in ADULT BASIC EDUCATION
Edwin H. Smith, Director
Reading Clinic and Fundamental Education Center
Florida State University
George E. Mason, Coordinator
Reading Program and Head of
Florida State University
DIVISION OF VOCATIONAL,
TECHNICAL, AND ADULT EDUCATION
CARL W. PROEHL, Assistant Superintendent
ADULT and VETERAN EDUCATION
JAMES H. FLING, DIRECTOR
TABLE OF CONTENTS
. . . . . . Teaching Adults
. . . . . . Stages of Adult Reading
. . . . . . Assessing for Instruction
. . . . . . General Instructional Methods
. . . . . Techniques for Specific Learning
. . . . . . Techniques for the Introductory
. . . . ... . Techniques for the Elementary
. . . . . . Techniques for the Intermediate
. . . . . . Reading in Special Subject Matter
. . . . . . The Developmental Stage
. . . . . . Materials for Teaching Reading
ndix A. . . ... Addresses of Publishers
ndix B. . . . Some Helpful Books
There is an occupational necessity for millions of adults to
attain functional literacy. Others must up-grade their reading skills
or become casualties of the new technology. The stepped-up technology
is bringing rapid and continuous change. Constant on-the-job training
is necessary for a worker to remain contemporary in most occupations.
Much of this training must be self-education through the vehicle of
reading. Sources such as trade manuals, trade journals, and trade
papers enable the automobile mechanic, the plumber, and the television
repairman to stay current with the sometimes monthly innovations in
their trades. Few vocations are so lowly that change is not taking
place within them To keep up with these vocations, workers must read.
The domestic servant of yesterday is the home attendant of today. She
is expected to have a degree of specialized knowledge and sometimes she
has taken formal courses in order to gain that knowledge. The same is
true of the holders of other formerly non-specialized jobs.
Many jobs are being phased out at a rapid rate. This is particu-
larly apparent in jobs which call for easily automated skills. Employ-
ment figures show that there are more jobs than ever; but many of them
go begging. Some of these are ones that students in adult basic education
can look forward to filling when they develop the educational skills that
the jobs demand.
Nearly all vocations today call for more depth of knowledge and
more flexibility in learning than was true in the past. The time when a
person could learn a trade and be assured of a life-long occupation is
gone. To survive in the economic market place, adults must be able to
read on a level consistent with the new demands of their vocations and with
the demands of occupations to which they aspire. Reading is one skill that
enables a worker to prepare for another vocation as he sees his present one
falling victim to technological change.
The market for unskilled labor is dwindling rapidly. No longer can
we tell a child that if he does not apply himself to his studies he will
grow up to .be a ditch digger. Ditch diggers, in the old sense of the term,
are no longer needed. A major task facing society is the preparation of
illiterate unskilled adults for economic participation in the Great Society.
Adult basic education is concerned with at least four types of
students. These include the totally illiterate adult, the high school drop-
out, the person whose reading skills are below the level needed to process
the general materials written for the broad adult population, and the high
school graduate who cannot read at the newspaper readability level. Most of
these people come from culturally deprived environments. Some are the
direct result of poor pedagogy. And some are specific reading disability
cases that have not been given the attention needed to teach them to read.
Census figures do not give an accurate picture of the number
of functional illiterates. Few of the drop-outs are included,though
it is known that those who leave school in their junior or senior high
school years tend to be far below average in reading ability for their
grade placement. Many of them are unable to read a newspaper. Along
with this group there is the group of high school graduates, most often
coming from high schools in culturally deprived areas. These unfor-
tunates, though legally high school graduates and listed by the Census
Bureau as having a 12th grade education, are unable to read materials
designed for the average adult.
Adult basic education is primarily concerned with three main
academic areas. It is education pointed at developing the communication
skills, mathematical skills, and the general knowledge which provide
the student with tools for self-learning. One task of those engaged in
adult basic education is to bring the students up to an acceptable
standard of functional literacy. With increased reading needs, the old
standards for functional literacy no longer make sense -- if they ever
did! Some years ago the standard for functional literacy was set at the
fourth grade level. Later it was learned that skills developed only to
the grade four level were gradually lost to the students because little
material was written for that level that met their interests or needs.
The skills withered from disuse. As a result of this finding, functional
literacy was set as fifth grade reading ability Today, it is generally
accepted that functional literacy should mean that a person can function
when faced with materials with a readability level of grade seven.
The curriculum of adult basic education should not be the same as
the curriculum for children in the elementary school. Subject matter
should be correlated and should include occupational orientation, family
relations, government responsibilities and services, law for the layman,
consumer education, personal development, current science concepts, and
current social concepts. Using such content, the skills of reading,
writing, speaking, listening, and mathematics should be developed.
Teaching ReadinZ in Adult Basic Education is designed to give
practical aid to those preparing for or engaged in adult basic education.
While many of the suggestions are directed to those teaching reading
classes, it should he obvious that reading skills should be taught and
developed when teaching in the other areas such as mathematics and
general knowledge. The section on reading in special subject matter
areas should prove of value to the teacher who has not had strong train-
ing in the teaching of reading.
Teaching adults is different from teaching children. Adults
generally learn faster and tend to be more cooperative than do children.
They are learning what they want to learn and they can see an immediate
reward for their efforts. Adults try harder for they can see the social,
occupational, and financial results that will accrue to them. Learning
is easier for adults for their brains are better developed and their
mental ages are considerably higher than those of children. A dull adult
with an I.Q. of 85 learns considerably faster than an average child of
six or seven. Contrary to popular opinion, you can teach an old dog new
tricks. And he will learn them faster than a puppy will!
Adults are more sensitive than are children. They do not react
to failure in the same way that children do. They are less able to take
criticism and are apt to 'clam up' or 'blow up' if their self-concept is
threatened. It is important that they succeed right from the beginning.
Many of them have had past failures in school. They will not repeat
those experiences, so for insurance it is better to begin with materials
that are somewhat easy rather than to take a chance and put them on
materials that may frustrate them.
Illiterate adults are especially sensitive. They are embarrassed
by their social condition and ashamed of their illiteracy. Often they
try to keep it hidden from their own children. Some pretend that they
can read but "they have misplaced their glasses." Many of them were
brought up in homes where no one could read or write. Some will have a
few magazines around the house and a great many of them will say they can
read the Bible (but they have merely memorized some often-heard passages).
As much as possible, go along with their pretense and help them to save
face in front of others. Try to empathize with them rather than offer
sympathy. They don't want people feeling sorry for them for they are
Illiterate adults learn fastest from materials that have personal
meaning to them. Helping them to read signs, letters from friends, or
materials that they have composed orally, makes for high interest and
active participation. Labeling objects in the classroom will prove help-
ful. Bringing in pictures of highway signs or making such signs is use-
ful. Some drive cars (with or wiLhout a license) and have learned to
recognize some signs by their shape. This makes it easy to teach them to
read the words on them. They have a real need to learn to read such signs,
and the satisfaction of that need will motivate them to continue learning.
They also have a need to read the titles of some of the popular television
shows and the names of some of the products that are advertised. These are
easy to teach for the producers of these shows use sound educational tech-
niques to teach people to remember the names of the shows and of the
products being sold. The illiterate adults talk about the shows, buy
and handle many of the products, and know the names of the star per-
Adults have more physical problems associated with learning to
read than do children. After the age of 35 they prefer more illumina-
tion than do younger people. Flickering lights irritate them more and
glare is less easy to tolerate. The loss of visual power is matched
by a loss in auditory acuity and in reactions to auditory stimuli.
This decay of hearing power generally starts in the late teens and
tapers off in late adulthood.
The fact that adults have more hearing and seeing problems than
children does not mean they are more difficult to teach. Many of the
productions of eminent people were done long after their physiological
prime. Most teachers over 30 would agree that physiological prime and
psychological prime are quite different. Both must be considered in
teaching. When teaching children, their undeveloped bodies and brains
must be considered. When teaching adults, certain physiological weak-
nesses should be taken into consideration. Duplicated materials should
be double spaced and pica type should be used. Glare should be reduced
to a minimum and seating should be so arranged that group activities
take place with the students close to the speaker or speakers. If
possible, arrangements should be made for a visual examination of those
who appear to have visual difficulties. To enable those with hearing
problems to get your communications better, an effort should be made
to speak relatively slowly and distinctly. If you are a pacer, try to
slow down your movements lest you distract the listeners. Unusual
words should be enunciated clearly and repeated and questions directed
to the teacher or other member of the group should be restated. If
you keep in mind the fact that people of different ages vary in their
physiological deficits, it will help you in adjusting the study tempo
to the individual. These adjustments are probably easier to make than
the adjustments that must be made when teaching children. After all,
adults are our own kind!
Adults (and that includes teachers) are likely to have more
rigid habit patterns than are children. While these habits can be
modified, it takes longer than with children for they are more firmly
established. This is especially true with language style. This is a
sensitive area and an indirect approach will prove more fruitful than
a direct one. Some illiterate adults have had but a few experiences
with standard English and your language may seem as strange to them as
their language seems to you. Don't begin by correcting their grammar!
More socially acceptable language style will be developed as ability to
Adults need the security of belonging. They prefer an informal,
friendly atmosphere where their opinions may be freely expressed. They
must be made to feel that their opinions and needs are important. They
must accept the teacher as a member of the group i'f he is to get optimal
communication with them. Before really effective teaching can take
place, the students must identify themselves as participants in a
learning group that is striving for the same general goal. Try to
find a common experience that all have had and use it to start dis-
cussions. Generally, all will have an experience where they helped
someone in trouble or an experience of insecurity when they began
their first job. From their common general experiences,the students
can be led to talk about their individual interests. Modification
of some interests and the development of new goals is a proper task
for the adult basic education teacher.
'Busy work' should be avoided. While, unfortunately, it is
common practice to give children work just to keep them busy and 'out
of the hair' of the teacher who is busy with some paper work, this
will not do with adults. They consider their time to be valuable
and rapidly recognize when the teacher is wasting their time. Chil-
dren do too, but they cannot walk out! It is far better to give the
class a break when something comes up which interferes with teaching.
The students can understand that and will try to help by cooperating.
Teaching units should be relatively short. This gives the
student a feeling of accomplishment because he can digest short units
faster than long ones. For many, successful formal education is an
unknown experience. Short units will demonstrate to the students
that they can succeed. In the early stage, instructional materials
are best when they are pamphlet length rather than book length.
Adults should be aided to move along at their own learning
rate. This rate will .differ from student to student and often differs
from one subject to another. Pressure to cover a lesson often results
in the lesson being 'covered' but not learned. Remember, these people
are in class to learn and not just to pass examinations.
Examinations for the purpose of grading students should be
avoided. This is particularly true for those at the introductory levels.
They tend to see examinations as threats to their already damaged egos.
However, informal appraisals are acceptable after rapport and an esprit
de corps have developed.
Avoid drab uncomfortable classrooms. Students who are hot, cold,
hungry, overtired, or in pain, are not attentive. When fire laws per-
mit and ventilation is adequate, smoking should be permitted. Lighting
should be adequate and should develop little glare. Noise levels
should be such that a normal conversational voice may be heard by all
students. Room furnishings should indicate that the people using them
are respected -- not castoffs who receive hand-me-downs.
If possible, provide coffee breaks. While these are time con-
suming, they help to build groupness and feelings of belonging. If the
students feel that they belong, they will invite their illiterate friends.
Your students are the principal source of other students. Moreover, these
coffee breaks provide the best time for gaining personal understanding of
an individual student's problem and goals.
Make sure that the method fits the student. A number of differ-
ent methods and techniques are discussed in this book. You may have to
try several before you find a 'good fit.' Take the time needed to do
so. You are not teaching materials,but are using materials to help you
teach the students. To do so, learn both the methods of teaching and
your students. Teachers frequently ask, "What do you do when the
student cannot read the book?" The answer is, "Who is the teacher,
you or the book?"
