I’ve been privileged as an educator to have taught many people, young and old to read. Teaching adults to read is delicate; we can’t talk down the them or overlook their abilities, aside from literacy. Here are reading lessons for any age. One of the problems with teaching adults to read is lack of appropriate reading curriculum. Most reading books are written for children. Even children find most of their reading book stories dull and unstimulating. Imagine how the poor adult must feel.
People of any age relate better to stories about people places and things with which they are familiar. It is much easier to teach someone to read if they are reading material that interests them. These are the words they will be reading daily, because they have a vested interest. One good way to implement reading materials of interest is to write personalized stories. Using words that people use every day boosts comprehension immeasurably. Throw in some phonics practice and word families and you can’t miss. How do you write personalized stories? Easy. Here’s how.
Remember the old games of Mad-Lib where players filled in blanks with words from certain parts of speech? That’s one way to learn to read. Modify the Mad-Lib template into a story that tells about the person. Ask them for words. Fill in the blanks and voila: a personalized reading book.
Another way to write personalized reading materials is to ask new readers to dictate a story to you. You write out their words. This story might be auto-biographical, how-to advice, essay, short story or personal narrative. The student then reads his story back to the teacher or another student. I have compiled these student writings into classroom reading books. This approach works with ESL, special needs, learning disabled, incarcerated people, elderly. I know because I’ve taught all these student populations.
Elementary and special educators have called this approach by many names over the years: ELA -Elicited Language Approach, LEA- Language Experience Approach are a few pedagogical terms. But readers don’t care about high-falutin’ labels. They just want to learn to read, as painlessly as possible. I have watched many men, women and children approach my classroom with embarrassment and discomfort only to ‘graduate’ as literate confident learners. Marv, Gordon, Leo, Shirley, Harriet- I may not remember all your names, but I remember your happy smiles of accomplishment. This article is in memory of and to honor you.
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