Welcome to Part 2 of Our Discussion: Resources for Addressing Health Literacy in ABE Programs

Hi Everyone!

This discussion series started in October, 2013. There are 4 parts to the series, and they continue to grow even after the advertised dates. We have laid down the basics of each topic, and here's what I hope will happen now: You will explore the ideas, resources and examples that we have talked about and then weigh in with your comments, questions and ideas. It doesn't matter if it's months or years after the discussion began. I hope that this discussion series will keep growing and evolving into something that will continue to be more useful as time goes by!

Please read and add to whichever part you like:


This is the beginning of Part 2:


Hi Everyone,

Welcome to the next part of our discussion on Health Literacy in ABE!

Last week, we had an in-depth introduction to how health literacy relates to what we are teaching in adult education classrooms. If you did not catch that, please check it out! (https://community.lincs.ed.gov/discussion/welcome-our-guest-discussion-introduction-health-literacy-abe-and-esol)

This week, we want to focus on specific resources that can help teachers and program directors to address health literacy in your classrooms and programs. There is a lot out there, and more is being developed used all the time.

Here's what I hope will come out of this week:

  • You discover health literacy resources that you can and will use.
  • You find resources that will help you to start or continue teach health literacy without feeling that it takes away from your prep time or the time spent on required competencies.
  • Program directors discover resources to help them support health literacy in their centers.
  • We all share new resources that we developed and can share with others.

Quick story: I do trainings in Arkansas for teachers who want to incorporate health literacy into their ABE, ESOL and GED classes. They drive to the Resource Center from all over the state for this all-day training. We always spend some time in the computer lab looking at free online resources. Most of these are ready-to-go curricula and teaching activities that are designed to teach health literacy WHILE teaching core competencies for literacy and language aquisition. After one such session, a teacher from a rural area looked up after scribbling notes and URLS and declared that this alone was worth the 4-hour drive. Knowing how precious time is for ABE teachers, I took this as good eveidence of how important it is to have plenty of good resources!

Please invite others you know tojoin this!



So first, I want to ask you about your needs and experience.

  • What kinds of resources do you need in order to start (or continue) incorporating some health literacy into your classes or programs?
  • Where do you look for these types of resources? Have you found good sources?
  • What's missing?
  • When you have found resources, what are the limitations?

Please pipe in here and help us build a quick wish list of what you would like to see!


Ok, so I'll throw out my own answers! :)

These are based on needs assessments from ABE teachers that I did for several resource guides, feedback from teacher trainings on health literacy in ABE, feedback from resource presentations I've done at conferences, and my own experience as an ESOL teacher and tutor.

Some resources we need:

Curricula and lesson plans: 

  • Must be designed for ABE/ESOL settings.
  • Must teach literacy and language skills, not just health info
  • Must be free, and easy to access
  • Must be easy to adapt to different levels and teaching styles
  • Some teachers prefer more prescriptive lesson plans, others prefer more open-ended
  • Best if there are units, lesson plans or that can be used as is, to fit into existing curricula as needed
  • Must incorporate evidence-based teaching strategies
  • ________ Other criteria? Please tell us!

Easy-to-read health information: 

  • Can be printed out and used to build a teaching activity around it
  • Multilingual information 
  • Print and online
  • Searchable topics 

Referral Resources

  • How to refer students to needed health resources

Guidance on how to incorporate health into existing curriculum plan

  • How to address health while not taking away from progress toward literacy/language competency goals
  • How to deal with difficult situations that come up when talking about health
  • How to NOT feel like you have to be ahealth expert
  • How to incorporate project-based components

Help finding funding for a health literacy component to your program

Help in forming mutually beneficial partnerships with local health agencies, health care clinics and state or regional health literacy coalitions

Anything else to add?



