Life-skills Online: Authentic Tasks for Adult Learners

Life-skills Online: Authentic Tasks for Adult Learners

Kelly Cunningham- ITBE Fall Workshop 2009, Harper College, Schaumburg, IL

invited presentation

The Fall Workshop 2009 Presentation is about using real use websites in ESL classes to teach life skills and language through authentic tasks.

In addition to the presentation notes below, sample lessons, screen shot guides and more are available for download at the very bottom of this screen. Be sure to attribute use to Kelly J Cunningham 2009.


-LifeSkills and computer literacy are common Adult Ed objectives

-Internet Use is a Life skill

-Many life skills may be accomplished via the internet

-Accessible via public Wifi and libraries and schools

-90% of internet content is in English

Creating a Lesson:

1) Consider your learning objectives, life skills and their application and achievement in an online real world setting.

How would you normally accomplish a task such as checking the weather, buying plane tickets, reviewing a product, comparison shopping, finding out about sales, shopping, getting thew news, listening to or buying music, updating your family...?

Consider what things students would regularly need to or want to accomplish. Show them how!

Show the internet's local applicability as well as its world wide aspects

2) Prepare- choose a major easy to use site that is regularly visited used and tested.

a) Set up a game plan- What do you want the learners to be able to do? Why? How do you want them to do it? How will you know when they are able to do this?

b) Test the website! Play around with it until your know it well both features and problems.

c) Consider the caveats- Does the site require registration? If so, remember this requires an email address which your students may or may not have. Setting up an email may be one of the things you need to teach. Also consider vocabulary such as click/right click, mouse, keyboard, shift, control....

d) Create a guide- Create a step by step screen shot guide (prntscrn button on a pc, short cuts on a mac or snapshot tools) with numbered instructions and arrows for how to use the website to accomplish the various objectives.

e) Create class practice materials- Create individual /pair/group practice materials. Create add on practice materials for quicker learners and additional individual assessment practices.

3) Teach!

a) Explain what students will be able to do. Recommend novice and expert students pair up or work in small groups.

b) Show how to turn on computers, sign on, and get to the internet.

c) As a class go through your guide and how to use the website. Slowly and repetitively...

d) Check on student progress and give practice tasks, if applicable as a class.

e) Practice! Let students try the practice material.

f) Be patient!

f) Assess individual progress.

Suggested Websites/Topics:

Comparison Shopping:

Job searching:,,



Movie info/reviews:,

Trip planning/ Maps/directions/locations:,,,,

Googling: maps, books, scholar, gmail, movies, translator, currency converter...


Sample Lesson Summaries:

(more detailed lessons/handouts available for download at bottom of the page)

Weather beginner, no email or registration necessary

Primarily Receptive

Level 1-

Practice Tasks:

    • Fill in a chart of dates/weather for current location. Write sentences or fill in sentences about how the weather is on certain dates.
    • Find the current weather for other US and world wide locations, including student hometowns.
    • Find future weather for other US and world wide locations.
    • Find hourly forecasts and complete questions asking about the weather at a specific time in a specific place.

Level 2: Same as level one but also phrase questions in terms of a story. How should someone plan their travels based on whether. Include y/n questions, possible recommendations: Bob is going for a walk this evening should he bring an umbrella? Kate is flying to NYC on Saturday for an outdoor wedding. Will it be good weather? I want to go to the zoo this weekend. Is it better to go on Saturday or Sunday? Why?

Shopping for a Car

Comparison shop for multiple variables including quality, price and customer needs.,, no sign up required, multiple websites required.

Receptive and Productive

Intermediate (4)- large range of variations to lesson to lengthen/shorten and change level

Easily a multiday lesson


Problem solving, comparison shopping, consumer research, decision making, recommendations

    • Identify consumer needs –fuel efficiency, body style, price, location, etc.
    • Find cars that fit these needs using craigslist and
    • Compare reviews, spec’s and market value on selected cars to help narrow search
    • Find 3-5 possibilities
    • List of questions to ask seller (possibly even call seller)
    • List of things you would look for when viewing / test driving the car. (test drive cars if possible)
    • Identify top choice of car and reasons why. Present to class.

Movie Reviews

Write supported opinion pieces which show analysis and logical reasoning about a movie. Can be done about a movie the class watches together and or movies students have seen on their own. In addition lower levels might choose to write summaries for the summaries section. registration required, must have a valid email address


Note: website has guidelines for reviews which make excellent guides for the assignment. Teachable vocab- ‘spoiler’ ‘review’ ‘summary’. Show students there is already a summary sections so their reviews should be reviews and not contain summaries.

Level: intermediate/advanced

You can find many of the sample lesson handouts and notes as attachments below.