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General English Program

General English Program – ALA’s program for English learners who need to use English to interact with English speakers on an everyday basis. The 7 levels are: Introduction to English, Beginner, High Beginner, Low Intermediate, Intermediate, High Intermediate, and Advanced. The program instructs students in English grammar, English conversation, listening and speaking skills for daily life, and reading and writing skills for social and employment purposes. At the higher levels, students learn to apply their knowledge and skills in more diverse and work-oriented types of situations. When students complete the program, they are ready to pursue English study in a particular employment area.

GEP Level 1- Introduction to English

This course welcomes newcomers to the English language and introduces them to the most fundamental elements of English through exposure to rich, meaningful language—the letters of the alphabet and their related sounds, the ability to write the alphabet, basic punctuation and capitalization, and the basics of sentence structure. Students will develop the ability to engage in very basic listening and speaking tasks they will encounter in daily life, such as understanding and answering questions about their address, nationality, marital status, date of birth, and daily schedule and activities. They will also begin to ask and answer questions about the weather, clothing, food preferences, meals, prices, locations, means of transportation, types of housing, illnesses and types of medications and healthy habits.

Students will learn to read and write what they are able to comprehend and say. Instruction at this level focuses on the here-and-now and on students’ immediate surroundings and needs. Classroom activities include paired interactions, role-plays, and simple problem-solving activities involving team-work. The four language skills are taught in an integrated fashion that mirrors their use in social and work contexts. Students learn functional language in order to carry out real-world tasks relevant to their daily life.

GEP Level 2- Beginner

At the second level of their English study, newcomers expand their vocabulary dramatically through exposure to rich, meaningful language used in real world contexts. Students begin to be able to use their new language creatively and no longer have to rely only on memorized phrases. Students improve their knowledge and ability to use the basics of word order and sentence structure. Students learn to create their own sentences, using the simple present, present continuous, and imperative in their affirmative and negative forms and continue to develop both yes-no and WH interrogative forms. With the addition of adjectives, adverbs of frequency, the structure want to plus infinitive, and the modals can and should, students are able to share more detailed information about themselves, their family relationships, and other people in their lives.

They are also able to engage in transactions in a wider range of situations and function more independently in the areas of shopping, finding housing and furnishings, dealing with health care personnel in doctor’s offices and the hospital, and finding out about and taking advantage of the resources offered in their community. Students will learn to read and write what they are able to comprehend and say. They can send an email and fill out simple forms independently. Instruction at this level continues to focus on the here-and-now and on students’ immediate surroundings and needs. Classroom activities include paired interactions, role-plays, and simple problem-solving activities involving team-work. The four language skills are taught in an integrated fashion that mirrors their use in social and work contexts. Students learn functional language in order to carry out real-world tasks relevant to their daily life.

GEP Level 3- High Beginner

At the third level of their English study, students expand their vocabulary and grammatical knowledge in ways that allow them to comprehend and express more detailed, elaborated messages. Students are able to use their new language creatively and construct their own messages. They have a good grasp of affirmative and negative word order and a better ability to use interrogative structures. They are able to participate in more extended conversations about their family and their daily lives. Students are also able to engage in a wide variety of transactional situations, find the information they need, and interact independently so they can carry out the functional tasks of everyday life. Students learn to read connected discourse on familiar topics and write what they are able to comprehend and say. By the end of the course they are able to fill out a variety of forms and applications and send longer, personal email and written letters.

They learn language related to the work place and job skills and habits. Instruction at this level continues to focus on the here-and-now and on students’ immediate surroundings and needs but begins to move toward past and future experiences. Classroom activities include paired interactions, role-plays, and more complex problem-solving activities involving team-work. The four language skills are taught in an integrated fashion that mirrors their use in social and work contexts.

GEP Level 4- Low Intermediate

At the fourth level of their English study, students continue to expand their knowledge and ability to use a wide variety of vocabulary and grammar so that they can express themselves with more precision and elaboration than at previous levels. Instruction at this level no longer focuses on the here-and-now and on students’ immediate surroundings and needs, but on their past, present, and future experience of the world. Students can now speak at length about past experiences and events, make plans for the future, discuss obstacles to these plans, and develop possible solutions. They can compare and contrast information presented in charts, graphs, diagrams and short readings in order to make choices. They can participate in extended conversations about their daily lives as equal participants and begin to use their language to engage in common communicative functions, such as thanking, apologizing, inviting, agreeing and disagreeing, making suggestions, and giving advice. Students learn the skills necessary for participating in more formal types of oral interactions, such as a job or college interview and practice these skills during simulations.

Students are exposed to oral and written texts of increasing complexity and work on developing the ability to interpret and react to authentic real- world language. They begin to produce more formal, short, functional written texts, such as a cover letter or complaint. Classroom activities continue to include paired interactions, role-plays and more involved simulations. Problem-solving activities at this level involve the use of all four language skills, critical thinking, and a jigsaw organization which forces students to rely on each other. Students take part in experiential learning activities which involve them in interactions with native English speakers. The four language skills are taught in an integrated fashion that mirrors their use in social and work contexts.

