Beginning literacy

woman's hand with henna typing on a laptop

The College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) were created by the U.S. Department of Education to align adult basic education and ESL instruction across the states. They also provide learners attending ABE and ESL classes with the academic and critical thinking skills to be able to be successful in careers or higher education once they leave those programs.

New resource for teachers and tutors! Now you can watch a video of this activity and print a PDF of the instructions at

Purpose: To review and reinforce new vocabulary

Preparation Time:  5-10 minutes

Materials:  index cards, 8 for each pair of students in class

Hands holding up letters to spell the word tips in capital letters

Purpose:  To help beginning level learners develop phonemic awareness and increase spelling skills with a fun and interactive activity designed to get them out of their seats!

Preparation Time:  10 minutes to create a word list and letter cards

Materials Needed:  A word list with 6-10 words and letter cards (each card will have one of each letters from the word list).


four multi-colored stick figures with arms upraised

Purpose: Many students with limited literacy skills or learning challenges benefit from kinesthetic activities. Hands-on activities are minds-on activities.


lower case letter b followed by a yellow sticky note

Thanks to Patricia Cunningham’s book Month-By-Month Phonics, for supplying this great activity!

Purpose:  To help students use the word decoding strategies of initial consonants, word length, and context clues when they encounter new words while reading.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes

calendar pages

Activity Name:  Categorizing Months, Days and Years

Purpose:  to practice vocabulary for months, days and years, while using critical thinking skills

Preparation time:  enough time to cut up attached word cards (1 set per pair of students) and place them in envelopes, 20 minutes

vegetable vocabulary cards

Picture cards are a valuable, fun and flexible teaching tool. The tutor tip a couple weeks ago explained how to make them. This week we’ll look at ideas for using them.  Many of the suggestions work with words cards as well as picture cards. Here are twenty ideas to get you started:


Purpose: Picture stories are a multi-level resource that is especially valuable for working with beginning language learners. They can be used to build vocabulary, conversation, reading and writing skills.

Prep Time: 10-30 minutes, depending on the number of sets needed and the number of activity variations to plan for

Materials: one set of 4 to 10 pictures per pair of students; pencils and notebooks


job search picture story

Purpose: Picture cards and picture stories are great for both introducing and practicing vocabulary for beginning English learners and in multi-level classes. This tip explains how to create your own. Watch for future tips with ideas for using them.

Materials: presentation software (such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google slides, or similar), a printer, and scissors


women reading book

Purpose: Developing piano players listen to skilled piano players. Developing football players watch skilled football players. Developing readers need an opportunity to hear skilled readers.  Modelled reading gives students a chance to hear fluent reading and helps them understand the components of fluent reading.

Prep Time: 5-15 minutes



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