Looking for web sites for low educated/low literacy learner

Hello All:

I need help finding web sites for an adult low educated/low literacy learner.  This learner speaks English at the high intermediate level, which is remarkable considering her background.  I will spare you her long history, but she has special learning needs resultng from a childhood head injury.  Her goal is to learn how to write her name.  She enjoys using the computer, and our class meets in the computer lab.  She has computer/internet access at home.

We've tried USALearns, but it is above her level for independent work.  Does anyone have any suggestions for web sites that are geared towards LE/LL learners, mouse skills, letter-sound recognition, lots of visuals, etc.?  She also likes to listen to downloads on her iPod.  Any suggestions for downloadables is much appreciated, too. 

Thank you so much for any suggestions you may have.

Susan Watson






One established approach (Quann and Satin, Learning Computers, Speaking English, http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=332090 ) to simultaneously enhance English language learning and introduce digital literacy is by engaging adult students in learning projects in which they use simple, easy digital applications to make something they care about, for example: a greeting card, blog, digital or print poster, slide show presentation, or simple narrated how-to video.

In the Technology and Learning Community of Practice I have recently posted a message about digital literacy, and a discussion has ensued. Steve Quann has replied with some suggestions about PhotoStory 3, an easy-to-use free/inexpensive application that can be used with high beginner ESOL students.

Another idea, that was discussed on the LINCS Technology and Distance Learning discussion list, is using inexpensive portable keyboards with English language learners. You will find a great short video of Santa Ana College ESOL professor using these keyboards with her ESL students in the OTAN Video Gallery at http://www.otan.us/browse/dsp/dsp_videotechintegration.cfm Free registration and log-in are required.

Everyone, I am interested in what (ideally free) software and applications adult ESOL/ESL teachers have found to be especially useful to their students who are learning digital literacy skills at least in part through project-based learning.

If I get good suggestions from teachers or those who work with them, I’ll compile these and post a link to the this CoP. You can reply here or, if you prefer, email me at djrosen123@gmail.com .


Thank you, David, for posting the suggestiong above. I hope members do send ideas to the CoP. It is an important topic. I just returned from a day's training at the Fingerlakes Regional Adult Education Network (RAEN) in Rochester, NY. I was giving a presentation on bridging the gap between the skills taught in adult ABE/ESL programs and skills needed to transition to certificate or academic post-secondary programs.  A huge gap mentioned by several participants was resources for improving learners' technology skills.


Miriam Burt

Subject Matter Expert, Adult English Language Learner CoP




It is good to hear that you have developed a training to bridge the gap between the skills taught in ESL/ABE and Career & Technical Education (CTE) and College. Would you be able to share the presentation, or some of its key content?

However, for some time now it has been clear that the problem is not that  teachers do not know "what" to teach to prepare students to be ready to enter college or CTE programs.  The problem is that the skill descriptors and the test score ranges of the NRS do not go far enough.  

In Florida, with guidance from ESOL practioners around the state the FLDOE recently revised its course titled "English Literacy for Career and Technical Education" (ELCATE).  The link to the curriculum standards for this course is http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/dwdframe/ad_frame.asp.  

The ELCATE course is intended to prepare English Language Learners (ELL) to enter a Career & Technical program. When writing the curriculum for the ELCATE course, we did our best to align the curriculum standards to the skill descriptors and test scores of the NRS. But there is much more they need to learn that is not covered within the range of the NRS.  The top scores of tests that show completion of the NRS levels do not reach high enough.  We could add more content standards to the course to cover this gap, but the students would not show any gain once they reach the top score of the NRS Advanced level.  Programs that provide this extra content beyond the Advanced Level of the NRS would end up showing that students in their program made no gain because the NRS does not provide a way to report that extra level in its score ranges.

At our last state conference with adult educators I had a presentation with teachers who teach the ELCATE course.  Most of the teachers recognize this gap.  Most of them know and understand what students need to learn in order to pass placement tests for CTE courses, and they do what they can to give students those skills, beyond what the NRS covers.  But the program administrators point out to the teachers that their students will not show a learning gain from being taught the skills that are not covered within the NRS ranges.

Your comments would be welcome on what can be done to help these students within the current system.  

