ARE YOU LITERACY LITERATE?
Types of Literacy Programs
Adult Basic Education (ABE) is the term commonly used to describe high school level courses (Grades 10, 11, 12) taught for credit at community colleges. However, ?Adult Basic Education' is also used by many programs and practitioners synonymous with or as an alternative to the term ?literacy'. ?Literacy' is felt by many to have a stigma attached to it, as it tends to focus on the failure of people to have gained literacy skills, rather than to focus on and encourage the development of their potential to learn.
Community-Based/Learner-Centred Programs (Rodriguez, 1994b) have the potential to promote both personal and social change because they provide learners with opportunities to:
Community-Based Programs are those in which the community is involved in the planning and operation of the program. There is generally a board or committee comprised of a representative group of community members with an interest in literacy (ie. learners, schools, media, politicians, community organizations, agencies such as Child and Family Services, government departments such as Employment and Immigration, etc.) The program responds to the needs identified by the community, and will change as the needs of the community change. Community-based programs are usually also learner-centred.
"Frontier College's Student-Centred Individualized Learning (SCIL) is a positive teaching model that addresses three specific issues in a student's life: needs, strengths and goals. It is a practical and effective way to help you and your student design a learning program that is productive and enjoyable for both of you. It follows these steps:
Deaf Literacy Programs: A large number of deaf adults have low literacy skills in English, and there are often "astounding gaps in the learners' understanding of basic information. This situation is symptomatic of the isolation experienced by deaf people. They are excluded from information sources such as radio, television, public address systems and conversations. If they have difficulty reading, they are also excluded from information sources such as newspapers, posters, captioned television, brochures and books. Thus, if deaf people are not given the information directly, one can conclude, they do not learn about it." (Thomas, 1990: p.69)
According to Audrey Thomas (1990: p. 69-70), "Deaf and hard of hearing people need literacy skills for all the same reasons that other people need to read and write. In addition, they need to read to utilize any of the devices and systems which have been designed to help them."
Such devices are:
The Deaf Literacy Program at Red River Community College provides English literacy instruction to deaf adults who are fluent in American Sign Language. The program is based on a Bilingual/ Bicultural philosophy, in which:
Family and Intergenerational Literacy Programs (Tessier, 1994) are organized efforts to improve the literacy of parents and children through specially designed programs.
Models of Family Literacy include:
Direct Adult-Direct Children An intensive model in which adults and their children both participate directly. Adults attend literacy instruction/parent training, and are taught to interact with their children around reading activities. Children receive pre-school instruction.
Direct Adult-Indirect Child A model in which literacy instruction is directed at parents, with children participating minimally if at all. The parents are then better equipped to reinforce literacy at home.
Indirect Adult-Direct Child A model in which child literacy development is the main target. There may also be an adult program which involves help for adults to help their children with school work.
Indirect Adult-Indirect Child Literacy development is limited to the support of reading for enjoyment, with both adults and children invited to participate in story-telling, read-alongs, etc. Attendance is voluntary, events informal, and there is no direct literacy instruction.
