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A Brief History of Adult ESL Instruction


Title: Educating Immigrants: One Hundred Years and Counting Author: sarah Last modified by: lterrill Created Date: 4/7/2008 8:49:18 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Brief History of Adult ESL Instruction

A Brief History of Adult ESL Instruction
  • Sarah Young, Adult ESL Specialist
  • May 2008
  • syoung_at_cal.org www.cal.org

  1. Introductory comments
  2. Statistics about immigrants and immigration from
  3. English language service providers
  4. Americanization efforts
  5. Anti-Americanization efforts
  6. English language instructional materials and
  7. Successes and failures in immigrant education

1. Introductory Comments
  • The materials and information found in this
    presentation come from a variety of sources many
    of the images came from photos available on the
    Internet (with credit given) and from primary
    resources (reports, teacher manuals, and student
    textbooks) found at the Library of Congress and
    scanned in to this PowerPoint. A full
    bibliography is available in a separate Word
  • This presentation was originally given at the
    California Teachers of English to Speakers of
    Other Languages (CATESOL) conference in
    Sacramento on April 12, 2008 and at the COABE
    conference in St. Louis, MO on April 30, 2008.
    This PowerPoint has been modified for viewing on
    the CAELA Website and requires permission from
    the author for further distribution.

1. Introductory Comments
  • Why examine the history of adult immigrant
    education and English as a second language (ESL)
  • The story of immigration in the United States is
    an important one that spans centuries and
    continues on today. Many of the questions and
    challenges surrounding adult immigrants that have
    surfaced recently in the media, in our
    communities, and in our schools are not new or
    unique to this century.
  • Many Americans have grandparents or great
    grandparents who immigrated to the United States
    in the last 100 years these descendants of
    immigrants may not know many of the details of
    how previous generations became a part of
    American life.

1. Introductory Comments
  • Why examine the history of adult immigrant
    education and English as a second language (ESL)
  • Adult basic education has been federally funded
    since the Adult Education Act of 1966 and the
    1970 amendments to that Act that expanded
    educational services to include ESL and
    citizenship however, much progress has been made
    in the field of adult immigration education since
    its more formal origins in the late 1800s.
  • Adult ESL instruction and immigrant education
    continue to evolve as new populations arrive, new
    initiatives begin, and new developments arise
    (such as the revised citizenship test to be
    launched in October 2008) the future directions
    of this field may be informed by its past.

This photo depicts workers outside of an Italian
and German storefront in Stamford, Connecticut in
1892. It is likely that the people in this
picture were of European background, and were
possibly first-generation immigrants with limited
English proficiency. In 1892, 579,663 people
immigrated to the United States, most coming from
Germany (119,168), the UK (93,598) and Russia
(81,511) (Jenks Lauck, 1922). However, very
few ESL programs were in documented operation in
the United States around this time. Photo
available from the Immigrant History Research
Center, http//ihrc.umn.edu/
This photo depicts a workplace-sponsored English
class at the Ford Motor Company around 1915. Note
the instructional resources used and the
classroom set-up. In 1914, many of the Ford
Motor Companys employees did not speak English.
English classes were part of the requirements
associated with the Five Dollar Day Plan that
Ford instituted, which paid employees this wage
provided that they met certain standards of
living The Sociological Department of the Ford
Motor Company was organized in March, 1913, and
oversaw a broad array of social benefits for Ford
employees, including assistance in living in
well-maintained single-family homes as opposed to
small apartments the Sociological Department was
responsible for determining if employees
personal lives and personal habits made them
eligible for the full wage. This phase of the
Department's activities terminated with the
reorganization of the company in 1920. from
Sociological_Depart.htm Photo retrieved from
  • How do you think that adult ESL instruction now
    may be the same as and/or different than 100
    years ago? Think in terms of
  • Instructional methods, materials, and resources
  • Teacher training and qualifications
  • Service providers
  • Recruitment, enrollment, and retention
  • Public support for immigrants and immigrant
  • Linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds
    of the students
  • Politics, society, labor, and culture of the
    United States

