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Working together to develop young adults’ literacy, language and numeracy Sue Southwood, Bethia McNeil and Jenny Turner D E V E L O P I N G S K I L L S L I T E R A C Y , L A N G U A G E , N U M E R A C Y

Supportin literacy and Numeracy Skills with young Adults

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This guidance aims to support you to develop literacy, language and numeracy learning opportunities in your work with young adults (aged between 16 and 25) by: ● introducing key policy and practice in this area ● building on effective and proven approaches ● highlighting critical success factors in engaging and motivating young adult learners ● recognising and celebrating young adults’ achievements and supporting their progression .

Text of Supportin literacy and Numeracy Skills with young Adults

  • Developing Skills for the FutureWorking together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy

    Sue Southwood,Bethia McNeiland Jenny Turner



    G S







    , NUM


  • Developing Skills for the Future4

    The authors would like to thank staff and learners at the following projects and

    organisations, who have worked alongside the project and provided invaluable

    feedback on this guidance:

    Thames Valley University

    Thorne Cross Young Offenders Institute

    Redruth Youth Centre

    GFS Platform, Great Yarmouth

    Quay Foyer, Poole

    We are also grateful to colleagues at NIACE and the National Youth Agency for their

    support and contributions, particularly Rebecca Czechowicz, Rachel Davies, Maureen

    OCallaghan, Dr Jan Eldred and Clare Holland.

    Illustrations by Graham Ogilvie of Ogilvie Designs.

    Typesetting and design by On The Beach Designs, 111 South Knighton Road,

    Leicester LE2 3LT.

    email: [email protected]


  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 5

    1. Section One: Getting started 1.1 Introduction 61.2 Using the guidance 61.3 Setting the context 71.4 Working together 131.5 Starting points 131.6 Defining the learners 16

    2. Section Two: Keeping going2.1 Hooking learners in 172.2 Engaging learners 202.3 Sustaining involvement 22

    3. Section Three: Skills for Life in your organisation3.1 Initial and diagnostic assessment 253.2 Individual Learning Plans 263.3 Formative assessment and giving feedback 263.4 Facilitating learning and achievement 28

    4. Section Four: Getting the best from your learners4.1 Learning preferences and using a multi-sensory approach 304.2 Learners with dyslexia 324.3 Recognising and recording progress 334.4 Developing effective teaching and learning for: writing, reading,

    speaking, listening and numeracy 344.4.1 Writing 344.4.2 Reading 404.4.3 Speaking and listening 414.4.4 Numeracy 44

    5. Section Five: Developing Literacy, Language and Numeracywithin learning opportunities and activities

    5.1 Introduction to embedding 495.2 Embedding and the Core Curricula 505.3 Partially embedded models 51

    Glossary 53

    Sources of further support and practical help 56

    Further reading 61

    References 63


  • Section 1: Getting Started

    Developing Skills for the Future6

    1.1 Introduction

    Work with young adult learners must acknowledge and appreciate their values and culture, as distinct from other age groups.1

    This guidance aims to support you to develop literacy, language and numeracy learning opportunities in your work with young adults (aged between 16 and 25) by:

    introducing key policy and practice in this area building on effective and proven approaches highlighting critical success factors in engaging and motivating young adult learners recognising and celebrating young adults achievements and supporting their progression

    1.2 Using the guidance

    There are five sections within this guidance document:

    1. Getting started2. Keeping going3. Getting the best from your learners4. Skills for Life in your organisation5. Developing literacy, language and numeracy within learning opportunities and


    You can use this guidance in a variety of ways:

    for an overall picture of how to support young adults to develop their literacy, language and numeracy skills

    for ideas of practical methods and approaches to support professional development by encouraging critical reflection

    A glossary of terms used throughout can be found on page 58. Incorporated within the guidance are some useful resources to support the development of your learners literacy and numeracy skills. You will also find information on sources of support and where to go for further reading.

    This guidance is particularly aimed at practitioners working with young adults who are disengaged from, or on the margins of education, training and employment. There is a range of formal, non-formal and informal educational opportunities designed to engage this group, where the focus may be to build their confidence, provide some stability in a chaotic life, develop employability and vocational skills or work towards a specific qualification. These young adults will each have individual aims and aspirations for their lives, and there are many professionals across the youth sector working hard to motivate them, build their aspirations and provide the support for them to achieve their goals.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 7

    1.3 Setting the context

    Young people deserve to be treated with dignity, honesty and respect; they have a right to know, understand, act and be trusted. They need experiences which will enable them to escape the often limiting contours of neighbourhood norms and peer group pressures

    Tom Wylie, former Chief Executive, the National Youth Agency

    Theres a lot of stigma and dismissal of young people today. But they have so much potential, energy, drive, vision and passion. We need to start affirming and celebrating that, and steering it in the right direction

    Terry Eckersley, CEO, YMCA

    Research indicates that many young adults on the margins of education, training and employment need help to improve their skills in literacy, language and numeracy. Statistics show that one in four young adults leave school without achieving GCSEs in maths and English, and one in two leave without achieving an A*-C grade in maths or English2. Of these young adults, 22% do not move onto education, training or employment. Providers also agree that, even where young adults have achieved GCSEs in maths and English, they can still struggle to apply these skills at work and in their day-to-day lives.

    One in four 19 year olds have no qualifications above level one, and the majority of this group still lack level two qualifications at age 253. It is increasingly important, therefore, that young adults are supported to develop their literacy, language and numeracy skills, since four out of every five jobs created now requires skills above A Level4. In addition, there are many young adults for whom English is a second language, and who need support to develop their language skills.

    Developing young adults skills in these areas is central to empowering them to fulfil their potential.

    If the UK is to achieve a world class skills base, it must aim for world class attainment among young adults. It is unacceptable in the 21st century in the fifth richest economy in the world that young adults should leave school unable to read, write and add up. Yet over one in six young adults in England do. The UK must avoid a new generation of people leaving school without basic skills.5

    Skills for Life is the Governments strategy to address this challenge, and has set demanding targets for improving the language, literacy and numeracy skills of adults (post 16) in England6. More recently (March 2009) Skills for Life: Changing Lives7 a Skills for Life refresh/delivery document has focussed on helping adults to reach a minimum threshold level of literacy (Level 1) and numeracy (Entry level 3), rather than on moving up a level and achieving a first qualification.

    The Skills for Life Strategy developed a whole learning infrastructure for the teaching of literacy, language and numeracy and each learners achievement and level of skill can be measured against national targets. National standards outline the literacy and numeracy skills at different levels, and you can turn to pages 8 and 9 for typical literacy and numeracy skills at each level. The Adult Literacy, ESOL and Numeracy Core Curricula describe the content of what should be taught in line with national standards8. The curricula have recently (May 2009) been updated and can now be

  • Developing Skills for the Future8

    found on The Excellence Gateway.9 The standards aim to indicate the range of skills adults need in order to communicate and apply literacy and numeracy successfully and confidently. It is important to recognise that many young adults will have spiky profiles that is, profiles of skills that cross several levels, and are determined by a range of factors, including their sensory, motor, perceptual and cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence. Learners will therefore have skills at different levels and may not fit neatly into the levels. For example, a young adult may be a confident speaker with good reading skills but find writing very difficult. Similarly, some individuals may struggle with spelling but are good at writing and the other skills this involves. The same applies for numeracy a young adult may have skills at different levels for individual mathematical skills. It is worth bearing this in mind when you plan your sessions. It helps to focus on a particular skill and encourage your learners to improve to the next level. For most people, their learning route will almost definitely not be a smooth transition from Entry Level 1 through to Level 2 but you can help them to build their skills in all areas and, where appropriate, some may really benefit from taking a national qualification. Focus on helping your learners to recognise what they can do and provide a range of activities that build confidence in the skills they need to develop.