Expect learning plateaus. Progress in mastering skills does not
continue at the same observable rate. Often thare will be periods
when nothing seems to be happening. This generally occurs after a
spurt of learning. Do not despair. The student is on a plateau. After
a period, he will show more progress. Learning is taking place during
the plateau periods. It is not observable.
When you are teaching adults, remember that they are adults.
Talking down to them, setting up petty rules, and even calling the
roll may set up blocks between you and the students. To many of the
illiterates, you represent the upper classes. If you are condescend-
ing in your manner toward them, they will be aware of it. They will
STAGES OF ADULT READING
There are four stages of adult reading ability. The adult who
has attained true functional literacy has passed through three of the
four stages of reading. He has reached a point where he can develop
his reading power and speed on his own. He can engage in the general
adult reading world. Newspapers, some magazines, and many adult books
are open to him. He can develop his general knowledge through communi-
cation devices designed for the general public.
The first stage of literacy training is the introductory stage.
This stage is similar to the first three grades of school in terms of
readability levels of materials and the reading skills that are taught.
In this stage, the adult learns to recognize several thousand words
that he already has in his listening vocabulary. He learns many of the
basic word attack skills and uses them to teach himself new words. At
this stage, students should learn that writing is merely language that
is written down, and that the reading task is that of rapidly translat-
ing written symbols into oral symbols utilizing appropriate stress,
pitch, and intonation.
The second stage of literacy growth is the elementary stage.
At this point, the adult has learned many of the mechanical aspects of
reading and he can respond to most words automatically. With many of
the mechanics of reading out of the way, he is better able to concen-
trate on the more complex comprehension skills. Literal reading is
stressed at the introductory stage and continued into the elementary
stage, but at this level, great emphasis is placed on the higher inter-
pretive skills. Reading to learn rather than learning to read becomes
the adult's objective. In terms of readability and skills taught, this
stage is comparable to grades four, five and six.
The third stage of adult reading is the intermediate stage. At
this stage, stress is placed on depth of meaning, flexibility in read-
ing, and developing competence in reading in occupational areas of
interest or necessity. Emphasis is placed upon gaining competence in
materials written for the general adult population. This stage is the
transition stage from special materials written for people who are pre-
paring for entry into the world of adult literacy to materials written
for the general literate adult population.
The fourth stage of adult reading is the developmental stage.
When he has reached this point, the adult is truly literate and can
develop both his power and speed of reading on his own or with minimal
help. There he is free to pursue his special interests, satisfy his
curiosities, and build his knowledge, limited only by his capabilities
and drive. Many people continue to improve their reading habits and
skills through most of their adult lives. No one knows, the upward
limit of the developmental stage. In this stage, the student is
better defined as "a reader" rather than as "one who can read."
It has been estimated that it takes about 200 instructional
hours to take an adult through each of the first three stages of
reading. But this is an estimate based on the average adult basic
education student. Since people learn at different rates and better
under some conditions than under others, it is impossible to accurately
predict how long it will take a person to go from one stage to another.
However, the majority of adults with a good listening ability will,
under small group conditions, move through each of the first three
stages within 150 to 250 teaching hours. The time required will also
vary with the amount of effort the student expends on outside prac-
tice and with his.intelligence.
All instructional hours are not of equal value. Research
indicates that spaced practice is more effective than massed practice.
A three-hour per night literacy class is not three times as effective
as a one-hour per night literacy class. It is doubtful if it is even
twice as effective! Clinical experience indicates that one hour per
day of intensive individualized reading supplemented by an hour of
independent work will bring most intelligent adults from non-readers
to a third grade reading level in about a hundred instructional hours.
Experience with evening classes meeting three and four nights a week
indicates that small group instruction is ineffective after the first
hour and a half to two hours and that the final hour should be spent
doing independent reading. Experience with day classes meeting four
hours a day indicates that two short reading periods are more effective
than one long one.
No amount of instruction can make a reader, just as no amount
of coaching makes a team. The team must play ball in order to become
proficient. The reader must read.
In estimating the time needed for a student to pass through a
reading stage,several factors must be considered. First, an estimate
of his listening ability must be made. This will help in determining
his probable potential for reading. Second, the time of day and the
degree of fatigue the student exhibits must be considered. Third, the
student's general cultural background and motivation are factors.
Fourth, the type of instruction (individual, small group, large group,
or mass media) affects the rate of learning. Fifth, the spacing of
the teaching is an important factor. Sixth, the training of the
teacher and the supply of teaching materials affect the learning rate
of the students.
More effective use is made of a teacher's time if classes can
be formed with students at the same reading stage. Within these classes,
groups may be formed with students who are reading on approximately the
same reading grade level. The groups will move along at different rates
and individuals within the groups will also move at different rates.
Flexibility will save money for the school and save time for the students.
When a student forges ahead of his group, he should be moved to another
group. If, for practical reasons, a student completes a stage and
cannot be put into a class at a higher stage,than instruction may be
given him through the use of individualized reading (discussed in a later
chapter) and through programmed materials. Remember that the purpose
in grouping for instruction is for increased efficiency in teaching
individuals. If one cannot deal effectively with the individuals in a
group, then there is no purpose served by such grouping.
Though in most cases you will be teaching in a traditional box
type classroom, you should be prepared to suggest a better educational
facility. Where possible, the communications laboratory approach might
be used. It might have 15 to 20 individual learning stations. It should
also be so flexible that it can be arranged for whole class and group
activities. The laboratory should contain materials that can be used
for group instruction and for self-instruction. A bibliography of such
materials is given in Chapter XI.
Lock-step instruction will lock some students in a reading stage.
Differentiated instruction with differentiated materials is a vital
principle of good basic adult education.
Research on the use of mass media (which does not permit differ-
entiated instruction) indicates that non-differentiated teaching fails
with many students. It is, therefore, very expensive in terms of the
results obtained. Furthermore, it is objectionable to many adult read-
ing failures because it is identified with their failure.
The concept of reading stages and reading levels aids us in
providing instruction at the proper level according to the needs of the
student. It also helps us to conserve teacher and pupil time and
offers guidance in planning for the materials needed for literacy
classes. The concept should serve as a guideline for all teachers
engaged in adult basic education. Yet it must not lead to "lock-step
Lock-step administrative practices have no place in adult educa-
tion. Admission to literacy classes should be open at all times and
not depend upon any academic calendar. Since the classes for each stage
will generally contain students reading on several different grade
levels, and since the rate of progress will differ from student to
student, the classes should remain open to admit new students. These
will replace those who complete one stage and go on to another or will
replace those who have completed the final stage of the reading phase
of the program. Where the literacy training is part of a self-contained
adult basic education class, other flexible arrangements may be made.
ASSESSING FOR INSTRUCTION
Matching methods, materials, and students is a key to effective
instruction. The teacher meeting any adult literacy class must rapidly
determine the specific training needs, and specific techniques that may
be needed for each pupil. To do this, two types of instruments are
helpful. These are Informal Reading Inventories and standardized oral
and silent reading tests. From these instruments, four levels of read-
ing may be determined. These levels are the present potential level,
the instructional level, the independent level, and the frustration
level. This must be done before instructional materials are selected
and groups are formed. The teacher must also quickly evaluate those
who enter after the initial class is formed, and perform a regular
assessment of all pupils in order to determine their rate of progress
and further needs.
The Present Potential Level is the highest level of graded
materials that the student can comprehend when material is read to him.
The rationale behind this concept is that writing is merely printed
speech. If the listener can understand what is read to him, then he
will be able to read with understanding at that level once he has
acquired the needed reading skills. The present Potential Level test
is sometimes considered to be a safer test to use in estimating adult
capacity for learning to read than a verbal intelligence test. Many
who are enrolled in literacy classes are culturally deprived. Intelli-
gence tests tend to give a false picture of their capacities. The
measurement of the Present Potential Level should be repeated at
frequent intervals, since improvement of general communication skill may
occur with further schooling.
To determine the Present Potential Level one should use reading
materials that have been carefully graded in terms of readability.
These graded materials can be found in Diagnostic Reading Scales
(California Test Bureau), Durrell Analysis of Reading Difficulty
(Psychological Corporation), Gilmore Oral Reading Test (Bobbs-Merrill
Co.). The instructions for administering listening tests are given in
the first two tests mentioned. The other two can be used as listening
tests. The teacher reads the graded paragraphs to the student and asks
him questions about them. The level below which he fails to adequately
comprehend the content of a paragraph (selection) is his Present Poten-
tial Level. Those who do not have access to the materials mentioned can
7" make a Present Potential Test by selecting 150-200 word selections from
graded readers or other sources that give the readability level of the
material. These may be bound in a loose leaf notebook and used as
If the Present Potential Level is very low, investigate other
factors before you give up. If the person is severely deprived
culturally, especially in his exposure to standard American English,
training in listening may be given to see if the listening level can
be raised. For those who lack information about this area, two help-
ful sources are given. (1) What Research Says to the Teacher, 29;
Listening, and (2) Listening Aids Through The Grades (N.E.A.).
The instructional level is the level of graded materials where
the student can recognize well over 90 per cent of the running words
instantly. It is the point where he can read smoothly with adequate
comprehension and without undue stress.
The instructional level can be determined through the use of
graded paragraphs. The student is usually asked to read one paragraph
orally and another silently at each grade level of readability. The
testing should include materials easy enough to enable the examiner to
find a level at which the student can read fluently and comprehend
easily without aid. It should include the use of materials difficult
enough to enable the examiner to find the highest level at which the
student can read with help from the teacher on only a few (not more
than 5%) of the running words.
Most reading experts prefer the use of an informal reading
inventory for the determination of the instructional level. Standard-
ized silent reading tests compare student performance with the per-
formance of other students. Their use in choosing materials for
instruction is unfortunate.
Standardized oral reading tests,such as those previously named,
are fairly reliable guides to finding proper instructional levels.
For the novice reading teacher, such tests are probably more appropri-
ate than an Informal Reading Inventory.
The independent reading level is generally one grade level
below the instructional level. It is the level where the student
instantly recognizes well over 95 per cent of the words, understands
with ease what he has read, and reads aloud smoothly. If absolutely
necessary, the independent level can be assigned by rule-of-thumb
once the instructional level is determined. When the frustration level
is reached, the student is liable to hold the book very close to his
face, or point with his finger to the words as he reads them. His
voice may rise in pitch or decrease in volume. The material is too
difficult for him to handle pleasurably and profitably.
A check sheet for recording reading difficulties and levels of
reading should be kept on each pupil. As you work through the Informal
Reading Inventory or standardized oral reading test with a student,
indicate areas of difficulty with check marks. One check sheet can be
used to record three different inventories by using black markings for
the first inventory, blue marks for the second inventory, and red marks
for the third one. This has the advantage of enabling one to see at a
glance whether improvement has been made in areas of specific diffi-
culty. It also focuses attention on skills that need strengthening.
The following is a condensed version of such a check sheet. Most
teachers will want to develop it further.
Informal Reading Inventory Check Sheet
Name Age_ Date(s)
Basic sight words
Flow of language
Instructional grade level Independent grade level
Frustration grade level Present Potential Level
A standardized silent reading test should be given at'intervals
to all students. The results must be interpreted with great care! At
the introductory stage the tests tend to overestimate the student's
reading ability. They should not be used in determining instructional
level. But students want a record of their progress. Governmental
agencies often request a record of the student's progress and achieve-
ment. In many states elementary grade certificates are dependent in
part on the student's achievement on a standardized reading test. There-
fore, an objective measure of progress is required. Since the standard-
ized reading test is objective and its error of overestimate tends to
remain rather constant, it can and should be used for this purpose. It
is recommended that a test with several forms be used. The test should
be appropriate to the stage of reading where the student is operating.
A testing interval of about fifty hours may be feasible. A different
form should be used for each testing.
Standardized silent reading tests that may be used at the three
stages of adult basic education include the Gray-Votaw-Rogers General
Achievement Tests, (Steck Co.), and the Stanford Achievement Tests
(Psychological Corporation). Others of value, when carefully inter-
preted, are the Metropolitan Achievement Tests (Psychological Corpora-
tion), and California Reading Tests (California Test Bureau), and the
Gates Reading Survey, Grades 3 5-10 (Bureau of Publication, Teachers
College, Columbia University).