Phil Anderson, FLDOE Program Specialist for Adult ESOL

David, thank you for taking the time to reply.  I will certainly check out the tech and learning CoP as well as the Quann and Satin approach.  Indeed, I am trying to work on literacy skills while simultaneously teaching basic computing skills.  Teaching the letters of the alphabet along with keyboarding skills is somewhat complimentary. I need to watch the Santa Ana video.  I am struck by how much the digital world is restricted to those with high literacy skills.  Thank you again, and see you on the other CoP.  Susan

Susan, and others,


Teaching basic literacy, including letters of the alphabet simultaneously with teaching basic word processing was pioneered by Antonia (Toni) Stone in her terrifically useful book for adult literacy teachers, Keystrokes to Literacy, available inexpensively at http://www.amazon.com/Keystrokes-Literacy-Computer-Learning-Beginning/dp/0844206792  Toni was also responsible for establishing the first community computing center, in New York City, and for helping community computing centers get established all over the country through the Playing To Win Network.

David J. Rosen

Hi Susan,

There is a new feature on the teacher site of USALearns that might help you find some sites that work for your student.  USALearns has added a database of free websites that correlate to each unit of the 1st and 2nd Courses.  Just sign in as a teacher and look for "Resources for Teachers", and select the last item in the list, "More Practice." The next screen will give you a choice of the two courses, and of course you'd choose 1st English Course. Each unit has between 10 and 16 links with descriptions. Start with unit 1 and you'll find an Alphabet Literacy link that has letter-sound recognition. For lots of visuals you may try something like Learning Chocolate (also linked in this Database) The DB gives you info about the sites and the sites correlate to the level, so it should save you some time in your searching for appropriate materials for your student.

You say she likes to listen to downloads on her iPod.  I'm guessing that would be at the high intermediate level?  For those links, try 2nd Course. You can refine the search by requesting Listening skills.

Good luck!

Evelyn Fella

I compiled my website www.EnglishSpellingProblems.co.uk mainly to explain what makes learning to read and write English exceptionally difficult, but its pages can also be used for teaching and learning.

The Learning to Read    pagepage -  http://englishspellingproblems.co.uk/html/learning_to_read.html  - can be used for  reinforcing  the main pronunciations of English graphemes (grouped by vowels, e.g. a, an, and, ant .....bike, bite, chime, crime

The page  www.englishspellingproblems.co.uk/html/sight_words  can be used for teaching and learning to read graphemes with variable spellings (e.g. treat, great, threaten). Near the end of that page are 190 very high frequency words.

They can obviously also be printed out and given to pupils for typing practice.

The old-fashioned 'look - say - cover - write/type - check' method remains helpful for learning to spell.



Hi, Masha and all:.

Thanks for posting your link. I suggest that members continue to post to this thread as you locate new Websites for working with this population or to report progress using some of these sites.


Miriam Burt
SME, English Language Learners CoP



http://www.ozreadandspell.com.au - a half-hour cartoon video overvew of the English spelling system, so lerners can find out where they ar stuck, and see what is ahed.  In normal spelling


http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/literacy.htm#covers  22 literacy lessons in normal spelling

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/litreadingcribs.html  How to make cribs for low-literacy readers to read whatever u give them.   Try it.




Hi Susan,

Nancy Friday here from AlphaPlus in Toronto, Canada.

Although no longer managed by AlphaPlus and stripped down from its original version, there are some basic games on AlphaRoute that were and still are much used by literacy students here in Ontario at very basic levels.

Here's the stripped down website version:

The most basic learning activities can be found in the Do Activities section in Games.  Basic mouse skills, drag and drop, etc skills.

In some programs here as well computer software is still used by students with the lowest level of literacy.  Attainment Company has produced software that is still popular in literacy programs here.  I see they are developing apps as well, so you may want to check them out:




Lorrie Anderson here at JVS/Hyde Park.

Our low level class has enjoyed using this program. It's a phonics based LaRue program with current topics and activities that are interactive and engaging.

Downloadable classroom activities are also available.

Check it out!




Having students create simple comic strips online would be a helpful way to help low literacy learners experiment and master language skills.  Please try out free educational resource, MakeBeliefsComix.com, as part of your efforts.


Bill Zimmerman, Creator, MakeBeliefsComix.com

Dear Ms. Watson,

Hope you'll give MakeBeliefsComix.com a try.  It's a free comic strip generator that offers 128 characters with different emotions, blank talk and thought balloons to fill in with words, story prompts and printables.  It provides a wonderful, fun, easy way to encourage writing and reading by creating comic strips online that can be printed or emailed.

Please let me know how your students react to it.


Bill Zimmerman

Creator, MakeBeliefsComix.com