Supporting Adult Emergent Readers with Literacy Instruction: Resources and Trainings Available


Here at the English Empowerment Center we offer our Adult ESOL Instructor Basics training three times a year – in January, May, and August – for new volunteer teachers, class aides, and supplemental tutors to learn basic principles, strategies, and tools for teaching adult English learners. Volunteers are welcome to repeat the training, but we know that volunteers will need further training to go beyond the basics. A frequent topic is how to teach reading and writing to someone learning to read for the first time. If you have already begun volunteering with us, you may have worked with adult emergent readers one on one or in a small group in supplemental tutoring or in class.

Volunteers are encouraged to contact academic program staff at the English Empowerment Center for suggestions, but we recognize that learning takes many forms. As we prepare for the spring semester to start next month, here are some staff favorites for supporting foundational reading and writing skills that you can peruse on your own time – resources, classroom videos, and upcoming webinars.


Some of the following resources were curated by the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center. Peruse their collection of beginning-literacy resources here. Once you are in the entry for a specific resource, click the “View Resource” button.

Evidence-based reading strategies

It is important first to understand the different profiles of literacy learners. Read this research brief to learn about the different types of literacy learners and considerations for each. Then read about five evidence-based strategies for teaching adult learners to read in English.

One strategy is the Language Experience Approach (LEA) which elicits learner-generated content that can be used to develop reading and writing skills in tutoring and classroom. It can help build from what learners can say to what they can learn to read and write.

Lists of suggested activities

Screening tool

Phonics workbook

  • Download and print this open resource book, Adult ESL Phonics: Literacy Level Units 1-4 and Units 5-8 by Jen Sacklin for a sequenced introduction to phonics for adult English learners. Flash cards of the vocabulary are in the back of the book. A brief rationale for the book is on page 84 in the first link.


In-person classroom examples

  • Watch this 30-minute training video, Building Literacy with Adult Emergent Readers by New American Horizons, to see how a class field trip to a local hardware store gets used by the teacher to create a learner-generated text that supports literacy skills, vocabulary, pronunciation within a meaningful, real-life context of housing problems. You can use the video chapters to skip to the sections that interest you.
  • Watch this 50-minute classroom demonstration, with accompanying lesson plan and viewing guide, to see some ways to use a health-related picture story to help literacy learners develop listening and speaking skills and reading skills (phonics, comprehension).

Using the tool Google Jamboard to support literacy instruction

  • Watch this 25-minute presentation by Destination Workforce® teacher Darlene Fahrenkrug to learn some ways to use Google Jamboard with literacy and beginning-level adult English learners. You can use the video chapters to skip to the sections that interest you. Toward the end of the video, she walks through how to create and share a Jamboard. Find beginning-level stories and accompanying Jamboard activities in the ESL Story Bank featured in this article in the last newsletter.

While there are still few-to-no recorded videos available of virtual classes, the webinars listed below showcase strategies that can work in person and remotely to help learners develop foundational reading and writing skills.

Upcoming webinars and trainings

We post free professional development events in our Professional Learning Opportunities calendar. Find other events of interest in the calendar here.