Learner-Centred or Student-Centred Programs are learner-defined. That is, they are based on the needs, interests and goals of the learners, rather than on pre-determined goals or curricula. They begin by assessing the learners' perceptions and uses of literacy. They make extensive use of the learners' words and experiences. They have content that is meaningful and relevant to the learners, and accept and affirm the learners' language. And they operate in locations and with schedules that meet the learners' needs. (Rodriguez, 1994b )
Clarification of Literacy Terms and Concepts
Cloze Procedures: A reading technique in which blanks are substituted for words, or portions of words, in the text, and the learner is asked to guess the words, based on the context. Sometimes a list of the words to choose from is provided in a random order, sometimes they are not. This technique helps learners move from a skill-based to a meaning-based view of reading, teaches the use of context clues, and can also help with grammar, leaving only portions of words blank to be completed with the correct ending. (King, et al.,1993: p. III- 19)
Curriculum (Rodriguez, 1994a: p.21) is not a pre-packaged product put together before the beginning of the program. It is not a series of workbooks or computer tasks to complete. The curriculum is a dynamic process which engages several elements:
GED (General Educational Development or General Equivalency Diploma), sometimes also referred to as the High-School Equivalency Test, "measured one's ability against that of graduating high-school students and gives one a chance to earn a certificate that is the equivalent of a high school diploma." (Passing the GED. 1995: p. 1)
"Many Canadian provinces and Territories (and all of the United States) use GED Test results as the basis for giving high-school equivalency credentials. Those credentials are accepted as the equivalent of a high-school diploma for purposes of employment, promotion, and licensing. ...Many colleges and universities now accept satisfactory GED Test scores in place of completed high-school grade transcripts for admissions purposes." (Passing the GED. 1995: p. 1)
Language Experience stories are simply the learners' own stories written in their own words. They may be about personal experiences, procedures at work, material which has been read to them, or anything else which interests them. Using the learners' own experience and language as the basis for material that they will be reading is an effective way of involving students from the very first lesson, and of ensuring that the materials used are meaningful for the learners. This approach contributes to success and is an ice-breaker in a new teaching situation. It also gives you insights into the learner's world that can be of great help in selecting materials for a series of lessons.
The steps used in developing a Language Experience story are, (MB Education Branch and Training, Literacy Office):
Language experience stories are successful in teaching adults because:
Laubach. "The Laubach Way to Reading (LWR) series is a basic reading and writing program designed to teach adults with little or no reading ability. The series consists of four levels of skill books, correlated readers and supplementary materials. Tutors are trained and encouraged to use a variety of techniques in addition to the LWR series, including developing their own materials to meet needs of each student...
...The Laubach method starts with the known - the spoken word - and progresses to the unknown - the written word - through a series of easy steps. Each lesson includes vocabulary development, phonics, a short story, comprehension checks and writing practice. Lessons progress from the sounds and regular spellings of consonants to those of the short vowels, the long vowels, and finally to irregular spellings and more challenging reading and writing skills." (Laubach Literacy of Canada, p. B-3)
Numeracy can be defined as an ability to cope confidently with the demands of mathematics in everyday life. Mathematics, like reading and writing, is a tool of communication. The ability to use this tool provides a person with the opportunity to express facts and opinions and to analyze things in the real world. Knowing how to calculate percentages, for example, is necessary for discount shopping and for understanding the Goods and Services Tax. Seen in this way, numeracy is a basic need and everyone has the right to have it.
Determining appropriate instructional methods depends on both the learners' current mathematical skills and on their attitudes towards the use of mathematics. Since the mathematics used by adults varies greatly according to their personal lifestyle and, perhaps, their cultural background, numeracy instruction will be most effective using a functional approach. Numeracy learning can range from recognizing numbers to calculating percents, from reading a bus schedule to baking a cake. In teaching any numeracy skills, we should bear in mind the context and the students' skill level and learning style.
One-to-One vs. Small Group Literacy (GNWT Literacy Office; Fretz and Paul, 199; Horsman, 1984): There are many advantages to one-to-one literacy instruction. It offers an excellent opportunity for learner-centredness, as the program is completely individualized. It also permits the learner and tutor to develop a good relationship based on mutual respect, and a possibility to bridge some class stereotypes as the two working together are likely to be from different social classes. It may also give the learner privacy in terms of publicly declaring his literacy needs.
There are also felt to be some limitations to one-to-one tutoring. To begin with, people with literacy needs often have feelings of shame, embarrassment and isolation from society. A one-to-one tutoring situation may improve their technical and functional literacy skills, but it may also reinforce their feelings of isolation. Because literacy involves not only reading and writing, but also developing critical thinking, social skills and communication skills, problem- solving, self-esteem, self-confidence, and breaking the isolation of low literacy, a group learning context is felt by many to be better for the whole learning experience.
