The Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County

Dan Carpino, Introducing Challenging Topics to Adult English as an Additional Language (EAL) Learners


Short Interview

Dan teaches advanced English classes at The Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County. He promotes oral discussion in his English as an Additional Language (EAL) classroom by introducing topics that relate to current and pertinent social events, new laws and government decisions. He encourages his adult learners to explore and expand their views as well as others’ opinions on a variety of topics. While some topics may be controversial, opening such conversations in class allows Dan to communicate classroom and social rules of mutual respect among his students in the class and the broader community.

Díaz-Rico (2012) writes, “It is imperative that teachers encourage the language that is needed and desired by the students, and if that desire does not exist, to evoke those emotions and motivations as an integral part of instruction” (p. 37). Díaz-Rico continues, “Instruction – particularly in a second language – that is not meaningful and motivating to the learner becomes empty” (2012, p. 37). By allowing his students to discuss a variety of topics, Dan encourages the use of language that is relevant to students’ daily lives and interactions within their community. As Díaz-Rico writes, “Language learning occurs within social and cultural contexts” (2012, p. 78). Thus, language instruction becomes a task that supports students in gaining both the proper conventions of written and oral language as well as perspective and an opportunity to discuss social issues that affect their daily lives. Díaz-Rico (2012) states, “Proficiency in a second language also means becoming a member of the community that uses this language to interact, learn, conduct business, and love and hate, among other social activities” (p. 78). Listen below as Dan shares his approach to engaging his EAL adult learners in discussing controversial topics.

Karin Falconer, Language Learning Enriched by Technology

Short Interview

Karin is adult educator for English as an Additional Language (EAL) adult learners who are learning the target language English at the The Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County. She explains how she uses technology in the classroom to expand on traditional practices of word definition.

Cope and Kalantzis (2009) explain, “The logic of multiliteracies is one which recognizes that meaning-making is an active, transformative process, and pedagogy based on that recognition is more likely to open up viable life courses for a world of change and diversity” (p. 10). Accordingly, Karin uses technology to save time and help her adult learners gain a visual understanding, rather than abstract understanding, of concepts. For example, in the video below, Karin talks about teaching the word “salmon” and the concept of this type of fishing. Díaz-Rico (2012) states, “The instant communication available through the Internet connects students with other parts of the world, with speakers of English, and with rich sources in information” (p. 187). By using technology, Karin brought these concepts closer to her students, for instance, making the word “salmon” more immediate, real, and tangible.

Moreover, Karin specifies the importance of adult educators’ adaptability and flexibility to their classroom and adult learners’ academic, social, and personal needs. Díaz-Rico (2012) reminds teachers and adult educators that collaboration is also vital for “achieving social justice: equal access to, and opportunity for, equal education for all students” (p. 5). Listen below to Karin describe how she incorporates technology in innovative ways to teach her adult EAL learners.

Document Analysis

Lesson: Giving and Receiving Directions

Karin starts her class by projecting the worksheet on the whiteboard in front of the classroom. To review before the lesson, Karin goes through a few keywords and phrases relevant to the days’ lesson. When teaching a lesson on following and giving directions, Karin models various sentences pertaining to the lesson, using keywords and phrases from the lesson. For the lesson on giving and receiving directions, Karin starts with “South/East,” “South/West,” “North/East,” and “North/West.” Along with words and phrases, Karin focuses on reviewing prepositions and their purpose in writing.

When teaching about directions, one strategy Karin has found helpful is to allow students to navigate a map physically. Combining spatial, auditory, and oral literacy, adult learners give and receive directions, while other students navigate a map with a toy car. Kolb and Kolb (2005) outline six defining points of experiential learning. These points focus on student engagement and learning as a holistic experience. Kolb and Kolb state, “Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world. Not just the result of cognition, learning involves the integrated functioning of the total person – thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving” (2005, p. 194). The following pictures come from Karin’s lesson on giving and receiving directions. The following classroom worksheets allow students to advance their listening and speaking skills by engaging in various activities involving students to test their knowledge of the compass and directions. They also engage students in following directions to answer some true and false and fill in the blanks questions, ask directions in various situations and settings, and finally, apply their knowledge to a real-life situation where they have to read and navigate a fire escape plan.

Lesson: Medication

Learning to navigate the new world in a new language is an important skill Canadian newcomers must work to develop for a smooth transition into their new life. Karin recognizes this need and teaches in a way that enhances language learning and acquisition and enhances life skills learners may use in various daily life encounters. Scarino and Liddicoat (2009) cite Gee (2008) who wrote, “A sociocultural approach places a premium on learners’ experiences, social participation, use of mediating devices (tools and technologies), and position within various activity systems and communities of practice” (p. 28). Karin places such a premium on her adult learners’ in-class experience to make them comfortable in their out of class life experiences. The following document analysis pieces come from a lesson Karin taught on medication. She focused her lesson on showcasing where warning signs and side effects are located on medicine bottles. Within the lesson activities, students learned how to read medicine bottles and worked with subject-specific vocabulary such as “vomiting,” “headache,” “chills,” and “dizziness,” as seen in the illustrated section of the first worksheet. Moreover, class activities continue to expand on reading prescription details and instructions. The following worksheets combine visual and written literacies. Note adult learners are provided with a graphic organizer which allows them some independence in identifying clearly what they understand from reading the labels without necessarily writing out full sentence responses in the target language.