2. Immigrants 100 Years Ago
  • Majority were 20 years and older in 1910 at
    least 2.6 million aged 21 years and older
    couldnt speak English
  • Majority were joining family or friends
    relatively high rate of mobility between native
    countries and the U.S.
  • Many sent money back home Between 1900 and 1906,
    12,204,485 money orders worth 239,367,047.56
    were sent overseas through the New York postal
    service about 50 to Austria-Hungary, Russia,
    and Italy alone.
  • Low literacy rates in 1913-1914 Of 921,160
    Southern and Eastern Europeans, 26.8 were not
    literate, compared to 2 of 253,855 Northern and
    Western Europeans among 43,065 others, 19.9
    were not literate
  • New immigrants (labor seekers mainly from
    Southern and Eastern Europe) were deemed by many
    as inferior to the old immigrants (land seekers
    mainly from Northern and Western Europe)
  • (Alexander, 2007 Jenks Lauck, 1922)

2. Immigration Numbers
  • Number of immigrants admitted from 1899-1921
  • Italy 3,555,215
  • Austria-Hungary 3,231,595
  • Russia 2,676,674
  • England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales 1,525,541
  • British North America 995,446
  • Japan 236,991
  • China 48,799
  • Africa 17,193
  • Pacific Islands 2,786
  • South/Central America 87,000
  • Total Europe 13,886,993
  • Total Asia 488,078
  • Numbers of immigrants in a given year
  • 1820 8,385
  • 1864 191,114
  • 1879 177,826
  • 1881 669,431
  • 1900 448,572
  • 1905 1,026,499
  • 1907 1,285,349
  • 1914 1,218,480
  • 1918 110,618
  • 1921 805,228
  • (Jenks Lauck, 1922)

Immigration peaks
Immigration decrease due to World War I
Immigration to the U.S. by Decade
Source Migration Policy Institute,
Size of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population as a
Percentage of the Total Population 1850 to 2006
Source Migration Policy Institute,
  • For more statistics on current immigrant
    populations, see
  • U.S. Census Bureau section on the foreign born at
    gn.html and the American Community Survey at
  • Migration Policy Institutes Migration
    Information Source at http//www.migrationinformat
    ion.org/, and its section on interpreting the
    American Community Survey data at
  • Office of Refugee Resettlements (ORR) annual
    reports to Congress (latest report available
    online 2005) at http//www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/o

2. Major Legislation Events Affecting Immigrants
  • 1875 First federal law restricting immigration
  • 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and restrictive
    immigration law enacted
  • 1885 Alien Contract Labor Act barred employers
    from importing alien laborers
  • 1889 Jane Addams Hull-House settlement opened
    in Chicago
  • 1892 Ellis Island opened in New York to process
    increasing numbers of new immigrants
  • 1893-1897 Severe economic depression Bureau of
    Immigration established (1894) President
    Cleveland vetoed literacy test legislation (1897)
  • 1903 Additional laws restricting immigration
  • 1906 First ever English language ability
    requirement for citizenship Bureau of
    Immigration and Naturalization established
  • 1907 Immigration numbers peaked additional laws
    restricting immigration enacted
  • 1910 Angel Island immigrant depot opened in San
    Francisco Bay
  • 1915 July 4 - Americanization Day celebrated
    across the U.S.
  • 1917 U.S. entered World War I, three years after
    it began in Europe literacy test legislation for
    new immigrants passed over presidential veto
  • 1921 Immigration Quota Act limiting numbers of
    immigrants based on nationality enacted

3. English Language Instruction Providers
  • Community-based and private organizations
  • Federal agencies
  • Ethnic organizations
  • Factories and industry
  • Public schools and local education agencies
  • Hull House and other settlements

