Teacher Tip – Working with Low-Literacy Learners

When working with non-literate or low-literacy learners, it’s important to take one step at at a time.

  • Make it relevant. Tie the topic to your student’s real life. think about how it is related to their children, their job, etc.
  • Start teaching the alphabet beginning with the student’s first name. Once that is mastered, move on to the their last name.
  • Keep things concrete. For example, when teaching food, bring in actual food rather than depending on illustrations.
  • Engage students in multiple ways. When teaching verbs, act them out. Teach body parts with a game of “Simon Says”. Practice spelling with magnetic letters or flashcards.
  • As students progress, introduce more flashcards. These can be used to play matching games, build sentences, etc. Students can help make these (and get some practice writing while they do it.) For example, hand out flashcards with the base form of the verb. Have you student write something on the back such as the simple past tense, a definition, or even a translation.
  • Play games. Simple board games or “Go Fish” and “20 Questions” are fun and effective.
  • Review often. At the end of class, go over what you have worked on that day. Ask your student to tell you one thing (a word or sentence) that they have learned in class that day. Don’t forget to begin your next class with a review.