Learners selling themselves: Functional Skills for Construction (and other courses)

'Find the 2 Construction workers' by europeaantje (Creative Commons via ELTpics on Flickr)
‘Find the 2 Construction workers’ by europeaantje (Creative Commons via ELTpics on Flickr)

Construction Literacy?

I have supported a number of construction students at the college where I work. When supporting these learners’ literacy skills, it can be difficult to find relevant contexts to enable them to practice writing skills, If anyone has any ideas, I’d love it if you could add them in the comments section below.

Independent Traders…

One idea that I have found useful is to get learners to design a website to promote themselves as a tradesperson. There are a number of reasons why I believe this is effective:

  • is relevant to the context that learners hope to be working in after they have finished studying at the college.
  • It is a form of literacy that will support their future work as independent tradespeople
  • It forces them to use relevant vocabulary for the trade area that they are working in.
  • It gives learners an opportunity to showcase themselves and their skills in a form that can be published – this can be a validating and motivating experience.

Now, I have neither the skills or time to teach my learners to become HTML5 whizzes – that’s not what the courses are about anyway, so I’m very grateful that there are some good solutions to create sites very quickly and easily:

  • Google Sites – Now, this should be great – it looked very simple to use when I logged in to it, but for some reason I can’t work out it just wouldn’t work on a student login. It’s worth having a look at this resource – but do check that your learners can access it; mine couldn’t.
  • Weebly – this was the site that I ended up using. It’s a free site that allows learners to create their own websites by slotting in different modules. This means that learners can add text, images and also embedded content, such  as Google maps, polls, YouTube videos and others.  It’s a really simple site – so the user interface doesn’t really ‘get in the way’ of the literacy exercises. There is a catch that you need to make sure that learners watch out for. The site shows some of the ‘pro’ features fairly prominently (video/audio players & customised URLs, etc) and if learners try to use them it will prompt them for payment – make sure that your learners are clear that they don’t need to pay anything and that they shouldn’t enter any details. Overall I would say that this is a minor issue and doesn’t detract from the exercise, but you will need to consider your learners.

A catch that is common to any site that learners create, is that they will have to be careful with the copyright of any images that they use should the resource be published. There is a cautionary tale here: ‘Bloggers beware, you can get sued for using pics on your blog‘. This of course is another opportunity to suggest that you have a look at ELTpics (see my post here)

The lesson

When I tried this lesson with Painting and Decorating learners, the procedure was as follows:

  1. I asked learners to have a look online to find websites for local decorators.
  2. I gave the learners a grid where they could record the information on the websites, what they liked about the websites and what they disliked about them
  3. Ask learners to design their own websites, bearing in mind what they saw from the sites studied.
  4. Support learners language work as they are creating their websites.

I’ve mentioned this post as being about supporting learners who are preparing to work in different building trades, but I’m sure that it is relevant to many learners in further education. Please share your ideas below, it’d be great to see what people are doing.

Related links

http://www.skillsworkshop.org/ – still the best place to find resources for supporting learners’ functional skills

http://tlp.excellencegateway.org.uk/tlp/fs/fs-resources/index.php – Being Functional resources to support functional skills.  Some of these resources are a bit outdated and some are a little unimaginative, but it’s worth having a look through to find things to use.

http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/vcal-literacy/ – some great ideas for supporting the literacy of vocational learners from Jason Renshaw who teaches at a TAFE in Australia.

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