3. Providers Community and Private Organizations
This announcement for new adult ESL classes for
men was created by a community-based adult ESL
program in Wilmington, Delaware in 1918 (Hart
Burnett, 1919).
3. Providers Community-based and Private
  • North American Civic League for Immigrants
    Immigrants Protective League California
    Commission of Immigration and Housing
  • YMCA Began the push for workplace ESL in 1906
  • YWCA Began creating International Institutes in
  • Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution
    Distributed pamphlets about good citizenship and
    learning English
  • Buffalo, NY Residents wore buttons saying, I
    am making Buffalo a Christmas present. Ask me.
    indicating that they had donated 1 to help pay
    for an immigrants English instruction.
  • (Alexander, 2007 Leiserson, 1924 McClymer,
    1986 Mohl, 1986 Seller, 1978)

3. Providers Federal Agencies
  • Cover of the1921
  • government-issued citizenship
  • textbook
  • (source Library of Congress)

3. Providers Federal Agencies
  • National Americanization Committee
  • Federal Bureau of Education
  • Department of Immigration and Naturalization
  • Council of National Defense
  • Committee on Public Information

3. Providers Ethnic Organizations
By many accounts, immigrants own organizations
and institutions did more to assimilate them into
American life than community or state-run
instructional programs. Here, a Finnish folk
dance group from Negaunee, Michigan, ca. 1915.
Available at http//digital.lib.umn.edu/IMAGES/ref
3. Providers Ethnic Organizations
Immigrants often lived in boarding houses, where
they shared both close quarters and
advice/information about living and working in
the United States. Here, a group of Finnish
boarders in Chisholm, Minnesota, 1906. Available
at http//digital.lib.umn.edu/IMAGES/reference/im/
3. Providers Ethnic Organizations
  • Neighborhood life
  • Literary societies and institutes
  • Fraternal lodges
  • Music and cultural circles
  • Womens organizations
  • Churches (e.g., Catholic churchs Civics
    catechism on the rights and duties of American
  • Theaters
  • Citizens Clubs
  • Unions and socialist groups
  • Foreign press

Polish University of Chicago (Founded 1910)
Some Americans think that we immigrants can
comprehend only such thoughts as I see a cat
the cat is black -- as the teachers in the
evening schools make grown men repeat. But the
minds of most immigrants are not so feeble as
that. For the poor man, America is all
work-work-work. We believe in work, all right,
but we want thought and education to go along
with it. So we took up questions about the
beginning of things the creation of the world,
the theory of evolution, primitive man, the
development of language All the lectures were
in Polish Gradually we came to subjects
connected with America and with civic problems.
But here we do more than have lectures. We go and
see for ourselves how civic agencies work We
Socialists have not tried particularly to spread
our propaganda We havent preached
Americanization, either but if what America
wants is people who think and act for themselves,
then were doing Americanization. (Cited in
Seller, 1978)
3. Providers Ethnic Organizations
St. Joseph Society members at the St. Casimir
Church, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1918. Available
at http//digital.lib.umn.edu/IMAGES/reference/im/
3. Providers Factories and Industry
3. Providers Factories and Industry
  • YMCA workplace classes (1906)
  • Ford English School (1913)
  • The non-English speaking worker is recognized as
    a potential source of disturbance or waste,
    largely because it is difficult to convey to him
    the intentions of the management when there are
    just instructions regarding safety, health, and
    other conditions of employment. (Leiserson,
    1924, p.120)
  • Primary and fundamental duty resting upon all
    American employers

The Americanization movement had been in
launched in 1915, and by 1918, the factory-class
idea had been sold, as an idea. Factory classes
sprang up on all sides, flourished for a brief
period, and in a discouragingly large number of
cases, died. It was the time when everyone relied
on enthusiasm, and practically nothing else, to
get this job done. Anybody could teach. Make
everybody 100 per cent American, and do it
overnight! Speaking English will win the War! And
so on. (Leiserson, 1924, p.122)
3. Providers Public Schools and Local Education
  • 1901 and on NYC, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland,
    Philadelphia, Buffalo
  • 1914 253 places in 10 states with large
    foreign-born populations had classes 1919 504
  • 1916 First statewide education program began in
  • Early 1920s less than 2 of population attending
    night school male-female ration of 31
  • Different content areas for men and women
  • Very low participation, attendance, and
    persistence rates in night schools
  • (Alexander, 2007 McClymer, 1986 Sellers, 1978)

