Bait and Switch Program Promotion – Being Intentional in Attracting Foundational Learners

Posted: 7 April 2016

Author: Cheryl Lovstrom, Community Learning Network

Found in:

Comments: 5

Recommendations: 1

Getting newcomers to come to ESL classes is easy, they know they have things to learn about English. But what about foundational learners? CALPs often find it hard to attract them. It’s rarely because people don’t know where to get help, and it’s certainly not because you aren’t doing a good job of serving those learners. It is almost always because asking for help with something “everyone should know” is horribly embarrassing. So how do you reach out and help those learners?

Let’s take a page from the Family Literacy book we’ve been using for years: getting parents to attend a literacy program because it’s “for their child”. Ah, yes, the old bait and switch. It’s like hiding cauliflower in the mashed potatoes, or chopping up peppers for the salsa. And it works!

So how do you get creative? What can you do when the outcomes sound SO boring?! First, remember outcomes may sound boring but programs don’t have to be. The best learning takes place when we are having fun. Need fun ideas? Talk to a friend. There are lots of CALPs who have this stuff down and have been attracting foundational learners for a long time. They have loads of tips and tricks and are only too happy to share. All you have to do is ask. And remember your Regional Support Staff, too. We are all here for you, whether you need a helping hand, a cheerleader, or just someone to bounce ideas off. Once you’ve done that you will feel better about the whole process and be ready to plan your own programs. So, when you are planning your next foundational learning opportunity, keep a few things in mind:

Plan for your outcomes. No matter what they’re called, foundational learning opportunities must focus on building skills in literacy and foundational learning. If your Birdhouses for Dummies course is really just about building a birdhouse, it is a General Interest program. General Interest programming is allowed, but tuition must pay for all of your setup and delivery costs (see the General Interest Program Planning Calculator). To make it a foundational learning opportunity, give it a foundational outcome and make sure you plan to meet that outcome: for example, “learners will gain skills and knowledge about measurement and conversion”. Once your outcomes are clear, you are ready to plan your program.

Plan to your outcomes. Build your course with specific, foundational outcomes in mind. For example, if your target outcome is “learners will gain skills and knowledge to make simple conversions in measurement”, include activities specific to that outcome. Activities you might use in programs could include

  • Following a recipe (literacy)
  • Doubling a recipe to feed a large family (numeracy)
  • Scaling down a bird house to create a small version of a large model (numeracy)
  • Finding a bird species in a wildlife book/on a chart (document use/literacy)
  • Journaling activities to increase writing skills (literacy)

Make it fun. No one wants to attend a literacy or numeracy class, but lots of people will come to Quilting by Numbers or Birdhouses for Dummies. And avoid using the term literacy or numeracy when describing your program over the phone. Describe what they’ll be doing, not the skills they will learn. You don’t want to scare folks away.

Appeal to the learner’s curiosity. Don’t weigh down your posters with too much gobbledegook. Give just enough information to peak interest. Remember these key points

  • Your target audience is one that struggles with reading
  • Use plain language
  • Include just a few points about the course you are offering
  • Always include, date, time, cost, and location

Create an attractive poster with enough information to grab a learner’s attention and you will get the opportunity to gush about your amazing new program when they phone to register.

Advertise where your learner is. Make sure you are reaching your target audience. Where do they hang out? Partner with other services to put your posters in their offices. Good locations might include

  • FCSS
  • Food Bank
  • Public/Mental Health offices
  • Grocery store
  • Local church bulletins

Remember, it’s not what you call your program, it’s the skill set you help your learner build that matters most. Foundational learning doesn’t have to be boring to be good. And learning happens best in a fun, safe environment. So keep it simple, keep it fresh, and keep it fun. Go ahead and call it Birdhouses for Dummies. You have enthusiastic learners to attract!

Cheryl Hollidge
CLN Regional Support Staff
Central Alberta


Sign in to view 5 comments


Social Media for Nonprofits
Posted: 10 April 2019 Comments: 2 Recommendations: 0

Posted: 28 August 2018 Comments: 1 Recommendations: 0

HELP! My CALP Hijacked my Facebook
Posted: 13 May 2016 Comments: 3 Recommendations: 1
Found in: