What Are Some Tips for Teaching Adults How to Read and Write?


Quick Answer

When teaching an adult to read and write, focus the teaching materials on the student's goals, interests and experiences, using her own vocabulary to create a beginning glossary of essential words. Ask open-ended questions related to the student's interests or current events, and write out some of the student's responses verbatim. Over time, have her write the answers on her own. These texts provide the student's launching pad for identifying and learning words and forming sentences.

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Full Answer

Word analysis or phonics involves teaching the spoken sounds that correspond to each letter of the alphabet, so the student can begin to sound out words. Phonetic awareness is helpful for adult learners in reading accuracy and spelling. Auditory blending, a phonetic exercise, challenges the adult student to identify a word that the instructor presents by speaking out each letter in the word phonetically. The exact opposite, auditory segmenting, has the student phonetically separating out the letters of a word.

Other tips when working with adult learners include talking with the student about what they're reading, encouraging silent reading, and identifying reading materials appropriate to the student's level. Talking about the different strategies of reading and writing, such as making predictions, identifying the main theme or idea, and summarizing content can also be helpful. In addition to using auditory and visual teaching tools, include some hands-on exercises, such as having the student move letters and words around to create new words or sentences using magnetic letters or Scrabble tiles. Let the adult student experiment with different writing instruments, hard and soft pencils, gel and ink pens, and markers to find the one that works and feels best for her.

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