The following blog post was written by Pat Kelly, a faculty member at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.
My colleague has a story about an ESL literacy learner who works as a cleaner. He was told not to vacuum a specific office in the building where he works. Then one day the cleaner got in trouble for not vacuuming the room. Why? A note was posted on the door stating, “Vacuum here please”. The cleaner was perplexed. Someone had left a note for him?
We often walk by signs without reading them, maybe without even noticing them. However, when we do notice all of them, we realize what a big part of communication they are. This is an important skill for ESL literacy learners to develop.
In my ESL literacy class, there are many ways that we practice sign reading. One activity that the students enjoy participating in is a scavenger hunt. Pictures of 16 signs from within our institution are included in the activity. The learners must find the signs around the College and identify the meanings of the signs. After the scavenger hunt is completed, we review the signs and meanings.
When we are out in the community, I make sure that we stop at every sign and discuss the meaning.
Another activity I do to further develop this habit is to post signs around the classroom. The signs state some temporary change in parking or that this room is due to be painted. The signs include a date, a narrative, a picture, and something that the reader needs to do or avoid doing. On the day that I post the signs in class, we do a lot of activities that include moving around the room. After break we check how many people have noticed the new signs on the wall. Learners are interested and try to decipher the messages in groups.
Both of these activities draw attention to signs and information posted for the public and lead into extended reading.