All standardized tests have a band of error. This band is des-
cribed in the test manuals. It is important that teachers keep it in
mind when reviewing test results. It is possible, just by chance, for
a person to earn a score much too high or much too low any time he
takes a test. Some students who have made real progress will show a
decline in test scores after fifty hours of instruction! Many teachers
panic when they see such a result. However, the loss in score can
frequently be explained by examining each item carefully. Sometimes a
student who reads poorly guesses at every answer and gets one fourth
of the answers right. Upon taking another form of the test at a later
date, he may only attempt those questions to which he is sure of the
answer. Thus, his total score and grade-norm regress. The best way
to prevent such cases is to choose the standardized tests carefully. The
test chosen should be one where the student's expected score is near the
middle of the range of scores possible for that test.
An item-by-item analysis should be made of each test. Perhaps
the least important information that a test gives is the total reading
grade level. The great value lies in the diagnostic information that
it can give you. A careful examination of the test may reveal specific
deficiencies in word attack skills, in meaning vocabulary, in spotting
key words, in reading critically, and even in test-taking. The last
item is of particular importance for adults. Many adults have never
seen or taken a standardized test. The first exposure to this type test-
ing is apt to be unsettling. Remember that separate answer sheets
complicate this problem even further. If the answer to question two
is placed on the answer sheet after item three, every mark on the
remainder of the answer sheet may be out of place.
The more information one has about a student, the better. If
possible, a folder should be kept which contains the student's various
test results, notes on his needs and interests and occupational goals,
and any other information that has been passed on by guidance coun-
selors, other teachers, or the student himself. Students should be
observed to see if they are having visual difficulties, hearing
difficulties, or emotional difficulties that are interfering with their
learning. The folder should contain a progress chart and a list of
the independent reading the student has completed. This folder should
accompany the student as he moves through the stages of adult basic
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS
There are five widely used approaches to teaching reading to
adults. These are the basal adult reader approach, the individualized
reading approach, the experience approach, the programmed instruction
approach and the packaged program approach. A good program may incor-
porate all of these approaches, but each will be described separately.
The Basal Reader Approach using series designed for children is
not psychologically acceptable to most adults. Basal readers for
children present vocabulary and skills in an orderly and related way.
Workbooks which reinforce vocabulary and other skills generally accom-
pany the series. Research strongly supports the use of this approach
with children. Little real research on any approach to adult reading
has been completed. Adult texts have been developed that incorporate
many of the strong points of the basal series for children. Unfor-
tunately, at the date of this writing, many of the adult texts are com-
paratively weak. Their writers attempt to teach too much in too little
space; Instruction is designed for a pace far too fast for most
learners. Several adult texts for the same grade level should there-
fore be used. They should be supplemented by other instructional tech-
niques including programmed instruction, the experience approach, and
the individualized reading approach.
The experience approach may be used to supplement a textbook
approach. Usually, the teacher encourages the student to tell stories
or anecdotes individually or as a group. The students make up a story
or jointly relate a common experience. The teacher then aids them in
selecting words and in structuring the story. He teaches them the
printed form of the words, has them read the story from the board or
from a large chart, and finally has the stories typed up and bound. In
many cases, the students themselves do this typing. There are many
other techniques that can be used with this approach. The best source
is probably Learning to Read Through Experience (Appleton-Century-
Crofts). The methods suggested for use with children may be utilized
for adults, if modified.
Individualized Reading may be used as the core of the program or
as a supplement to the textbook program. This approach calls for a
large classroom library with books of known readability. The teacher
who aids the pupil in selecting books that he wants to read (the
teacher steers him to books on his independent level) is available to
help him with words that give him difficulty, and has regular confer-
ences with him to diagnose weaknesses and maintain strengths. The
approach is more appropriate near the end of stage one and in the later
stages than during initial reading instruction. There is an abundance
of material appropriate for this approach. Many books written for
children are highly interesting to adults. The list is far too long
to include here, but a perusal of the catalogs of some of the pub-
lishers listed in Appendix A will provide you with a wide choice.
The publishers will send their catalogs on request.
Programmed instruction is no longer a new approach for teach-
ing reading. However, much of what has been done is not first class.
The approach, which permits students to progress at their own rates,
has much to recommend it. Essentially, it is a self-teaching tech-
nique with the student being informed of his success or failure (and
the failure rate is kept very low) immediately after making his res-
ponse. It definitely has a place in teaching adult basic education
and has proven to be an effective way of teaching mathematics,
English, and reading. There are many programs on the market or
currently being developed. Such companies as Follett Publishing
Company, Bobbs-Merrill Company, and California Test Bureau will send
descriptive literature concerning their programmed materials.
Programmed instruction is one good approach to use with adults.
However, it should not be expected to carry the whole load; especially
in reading. For maximum usefulness, teacher supervision is needed.
Skills that are learned should be tried out and reinforced and the
teacher has an important job of guidance to do. At the time of this
writing, programmed materials in reading offer more promise than
results, but good literacy programmed materials should soon be avail-
The "Packaged Program" approach uses many vehicles. Some com-
panies have developed programs that include film strips, teaching
machines, and classroom libraries. Others have developed "reading
laboratories" which contain multi-level materials which can be used
with a whole class or with an individual. These generally are com-
posed of a large number of units, each having exercises for developing
reading skills. Some are appropriate for adults. Many publishers are
discovering a truth that television and movie producers have known for
a long time. Namely, that there is a general interest range which
covers both children and adults and that programs designed for adults,
if within the general interest area, are acceptable to children. Most
seem to be preferred over programs designed for children. However,
television shows and movies designed for children are generally not
acceptable to adults. The same holds true for reading materials. An
outcome of this insight is the production of materials of controlled
readability that can be used with both children and adults. The
dictum that materials designed for children should not be used with
adults is no longer true. Rather, most of the material designed for
children should not be used with adults. "Neutral" materials are
acceptable to both adults and children.
A well-rounded properly financed adult basic education program
will include a wide variety of materials and methods. The cost-quality
relationship in education is a well established fact; though one that
is often ignored. Few adult basic education programs have spent
enough money on materials to utilize 1960's knowledge. The savings
of a few dollars per pupil through scrimping on materials is a costly
factor in adult education. In literacy education, it sometimes pro-
hibits the kind of flexibility needed to do an adequate job and the
savings on materials is more than balanced by the costs involved in
a longer training program. No adult center can afford to waste money
by cutting corners on its materials budget. A good instructor with-
out good materials may be no more effective than a television set that
lacks a good aerial.
TECHNIQUES FOR SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITY CASES
Two to five per cent of the general population suffer a spe-
cific learning disability. These people, though of normal intelli-
gence, do not attain a functional literacy unless special methods are
used. They have frequently been exposed to the teaching of reading
and have failed to profit from it. Many people in this category are
convinced that they are stupid. Some have other personality problems.
Many are intelligent persons who cannot learn to read as most other
people do with such seeming ease. The best therapy that can be
given these people is to teach them to read. With patience and
special methods, this can be done.
All the causes of specific learning disability are not known.
Many of the cases appear to result from damage to the central nervous
system. Some appear to be caused by maturational lag. Some are
hypothesized to be caused by an unusual structuring of the central
nervous system. The cases with a known brain injury affecting their
communication ability are classified as aphasics. Those aphasics
whose communication problem is primarily the inability to read are
classified as alexics.
Many adults who are suffering from alexia have not been
formally identified. Most illiterates from the culturally deprived
group need no neurological examination. To indicate that one might
be needed would frighten many of them. Furthermore, since the cause
usually cannot be remedied and the diagnosis is often uncertain, the
examination would not prove of great value. However, teachers should
recognize some of the symptoms associated with alexia. When many of
these are displayed, the student should be taught special methods.
In no event should an adult basic education teacher classify a person
as an-alexic. Most neurologists would be reluctant to make such a
diagnosis; an educator certainly should not.
There are a large number of adults who show symptoms of a
specific learning disability but who do not exhibit neurological mal-
functioning. Some of the symptoms of a specific learning disability
are similar to those of alexia. As teachers, it is not our task to
determine the causal factors of the specific learning disability,
but rather to differentiate the specific learning disability group
from those who have not learned to read because of poor pedagogy, cul-
tural deprivation, and visual or hearing handicaps.
Specific learning disability tends to run in families. Ques-
tioning will often reveal that the father of the student showing a
specific learning disability syndrome also had difficulty learning
to read. Often the brothers of the student are reading disability cases.
Though otherwise bright, the specific learning disability case cannot
learn to read in an ordinary situation. He cannot break the poverty
chain without specific help.
The symptoms of a specific learning disability are easily
recognized. Some of these symptoms are: flat voice; reversals of
letters and words; distractability; poor visual memory for words; slow
visual-motor perceptual speed; difficulty with rhythm sequences;
poorly developed laterality; repetition of the same mistakes; inability
to stand stress; weak concept confusion; figure background difficulty;
difficulty with closure; erratic handwriting; and short anticipation
span. These cases can often read a word out of context far better than
they can in context. They have difficulty remembering the images of
such words as where, when, that, what, was, here, there, and other
short very frequently used words. They also have difficulty recogniz-
ing a word that is incomplete or mutilated. In many of these respects
they are no different from beginners or other poor readers. The sig-
nificant feature is the presence of the majority of these symptoms.
People without a specific learning disability may appear to be
suffering from it. Sometimes a person with a severe personality dis-
turbance will display symptoms associated with specific learning dis-
ability. Sometimes a person suffering from a glandular disturbance
will appear to be a specific learning disability case. However, if we
wait for help from neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and
endocrinologists before doing anything, then nothing is likely to be
done. Few school systems offer such services and very few illiterates
can afford to pay for such services if they happen to be available.
As a rule of thumb, request all possible diagnostic aid. But do not
refrain from teaching because of a shortage of diagnostic services!
And do not think that a physical or psychological improvement will
automatically bring about reading improvement!
Diagnosing a student as a specific learning disability case will
do little harm. Diagnosis has but one purpose. That is to indicate the
type of treatment needed. While the techniques used in teaching spe-
cific learning disability cases are more time consuming, and the results
take longer to achieve than with normal cases, the techniques will work
with normal people and are especially good with slow learners. If you
are in doubt as to the diagnosis, try the adult textbook approach for
a few days. If the response is good, then the person does not fit the
specific learning disability classification.
Specific learning disability cases should be taught individually
or in very small groups. The place of teaching should be quiet and
both visual and auditory distractions should be kept to a minimum. The
pace should be slow and relaxed. Competitions and other forms of
pressure should be avoided, as excitement may block the student's
ability to learn. The student should be observed for internal tension
build-ups. When signs of these are observed, some method of relaxa-
tion should be introduced.
The V.A.K.T. technique is the most popular method used with
specific learning difficulty cases. It may also be used with others,
but it is somewhat more time-consuming than regular methods. The V
stands for visual, the A stands for auditory, the K stands for
kinesthetic (muscular motion sense), and the T stands for tactile.
The V.A.K T. technique systematically employs the use of these four
senses and thus provides for more sensory input and re-inforcement
than do most other methods. Those who use this method should read
Remedial Techniques in Basal School Subjects, by Grace Fernald
(McGraw-Hill Book Co.), for elaboration on this basic process; (1)
Let the person select some words he wants to learn. (2) Say the word
and ask the student to tell you how many parts (syllables) it has.
(3) Print or write the word in crayon in a five by eight file card
or a strip of paper about two inches by ten inches. Say the word
and have the student watch as you write and say the word enunciating
clearly each syllable. (4) Have the student trace over the word as
he says it, enunciating each syllable clearly. (5) When he thinks
he can write the word without looking at the copy, have him write
the word in crayon. If it is done incorrectly, have him repeat the
process (Step 4). (6) Have the student use the word in a written
sentence or paragraph. (7) Type the sentences or paragraphs for
the student to read at the next session. Have the student file,
alphabetically, the words he learns. Review these words with him from
time to time. (8) After about 150 words are learned, discard the
tracing except with words the student finds difficult to learn. When
using this method, the following points should be kept in mind: (1)
Finger contact with the print must be rigorously maintained while trac-
ing. (2) The words should always be written as units and never be
'patched up' (Step 5). The word should always be used in a context.