Great lists, Julie!  I would just add that resources for teaching health literacy topics are perhaps most useful when flexible enough in design so that they can be easily adapted for the many different ABE/ESOL teaching realities/challenges, for example:

  • intensive and non-intensive class schedules (say, 15 hrs. of class/wk vs. 4)
  • differences in teacher backgrounds and training
  • sometimes unpredictable/irregular learner attendance
  • the need to fit health in with all other competency areas required by funders and desired by learners
  • differences in enrollment (e.g., drop-in classes, open enrollment, multilevel classes).

I guess one thing I'm getting at here is that health curricula which span over many weeks and presuppose consistent attendance by learners, or intensive up-front training of teachers to implement, can be full of great stuff we'd like learners to know but impractical to implement in many ABE/ESOL settings in the US today.  Adaptability of resources to different teaching settings/scenarios is important for sustainability with conditions as they currently stand.  




Because I work at a vocational school that teaches integrated Medcial Administrative Assitant Training and literacy, the resources I use are very specific.  Three websites that I have found helpful are:

Contextualized Nursing Math Lessons-https://sites.google.com/site/ffabeprenursing/math-for-nursing

SBCTC Teaching Resources (A wealth of contextualized math—including contextualized medical math PowerPoints that can be used as lecture aides and self-teaching tools and esl curricula—including ESL for customer service and computers) http://www.sbctc.ctc.edu/college/_e-abepd_teachingresources.aspx#ged

Health care education at the Seattle Community Colleges (ESL healthcare bridge curricula) http://www.seattlecolleges.edu/healthcare/default.aspx?page=products

I discovered many of these through the (now-defunct) adult career pathways website (their search engine may be on LINCS right now since I know much of their other material was transferred to it). 

Minnesota's cirriculum repository is also a great place to look (there are many ESL/basic literacy-level lesson plans there) https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/mnrocapp/



Thanks, Dirk, for these good resources!

And I'm glad you mentioned your program. Preparing students for health careers is an example of how health literacy can support workforce development and opening more career pathways.

This is a whole other area of need for addressing health literacy with adult learners. Health careers are good choices for many adults who have gone through the ESOL, ABE and GED paths. But the medical terminology, math and science can be very difficult. If we can do a better job in general to improve heatlh literacy in our lower and mid level learners, we could ensure that more of them are prepared to  go on toward health careers.

I taught an online Health Science course for the Health Care Learning Network (HCLN), and saw firsthand that the subject was highly interesting and motivating for students and that, while it was very challenging, people really stuck it out and did well. I believe these things also apply to teaching health literacy in ABE and ESOL classes.

Here's a question for program administrators:

Since workforce development is such a hot topic politically these days and is being supported, would this angle help to get more support in your program for addressing health literacy?

Dirk, what do you think, based on your work? I'd love to hear what others think, too!


Ms. McKinney,

I neglected to mention one more resource. Practical Problems in Mathematics for Health Science Careers by Simmers, et al. has a wide variety of contextualized math problems.

I firmly believe that these topics can dovetail with each other.  One thing that I do in my classes (for example) is have learners comparison shop for insurance plans.  This helps them understand a lot of the terminology that is associated with billing (coinsurance, deductibles, etc) in a practical way and also helps them become educated healthcare consumers (since some of our students may be shopping for health insurance for the first time once they attain living wage jobs).  Similarly, we try to personalize topics like body mass index, diet by having learners track their own diets or calculate their own body masses.  Concepts like infant dosages and children's growth charts are, I find, also very interesting to my students because of their own experiences as mothers. 

If someone is teaching an industry bridge class, an insutructor could easily make these concepts relevant to students as future workers and as parent/citizens by emphasizing how health knowledge can help them whether they transition into the industry or not.


Dirk Keaton

Thanks, Dirk,

These are great acitivities, and I agree that they are clearly supporting learning that will help people regardless of their eventual career choice.