    Access for All provides guidance on making the core curricula in literacy and numeracy available to people who have difficulties in learning. It also contains information on how various disabilities may affect learning and suggests a wide variety of strategies and approaches. You may find the introductory booklet, which describes the impact of various disabilities on learning, a useful source of information in making your provision more accessible. Interactive versions are also available10.

    Young adults are one of the key priority groups within the Skills for Life strategy and it is recognised that there are significant numbers with literacy, language and numeracy needs. The government wants all adults over the age of 16 to achieve a minimum of Level 1 in literacy and Entry Level 3 for numeracy. This has been confirmed by the recent Refresh Strategy (see page 6). However, anyone who has skills below Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE at A*-C grade) may well struggle with regular, practical skills such as budgeting or reading a timetable. The Leitch Review of Skills11 (2006) has served to increase the emphasis on improving the skills of young adults and helping them progress into learning and employment. Furthermore, the Governments 14-19 Implementation Plan (2005)12 set out a long-term programme to improve young adults functional skills. There were three key targets: Increasing attainment by age 19 at level 2 from 67% in 2004 to at least 70% in 2006

    and by a further two percentage points by 2008; and also at level 3. Increasing the number of young people completing apprenticeships to 75% by

    2007/8 as compared to 2002/3. Increasing the number of young people participating in education at 17 from 75%

    now to 90% by 2015 and reducing the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training by 2% by 2010.

    Since then initiatives have been developed to take these targets forward, e.g., in April 2009, the National Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS)13 was launched by the Government, aiming to bring about significant growth in the number of employers offering apprenticeships. Developing literacy, language and numeracy skills is central to the achievement of the Governments ambitions for young adults, and cuts across a number of policy areas, including Every Child Matters14, Youth Matters15 and Aiming high for young people: a ten year strategy for positive activities16.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 9

    Entry 3 Write a short

    message Read and

    follow simple instructions

    Greet colleagues or customers effectively

    Entry 2 Respond to a

    question and know when to ask for help

    Follow a simple filing system

    Complete a simple form

    Entry 1 Follow a one-

    step verbal instruction

    Understand common signs

    Complete a sign in sheet

    At Level 2 someone can Contribute

    to meetings effectively

    Read and understand technical information

    Write a supportive statement for a job application

    At Level 1 someone can Write

    straightforward emails

    Complete a more complex form, for example reporting an illness

    Read and understand short reports

    Examples of Literacy skills by levelBetween Entry Level 1 and 2 someone can

  • Developing Skills for the Future10

    Examples of Numeracy skills by levelBetween Entry Level 1 and 3 someone can

    Entry 3 Write down

    simple number sequences accurately

    Use a calculator to check totals

    Complete a stock control

    Entry 2 Use a simple

    tally sheet Use simple

    measuring equipment e.g. a ruler

    Complete a simple

    Entry 1 Key in a code

    number Count up to 10

    items Extract simple

    information from a list

    At Level 2 some one can Calculate area

    and volume accurately

    Select and compare different prices and measurements

    Weigh and measure to required

    At Level 1 someone can Understand a

    pay slip Understand

    graphs and charts

    Manage time effectively

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 11

    This guidance document is based on consultations with a range of young adult learners and providers working in the field. It is for new and experienced staff working with young adults in a range of settings including: FE provision, youth services, voluntary and community sector organisations, arts or sports organisations, young parents projects, private training providers, sixth form colleges, foyers and Young Offenders Institutions and prisons.

    We know that there are many practitioners involved in supporting and developing young adults literacy, language and numeracy, who bring a range of skills and experience to their work. This guidance is aimed primarily at those practitioners who are experienced in engaging young adults, particularly those on the margins of education, training and employment, but not trained to teach literacy or numeracy. Experienced literacy and numeracy teachers may also find some new ideas and approaches in this guidance, which could complement their provision. This guidance is also about supporting these two groups of practitioners to explore partnerships and working together: you both have distinct strengths and together are a formidable force for engaging young adults and building skills in literacy, language and numeracy.

    When asked to discuss the characteristics/skills that are most important in working with young adults, practitioners identified the following:

    understanding/empathy sense of humour communication skills being innovative/interesting

    By working together and strengthening our knowledge and understanding, we can break the pattern of disengagement and disaffection for young adults and support them to fulfil their potential.

    Weve got the teaching skills, youve got the young person skillssomehow the skills we each have need to be brought together Its about getting the fun but teaching it properly.

    College tutor at focus group

    This guidance will also support you to work with other agencies to provide better quality information, advice and guidance at the outset of learning opportunities, supporting learners during learning and encouraging progression. Working with other agencies can help to re-engage young adults who drop out of programmes and provide support with referrals, retention, funding and achievement. Signposting and working closely with local colleges and training providers can help open up new opportunities and possibilities for learning.

  • Developing Skills for the Future12

    This guidance will be useful for practitioners working in a range of informal and non-formal settings, in developing your understanding of the importance of literacy, language and numeracy. It will also encourage you to reflect on your own practice and help you to think about the best ways in which you can support young adults to develop these skills through your work. There is information and advice for you to read and consider, including ideas for activities and resources. You may find you only make small changes in your practice and use existing skills and knowledge to work alongside qualified literacy and numeracy practitioners, to engage effectively with young adults. However, these small changes are often the most significant.

    For experienced literacy and numeracy practitioners, this guidance will support you to re-engage young adults in learning and also to work with other professionals to integrate literacy, language and numeracy into informal and non-formal programmes. You will find ideas of how to tailor your current skills and knowledge in literacy and numeracy to work particularly with young adults who are otherwise disengaged from education, employment and training.

    Quay Foyer works withyoung adults who have housing needs and require support. It offers courses in Thai boxing,

    drama, dance, photography, art, ICT, music and personal development. Two members of staff have taken the Level 2 Adult Learners Support Award

    and work with Literacy and Numeracy teachers from Poole Adult Learning to provide English and maths courses to their learners. The Quay Foyer

    staff act as go-betweens helping the teachers to relate to the particular needs of their young adults.

    The first couple of sessions the teachers came in with normal plans and expected the same people to turn up to the second class, but they quickly realised they had to be more flexible.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 13

    1.4 Working together

    A whole organisation approach to literacy, language and numeracy means that everyone, at every level of the organisation, is committed to developing these skills. For this to happen, you will need a strategic plan, which will include:

    raising awareness of the issues through presentations, workshops and discussions motivating staff eg through visits to other provision and using sections of this

    guidance respect and recognition between staff of each others skills, knowledge and

    experience a programme of staff development time for planning and working together

    Such an approach can raise the awareness of the issues young adult learners experience, and how you can work with colleagues and partners to support them. You can find more information about Whole Organisation Approaches for Delivering Skills for Life on the LSIS Excellence Gateway website17.

    Young adults who need support are often involved with a range of agencies, each working with them in different areas of their lives. Working together and keeping in touch with these organisations can help you provide the necessary practical and emotional support required by young adults. Local knowledge is vital. If you are considering entering into a formal partnership in order to secure funding or offer learning opportunities, below is a checklist for partnership working. You may find the checklist on page 14 useful.

    1.5 Starting points

    Young adults often need a high degree of support to make it to an emotional and physical place where they are able to think about learning. Many face a range of complex and challenging issues, including navigating the benefit system, securing and sustaining housing and employment, and managing relationships. Their lives may be unstructured and their futures uncertain. Addressing these issues and concerns often has to take precedence over engagement in learning programmes.