(3) The student should not orally spell out the word. (4) The desk
should permit free arm movements.
The sand tray technique is one of the many modifications of the
basic V.A.K T. approach. It is recommended for the less severe cases.
The sand tray method is useful with slow learners as well as specific
learning disability cases. Here is the basic procedure. (1) Put
about half an inch of sand in a large serving tray. (2) Print the
word the pupil is having difficulty in learning on a five by eight
card. Have the student watch and listen to you as you write and say
the word. (3) Have the student trace over a word as he says it. (4)
Ask the student to close his eyes and try to visualize the word as he
slowly says it. (5) Remove the copy and have him write the word in
the sand. If incorrect, then repeat the process. (6) After a stock
of words has been built, eliminate the tracing step. (7) File the
words taught and use them for review purposes. When you are sure he
will remember a word, then remove it from the file. Gradually reduce
the use of this technique as the student builds a larger and larger
stock of sight words (those he can instantly name on sight).
The Hegge-Kirk technique has worked well with some cases. It
is outlined in Remedial Reading Drills (George Wahr Publishing Co ),
and this inexpensive book is necessary to the technique. The tech-
nique should not be used with persons who have great difficulty in
auditory discrimination or who suffer from a significant hearing loss.
It is essentially a synthetic phonics approach to teaching word
The alphabet technique may be used when all else has failed!
Observation of many specific learning disability cases revealed that
a few taught themselves to read by spelling out the words. Many
stroke victims use this method to teach themselves to read again.
It is a slow, laborious way to learn and should seldom be used with
normal people or with learning disability cases unless the other
methods have not proven fruitful. The basic technique has six steps:
(1) Select a word to be learned and print it on a file card. (2)
Repeat the word several times and then use it in a sentence. (3)
Spell out the word slowly and repeat it. (4) Have the student say
the word with you several times. (5) Have the student spell out
(rhythmically) the word with you several times. (6) Remove the copy
and have the student write the word.
After the student has learned fifty to a hundred words with
this technique, shift to the Hegge-Kirk technique.
Most adults in fundamental adult education classes do not need
the techniques outlined in this chapter. These techniques are for
the special few. But the special few must also be taught. If not,
their offspring become the special many. As professionals, we must
not restrict ourselves to teaching the students who learn, regardless
of our efforts. We must attempt to teach all who need or want to
learn. We have to have specialized knowledge in order to be truly
professional. Stuart's Neurophysiological Insights into Reading
(Pacific Books) is recommended to those who want to delve more deeply
into the problem of specific learning disability. For those desiring
a text dealing with remedial reading generally, Harris' The Improve-
ment of Reading Ability, 4th edition (Longmans, Greene) is one
resource. Others are given in Appendix B.
TECHNIQUES FOR THE INTRODUCTORY STAGE
People at the introductory stage of adult literacy are often
suspicious of the motives of those who want to help them. They tend
to live in sub-cultures on the fringe of the Great Society. Some
have had no formal contact with school and most of those who have had
some formal education have found it a painful experience. Many are
ashamed to admit they cannot read and they have learned numerous ways
of hiding their illiteracy. Sometimes,in order to hold their jobs,
they have to pretend to be able to read. Many an employer has workers
who are completely illiterate; but these illiterates are unknown to
him! Educators involved in adult basic education must be concerned
with both the identification of the illiterate and with his recruit-
ment for classes.
There are many sources of help in locating and recruiting
students at the introductory stage. Teachers will help in identify-
ing illiterate parents. Health and welfare agencies always cooperate
in both the identification and recruitment of students. Mass media
such as radio and television generally will provide publicity, and
adult students already in class will provide leads to others in need
of help. A master plan involving many people should be drawn up. The
plan should involve people who know the poverty community and who have
personal contacts within it.
To do an effective job of recruitment, teachers must know their
community. A few of the things they should know are: (1) The total
population and the populations of ethnic groups. (2) The number of
unemployed and the reasons for the unemployment. (3) The number and
average size of families with an income of less than $3000. (4) The
industries in the community. (5) The economic outlook for the
community. (6) The community power structure. (7) The community
poverty pockets. (8) The public health and welfare services. (9)
The crime rate and the types of criminal acts most frequently commit-
ted. (10) The government agencies and services. (11) The social,
professional, and occupational groups. (12) The religious life of the
community. (13) The recreational facilities of the community. There
are of course other aspects which should be known.
There are sources of information about most aspects of most
communities. Information on housing can be obtained from the U. S.
Census of Housing and from the City Building Inspector. Information
about community health and welfare services can be obtained from the
County Health Department and public welfare workers. Other sources
of information about the community include: local newspaper files,
local chamber of commerce, police department, City Manager's Office,
State Board of Health, local courts, local charity organizations,
local ministerial association, school teachers and principals,
welfare workers, employment agencies, and local medical society.
Bulletin 71F-1, An Outline of a Community Survey for Program Plan-
ning in Adult Education,can be obtained from the Florida State
Department of Education, Tallahassee, Florida. It is a most useful
Merely informing illiterates about the program will do little
good. Many literacy campaigns have been conducted in this country.
Perhaps the most successful have been those conducted in prisons!
There, both the prison officials and the inmates attack the problem
in a non-emotional fashion. Goals are set and a plan is devised to
meet those goals. Neither the prison officials or the inmates need
to be whipped to an emotional frenzy in order to see the social and
Most literacy campaigns are relatively short term projects
highly charged with emotion. Energies and interests are expended in
a short period. Soon the problem is forgotten again by most people.
Agencies forget to refer to the adult educator the illiterates they
have contacted. Ministers and church ladies lose their momentum.
And even public school teachers neglect to make the personal contact
and exert the personal persuasion that is required! Crash campaigns
Teachers in adult basic education should be experts in the
recruitment of students. Time should be spent in learning about the
community and in learning techniques for the identification and
recruitment of students. Time should also be provided for teachers
to go out and make the necessary contacts with potential students. A
teacher who lacks the ability to recruit students may also lack the
ability to do a good job of teaching them. The ability to recruit is
hardly dissimilar from the ability to hold students once recruited.
The Chapter, Assessing for Instruction, gave some general
principles of testing. These will not be reviewed here but should be
referred to when planning the testing program for introductory stage
classes and before giving an Informal Reading Inventory or interpret-
ing the results of tests. The testing program should include: (1)
An Informal Reading Inventory. (2) An oral reading test such as The
Gilmore Oral Reading Test (Psychological Corporation), Gray Oral Read-
ing Test (Bobbs-Merrill), or Durrell Analysis of Reading Difficulty
(Psychological Corporation). (3) A standardized silent reading test
such as the Gray-Votaw-Rogers Primary Test (Steck), Stanford Achieve-
ment Test, Primary I (Harcourt, Brace, and World), or California
Reading Test, Upper Primary (California Test Bureau).
Several forms of the silent reading tests should be available.
Diagnosis and progress reports should be based upon an interpretation
of the varying results obtained from the Informal Reading Inventory,
the oral reading tests, and the silent reading tests.
Teaching adults at the introductory stage is quite different
from teaching children at the same stage. Few of them need an exten-
sive readiness program, although some work in sound discrimination
(hearing likenesses in fan and Dan, hearing differences in leaf and
leave) may be called for. Illiterate adults know the meanings of the
words to be recognized, generally have better visual and auditory
memories than do children, and their visual and auditory perceptual
abilities are usually far better developed. Except for the specific
learning disability cases, their abilities are so far in advance of
young children that most teachers new to literacy education are
amazed at their progress.
Instructional techniques at this stage can be broken down into
two main groups. One set builds the whole from its parts while the
other focuses attention on the whole and later analyzes the parts.
Rarely does a competent teacher restrict himself to one set of tech-
niques except perhaps in the very early phases of the training.
Studies of perception disclose that people fall into two main groups
in terms of how they organize their perceptual worlds. Some habitually
build from the elements of that which they are viewing,while others
take in the total picture at a glance. Observation will soon enable
you to spot those who will do better with an emphasis on a synthetic
(part to whole) approach and those who will learn faster with an
emphasis on a global (whole and later analysis of parts) approach.
In practice, you should not restrict yourself .to either a
synthetic or a global approach with a student. Rather, an eclectic
(combination of the two) approach should be used with emphasis given
to the one that appears most natural to the student Rigid adherence
to one method tends to kill interest and slow down the learning
Research shows that many people learn better through an audi-
tory approach than through a visual approach. Since the adult
illiterate has had more experience in learning concepts through the
auditory approach, it is recommended that much oral reading be done
in the early phases of training. However, the oral reading should
not be done in front of the class until you are sure that few mistakes
will be made. When it is done, it should be on a voluntary basis and
have a practical purpose.
The student should generally read a selection to himself before
he reads it orally. Do not be concerned if he mumbles the word as he
reads 'silently.' As he becomes more and more proficient, the vocal-
ization and lip movements will subside. When doing the 'silent' read-
ing, tell the students to point to any words that give them trouble
and tell them those words. Record the troublesome words for later
study. When studying them, ask "What part of the word gave you
trouble?" The answers will indicate areas of weakness toward which
specific teaching techniques should be directed.
Always set a purpose for the reading. Teach the students to
set up a clear reason for reading any selection. They should know in
advance why they are doing the reading and what they expect to get
out of it. This habit should be established very early for it is
essential for comprehending what is read.
Introduce the new words at the beginning of each unit and
review words the student had difficulty with in past units. Many,
but not all, of the texts for adults give lists of the 'new' words
and the order in which .they are introduced. In the latter case, go
over the material prior to the instructional period and make a list
of the words to be checked with the students and taught if necessary.
When the student is ready for the reading selection, he should know
almost all of the words on sight and he should not have to stop and
sound many words. Nor should the reading have to be interrupted for
vocabulary study! If much emphasis is given to the study of words
during the reading period, the individual words become the center of
attention rather than acting as vehicles for the transmission of ideas.
In introducing new words, present them first in an oral context.
Then present them in a written context that can carry a message. Read
the written context so that students learn how the word sounds in con-
text. Later, if necessary, work with the word in isolation, in phrases,
and in other sentences. Teach, and have the student apply the various
word attack skills that are appropriate prior to doing the reading.
Then observe his reading to see if he uses those skills. Note his weak-
nesses and provide corrective work in those areas at the beginning of
the next session. Techniques for developing word attack skills include
the use of the picture clue, the configuration clue, the phonics clue,
the dictionary clue, and the context clue.
SOME TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING RECOGNITION VOCABULARY
These techniques are useful in teaching students to recognize
words already in their speaking and listening vocabularies. The order
of listing is arbitrary.
1. Put two similar appearing words on flash cards mixed
in with flash cards that have two words that are the
same. Expose very briefly and ask if the words are
the same or different.
WHAT WHEN THAT THAT WHITE WHICH
2. Ask the students to underline new words in their texts
as you read them from a list.
This book is about my country.
My country is the United States of America.
I am a citizen of the United States of America.
3. Make up picture-vocabulary words for self-instruction.
Print the word under the picture and on the back.
4. Ask the student to underline the
that does not fit.
word in each row
5. Ask groups of students to make up stories using the
new words. Have the stories typed up and passed out.
Today we took a trip to the country. It began to
rain. We got all wet. The man that said we should
take a trip to the country was all wet!
6. Produce with the students a one-page weekly news-
paper. Have it dittoed and passed out.
7. Have the students fill in the missing word.
Today we took a trip to the
___. We all got _
. It began to
8. Have the students fill in the missing word parts.
John want_ to go. But his mother would not let
him Lat_ she change_ her mind. But it was too
9. Have the students make up sentences using alliteration.
Big bad Billy butts.
Silly Sally sits sometimes.
Penny pats pillows.
