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Considerations and tips for teaching literacy

As we were preparing for the attention to diversity topic, we came up with the idea of teaching students who, for some reason, have low level of literacy. As we do not have enough time to deal with this in class, we did some research in order to find answers to the main questions and provide some practical tips.

Why might a learner have literacy problems?
- their L1 has a different alphabet
- they aren’t literate in their L1
- generally low level of education
- the student is living in an English environment

What type of learners have these problems?
– immigrants
- young children
- adults who have never studied a language that uses the Roman alphabet
In practice, the first group is the biggest. Adult education colleges will often run special courses in adult literacy and language for the third group.ecedfbbc2b2bd73fdde3bf5a5195cb9a.jpg
Problems of literacy are both receptive (reading) and productive (writing).What receptive problems face the learner?
- recognising letters (the script)
- upper & lower case
- direction on the page (left to right)
- punctuation
- recognising word barriers
What productive problems does the learner face?
- producing the letters (the script): where do letters start?
- upper & lower case
- direction on the page (left to right)
- punctuation
- learning to write on lines: many letters sit on the line buy extend above or below it
- keeping the size of letters consistent
- joining up letters


What can teachers do to help? 

Experts disagree on what order to do things but below are some common tendencies:

- find out what the learner needs to be able to read and write

- as a general rule introduce script after meaning has been established through speaking and listening.

- don’t necessarily introduce the whole alphabet a once (remember the problems you have with phonemic script!)

- for reception, start by teaching some very common words that the students are likely to see (e.g. exit) – this is often referred to as social sight.

- start with a large font size.

- for production, start with showing the learners how to make single letters;

group letters according to basic movements –

-1 i l t (down and round)

-2 c e o a d q g (anti-clockwise)

-3 m n h

-teach the capital form with the lower case form

-then move on to joined up writing.

- use look – say – cover – write strategy to help with spelling.

- provide lots of revision


A few activities that can help: 


- left-right orientation: reading aloud helps with direction across the page

- letter recognition: matching, pelmanism, dominoes

- word recognition: matching words and pics, wordsearches, pelmanism

- alphabetical ordering (important for dictionaries): put the words in order

- text layout: recognition of text types


- left-right orientation: demonstrating best writing position 

- holding the pen, manipulating the pen: tracing letters and words

- letter formation (where to start the letter, writing on the line etc): tracing, copying

- writing words: look – say – cover – write, form filling, spelling books, spelling tests

 -writing sentences: sentence frames, gapped texts

 -punctuation: take put the punc and ask the Ss to put it back



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