    Youth work is different to other education provision in its approach, the ways in which it is delivered and the nature of the relationship it has with young adults, which encourages their involvement in and ownership of the learning process18. It provides less formal learning processes designed to help young adults to:

    develop greater self-awareness and acceptance through positive feedback explore the issues that affect them and make responsible choices interact socially and empathise with others develop the skills and knowledge needed for long-term health and employment move towards independent adulthood and autonomy

    This highly skilled approach has a number of defining characteristics:

    it focuses on the interests of the young adult and their motivation to learn

  • Developing Skills for the Future14

    Working in Partnership: ChecklistRationale

    How will learners/providers/funders/others benefit by us working together?

    Are there any new partners we could cultivate or nurture?

    What do we hope to gain from working together?

    Preparing a proposal or tender

    What are we going to do and how, and who is going to write what?

    Whose costings are we going to apply?

    How are we going to check in with each other as we go along?

    What time do we each need to get approval of our proposal within our organisation?

    Organisational arrangements

    Which organisation will lead?

    Which organisation will hold the contract?

    Who will be the overall project manager?

    Who will own the Intellectual Property (IP)?

    Who will have copyright on any material produced?

    Working together

    What are we really going to do and how are we going to do it?

    How will we manage the project between us?

    Who will do what?


    How will we best communicate with each other?

    How often shall we meet?

    What will we do if we should disagree later on?

    Other people or organisations

    Is there to be any learner involvement and who will secure it?

    Who else is involved and when will we all meet together?


    Which organisation will hold the budget?

    What invoicing and payment schedules will we put in place?


    What should we call the project?

    What logos should be used, and how?

    Quality assurance

    What quality standards will we work to?

    How will we evaluate (a) the project and (b) our partnership?


    What records do we each need to keep?


    Who will report to whom?

    Who will pull together any reports?

    Who will be responsible for reporting to the funder?

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 15

    the learning takes place in accessible environments in which the young adults feel comfortable and competent to learn

    it focuses on each young person as an individual with the process centred on their development and support needs, starting where the young adults are, not where we would like them to be

    it is non-judgemental it works with the whole young adult, supporting their social, emotional, physical,

    spiritual and political development young adults can learn flexibly at a time and pace that most suits them young adults have ownership of the learning, it is set at their level, negotiated and

    undertaken in a participative and empowering way offering them respect as valued individuals

    it focuses on the process of learning and the development of personal skills and attributes

    incidental learning en route is considered as important as the intended learning outcomes

    it works through relationships built on trust, honesty, openness and caring it advocates on behalf of young people and helps to make their voices heard

    It will be important to consider how literacy, language and numeracy learning can be integrated into your approach to working with young adults. Off-the-shelf materials to develop literacy, language and numeracy may not always be suitable for young adults, or to the environment you are working in. Resources may not be appropriate due to content or style, or may be book or worksheet-based, which young adults often say remind them of school.

    Worksheets are boring You still need to use a pen. Young adult learner19

    It is far better to work together to create programmes and resources that are differentiated according to ability, relevant to and build on young adults interests and aspirations, and sit comfortably alongside your approach to working with this group. There isnt one way to improve literacy, language and numeracy skills, but rather a range of approaches and staging posts. Youth work professionals have huge potential to make an impact through their work with young adults and recognise when they are ready to return to areas of learning with which they may have strong connotations of failure from past experiences.

    Staff at Redruth Youth Centre prefer to spendthe first three to four weeks of working with a young adult building trust, and feel the last six weeks is where learners

    make the most progress. Many of their young adults have low aspirations, but after 12 weeks with the Centre, they tend to

    know what they want to do.

  • Developing Skills for the Future16

    Recent years have seen an increasing focus on embedding literacy, language and numeracy skills in a variety of learning opportunities, rather than offering discrete literacy and numeracy classes, where this learning is separate from other programmes or courses. Research has highlighted that embedding literacy, language and numeracy is a very effective approach when working with young adults20, and demonstrated its impact on motivation and achievement. Young adults will often struggle to see literacy and numeracy learning as relevant to them. An embedded approach involves applying the skills in real contexts and situations, and highlights the relevance and importance of learning. By working together, you can combine the skills of re-engaging learners using new and creative approaches, with the expertise of building literacy, language and numeracy learning. If it is not possible to work in this way, then this guidance can support you to develop your knowledge and understanding.

    LiteracyLiteracy skills are about reading, writing, speaking and listening. These skills are critical for young adults moving towards independence, and navigating the transition to adulthood. Literacy skills can be taken for granted, but young adults need to feel confident in a range of literacy practices such as communicating with officials and service providers, accessing health care and financial assistance, and understanding a range of everyday information.

    NumeracyNumeracy skills include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measuring, estimating and understanding diagrams, graphs and charts. Numeracy skills are important to support young adults to manage their money, including making informed choices about budgeting and credit. Poor numeracy skills have been shown to be very significant factors in experiences of social exclusion21.

    ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)ESOL support may be required for some young adults who do not have English as their first language. Sometimes, individuals who require ESOL support have spiky profiles, for example, they may have good listening and reading skills but require help with speaking and writing. Previous experience of education can be varied for ESOL learners, with some having high level qualifications and others having had little contact with formal education.

    1.6 Defining the learners

    Broadly speaking, young adults are defined as aged between 16 and 25. The aim of this guidance is to support you to engage young adults with literacy or numeracy skills below Level 2. This may be through informal community-based provision or within a more formal environment. The guidance also includes work with young adults who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, although you may need to link up with a specialist in this area to provide the most effective support.

    Young adult learners are not a homogenous group each learner will have their own aims and aspirations, and will have travelled individual pathways in their lives. This guidance will support you with key principles in work with young adults, so that you can work creatively to respond to individual learners and their experiences.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 17

    Section 2: Keeping goingLiteracy, language and numeracy provision that is relevant to young adults lives, aims and aspirations is more likely to engage and motivate learners.22

    The NRDC research and development project, Success factors in informal learning: young adults experiences of literacy, language and numeracy, has developed a framework of critical success factors for working in informal and non-formal settings with young adults. The framework was based around four key elements of work with young adults:

    hooking learners in engaging learners sustaining involvement facilitating learning and achievement

    It is important to recognise the wide variety of settings, venues and programmes through which young adults are engaged in learning, and that as practitioners, you may not have control over all the practical and physical elements that impact on learners experiences. However, the framework is structured to support you in your approach to working with young adults, recognising that this approach must be situated within the environment in which you are based. The framework has been used by a range of practitioners to develop and reflect on their own practice, and this section looks in detail at, and builds on, the original work.

    2.1 Hooking learners in


    Young adults are far more confident exploring learning in spaces where they feel relaxed and in control.23

    It is important to create learning spaces which are safe and unthreatening. This will vary from group to group consider the meaning that spaces and places have for your learners. Ownership of the learning environment is a key feature that young adults often associate with learning being not like school. This may involve learners being consulted and involved in the creation of the space, and having more freedom to use the space (for example, to make drinks or read and chat during breaks) than they experienced in formal education. Our consultations with young adult learners suggest that spaces and places have a great deal of meaning to them, and having a safe and supportive space available is a significant factor in remaining engaged.


    It is important to keep engagement in learning programmes flexible.24

    Greater flexibility around processes such as referral and induction can open up access to learning to wider groups of young adults. For example, some young adults may not

  • Developing Skills for the Future18

    be in contact with information, advice and guidance services locally, and may wish to self-refer. Many young adults place the most trust and belief in their peers, and are more likely to act on their recommendations and experiences than referral or sign-posting from support agencies. It is also important that eligibility criteria is responsive and flexible, where possible. Consider whether your provision is flexible enough to accommodate all young adults who might want to take part, rather than having to turn some away. Equally, some young adults may want to try out a range of different learning opportunities before deciding which one is right for them. Consider whether you have structures in place that will support these learners who take longer to get to where they want to be. You may need to spend a long time gaining trust and building confidence before introducing literacy and numeracy activities. Try offering tasters and drop-in sessions that allow young adults to get a feel for learning, or raise awareness of literacy and numeracy skills by using innovative and fun approaches such as quizzes and scratch cards (examples can be found on the Move On website www.move-on.org.uk). You could try a series of one-off sessions, as some young adults may be reluctant to sign up for a whole programme. For many learners, it may not be a straightforward journey, but one with stops and starts along the way, so your provision should allow for this if possible.