10. Have the student underline word endings.
helping flying driver changed
11. Ask the students to tell you how many parts (syllables)
each new word has after you pronounce it.
12. Have the students substitute various vowels in a word
to make new words.
Chap Ch_p Ch_p Fan F_n F_n
13. Label the various objects in the room.
14. Ask the students to underline words beginning with the
Brown Trip Brain Brow Brim
15. Ask the students to make new words by adding consonants.
Bar _ar _ar ar ar
16. Ask the students to identify the short vowel sound in
words by writing the sign over the vowel.
Hen Give Tot Must Cat Thin
17. Ask the students to identify the long vowel sound in
words by writing the sign over the vowel.
Tape High Day Use Most Be Sky
18. Have the students underlfte the prefixes in words.
Unable Nonstop Mishap Infield Outfield Undertow
19. Have the students underline the suffixes in words.
Careless Fielder Happily Happiness Commonly
20. Have the students underline roots in words.
Helper Unpleasing Triangle Intake Bypass
21. Have the students form possessives by adding an apos-
trophe and s or just an apostrophe.
Bob's Children__ Father Mice Paul
22. Show word cards rapidly. Students number a dittoed
sheet of words in order that the word cards are shown.
23. Write a group story. Everyone in turn reads the story
silently, adds his own sentence, and hands the story on
to the next reader-writer.
24. Make up and ditto simple crossword puzzles involving
words recently taught.
25. Line the bottom of a large box with white paper. Turn
the box on its side. Allow small groups to show (and
read captions) filmstrips against the white back of the
26. Encourage the checking-out of children's books for
"reading to your children (brothers, nieces, neigh-
SOME TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING COMPREHENSION
The key to building comprehension is questioning. Students learn
to seek certain understandings by the type of question asked. Unfor-
tunately, much of the material prepared for readers at the first three
stages of reading contains questions that deal only with literal mean-
ing. This helps little in developing mature readers or mature thinkers.
It is therefore necessary for the teacher to devise questions to
promote the higher thinking skills. If the teacher habituates the
student to look for answers for several different types of questions,
then the student will learn to read the same type of material for differ-
ent levels of comprehension.
Students should be taught to seek out and think out the answers
to three different types of questions. This is vital to the development
of adequate comprehension. First, the students should learn to deal
with questions of direct reference. The answers to this type question
are found directly in the textual material and are stated in the same
words as used in the text. For example: Where did John go? In the
text is printed, "John went to Miami to visit his parents." Miami, of
course, is the answer Second, students must learn to deal with ques-
tions of indirect reference. The answers to these questions may be
found in the text in slightly different words from those in the ques-
tions. For example: Was John brave? In the text we find, "John
courageously faced the consequences." Thus, we know the answer to be
yes. Third, students must learn to deal with questions that can only
be answered by drawing inferences. These are answered by deriving ideas
not stated in the selection, but for which the selection provides a
sound basis for inferring such answers. The third type of questioning
is necessary for the development of mature readers. Other techniques
for improving comprehension are given throughout this book. However,
the real key to developing power in reading is facility in answering
the third type of question. Training in doing so can begin at the
introductory level beginning with easy inferences.
1. Change the punctuation in a paragraph and have the
students note how the meaning is changed.
2. Ask the students to find words in the story that
tell where, when, who, etc.
3. Give the students sentences from a paragraph and
ask them to arrange them so that they make sense.
4. Have the students tell about the order of occur-
5. Have the students summarize a story in one sentence.
6. Have the students list the characters of a story
in order of importance.
7. Have the students make up several titles for the
8. Have the students pick out the most important sen-
tence in a paragraph.
9. Have the students underline the key words in
10. Have the students paraphrase directions.
11. Ask the students to complete an incomplete story.
12. Have the students predict how a story will end.
13. Have the students draw conclusions from what they
14. Have the students evaluate the actions of characters
in the story.
15. Have the students interpret metaphorical language.
16. Ask the students to restate dialogue in their own
17. Allow the students to dramatize story segments.
18. Require students to outline a selection.
19. Choose pronouns in a paragraph. Ask students to
name the nouns to which each relates.
SELECTING INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
Materials selection at the introductory stage is more trouble-
some than at other literacy stages. So little of the material avail-
able is first class that the range of choice is rather narrow. Then,
too, some materials are estimated by publishers to be at a very low
grade level when in actuality they are much more difficult. This makes
it necessary for the educator to objectively determine the readability
level of the materials himself. Fortunately, this is not hard to do.
Readability of books, articles, test items, or other writings
refers to the degree of ease of reading. The most important factors
utilized by readability formulas are word difficulty, as judged by
frequency of usage in various types of writing, and sentence length.
Other factors that affect reading ease are number of different words
used, density of ideas, abstractness of ideas, size of print and lead-
ing (amount of white space between lines).
Two easy formulas to use with introductory stage materials are
the Graded Reading Difficulty Work Sheet (Garrard Press) and the Smith-
Wheeler Readability Formula (Reading Clinic, Florida State University).
After a little practice with these formulas, the reading grade level of
a book or selection can be determined in about ten minutes. With
experience, the grade level or difficulty can be estimated adequately
without applying formulae. Once determined, the level should be marked
in the book in code.
All classroom library books should be coded according to reading
level. They should also be shelved according to level so that the
teacher can guide the students in self-selection within their band of
reading ability. One code that has worked well is to put the reading
grade level of the book as the second number of a four-number series.
For example: A book with a readability level of grade two might be
coded 9271. A book with a readability level of grade three might be
coded 7391. Many published materials use a color code.
At the introductory level factors other than readability should
be appraised. Instructional materials should use fourteen point or
larger print (a point is 1/72 of an inch). The binding should be
inconspicuous. Illustrations should be adult. Vocabulary should be
controlled so that no more than three to five words per hundred are
new to the reader. The sentence length should be reasonable. Some
provision should be made for drill or repetition. Units should be
related in content and allow for expansion into projects or research.
Books should be sufficiently long to allow for adequate repetition of
words, whether they contain one story or many. Of course, it is taken
for granted that the books deal with subjects and problems of concern
to adults. Unfortunately, few books written for adult basic education
meet these criteria. Even the most popular ones progress from a
difficulty level of grade one to a readability level of grade four
in a few hundred heavily illustrated pages or less. None provide
for sufficient practice within a given reading grade level. To
meet the needs of your classes, you will have to rely in part on
individualized reading, in part on the experience method, and in
part upon materials devised by yourself.
Undercutting is frequently advisable in selecting materials.
Undercutting means choosing materials at or below the independent
level of the student for his initial instruction. Adults needing
basic reading instruction are very apt to be doubtful of their
ability to learn to read. By undercutting, one provides immediate
success and encouragement for these students.
WRITING MATERIALS FOR THE INTRODUCTORY STAGE
It may be necessary to prepare supplementary materials. You
may even want to develop a basic text slanted toward the particular
group with which you work. The following principles will help with
either task: (1) Clearly outline the objectives. (2) Keep in mind
the objectives of the students and the thinking levels, in terms of
abstractness, at which they habitually operate. (3) Try to meet con-
crete needs of the student. Write about areas touching on his basic
and immediate needs right from the beginning. (4) Relate the subject
matter to the student's social groups and economic aspirations. (5)
Try to maintain an informal style and introduce conversation as early
as feasible. (6) Write what you have to say in a natural style and
later reduce the readability by cutting the sentence length and sub-
stituting easy words for hard ones. (7) Use a word list such as
The Teacher's Word Book of 30,000 Words (Bureau of Publications,
Teachers College, Columbia University) or A Core Vocabulary (Educa-
tional Developmental Laboratories). The list will indicate the grade
level of words and provide a source of words which can be used to sub-
stitute for harder words. (8) Vary the length of sentences and para-
graphs. (9) Use non-glare paper and 14 point or preferably larger
print. (10) Check the material for readability by applying a read-
ability formula. (11) Try the materials on adults whose reading level
is known. (12) Revise the materials in accord with the results of
the try-out with the students.
It will be wise to cut down the readability of some materials
so that adults at the introductory level can read them. When cutting
others' writing, be sure that you do not violate the copyright laws!
It is relatively safe to use materials available from the United States
Government Printing Office. These are not usually copyrighted. Most
newspapers will grant permission to use their articles. Many magazines
will also cooperate in your venture. Another caution must be mentioned.
The interest of any selection can be killed by too much cutting.
The basic problem in cutting the level of difficulty is to main-
tain an interesting style while reducing vocabulary difficulty, sentence
length, and paragraph length. It is extremely difficult to cut read-
ability to the first grade level unless one is a very highly skilled
person. It is easier to cut to the second grade level and it is not
difficult at all to reduce most articles to a third or fourth grade
level of readability.
After you have completed the first difficulty-cutting, apply a
readability formula to the results. Garrard Press publishes The Graded
Reading Difficulty Work Sheet which will prove of great value here for
it provides a list of easy words which might be substituted for harder
ones. It will also give an indication as to whether the sentence
length should be reduced and whether or not more variation of sentence
lengths should be attempted. It can be used to check the balance
between sentence length and vocabulary difficulty.
The annotated bibliography in Chapter XI gives a list of materi-
als acceptable to adult students. At the time this book went to press,
many companies whose addresses are given in Appendix A were preparing
new materials for adults at the introductory stage. Contact the local
representative of these companies and ask him to inform you of pertinent
publications. You will also want to stay alert for U. S. Government
Publications. The Office of Education is preparing new materials for
adult basic education programs and for teaching immigrants who are work-
ing toward gaining citizenship. The government can be a fine source of
inexpensive materials for supplementary work, but often the quality is
below that of commercial publishers. It also does not offer the
services that commercial publishers do for many of them will provide con-
sultation and demonstration services at no fee.
TECHNIQUES AND MATERIALS FOR THE ELEMENTARY STAGE
Millions of adults have reading skills that are comparable to
those of children in grades four, five and six. These people know the
great majority of the 1000 most frequently used words. They know most
of the running words in the average book, magazine article, and news-
paper. They know most of the words in this paragraph! But to gain
meaning from adult level materials, they need to develop the ability
to instantly recognize a stock of thousands of less frequently used
words. At this point in their reading development, students need to
develop greater meaning vocabularies, study type reading skills, and
critical reading ability. They need to develop fluency and versatility
If students are brought to this stage of reading competency and
then abandoned, they will often regress to complete illiteracy. In the
past, most literacy campaigns stopped before students completed the
elementary stage. Moreover, some.adult schools provided training only
to the elementary stage. .Educationally, this was a great mistake. It
resulted in personal disasters and failed to relieve the economic bur-
den of the sponsoring communities.
Some of the techniques for contacting students at the introduc-
tory stage are appropriate with this group. However, the appeals should
be more subtle. Some of these people consider themselves adequate
readers. It offends them to be told that they cannot read on an adult
level. By suggesting that they can increase their reading speed and
their reading ability in vocationally oriented materials, these students
can be recruited. The approach must be positive. It must protect the
ego of the prospective students.
Employers can help to recruit students by issuing house organs
(company newspapers) written in simple language. These can describe
special courses for "slow" or "careless" readers. They can point out
the increased reading demands upon various types of workers. Many
industries sponsor their own reading programs.
Employment agencies can help to recruit by pointing out opportuni-
ties and the reading ability needed to take advantage of them. They can
also make known the existence of vocational re-training programs where
fundamental education skills are improved while students gain marketable
skills. United States Employment Offices now have short reading tests
available for their own administration.
Teaching procedures at this stage will probably involve less use
of the textbook approach and of the experience method than they did at
the introductory level. Here, individualized reading may be the basic
design of the program. Attention must be devoted to some of the
vocationally oriented reading which the student needs and wants to
do. At this stage, it is often well for the teacher to make avail-
able materials which deal with the various occupations. He may have
to write them himself. He may also wish to develop a classroom news-
paper and to simplify some books used in the vocational training.
Much independent reading should take place at this stage. A
part of each instructional meeting should be set aside for independent
reading. Students should be encouraged and guided in selecting books.
