The Joy of the Difficult

The Joy of the Difficult

I remember early on in my teaching ABE career, I ran into a colleague who wanted to have stories and articles with happy endings so we didn’t add to the misery of the students’ lives. I couldn’t then tell her why that seemed so wrong-headed to me. She didn’t want anyone upset and wanted the class to be comfortable for everyone—and I suspect most of all for her. —Evelyn Battell, comment on an earlier post

Many ABE instructors will give the same reasons as Evelyn’s colleague for not wanting to use “difficult” material with their students: it will upset the students, and it will make the teacher uncomfortable. The reasons come as two faces of a weighted coin: What is most comfortable for the teacher often turns out to be what is “best for the students.” Continue reading

A Trigger Warning Tells a Lie

A Trigger Warning Tells a Lie

danger FLKR flattop341 287724363_250344e314_zHere’s a recent trigger warning from my personal life. A group of people organizing an art show in a small gallery in a local community centre had invited people to submit works of art about women’s lives. One painting caused a lot of controversy because it referred obliquely to back-street abortions. Some members of the hanging committee wanted not to have it in the show; others were in favour of hanging it. They reached a compromise by including the painting, while placing a trigger warning on the door of the exhibit, Continue reading

A Healthy Disrespect

A Healthy Disrespect

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sophiadphotography/8060451224/Adult literacy and GED students have enormous respect for text–too much respect, I think.

They may fear text, or be confused by it. They may loathe the printed word, and/or ignore it. They may have a hundred different coping skills to get around the fact that they do not read well, but they respect text. Continue reading

Reading from Life

Reading from Life

“What reading materials are appropriate for adult literacy students?”

reader MKat posted this question on my blog the other day, and went on to say, “I’m teaching my first teenage reading student now, and forcing ‘See Spot Run’ down his throat is not sitting well with me.”

My first, general answer would be “anything that the student is interested and you can stomach.” I would draw the line at porn and hate, but other teachers will have other boundaries.

Notice I said “anything you can stomach,” meaning that there is lots of reading material suitable for adult students that is not uplifting or useful, that has language and subject matter not usually considered appropriate for school use. If you can stomach it, and the student likes it, you are ready to proceed. Continue reading

Reading on Your Feet

Reading on Your Feet

The other day I talked about Human Digits, and today I’ll talk about a similar kind of activity for reading class, a sequencing exercise taken off the page into the middle of the room.

I often do this activity with groups of ABE instructors or literacy tutors; for them I choose a scene from Pride and Prejudice. I prepare by typing up the scene I have chosen, with lots of space between the paragraphs, and cut between the paragraphs. For every seven people in the session I’m planning, I need one set of paragraphs (see picture).

I divide them into groups of seven, give them the paragraphs, face down, and ask each person to choose one. I ask them to hang on to their paragraph and never give it to anyone else, and never lay it on the table. Continue reading