    The first bite is such an important bit of it to get them through the door to qualifications. If were going to make a dent in literacy and numeracy with the hard to reach, youve got to offer the smaller chunks of learning

    Youth Arts Worker at focus group


    Many young adults fell out of formal education because it was incompatible with demands and responsibilities in their lives.25

    Young adults often go through financial hardship, are vulnerably or temporarily housed, are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship or are becoming parents. In the face of such difficulties, learning can seem unimportant, or just another pressure. To attract young adults facing such challenges, it may be necessary to offer childcare or short sessions to fit with caring responsibilities, and to provide tailored support for money, housing or relationship difficulties. Having a trusted adult to offer support and advice around such issues is of critical importance. This is particularly true for young adults aged 16 to 25, who can be going through complicated and risky transitions to adulthood. Our research highlights that most young adults will continue to return to provision during periods of difficulty, where they know that support is available to them. Such support is often the most effective incentive in encouraging learners to get involved and keep coming back.

    Reaching new learners

    It is important to recognise how individual learners, and groups of learners, respond to different terminology when talking about literacy and numeracy.26

  • TWorking together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 19

    The promotion of courses needs to be tailored to your organisation, and should use an enhancement model rather than a deficit one. This means that young adults shouldnt be made to feel they lack skills but that they are being offered opportunities to develop them. If you are including literacy and numeracy in a course, be up front and stress that these skills are critical for success in the course. Young adults are often resentful when literacy and numeracy turn out to be key elements within learning programmes, but are not introduced at the beginning of the course. Research has shown that practitioners tend to have most success in engaging young adult learners where literacy, language and numeracy are seen as intrinsic to the learning programme. However, it is also vital to consider how this element of the learning is presented some practitioners may be concerned that an overt focus on literacy and numeracy will alienate certain groups of young adults. Careful and responsive introduction is critical where this is the case.

    WRITING COURSE:For young adults who lack confidence and need

    to improve their writing skills

    CANT SING? Join our music course

    LOVE MUSIC?Whether singing or rapping,improve your music and writingskills on our new course!


    Who is my target group? What are their particular interests or barriers? How will I introduce literacy, language and numeracy learning to my target

    group? Who can help me reach new learners? Can I involve young adults in creating a safe and welcoming space? How flexible is our provision and the referral process? Can we offer young adults the support they need with practical and emotional

    issues? Or can we work with other agencies to do this?

  • Developing Skills for the Future20

    2.2 Engaging learners

    Building trust

    Forming trusting relationships with young adults must be the primary goal in order to sustain longer-term engagement.27

    It is important to recognise the value young adults place on their identity and image. Respond to and support this where possible, rather than try to change something that is perceived to be central to the way they see themselves. Low confidence and poor self-esteem are often key issues for young adults, although this can manifest itself as disengagement, boredom or even aggression. The early stages of learning programmes must be about building confidence in relationships with practitioners and other learners, and in the learning process itself. Activities which develop a sense of achievement and progress are important. Similarly, it is critical to avoid activities or tasks (including some forms of initial assessment) that could undermine confidence, or compound feelings of failure. Young adults value honesty, openness, non-judgemental support, and humour!

    Keeping it interesting

    Young adults have a wide range of interests, many of which they are passionate about.28

    Starting with these interests is highly effective in creating interest and enthusiasm. This guidance will support you to explore and develop the literacy, language and numeracy opportunities within common areas of interest for young adults. Ensure that the session or programme is relevant to learners lives at that time, and demonstrate it. Learning which appears to be irrelevant can be swiftly dismissed as boring. Young adults are facing a number of new experiences as they make the transition to adulthood, including becoming a parent, living independently, meeting new people, managing money or moving into employment. Supporting them in these experiences offers rich opportunities to develop literacy, language and numeracy.

    Exploring new technology, where possible, can be a great incentive to join in. This can also contribute to the development of trusting relationships encourage young adults to teach you about new media technology and social networking, for example.

    Creating the right environment

    Work towards an unpressurised, friendly and supportive environment.29

    Relationships between group leaders and learners, and within the group itself, are of paramount importance. However, it is easy to overlook the significance of smaller factors such as comfortable chairs, pleasant lighting or dcor, being able to have a hot or cold drink during sessions, and being able to make food and eat together in the centre. Young adult learners in our consultations were clear about the negative effect on learning of tight school ties, broken and uncomfortable chairs, bright fluorescent lights, hot classrooms with no water available, and long waits to visit the toilet. Young

  • Reflection

    What activities and strategies can we use to build trust and confidence at the beginning of learning programmes?

    How do we find out about learners interests? How can we build learning around them?

    How do we listen to our learners? Do learners know we are listening to them?

    Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 21

    adult learners respond well to the process of developing and considering ground rules, and such an exercise also provides excellent opportunities for debate and discussion. Consider also the written communication in learning areas posters and leaflets are good examples of everyday literacy, and should be clear and jargon-free.

    Listening to your learners

    Knowing your learner(s) is paramount listening to young adults helps with breaking down pre-conceived ideas and barriers, on both sides.30

    Young adults are very quick to reject situations where they feel they are not being treated as individuals, or as adults. It is important to work with learners to find out where they are emotionally and psychologically, and meet them there. This is also a critical element of understanding what learners want and hope for from the learning they are involved in.

    Staff at Quay Foyer spend the first fifteen minutes of each session listening to learners share their experiences from the last few

    days. The discussions are based on a shared agreement: you listen to me and Ill listen to you.

    This can help you to gauge what space learners are currently in and give you the opportunity to raise or lower a persons current

    state, depending on which way it needs to go!

  • Developing Skills for the Future22

    2.3 Sustaining involvement

    Keeping it informal

    Young adults are not resistant to learning itself, but will strongly resist provision they perceive as being related to formal, school-like learning situations.31

    Informality is about the approach you take to the setting you work in, the curriculum you offer, the relationships you develop, the teaching methods you adopt and the way you use assessment. An informal approach does not mean laid back, chaotic or unstructured. Nor does it necessarily mean no boundaries, poor behaviour or loss of order. Creating and sustaining an informal approach can involve a great deal of thought and planning.

    Relationships with young adults must be based on trust and respect, and this is central to sustaining engagement. One to one time with a supportive adult is often the main incentive in attendance for young adults who have few support networks and are facing challenges in their lives.

    Raising expectations

    Many young adults will fall back into the child or pupil role by default, so it is important to breakdown the child/adult opposing relationship.32

    Having faith in young adults, and demonstrating this, is an important element of raising expectations and aspirations. Consider your language: how often do you say have a try? Is there a way that you can say you can do it? Many young adult learners may have been labelled disruptive at school, and will be accustomed to being recognised for this type of behaviour. Rewarding and recognising positive behaviour and achievement with praise is central to building self-esteem, confidence and motivation. Support learners to develop at their own pace think about how you can tailor activities and provide differentiated learning33 for young adults with a range of skills and abilities. Some teaching and learning materials provide resources at different levels that focus on the same topic, and have the same appearance, so that groups with differing levels of ability can work together.34

    Making boundaries clear

    Mutual respect should be based on responsibility, and effective compromise within the boundaries.35

    Set aside group time to agree and discuss ground rules, to negotiate boundaries for mutually acceptable behaviour, and to deal with emerging issues. This also develops confidence and builds speaking and listening skills.

