ESL Rural Routes Newsletter


Community Snapshot


Tips and Hints

Current News

New Website 

Later next month, we'll be launching our new website where you'll be able to find tips, resources access to our services and of course archives of our newsletters. Stay tuned!



Have you developed resources or discovered unique ways to meet your community’s needs? Would you like to be in our Community Snapshot feature? Contact us to share your knowledge and ideas. Call 403-331-0030 or send us an email.


Regions Map


R1: Northern Region
R2: NorQuest Stewardship & Eastern Region
R3: Central, Calgary & Red Deer Region
R4: Southern Region


February 2013

Welcome to all new readers of the Rural Routes ESL Newsletter. We strive to increase our circulation, so please share this newsletter with your colleagues and contacts. To sign up on our distribution list, send an email with your name and contact information to

With 2013 underway, you may want to set new goals for English language learners in your community. Don’t forget that the Rural Routes team members are here to help you achieve your goals by providing mentoring, workshops, and direction for finding resources. We’d be happy to hear from you!

This year the Rural Routes team is excited about realizing one of our own goals—the launch of our new website, scheduled for March. Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, this website is designed to support rural communities. It will help you access information and resources, connect with colleagues, and learn about Rural Routes activities in your area. The website will include recommended resources, a facilitated discussion board, a notice board of upcoming events, and more. 

Community Snapshot - Fort McMurray

Community Profile

  • Population exceeds 100,000.
  • Average growth rate of 7.24% per year.
  • Fort McMurray Airport serves about 750,000 travellers annually.
  • Median age of population is about 30.
  • 32% of population is under age 25.
  • English as an additional language (EAL) learners come from more than 80 countries.
  • It’s rare to have more than two or three people in any given class who share the same first language.
  • For the most part, English is the only language our learners can use to communicate with one another.

English Language Learner Support Services

  • As a Community Adult Learning Council, the Community Network supports many programs and agencies.
  • As a granting council, we fund member agencies to provide EAL classes to learners who face financial and other barriers to learning.
  • In 2012, our funding impacted 1,907 adult learners. Of those, 1,815 identified financial barriers as the primary obstacle to learning.
  • Our adult literacy program matched approximately 80 learners to tutors.

Community Challenges

  • Fort McMurray is located at 56.7 degrees north latitude and in most years has fewer than 100 frost-free days.
  • A great number of newcomers to Fort McMurray are from tropical or warm climates, and must adjust to an extremely cold climate.
  • The annual rate of staff changeover in the non-profit sector is 37%. This affects the consistency of service delivery for newcomers

Community Support




Looking for lesson ideas for the new year? The ESL Literacy Network's Showcase is full of activities and resources to get you started. Don’t forget to review their blogs and videos. These resources provide a wealth of ideas for improving your lessons. You might want to choose one of the videos, and host a mini-discussion with other instructors or volunteers on how you could use the ideas with your learners.

Alberta Workplace Essential Skills (AWES) offers a free and valuable online resource: “Working with Newcomers: Tips for culturally-diverse Canadian organizations”. This three-part resource was developed in Alberta and addresses the current needs of our communities. 

Activity for the class

Vocabulary Activity with a Multi-Skill Kick

Level: CLB 3–8
Skills:  Dictionary use: spelling, parts of speech, definitions, words in context, word order, verb tense, subject-verb agreement, collocations, and many more grammatical features. Several steps in this vocabulary activity require teacher support during the activity, and immediate feedback afterwards.
Activity: Teachers pre-select a list of theme-related, level-appropriate vocabulary words (5, 10, or 20 words based on time and instruction level). As each word is introduced, students write and pronounce it. Learners at higher levels can also guess the part of speech. Learners can try to make sentences with the new words.

For homework, students must write a definition for each word and create a sentence using the word. This is a great opportunity for teachers to target problematic grammar. If there is more than one learner, it is an opportunity for students to practise peer editing. For a single learner, the teacher can   introduce the strategy of self-editing.

The final step is testing. For the test, the teacher dictates each word and students write the words down. Afterwards, students write a sentence using each word, and identify the part of speech. The teacher collects and marks this test.

By the time students complete this test, they will have had enough time and practice to do well and feel successful.



