ILLINOIS STATE LIBRARY
Lesson 11 - Instructional Materials
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John was asked to tutor two adult learners who both had the long-term goal of entering the college nursing program. Before John was scheduled to meet his students, he requested a meeting with the Volunteer Tutor Coordinator. John was not sure what types of materials to use during the tutoring session. He wanted to use materials that were relevant to the goals of the learner, but was not sure where to begin. He met with the Volunteer Tutor Coordinator to get her advice.
Question for consideration as you work through this lesson
How do you select instructional materials for tutoring and how do you adapt the materials to meet the needs of the learners?
As a potential tutor, you will want a variety of appropriate instructional materials to use with the adult learners you tutor. First, meet your adult learner and identify his or her learning goals, then select the appropriate instructional materials. To select the best materials, you will need to work closely with the Volunteer Tutor Coordinator and with the adult learner. You will need to select materials that are relevant, interesting and at the appropriate learning skill level. The adult learner should experience success while being challenged to improve his or her skills.
Selecting Instructional Materials
Relevant. Interesting. Appropriate skill level. Those are the key elements to remember as you begin to select instructional materials.
- Relevant. Use materials that are directly related to the learner's every day needs. Those needs may relate to their jobs, their families or other pressing issues in their lives. They may need to get a driver's license or they may need to find a place to live. Instructional materials can be found that relate to a learner's needs. Real life materials are often selected for their relevancy.
- Interesting. Use materials that the learner finds engaging. If the learner is a fisherman, the magazine Field and Stream might be appropriate. If the learner is a baseball fan, there are books on baseball heroes. If the learner wants to learn to cook, there are cookbooks. If they want to learn to read to their children, then children's books might be appropriate. If they need a driver's license, then Rules of the Road is the book to use. There are reading materials on any topic. Determine the learner's interests and find the materials that match those interests.
- Appropriate skill level. The Volunteer Tutor Coordinator will guide you initially to the correct level of materials. Appropriately leveled materials will challenge the learner to improve, but not be so difficult as to frustrate. Learners want to progress. No one wants to be bored or to fail. A word of caution: never select children's instructional materials for an adult learner even if the materials are at the appropriate skill level. Select material that is on an adult level, of interest to adults, and culturally appropriate. Children's literature is only appropriate when a parent requests that type of material so that they may learn to read to their child.
Read Text Considerations in Literacy Teaching and Learning by Timothy Rasinski and Nancy Padak for tips on what to consider as you look for materials to use in tutoring.
Types of Instructional Materials
The Volunteer Tutor Coordinator will have a selection of curricula for you to investigate. Literacy workbooks may be a good place for the tutor and learner to start. Browse the bookshelves at the agency. Ask for suggestions.
Another option is to explore using real life materials with the learner. Sometimes called authentic materials, such items might include job applications, lease agreements, sports magazines, TV guides, cookbooks, newspapers and so on. Real life materials can have a double impact as the learner improves his or her reading skills and learns, for instance, how to fill out a job application. Sometimes using real life materials can meet an immediate need of the adult learner. Certainly, real life materials often engage a learner's interest.
There are low vocabulary level, high-interest books at your local public library and at the literacy agency that might interest the learner. These books, both fiction and non-fiction, have been developed to meet the needs of new readers. Some learners come to tutoring with the goal of reading a whole book. These books may be one way to reach that goal.
A great location to access materials is the public library. There are books at all levels and on all topics. There are print, video and audio materials. Use the library as a learning lab. Make sure the learner gets a library card. Help the learner use the many opportunities presented at the library for his or her educational advancement.
Other Real Life Materials
Advertisements from newspapers, magazines, catalogs, bills, bus schedules, calendars, catalogs, comic strips, directions from appliances, driver's manuals, game boxes, directions, rules, greeting cards, invitations to parties and other events, labels from clothing, food, appliances or furniture, letters, lyrics of familiar songs, magazines, mail, manuals, maps, menus, newspapers, phone directories, post cards. The list is limited only by your imagination.
How do I begin selecting instructional materials?
In summary, a volunteer tutor begins selecting materials by working with the Volunteer Tutor Coordinator. Find out the range of materials that are available to you at the agency. Explore the materials that interest you. Question the Coordinator to find out the materials that he or she feels are effective.
When the day arrives for you to meet your learner for the first tutoring session you will go on to the next step in selecting materials. You will get to know your learner's interests, needs, and goals for future sessions. One strategy to use is the Language Experience strategy (Lesson 7, page 2) to elicit information about why the learner has enrolled in the tutoring program. With this information, you can plan upcoming sessions to include reading material relevant to the learner's needs and goals and interesting to the learner.