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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

are imparting knowledge to a willing receiver like a teacher in a classroom.  It is essential for the volunteer to sit with the student and discover the student’s own motivation and chief urgent problems not just in the matter of reading and writing but with social difficulties too, Quite often, I try to sit in on these discussions.  I probably know the student fairly well through my own chats with him or her, and I try to get the student to formulate their own motivation and aims and suggest paths towards the realisation of these goals for both the volunteer and the student.

This is best achieved in steps segment by segment and I try to encourage the volunteer to work in a logical, clear approach, and to use a variety of material to maintain interest.  It's very easy to get the student to try to read but writing is a big problem.  A student can be very nervous of the physical task of putting a pen onto a piece of paper to make letters and words, so it is necessary to give clear reasons why this activity is so necessary.

In any case, I never give rigid “instructions” but only suggest guiding lines for the work.  As volunteers are not “professionals” my suggestions will not be professionally applied.  Volunteers use methods and materials in ways never dreamt of by professionally trained teachers.  The point is that so often these unorthodox methods are successful, mainly I think because the volunteer is able to apply the ideas to the students own level, in language the student understands.  The supervising tutor is only there to trigger this activity and to give support to the volunteers when needed.

Q.Do you have any specific training schedule for the volunteers?

A,Not as such; the volunteers get what training they require as and when they can cope with it.  We do have occasional meetings for all the volunteers without the students present.  This allows for freedom of expression and anxieties and other thoughts and for an exchange of ideas for ways to break through barriers.  I do also try to give each volunteer an outline of the language experience approach using the student's own language.  Students will read and write in their own level of language use.  I try to show the volunteers how to watch for and identify pointers showing where difficulties may arise.  Not all of the problems come all at once, of course, but slowly.  It isn't possible to cope with all difficulties at once - for examples if a volunteer and student are trying to tackle the technique of writing - the style of holding a pen halfway up the barrel to give maximum control and mobility and of forming letters.  It is no good if the volunteer also tries to cope with spelling or difficulties of syntax and construction.  All the various difficulties can be tackled in time and it is advisable to limit the amount of time spent on any one topic.

Q.What about yourself?  What level of support do you receive from the Management Group?

A.A great deal.  They're always supportive and I find the Management Committee very helpful for mutual support and in confirming that we are still operating on the same standards.  I receive much personal support too through phone chats with other supervising tutors; its very useful to be able to clarify problems with each other, and to appreciate that most problems are met by other supervising tutors too.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 32 of 51

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