My phonics for adults top tips, will help you understand the needs of adult students. Follow the tips below and watch your learner overcome fear and climb the literacy ladder to a life-changing result.
If you can make your student feel comfortable, you
will make great progress. Empathy, sensitivity and awareness are critical when
you are dealing with adults.
Chat with your student and enjoy communicating adult-to-adult. Once you allow them to relax, they will tell you everything you need to know so that you can work out just where and how their problems began.
Adults make amazing learners. They are normally highly motivated and once they realize they are making progress their excitement is contagious.
Ask them about how they felt when they were at school.
Often they will say "I hated school."
Just smile, nod and say "A lot of adults say that. Tell me about what it was like for you."
Then leave them to talk. In many of the adults I have dealt with, school has been an agonising time for them. They felt lost, humiliated and left school feeling a total failure. Their self-esteem has not recovered. You will find that your adult student may never have really talked about it in any depth before. They have locked away their negative thoughts as they have blamed themselves for their 'failure'.
Once they have opened up enough to talk about it, they will get an enormous sense of relief.
Listen carefully, then when they stop talking try saying something like this...
“The good news is that things have changed enormously since you were at school. People have now explored the brain and understand how it works. What they've discovered is that people have different ways of learning and working things out. And no one way is right or wrong.
"When you were at school, teachers didn't realise that and so they just taught one way. If you didn't understand the way they taught, you got left behind and it made you feel as if you weren't clever. But it's not true.
"We just need to teach you in the way you learn best. If you don't understand something one way, then I'll find another way to show you. You're an adult now and this isn't like being in a classroom. Those days have gone. We do things differently now.
"I want us to work together as a team. I will be checking with you at every stage to make sure you are comfortable with what you are learning and that you understand, before we move on. Does that sound as if it would work better? Shall we give it a go?"
Find out what your adult student's goals are by discussing what they want to achieve.
I find some want to be able to read to their children or communicate by email or on Facebook. Others want to be able to read bank letters, a newspaper or write a shopping list.
Whatever it is they want to learn, that is your goal for them. That is what will motivate them.
Even if you feel they need to start from the beginning again, set the bigger goal then break it into smaller goals so that they are not overwhelming steps.
Explain that you will work together to reach each goal but that you need to go back a few steps first to fill in a few gaps. You will find adults comfortable with this as long as you explain what and why you are doing it.
Phonics For Adults: Top Tip # 6
Suggest to your student that they get their eyes tested. This is really important. Many adult students I have taught have discovered, much to their surprise, that they need reading glasses. They had never read, so they did not realize until they worked to improve their literacy that they couldn't see the words.
Make whatever you are teaching relevant to the student. If they love fishing or cooking, find a story on the internet or in a magazine or newspaper.
Take a part of it, enlarge and photocopy it. You could ask them to identify in the text, different letters by their sounds and highlight them.
If you are working at a more advanced level, they could search for a particular word pattern, for example, words with ough in them.
Although they might not be capable at that stage of reading the story, they will enjoy working with adult material.
Tutor them in short bursts. Ask how they are managing and if they’d like to stop for a coffee. Many have not studied for years and have uncomfortable memories of being in a learning situation. They may find learning initially tiring until they get used to it.
Avoid talking about testing them until they are totally comfortable with you. When you do test them, explain it in a light manner.
They associate tests with failure and are often terrified of them. Tests have become linked to poor self-esteem.
You can make many informal assessments by asking questions and noting the student’s responses. If they express anxiety reassure them that you are only gathering information to help you to help them. Show them how you can use it. Treat them as adults and remember, you are a team.
Teaching adults is for me the most satisfying work I have ever done! Once you make your student feel comfortable enough to open up to you, you are half-way there. As trust and respect grow your student will blossom. Nothing is more exciting.
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