Karolina Gombos, The Importance of Functional Literacy for English Language Learners through Key Vocabulary Development

Karolina teaches lower intermediate adult learners at The Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County. When understanding language learning, the levels of language proficiency are dynamic, which means that they change as students grow and learn. These levels are reflected in the Council’s usage of the Canadian Language Benchmarks. TESOL also provides descriptors of the levels of language proficiency that accounts for the changes that take place are organized into five levels: starting, emerging, developing, expanding, and bridging (Herrell & Jordan, 2019). Karolina teaches students who are typically in the emerging stages of learning. When Karolina has students that are more fluent than others, or moving through the stages of learning more quickly, she will ask them more questions than others in order to differentiate or tailor the teaching to their current level of their learning.

“Collecting” words (Herrell & Jordan, 2001) is a strategy for helping learners develop better speaking and writing vocabularies. The development of an extensive vocabulary, and an understanding of word meanings, is ­essential to successful verbal interaction. The following documents showcase language learning with adult learners where they are connecting to the topic of “family” by learning and understanding new vocabulary using very simple sentences in the forms of writing, listening, and speaking. The first document has adult learners listen to a question to comprehend each family relationship with a prompt to choose an answer from three possible options.

The next document has adult learners write the correct family relationship for each expression, increasing the difficulty by forcing learners to use the memory of their newly learned vocabulary.

The final document has adult learners share information about their own family by responding orally to the following prompts. Later, these adult learners will bring in artifacts that represent aspects of their families that they will talk about with their peers. Karolina every day will ask them impromptu questions about their families to encourage practicing dialogue on this chosen topic. If there is a key vocabulary word the adult learners are unlikely to be familiar with, Karolina will quickly use Google Translate to translate the word into the 6-8 native tongue languages of the learners in her class to ensure everyone is understanding. 

These three documents show the progression of learners gradually increasing their language learning abilities on a certain topic by purposefully intersecting all dimensions of literacy through reading, writing, speaking, viewing, and representing. Each mode works in tandem with one another. Combining modes of literacy helps contribute to these adult learners building greater skill competencies and their own sense of confidence in expressing themselves in the target language, which in this case is English.

This type of language learning progression can be seen in different teaching unit examples. For instance, Karolina teaches her adult language learners about reading store receipts. After learners acquire new vocabulary, these three documents below, along with their instructions, show the progression of learning new words, and then applying these new words to comprehend information. The first document has learners follow various prompts when reading a receipt. Learners are given straightforward questions as well as multiple choice and true and false. Thus, even though learners still may not be strong in writing in English, through the variety of types of responses, the learners can share their comprehension nevertheless. The second and third document are much more challenging, requiring learners to reproduce and comprehend instructions. Moreover, the choice of focusing on how to read and understand a receipt is an important aspect of functional literacy that will serve adult learners in managing their everyday lives.




Ninia Sotto, Ways of Representing Language Learners’ Cultural Diversity

Ninia was an immigrant herself from the Philippines, and although English was one of her best subjects back home, when she moved to Canada, she found conversations to be very difficult. During university, she began attending and then volunteering at conversation classes for Canadian newcomers. Later, she was asked to supply teach these classes, eventually becoming a teacher. She has been teaching English Language Learners  (ELLs) ever since. She currently teaches at The Multicultural Centre of Windsor and Essex County acting as a resource person for all of the adult educators to support learning.

Ninia approaches teaching and learning in a very active and interactive way. She loves to create activities that culminate into something larger, building on skills that they are learning in class, or talents that these adult learners can bring into the classroom. Making meaning is defined by Ajayi (2008) as “a process by which learners gain critical consciousness of the interpretation of events in their lives in relation to the world around them” (p. 211). According to this concept, learners are able to construct meaning when it is influenced by their own social, cultural, and historical experiences. In Ninia’s classroom, this is typically done with community connections or activities that are connected to events and celebrations happening in the area. Examples of this include a community event, The Carousel of Nations, which is a signature event of the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex that happens each year. Over the span of two weekends in the summer, the public are able to explore the diverse cultures, music, dance and cuisine of over 20 villages, with each village representing a different nation. These villages are located around the city of Windsor and the counties of Essex. Ninia brings this cultural experience to her classroom by having her adult learners put on their own carousel, by creating and showcasing a dish from their culture.

Another example of Ninia’s interactive teaching can be seen in her “Pumpkin Face Off.” This activity is a contest where students carve images that are meaningful to them. These images may symbolize their life, their home country, or how they feel about Canada. According to Herrell and Jordan (2019), “appreciation of the values, customs, and unique contributions of the different cultures is heightened through the process of investigating multiple cultures through firsthand accounts of personal experiences” (p. 235). Along with the pumpkin, students have to write a paragraph describing that image. Finally on the event day, these language learners showcase their pumpkin, and other staff and students at the Centre come to this event to talk to the students about their pumpkins and meaningful images. Listen below as Ninia explains this activity and event in detail.


Images of the Pumpkin Face Off can be seen below.


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