Adult literacy today



Maybe it was me.  Maybe I didn't sell it or lacked confidence.

Anyway, for a few moments I had a very low level adult literacy learner.

He arrived at the building on time, but didn't make it into the classroom right away.  When he got as far as the doorway, about ten minutes later, he asked about what he should work on.  I had prepped a sheet of sentences using the cardinal directions, as well as some worksheets (link, link), and I showed these to him.  I also showed him the little bit of reading and writing we had done when we first met (a very short visit).  He said he wanted to work with the sentences.

I offered him a spot to work, but he was painfully uncomfortable.  He asked to work alone in an empty classroom.  I said okay, and helped him get started.  Then, I left him alone, intending to check in on him every five or six minutes.  Once when I checked, I saw that he had printed "She is going over West" and "I am going West."

"How's it going?" I asked.  He asked, "Do you mind if I leave early?  I have a chance to get a drive."

We talked about that.  I pointed out that he had left early on his first night, had not come on his second night, and that now he would be leaving on his third night.  "At some point," I said, "you might want to consider if this is working for you.  Is this working for you?"

He said he liked reading the short sentences, even though it was hard.  He said maybe he should stick with his other tutor, who he worked with thrice weekly.  We talked about what he did there.  Was it the same?  No, he said.  He only read single words, one at a time.  If he got them right, he said, he got a check mark.  If he got them wrong, they circled the word.  He said he wanted to read words in sentences, "the way they actually appear in stories" and not "one at a time on childish sheets with alligators on the side."



(When we were talking about him leaving early to get a drive, I asked if he had far to go.  "Yeah," he said.  "Well, I'm going over west.  That's why I was writing those 'west' lines."  Given the chance, adult learners will write about their own lives.)

I suggested he take the sentence sheets with him, and show them to his tutor as an example of the kind of thing he would like to do.  He said, "Cool" - but that's what he always said.  "If I  ever come back here," he said, "I want to be able to at least read a book and sit in class like everyone else."

We said goodnight, and he left.

Once, I had a class he would have been comfortable in - a class where all the learners struggled to read basic sentences; where we all read aloud and together; where we wrote short, meaningful sentences exactly like "I am going West."

How and why that changed is a complicated story, and one without any particular villains.

And maybe it was me.  Maybe I didn't sell it or lacked confidence.  Anyway, for a few moments I had a very low level adult literacy learner.

Makes me a little sad.

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