott, M. L., Lee, K. K., & Rossiter, M. J. (2018). Evaluating the effectiveness and functionality of professional learning communities in adult ESL programs. TESL Canada Journal, 35(2), 1–25.

Altherr Flores, J. A. (2021, March). The semiotics of writing: How adult L2 learners with emergent literacy make meaning in assessment texts through writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 51, 1–13.

Bigelow, M., & Schwarz, R. L. (2010). Adult English language learners with limited literacy. National Institute for Literacy.

Condelli, L., Wrigley, H., Yoon, K., Seburn, M., & Cronen, S. (2007). What works study for adult ESL literacy students. American Institutes for Research and Aguirre International.
(Or see this link for a summary of the study:

DeCapua, A., & Marshal, H. W. (2010, March). Serving ELLs with limited or interrupted education. TESOL Journal, 1(1), 49–70.

DeCapua, A., & Marshall, H. W. (2015, January). Implementing a mutually adaptive learning paradigm in a community-based adult ESL literacy class. Low-educated second language and literacy acquisition: Proceedings of the 9th annual symposium (pp. 151–171).

DeCapua, A., Marshall, H. W., & Frydland, N. (2017). The transformational learning journey of a novice ELS teacher of low-literate adults. Journal of Transformative Education, 16(1), 17–38.

Derwing, T., & Makicky, G. (1992). ESL literacy learners: Where do we go from here? Reflections on Canadian Literacy, 10(4), 220–225.

Florez, M. A., & Terrill, L. (2003, July). Working with literacy-level adult English-language learners. Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) Network.

Gardner, S., Polyzoi, E., & Rampaul, Y. (1996). Individual variables, literacy history, and ESL progress among Kurdish and Bosnian immigrants. TESL Canada Journal, 14(1), 1–20.

Laberge, C., Beaulieu, S., & Fortier, V. (2019). Developing oral comprehension skills with students with limited or interrupted formal education. Languages, 4(3), 75.

Lee, K. (2017). Using collaborative strategic reading with refugee English language learners in an academic bridging program. TESL Canada Journal, 33, 97–108.

Malicky, G. V., & Derwing, T. (1993). Literacy learning of adults in a bilingual ESL classroom. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, XXXIX(4), 393–406.

Marshall, H. W. (2020, July). Minimizing cultural dissonance for SLIFE. TESOL Connections.

Marshal, H., DeCapua, A., & Antolini, C. (2010). Engaging English language learners with limited or interrupted formal education. Educators Voice, 3, 56–65.

Page, J. (2009). Connecting the dots: Accountability and adult literacy. Linkage Report. Centre for Literacy in Quebec.

Severinsen, D., Kennedy, L., & Mohamud, A. (2018). Teaching strategies that motivate English language adult literacy learners to invest in their wducation: A literature review. Literacy and Numeracy Studies, 26(1), 25–42.

Suh, E., & Shapiro, S. (2020). Making sense of resistance: How adult immigrant students pursue agency through identity work in higher educational contexts. TESL Canada Journal, 37(3).

Vinogradov, P. (2009). Balancing top and bottom: Learner-generated texts for teaching phonics. LESSLA.

Vinogradov, P. (2013). Defining the LESLLA teacher knowledge base. In T. Tammelin-Laine, L. Nieminen, & M. Martin (Eds.), Low-educated second language and literacy Acquisition: Proceedings of the 8th Symposium (pp. 12–24).

Vinogradov, P. (2014). Adult ESL and kindergarten: An unlikely meeting to improve literacy instruction. MinneTESOL Journal, 30(1).

Vogl, L. (2017). Cultural dissonance of elder learners in beginning literacy and language classrooms [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Hamline University.

Vogl, L. (2017). Indigenous knowledge and literacy acquisition: A qualitative study of 155 low-literate elder refugees’ educational backgrounds and cultural dissonance. In Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults (LESLLA): Proceedings of the 13th annual symposium (pp.155–169).

Wall, T. (2018). Identifying skills and addressing the gaps for struggling ESL literacy learners. Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA).

Wall, T. (2019). Impact of language and L1 literacy on settlement in Canada. In Literacy education and second language learning for adults (LESLLA): Proceedings of the 13th annual symposium (pp. 170–187).

Whiteside, A. (2008). Who is “YOU”? ESL literacy, written text and troubles with deixis in imagined spaces. In Low-educated second language and literacy acquisition: Proceedings of the 13th annual forum, pp.99–107.