Making decisions or learning as a group enhances communication. Information, opinions and resources are exchanged during discussion, and an issue is viewed from a variety of perspectives, offering new insights. The process builds thinking and problem-solving skills, and is both creative and dynamic. Some effective group learning activities include group discussions, brainstorming, role- playing, problem-solving, interviews, and active listening. These may take place in the large group, or in smaller groups of two, three, four or five.
Group learning also recognizes that the tutor/instructor is not the only source of knowledge, but that each group member has knowledge, capability and a right to share ideas and information with others. This encourages group members to provide support and encouragement to one another, and builds self-confidence and self-esteem.
Phonics (Cypress Hills Regional College, 1994; Colvin and Root, 1987) is a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words, using the sounds represented by letters, letter groups and syllables. Phonics is based on phonetics, which is the study and classification of the sounds made in speech.
Being able to associate letters and sounds is an asset in reading and spelling. Some people learn phonics (letter-sound association) intuitively by reading, while others need to have some concepts pointed out to them. Phonics is a method, not a goal, of reading. Teach it only if and when it will help people to read and spell, and only in the context of what they are trying to read or spell.
Plain Language or "clear writing is a way of presenting information so that it is easy for everyone to read and understand...Sometimes it is also referred to as readability, plain English, plain writing or clear language." It includes more than just the words that are used and how they are put together. It considers how the material looks, and what it says. It considers what the reader needs to know, and what the writer wants to say. "Most important, it is writing that can be read and understood by as many people as possible...If material is written clearly, it will be easier for people who don't read well to get the information they need." (Baldwin, 1990: p. 1)
Plain language materials are important because:
When tutoring, it is important to give written instructions in plain language as much as possible. It is also important to use plain language materials whenever possible, to help the learner understand what they are reading.
When developing or selecting plain language materials, tutors should
Popular Education (Arnold and Burke; Neighborhood Action, 1985) is both a philosophy and an approach which was developed by Paulo Freire in the context of adult literacy work in Brazil in the 1960's, and spread throughout South America during the 1970's. It is a collective or group process of education carried on by grassroots organizations. It is a joint creation of knowledge with the starting point being the life experience of the participants.
Popular education assumes that:
Some characteristics of popular education are:
Readability Indexes or formulas are short, simple formulas used to determine how difficult a text is to read. Over 50 such formulas have been proposed, the accuracy of which is the subject of much debate. For example, most readability indexes assume that difficulty can be measured simply in terms of the length of words and/or sentences. However, not all long words are equally difficult to read. Other factors, such as how complex the sentence construction is, or the meaning of the words are far more important, but not generally considered in these formulas. In the absence of more sophisticated measures, though, they continue to be widely used as a reasonably convenient way of predicting reading difficulty. (Crystal, 1987: p. 252)
Reading Process Approach sees reading as "a communication process between the reader and the author. Interpreting meaning is the goal of reading. [The] goal is to have the reader's thoughts and language constantly interacting with the thoughts and language of the writer. To accomplish this the reader must be actively engaged and utilizing his background knowledge along with text information in order to make sense of the information on the page.
An important aspect of the Reading Process Approach is that the tutor focuses on how the student interacts with print. Through observation, discussion and questioning the student and tutor will be able to determine which reading strategies the student is using. Student and tutor will be able to identify where there are gaps in the student's knowledge. Student and tutor will be able to assess whether strategies currently in use are effective and then decide which new strategies should be introduced and practiced. On the basis of this information an individualized reading program for the student is developed between the tutor and student. This type of approach, by nature, is eclectic and involves a combination of approaches and strategies based on the student's needs at a particular time and the student's developmental learning stage. Using everyday reading materials and picking and choosing from commercially produced texts and workbooks ensures that the learning will be highly practical to the student." (Baker, D. p. 27)
Sight Word or Whole Word Methods teach learners to recognize individual words on sight. Then they read a story that includes those ?sight words'. Teaching sight words involves using a language experience approach, dictated stories or other materials of interest to the learner. The sight words to be learned are chosen by the learner after reading the material. Some students learn to recognize words by predicting, seeing and reading them in the story.