They should be encouraged to check them out for informational or
recreational reading. No outside reading or homework should be re-
quired. Written book reports, except when volunteered, are taboo.
Oral reports, such as sharing of exciting or favorite events from read-
ings, should be encouraged.
SOME TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING VOCABULARY
1. Teach the students to use the pronunciation key in the
2. Teach the students to use the guide words in the dic-
3. Teach the students to use the context clue by using
a nonsense word in a paragraph and having the students
decide what it means.
4. Ask the students to collect special words concerned
with their occupations.
5. Make up exercises using homonyms.
6. Have the students list several definitions for the same
run: to race run: a small stream
run: a route run: a point
7. Have the students find words that change meaning when
the accent is changed.
Desert Record Address
8. Have the students spot metaphors in sentences you give
Leaped. His heart leaped high. His imagination leaped.
9. Ask the students to underline the synonyms.
Bad: Evil Poor Wicked Fear War
10. Tell the students to underline the antonyms.
Calm: Agitated Ruffled Smooth Angry
11. Have the students change the prefix of a word to form
a new word.
Inactive Misuse Reserve Transmit
Overactive Disuse Conserve Remit
12. Have the students select the best meaning for a word
given in a context.
He told lies, was lazy, and beat his wife. He was
really a nice person.
13. Encourage the students to keep vocabulary notebooks.
14. Provide the students with words to be classified:
Automative, Electric, Clerical.
copier, bulb, horn, wheel, tire, wire, switch, car-
buretor, file, desk.
SOME TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING COMPREHENSION
Comprehension relates to both types of comprehension and level of
comprehension. Type of comprehension refers to the ability to grasp
main ideas, recognize major and minor details, follow directions, and
so forth. Level of comprehension refers to the comparative difficulty
of the material dealt with. For example, can the reader get the main
idea in most grade level three materials? In most grade level four
materials? Does he have difficulty recognizing and organizing details
at the grade five level?
As the reading difficulty is increased, the ideas presented tend
to become more abstract. The depth of meaning involves more and more
the use of inferences. A student should not be advanced from one read-
ability level to another until he has developed the ability to deal
adequately with that level of abstractness. Too often, depth work in
comprehension is ignored as teachers fall into the trap of thinking a
person can read well merely because he says the words on the page.
1. Delete every tenth or fifteenth word in a paragraph
and have the students fill in the missing words.
2. Begin a story and have the students complete it.
3. Give the students a list of book titles and ask
them to classify them as fiction and nonfiction.
4. Have the students make up sub-heads for a nonfiction
5. Give the students questions and ask them to skim to
find the answers. Set very short time limits.
6. Have the students read the first and last paragraphs
of an article and tell what they think it's about.
7. Have the students keep a record of the timed reading
exercise you give weekly.
8. Have the students turn sub-heads into questions and
read to answer the question.
9. Give the students a problem and ask them to skim to
find only the answer to the problem.
10. Have the students use the index of a book to find
answers to questions.
11. Make available different types of graphs and teach the
students how to read them.
12. Have the students habitually look up the copyright
dates of the books they read. Stimulate the students
to discuss the dating of information.
13. Make up two different accounts of the same event and
have the students discuss the differences between the
14. Have the students outline a selection by devising sub-
15. Have the students make up different endings for the
16. Pass out some cartoons and ask the students to write
captions for them.
17. Ask the students how they think a character in a story
might feel about something.
18. Encourage students to find word meanings appropriate
to story context.
19. Have the students delete the emotional words in a
slanted article and discuss how they affect compre-
20. Encourage the prediction of story content from the
table of contents.
TECHNIQUES AND MATERIALS FOR THE INTERMEDIATE STAGE
The big task at the intermediate stage is to develop fluency in
reading. By the time a person has attained this stage, he has devel-
oped a reading vocabulary of many thousands of words. He has been
introduced to most of the reading skills. Emphasis here is on widen-
ing reading experiences, advancing critical reading skills, stimulat-
ing the seeking of depth of meaning, improving speed of reading, and
enhancing the use of reading as a tool for further learning.
Most people who attain this stage can struggle through mater-
ials written for literate adults. However, the struggle is so great
that reading in those materials is apt to be avoided. It is at this
stage that the student is given the extra help needed to make him
truly literate. Here,the students gain the polish needed for read-
ing newspapers with ease and enjoying magazines. Of course, stress
on study type reading is continued. This stress becomes specific as
a person becomes more expert in a vocation or profession. The
specificity of skills to employment and social-cultural setting
increases through the developmental stage.
Teaching at this stage should be highly individualized. Students
should be encouraged to pursue special interests. They should gain
familiarity with library resources and be encouraged to bring to class
materials dealing with their interest areas.
At this stage, students should participate in some large group,
small group, and individualized activities. Grouping should be flex-
ible and purposeful. Some grouping may be structured according to
reading grade level. Some may be set up to meet specific comprehen-
sion or vocabulary needs. And some grouping may be done for research
or interest purposes. Students should have experience in different
groups made up of different persons.
The range of difference in reading ability is less at the inter-
mediate stage than at the introductory and elementary stages. The
difference between a person reading on the seventh grade level and one
reading on the eighth grade level is much less than that between a
person reading on the third grade level and one reading on the fourth
grade level. Thus, it is possible to make more effective use of
instruction aimed at the entire class as a group. It is also easier
to write things that the entire class can read profitably.
The restriction of range at the intermediate stage makes it feas-
ible to consider the use of a package program involving mechanical aids.
One such program (E.D.L.) uses the Controlled Reader Jr. It comes well
supplied with filmed materials and is quite effective with individuals
and small groups. The Tach-X (E.D.L.) affords individual word recog-
nition training and the Skimmer (E.D.L.) is an effective instrument
for increasing reading speed. The S.R.A. Reading Accelerator (Science
Research Associates) and the Rateometer (Audio-Visual Research) are
helpful instruments for individual use in improving reading speed.
These machines and others on the market are helpful, especially so
for student motivation. They should be purchased only after you are
well supplied with materials for instruction and independent reading.
You will probably want to simplify some materials for students
at this level. The general ideas set forth in the Chapter on the
introductory level will not hold here. However, at this level ten
point type is appropriate. Either the Dale-Chall Readability Formula
(A Formula for Predicting Readability, Bureau of Educational Research,
Ohio State University) or the Flesch Formula (Art of Readable Writing,
Harper and Brothers) should be helpful in achieving the desired degree
of simplicity. These formulas may also be used to estimate the read-
ability levels. of library books and instructional materials.
SOME TECHNIQUES FOR DEVELOPING VOCABULARY
Many of the techniques suggested for the introductory and ele-
mentary stages can be used with some modification at this stage. The
vocabulary notebook will prove most helpful and it is hoped that more
and more stress will be placed upon vocabulary specific to the
students'vocational and avocational interests.
1. Have the students look up new words they encounter
in their texts. Have them write the meanings on
the page margins.
2. Give the students a brief list of Latin and Greek
roots. Ask them to collect words with those roots
in them, and attempt to use them.
3. Ask the students to collect foreign words and phrases
that they come across and use these for some class
4. Relate metaphors and ask the students to interpret
5. Ask the students to bring in unusual metaphors and
6. Encourage the students to identify words that signal
when a change of the direction of thought is coming,
when an important point is to be made, when a con-
clusion is to be stated, etc. Some signal words are:
However, Hence, Therefore, Yet, Such as, Notable,
7. Invent analogies such as "Magnanimous is to generous
as prudish is to ," or "Animal is to dog
as plant is to ."
8. Discuss qualifying words and how they get their mean-
ings from the context. Is a loss of $2,000 much? For
whom? etc. What do the words "start at" mean in
respect to prices?
9. Have the students write brief stories using five differ-
ent meanings for such words as bear, bank, train, and
10. Have the students give one word which best describes
the character of Lincoln, Kennedy, Churchill, etc.
11. Time students' efforts at written word-association games.
12. Develop easy crossword puzzles.
13. Encourage students' interest in Scrabble, Hangman's
Noose, Ghost, and other word games.
14. Encourage (by creating some yourself) jokes and puns
playing upon multiple word meanings.
15. Challenge students with written and spoken tongue-
twisters. One example is, "Say 'Rubber baby buggy bumper'
ten times rapidly." Encourage students to write their
own for later group sharing.
As the student prepares to operate at a truly adult literacy level,
more and more abstract thinking is demanded of him. He learns to recog-
nize subtle devices intended to persuade him or delude him. He learns
to appreciate allusions, irony, and various other literacy devices. He
learns to recognize his preconceptions that affect his thinking in
different areas. He recognizes strengths and weaknesses in his back-
ground of information and uses reading to strengthen those areas that
are weak. Reading at this stage is used as one means of developing the
student's general thinking ability.
Try these exercises:
1. Cut up a selection which the author has written in
chronological order. Have the students arrange the
paragraphs in the correct order.
2. Select some paragraphs that use an inductive writing
approach. Mix up the sentences and ask the students
to arrange the sentences in the right order.
3. Follow the same procedure with a paragraph that uses
the deductive approach.
4. Teach the students to recognize and question the
premises in reasoning. (Test Lessons in Reading-
Reasoning, Bureau of Publications, Teachers College,
Columbia University) is a good vehicle for this.
5. Have the students read selections to determine cause
6. Have the students compare two editorials on the same
subject but from two different points of view.
7. Have the students read a selection and determine the
author's opinion and his reasons for writing.
8. Find some examples of paragraphs where the author
implies a question and then answers it. Have the
students find the implied questions and evaluate the
author's answer to it.
9. Have the students make a list of facts and opinions
taken from the same selection.
10. Teach the students to determine the moral of a story.
11. Ask the students to bring in misleading headlines from
newspapers. Then aid them in developing better ones.
12. Have the students list, in order of importance, the
news stories on the front page of a newspaper.
13. Teach the students to underline main ideas in red
pencil and supporting ideas in blue. Then discuss
relationships between these ideas.
14. Have the students answer the questions, "What is the
author talking about? What does he say about it?" in
one compound sentence.
15. Ask students to read news articles from the fourth
paragraph to their conclusions, before stating what
the main ideas must be. Then the main idea may be
checked by reading the first three paragraphs.
TESTING AT THE INTERMEDIATE STAGE
The oral reading tests and the Informal Reading Inventory
suggested for the previous stages are still appropriate here. The
Gray-Votaw-Rogers-Advanced Test, Stanford Reading Tests, Advanced,
California Reading Test, Jr. High, and the Gates Reading Survey,
(Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University Press)
are all appropriate tests of silent reading ability. At this level,
the scores on the silent reading tests are very likely to give the
true instructional level. However, previous recommendations for test
interpretation should still be heeded.
READING IN SPECIFIC SUBJECT MATTER AREAS
The curriculum of adult basic education is built around three
broad areas. These are: (1) The communications skills of reading,
writing, speaking, listening, and spelling. (2) The mathematical
skills as needed for general adult problems such as consumer educa-
tion, family budgeting and vocational training, and (3) General knowl-
edge such as citizenship education, general scientific concepts and
Insofar as reading is used as a tool for learning within his
subject matter area, every teacher is a reading teacher. Every teacher
bears some responsibility for developing the reading power and skills
of his students. There are some general study-type reading skills
which should be developed in the reading and communication skills
classes. However, the development of subject area vocabulary and sub-
ject area reading skills is most effectively carried on in teaching
sessions dealing with the specific subjects.
There is a core of general reading skills needed in all subject
matter reading. Among these are the ability to find the main idea,
the ability to organize ideas, the ability to interpret information,
the ability to draw conclusions and make inferences, and the ability
to recognize and utilize rhetorical devices. These general reading
skills need to be supplemented in the subject matter areas with the
specific demands made by each area.
1. Teach students the SQ3RI study method.
2. Encourage students to work out rigid study procedures,
including time, place and subject to be studied.
3. Require the students to outline one of your lectures,
wait a time period of approximately two weeks, have the
students bring in their notes on the aforementioned
lecture, and spend 15 minutes reviewing these. Then
administer a test on that particular lecture. For notes
to be effective, the student must learn just how much
he requires to bring back the content to him. His
notes should be neither more than he needs, nor less.
