Why I’m blogging


Long story short (it’s Christmas Eve, after all). I’m blogging for a few reasons:

  • A reflective journal was part of the teaching course I was doing, so some of it is a bit icky in places. I aim to rectify this when I’m speaking more freely in future. I work in a very diverse environment, and truly want to develop.
    • Said course has lasted way longer than expected.
  • I wanted somewhere to share my thoughts. A lot of this is for myself. Whether I’m right or wrong, I’m not looking to be laid into. I’m looking for a discussion. I’m the kind of person who needs to ask a stupid question before I realise it’s a stupid question. Then I go, ‘Oh, yeah’. Then we’ll be on the same page.
    • Plus, it’s part of my course to reflect/ask daft questions if I need to.
  • I want other people’s thoughts. I’m no expert. But I want to be on my way to being one, one day. Don’t you hate it when two identical words are side by side? Just me? Yeah, thought so.
    • And, I can use other peoples’ comments, and my comments as my CPD.
  • I had a blog, but:
    • No-one read it (on another free blogging site that shall remain nameless, and doesn’t have many (any) similar people on it.
    • I’m trying to move it all over to here (and have been for a while now), posting with the dates I’d originally posted on* (for the purposes of my course so it doesn’t look like I’ve made all this up in the last 2 days before I submit my work to them).*This is doing NOTHING for my current stats/visibility etc
  • As I’m sure you’ll gather if you read any more of my posts, I got broken into about 18 months ago. Possibly the worst thing that could happen to a teacher happened. They. Took. My. Laptop. Mid-term. The annoying thing is that I’ve done all of this once. I typed my notes, thoughts and plans up in Word and saved nearly all of them locally. So to be perfectly honest, the past year and a half has been trying to get everything I had back again.

So, it’s a bit of an apology really for it not being the World’s most egotistically exciting blog about teaching adults literacy/ESOL. It literally is an insight into my brain trying to do the best it can do. I feel quite alone most the time in teaching and I’m fully aware that people might read this and wonder what planet I’m on. Spare a thought for the teacher who is on their own. There’s no CPD activities as a whole department. No real guidance. No real support. Apart from a few part-time tutors I have, I am the department.

It’s now 1 minute past 12. Merry Christmas!

P x

Further reading


Here is a list of things I would like to read in future. Once I’ve read something, it will move to its own post. Hope you find some of these links/suggestions useful also! This list is for me primarily and to show my tutor what I’m intending on doing. I will fully reference once I’ve read/reviewed etc…

Recommended for the course:
Brooks G et al (2001) Progress in Adult Literacy – Do Learners Learn? London, Basic Skills Agency
Crystal D (2003) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press
Crowther, Hamilton and Tett (2001) Powerful Literacies Leicester, NIACE
Cruse A (2004) Meaning in Language: an Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics Oxford, Oxford
University Press
Doff A and Jones C (2001) Language in Use – Pre-intermediate Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
Harmer J (2003) The Practice of English Language Teaching London, Longman
Lillis T and McKinney C (2003) (Eds) Analysing Language in Context: a Student Work Book Stoke on Trent,
Trenton Books
* NIACE (2004) A Framework for Understanding Dyslexia Leicester, Neworth Print Ltd
Papen U (2005) Adult Literacy as Social Practice London, Routledge
Reid G, Wearmouth J (2002) Dyslexia and Literacy – Theory and Practice London, Wiley
Schellekens P (2001) English Language as a Barrier to Employment, Training and Education London,
Tummons J (2005) Assessing Learning in Further Education Exeter, Learning Matters
Wallace S (2005) Teaching and Supporting Learners in Further Education 2nd ed Exeter, Learning Matters
Wren W (2001) Grammar and Punctuation Gosport, Ashford Colour Press
Access for All (2002) DfES
Adult Literacy Core Curriculum (2001) DfES
Adults Learning, NIACE (Monthly journal)
A Fresh Start – Improving Literacy and Numeracy DfEE Moser report – http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/index.htm
Education Guardian (Tuesday) or http://www.education.guardian.co.uk
Equality and Diversity in Adult and Community Learning: A Guide for Managers. Reisenberger, A. & Dadzie,
S. (2002). Available: http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/pdf/A1181.pdf (Learning and Skills Development Agency
web site).
Inclusive Learning (Tomlinson 1996)
The Department for Education and Skills http://www.dfes.gov.uk
Journal of Literacy Research
Learning Works – Widening Participation in FE (Kennedy 1997)
The Department for Education and Skills http://www.dfes.gov.uk
Leitch Review of Skills – Final report (2006) HMSO
The Lifelong Learning UK http://www.lifelonglearninguk.org
Literacy Trust http://www.literacytrust.org.uk
National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy http://www.nrdc.org.uk
RaPAL journal
Skills for Life Learner materials for Literacy DfES
Times Education Supplement (Friday) or http://www.tes.co.uk