  • Reflection

    How can we adopt an informal approach in our work? What opportunities are there for collaborative learning? Do we encourage ownership of learning? How am I going to build confidence and independence? How do I give feedback? Do I use praise to good effect? Do we have regular opportunities to review group ground rules? Is support in place to address practical and emotional barriers to learning?

    Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 23

    Anticipating barriers to learning and achievement

    Practitioners working with young adults need to be user-friendly aware of the types of issues they may be facing, and non-judgmental in their advice and support.36

    Take time at the beginning of programmes to find out about barriers to learning that individuals may be facing, or perceive they are facing. Seek to provide practical solutions where possible, or to work with others to put them in place. You can help by supporting young adults to find information about training allowances, provision for childcare and help with using public transport. Information on national agencies and schemes such as Care 2 Learn and Educational Maintenance Allowance can be found in the references section. If the young adult feels overwhelmed with practical barriers, you can help them to break these down and tackle them one-by-one.

    Some young adults may have emotional barriers to learning such as anxiety or low self-esteem, or a lack of confidence in their ability to learn. Supporting Learners with Mental Health Difficulties37 is a useful resource to help you reflect on and improve the support that you give to learners who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. You can make small changes such as recognising that learners using certain medication may respond better to afternoon classes rather than morning ones.

    At this point, it is a good idea to do a quick self-assessment on the programmes that you are currently running or planning. Have a look over the checklist below and see if you are working towards the right approach.

    At Fairbridge centres, literacy and numeracy support is offered during the initial action planning, but young adults can choose

    to take this option at any point, when they feel ready.

  • Developing Skills for the Future24

    Have our programmes been developed in response to our learners needs?

    How informal or flexible are our methods? Could this be improved for the learnerswe work with?

    Is the core focus of our programme of work to build self-confidence and self-esteem?Can we increase our learners motivation to progress in their learning?

    Are our programmes offering a broad enough curriculum?

    To what extent do our programmes provide the opportunity to develop literacy,language and numeracy skills? What opportunities are there for us to embed these skills?

    Are all staff sufficiently aware of these skills and their impact on young adults?

    What staff development is needed?

    What, if any, accreditation do we offer our learners before they move on? Is thissuitable for their needs? How strong are our networks? Can we improve our referral processes with otherorganisations and how do we ensure that our learners get all the support they areentitled to?

    Can we cover travel costs or other support costs to better enable our learners totake part?

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 25

    Section 3: Skills for Life in your organisation

    This section explores how Skills for Life can be integrated at each stage of the learning cycle.

    3.1 Initial and diagnostic assessment

    If you are going to offer opportunities for learners to improve their skills in literacy, language and numeracy, you should first undertake an initial assessment to give you a general picture of a learners level. This should be positive highlighting the skills young adults have, as opposed to what they dont know or what they lack. You do not necessarily need to be a qualified teacher to administer an initial assessment, although it helps if you have had some training guidance is available from The Excellence Gateway38. Standard initial and diagnostic assessment tools would be a good starting place and can currently be found under the Tools Library header.

    Thorn Cross is an open Young Offender Institute. Learners can be difficult to engage and staff feel their good initial Information

    and Guidance services play a pivotal role in their success in building relationships with learners.

    They all have Individual Learning Plans: they know whats happening and why. Targets are reviewed on a regular basis and

    kept open and transparent so each individual knows how,why and when theyre doing something

    Thinking about what is most appropriate for your learners means that although a published assessment tool is a good place to start, it may not be the most appropriate approach. Using other tools you have customised for your organisation can help to draw up a whole picture of the learner and what they can do. Other approaches you could use include:

    discussions and interviews observations

  • Developing Skills for the Future26

    structured activities or tasks such as completing a registration form or a piece of free writing

    Working with young adults: facilitating learning and achievement is also a useful resource, and includes top tips for using initial assessment with young adult learners. This handbook was developed as part of a European project supporting practitioners to identify and refer young adults with literacy, language and numeracy needs39.

    Assessment can be used to help build a picture of learners skills and abilities, identify their aims and aspirations, develop targets, and plan a programme of learning that will meet their needs. It is not about passing or failing, but simply a process of checking where a learner sits in comparison with the national standards. It may not be appropriate to set targets early on for some of your learners, as some young adults may not be ready to open up straight away. If this is the case, then target setting can be staggered throughout the course of learning. Similarly, it may not be appropriate to use more formal initial assessment tools in the early part of programmes with some young adults. A short skills check which is described as a mini test can be found at www.move-on.org.uk and completed on line. This gives feedback on the overall level of literacy or numeracy skills. Building trust is crucial, particularly so that young adults can understand how literacy and numeracy skills will be taught before expecting them to agree an action plan for improvement. To fully assess the specific skills a learner needs to work on, a qualified literacy or numeracy teacher can carry out a more in-depth assessment this is known as a diagnostic assessment. Assessment in literacy, language and numeracy can be used alongside a range of other tools and techniques to build up an holistic picture, and support all aspects of learners development.

    3.2 Individual Learning Plans

    An Individual Learning Plan (or ILP) should be formed from the outcomes of whatever assessment you decide to use to best suit the needs of the learner. To get the most out of the learning process, the learner should understand and agree with the plan. It should include clear goals with separate targets for literacy, language and numeracy, and clearly state how these targets will be met. The best understood targets are clear and achievable, for example learn to spell six personal key words each week.

    Learners will value their own ILP if targets are negotiated and reviewed regularly. This means the young adult can see what progress they are making and with specific feedback on their learning and achievement, they will see they are making tangible progress.

    3.3 Formative assessment and giving feedback

    Formative assessment is an ongoing process of assessment between you and your learners. However, the assessment is not necessarily of the learning, but for the learning. Giving feedback and recognising achievement allows you to adapt the learning programme where necessary and to plan the next phase of learning.

    Young adult learners value regular feedback, both formal and informal, on their progress.1

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 27

    Facilitating ongoing discussion about feedback is important to maintain motivation and build confidence in the learning environment, and encourages autonomy in learning. To create more autonomy, learners could even set the success criteria. For example, learners could agree the criteria for a successful verbal presentation and then reflect on their progress against it.

    Although not all young adults will be ready for accreditation or qualifications for their learning in literacy and numeracy, it is still important for them to recognise the skills they have learnt and the improvements they have made. Building confidence and self-esteem through regular feedback is one such way to encourage young adults to see the gains that they have made. See the feedback examples below for suggestions of giving clear feedback on written work. There are a number of tools you can use to assess your learners progress if they are not studying towards an accredited programme. You can also look at section 4.3 on recognising and recording progress.

    Examples of written feedback to a learner Well done Yasmin!

    Well done on ______________________________ Yasmin. You demonstrated good/effective/excellent ____________________________________________________ skills.

    Congratulations on completing ____________________ Yasmin. You did ___________________ well/very well.

    Yasmin, this is a good/excellent/interesting _____________. One way to improve this would be to ___________.

    You showed ____________________________. You could improve __________________ by __________________.

    Earlier in the course you seemed to find ___________________ hard but you were able to get to grips with it by the end of the course. You learned ________________________________________.

    It seemed as if you found __________________________ difficult. However, you improved your skills and were able to ____________________________________ by the end of the course.

    Overall, this is a good / interesting / well presented _______________ that shows you can __________________.

    You have made some / good / lots of progress in _____________. Well done. A suggestion for improving ___________________________________________________ is ________________________________________________

    You have done ______________ well so you can work on__________________ next time to develop your skills.

