L1 literacy in the ESL classroom : working with low-literate adult refugees




Brumback, Martha Louise

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Increased numbers of low educated adults lacking basic first language literacy skills are moving to the United States making literacy an important individual difference to consider in the field of second language acquisition and ESL instruction (Tarone, Bigelow, & Hansen, 2009; Young-Scholten, 2013). Many of the materials and instructional approaches typically used in ESL classes assume students are literate in their first languages which is increasingly not the case. These learners may be affected by difficult life experiences such as interrupted schooling resulting from long sojourns in refugee camps. Chapter one of this Report will give readers an introduction to some of these low-literate learners, focusing on the background of a specific group of Somali learners at Kakuma refugee camp. Chapters two and three review research on the development of literacy skills and the efficacy of various approaches to teaching basic literacy skills. Special attention is paid to how first language literacy skills might affect an individual's acquisition of L2 literacy. Chapter four examines a pilot ESL course which taught low-literate adult Somali refugees at Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya and suggests introducing basic first language literacy skills into the ESL course curriculum.



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