Participation, engagement etc

Barton, D. (2006). The significance of a social practice view of language, literacy and
numeracy in L Tett, M Hamilton & Y Hillier (eds) Adult literacy, numeracy and language:
policy, practice and research. Open University Press.
Barton, D., Hamilton, M and Ivanicv, R. (eds) (2000). Situated literacies: reading and writing in
context. Routledge (2000).
Bird, V. and Akerman, R. (2005). Every which way we can: a literacy and social inclusion
position paper. London: National Literacy Trust.
Bynner, J. and Parsons, S. (1997). It doesn’t get any better: the impact of poor basic skills on
the lives of 37 year olds. London: The Basic Skills Agency.
Bynner, J. and Parsons, S. (2001). “Qualifications, basic skills and accelerating social
exclusion.” Journal of Education and Work, 14:2001.
Calder, A. and Cope, R. (2003). Breaking barriers? Reaching the hardest to reach. The
Prince’s Trust.
Cieslik, M. and Simpson, D. (2004). Basic skills and transitions to adulthood. Unpublished
Eldred, J., Ward, J., Dutton, Y. and Snowdon, K. (2004). Catching confidence. Leicester: NIACE.
Hannon, P., Pahl, K., Bird, V., Taylor, C. and Birgh, C. (2003). Community-focused provision in
adult literacy, numeracy and language: an exploratory study. London: NRDC
Horsman, J. (2000). Too scared to learn: women, violence and education. Mahwah, New
Jersey and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ivanicv, R., Appleby, A., Hodge, R., Tusting, K. and Barton, D. (2005). Relating language,
literacy and numeracy teaching to adult learners’ lives: a social perspective. London:
McGivney, V. (1999). Informal learning in the community: a trigger for change and
development. Leicester: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
McMeeking, S., Taylor, M., Powell, R. and Sims, D. (2002). ‘I Think I Can Do That Now’ – An
evaluation of round 5 of the Adult and Community Learning Fund. National Foundation for
Educational Research.
McNeil, B. and Smith, L. (2004). Success factors in informal learning: young adults’
experiences of literacy, language and numeracy. London: NRDC
Rickinson, M. ‘Practitioners’ use of research: a research review for the National Evidence for
Education Portal (NEEP) development group.’ National Educational Research Forum Working
Paper 7.5.
40 Research Report
Reder, S. (2004). Keynote address, NRDC International Conference.
Sampson, M.,Somani, B. Zwart, R. and Siddiq, S. (2004). Adult and community learning fund,
1998 – 2004: final report – Basic Skills Agency strand. Basic Skills Agency.
Tusting, K. (2003). ‘A review of theories of informal learning.’ Lancaster Literacy Research
Centre Working Paper no. 2.
Tusting, K. and Barton, D. (2003). Models of adult learning. London: NRD


RaW – BBCs website

World Book Night, National Reading Campaign

ESOL and Functional Skills




Things to read –

Burton et al – 2007-8 Uni Sheffield NRDC project





Torgerson et al (2006) – phonics research / Ehri et al (2001)




Burton, M. , Davey, J., Lewis, M., Ritchie, L. and Brooks, G. (2008) Improving Reading; Phonics and Fluency. Practitioner Guide. London: NRDC – p.8-31 downloadable from http://www.nrdc.org.uk/publications_details.asp?ID=156#

Burton, M. , Davey, J., Lewis, M., Ritchie, L. and Brooks, G. (2010) Progress for adult literacy learners. Lndon: NRDC downloadable from: http://www.nrdc.org.uk/download2.asp?f=4685&e=pdf

Kingston, P. (2009) Education Guardian Can you teach an old dog with young tricks? Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/apr/14/literacy-adult-education-phonics

Bloomer, A., Griffiths, P. and Merrison, A. J. (2005) Introducing Language in Use: A Coursebook. London: Routledge.

Crystal, D. (2005) How Language Works. London: Penguin. (ch.9)

Roach, P. (2006) English Phonetics and Phonology. A Practical course (3rd ed). Cambridge: CUP

Hughes, A., Trudgill, P. and Watt, D. (2005) English Accents and Dialects. An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of British English. London: Hodder.

