Camera Lens for focusingELA Lens: Contextualization & Relevance

Contextualized skill instruction engages adult learners in learning ELA skills while building knowledge in important domains of adult life (e.g., civics, science, health, careers, financial literacy). In this type of instruction, adult learners use and integrate multiple ELA skills throughout a unit (a series of connected lessons), engaging with a set of complex texts with increasing independence. Ultimately, they complete tasks and develop written and multimedia products that reflect how those ELA skills are applied outside a school setting. 

Well designed, contextualized instruction can ultimately do double-duty: teach ELA skills and develop knowledge of the world.

When making curricular or instructional decisions, ask the following questions (also downloadable as a one-page PDF):

  • How are your learners building knowledge of content-area topics (civics, science, workforce prep, etc.) while learning and practicing ELA skills and standards?
  • For ASE-level students who do not have separate classes for social studies or science, do topics relate to what they will see on the HiSET/GED or in their next steps?
  • Do topics represent real-life contexts in which ELA skills are used by adults? Are the topics relevant to students' roles as workers, family members, community members, and/or lifelong learning?
  • Within the time available and other constraints, what is possible for project and problem-based learning?
  • What opportunities exist for learners to apply the targeted ELA skills and standards in meaningful tasks, appropriate for adults? (in addition to passing the HiSET or GED)?
  • If students ask, "Why are we studying this?" what will you answer?
  • Do major tasks seem to be worth the time involved?
  • Do any tasks need to be streamlined or simplified?

Tools and Resources

SABES ELA logo of books SABES ELA Curriculum Hub
Topic Area
ADEI (anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion)
CCRSAE (College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education)
Civics and Citizenship
Curriculum Development
Social Studies
Media Type
Resource Type
PD Center
SABES English Language Arts Curriculum & Instruction PD Center