3. Providers Hull House and Other Settlements
Family living close to Hull House, 1892. Source
Hull House parlor and reception area (Glowacki
Hendry, 2004)
3. Providers Hull House
  • The teacher in a Settlement is constantly put
    upon his mettle to discover methods of
    instruction which shall make knowledge quickly
    available to his pupils, and I should like here
    to pay my tribute of admiration to the dean of
    our educational department, Miss Landsberg, and
    to the many men and women who every winter come
    regularly to Hull-House, putting untiring energy
    into the endless task of teaching the newly
    arrived immigrant the first use of language of
    which he has such desperate need. Even a meager
    knowledge of English may mean an opportunity to
    work in a factory versus nonemployment, or it may
    mean a question of life or death when a sharp
    command must be understood in order to avoid the
    danger of a descending crane. (Addams, 1910, p.

3. Providers Hull House Residents
  • Experience abroad
  • Diversity of religious creeds
  • Up to 40 residents at a time most stayed for 12
    years. Doctors, attorneys, newspapermen,
    businessmen, teachers, scientists, researchers,
    artists, musicians, trades people, lecturers,
    juvenile advocates, immigrant advocates,
    labor/union advocates, sanitary inspector.
  • (Knight, 2005)

3. Providers Americanization Efforts
Ford Motor Companys employees Before and
After the institution of the Five Dollar Day
Plan and living assistance from the Sociological
Department. Available http//www.autolife.umd.umic
4. Americanization Efforts
  • Assimilation (cultural, linguistic, physical)
  • Birds of passage exploiting America
  • Anti-hyphenism
  • Each contributor of aid is a center of
    radiating influence and publicity. Everyone likes
    to tell what he is doing to further
    Americanization (Schermerhorn, 1923, p. 15)
  • Everything that touches the immigrants life is
    an instrumentality for his Americanization or the
    reverse (cited in McClymer, 1982, p. 114)
  • Americanization through the pay envelope

Some people feared that new immigrants would not
assimilate into American society The coming in
of people who will not be assimilated creates
discord and makes separate classes or castes in a
community It may, therefore, be assumed that the
immigrant who cannot be adjusted with a
reasonable degree of readiness to the customs and
institutions of his adopted country brings an
undesirable element into the community and would
better be excluded. Those immigrants who can
readily be assimilated will be desirable, if
their energy is needed to develop the resources
of the country to good advantage, tho (sic) it
may be injurious if they come in so large numbers
that regardless of their personal qualifications
they can not be assimilated. (Jenks Lauck,
1922, pp. 331-332)
Many societal attitudes of the day did not look
favorably on immigrant employees In general, it
may be said that the southern and eastern
European often does not intend to remain
permanently in the country or at the work in
which he is engaged. His primary object is to
earn as much as possible within a limited period
of time under the conditions of employment
obtaining at the time he begins his work. He is
not looking to advancement in the scale of
occupations, or to gaining permanently a position
in any branch of mining or of manufacturing The
great mass of foreign-born workmen remain in the
ranks of unskilled, or semi-skilled, laborers.
(Jenks Lauck, 1922, p. 335)
4. Americanization Efforts
  • Federal Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization
    citizenship requirements
  • Congress and the Literacy Act and the Quota
  • Immigrant inspectors shall be furnished with
    slips of uniform size, prepared under the
    direction of the Secretary of Labor, each
    containing not less than thirty nor more than
    forty words in ordinary use, printed in plainly
    legible type in some one of the various languages
    or dialects of immigrants. Each alien may
    designate the particular language or dialect in
    which he desires the examination to be made, and
    shall be required to read the words printed on
    the slip in such language or dialect some
    exceptions (Jenks Lauck, 1922, p. 425)
  • Industry (see Leiserson, 1924)

