No one likes feeling alone. Remind your learners that there are several brilliant and successful people with learning and physical disabilities!
My goal was to do a blog on teaching tips for working with adults with learning differences. In the process, I found several things that sounded really interesting. Unfortunately, they have very little to do with each other. I apologize for the randomization of this post, but I’m sure you’ll find something that makes this blog worth reading.
First, if you are curious if your student has a learning difference, consider whether he or she has difficulty with: (suggested by Scholastic.com).
- Manipulating sounds in words. For example: change the first sound in pat to /b/ (forming bat)
- Rhyming (cat, sat, mat) or recognizing words that begin with the same sound (cat and car)
- Learning basic letter-sound correlations (the letter “a” makes the /aah/ sound)
- Breaking down words into sounds (not able to say that “cat” is /k/ /aah/ /t/)
- Blending sounds to form words (when told /k/ /aah/ /t/, cannot easily put sounds together to say “cat”)
- Noticing when she skips words in a sentence
- Remembering words she has learned or needing to re-sound them out each time
- Reading in chunks with a “conversational” voice (as opposed to reading word by word
If you’re still curious, you can check out this site that lists signs and characteristics.
Next, try different techniques when working with your student. Start by w i d e n i n g the space in between letters. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that widening the space between letters in words increased the reading speed and average accuracy of 74 Italian and French children with dyslexia. There has also been research to show that self-paced online learning works well for students with learning differences because they have increased time without peer pressure.
Finally, have your student check out Friends of Quinn. Friends of Quinn is a new social network for young adults with learning differences and is the first of its kind. Here are some of the cool things about this site (According to Quinn himself)
- It’s the first website to use the “dyslexie” font, a new font that was created to help people with dyslexia read and write better. The font’s designer, Christian Boer, has dyslexia. Christian is a great example of “owning it.” Rather than letting dyselxie get the better of him, he turned it into a strength.
- It’s more visual. People with learning differences learn differently. So we’re using lots of videos and photos to tell stories on the site. I’m posting a video series where I interview adults with LDs who have succeeded in life. I found a way to combine my interest in film and in journalism!
- Most importantly, it’s more social. If you are a friend, a parent or somebody “living with it,” you can use the Friend Finder feature to find other people with similar interests — whether it is in knowing more about dyslexia or being a big fan of science fiction movies. This site feature helps bring people who live with LDs together. You can even find people who live near you.
If a student has difficulty remembering how to spell words, using a kinesthetic (touch and movement) approach can help in the retention of spelling new words.
- A list of words that your student has difficulty spelling.
- A large sheet of paper.
- A marking pen.
- Write a word in large print (3” to 5” high) on the sheet of paper.
- Ask the student to read the word.
- Have the student spell the word on the card while tracing it with his index and middle finger.
- Repeat this until the student thinks she or he knows how to spell the word.
- Remove the card and have the student write the word.
- If correct, have the student write the word three or more times.
- If incorrect, have the student trace the word again and repeat the procedure.
- Once the student becomes familiar with the above procedure, he/she can practice new words independently as homework.
Adult learners can improve their literacy skills, but the challenge for tutors is figuring out the most important skills to teach. Before beginning that first lesson, I suggest that adult learners need to understand and experience self-determination. L2A offers the tools to do just that for diverse learners.
Understanding each factor is fairly easy, but the challenge is designing a lesson that presents the relationships among the factors. Is there a sequence that truly presents the relationships among these factors?
Doing this activity in a small group helps us see the complexity of the relationships among these factors and the challenge — and potential — for helping adult learners gain self-determination. The activity ignites big discussions and tough questions: Can someone be proactive before knowing how to plan? Does someone reflect and readjust before valuing herself or after?
All that’s needed is a large sheet of paper, some markers, or sticky notes — and a little bit of self-determination! Each time I provide this training I see amazing creative models for self-determination.
One group simply presented a blank page and the factors printed on 3X5 cards. They plan to create a representation with each adult learner — every learner designs a unique representation of self-determination!
Not only is that a fantastic idea, but it also is an excellent way to use the L2A concept of explicit instruction: I do; we do; you do. This teaching strategy lets adult learners experience the concept of directing their own learning through modeling and practice.
Imagine picking “self-awareness” and modeling for the adult learner your thought process in through the “I DO.” Thinking aloud about who you are… Drawing or using pictures to represent your talents… Listing weaknesses and ideas for improvement…
Think of working in equal partnership with the learner in the “WE DO” to explore her own self-awareness.
Picture encouraging the student in the “YOU DO” to choose the next factor and take you through her process.
Teaching literacy skills is the focus of what we do, but if we can build self-determination we have done more than teach literacy skills. We have empowered the adult learner.
To view Betsy’s L2A webinar, follow this link.
Learning to Achieve (L2A) is an interactive series of professional development modules focusing on meeting the needs of adults with learning disabilities (LD) seeking instruction in literacy programs. The three on-line “prep” modules and the eight “face-to-face” modules are research-based instruction provided by the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS). Whether on-line or in-person, each module is designed for approximately 90 minutes of interactive learning to inform and train adult tutors or service providers.