  • Developing Skills for the Future28

    Encourage self-assessment and peer assessment rather than always giving feedback yourself. Proofreading, evaluating how a task went and personal reflection can all promote and encourage learning. A collaborative approach to learning will help young adults to develop their oral skills, reinforce learning and build confidence.

    At Fairbridge in Kennington, a small group of young adults were designing their own T-shirts to sell at the local market. One young person was shown how to laminate the designs onto the fabric.

    Her role was to explain the process to others.

    Your oral feedback is also important as praise and encouragement helps to raise learners confidence and self-esteem. The advantages of providing oral feedback to learners are that it is:

    immediate context specific active and adaptable ongoing stimulating personalised motivating

    3.4 Facilitating learning and achievement

    Consider and recognise what accreditation or qualifications mean to your learners. Some young adults will be more concerned about other aspects of the programme, such as meeting new people, learning new skills or access to ICT equipment. Others want to gain accreditation or a qualification, and there are National Tests in literacy and numeracy to accredit levels of achievement. They can also be taken on-line40. Always discuss accreditation and qualification options with learners, and ensure they understand the process, and the value of the award or qualification being offered. Think about the measures you can put into place to support learners working towards qualifications such as the National Test many young adult learners, despite being motivated to sit the assessment itself, find the process of travelling to an external test centre too demanding and will not attend.

    Young adults achievements and progression in literacy, language and numeracy is often rewarded and demonstrated to the learners by involving them in the planning and evaluation of their projects and challenges in the learning programme. This develops a sense of ownership, and relates learning to concrete activities. Where appropriate, young adults may also respond to in-house certificates that recognise attendance, team working, supporting others, or completing the programme. The

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 29

    key is to make rewards immediate, attainable, and tangible. Again it is important to recognise the meaning of the certificate to the learner this may be the first certificate the learner has received, so make it an event to celebrate.

    Think about how you can raise expectations and encourage progression. Explore links with local colleges and training providers so you can take interested learners to visit colleges/learning centres. This enables young adults to explore and become familiar with new surroundings, with the support of an advocate who is on hand to help them ask questions. This can help them overcome fear of a new environment which they may associate with formal education and school. Taster sessions offer learners the opportunity to be introduced to new experiences and people informally. However, ensure that tasters are not structured around just joining up, as this can make the session pressured.


    What strategies can we use to build up an holistic picture of learners needs and abilities?

    How do we set targets with learners? What structures are in place to facilitate achievement? How do we offer feedback? How do we celebrate success?

  • Developing Skills for the Future30

    Section 4: Getting the best from your learners

    4.1 Learning Preferences and using a multi-sensory approach

    The young adults you work with are likely to have experienced perceived failures in past learning, and may particularly lack confidence in literacy, language and numeracy. Adopting a different approach that encourages and focuses on success will go far in increasing the chances of re-engaging them. Knowing how people learn best is a really important factor. Formal learning contexts often use teaching approaches that are centred on reading, writing and listening activities. Learners who have difficulty with these skills, or who learn more effectively in other ways, can find it difficult to be successful in formal learning situations. All of us, when we are learning, need to use a range of approaches, often linked to the subject we are learning about. Successful learners are often ones who are able to adapt their approach to suit the learning situation.

    In general, it is a good idea to adopt a blended approach that doesnt just rely on one teaching method, and to support learners to feel more confident in adapting their own approach. Young adults who have become disengaged from formal education may respond to a variety of formal and informal approaches to learning. They can easily choose to opt out of teacher-led learning, but active learning that involves them in the task is more likely to increase their rate of participation.

    Consider using a variety of methods to encourage active learning, such as:

    paired work buzz groups individual work and peer checking whole class discussions learners giving explanations or presentations quick quizzes (oral or written) practical and creative work open questioning video or DVD clips presented by the learners

    When contact with learners has been sustained, and relationships built, it is easier to tailor learning programmes and activities to individual needs. Having a range of ideas and strategies at your disposal means you can be creative with learning, respond swiftly to changes in group dynamics, and be flexible in trying out new ideas with confidence. Adopting individual and/or differentiated approaches where possible also enables learners to work at their own level without highlighting this to other members of the group.

    Young adults will appreciate a variety of teaching methods to stimulate interest, hold their attention and help them take on board information where they struggled to at

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 31

    school. It is a very powerful moment when a learner realises s/he has understands a concept that they never thought they would.

    In post-16 education, many practitioners and providers use a model of learning styles that divides activities into visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. The idea is that learners can often have a preference for learning activities that focus particularly on one of these routes.

    Visual learning

    For example, some learners prefer information that is represented graphically. You could, therefore, encourage learners to use tables, cartoons, post it notes, pictures, photos and other ways of organising, comparing or displaying information. Some activities easily lend themselves to using visual organisers. For instance, visualising a timeline can help some learners get a sense of what comes next. The examples below were taken from www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/materials/timelines/

    Horizontal Time Line(Up to 6 Events)

    Vertical Time Line

    1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001

    1 2






    1 2







    2000 Event 1

    2005 Event 2

    2010 Event 3

    2015 Event 4

    2020 Event 5

    2025 Event 6

    2030 Event 7

    2035 Event 8

    2040 Event 9

  • Developing Skills for the Future32

    Creating visual maps or timelines can also support learners to reflect on their progress since starting the course. Ideas such as The Wallpaper Walk41 enable groups or individuals to create visual displays of highs and lows, achievements and challenges, and to draw out what they have learned from a course or programme, and how they will use it.

    Auditory learning

    Similarly, some learners prefer auditory approaches such as hearing explanations and may repeat or summarise what youve said back to you as this helps them process information, according to this model. Some auditory learners concentrate better when they have music or white noise in the background. Some may retain new information better when they talk it through. Modelling, listening to a tape, and paired listening activities are other examples of auditory learning activities. Young adults may prefer to remember complex sets of information by putting them to song or rhythm.

    Kinaesthetic and tactile learning

    The third category of activities in this model is kinaesthetic. This refers to activities that have a practical, hands on element, or that encourage learners to move around whilst they learn. Activities that involve learners moving around can make learning fun and help some people to digest information. You can display information around the room and encourage learners to promenade, or play team games and activities requiring them to move around the room. This will depend upon your cohort of learners, and it will be your judgment whether these types of activities will engage your learners effectively. Some individuals and groups of learners struggle with such active participation, and some older young adults (for example, over 19) may associate very active learning with playing or childishness. It is very important to consider how such activities are introduced. Examples of hands on learning include card games, bingo and working with photos or pictures.

    4.2 Learners with dyslexia

    Dyslexia can affect any kind of learning. It is a common and specific learning difficulty, or learning difference, requiring additional learning support. People with dyslexia often learn best if the learning uses methods other than just reading and writing. Dyslexia affects the way that the brain deals with information, particularly language information. It is not related to intelligence. Young adults with dyslexia may have worries or concerns about taking part in a learning programme. They might be worried that they will not be able to cope with the course or tasks that they are asked to do. They may have had some very negative experiences of learning in the past, which are putting them off now, such as being treated badly by a teacher at school.

    The particular pattern of strengths and weaknesses varies from person to person and it is common for people with dyslexia to have good days and bad days. You can help learners with dyslexia by:

    Giving them an overview of the topic before they start to help them see how the pieces of information fit together to make a whole.

    Encouraging them to over-learn because of their difficulty in transferring information from their short-term to their long-term memory. Over-learning means

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 33

    revisiting information lots of times, at regular intervals, in order to help it stick. Screening for dyslexia. There is a wide range of screening tests available. These

    range from short questionnaires that a person can complete themselves, to tests administered by an assessor, to computerised tests. As a starting point, you may like to look at some of the questionnaires available. These are free and you dont need specialist knowledge to administer them. For more details, go to www.adult-dyslexia.org or www.bdadyslexia.org.uk. It is important to approach this area very carefully. For some people, finding out about dyslexia can be a very emotional experience, so it needs to be handled sensitively. Specialist dyslexia organisations and practitioners can offer more advice on how to approach this topic.

