Title: Teach a Student to Fish. . . Addressing Life Issues in Your Curriculum and Instruction

Title: Teach a Student to Fish. . . Addressing Life Issues in Your Curriculum and Instruction

Session Notes:

Title: Teach a Student to Fish. . . Addressing Life Issues in Your Curriculum and Instruction


Janet Sparks has been in ABE for ten years, as a volunteer, intake specialist, teacher and curriculum writer, currently at the Hubbs Center. She is completing an MA in ESL, Hamline University.

Lia Conklin has been an ELL Team Lead/Teacher and curriculum designer at the Hubbs Center for twelve years. She is the author of the reading series What’s Next?, New Readers Press.

Description: Overwhelmed with helping your students overcome obstacles? Trying to teach skills they need to address these issues themselves? Follow the steps two of your colleagues have taken to develop instructional units designed to respond to student issues and teach skills, including technology, that build self reliance. Begin these steps in devoloping a unit for your students and discuss critical questions around the acquisition and application of independent learning, technology, and other skills that build self reliance.


  • Identify critical life issues students in one’s class/program face
  • Evaluate ways to identify these student needs
  • Choose skill areas to address in an instructional unit, such as technology, independent learning skills, language skills, etc.
  • Identify learning objectives and activities within a skill area that build self reliance
  • Discuss critical questions around student acquisition and application of skills that build self reliance


4:00-4:05: Introduction: (LiaJanet)

  • Introduction of Presenters
  • Who’s in the room?
  • Session Objectives

4:05-4:20: Warm-up: (Lia)

  • Discussion around student issues & teaching skills that build self reliance
  • Directions: Share a time a student of yours had a difficult problem that you solved (or mostly) solved for them. What was the problem, what did you do, and what was the benefit to the student? Take notes on grid.
  • Model group activity w/ 1 situation. (Janet)
  • Complete Activity
  • Show the duck video clip, show the national anthem video clip. What was the problem, what did the “teacher” do, and what was the benefit to the “learner”?

Curriculum Development:

4:20-4:30: Step 1-2: Identify Student Issues & choose a critical issue to build unit around (Janet)

  • Brainstorm student critical issues. Write them on a flipchart
  • Gather quantifiable data in order to truly know what the needs are & for how many students; not “assume” that a need is there or not there.
  • Elicit ideas for needs assessments.
  • Share our needs survey from Survey Monkey
  • Share the scope of our “Using English” curriculum, the topics covered (cover page)
  • Show how to access existing materials from our website (cover page)
  • Participants (Ps) take notes on types of needs assessments they could use & possible topics to address in their classes
  • Final Product (FP): Ps choose a type of needs assessment to use for their classchoose 1 topic to address for this session

4:30-4:35: Step 3: Choose skill areas to address, including technology, within chosen topic (Lia)

  • Elicit skill areas (bubble map on flipchart)
  • Share the skill areas we chose for our units (Handout-bubble map template)
  • FP: Ps choose the skill areas for their unit

4:35-5:05: Step 4: Identify learning activities and learning objectives (LiaJanet)

  • Discuss how to choose activities & learning objectives (Lia)
  • Choose a main unit objective based on the critical life-skill chosen (Unit Product-bubble map)
  • Create activities that help meet that objective
  • Create activities that address all skill areas chosen
  • Write/choose objectives demonstrated in activities (or align w/ curriculum objectives)
  • Share activities from Transportation Unit (Highlight: technology) (Janet)
  • Share our learning objectives for transportation unit (Lia)
  • 4:45: Activity: Ps complete one of our activities & write out the learning objectives for that activity (Guided Conversation) (Janet)
  • FP: Ps develop learning objectives & activities for 1 of the skill areas within their topic

5:05-5:15: Step 5: Assess learning

  • Discuss how to measure learning objectives: (Lia)
  • authentic ways;
  • testing (clicker test)
  • Share authentic FP from Transportation Unit (handout) (Lia)
  • 5:08: Activity: Take clicker test for Transportation Unit (Janet)
  • FP: Ps describe an authentic assessment; Outline content of unit test

5:15-5:20: Final Product (Lia)

  • Begin in small groups organized around similar content/levels. Discuss notes on grid. Help each other get started on individual unit.
  • Ps work individually on unit;

5:20 – 5:30: Wrap-up Discussion: (Janet)

  • Discuss critical questions around effective instruction to lead to greater acquisition of skills and how to move students from acquisition to application
  • How do you hold students accountable for applying skills?
  • How do you ensure students have enough skills to be able to apply them on their own?
  • How do you decide if it is lack of student motivation, confidence, or skills that keep students from applying the skills they are learning? What do you do in response?