Tips and Hints     

How to re-energize your lesson              

Sometimes we need an extra energy boost in the cold dark winter months. Whether you have been working with the same learner for a long or short period of time, you may sometimes feel that the lessons could be more engaging. Remember that your learner is benefiting from these lessons, even if it isn’t always apparent in the short term. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on this progress. Here are some quick tips to renew energy levels.

Re-energize your student. Sometimes learners lose track of why they’re studying, which can cause them to lose motivation. By reviewing the reasons why students need to improve their language skills, you can help them to become re-energized.

Good questions to ask:

  • Why do we meet every week?
  • What do you need to do in your daily life that you aren’t doing as well as you’d like to?
  • What do you think we should focus on when we meet?

We may also need to remind students that learning is a partnership, and they have a responsibility for their own learning. Although we may wish we could learn it for them or make it easier with a magic “learning wand,” it is the students’ personal effort and energy that will determine their progress.

Re-energize yourself. It’s important for volunteers and instructors to take time for reflection. What you’re doing is already supporting student success. Are you acknowledging everything you offer to learners beyond helping them with language learning? You are their cultural bridge: you explain and contextualize new cultural experiences. You are the community connector: you help them access the places and services they need.

Have you thought of the value you add to your community by connecting newcomers to local services and businesses? You are also an advocate for learners. You learn about some of their challenges in the community, and share with the community your appreciation for their culture and prior experiences. You are doing amazing work! Celebrate it!

Are there ways you could enhance your teaching? You might want to change things up a bit by asking your coordinator about new resources or training opportunities that you could access. Try to keep up the momentum for learning!

Re-energize the lesson. A few quick-paced learning activities can liven up lessons, stimulate your students’ energy levels, and refocus their learning. Language learning is hard work! A short activity is a great way for students to give their brain a break while they continue to learn.

Here are some favourites:

I Spy – Can be adapted to any level

  • “I spy something red.”
  • “I spy something that begins with the letter “s”.
  • “I spy something (description)” – (Used for higher level learners.)

Chain Game

  • First person begins with this sentence: “I’m going shopping and I’m going to buy…. ”
  • Next person repeats the phrase and adds an item.
  • Can be used for students to relate on any event.
  • Can be used to practise different verb tenses. For example, “I went to the park yesterday and I saw….”

Tongue Twisters

Choose an old favourite or search the web for a list and use the one that highlights a sound your learner has trouble pronouncing. (Example, for “l/r” struggles: Laura and Larry rarely lull their rural roosters to sleep.)

Create a Story

  • Instructor gives students three apparently random words.
  • Students make a story using the words.
  • For example, use the words elephant, car, necklace:

    I am driving my car.
    I wear my necklace.
    I see an elephant.

Note: Beginners may be able to use only one of the words per sentence.

If you would like to share your own examples of lesson energizers, we’d love to hear from you! Send a quick email to with your favourite ideas.

Methods to Teach Reading

When teaching adult readers, you must first find the appropriate content for your learner. Keep in mind the learner’s language level, needs, and interests when you plan reading activities. It may be a challenge to find high interest reading materials at the appropriate language level.

Here are a couple of places to start:

Even if you don’t find the content you need, you should find great examples of the relevant text level. This information is transferable for the creation of your own texts.

The Language Experience Approach is a very successful technique that involves creating your own texts. This approach is used particularly for lower level learners. It involves taking learners’ stories and transcribing them into text. The Language Experience Approach is a great technique because it teaches learners the following points:

  • What I can think about, I can talk about.
  • What I can say, I can write.

  • What I can write, I can read.
  • I can read what I write, and what other people write for me to read.

Taken from “What Reading Teachers Should Know about ESL Learners,” by Mary J. Drucker.

As teachers and volunteers, we sometimes forget there are more things to read than books, articles, and newspapers. The following list includes just some of the items you can include as reading materials:

  • Signs, notices, and labels (prescriptions, foods, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  • Newsletters (from schools, banks, community centres)
  • Messages (from work)
  • Flyers, advertisements, consumer contracts (cellphone and energy company contracts, buy now/pay later offers)
  • Maps and directions
  • Forms, graphs, charts, bills, receipts (grocery, restaurant)

Activities to promote successful reading experiences can include the following:

  • Previewing
  • Choral reading, reading aloud, paired reading
  • Listening to audio books
  • Multicultural literature (folk tales or literature with cultural representation)
  • Language Experience Approach developed materials
  • Total physical response (physical movement attached to text)           

Finally, don’t forget strategies. We need to provide literacy learners with specific reading strategy instructions to teach them the skills of reading. It’s also a good idea to remind literate language learners of these strategies, to ensure that they are transferring skills between languages to improve their English reading levels.

