Life Skills and Standards and Tests! Oh My!


While Dorothy chanted about her fear of jungle and forest animals as she journeyed to Oz to seek the wizard's help to get home to Kansas, teachers of adult English language learners are increasingly lamenting their frustration with the obstacles to their students' journey to develop the language skills they need to meet their varied life and career goals:


"Life skills and standards and tests!  Oh my!" 


The Teacher's Lament

Consider these sentiments shared by teachers of adult English learners:

"My curriculum requirements are lots of checklists of topics and life skills, but I don't have enough time to teach listening, speaking, reading, and writing."

"Each class I teach is different, and each student is different.  They have different backgrounds, experiences, and needs for English.  Shouldn't I assess their needs and teach to them rather than following a prescribed curriculum checklist?"

"We are too focused on test preparation.  My students need English for real communication, but the tests don't test that, so instead we practice bubbling in answers to multiple-choice questions."

"The pressure is to cover the content of the curriculum standards, but isn't there a difference between 'covering' something and developing students' true mastery of it?  There simply isn't time for mastery learning."

"There isn't time for fun any more!  My lesson plans are so full of content I have to cover that there isn't enough time left for games, free conversation, and student-initiated activities.  After all, these are the things that motivate students."

Let Your Students Do the Talking through the Yellow Pages


No yellow brick road leads to a solution to these problems.  However, teachers can find some help in the “yellow pages” -- not the phone directory, but the yellow-tinted pages at the end of each unit in Side by Side Plus.  These pages provide life skills, standards-based instruction, and test preparation focused on students' roles in the community, family, school, and at work – all fully integrated with the core vocabulary and grammar instruction in each unit.

And now, in the newly upgraded version of Side by Side Plus, teachers can find even more help in the new “blue pages” that appear after each Gazette lesson.  These Reading & Writing Workshop sections provide three new features:

  • Language arts communication lessons that help students develop academic discourse skills so that they learn to “talk the talk” of the mainstream classroom.
  • Informational/non-fiction readings on career, civics, and academic topics to meet new CCRS standards for comprehension of lengthier and more complex texts.
  • Writing Process lessons focusing on Pre-writing, Organizing Ideas, Writing a First Draft, Revising, Proofreading, and Peer Conferencing – to prepare students for more academic writing assignments.

We admit it – Side by Side Plus is unequivocally and unashamedly a grammar-based communicative program.  Our core mission is to build students' general language proficiency through a research-based grammatical sequence so they can use English flexibly to meet their varied needs, life circumstances, and goals.  We strongly believe that language teachers need to preserve their role as true teachers of language even as we fill our lesson plans with required content from curriculum frameworks and prepare students for standardized tests. 

We also believe that instruction needs to be student-centered, relevant to our students' lives, and lots of fun.  Side by Side Plus therefore offers students a solid all-skills foundation in grammar, vocabulary, and communication followed by yellow-page and blue-page lessons that reinforce these skills while integrating life skills, test preparation, and the latest standards requirements.  The GrammarRaps, GrammarSongs, cartoons, and other entertainment elements provided in the program's books, eTexts, and other multimedia materials reinforce learning and provide the fun.

Let's take some inspiration from the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion that accompanied Dorothy on her journey:  with some brains, some heart, and some courage, we can overcome the obstacles in our path and help our students reach their destinations.

Now click your heels and say three times:

"There's no place like my classroom!"

"There's no place like my classroom!"

"There's no place like my classroom!"