What Are the Best Tips for Teaching English Literacy?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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English literacy is the ability to read, write, and comprehend the English language sufficiently. Teaching English literacy can be a challenge, so the first step in developing a plan for literacy lessons is to assess the types of students that are being taught. The methods for teaching a non-native English speaker, for example, may be different than the lessons designed for a student who has adult-level spoken English. If the class has mixed levels of ability — which it is very likely to — the teacher will need to adapt lessons for the varying ability levels.

Pre-assessments are brief tests that will examine a student's English literacy skills. These tests may or may not be graded, but they will certainly be examined carefully by the teacher to gauge a student's existing knowledge of the English language. This is a valuable tool for a teacher because it will help the teacher identify a specific student's strengths and weaknesses fairly quickly. A pre-assessment may include a written portion, a reading comprehension portion, and even a vocabulary portion that will address some of the primary concerns of English literacy. The teacher can use this information to tailor lesson plans to the class, or to come up with strategies for adapting lesson plans for a variety of students.


Vocabulary development is an essential part of English literacy development, and it should take place in concordance with all other teaching elements. A student is more likely to become proficient in speaking, writing, and reading English as his or her vocabulary grows; it may be necessary to start with simpler words and progress from there. It will also help to tie the vocabulary words in with the current lessons. A teacher can choose words from a reading assignment or from a lesson given in class so the students can use the words in everyday situations.

Reading both silently and aloud will be very important for the English language learner. Reading aloud will help a student hear the words more clearly and understand when he or she has made a mistake in reading. Many students are auditory learners, meaning they learn more efficiently when they hear lessons rather than read them. Such out loud reading time will help auditory learners understand sentence structure and grammar. Reading silently will encourage students to synthesize materials they are reading and help them learn to recall that information later on during assessments or discussions.


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Post 3

It's so amazing to me that there are any people in the developed world who end up going through school without learning how to read.

Often the education system is at fault, whatever country we are talking about. If they have a policy of passing children on to the next year, regardless of whether or not they've reached that level, often they will fall through the cracks.

To them, subjects like reading and writing are something to avoid and they eventually drop out as early as they are allowed.

Every child should be given the help that they need to bring them up to the level of their peers. There are certain bedrock subjects that should be a human rights issue, like basic literacy and mathematics.

Post 2

@Iluviaporos - I actually think that in some cases it's more important to help people to see the freedom and joy that reading can bring, rather than tiptoe around their egos.

There are some people who really don't understand the point of reading. They don't realize it's possible to get the same joy out of a story in a book as you can from a story in a TV show or a movie.

And they might have been working physical labor jobs their whole lives, never needing to do more than sign their name. But this is becoming more and more difficult in this day and age, so the benefits of being able to read should be easy enough to convey. And helping them to see the practical value as quickly as possible, and to enjoy the process of learning is the best way to get them to stick with their literacy lessons and reading and become proficient readers.

Post 1

I think that one of the most important things to keep in mind is that adults who aren't literate are often ashamed of the fact.

They might have hidden what they consider to be a disability for years, thinking they could never learn how to overcome it, thinking that it was something only "smart" people could do.

If you are teaching adult literacy to people like this, you need to be gentle and show them it's not mystical, and that they are fully capable of learning how to read.

Often they don't even understand how reading works, or what the point of it is. After all, they've managed to get this far in their lives without needing to read. They might only be doing it now to please their children or friends.

Just go gently with them and make sure they don't add to their prejudice against themselves when it comes to reading and writing.

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