Math Strategies in Context

Math Strategies in Context

A student demonstrates that 1/2 = 6/12, 3/6, 2/4 and 5/10

“EXPLAIN HOW YOU WOULD TEACH YOUR LEARNERS PLACE VALUE” and “Explain in detail how you teach ABET level 1 learners fractions” are two recent requests from readers of this blog. (ABET stands for “Adult Basic Education and Training” and is a term used in South Africa as well as other places.) Continue reading

Tempest in the Pool

Tempest in the Pool

Aquafit  classI was a student today, at my aquafit class. I was a student who resisted, who didn’t participate, who went missing. You know, one of those students who makes you wonder why you ever wanted to teach.

We had a teacher who has taught our class only a few times, a lovely, enthusiastic teacher with a bounce in her step and encouragement in her voice. Continue reading

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

A year ago today I began writing this blog, with the goal of sharing some of the things I’ve learned about teaching adult literacy and numeracy. On this anniversary, I’m re-playing my first post–still relevant, I think.

Slowly, over the years, because I was willing to learn, my students gave me a fresh take on the three R’s. I learned that to teach well, I needed to think about respect, resistance and reality. Continue reading

Power Share

Power Share

all in it togetherHere’s another story about sharing power with adult literacy students, to go with the one I posted last week called “Who’s in Charge Here?” Continue reading

Survival Strategies Come First

Survival Strategies Come First

Jenny HorsmanThe assignment was to make a graphic representation of the plot development in a novel we were reading together in class. To this end, I had assembled some supplies on a table in front of the room: various kinds of large sheets of paper, felt pens, pencil crayons, glue sticks, stickers and labels of the kind scrapbookers use, some collage materials, etc.

We talked about various possibilities, such as diagrams, time lines, and flow charts, Continue reading

If They Come, They Care

If They Come, They Care

www.katenonesuch.comI expected it to be an interesting activity. I was sure people would take part, and hoped they would enjoy it. But they didn’t seem to care.

I gathered some objects on a table in the classroom–modelling clay, bread dough, a crumpled plastic bag, rubber bands, pebbles, a plastic mug and a ceramic mug, Continue reading

Mandated Students

Mandated Students

judge 2They come because they have to.

Any of these people may have mandated students to your adult education class: the judge or their parole officer; their lawyer, hoping to make a good impression at a sentencing hearing; their social worker, financial aid worker, workers’ compensation officer, or other professional with the power to deny their request for benefits; parents who say if they want to live at home they have to go to school.

Unlike other students in your class, they are not self motivated; their motivation comes from someone outside the class, someone you have little influence on. Continue reading

Not a Fairy Tale

Not a Fairy Tale

“Ruby slippers” by RadioFan at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

In a recent post I told the story of Naomi, who said “I pass” for more than three months in our basic literacy class, refusing all invitations to take part in group reading, writing and math sessions, or to do any private work in those areas; who instead spent her time making and colouring banners.

She was able to refuse to take part because of the classroom rule “Just say pass,” which is one of my mainstays in teaching adult literacy. She sat on the outskirts of the class, watching, until she could find a way to participate that was comfortable for her. She tested us for three months until she decided she could trust the situation, until she decided it was safe for her. Continue reading

What’s in It for Me?

What’s in It for Me?

Two people commented on my last post, about how working with Bernice got me started on marking for confidence.

First, Evelyn said that she thought many teachers would have seen Bernice as “resistant or difficult or careless or smartass.” I think most of those judgements are accurate.

She was resistant–she did not want me to “go over” her work with her; she wanted to keep herself out of a situation she had doubtless been in many times before, where a teacher pointed out where she had gone wrong and expected her to fix her errors. Continue reading

Respect, Resistance, and Reality

Respect, Resistance, and Reality

Slowly, over the years, because I was willing to learn, my students taught me a new set of three R’s—Respect, Resistance and Reality.

First, Respect. Respect for them, and for every decision they took, every choice they made. Respect for myself.

Second, Resistance. They come back to school, that place of previous failures and humiliation, because they want what they think I offer—the key to a better life. I offer them different ways of learning: group work; choice; meaningful work; I invite them to join the teaching team and make decisions about how and what they will learn. But they resist my best efforts to do things differently, because it is not what they expect, and it scares them. They refuse to risk going back again into that position of failure and humiliation. I need to acknowledge their resistance publicly, to honour it, and to work with it. I need to recognize my own resistance, too, because it gets in the way.

Third, Reality. My work is most successful when I listen to what is really going on. Speak the unspoken thoughts and feelings. Do reading and writing that is real, in the real world. Find an audience for the voice; find information in response to questions; say yes to every chance to move the literacy work into the community, and bring the community into the class.