So, two more questions (plus please feel free to answer the one above about using the career angle as leverage to get support for health literacy! :)

  • How have students responded to these real-life activities?
  • What resources did you use to help guide the activities? Do you have any lesson plans or even outlines that youcould share with us?

Thanks again,


All of the resources you used to be able to find on the "Designing Instruction for Career Pathways" website have been incorporated into the LINCS Career Pathways resources, so you can still access all those good resources.  To find them, go to the Resource Collection Search at http://lincs.ed.gov/collections, and put DICP in the "search term" box and choose "Career Pathways" as the "topic area".  Then click "search'.  That will bring up all the resources transferred from the Designing Instruction for Career Pathways site. You might also search for only Health Career resources in the Career Pathways resource collection.  Using the same search page, enter "health careers" as the search term and Career Pathways as the topic area.  There are thirteen resources that will come up.

Donna Brian, SME Career Pathways

We are going to look first at some resource collections, then we will pick a few and talk about them more in-depth. Today we'll focus on curricula and lesson plans. Those are the resources that I usually get the most requests for.

During the course of our discussion last week, we read an introductory article from the Virginia Adult ESOL Health Literacy Toolkit, and mentioned many of the other items on it. I hope you can take some time this week to explore this collection more fully. It has a huge amount of useful information for any teacher or program administrator who is interested in addressing health literacy.

Today we'll focus on curricula and lesson plans. Those are the resources that I usually get the most requests for. Take a look at the Toolkit below, which links to all the other collections.

Virginia Adult ESOL Health Literacy Toolkit

>> Click on Links for Educators

>> Click on 5.13: ESOL and Health Literacy Teaching Materials

The direct link to the Teaching Materials is: http://www.valrc.org/toolkit/docs/5-13Teaching.pdf 

Look at the resources on this page, including the two collections listed near the top:

What do you think?

Have you used any of these?

Do the collections seem to include the kinds of things you can use?

Please share your thoughts! Thanks.


We used the lessons from ETB:An English As a Second Language Health  and Wellness Curriculam.

We used Lessons 1-5 from Nutrition: Eating well, shopping, and Cooking and Lessons 9,10,11, and 12 from Health as introductory lessons for our Health, Nutrition, and Wellness lessons. They were helpful for our low literacy students. Since ours is a multi-level class we use lessons from different sources to meet the personal goals of our students.They were easy to use and the students like the graphics and simplicity of the the text.

Thanks for creating this and putting it out for others to use



I'm glad you have found the VA Adult Ed. Health Literacy Toolkit helpful.  I'm curious --- are the nutrition materials you are referring to the picture stories "What Happened to my Body?" and "Snack Attack"?  Since that original toolkit is now only available online as an ERIC pdf document, I'll post the links to those stories on the Center for Applied Linguistics website.  They are both at http://www.cal.org/caela/esl_resources/health/.



I am now going to walk you through the curricula and teaching activities that you can find on the 3 main collections suggested above:

  1. Teaching Materials from the Virginia Adult ESOL Health Literacy Toolkit (Which links to the other two!)
  2. The LINCS Health Literacy Collection
  3. The Health Literacy Special Collection (from World Education, Inc.)

The nice thing about all of these collections are that you don't have to search around for the health-related activites, They are all health literacy and they are all for ABE and ESOL learners. I'm going to start with the LINCS Collection.

The LINCS Health Literacy Resource Collection

The resources in this collection have been reviewed by experts for:

  • quality
  • adherence to evidence-based practice and sound theoretical framework, and
  • relevance to adult literacy education. 

All of the curricula in this collection are based on research-based teaching practices, and almost all of them have been evaluated and shown to be effective at improving health knowledge and/or literacy or language skills. You will also find other resources, including research to support the need for addressing health literacy, articles about successful projects, and manuals for designing health literacy curricula and integrating it across the curriculum.

Here are the curricula. Please take a look at these and share your comments with us all! 

Please check out the new picture story from Kate Singleton. It's called New Insurance, New Doctor. This follows the same format as her original set of Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy.

