Module 5: Helping Adult Learners Prepare for the Naturalization Interview and Test
This module will provide you with basic strategies for helping adult learners acquire the English language skills and civics knowledge they will need for the naturalization interview and test.
How Can I Help Learners Improve Their English Skills?
Applicants for naturalization must be able to speak, read, and write English unless they qualify for an exception or accommodation. While applicants do not need to be completely fluent in English, they should be able to understand and respond to the USCIS officer during the naturalization interview and have sufficient English skills to pass the reading, writing, and civics tests.
Provide learners with a safe and comfortable learning environment. Start by getting acquainted with learners and building their trust. Be sensitive when correcting learners. Too much correction could make them afraid to speak and therefore hinder their progress. Many teachers use a modeling approach where the teacher models the way to respond correctly if the learner makes an error.
The information below provides some basic strategies to improve learners’ English skills in the following areas:
Determine what type of listening skills will be required of the learners for the activity. Ideas for listening activities are dictation exercises, having learners act on commands, or having learners listen for certain words or phrases.
Pre-teach new vocabulary.
Tell learners what is required of them for the listening activity. For example, let them know if they need to respond to a command (e.g., please raise your right hand), provide a verbal response (e.g., yes or no), or if they need to write something down.
Finish with a listening comprehension activity.
Tip: For all listening activities, try to limit background noise.
Select and introduce a topic of speech. Make sure the topic is at the appropriate level for learners. Ideas for speaking topics include having learners describe a photo, asking learners to respond to questions including open-ended questions (e.g., “Why do you want to become a U.S. citizen?”), and having learners give a short presentation on a topic.
Demonstrate what is expected of the learners for the activity. Try not to interrupt or correct learners while they are speaking. Provide feedback. Model the correct speech learners are to use.
Tip: Always face learners when giving instructions for speaking activities. Speak slowly and clearly.
Find level-appropriate reading material.
If necessary, modify text to simplify grammar and vocabulary.
Introduce the topic and pre-teach new vocabulary.
Check for comprehension. Engage learners by asking questions about what they read.
Tip: Choose reading material that is relevant for adult learners.
Select a writing activity that is level-appropriate. Some writing activities include writing what someone said (i.e., dictation), CLOZE exercises, writing words, sentences, or paragraphs to describe something, practice spelling new words, or developing a list.
Prepare learners for the activity.
Do a practice exercise with learners to show them what is expected of them for the activity.
Review for accuracy. Try not to overcorrect learners’ mistakes. Have the learners check their own work.
Tip: At the naturalization interview, learners will be required to print and sign their names. Practice these skills with them.
For all activities, assess how well learners were able to complete the activity. If you use a lesson plan, write down notes recommending what you would do differently with the activity next time.
The USCIS Citizenship Resource Center’s Training and Professional Development page has more information on ways to improve adult learners’ English skills.
How Can I Help Learners Acquire the Requisite Civics Knowledge?
Make sure learners have a basic understanding of English before introducing civics content. The content for the civics component of the naturalization test was developed at the U.S. Department of Education’s National Reporting System for Adult Education English as a second language high beginning to low intermediate level educational functioning level descriptors. After assessing and determining learners’ English proficiency levels, you may consider referring lower-level learners to an English as a second language class or plan more time for instruction to allow lower-level learners sufficient time to acquire the content knowledge for the civics test as well as to prepare for the naturalization interview. Here are some basic strategies for teaching civics:
Relearn the content. For many volunteers, it may have been awhile since you studied U.S. history and government. Review or relearn the material before you teach it to learners.
Consider conveying the information in smaller segments.
Remember to always introduce new vocabulary and concepts.
Connect what learners already know about the topic with what they need to learn.
Recognize that learners may understand systems of government based on their experiences in their native countries. Point out similarities and explain differences.
Use visual aids (for example, charts, maps, timelines, photos, and images) to help learners comprehend the information.
If possible, incorporate technology into activities.
This module provided you with basic strategies for helping learners acquire the English skills and civics knowledge they will need for the naturalization interview and test. Use the strategies and tips in this module to facilitate learning.