Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL)


Amanda Snell


Teachers working with adult immigrants and refugees who have beginner-level proficiency in English face a tension: Learners need to acquire basic English skills (often referred to as survival English), but survival materials often ignore the rich experiences and knowledge that students possess but cannot easily communicate in their second (or additional) language. This article argues that text-based language play and bricolage, or the construction of something new from available resources, allow adult learners with beginning English proficiency to display their multiple forms of knowledge while also practicing basic English. In this paper, I present texts created by learners in a beginning-level community-based English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom to show how learners engage in critical thinking and demonstrate symbolic competence—the ability to play with linguistic codes and meanings—through playful bricolage. The findings suggest that instruction which moves beyond a purely survival focus benefits beginning-level adult learners.