Cruttenden, A. (2001) Gimson’s Pronunciation of English. London: Arnold – changes within RP

Crystal, D. (1995) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English language. Cambridge: CUP

Crystal, D. (2008) Txtng: The gr8 db8. Oxford: OUP




Big Idea, Small Steps: The Making of Credit-Based Qualifications



email this person: raphael       @everythingispossible.eu from here: http://comicsansworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/p/apply-now.html

Formative Assessment in Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy 








‘Improving Speaking and Listening Skills: A practical guide of Skills for Life teachers (2007, p.84) accessed via http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/SandLPACK02.pdf


Crowther, Hamilton and Tett (2001) Powerful Literacies
Changing Faces of Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy: A Critical History suggestions:
Subscribe to adult literacy blogs/journals – keep coming back to this and reviewing

  • Moser report
  • Yvonne Hillier
  • NIACE – buy books, keep more up to date
  • NRDC – especially evidence-based practice
  • http://www.literacy.lancaster.ac.uk/links/changingfaces.htm
  • Right to Read manifesto
  • Second Chance to Learn (Liverpool) Yanit in Thompson 1980
  • Scottish Adult Literacy Agency (SCALA)
  • Pamphlet 43 – English for Immigration
  • Look at Shelter Literacy research
  • The Home Tutor kit commission for racial equality
  • ALBSU – resources
  • New Literacy Studies
  • Lewin (2005)
  • Rittell & webber (1973)
  • Barton et al (2000)
  • Hodge 2003
  • Hull & Schultz (2002)
  • Street (1993, 2004)
  • Martin & Jones (2000) ESOL
  • Coben 2003 (Numeracy)
  • Lancaster University – collection of resources, books etc – https://litcent.lancs.ac.uk/RIS/RISWEB.ISA


Hamilton, M & Hillier, Y. (2006). Changing Faces of Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy: A Critical History. Trentham Books Ltd

Being burgled


I’ve been burgled! I am absolutely devastated. I lost everything from my laptop a few months ago and have been pulling my hair out trying to replace everything – lesson plans, SOW, scanned work of my learners, not to mention my personal memories. Only for some tit to break into my house and steal my laptop with everything on. So, it’s back to the drawing board (once again). To be honest, I’m losing the will a bit at the moment. I also move house in 2 weeks. Sigh.

Developing confidence as a teacher


Lack of confidence has been at the heart of my career. It’s only now I’ve come to realise how much it’s held me back. I’ve also learnt that I need time. And lots of it.

I recently read Changing Faces of Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy: A Critical History, which I felt explained a lot. Since I have felt more clear on the sector of ALLN and I decided to buy some of the books referenced in it. I started with An Introduction to Literacy Teaching, which was published by the now dissolved Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit (ALBSU). 

Considering it was first published in 1980, I found it to be an extremely informative read and it suggested some activities I think are still current in the literacy classroom. To my relief, the book validated my ideas of how to approach sessions/learners, where to start and how sessions could develop; in an individual way. Some through my career have suggested that I should make life easy for myself and produce ‘workbooks’, which I fundamentally disagreed with. The fact is that in an ever bureaucratic teaching environment targets are under scrutiny. I’ve been bogged down with considering which approach to take, when in fact I always knew the answer but I just didn’t feel I had the confidence or the affirmation to develop it from there. I’ve noticed that from reading more recently, the books are confirming my thoughts which I feel immense comfort from.

I believe that in identifying the way to proceed, I can now move forward to developing my understanding of how this translates into a mixed level, chaotic, roll on roll off programme. ALBSU (1980, p.7) discusses experiences of learning and suggests that it is beneficial to discuss successful learning with students, but also unsuccessful learning in order to pinpoint what the main reasons for failure were. ALBSU (1980, p.8) continue to discuss that by ‘talking about these factors, you can see how learning is affected by many things’ and that it is ‘a relief for the student to find other people have failed for similar reasons’.

Relating this to my own learning, I think I am scared/embarrassed of what I don’t know. I think other tutors know more than me and I hardly ever see/never give myself credit for skills that they might not have.  Whilst I am still working in the sector and have never given up there have of course been times where I feel that I have failed. There areas are:

  • sometimes feeling like I don’t know what/why a learner isn’t learning/having difficulty
  • sometimes feeling like I don’t know why I am having difficulty
  • not being sure on how to structure sessions
  • losing sight of how a SOW develops in literacy as opposed to other subject areas
  • coming home and wanting to avoid CPD so I don’t put myself in the situation of feeling like the first and second bullet point!

The main reasons for my previous failure, and ultimately feelings of anxiety are:

  • avoidance
  • lack of support and few people to act as a sounding board
  • feelings of competition between tutors – not wanting to feel embarrassed
  • too much information and a struggle to ‘see’ how things work

Now what? Well, I feel more positive now that 2 years ago about my own learning and I am making positive steps to address my own learning. Sometimes, there isn’t anyone to ask, and sometimes it’s about developing your own confidence to see you through the unknown. This is also of course where reflection comes in. In order to learn, I have come to realise I like logic and explicit explanations before I can put something into practice. This blog is acting as a tool to help me learn and consciously address some thoughts.

