USA Learns in the Classroom

We asked some of our “power user” teachers and researchers to share their experience of using USA Learns, and here’s what they said:

USA Learns — Love at First Sight!

By Lauren Draus, Adult Educator at HFM BOCES

USA Learns is a valuable tool in my Adult Education ESL classes. Last year I was given the challenge of teaching a blended class once a week, with the extra goal of digital literacy. This was no small task. I had students whose oral, written and technological abilities ranged from proficient to non-existent!

How was I going to provide meaningful English Language instruction and build digital literacy for my students? After looking for online English Language Learner programs I came across USA Learns. It was love at first sight!

The possibilities have been endless. While each student is able to have an individual account that grows with their abilities I am also able to use USA Learns as a companion for topics covered in class. The lessons touch on all areas of language acquisition; grammar, pronunciation, spelling, reading, writing and listening. Their range of topics includes shopping, work, school, health and more.

Teacher access gives me the ability to check on each student’s progress behind the scenes. Students are able to work at their own learner level and pace without feeling ahead or behind others.

It allows more advanced technology users the freedom of focusing on content in a digital platform while lower level users become familiar with technology as they too build on their English Language skills.

The guided lessons and practice give me confidence that my students are getting quality English instruction when they are not in the classroom. It has been a win for this teacher and her students!

An Enjoyable Way to Learn English

By Margaret Lanen, Notre Dame Education Center

The Massachusetts Department of Education approves the curriculum of USA Learns, and there are over 20 adult learning centers in the state that use the program. Notre Dame Education Center has used USA Learns, since it started. We have found it to be very effective as a way to improve basic skills for English language learners.

Students enjoy the different topics in the 2nd English Course and learn about U. S. culture at the same time as they improve their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Many of the stories relate to their own experiences. I love to hear their laughter as they listen to the videos or share the stories with one another.

Each unit provides videos to improve the students’ listening skills. I ask them to repeat the video as they read the text. These activities can sharpen their reading and listening skills. New vocabulary activities strengthen their comprehension, pronunciation and spelling skills.

I require that students score at least 80% on all the activities. They can repeat them as often as they want. When the spelling activity is difficult, they realize that they need to improve their study skills and give more concentration to what they are learning. In the writing activities, students answer the questions by using the new vocabulary to summarize the content of the lesson. I like the “Write About It” activities best because they provide the students with the opportunity to use new vocabulary with the correct grammar to answer the questions, which indicate their understanding of the material. Teachers can correct the students’ writing in the program, and ask the students to make changes so they can learn from their mistakes.

From my experience the curriculum of USA Learns provides English language learners an enjoyable way to improve their skills. I highly recommend it.

Building a Distance Class Around USA Learns

By Jerome Johnston, Director, Project IDEAL Support Center
University of Michigan, Project IDEAL: Improving Distance Education for Adult Learners

Many teachers have taken advantage of the Teacher’s side of USA Learns. It allows a teacher or tutor to create a “class,” enroll students in the class, and then view their work. In this way the teacher can provide guidance and support for students as they work on lessons in USA Learns. There are currently more than 28,000 teacher classes in the USA Learns system.

In the last few years a number of teachers who work with ESOL students at a distance have begun experimenting with ways to enrich the virtual classroom activities for students. They see the value of programs like USA Learns to teach English basics, but they want to provide additional opportunities to help students practice oral or written communication with their classmates or become skilled with a number of online tools they will need to succeed in the workplace or in school.

At Project IDEAL we identified a number of these teachers and described what they are doing. A teacher in rural Arizona uses LiveBinders as the main website for her distance class. Students find their weekly assignments and instructions posted there. These include USA Learns for basic instruction, PLATO for lessons on specific language exercises not covered in USA Learns, History Channel and StoryCorps for listening and writing practice, and a number of other websites for grammar and vocabulary building.

A teacher in California assigns USA Learns as the core curriculum. But the language level of her students is so diverse she needs to provide a range of supplementary learning materials. For this she created a Weebly website ( on which she posts links to these materials. Each student has their own Weebly page, which they use as a portfolio to store and present their projects. Sharon communicates with her students using the Weebly blog and email. This helps them build both their writing and technical skills. She also provides opportunities for students to communicate with each other through a discussion section on Weebly.

These are just a few examples of ways that teachers are taking advantage of the core English training available in USA Learns, but expanding online options to meet additional language needs while expanding their digital literacy skills. For more examples, download this report on the project: New Models for Distance Classes in Adult Education.

Incorporating ESL and Technology

By Francisco Pinedo, an ESL teacher in Soledad, California

I use USA Learns to incorporate ESL and technology skills in my classroom. I choose two days a week to use USA learns with my students. Then, most of the students work at home on the USA Learns site too.

The site improves listening skills because it introduces vocabulary words that are repeated in the lesson/unit. Students also get a chance to say the words.

Students hear and see the words in the lessons. When it comes time to spell, students seem to remember the spelling better because of the pictures that are included. For example, if they hear and see the word “eraser,” they seem to remember how to spell the word even better.