This procedure is worth doing several times.
4. Encourage students to write summaries in the margins of
their texts, discourage underlining. Underlining cuts
down the leading or wide spaces between lines. The less
leading in a book, the less legible and readable the
material. Furthermore, in reviewing, the student who
ISee Francis Robinson, Effective Study Habits (Harper).
comes across the statement in his own words on a
topic is far ahead of the student who must re-
read the author's words as underlined.
5. Explain to the student the strengths and weak-
nesses of group study.
a. The best prepared student in the group
benefits more fromgroup study than the
poorest prepared one because the better
prepared student summarizes faster and
re-studies and prepares himself in his
efforts to teach the more poorly pre-
pared members of the group.
b. The questions that members of the group
ask each other are not dissimilar from
the questions each will be asked by the
teacher in the test.
6. Make sure students differentiate between recog-
nition and recall. When one reads a book a second
time and finds the material to be familiar, he is
recognizing it. A multiple choice test is a type
which requires recognition. Only when the student
can recall the answer without seeing it first is
he prepared to take an essay test or one which re-
quires him to fill in the blanks from memory.
In the General Knowledge curriculum, the reading in the social
studies will require the interpretation of maps, charts and diagrams.
Spatial concepts will have to be developed in order to deal with
geography. Cause and effect relationships must be discerned to gain
an understanding of history. Evaluation skills will be needed to
appraise the reliability and validity of that which has been read. In
addition, knowledge of reference sources and reference use skills
applicable to the social studies will be needed. The student should
become able to independently extend his knowledge and interests.
Mathematics has its special vocabulary, concepts, and symbols.
In mathematics, each symbol is restricted to one meaning. There is
little redundancy. Nothing can be skipped. The readinLg should
usually be slow and exacting. The student needs to learn to recognize
and deal with a somewhat different sentence structure. This may be a
combination of words and symbols or it may be only symbols.
In teaching adults to read mathematics, the initial diagnosis is
most important. The learning of new terms and concepts often depends
upon the knowing and understanding of a lower order of concepts. If a
step in the mathematical continuim has been missed, it is vital that
the student be taken back to that step and retaught. A sage rule
to follow is to administer an informal diagnostic test of vocabu-
lary and concepts from time to time as the student progresses
through the course.
The physical sciences also have their own special vocabu-
laries. In developing his skills in this area, the student learns
to: (1) Identify the problem under discussion and the hypotheses
presented. (2) Look for the information used to support the
hypotheses. (3) Evaluate hypotheses. (4) Evaluate the results
of the investigation. He should also learn to identify an inductive
approach and a deductive approach. He should be taught to dis-
tinguish between laws, theories and hypotheses. He should practice
identifying the theories underlying scientific processes.
Some of the specific techniques that follow can be applied
in several subject matter areas. Although their usefulness appears
greatest under social studies or science, they are not necessarily
less useful in other areas. Furthermore, many of the more general
techniques mentioned in other chapters can also be applied in the
specific subject matter areas.
SOME COMPREHENSION TECHNIQUES FOR USE IN TEACHING
READING IN THE CONTENT FIELDS
1. Have the students answer the question, "What has led up
to this event?"
2. Ask the students to try to visualize features in the
landscape as indicated by maps.
3. Lead the students in making different types of graphs
to illustrate concepts or information given in the
4. Procure original news articles of twenty years ago.
Duplicate these. Allow students to compare these
with their history texts.
5. Give the students news stories without headlines.
Making up headlines is then assigned.
6. When studying current events in the news, ask the
students to write their predictions of what will
happen. Later have them check their predictions
against what actually did happen.
7. When studying about the different peoples of the world,
ask the students to look for similarities and differ-
ences between different nationalities, races, govern-
8. When reading about forms of transportation, assign
students to classify the transportation forms accord-
ing to speed, cost, convenience, packaging, etc.
9. After studying the Constitution, ask such questions as,
"Why is the Constitution so unhappy?" or, "If the
Bill of Rights could speak, what would it say to us?"
10. Help the students develop their own current events
11. Assign students to select stories from a period in
history and write them up as newspaper stories.
12. Have the students classify the news stories according
to topics, importance, etc.
13. Gather travel folders from travel agencies and help
students plan an ideal two-week trip.
14. Provide road maps. Allow the students to plan ways
of going from one city to another. They should weigh
the various factors involved in the selection of the
15. Have the students collect metaphors most often used in
geography, history and government.
16. Encourage groups of students to map the neighborhood or
17. Assign a group to the task of creating a pronouncing
glossary of social studies terms.
1. Teach the students to seek an overview of the problem
and to write this overview in their own words.
2. Have the students arrange the facts of a problem in
the proper relationships, and re-read the problem to
see if the organization of the facts makes sense.
3. Have the students practice the following steps in
reading problems: (1) Listing what the problems ask for.
(2) Listing the information set forth in the prob-
lem. (3) Noting what computations are needed.
(4) Telling what the order of computations
should be, and (5) Telling how the answer can
4. Have the students collect terms such as average, mean,
square, etc. and note their special mathematical
meanings. These may be compiled in a class mathemati-
5. Put simple formulas on the board and have the students
read them orally.
6. Have the students use mathematical symbols to give you
directions or to tell you about something.
7. Give the students practice in converting mathematical
symbols into words and vice versa.
8. Have the students invent some problems or bring in
some problems that reflect real life situations.
1. Teach the students to relate relevant facts to the
topic headings under which they are placed.
2. Pose the questions, "What questions are raised by the
book (article, selection, etc.)?"
3. Have the students read and discuss some theories and
propose some of the limitations of each theory.
4. Ask the students to interpret the findings of an exper-
iment in one sentence.
5. Have the students relate the usefulness of the findings
of an experiment in one sentence.
6. Provide some biographies for the students to read and
list some of the attitudes held by the scientists they
have read about.
7. After reading a selection, ask the students to list
the events leading up to a scientific discovery.
g, Ask the students to underline qualifying words that
limit the application of scientific laws.
9. After the students read some experiments, ask them to
number each step in each experiment.
10. Have the students read some biographies of scientists and
list some of the ways they discovered and attacked problems.
THE DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE
The objective of the literacy phase of basic adult education
is the attainment of the developmental stage. At this stage, the
student has attained a level of maturity in reading where he can
participate independently in most of the reading activities essen-
tial to full participation in a literate society. He has the
essential skills and knowledge that provide the means whereby, if
so motivated, he can continue to grow on his own. This does not
mean that people on this stage cannot profit from more formal
instruction in reading. Certainly they can! But wide reading and
study in various fields will, in itself, promote further reading
The student who has reached a ninth grade reading ability
following a program in basic adult education will have been intro-
duced to such general magazines as Reader's Digest, Look, Life and
perhaps even Time, U. S. News and World Report and Newsweek. He
will also have been made aware of some general magazines written for
men such as True or Sports Afield. The student will have been
encouraged to use the local library facilities and classroom usage
of the local newspaper will have ingrained the habit of reading a
daily newspaper. Further formal education will develop his skills
in various subject matter areas. But his big growth at this stage
will occur because he reads independently for recreation and for
Some students will elect to take a formal course in develop-
mental reading. These are often offered in a high school equivalency
program and they are sometimes given for adult high school credit.
This type of program often enrolls adults who have completed high
school but who feel a need for some more formal work in reading.
Ideally, such a course should be offered by all large adult schools.
In many schools there are special developmental reading
courses for high school graduates who, after a lapse of time, have
decided to go on to college. These people wish to brush up on
their reading skills and extend their reading power before entering
college. Stress in such courses is on developing depth of vocabu-
lary, study type reading skills, and speed of reading. This type
of course is also helpful for those students who wish to take a high
school equivalency examination. Often improved reading skills is
the key to passing such an examination.
A developmental reading course for adults that has become
popular is the course designed for business and professional people
who wish formal help in increasing their reading speed. Such a
course is often offered at the adult school or in the junior college.
Stress is placed upon speed and upon developing increased fluency in
reading business and professional journals and books. Generally,
those who enroll in such a course are average or better readers who
recognize that with a little help they can develop their skills to a
point where they can keep up with the flood of literature that keeps
pouring in on them in this age of rapid change. The big problem
with this group is developing flexibility for they tend to be one
There are a number of self-instruction courses in develop-
mental reading. Those put out by reputable companies have much to
commend them. Many take a basically sound approach to the problem.
However, there is some quackery in this area and the course material
should be examined carefully before recommendations are made. Where
fantastic promises are made (whether by those offering self-help
courses or by those offering special, sometimes esoteric, courses
for a fee), you should check to see if the claims are supported by
well-founded university sponsored research. Beward of any course
that suggests that people can learn to read (not skim) at rates
much above 1000 words per minute. Although leading authorities in
reading have heard of such people, they have not been able to find
any who could READ at such rates while being observed by such
scientific instruments as the Reading Eye (E.D.L.)
Finally, some schools and libraries provide courses such as
THE GREAT BOOKS. These center around the depth reading of classics
in various fields. While not listed as developmental reading courses,
they are quite effective in developing reading power of adults. How-
ever, most people who take such courses are superior readers with
superior educational backgrounds. Such courses are not for the
average person who is in the earlier phases of developmental reading.
MATERIALS FOR TEACHING READING
Materials appropriate for teaching reading to adults are
scattered widely. At the time this bibliography was being pre-
pared, many publishers were reviewing their materials co deter-
mine which materials already in production could be properly used
with adults. They were also in the process of developing new
programs and 1965 had already felt the impact of the stimulation
of government funds for adult education. New materials came pour-
ing out of publishing houses and some of it is of very poor
quality. Other new materials are excellent. In this chapter,
only a selected few of the many resources for teaching reading to
adults are listed and annotated. A far more comprehensive anno-
tated bibliography is available from the Adult Section of the
Florida State Department of Education, Tallahassee, Florida.
This bibliography is divided into the three stages of adult
basic education. These are the Introductory Stage (levels 1-3),
the Elementary Stage (levels 4-6), and the Intermediate Stage
(levels 7-8). The levels are roughly equivalent to grades.
Addresses of publishers are given in Appendix A.
Materials For The Introductory Stage
Adult Reader. Steck Co., 1964, 127 pp.
This workbook is similar to the old Veteran's Reader which has been
used for many years. It moves too rapidly and does not reflect the
learning that has occurred since the Veteran's Reader was first pub-
lished. It is adult in appearance, content, and illustrations. It
should be supplemented with other materials.
My Country, Revised Edition. Steck Co., 1964, 96 pp.
Very similar to the older edition which has proven to be of value
in literacy training. The content is social studies and the appear-
ance is adult. It moves too rapidly and should be supplemented with
Operation Alphabet Workbook. National Association For Public School
Adult Education, 1962, 111 pp.
This workbook is designed to accompany the Operation Alphabet tele-
vision course, but it may be used independently of the course. Each
lesson is self-contained and the vocabulary and rate of introduction
of new words is controlled. It is probably best used as one of a
battery of materials. It is designed for adults.
Reader's Digest Adult Series. Reader's Digest, 1964-65, 32 pp. each.
A series of twelve booklets extending from level 1 to level 4.
Content, design, and exercises are adult. This series has already
proven popular. The twelve booklets,in themselves,are not suffi-
cient to insure mastery of the reading skills at the introductory
stage,and should be supplemented with other materials. The
teacher's manual,which accompanies the series, is helpful.
Reader's Digest Skill Builder Series. Reader's Digest, 1963, 64
This series extends from level 1 through the intermediate stage.
Though designed for children and adolescents, its content, pictures,
and exercises are acceptable to adults. The weak link in the
series for use with adults is the one written for the very begin-
Reading in High Gear. Science Research Associates, 1965.
This series does not appear to allow for individual differences
and suffers from an over-emphasis on phonics. The instructor's
manuals are complete but few teachers will follow them in such detail.
