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adult learner
teaching adults
other developed countries
bumper stickers
teaching children
eight hours
taking time
first meeting
If You Can Read This
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I can remember seeing bumper stickers that read, "If you can read this, you are to close." I am going to put a different spin on this and say, "If you can read this, then you are fortunate to be able to read, and you should 'Thank' a teacher!"

We Are Behind In the United States where English is the primary language, we are behind other developed countries in reading, writing and spelling. In this article, we will address what we as a leading nation can do about being behind. We can inspire an adult to read!

I am not a teacher! You are probably saying to yourself, "I am not a teacher!" What can I do? Contrary to your belief, yes you are. Think about it from this angle. People are always watching you. That could be a positive or negative thing. Either way, you are being watched. When people watch you, they learn from you, especially children. You are a natural teacher, yes; it is true you will need professional training if you decide to actually teach reading. But, to be a tutor, you do not need professional training or degree; you only need the desire to help an adult learn to read. So let's move on to how you can help.

Teach an Adult to Read Teaching or tutoring adults to read is nothing like teaching children to read. Children have the time to devote to learning. Teaching adults is a very complex undertaking, but not impossible. I am confident that anyone can learn with motivation. Learning to read for most adults may be difficult. They may have to rearrange their daily life routines, and incorporate learning to read as one of their priorities. I do not know many adults who can spend eight hours a day in a classroom. Because of this set-back we want to be able to offer one-on-one instructions provided at a mutual agreed upon location.

The first meeting When meeting an adult learner for the first time, it becomes your responsibility (the teacher) to make the learner feel comfortable. Establish a relationship by taking time to interact with each other. Encourage two-way conversations by using open-ended dialogue. This will require you to be open-minded in order to establish a comfort zone which will promote a comfortable learning environment. Do not automatically think that because you are the teacher or tutor that the learner and tutor will be a good fit. People have different personalities, and that has nothing to do with your ability to teach. If this should happen, just recommend additional resources. Adult learners will have various levels of previous reading development, ranging from basic beginner to advance. As a one-on-one instructor, be prepared and have the necessary assessment tools available. You want to ensure you are using the correct tools to measurement skills. You want to avoid using material that is to low or to advance for the learner.

It's your teaching style Explain the method of learning you will be using to teach. Develop your teaching style and method to fit you and your student. There is still much debate on the two methods of teaching someone to read. The two methods are "whole word recognition" and "phonics." I am trying to remember back when I was in school. I believe I learned to read from being taught the "whole word" concept. But, more recent scientifically based research has since recommended that phonics is the better choice of teaching beginner readers. As a teacher or tutor, you have the option of selecting which method works best for your learner.

What is Whole Word and what is Phonics? Whole Word is "look and say" (repetition). You look at the word, say it over, and over until you memorize it and can recognize it later. Phonics teaches basic sounds (phonemes) of the various combinations of letters. English is an alphabetic language. For example, the letter "B" makes the "bah" sound. Adult non-readers have little if any knowledge of "phonemes and neither do most English speakers. The letters "S, R, T, M and B" are usually among the first letters and sounds to be taught. Why? Because of their difficulty in making the letter sounds. Learning alphabetic sounds may increase the ability of the learner to read more quickly.

Key Points Here are a few key points to remember while teaching or tutoring an adult in reading: • Remember to be patient because nothing can be learned overnight. You want your student to be comfortable with you and have the desire to want to learn. Being impatient and creating stress will hinder the learning process. • Approach your adult student where they currently are in their learning cycle. Avoid assignments that are too easy or too difficult. Develop an assessment tool to be used for each individual learner. • Provide material that is interesting. Get the permission from the adult if you have to use what could be classified as "childlike" material to an adult. We do not want to insult their intelligence. Just because they cannot read does not mean they are ignorant. • Demonstration is the best teaching tool you have. Demonstrate how to pronounce words or make sounds and get feedback from your student. • Avoid finger tracking. When you are reading to the student or when you have your student read back to you. Use a pointer, a pencil or pen, they work great as pointers. • Start slow, teach pre-reading skills: letter recognition, sounds, and use pictures to increase vocabulary. You will be able to turn a visual picture into words. • Make learning to read fun!

Finally, just remember to encourage the adult learner to set obtainable goals, teach an adult to read in slow stages, use interesting material, using one method does not fit all learners. Be confident in yourself, teach or tutor with patience. Anyone can learn regardless of age or skill development. Try to provide one-on-one instruction, promote the student’s desire to achieve their goal, enhance your willingness to help an adult learner read.

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