Teaching Reading and Writing among Adults
with Learning Disabilities
CAEPA Conference Fall 1999

Training Materials for Facilitators and Participants

Prepared by:
Jacqueline Palmer, Literacy Consultant
2577 F 1/2 Road
Grand Junction, CO 81505
Phone: (970) 245-3512
Fax: (970) 245-3512
(Please call in advance so that I may switch lines)
E-mail: <jpalmer@colosys.net>

Note: This segment is designed to follow an introductory presentation covering the definition of the term "learning disability,"  a discussion of the legal implications of serving learning disabled adults (ld), and a review of screening and assessment strategies recommended for developing effective approaches for teaching ld adults.


Target Students: The information discussed in this workshop will be most valuable in working with English speaking adult students who possess reading skills at the 0-6 level.

Objectives: After completing the activities presented in this module, participants will be able to do the following:

  1. Identify some major indicators of learning disabilities among adults.
  2. Identify general teaching strategies, principles, or approaches useful for working with adults who have learning disabilities in reading, writing, and spelling.
  3. Identify the four steps of Direct Instruction and begin to apply this model in developing lessons to improve the reading or writing skills of an adult who has a learning disability.

Facilitator Notes


[Prepare a helper to distribute handouts; prepare a place for completed evaluation forms to be returned, focus overhead, place easel.  -- Materials: Participant Packets, overhead transparencies, drop-down charts, transparency and flipchart markers, evaluations]

I.  Opening (10 minutes)

A. Review workshop title and basis of information:   Bridges to Practice and Bringing Literacy Within Reach
B  Self introduction  
C.  Review class goals and agenda
  1. Place overhead listing goals, refer participants to their packets
  2. A lot to talk about in only a little time; good teaching methods with LD are the same methods adult educators have always had to use; for some this will be mostly a reinforcement of already-existing good-teaching patterns—any of the stuff we cover can be useful in ANY teaching situation (it’s just more NECESSARY for success with LD learners); class should help identify patterns, or clusters, of behavior that indicate LD.
D.  Brief review of differences between screening and diagnosis (we will be using the word screening in reference to identifying instructional direction)  

D. Participant introductions


Direct the participants to complete an opening activity: (small group). Have each participant give name, program (if applicable). Instruct each to turn and talk with one person (preferably someone they don’t know"), and share their perceptions of learning disabilities for one minute: "Describe a learning problem one of your learners has that you suspect may be caused by a learning disability." This activity is intended as an icebreaker to prepare participants to focus on the agenda. Time: 2 minutes total.


II. Activity #1

A. Compare the ideas shared in the introductory activity. "Were your experiences with adults with suspected learning disabilities alike? Often, they are varied. There are many different ways that learning disabilities can affect adults in a learning situation." Write key ideas/characteristics on flip chart. Point out that many of the characteristics can be found in non-disabled learners and that indicators usually involve severity of characteristic, or the presence of multiple characteristics. Mention discrepancy between high ability in some areas and very low ability in others.

B. Show overhead of writing sample—cover "translated" version at bottom—and give them a few seconds to figure out what’s written. Show bottom section and read aloud. Point out high level of articulation, sophisticated syntax and vocabulary (somewhere around college level). Then compare to level of writing ability (approximately 3rd grade level).

III. Activity #2

A.  Brainstorm good teaching methods, techniques, and approaches (for any/all students)  
B.  Direct participants to cluster in small groups (depending on number attending, have entire group, pairs, tables, etc. work together)
  1. Have them list as many good teaching techniques and approaches as they can think of in two minutes (use timer). [May just brainstorm with entire group using flipchart again.]
  2. Compare to combined lists from Bringing…(which will include compensatory techniques and general principles, as well as strategies) and discuss differences between LD and general techniques (more focus on environment, more highly structured in total lesson outline—predictability needed—more planning required, more ongoing student feedback and evaluation, more use of compensatory techniques).











IV. Using observation checklists to help plan instruction

Review Assessment/Observation Checklists3:15 - 3:20(5 minutes)
  1. Distribute checklists and have participants quickly review them



V.  Activity #3: 3:20 - 3:35 (15 minutes)

A.  Model Direct Instruction.
  1. Use of overhead to review four steps
  2. Model with Word Recognition/Phonetic Spelling Exercise (see separate transparency and instruction sheet for modeling Direct Instruction)
B. Assign pairs to develop a direct instruction lesson with one technique.

Either provide them with a technique or let them choose something they can use when back in the classroom. Give them 10 minutes to prepare, then ask for volunteers or pick a team at random to demonstrate.







VI.   Follow Up

    VII. Conclusion with opportunity for questions and evaluations

    Good teaching techniques for adults with learning disabilities similar to good GENERAL teaching techniques; Looking for clusters, or patterns for instructional purposes; remember to consider range of effective procedures.

