WIA Community Conversations Summary - Reading and Writing Skills

WIA Community Conversations Summary

Reading and Writing Skills

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Reading and Writing Skills Questions

  • What are the ingredients needed to adequately prepare adult learners to successfully read and write at work and/or college settings?
  • What do you see as some of the greatest challenges? What are some innovative solutions to those challenges?
  • How might WIA reauthorization support the learning goals of all adult learners with respect to reading and writing? What are your hopes?


1. In general, what are the ingredients necessary to improve reading and writing skills?

  • Students need to understand the impact that improved skills may have on their ability to succeed in employment and/or educational contexts.
  • Teachers/supervisors should be aware of their students' and employees' abilities, and know where to refer them and/or how to help them improve their skills.
  • Instruction should be provided:
    • Consistently
    • At a time and location that is convenient for students to attend.
    • Small group, rather than large class instruction is preferable.

2. What skills should adults focus on to improve their reading and writing for the workplace?

  • Using a word processor
  • Using spell-check
  • Proof-reading for homophone mistakes
  • Writing concisely
  • Format of a business letter
  • E-mail etiquette
  • Pre-viewing material using visual/contextual clues
  • Using a dictionary
  • Alphabetizing
  • Taking notes in a meeting
  • Using & interpreting graphs and charts

3. What skills should adult focus on to improve their reading and writing for college?

  • Identifying the main idea
  • Summarizing
  • Using a word-processor
  • Using spell-check
  • Proof-reading for homophone mistakes
  • Organizing information using an outline or graphic organizer
  • Conducting research
  • Citing sources (when & how)
  • Taking notes in lecture
  • How to make and support a claim

4. What are the needs of low-level readers and writers?

  • A truly intensive program--intensity and duration. There are no short cuts!
  • Recognition that some are not intellectually capable of attaining a GED.
  • Vocational training
  • Safe environment to learn
  • Multi-sensory program is necessary to attain phonemic awareness skills
  • Thorough assessment by a specialist, with instruction targeting specific needs

5. What are the challenges programs face when trying to teach reading and writing?

  • Not enough full time staff-too many over worked part timers and volunteers
  • Not enough funding for materials such as software
  • Not enough funding for teacher training
  • Childcare is needed

6. What are the unique challenges of rural adult literacy programs?

  • Not enough of a focus on distance learning (helpful when programs are meant to service large distances)
  • Do not have enough of a voice in federal decision making regarding policies.

7. What are the unique challenges of ESL learners?

  • Often illiterate in own language
  • It can be difficult when there are multiple levels of English proficiency in the same classroom. Some solutions:
    • One-on-one instruction/small group
    • Modification of lessons so that students can receive more differentiated instruction and work at a slower pace.
    • Pair work, or collaborative learning activities

8. What types of training/support do adult literacy teachers need?


  • Develop easy-to-incorporate online modules that instructors in many disciplines can incorporate to promote student comprehension in the different courses. Examples include:
    • How to preview text
    • Vocabulary
    • Summarizing
    • Comprehension assessment

General Writing

  • Teachers need to be taught
  • Writing fundamentals
  • Grammar
  • How to teach writing
  • It needs to be acknowledged that:
  • Writing is important-it should not be neglected
  • Writing takes a long time to master

9. Some Suggestions:

  • Corporations who make use of immigrant labor should pay a separate tax which primarily supports literacy education.
  • People should not be encouraged to pass the GED tests at low levels-this is a disservice to the students who think that they can handle post-secondary demands when they cannot.
  • WIA authorization should place equal emphasis on practical experience and vocational training, in addition to academic settings and classrooms.