Time, computers and having a life!


Where do I start? A few weeks ago I lost the past 5 months’ worth of work. I felt like I’d lost someone close to me, and felt a little pathetic. The week I lost everything, our session was about literacy as a social practice, which made the loss even more poignant.

I have written notes up, some were typed up in word documents ready to be posted on here, but it looks like I’ll have to start again…so bear with me.

I’m finding that time is an increasing issue. I fully aimed to go back from every session and type my notes up, and reflect on them like a good teacher should. I’ve done this in some cases, but by no means all and I’m struggling to keep my ‘perfect’ records up! It doesn’t matter how many hours you teach, there is never enough time and life’s a constant balancing act. I’m working towards a more balanced life, but first I need to get back to it! I suppose the answer to the problem lies above, but I’ll choose to ignore that for now 🙂 as I find if I’m not thorough, I get even more lost. Hmmm.

How much do you teach a learner? What do you teach them? How do you go about it? (And some more questions I can never find the answers to).


I’m really interested in other people’s views on this. I’ve had a bit of a long-standing debate with colleagues about how much, and what to teach learners. This isn’t something that I feel isn’t really covered in teacher training, and I always wonder about what everyone else is doing.

Back to the embarrassment factor, my justification for this post is ‘how do you know if what you’re doing is good practice if you’re not part of a college and never ask anyone?’. So here, I’m asking.

Some people think that students should get ‘workbooks’ to complete, which in turn becomes their portfolio. Others, like me, can’t 100% grasp how that’s addressing learner’s needs. I’ve seen, for example, differentiated E2-L1 capital letters worksheets and sometimes don’t see where they fit as resources. Coming from an ESOL background, I can’t see how the lessons are ‘set up’ for the worksheets I view online. You’ll struggle to find an Adult Literacy SOW and lesson plans online. Everything is worksheet-based with little connection.

The problem with teaching the same topic but differentiated for me is that learner attendance is so sporadic, I find it impossible to keep up with where they’re at. For example, week 1, I’ve got 4 learners and we’re doing capital letters at various levels. The next week I can have 3 new learners and 1 of last week’s so the lesson I’d planned goes out the window. Does anyone have a good way of keeping up with who needs to do what. This literally drives me into anxiety.

Is it better to have 5 learners who have completed set E1 portfolios with maybe 1 or 2 individual goals not necessarily linked to an accredited outcome? That way, I suppose you know exactly where everyone is up to, especially if you’ll see that learner the next term, or if you get a learner who has studied literacy elsewhere you’d know exactly what they’d covered. Another benefit would be with a mixed-level roll on/roll off, you could pre-plan activities, and if it so happens that 2 learners come to class that day and are on the same activity, great, they can work together. The downside is no ‘presentation’ or limited group activities as everyone is working on their own thing.

Or is it better to do an IA, DA and ILP and treat each learner as complete individuals, choosing the accredited units they need, at the different levels they need? That way learners will progress in the areas they most require? You’d know where each learner is up to, but if they go onto further literacy it may be difficult for the tutor to catch up on their starting point? Also, it could be easier to plan for on a mixed-level roll on/roll off programme as everything has been written with each learner in mind. The down side? It’s time consuming. In my opinion, less time consuming than trying to have topics, differentiating and trying for each lesson being stand alone. At least with the individual approach, you can build on learner’s previous knowledge.

I feel more effort across the sector should be put into explaining to learners that their literacy learning is not confined to a 12 week course. Partially due to unit-based qualifications, learners are used to seeing their learning outcomes being broken down into reasonably simple steps in other subject areas. These relatively simple outcomes suddenly become more difficult in literacy, and even more difficult to explain to a manager who isn’t a skills specialist. Learners go from, for example Level 2 Developing Plastering Techniques (Open Awards) ‘describe the uses of a range of plasterers’ hand tools’ as opposed to Level 2 Developing Punctuation and Grammar Skills (Open Awards) ‘Identify, explain and use capital letters appropriately in all contexts’. To meet the first criteria, learners could memorise 8 plasterer’s hand tools and complete a worksheet with bullet points for the name/use. The level of knowledge required for learners to know what the uses of capital letters are, how to physically write them, highlight them in a text maybe, explain why they have been used, and to use them themselves in a variety of contexts (at level 2, by maybe writing a report or writing an essay and the skills required to do this) is different. It just is.

Most learners I have come across don’t realise that learning literacy is a lifelong process and something they need to keep coming back to if they really want to improve. With some learners I work with, this just isn’t one of their priorities, yet it is so important to ‘fit in’ to the society we live in.

What does everyone else do?