5. Anti-Americanization Efforts and Support
War brides at the International Institute of St.
Louis, 1947. Available from http//digital.lib.umn
5. Anti-Americanization Efforts and Support
  • International Institutes (see Mohl, 1982)
  • Immigrant groups and foreign press (see Seller,
  • Immigrants are treated as economic commodities
    because of the work they can do. As long as they
    remain docile and do not react against untoward
    conditions, they are tolerated in large numbers.
    For instance, despite large numbers of Mexicans
    in the Southwest today, no Americans are
    particularly disturbed by the presence of these
    noticeably different peoples. In fact, still
    larger numbers are being sought. As long as
    unskilled immigrant laborers, of any race, remain
    in their place, amenable to control, all goes
    wellIt is announced, perhaps, that he must not
    use his own language or that he is to be
    Americanized, and he promptly discovers that
    his homeland culture possesses an unsuspected
    preciousness. (Bogardus, 1928, pp. 8-9)
  • Americanization by example (see Schermerhorn,
  • Chicagos Yiddish-language Daily Courier was
    against the trends toward Americanization of
    immigrants it is not at all necessary for the
    liberty, security, and prosperity of America to
    fuse all the nationalities here to a point where
    they will lose their identity completelyIt is
    much better that they should treasure dearly the
    inheritance which they brought with them from the
    old world. (McClymer, 1982, pp. 110-111)

6. Instructional Methods and Materials
  • YMCA and Roberts method (1907)
  • Direct method
  • Home classes for mothers

6. Instructional Methods and Materials
This letter was used by a community-based
Delaware program in 1919 to recruit students. It
was sent out in the immigrants languages through
their childrens schools. From Hart Burnett
6. Instructional Methods and Materials
This letter was used by a community-based
Delaware program in 1919 to recruit students. It
was sent out in the immigrants languages through
local factories and employers. From Hart
Burnett (1919)
6. Instructional Methods and Materials
Source Brown (1918)
6. Instructional Methods and Materials
Source The Division of Americanization, State of
Ohio (1922)
6. Instructional Methods and Materials
Examples of direct method strategies of
instruction. Photo Hart Burnett (1919) Text
Brown (1918)
6. Instructional Methods and Materials
Example of text for a reading lesson. Source
Brown (1918)
6. Instructional Methods and Materials
Sample textbook page from the Federal Citizenship
Textbook (Part III), Crist (1921)
6. Instructional Methods Factory Classes
The Ford English schools elaborate graduate
ceremony reflected both the symbolic and
increasingly coercive nature of the
Americanization movement not only in the Ford
plant but also in the country as a whole. For
commencement, graduates, dressed in gaudy old
world costumes and carrying signs identifying
their native lands, went down into a huge
receptacle labeled melting pot. The schools
instructors stirred the pot with huge ladles.
Then, the men, wearing identical American suits
and waving a small American flag, filed out from
each side of the huge pot (Alexander, 2007, p.
222). Photo credit http//www.autolife.umd.umich.
Factory Classes
  • Lessons in citizenship are taken up as soon as
    the men have a fair understanding of English.
    Citizenship is taught by what the instructor
    calls the dramatic method. Five lessons each
    represent a year of the naturalization period.
    The students go through naturalization
    proceedings, with witnesses, giving evidence of
    their residence in this country and attending to
    other details. One of their number acts as a
    judge. After they have been naturalized they
    become citizens for classroom purposes. The
    class is next organized into wards a ward in
    each aisle in the schoolroom. Aldermen and a
    mayor are elected, and debates and conversations
    conducted which bring out the various duties and
    privileges of American citizenship. The plan
    gives everyone in the class something to do,
    explains their teacher. We get them to working,
    to talking, making speeches. The rest is easy.
    They learn from one another. (Leiserson, 1924,
    p. 124)

