Hands-on: Lessons for ESL adults

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Nina Greenwald


In this synthesis I offer hands-on lessons that provide materials to meet the needs of adults who speak little or no English. In the chapters preceding the lessons I explain my personal struggle to learn English. Following that, I review the theories of educators and linguists which are applicable to learning English and language acquisition. The educators, Lev Vygotsky, Paolo Freire, and Howard Gardner provide support for my vision of teaching beginner adults. Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, and Stephen Krashen are linguists whose theories of human language connect to second language acquisition for adults. Each lesson has a critical thinking component presented along with hands-on materials. The goal of creating these lessons is to provide materials that adults would find in their community. I have created hands-on lessons for beginners that use real life materials. The food and clothing lessons contain materials found in local stores. This offers a solution to what I see as an ongoing problem, how to teach English language skills to adults. These lessons contain information the students can use in their daily lives. For example words for breakfast foods found in Boston stores and restaurants are presented along with the actual food products. This synthesis includes a review of current materials used for teaching ESL including workbooks, flashcards and internet web sites. The drawback of these materials is that they are not user friendly for an immigrant who speaks little or English. My lessons for beginners lead the students to incorporate their prior knowledge and encourage them to use their reasonable thinking. This synthesis supports the concept of teaching non-English speaking adults how to speak English first through local talk and materials.


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