And it is very timely, as Americans are still working on signing up for health insurance! Many students in ABE and ESOL classes are dealing with new insurance and new doctors!

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd share some resources that people have shared with me recently.  

One cool item which can be used in teaching emergency preparedness is the American Red Cross Emergency Contact Card http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240194_ECCard.pdf.  This kind of card is very important. As an ER social worker I often had to ask LEP patients for phone nos. of people I could call for them, as well as their own address and phone nos. So often people who were conscious didn't know the info or couldn't provide it clearly enough for me to find someone for them. For unconscious people I would try to search their cell phones if the phones came in the ambulance with them, weren't damaged, and had battery life left. Phones (when unlocked) were helpful but difficult b/c I had to cold call a lot of people who weren't necessarily close relatives of the patient. Patients (especially males for some reason) without cell phones had often resorted to scraps of paper in their wallets with random phone nos. and no names. Those rarely yielded an emergency contact.  I especially like the space for out of the area contact info on this card. When people who have come to the US alone are seriously ill in the hospital, it can be extremely difficult to track down names and nos. of their family abroad. When the patient is unconscious this leads to all kinds of difficulty around making medical decisions for them.

We've talked on this list about the prevalence of health info on the web and the need for improved digital literacy skills among learners.  Here is a clear, easy to use tool you can show learners to help them decide if web-based health info is reliable or not: http://www.trustortrash.org/

One health literacy curriculum from the UK was shared by Jenny Davis, a nurse and ESOL instructor in the UK.  While it references the UK's National Health Service, there are some very nice reproducible handouts and plenty of adabtable lesson and activity ideas which could work well for ESOL learners in the US.  The ESOL health curriculum is part of a larger national adult education curriculum called Excellence Gateway.  The health lit section is called "Skilled for Health" and can be found here: http://rwp.excellencegateway.org.uk/Embedded%20Learning/Skilled%20for%20Health/#!  To look at the materials click on "Health and Well-Being" and "Services and Self-Care" on the left-hand side.  The third item, "Making the Case," is a resource to help educators and other service providers promote health literacy instruction ---  lots of parallels to the US situation!

Another interesting curriculum from Australia was sent to me by Lina Zampichelli, in education management in Australia.  This curriculum, HealthWize Health Literacy Teaching Resource for Refugee and Other ESL Studentswas written for work with 12-18 year olds but has plenty in it that could be useful for adult learners in the US as well.  It is a collaboration between adult educators and mental health providers and has a focus on emotional health literacy, especially as it relates to relocation.  Of course, there are Australian cultural references that need to be adapted before use in the US.

I also want to put in a good word for an ESOL health literacy telenovela-style video that is so well-done and entertaining, the New Life Cafe video http://www.nyc.gov/html/weareny/html/episodes/new_life_cafe.shtml from the We Are New York initiative.  I'm sure a lot of effort was put into its production --- I hope it gets a lot of use!  It touches on access to care, nutrition, diabetes, managing stress and other great HL topics.  There are other nice HL videos in the series that can be found thru that url.

Just a reminder, when people tell me about new HL resources that are good fits for ESOL and ABE, I tweet the info and share it on Facebook. Please feel free to follow me on either for new info, or to share what you are working on. Twitter: @healthlitkate. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/esolhealthliteracy.



The Health Literacy Special Collection also has a wide variety of resources for adult educators, including curricula and teaching activites.

If you go to the Curricula page, you can choose between these two categories:

Teaching Health by Topic brings you to a section of a resource guide from 2006 called Family Health and Literacy.
While some of the links are outdated, there is still a lot of good material here that you can look up by topic. This is helpful becuase your class may decide to address a certain health topic, and this will bring you to a whole range of resources on that toopic. The resources include lesson plans, informational websites and links to some authentic online and print materials that can be used to build lessons around.Here is a description from the guide itself:

Teaching Health by Topic

This section is grouped by topic and is meant to provide information, classroom activities, and handouts on some of the most common health topics. Under each health topic there are three types of resources.