    4.3 Recognising and recording progress

    There is a range of approaches to recognising and recording progress and achievement in learning, including:

    Catching Confidence in Numeracy

    What is it?This is a tool that has been developed in order to identify and capture changes in confidence in individuals skills. Learners can record and reflect on their own perceived levels of confidence.

    How is it used?The tool is a way of recording whether learners confidence has changed over time, for example, following a period of learning.

    Find out more:To find out more and download a free copy of the Catching Confidence in Numeracy tool, go to http://shop.niace.org.uk/catching-confidence-maths.html


    What is it?RARPA stands for Recognising and Recording Progress and Achievement in Non-accredited Learning. RARPA is a systematic, staged approach to recognising and recording progress and achievement. It is a learner-centred approach and a way of measuring how far a learner has travelled in their learning, where there is no accredited way of doing so.

    How is it used?The learner is heavily involved in understanding the learning process and setting their own goals and this helps them to take charge of their learning. For staff, the RARPA process helps to make good judgements as to a learners progress, achievements and areas for development.

    Find out more:For more information about RARPA, go to http://www.rarpatoolkit.com/en/rarpa.asp

  • Developing Skills for the Future34

    Planning Learning and Recording Progress and Achievement: A Guide for Practitioners

    What is it?This guide explores good practice for practitioners who work to develop literacy, language and numeracy and can be used by a range of practitioners and managers working across a range of learning experiences. The guide also contains some handy resources for managers that can be used to develop staff.

    How is it used?The guide can be used to develop procedures and recording systems for your organization, to evaluate and revise current systems and to improve the effectiveness of current practice. This is achieved through a learner-centered approach.

    Find out more:For more information, go to www.dfes.gov.uk/readwriteplus/

    4.4 Developing effective teaching and learning

    4.4.1 Writing skills

    There is strong research evidence to support the efficacy of creating an informal atmosphere and environment in a learning programme.42

    NRDC research43 recommends that literacy practitioners:

    place the focus first and foremost on writing as a means of communication use real examples that are contextualised for your learners

    encourage learners to compose their own texts and support learners to do this through the careful setting up of writing tasks and use of talk

    approach the technical aspects of writing including spelling, grammatical correctness and punctuation, within the context of meaningful writing tasks rather than through de-contextualised exercises

    be flexible and responsible to learners needs, supporting learners as they draft, revise and proofread their work

    make links between the writing undertaken in the class and the learners lives beyond the classroom.

    Whatever your approach, it is essential that you make sure writing skills are taught in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the learner. Build on what learners know already and what they enjoy. If learners are daunted by the prospect of writing, you can make it easier:

    talk about the task break it down into stages talk about the subject collect and record ideas for vocabulary before the writing provide spellings

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 35

    provide a model or writing frame (see below) write in pairs or groups scribe for the learner

    Writing doesnt have to be perfect first time and it is important to encourage learners to see writing as a process that involves planning, drafting and refining their writing.

    You can involve learners in deciding upon a topic to write about: try making a cube and writing ideas on each face. You can use this as a dice to choose themes for writing.

    Writing Frame things I enjoy doing

    In my spare time I like to ................................................................................................................



    My favourite pastime is ..................................................................................................................



    I like this because ...........................................................................................................................



    I have always wanted to .................................................................................................................



    Writing frames can be differentiated for learners at different levels and can be adapted to a range of learning contexts. Their purpose is to make the blank page less daunting and to provide structure for the writer. As the writer develops, you can use scaffolding to provide your learners with a framework to help them complete a piece of work. Over a number of tasks, the scaffolding is gradually removed so that your learners can complete a task without any help.

    Some young adults, particularly dyslexic learners, find scaffolding very useful because you dont just tell them what to do, you also show them and they learn by doing.

  • Developing Skills for the Future36

    Scaffolding a letter

    In this example, the skill of writing a letter is developed over three letters, until the learner is independent on letter four.



    Planning the content



    Letter 1

    Provide a model letter and a blank letter format for learners to fill in.

    Provide detailed guidance on the content for the letter, paragraph by paragraph.

    Provide writing frames for each paragraph that learners should use. A draft must be submitted. A model answer is provided, using another letter.

    Assist proof reading using error analysis marking.

    Letter 2

    Provide a handout reminding learners of letter format.

    Facilitate a whole group devised plan before writing.

    Provide writing frames for each paragraph that learners can use. A draft may be submitted.

    Learners use paired proof reading.

    Letter 3

    Learners use the correct formatindependently.

    Learners plan the letter in pairs.

    Learners write independently and use a checklist to ensure that their final draft is correct.

    Learners use paired proof reading.

    Letter 4

    Learners use the correct formatindependently.

    Learners plan the letter independently.

    Learners write independently.

    Learners proof read letter independently.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 37

    Scaffolding an essay

    In this example, the skill of writing an essay (or any other piece of writing) is developed over three essays, until the learner is independent on essay four.


    Understanding the essay title & requirements

    Planning the essay




    Referencing & bibliography

    Essay 1

    Provide the essay title and a set of written notes translating the title into a number of questions.

    Provide a possible essay plan. It helps some learners if this is in the form of questions e.g. what are the skills you need to be a ...?

    Provide a list of useful sources, in writing, and indicates which sources are best for which parts of the essay.

    Provide writing frames for introduction, conclusion and a paragraph that learners should use. A draft must be submitted. A model answer is provided, using another essay title.

    Assist proof reading using error analysis marking.

    Provide a model of a bibliography and references for learners to copy.

    Essay 2

    Provide the essay title and give oral guidelines that translate the title into a number of questions.

    In groups, learners devise an essay plan in class (using either headings or questions). This is then checked against other groups plans, and a template distributed to all learners.

    Provide a list of useful sources in writing and indicates which sources are best.

    Provide writing frames for introduction, conclusion and a paragraph that learners can use. A draft may be submitted.

    Learners use paired proof reading .

    Teacher provides a skeleton bibliography and references for learners to fill in.

    Essay 3

    Provide the essay title and oral clarification of the question.

    Learners plan the essay alone and bring it in for checking and correcting by the teacher, before writing starts.

    Learners carry out the research independently using a list of recommended sources.

    Learners write independently and use a checklist to ensure that their final draft is correct.

    Learners proof read essay independently.

    Learners write own references and bibliography independently.

    Essay 4

    Provide the essay title.

    Learners plan the essay.

    Learners find own resources and carry out independent research.

    Learners write independently.

    Learners proof read essay independently.

    Learners write own references and bibliography independently.

  • Developing Skills for the Future38

    Spelling can hold writers back. You can help young adults to improve their spelling whilst also providing plenty of opportunities for them to write. It may be helpful to remember:

    spelling is a specific skill that most people can practise and improve lack of confidence plays an important part in spelling problems it makes sense to learn to spell words the young adult uses regularly it is helpful to use memory aids (such as rhymes and patterns).

    It is useful to spend time with young adults to help them to see the relevance of specific literacy or numeracy skills to their own lives. Poor spellers can find the broad task of improving spelling completely overwhelming given the vast number of words in the English language. You can help your learners to draw up word lists of words they use regularly. Starting small and building up skills in a structured way such as spending the first five minutes of each session on spelling will help build confidence. Think about how you talk about spelling: like maths, it is socially acceptable to be poor at spelling. Do your learners believe that it doesnt matter how a word is spelled, as long as its understood? Supporting learners to use techniques to improve spelling can be challenging when practitioners themselves lack confidence in this area. If you feel unsure about spelling, it may be useful to consider trying out some of these approaches yourself, to see if they work for you.