VIII. Conclusion and evaluations (5 minutes)

    1. Refer to agenda and check for completion.
    2. Refer to training goals.
    3. Answer any participant questions
    4. Refer to further reading on bibliography
    5. Participants complete evaluations and place them in pre-arranged drop-off spot

Teaching Strategies, Techniques, and Approaches
for Use With Adults Who Have Learning Disabilities

I.  General Guidelines

  • Use a student-centered approach
  • Know your student’s learning strengths and weaknesses
  • Set achievable goals
  • Establish a comfortable learning environment
  • Eliminate possibility of hearing problems
  • Eliminate the possibility of vision problems
  • Eliminate the possibility of hunger
  • Make sure lighting is appropriate
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Schedule breaks that suit the student’s needs
  • Permit movement as needed
  • Avoid boring, repetitive drill
  • Keep assignments short
  • Give immediate feedback
  • Promote enjoyment
  • Allow for and build in ongoing success
  • Select relevant and appropriate materials
  • Provide highly-structured learning sessions
  • Review regularly
  • Use appropriate drills
  • Use a multi-sensory approach
  • Encourage/teach study skills
  • Support and encourage
  • Use compensatory techniques as indicated:
  • Encourage learner to develop skill in another medium (e.g., photography, drawing)
  • Use media other than paper print to expand horizons (videos, computer programs, etc.)
  • Help develop protective vocabulary or information sheets (words to recognize in restaurants, street names, information asked for on applications, etc.)
  • Encourage use of tape recorders
  • Encourage use of books on tape
  • Encourage use of mechanical spell-checkers
  • Teach self-monitoring techniques for problem areas
  • Model the skill
  • Use graphic organizers
  • Evaluate progress/mastery and redefine goals
  • Provide opportunities for guided and independent practice

II. Direct Instruction

A. Procedure

Provide objectives, establish expectations, and introduce the skill. The teacher makes sure that the student understands the purpose of the skill to be learned. This includes providing rationale for learning the skill, and making connections with previously learned skills.
Introduce and model the skill. The teacher demonstrates the skill step-by-step. Make sure that the skill is demonstrated both visually and verbally to help the student identify all the steps.
Guided practice with feedback. Provide a series of practices to allow the learner to try out the skill while the teacher carefully monitors his/her performance. Feedback can be the most important task in direct instruction. It should be immediate and specific. Students benefit from praise that is clearly targeted at what they have done well and from corrective feedback followed by another chance to do the skill correctly.
Independent practice. Independent practice allows the student to practice and master the skill without teacher assistance this can be accomplished through homework or in the classroom while the teacher is working with other students.













B.  Demonstration Notes on Direct Instruction

Provide objectives, establish expectations, and introduce the skill. With a volunteer to act as student, role play the following:

"You’ve been having trouble reading the word "danger." You told me you wanted to be able to read it whenever you came across it. So we’re going to try some strategies today to help you do that. They’ll only take a few minutes to work on, and should help a lot. It's called, In the air, on land, and SEE. We’ll check at the end to see if you think you know it. Sound okay?"

Introduce and model the skill.

Guided practice with feedback.

INTRODUCE "Research on teaching tells us that using all the senses to learn a word helps, so the first thing we’re going to do is use our physical sense. I want you to write the word in the air and spell it out loud as you do it. I’ll do it first to show you what I mean, then you and I can do it together. The first part is the In the Air part."


GUIDED PRACTICE: Invite volunteer student to participate.  Repeat. Repeat

INTRODUCE :Now let’s try that on a piece of paper. That's the on Land part."

DEMONSTRATE: (first ask student if they prefer print or cursive) write the word on a standard piece of paper, spelling it out loud—just as with the air spelling.

GUIDED PRACTICE: Invitee student to participate with you.

INTRODUCE: Now let’s try just using our vision recognition. That's the on SEE part. I have a work sheet with the word danger written several times. Each time, one or more letters is missing. I’d like for you to see if you can fill in the missing letters, ok? I’ll show you what I mean, then you can try it. (DEMONSTRATE AND GUIDED PRACTICE WITH OVERHEAD).

"Do you think you could write this word without looking at it now? Recognize it? Now we have some words written next to danger that look like it. Can you pick it out? (DEMONSTRATE AND GUIDED PRACTICE WITH OVERHEAD).

Independent practice. "Your homework is to 1) be on the look out—tell me if you see this word and where? (tell student some places to look, like on cleaning or gardening fluids) 2) pick another word to learn on your own (write on a card for him/her to take)

























NOTE: Additional handouts, including simple assessment and screening tools for reading, spelling, and writing can be requested from the author, Jacqueline Palmer or the 4 Corners Resource Center.