Trust Your Ears

proofreading in adult literacyJanice Airhart commented on my post about The Period and the Sentence that it is best to ask students to proofread out loud.

So I thought I’d dig out a little poster I used to remind students about how to proofread.  (“Proofread out loud. You get a message from your ears and a message from your eyes. Trust your ears to catch the message you want to write.”)

I found that many adult literacy learners were much more strongly oriented towards the visual than the auditory. Here’s an example of what I mean. Audrey wrote in her story something like this: “Tomorrow I am going to going to go to school.”

When she read it back to me, she said, “Tomorrow I am going to go to school,” but she didn’t notice the error in her text.

I said, “I heard you say, ‘Tomorrow I am going to go to school,’ but that’s not exactly what you wrote. Do you see the difference in what I hear and what my eyes see?”

Audrey was game to look, but as soon as she focused on the text, she lost the fluidity with which she had spoken earlier. She read “Tomorrow I am going to (pause) going to go to school.” She read it with the pause, so it sounded natural.

I asked her to read it again. Her focus on the text was so strong that she could no longer remember what she had said on her initial reading–she just kept trying to make what she had written make sense, even though that was impossible.

I asked her to turn her chair away from the computer, so she couldn’t see what she had written on the screen, and got her to rehearse her sentence several times, using the prompt, “Where are you going tomorrow?–Tomorrow I …”  When she had said it enough times to get it firmly in her ear, she was ready to go back to looking at the text to find the difference between what she said and what she wrote, but for her the weakness of her auditory sense was part of what made proofreading difficult.

I wonder if any of you readers of this blog have noticed in your students, especially at the basic literacy levels, examples of a weakness in auditory awareness–difficulty changing the stress on syllables, for example, or inability to clap out a rhythm. And if so, what do you do about it?

3 thoughts on “Trust Your Ears

  1. I agree that the student needs the safe space. I did not make any adjustments until we had studied together for over a year. Our sessions were one on one tutoring so it was fairly comfortable for him, however; he did not have a lot of confidence in himself. I encouraged him and I told him was smart and now he had the opportunity to enhance his abilities. He started trusting me and I pushed the comfort level and he did well. We started writing basic essays and reading poetry. By-the-way, he reads any version of the Bible fairly well now.

  2. I tutored one gentle who had a strong auditory learning process. He listened to people reading the Bible for years and he learned specific verses very well. He wanted to learn to read his Bible better so I asked him to pick his favorite verse. We used the NIV version but I believe he learned the verse from the King James Version. He kept reading the verse differently than what was before him. I realized he was not reading the verse from our Bible, he was reading from memory and what he heard. He would only ask to read verses he had memorized. I had to get different material to teach him to read because the Bible was confusing the issue and he could not do the memory trick with unfamiliar material. Changing the literature made him a little nervous but he was pleased by the results after the change. Sometimes you have to take the adult learner out of their comfort zone because a little bit of conflict causes change.

    • I had a similar experience watching a literacy student read from the Bible at a memorial service. Someone had given him a modern translation to read from, but I could hear him using the language of the King James version that he remembered from childhood. The result was a very garbled reading.
      In your situation, I think using the KJ version of the Bible to teach him to read might have been an interesting experiment.
      I agree with you that students have to take risks in order to learn–at least they have to risk doing something wrong or imperfectly. I think the way to make them willing to take risks is to make the class a safe place, where they can make mistakes without being embarrassed. I like to invite them to step out of their comfort zone, on their own terms.

love to hear your ideas or experiences!

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