Make Your Teaching Transparent

Make Your Teaching Transparent

photo: Nicholas Risch

Much of our work is invisible to adult learners in literacy, Basic Education or GED programs. At worst, they see us as people who know everything and get paid well for showing up for short days and short years and bossing them around.

At best, they think we’re wonderful people who have all the answers and are helpful and patient and don’t do anything between sessions with them. Continue reading

Yes Means Yes. No Means No.

Yes Means Yes. No Means No.

“I’ve been writing poetry since I was 13, and I’ve got a big binder with all my poems in it. Would you mark them for me?”

Over the years, those were the two sentences I most hated to hear from a student. I dreaded reading the poems, because I expected them to be really bad poetry, and depressing. I was always right on both counts. Continue reading

Listen, Really Listen

active listeningThere is no better way to show respect to a student than to listen. If you listen, learners will teach you how to teach them.

If you listen, you’ll be surprised. And when you’re surprised, you’re not bored. That’s a good thing if you’ve been doing this job for a long time. Continue reading

A Teacher Hits the Target

A Teacher Hits the Target

I learned a lot about how to give learning a physical component from the late Christina Patterson. I had always been good at using manipulatives, getting people moving and so on, but Christina pushed physicality to a new level for me.

One year, near the beginning of term, she took a whole class to the local archery club for a morning of lessons from the club pro, followed by lunch.

When they all got back to the classroom, Christina got the discussion started with “What did you learn about hitting a target?” and made a list as students talked. 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

How to Say “No!” to Your Teacher

How to say “No” to your teacher introduces students to a seven-step process for saying “No,” gives them some practice using prepared scripts based on common situations, and then assigns them the task of saying “No” to each other, and to me, at least once in the following week. (Detailed lesson plan, with scripts, here)

Seven Steps to Saying “No!”

The steps are surprisingly simple to articulate: Continue reading

Getting the Most out of Your Teacher

As August slips by, I’m reminded of activities that start the new year, which I put under the heading of “How to manage your teacher,” an essential skill for every student, at whatever level.

One year I asked my department head, the inimitable Vicki Noonan, to help me with an experiment. I said I couldn’t give her any details, but would she come in and give a presentation to my adult literacy class Continue reading

Standard English

Standard English

The question of standard English is a thorny one for those of us who work with adult learners, and you will hear many opinions about how we should teach students who come from communities who use non-standard English.

Standard English is the language spoken by people who have been educated in the mainstream system. That means it is the language invented by people who have power, who are wealthy and who are white. It is by definition not the language invented by our students.

Standard English is not “correct” in itself, and in fact is constantly changing. For example, it is now considered correct to sometimes split an infinitive, and in Canada most people manage to get through days, weeks, and even months, without using “whom.”

Incorrect, sloppy, and ugly Continue reading

“I Pass!” is Active, Not Passive

“I Pass!” is Active, Not Passive

I was talking to my friend Diana on the weekend, about the passing rule. She had read my post, “Just say Pass!” and it made her think about her experience in post secondary courses.

“It’s not good when people always pass,” she said. “In all my classes, most people hardly said anything. Two or three white men did all the talking, and the other students said nothing. Most people passed all the time.” Continue reading

Make Math Social

Make Math Social

This lovely video shows Elana Feder and her GED class doing a social math activity about Positive and Negative Numbers.

Continue reading