SRA Reading Laboratories. Science Research Associates, all rela-
Except for Laboratory la, the laboratories are acceptable to adults.
Each laboratory contains a number of lessons on cards. The lessons
are graded in terms of readability and encourage the use of individu-
alized reading and the movement of the students at their own learning
System for Success. Follett Publishing Co., 1964-65.
This is a two book series with accompanying phonics charts. It is
designed for adults and the reading material is adult in interest.
It includes training in the communication skills and computational
skills. Supplementary materials for reenforcement of skills taught
is available from Follett. It has been well received by certain
groups and is under constant revision to incorporate what has been
learned as it is used. The research on its use indicates that it is
a sound approach to use with many adults.
Materials For The Elementary Stage
Achieving Reading Skills. Globe Book Co., 1958, 245 pp.
The various reading skills are handled on several levels of read-
ability,ranging in difficulty from grade 3 to grade 6. It has been
used extensively with adolescents and adults and is acceptable to
The Deep Sea Adventure Series. Harr Wagner Publishing Co., 1962,
This series is designed for adults and adolescents. Format and
content are good. The series begins at the third grade level and
goes through four. Excellent supplementary materials. Another series
also designed for adults is the Morgan Bay Mysteries. Each series
consists of four books.
New Rochester Occupational Reading Series. Science Research Asso-
ciates, 1963, 169 pp.
This series, written on three different readability levels (3, 4, and
5) does not use the same story content as the original Rochester
Occupational Reading Series. Each book contains the same stories
and thus three different groups can be working on the same content
though the readability differs. The accompanying workbooks can be
used to build both vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Turner-Livingston Reading Series. Follett Publishing Co., 1964,
48 pp. each.
This well constructed series deals with such topics as citizenship,
economics, and the general social studies. It is designed for adults
and has proven valuable in adult basic education classes both for
developing reading skills and for re-enforcing subject matter learn-
ings. Some of the books in the series are: The Person You Are, The
Money You Spend, and The Town You Live In.
Building Reading Power. Charles E_ Merrill, 1963.
A laboratory type of material which uses the programmed instruction
approach. .It was originally devised for use with the culturally
deprived adolescent. As with other laboratory type materials, it
should be supplemented.
Better Reading. Globe Book Co., 1962, 447 pp.
This is one of the better books for use toward the end of the ele-
mentary stage. The exercises in vocabulary and comprehension are
well constructed and the content is acceptable to adults. Very little
additional instructional materials will be needed when this book is
used as a basal text.
Out of the Past. Children's Press, 1964, 64 pp.
This is one of a series of four books written for use with adults and
adolescents. The books are interesting and will be a useful aid in
developing study-type reading. Readability level is about 5.
Reading for Meaning. J. B. Lippencott Co., 1962, 72 pp.
A series of workbooks for use in developing comprehension skills.
While not designed for adults, the format and content is acceptable
to them. Vocabulary development is worked into the selections in
an interesting way. The readability levels cover the elementary and
Materials For The Intermediate Stage
American History Study Lessons. Follett Publishing Co., 1964.
These short books make excellent vehicles for teaching adults to read
in the social studies area. History concepts are taught in short
self-contained units and the units can be used as self-directed learn-
ing materials. Follett's Study Lessons on Documents of Freedom are
similar to the American History Study Lessons.
Be a Better Reader. Prentice-Hall, 1963, 128 pp. each.
One of a series, the first of which is appropriate to level 7. These
are relatively complete basal texts which were developed for use
with adolescents. Interest level is high and study type reading
skills are stressed. The series extends through the intermediate
levels and into the developmental levels.
Help Yourself to Improve Your Reading. Reader's Digest, 1962, 160 pp.
As with other Digest offerings, the material is adult in nature and
of high interest level. Vocabulary and comprehension exercises are
good and the book may be used as a self-help book.
Modern Reading. Charles E. Merrill Co., 1960.
A three workbook series for developing reading skills at the inter-
mediate and developmental stages. This series has been particularly
popular with the older adolescents.
Steps to Better Reading. Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1964, 197 pp.
One of the few really acceptable programmed books for developing
vocabulary and for strengthening weak areas in comprehension.
Students should be given experiences in programmed materials to
prepare themselves for self-study in the future.
Programmed Vocabulary. Appleton-Century Crofts, 1964, 214 pp.
This programmed text is devised to teach the twenty most important
prefixes and the fourteen most important roots. Helpful for supple-
mentary independent study.
Reading Skillbook I. American Book Co., 1962, 128 pp.
Covers the water front on terms of the various reading skills
treated. Interest level is good and the variety is great. An
excellent text to have handy to use with students needing specific
help in word attack, word meaning, and comprehension skills.
Standard Test Lessons in Reading, Book E. Bureau of Publications,
Teachers College, Columbia University Press, 1961, 78 pp.
This small but valuable book contains 78 high interest level lessons
for developing rate and comprehension skills. Each lesson is a test
and the student is able to spot weaknesses and he can then learn to
adjust his rate to meet the requirements of the material being read.
Test Lessons in Reading-Reasoning. Bureau of Publications, Teachers
College, Columbia University Press, 1964, 78 pp.
This text was devised to improve the critical reading and thinking
ability of adolescents and adults. The 78 self-contained lessons
teach ways of uncovering fallacies in reasoning and give practice in
detecting such fallacies.
Addresses of Selected Publishers
Allyn and Bacon, Inc.
150 Tremont Street
Boston 11, Massachusetts
American Book Company
55 Fifth Avenue
New York 3, New York
American Guidance Service, Inc.
720 Washington Avenue, S. E.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414
35 West 32nd Street
New York 1, New York
A. S. Barnes and Company
11 East 36th Street
New York 16, New York
Audio Visual Research
523 South Plymouth Court
Chicago 5, Illinois
Barnell Loft, Ltd.
111 South Centre Avenue
Rockville Centre, New York
4300 West 62nd Street
Indianapolis 6, Indiana
Bureau of Publications
Columbia University Press
525 West 120th Street
New York 27, New York
California Test Bureau
Del Monte Research Park
Arthur C. Croft Publications
100 Garfield Avenue
New London, Connecticut
Thomas Y. Crowell Co.
432 Park Avenue, South
New York 16, New York
Huntington, New York
Follett Publishing Company
1010 West Washington Blvd.
Chicago 7, Illinois
510 North Hickory Street
Ginn and Company
Boston 17, Massachusetts
Globe Book Company
175 Fifth Avenue
New York 10, New York
Harcourt, Brace, and
750 Third Avenue
New York 17, New York
Harper and Row
49 East 33rd Street
New York, New York 10016
Harr Wagner Publishing Co.
609 Mission Street
San Francisco, California
D. C. Heath and Company
285 Columbus Avenue
Boston 16, Massachusetts
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
383 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10017
Houghton Mifflin Co.
2 Park Street
Boston 7, Massachusetts
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
501 Madison Avenue
New York 22, New York
J. B. Lippincott Company
E. Washington Square
Philadelphia 5, Pennsylvania
Little, Brown and Company
34 Beacon Street
Boston 6, Massachusetts
Lyons and Carnahan
407 East 25th Street
60 Fifth Avenue
New York 11, New York
McGraw-Hill Book Company
330 West 42nd Street
New York 36, New York
Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc.
1300 Alum Creek Drive
Columbus, Ohio 43216
William Morrow and Company
424 Park Avenue, South
New York 16, New York
National Association for Public
School Adult Education
National Education Association
1201 16th Street, Northwest
Washington 6, D. C.
Noble and Noble Publishers, Inc.
67 Irving Place
New York 3, New York
Route 9, West
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
304 East 45th Street
New York 17, New York
Reader's Digest Services, Inc.
Pleasantville, New York
Science Research Associates
259 East Erie Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Scott, Foresman and Company
433 East Erie Street
Chicago 11, Illinois
Charles Scribner's Sons
597 Fifth Avenue
New York 17, New York
Austin 61, Texas
U. S. Government Printing
Washington 25, D. C.
George Wahr Publishing Co.
316 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Webster Publishing Company
1154 Reco Avenue
St. Louis 26, Missouri
Wheeler Publishing Company
161 East Grand Avenue
Chicago 11, Illinois
Some Helpful Books
"Adult Education" Review of Educational Research, Vol. 35, No. 3
(June, 1965), pp. 169-245.
Altick, R. D. Preface to Critical Reading, New York: Holt, Rine-
hart, and Winston, 1960.
American Newspaper Publishers Foundation. Development Manual for
the Newspaper in the Classroom Program. New York: American News-
paper Publishers Foundation, 1964.
Bond, G. L. and Tinker, M. A. Reading Difficulties. New York:
Cass, A. W. Adult Elementary Education. New York: Noble and
Cofer, Charles N. and Musgrave, Barbara S. Verbal Behavior and Learn-
ing: Problems and Processes. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc.,
Darley, Frederick L. Diagnosis and Appraisal of Communication Dis-
orders. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.
Fernald, G. Remedial Techniques in Basic School Subjects. New York:
Fries, C. C. Linguistics and Reading. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and
Gray, W. S. The Teaching of Reading and Writing. Chicago: Scott,
Foresman, and Co., 1956.
Harris, A. J. How to Increase Reading Ability. New York: Longmans,
Green and Company, 1961.
Herman, K. Reading Disability: A Medical Study of Word-Blindness and
Related Handicaps. Springfield, Ill., Charles C. Thomas Publisher,
Kolson, C. J. and Kaluger, G. Clinical Aspects of Remedial Reading.
Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1963.
Kuhlen, Raymond G. (ed.) Psychological Backgrounds of Adult Education.
Chicago, Illinois: The Center for the Study of Liberal Education for
Laubach, F. C. and Laubach, R. S. Toward World Literacy, Syracuse,
N. Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1960.
Lee, D. and Allen, R. V. Learning to Read Through Experience. New
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1963.
Lefevre, C. A. Linguistics and the Teaching of Reading. New York;
Literacy and Basic Elementary Education for Adults: A Selected and
Annotated Bibliography. Washington, D. C.: United States Government
Printing Office, 1961.
Lorge, Irving, et al. Psychology of Adults. Chicago, Illinois:
Adult Education Association of the U.S.A., 1963.
Money, J. (ed.). Reading Disability. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press,
National Association for Public School Adult Education. When You're
Teaching Adults. Washington, D. C.: National Education Association,
National Association for Public School Adult Education. A Treasury
of Techniques for Teaching Adults. Washington, D. C.: National
Education Association, 1964.
National Association for Public School Adult Education. How Adults
Can Learn More Faster. Washington, D. C.: National Education
National Society for the Study of Education. Adult Reading: Fifty-
fifth Yearbook, Part II. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.
Penty, R. C. Reading Ability and High School Drop-Outs. New York:
Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University Press,
Roswell, F. and Natchez, G. Reading Disability: Diagnosis and Treat-
ment. New York: Basic Books, 1964.
Simmons, J. S. and Rosenbloom, H. 0. Reading Improvement Handbook.
Pullman, Washington, 1965.
Smith, E. H. and Smith, M. P. Teaching Reading to Adults, Washington,
D. C.: National Association for Public School Adult Education, 1962.
Smith, H. P. and Dechant, E. V. Psychology in Teaching Reading. Engle-
wood Cliffs, N. Y.: Prentice-Hall, 1961.
Spache, G. D. Toward Better Reading. Champaign, Ill.: Garrard Pub-
lishing Co., 1963.
Strang, R. Diagnostic Teaching of Reading. New York: McGraw-Hill,
Stuart, M. Neurophysiological Approaches to Reading. Palo Alto, Cal.:
Pacific Books, 1963.
Taylor, E. E. and Frackenpohl, H. A Core Vocabulary, Huntington,
N.Y.: Educational Developmental Laboratories, 1960.
Thorndike, E. L. and Lorge, I. Teacher's Word Book of 30,000 Words.
New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia Univer-
sity Press, 1954.
Vernon, M. D. Backwardness in Reading. New York: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 1958.
Wallace, Mary C. Literacy Instructor's Handbook. Chicago, Illinois,
Follett Publishing Co., 1965.
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