L2A Online Modules:
- LD and Neuroscience: The science and research supporting neurologically based LDs
- LD and English Language Learners: The unique needs of special populations learning English
- LD and Accommodations: Reasonable and appropriate accommodations to improve learning
L2A “Face-to-Face” Modules:
- Definition of LD: Providing six basic consensus statements that define and identify LD
- Self-Determination: Enhancing self-advocacy to empower adult learners
- Legal Issues, Self-Disclosure, and Confidentiality: Protecting the rights of the adult learner
- Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning: Research-based strategies to augment adult learning
- Reading Disabilities: Providing a clear picture of reading preferences, difficulties, and disabilities
- Written Expression Disabilities: Identifying and improving transcription and generation challenges
- Content Learning: Learning with a purpose and sequence for a degree, credential, employment, citizenship, or life goal
- Workforce Preparation Strategies: Preparing adult learners with basic and applied skills for employment success
During October and November, L2A trainers Betsy Stoutmorrill and Roberta Reiss provided five full-days to train 174 literacy volunteers, adult education instructors, service providers, and program administrations. Trainings were held in Lady Lake, Marianna, Lake City, Palm City, and Port Charlotte. The training session provided an amazing opportunity for professionals and volunteers from a variety of literacy programs to work together and gain knowledge of not only specific learning disabilities but also of research-based strategies and teaching tools.
“Providing the L2A modules to four different groups was an amazing and enlightening opportunity for me,” says Betsy Stoutmorrill. “I was inspired by all the dedicated volunteers and professionals who asked tough questions and invested their time to attend this training to improve their teaching and understanding of learning disabilities.”
The hope is that additional training days can be offered throughout Florida to introduce more people to L2A or for those who attended a training to complete the online modules. Thanks to the partnerships between LINCS, the Florida Literacy Coalition, and the individual sponsoring regions, this training will make a difference in the educational and personal success of many adult learners and support the growth and development of the professionals and volunteers who dedicate themselves to adult literacy. Funding for these trainings were provided through grants, but more funding is needed to continue these important trainings.
“I talk to so many literacy program directors and coordinators who fear that volunteer tutors feel inadequate to the task of working with adult learners with learning disabilities. This training has allowed us to demystify the topic and to share the best practices based on the most current research. Judging from the feedback so far, I think we have gone a long way in addressing the challenges,” states Roberta Reiss.
Unlike physical ailments, learning disabilities often go undetected because they are hard to see and many people do not understand the signs. They also differ from person to person, so two people can have the same disability, but different challenges. Learning disabilities can affect a someone’s listening, speaking, reading, writing and/or mathematics skills. As many as 1 out of 5 people in the United States has a learning disability. It is estimated that 27% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school, creating a need to address learning disabilities in adult learners. This fall, Florida Literacy Coalition is hosting a series of professional development workshops focused on Learning Disabilities. Here are a few words from one of our facilitators, Roberta Reiss.
“Over the years I have worked with hundreds of capable and well-trained literacy tutors. One refrain I heard quite often was, “I can’t help you with an adult learner with learning disabilities. I just don’t have the expertise.” It turns out that working with a learner with a reading or writing disability involves easy comprehension strategies that are just “good teaching”. The FLC’s upcoming events on Learning to Achieve, a program based on the latest research, are designed to help volunteer tutors understand Learning Disabilities, learn about the legal protection offered those who have these disabilities, and examine teaching strategies that have proven success. Of course, no one is expected to diagnose a disability or offer legal advice, but the program lays a great foundation for understanding the rights of adult learners with LD and seeing why the strategies work. I hope you can attend one of the several sessions held around the state, and would love to see you at one of mine!
Hopefully you will be able to join us this fall at one of the statewide workshops. Click here for a full listing of locations and program descriptions.
If you attended the Florida Literacy Conference this past May, you’ll probably recognize the name Betsy Stoutmorrill.
During Conference, Dr. Stoutmorrill presented a very popular session entitled “Reading: Science of the Brain Meets Art of the Mind.” The session highlighted how learning to read requires the (science) brain’s capacity to decode and link symbols to sounds and the (art) mind’s facility to comprehend the meaning of print.
In just over 3 weeks, on Sept. 22, Dr. Stoutmorrill will virtually present a training on identifying and solving reading error patterns. She will provide tutors and teachers with a system for identifying and analyzing oral reading/decoding errors students make.
Tutors and teachers can effectively address common error patterns through a process of listening, marking and discussing errors made by students who read a brief 100-150 word passage.
Participants will receive:
1) a list of the 10 most common reading errors
2) sample passages that can be utilized as a guide for selecting appropriate material from a wide range of reading resources
Interested? Click here for registration and participation information.
Dr. Betsy Stoutmorrill is Vice President of Enrollment and Outreach for Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla. Since 1989, Stoutmorrill has been in the field of adult education focusing on reading and learning disabilities.
More trainings are on the horizon & you can read summaries from two prior tutor/teacher trainings on this blog!