There are countless reading strategies, but these are the basic techniques:

  • Previewing and predicting
  • Self-monitoring
  • Visualizing
  • Retelling
  • Scanning

If you would like more information on any of the above, please contact us at or call 780-644-6758. A reading workshop might be what you and your volunteers or instructors could benefit from. Send us your contact information, and a Rural Routes consultant will call you to discuss the possibilities. 

Current News

Exciting News from Libraries

Press Display improves local access to global news sources.

Through their local public libraries, community members now have access to more than 1,200 newspapers from around the world. The Press Display electronic resource provides up-to-date news and information from 94 countries in 48 languages, and access to 291 Canadian newspapers.

Community members with library access can read their favourite international, national, and provincial newspapers from cover to cover, sometimes before the publications hit the newsstands. The publications are full-colour, full-format, and run on a range of platforms, including PC, Mac, iPhone, and Blackberry.

The $310,000, two-year Press Display licence is funded by the Government of Alberta through the Alberta Public Library Electronic Network, an integral part of The Alberta Library (TAL) consortium. TAL members work together to strengthen communities through collaboration.

LINC Rural Delivery Program (RDP)

The LINC Rural Delivery Program (RDP) began in 1996 as the LINC-AVC (Alberta Vocational College)-Edmonton Rural Distance Delivery Program (RDDP). Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the program was originally intended to meet the needs of Yugoslav immigrants and refugees settling in rural areas of Northern Alberta. Many of these new Canadians had farming skills, and the RDDP program provided LINC language training equivalent to that available in the cities. As the program continued to grow, it expanded to include other landed immigrants who met the eligibility requirements. Later, the program became known as the Rural Delivery Program (RDP).

Managed by NorQuest College’s Faculty of Foundational and Intercultural Studies, the LINC Rural Delivery Program is offered in 20 Northern Alberta rural communities. The program is targeted for permanent residents (landed immigrants) and conventional refugees. It provides language training and helps adult newcomers integrate into Canadian life.

LINC RDP Program Eligibility:

  • Must be a permanent resident or a conventional refugee of Canada: not an individual who has acquired Canadian citizenship
  • Must be an adult immigrant (older than legal school leaving age) not attending high school
  • A Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment will be given to determine eligibility (Canadian Language Benchmarks Pre, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5).

For more information, contact Tom Jiry at or call NorQuest College toll-free at 1-866-534-7218.

LINC Home Study Program

The LINC Home Study (LHS) program is delivered in partnership with the Centre for Education and Training in Mississauga, Ontario and funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It is offered to LINC-eligible students who are unable to attend LINC RDP in Northern Alberta communities. The program offers courses to students in LINC 2, 3, 4, and 5. Eligible students may participate in the program until they have completed the Canadian Language Benchmark requirements for LINC 5 or until they become Canadian citizens.

The LHS program has two delivery methods: online (learning management system) or correspondence. Instructors provide oral instruction via telephone or Skype for 30 minutes per student each week. LHS student eligibility is the same as that for the LINC RDP Program. However, students must be at a minimum level of LINC 2 to access this program (Writing CLB 2, Reading CLB 2, Listening CLB 3, Speaking CLB 3).

The LINC Home Study Program is also delivered in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI.

For more information, contact Tom Jiry at or call Nor Quest College toll-free at 1-866-534-7218.

New Regional Stewardship Initative from NorQuest College: Community Connector

NorQuest College Regional Stewardship is pleased to introduce the first issue of Community Connector, an e-newsletter created by the College to help connect all our regional community stakeholders.

Community Connector will be emailed to all our community partners in foundational and post-secondary adult education in the Edmonton Stewardship Region once every two months to provide information about NorQuest College programs and services. The newsletter will also include information about College and community learning, and tools and resources that are available to help inform community adult educational needs.

We hope that subscribers find Community Connector to be a valuable resource. Any content suggestions or comments can be directed to .

You can read a PDF version of the first edition of Community Connector.

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