Spelling (Klein and Millar, 1990: p.1-2) should never be taught as a list of unrelated words to be learned. It should be taught as needed, in the context of other reading and writing tasks, in order to be meaningful and effective. (See Whole Language)
What are the benefits of teaching spelling?
Theme Units (BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology, 1990: p.133-134) "are curriculum units that combine the concepts, skills, and objectives of the various content areas - basic literacy, life skills, computation and cultural studies. Theme units ... have also been called 'integrated' units in that they integrate a variety of skills around a general idea or theme. They direct attention and inquiry to a particular topic, issue or concern."
While a "focussed unit" might emphasize "writing a business letter", writing the business letter might be only one of many activities in a "theme unit" on "applying and interviewing for a job". In the context of literacy, consonant blends might be taught as a discrete unit in a focussed approach. Or they could emerge naturally from and in the context of the language generated by activities in any "theme unit".
Theme units are more consistent with a whole language approach because they aid the natural integration of language (speaking, writing, listening, viewing and reading), math, life and social studies skills. The relationship between life skills and language skills is reinforced as language comes to be seen as a means of investigating, reflecting, and acting upon problems affecting the student's own lives. Other advantages of theme units are:
Vision and Literacy
For adults with low literacy skills, many find it hard enough to overcome the barriers to learning to read and write. A vision problem only makes a difficult situation worse.
Images seen from both eyes usually blend into a single image in the brain. If the eyes are not working equally, an individual will have a vision problem - such as blurred vision - and a difficult time reading. People may have vision problems if they:
Upgrading is a term often used to describe any adult literacy/numeracy instruction from beginning level to GED. Because the term 'literacy' is felt to be negative and stigmatizing, the term 'upgrading' is often preferred.
Whole Language "views reading as a learning process that integrates a variety of skills, such as listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking. Language development is not seen as sequential, where a specific concept, skill or mechanic must be learned at a specific time. The focus is placed upon reading and writing as communication, and upon how people read. Whole Language promotes people learning together, drawing upon each other's experiences, strengths, interests and support." ( Fretz and Paul,1994: p.237)
Does this mean that we don't teach such things as phonics, spelling, sight words, and vocabulary? No! What it means is that we teach them in context and as part of the processes of reading and writing.
"Whole language approaches emphasize the importance of using whole texts for literacy and of making reading and writing meaningful and purposeful activities from the outset, with attention focused on vocabulary, spelling, and other formal or mechanical considerations when they become relevant....Phonics is not eliminated; instead, the relationships between sound and symbols are introduced when a learner encounters an unfamiliar word or is confused about words with similar spellings or when sentence structure affects the meaning of what one has written or read." (Crandall, , et al., p.142.)
A fundamental assumption of the whole language approach is that adult learners bring a wealth of prior knowledge and a lifetime of experience to their learning. They bring their own goals or reasons for wanting to read and write, interests in particular topics, concepts and attitudes - how they think and feel about certain topics, events, etc., and internal resources - world knowledge, knowledge of language, attitudes and motivation. A whole language approach builds on the learner's prior knowledge, interests and goals to develop a meaningful and effective learning program.
Word Attack simply means breaking words down into parts. Beginning learners are more likely than others to need to learn some of these skills in order to decode what they are reading. Word attack techniques include phonics (letter-sound associations), sight words (words recognized on sight), cloze procedures (guessing words from context), word patterns or families (words with the same letter patterns), syllabication (breaking words into syllables). (Butler, 1990)
According to what is now understood about reading, none of the word attack methods are appropriate on their own. Fluent reading requires instant recognition of words on sight. Understanding phonics, word patterns and/or syllabication can help readers figure out and spell words they do not know. Cloze procedures can help readers to identify words from context. However, all of these techniques are most appropriately learned by reading in context, and taught as aids to reading. (See Whole Language) (Norton, 1990)
Word Patterns or Word Families are lists of words with common parts or the same pattern of letters (ie. fight, light, night, right). Word family exercises help students approach new words by using information about how words are constructed. Exercises in which certain parts of words that are familiar remain constant (such as the initial consonant or the ending syllable) while other parts change (inserting new initial consonants or new endings) build vocabulary when the new words are introduced in the context of sentences. It is important that word families are not simply lists of words, but that the meaning of the words is explored through their uses in new text. (King, et al., 1993)
Chapter Eight References
Arnold, Rick and Bev Burke. A Popular Education Handbook. CUSO and OISE, Toronto. 1983.
