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vegetarianism to sustainability. Many of the learners had food restrictions for religious reasons, so they accepted the fact that I was vegetarian, and many interesting points came out of the speaking and writing tasks, including the health benefits.

So my confidence developed in both using taboo subjects, and truly being myself in the classroom. I also thought a lot more about which classroom tasks would really engage learners with these world issues. I found that both ESOL and literacy learners often responded very well to group quizzes and prediction tasks before reading. Also, different types of dictation (e.g. running, shouting, loop, jigsaw and dictogloss) (Davis/Rinvolucri, 1988), discussing visuals, and role play often worked well with any text, including these more challenging, taboo topics.

I also developed “Radical Phonology” to help ESOL learners speak with more clarity. Learners, in groups, summarised articles and topics in one pithy phrase on a protest banner, and chanted them in a very authentic, meaningful drill. This helped many learners feel more empowered and develop confidence in their own voice and what they want to say.

Some adult literacy groups were initially less interested in global issues, maybe due to lack of background knowledge, but I found I could lead them in from an immediate, local issue, e.g. the gold of someone's wedding ring to discovering how (un)fairly gold is mined, and from discussion about their own energy bills to finding out more about renewable energy and plans to bring solar power from the Sahara.

These Ready Lessons can be downloaded from the wiki in PowerPoint format so teachers can adapt them to what they know will draw their learners in. Most of the lessons are for intermediate / L1 learners and include an ESOL-type language focus which can, of course, be omitted or adapted with literacy groups.

I have seen many of the learners improve noticeably in independent learning and study skills. The learners can choose any article, read the easy version, then click on the original and read that, possibly noting down some new vocabulary or phrases. This is based on “gradual approximation” (Widdowson, 1979) and the “Comprehension Hypothesis” (Krashen, 2008), exposing learners to language they can understand before moving on to more complex texts. This independent reading task can be set regularly for homework with follow-up comments on a Moodle discussion forum. Several women learners have commented that this has helped them feel more important at home. Now, as well as their husband and children needing to use the home computer for paying bills and school work, they also have to negotiate a regular time on the computer for their own studies.

These topics can give learners a window on the world. They can become more confident talking about sustainability, news and politics and find more information about women's issues, health and food. These texts can provide meaningful contexts for writing practice. The Edexcel Functional Skills exams often set a writing task of contributing to online forums, so the more they practise responding to the comments and ideas of others, the better. Or they can write real letters to real Heads of State or Directors of companies about the real issues, and maybe even become more motivated by getting a response.


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