GEP Level 5- Intermediate

At the fifth level of their English study, students develop strategies that will help them become more self-directed and independent English learners. They learn ways to improve their English language learning by participating in out-of-class activities and they keep learner logs which help them track those activities. In the classroom, they learn and practice strategies for guessing word meaning from context while reading and listening to authentic real-world texts. Other strategies for learning and remembering new vocabulary involve learning word families as a way of seeing the relationships between words and using a learner’s dictionary. To deepen their reading comprehension, students learn the strategies of previewing before reading, reading for main ideas during their first reading, and scanning for specific information during their third reading. Students also learn and practice the strategy of making inferences (reading between the lines) during and after reading. In writing, students continue to practice filling out increasingly complex applications, such as applications for loans, writing formal business letters, and providing the necessary supporting documents. In addition, at this level, students begin to learn how to produce connected written discourse, starting with paragraphs that have a strong topic sentence, good supporting sentences and a final conclusion sentence. Students also learn how to produce connected oral discourse by giving short oral presentations as part of a team. In this way, they begin their introduction to the kinds of academic tasks they will need to perform if they decide to pursue postsecondary study.

Finally, in the area of functional life skills, student will become familiar with basic elements of American life, such as making goals for the future, managing one’s time and personal finances, applying for credit cards and loans in order to pay for major purchases such as a car, a house, or tuition, and volunteering in one’s community to make it a better place to live. Students learn and practice the vocabulary related to these topics and become familiar with grammatical structures that allow them to think and talk about hypothetical life situations and events. Classroom activities continue to include paired interactions, role-plays and more involved simulations. Problem-solving activities at this level involve the use of all four language skills, critical thinking, and a jigsaw organization which forces students to rely on each other. Students take part in experiential learning activities which involve them in interactions with fluent English speakers. The four language skills are taught in an integrated fashion that mirrors their use in social and work contexts.

GEP Level 6- High Intermediate

At the sixth level of their English study, students receive an in-depth introduction to the work place and to work-life connections. They will first be introduced to the process of getting hired, and will learn strategies for how to read job postings, identify the skills and characteristics needed for certain job categories and the job responsibilities, conduct a job search, fill-out a job application, write a resume, an e-mail cover letter and follow-up e-mails, and prepare for a job interview. The course focuses next on workplace behavior, including appropriate actions, appropriate communication with supervisors and fellow employees, making ethical decisions, and asking for a promotion or a salary increase. Students learn about health issues that may arise because of work conditions or work-related stress, where and how to seek help, and how to apply for health and dental insurance coverage. The course also presents information about civic rights and responsibilities, such as following the law, accessing local services, interpreting the electoral process, and communicating with local officials.

Students become familiar with the specific terminology used in these areas and the grammatical structures which permit the expression of hypothetical situations and more abstract ideas. Students continue to develop the strategies they learned in the previous course which help to facilitate their comprehension of speech and written texts. In addition, at this level, students practice producing longer multi-paragraph written texts by learning about the introduction, body, and conclusion, and they use the same pattern of organization to produce and present longer oral presentations, in the form of individual speeches. Classroom activities continue to include paired interactions, role-plays and more involved simulations. Problem-solving activities at this level involve the use of all four language skills, critical thinking, and a jigsaw organization which forces students to rely on each other. Students take part in experiential learning activities which involve them in interactions with fluent English speakers. The four language skills are taught in an integrated fashion that mirrors their use in social and work contexts.

GEP Level 7- Advanced

The final course of the General English Program is more content-based than previous courses and provides students with the kinds of information they will need in order to function successfully and comfortably in the worlds of community, home, education, and work. One of the key areas addressed in this course involves students in discovering their individual learning styles and finding ways to connect these learning styles to their career and educational paths. Students learn various techniques for establishing and prioritizing goals and ways to stay motivated while working towards those goals. Students also participate in discussions about work –life balance and learn strategies for maintaining this balance. Another key area addressed in the course is personal finance, which involves tips on organizing finances, reducing debt and saving money, identifying good investment strategies, maintaining good credit and protecting themselves against identity theft. The third key area relates to the workplace and ideas for creating an efficient and pleasant atmosphere. First, students learn about various ways of finding and setting up organizational systems at work to increase workplace efficiency. Students learn they will have their work performance evaluated and may have to write progress reports explaining what they have accomplished at various points in time, and they practice these situations through simulations. They are also introduced to the concept of conflict resolution and how conflicts in the workplace are handled in the United States and role-play these types of scenarios. The final key area addresses the democratic values which underlie American society and how they affect community life. Students study and discuss the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, pathways to immigration and citizenship, the benefits of involvement with civic organizations, and what politics and elections are.

The course ends with a discussion of freedom of speech and student presentations of individual opinion speeches. Because so much of the content of the course is concerned with real-world issues, the students will spend much of their class time together outside the classroom, observing, discussing, and evaluating what they have seen. In the classroom, students learn academic skills they might need during future training programs or advanced study and they practice those academic skills while they are out in the community listening to talks by business people, local officials, civic groups and researching additional information. In the classroom, they continue to improve their functional abilities in English and review and practice the strategies they have acquired throughout the program that will help be life-long learners of English.

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