Home classes for immigrant mothers were often the
only way that women received English language
instruction. The foreign-born mother has been
the last member of the family to be considered
worthy of education (University of the State of
New York, 1920, p. 1).
Home Classes for Mothers (Source University of
the State of New York, 1920)
  • The learning of the English language should be
    used merely as a vehicle for the clear
    understanding of American ways, American ideals,
    and American institutions. Secretary of the
    Interior, 1920
  • The home Hunting a good location A window in
    every room Sunshine and health Protection
    against fire A good kitchen and living room
    Keeping out mosquitoes and flies Tenement house
    laws Opening windows for ventilation
  • Food Setting the table Box lunches Simple
    refreshments for a party A family breakfast,
    luncheon, supper, or dinner
  • Clothing Suitable play clothes Dressing a doll
  • Esthetic environment The garden The walls of
    the house Harmonious colors for a room Making
    box furniture attractive

Home Classes for Mothers (Source University of
the State of New York, 1920)
  • The baby Feeding and weighing Going to the
    clinic Playing with the baby Simple lullabies
    Learning to walk The baby a citizen
  • Children Keeping children well Providing
    children with handkerchiefs Food for an invalid
    child Childrens sleep Physical effects of tea
    and coffee Physical effects of moving pictures
    The mother and the school
  • The mother and the larger community How the
    library helps the family Going to the moving
    picture show Telling time Buying a ticket
    Keeping a family budget Holidays

Italian mothers learn to make a bed Source
Hart Burnett, 1919
Sample assessment for beginning level
students. Source Hart Burnett (1919)
Sample assessment for intermediate level
students. Source Hart Burnett (1919)
Sample assessment for intermediate level students
(continued). Source Hart Burnett (1919)
Suggestions for teachers to close the
class Source Division of Americanization, State
of Ohio (1922)
Suggestions to Teachers (Brown, 1918)
  1. Have your methods and material meet the peculiar
    needs of your own locality.
  2. Be sure you have a plan book and a time schedule.
  3. Prepare all lessons systematically. Do not use a
    hit or miss scheme.
  4. Teach patriotic songs and memory gems to inspire
    a proper American spirit.
  5. Hide your chair when you enter the room. Walk
    about among your pupils.
  6. Make your classroom a busy workshop. Have it
    buzzing all evening.
  7. Be a dramatic teacher.
  8. Be sympathetic, humorous, cheerful, courteous,
    encouraging, patient.
  9. Dont let a student miss a session without
    knowing the reason. Dont give him a start in
  10. Dont be a slave to the textbook.
  11. Have real, every-day conversation lessons,
    something that the pupils may use when they leave
    the class at night.

What Seemed to Work
  • Relevant topics
  • Personal talks and opportunities for advancement
    and increased pay on the job
  • Native language teachers
  • Slower pace of lessons

What Didnt Seem to Work
  • Compulsory attendance in factory classes
  • Untrained teachers
  • Use of childrens materials
  • Inadequate facilities
  • Lack of research No systematic effort has ever
    been made to work out the best methods We have
    little definite usable knowledge of the varying
    characteristics of the several races. We are
    ignorant even of the surest and quickest way to
    teach them to speak and understand English
    (cited in McClymer, 1982)
  • Americanization classes, not education

Some Thoughts
  • Lets learn from history How did immigrants and
    ethnic groups initiate and implement their own
    successful programs?
  • Methods and contexts for instruction need to
    change according to the needs of immigrants.
  • We still struggle with some misconceptions, e.g.,
    Anyone can teach English.
  • Low enrollment and persistence is still a
  • What do we base our beliefs about language
    teaching and learning on now?
  • We have made a lot of progress!

What Will History Say About Us And
  • our enrollment statistics and
    attendance/persistence rates?
  • accountability requirements like the NRS?
  • the training of teachers?
  • research on language learning and teaching?
  • funding for adult education?
  • immigration policies and controversies in
    2006-2008 and on?
  • data to better understand the needs of
    immigrant populations?

Thank You!
  • Sarah Young
  • syoung_at_cal.org
  • www.cal.org and www.cal.org/caela
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