    Tips to improve spelling: Look, say, cover, write and check

    Using Look, say, cover, write and check can help you to remember how to spell words that you find difficult.

    Look at the shape of the word. Can you see any patterns or groups of letters that go together? Are there any words within words?

    Say the words carefully and slowly to yourself. Try to listen for the sounds in the words.

    Cover the word. Try to picture the word in your mind; closing your eyes might help you to do this. Say the word to yourself again and then

    Write the word down.

    Check to see if it is correct. If the word isnt quite right dont worry, just try again. It can often take a few attempts to get it right.

    Get your learners to keep a list of words they use regularly and encourage them to use this technique daily or weekly to learn to spell the words on their list. Keep your own list to demonstrate that everyone needs to actively learn to spell new vocabulary.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 39

    Tips to improve spelling: syllables

    Syllables are chunks of sound.All words have at least one syllableSyllables can be just one letter or a group of letters its the sound that matters.

    One way to understand what syllables are is to think of a song like Happy Birthday. Each syllable is a different beat in the son, i.e. Hap py Birth day to you. If you say these words aloud you will hear the chunks or beats of sound.

    Walk, go, home These words have 1 syllable

    Happy, birthday, because These words have 2 syllables

    September, underneath, Internet These words have 3 syllables

    In English syllables normally have a vowel or the letter y in them.

    Mon day Syl la ble

    This can help you to learn how to spell words correctly.

    tion station, stationery, lotion

    ly happily, sadly, lolly

    ful careful, awful, beautiful

    This is also useful for spelling words. If you learn the syllable in one word you can use it in others.

    Taken from www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise go to the website for further practice.

    Tips to improve spelling: root words

    A root word is a word that has nothing added at the beginning or the end. It stands on its own as a word; it has a meaning. New words can be made from root words by adding beginnings (prefixes) and endings (suffixes).

    A root word is a real word and you make new words from it by adding prefixes and suffixies.

    Example of the rood word clear with beginnings and endings added to make new words:

    unclear, clearly, cleared.

    All of these words have grown from their root word. They share parts of the same spelling and they are linked in terms of meaning. They are known as a word family.

    Continued on page 40

  • Developing Skills for the Future40

    Continued from page 39

    In a word family all the words share parts of the same spelling and have linked meaning.

    Root words are helpful because:

    You can use a root word to help you with other spellings. If you recognise the root of a word when you are reading it can help you to work out what the word is

    and what it means.

    There are spelling rules for adding suffixes and prefixes to root words.

    Here are some more examples of root words and the word families that grow from them:

    use: useless, usable, used, using, user, misuse

    employ: employment, unemployment, employer, employee, employing

    manage: manager, managing, manages, manageable, unmanageable

    beauty: beautiful, beautifully, beautician

    faith: faithful, faithfully, unfaithful, unfaithfully

    Taken from www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise go to the website for further practice

    4.4.2 Reading skills

    Take care to select suitable reading materials for your learners in terms of complexity and interest. Build on the familiar by using extracts from magazines, websites or newspapers they like. There are a number of websites which suggest books and other reading materials for young adults and for reluctant readers44. You can also check the suitability of reading materials using SMOG (simplified measure of gobbledygook)45. Recent NRDC research46 recommends literacy practitioners to adopt specific strategies for teaching reading, in particular:

    Oral reading fluency

    Provide lots of opportunities for learners to practise and develop skills in reading aloud. This can be a useful skill; perhaps get your learners to talk about their experiences and how they feel about reading aloud. Some methods you can use to develop oral fluency are:

    Paired Reading: The learner reads with you or another learner at a higher level. Start reading the text together until the learner signals that he or she is happy to continue alone. For a full account of this technique see http://www.dundee.ac.uk/eswce/research/projects/trwresources/reading/

    Choral reading: A group version of the above. This takes the pressure off individual learners.

  • Working together to develop young adults literacy, language and numeracy 41

    Performance reading: The learner prepares for a performance which may be reading a poem, song or extract they have chosen.

    Explicit comprehension strategies

    Provide activities that support the understanding of texts. Some helpful techniques are:

    Story structure, to teach awareness of features such as setting, characters and plot. Channel 4 Learning has created a writers toolkit at http://www.channel4learning.com/sites/bookbox/writerstoolkit/home.htm

    Question answering, getting learners to link information from different parts of the text with their existing knowledge.

    Question generating, whereby learners ask and answer questions about their reading.

    Summarising, where learners identify the main ideas.

    Reciprocal teaching

    Model the teaching strategy and then support your learners until they are able to take over your role and support each other.


    There are 44 sounds in English. Raise awareness of sounds and blends of sounds to support learners to decode words. For useful overviews of phonics and suggested materials have a look at Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills (THRASS)47; although aimed at school children, it can be adapted for young adults. Another system used in the prison service and with young offenders is Toe by Toe48.

    Language experience approaches

    This works well with learners for whom English is not their first language. Remember a beginner reader is not a beginner thinker. Help the learner to write a paragraph or a few sentences and then get them to read it back or cut it up and re-order it. This ensures that you work with language the learner is familiar with.

    In addition, NRDC research suggests learners benefit more from spending time working in pairs or small groups rather than working alone. Reading does not need to be a solitary activity but can be worked on collaboratively with peers. Young adults want to be treated as such, and will respond well to working in small groups or pairs. Allow them to dictate the material they read and adopt a non-judgemental approach to their choice of reading material. The important factor is to build confidence in reading so learners can adopt a range of texts, feel they can make mistakes and develop at their own pace. Start a library by encouraging your learners to donate books or magazines they have read or enjoyed supplement this with quick reads49. Have plenty of reading material available in informal or break-out areas.

    4.4.3 Speaking and listening

    Skills in speaking and listening, although they underpin almost all learning experiences, are often overlooked and rarely explicitly taught outside ESOL programmes. The ability to express what one is thinking, particularly about emotions

  • Developing Skills for the Future42

    and relationships, has a very important role to play in learning. The development of emotional intelligence negotiating roles and identity, taking responsibility for actions and feelings, and responding to the actions of others is made possible through speaking and listening. This personal and social development is particularly important for young adults. Speaking and listening can be developed through a wide range of learning activities and opportunities. Providing lots of opportunities for your learners to express themselves will help build their confidence. Modelling and discussing formal and informal language can help young adults understand the appropriateness of the language they use.

    You may want to consider bringing in a guest speaker for your learners to interview, or working with arts organisations to develop drama work or music activities to build oracy skills. Developing speaking and listening activities can often spill over into literacy and numeracy learning. Exploring the language of rap can stimulate lyric writing, for example, and discussing attitudes to spending and saving can lead to work on percentages.

    Two resource packs supporting the teaching of speaking and listening skills to learners whose first language is English have recently been published, and are available from The Skills for Life Support Programme50: Developing Speaking and Listening Skills: A support pack for staff working with offenders (ref S&LPACK01) and Improving Speaking and Listening Skills: a practical guide for Skills for Life teachers (ref S&LPACK02).

    Ideas to develop speaking and listening activities Posh talk discuss formal and informal versions of the same language. Learners

    need to match the pairs. This can be done as a card activity, where learners match the cards. Remember to tailor the language to your learners and to your region.

    Some examples are:

    Dear Sir Hi mate

    I wish to speak to the manager please Wheres the boss?

    I do not agree with your decision How much! Youre having a laugh

    Please resolve this matter Get it sorted

    The communication game make a board with symbols or pictures to indicate topics (sport, favourite food, TV programme etc). The players throw dice to move around the board. They must say something about the topic they land on. Alternatively, Talking Dice51, designed for language learning, are themed die with pi