WEB SITES WITH INFORMATION ON THE HEALTH TOPIC. These are Web sites where you can browse for information about the topic. This allows you to find what you need to meet the interests of your students or the needs of your community.

CURRICULA, LESSONS, AND ACTIVITIES. These are links to lesson plans, teaching activities, and community education kits that relate to the health topic.

DIRECT LINKS TO HANDOUTS, CHARTS, AND TUTORIALS. These links bring you directly to materials that could be used as a teaching tool, handout, reading activity, or reference. These links are pulled from a variety of sites, and are listed here to save you some of the trouble of searching each site for useful materials.

Note: In many cases we include both a direct link and a link to the home page. This is because direct links often change! If the link is dead, go to the home page and try to find the material from there.

Childhood Health and Diseases 
Healthy Lifestyle
Medicine Use
Women’s Health
Health Care Access 


Please stay tuned! We will add more resources over the weekend. 

Does anyone have any good professional development resources for helping to prepare teachers for addressing health literacy? I wold love to hear from any of you who have suggestions! This is an area that I believe needs more. In the meantime, I will share with you some that I know about.

This section of Family Health and Literacy is just as relevant today as it was when this guide was published in 2006, and gives an introduction to how you get started teaching health literacy within adult education. I have pasted an excerpt here with the topic headings:

How to Get Started

Many teachers feel anxious about intergrating health into their literacy classes for a variety of reasons. But, as teachers, you naturally use different kinds of content to teach basic skills and help adult learners gain the confidence they need to advocate for themselves and their families. Adults are more successful at learning if the content is meaningful and relevant to their lives (Knowles M, 1984)1. Health is relevant to everyone but even more so for families with young children, because they are constantly faced with scheduling doctor's visits, managing illnesses, and trying to take steps to keep their family healthy. Learners can dramatically improve their ability to manage these tasks by improving their communication skills, basic health knowledge, and strategies for finding and evaluating health information. The safe and supportive classroom is an ideal place to address these skills and build confidence. Take on the challenge of integrating health into your classes, and the results can be rewarding for teachers and learners alike!

For more in-depth resources for professional development in healthliteracy, go to the Health Literacy Special Collection

> Choose Training Opportunities

> > Then choose Mostly Adult Literacy

This has a listing of study circles, training guides and more.

And finally, here are some training resources from the LINCS Resource Collection:



For more Teacher Training resources, look through the Virginia Adult ESOL Health Literacy Toolkit.

In itself, it is one big training guide to teaching health literacy in ESOL and ABE classes!

Here are some highlights from the Teaching ESOL Health Literacy Section:




Some great resources come from statewide health literacy initiatives. (We'll talk more about these next week!)

The Florida Health Literacy Initiative sponsors a health literacy track in the Florida Literacy Coalition's annual conference.

Take a look at some of these presentations from last year's conference:




Hi Everyone,

Please see this other thread for a list of resources to help people learn to communicate more confidently and effectively with their doctors:

  • https://community.lincs.ed.gov/discussion/listeningquestioning-skills-talking-doctors



Here is a great resource, shared by Glenda Rose in another thread:

We Are New York videos

These ones are specifically about health:

New Life Cafe (Diabetes) 
Asthma: The Soap Opera (which my students LOVED, LOVED, LOVED)
No Smoking
Stop Domestic Violence
The Hospital

These all have great workbooks that go with them and are available with first language support for Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

You can easily download the videos to a flash drive, which even if you have an Internet connection, I would recommend to avoid choppy viewing.  If you look under "Teacher Resources", not only can you find lesson plans ready to go, they actually offer to send you a set of the DVDs for free.

Here's the link: http://www.nyc.gov/html/weareny/html/home/home.shtml