Friday, January 8, 2016

Teaching English Phonics to Adults

I have been a literacy tutor for adults, first as a volunteer, and then in private practice, for a total of over twelve years. I have learned more about what various adult students actually want, and what helped them the most.

First, there are many different levels of literacy. Some students may know quite a bit of sight words, others may know some sounding out skills, and some may be total beginners.

Whatever their level, I found hands on activities to be very helpful. The clients/students need something to help reinforce what they are learning.

As with any type of learner, whether child or adult, people can have different learning styles. Some may be more visual learners, others more auditory, etc. If you are tutoring your adult student one on one, you can tailor the lessons more to their individual learning style. However, I have found that it is a good idea to offer a variety of activities that can enhance a different type of focus.

Word Search and Crossword Puzzles can be Custom Made for Specific Letter Patterns

Searching for words in a mixed up group of letters can help with both letter and word recognition for words that are out of context. I used to shop around trying to find word search books that were more appropriate for adults. I did find some that were more suitable at a Teacher Resource store.

However, once I found out that I could make my own tailored puzzles to a specific letter pattern, and or specific words, it was so much more helpful and convenient.



My adult students liked doing the word search puzzles and also fill in the blanks. I had my students do these in between the one on one lessons - as homework. I made up sentences on my computer and printed them out for my students.

Learning for adults can also involve fun and games.

Every lesson doesn't have to be at a desk or table.

For adults, a fun game of darts can be turned into a spelling lesson. (For capable adults.)

For experienced dart players, they can aim for letters in the order of how a certain word is spelled.

For more of a beginner's game, you can have them say a word and spell it for whichever letter they hit. For instance, if their dart lands on the letter w, they could say water and then spell the word w - a - t - e - r.

If they hit the bulls eye they can choose any letter that they like.


The basketball spelling game.

Another game idea, is playing some basketball hoops. The student and the tutor can take turns making baskets. Whoever makes the basket can pick the letter or letter combination that the student will use in spelling a word. The student can then use that word in a sentence for a free turn.

What kind of fun games can you think of to incorporate spelling activities?

I had a student that loved charts. I placed various charts on a clip board, and we would walk around his place of training, and would have him look for and mark things off on the chart. He felt a sense of importance from doing this activity.

It helps to have the students use the words that they are learning, in sentences.

It helps them to make a stronger connection to that word, and to ultimately recognize and spell it.

Both phonics and sight words are important.

Phonics is using the known sounds that the individual letters represent in figuring out what the word is.

Sight words are simply taught as recognition words. For instance, for most students, their name is usually taught as a sight word, before any instruction of phonics is given. STOP on the stop sign is a great word to teach as a sight word without the student having to know what sound the letter s represents, etc.

Sight words can be a good place to start. It helps to build a sense of mastery, quickly. - Learning phonics helps the students decipher new words.

Make your own flashcards.

Older students are probably interested in different activities, than the younger student, i.e. driving, movies for the older crowd, novels, etc.

Using themes that your student is interested in, will aid in their learning. You and/or you and your student can make custom flash cards. Either can draw or cut out pictures from magazines for index cards.

You can also find custom flash cards at www.zazzle.com/CustomFlashCards*/. You can also submit design requests there. There are quantity discounts, even with different designs.

Reviewing letter patterns builds on understanding phonics.

The Phonics Guide is a reference book of various common letter patterns.

The patterns are listed in alphabetical order, and also include common rules on location in the word. For instance oi is used in the middle of the word whereas oy is used at the end of the word; as in choice and employ.



It's an easy way for students to look up a particular pattern and to find out and/or review what they have been learning. This book can also be used as a teaching guide for teachers and tutors.