Baker, Diane. The Literacy Tutor. Wetaskiwin PALS (Program for Adult Literacy Skills). Wetaskiwin, AB.
Baker, Judy. Manitoba Literacy and Continuing Education Branch.
Baldwin, Ruth. Clear Writing and Literacy. Ontario Literacy Coalition, Toronto. 1990.
Bate, Barbara. Intergenerational Family Literacy: A Report on the Chilliwack Community Project. British Columbia Ministry of Skills, Training, and Labour, Victoria. 1993.
British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology. Native Literacy and Life Skills Curriculum Guidelines: A Resource Book for Adult Basic Education. Richmond, BC. 1990.
Butler, Maureen. Wordpower: Tutor Training Manual. Yukon Literacy Council, Whitehorse, YT. 1990.
Canadian Association of Optometrists (The), "Hope is in Sight", (brochure) Mar., 1995.
Colvin, Ruth J. and Jane H. Root. TUTOR: Techniques Used in the Teaching of Reading. Sixth edition. Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. Syracuse, NY. 1987.
Crandell, et al. "Whole Language Approaches in Adult Literacy". in Monnastes, C. (ed). Launching the Literacy Decade, Awareness into Action. Medicine hat College, Medicine Hat. 1992.
Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1987.
Cypress Hills Regional College. Tutor Ways. Swift Current, Sk. 1994.
Deaf Literacy Program, Red River Community College, Winnipeg.
Fretz, Barbara and Marianne Paul. Learning Together: A Small Group Literacy Tutor Training Handbook. Core Literacy, Waterloo Region Inc. Waterloo. 1994.
GNWT Literacy Office. Getting Started: A Manual for Literacy Programs.
Horsman, Jenny. "Reflections on ONE-TO-ONE". Literacy/Alphabetisation. Vol. II, No. 2, 1986, p.23.
King, Jereann, et al. It brought a richness to me: a resource manual for participatory literacy practitioners. Literacy South. Durham, NC. 1993.
Klein, Cynthia and Robin Millar. Unscrambling Spelling. Hodder and Stoughton, London. 1990.
Laubach Literacy of Canada, pamphlet.
Manitoba Education and Training, Literacy Office. Adult Literacy Volunteer Tutor Pack.
Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada. Plain Language Clear and Simple. Ottawa. 1991.
Neighborhood Action, Sticks and Stones and friends. Neighborhood Action Recipes for Change. Sudbury, ON. 1985.
Nore, Gordon W.E., Sarah Thompson and Brent Poulton. Learning in the Workplace: Tutor Resource Guide. Learning in the Workplace, Frontier College. Toronto. 1991.
Norton, Mary. Preparing Literacy Tutors: A Trainer's Manual Adapted from Journeyworkers. Lakeland College, Cold Lake, AB. 1990.
Passing the GED: A Complete Preparation for the High School Equivalency Examination. New Revised Canadian Edition. GAGE Educational Publishing Company, Toronto. 1995.
Plain Language Institute. "Plain Language and Literacy. Plain Language Notes. July/Aug., 1992.
Rodriguez, Carmen. Educating for Change: Community-Based/Student- Centred Literacy Programming with First Nations Adults. K'Noowenchoot Centre, Salmon Arm, BC. 1994a.
Rodriguez, Carmen. Handout from Summer Literacy Institute, Vancouver. July, 1994b.
Tessier, Angela. LWAM Practitioners Conference, April, 1994.
Thomas, Audrey. Exemplary Adult Literacy Programs and Innovative Practices in Canada. British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology, Victoria. 1990.