A student brings you a piece of writing and as you glance at it, you notice that he has problems with periods—many are missing, and a few are out of place.
You are moving around the room as students work on a math assignment and as you sit down beside one student, you see that she has done some of the problems correctly. When you look a little closer at the ones she got wrong, you see that she has made the same common error time after time.
A student hands an assignment in and you see right away that he has missed the point entirely—he might have been on a different planet when you were teaching the material, because he has done everything wrong, and you don’t know where to begin correcting the assignment.
Teachers have passed down the method for handling these situations for centuries—mark the papers, pointing out the errors, and ask the student to correct the errors. The teacher may look at the mistakes with the student and review the proper procedure, or may ask the student to refer to the textbook to find out how to do the work. In my experience, this approach works only with students who have got nearly all the answers right.
Getting learners on the teaching team is my first order of business at the beginning of a new class. I like to put them on notice that my class is a little different, that I ask for unexpected things from students, that I expect them to participate in shaping the class.
Adult Basic Education students come with strong ideas about what school should look like, and they want me to stick to that program. When I ask them to do something unusual–an art project, for example, or the dreaded working in groups–they resist. They zone out, or grumble, or refuse to take part, and generally rain on my parade.
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 →
Yesterday I talked about how hard it is to be a “caring ear” for all the students who need one, and I propose today to outline my strategy for supporting students without being overwhelmed by their needs. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever perfected this strategy, but practicing has helped keep me on a more even keel, and given me more choice about when I choose to be the caring ear. Continue reading →
If you’re a kid who can’t sit still, you get into a lot of trouble in elementary school. Kids like that often drop out, or fail to graduate with the classes and grades required for further training. To catch themselves up, they come back to adult literacy, ABE and GED programs, but they are still people who have a hard time sitting still!
Unfortunately for them, and for us who teach them, the cheapest and most readily available material for adult students often requires a lot of sitting still in front of a workbook of some kind or in front of a screen. Continue reading →
If you’re trying to have a more equal relationship with students, refusing to give advice is the best policy. Here’s my advice about giving advice to adult literacy, adult basic education or GED learners.
Watch the video, from Literacy Nova Scotia’s collection of videos called The Teaching Toolbox.
Like most of us I can’t hide my feelings. They show on my face, or in the set of my shoulders, or the sweaty palm prints I leave on the desk or table. Most students (like anybody else) will assume that my feelings have something to do with them. Here’s an example:
I’m in the middle of teaching and the student asks me to explain something again. (He still doesn’t get it after the third time.) I’m about to start the explanation when I notice the clock and suddenly remember that I have to cut this session short for an emergency meeting about a crisis in the program.
All my feelings about the meeting come over me–worry, wonder, anger, confusion, etc. These feelings show on my face or in my body–tight lips, far-away look, and hunched shoulders. Continue reading →