compiled by

Susan Hoddinott

July 9, 1991 (Resource List Updated December 1993)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements v

Introduction vi


Questions and Answers 1

Introduction 1


Teaching Adults 7

Introduction 7

Andragogy vs. Pedagogy 8

Setting The Climate 10

A Learner-Centered Approach 11

Learning Styles 12

Helping Adults Think About Their Learning Styles and Preferences 13

Sample Learning Styles/Preferences Questionnaire 15


Student Assessment and Placement 17

Introduction 17

Initial Interview 18

Registration/Interview Form 18

Introduction 18

Format 19

Initial Reading Assessment 26

Introduction 26

Reading Assessment Selections 27

Sample Selection 1 Prose Selection 27

Sample Selection 2 A Recipe 28

Sample Selection 3 A Business Letter 28

Sample Selection 4 A Form 29

Literacy Tests and Standardized Reading Tests 34


An Integrated Approach to Teaching 37

Introduction 37

Organization of the Integrated Unit 38

General Learning Objectives 38

Vocabulary/Concepts 38

Resources 38


Getting Started 39

Learning Activities 39

Accommodating Differing Skill Levels in Groups 39

Integrated Units








Teaching Writing In Adult Basic Education 135

Introduction 135

Using Language Experience in the Level I Program 137

What Is Language Experience? 137

How Does The Teacher Incorporate Language Experience into the Level I Program? 137

Suggestions for Using Language Experience Text to Teach Literacy Skills 139

Developing Topics Through Brainstorming 141

Using the Word Processor to Teach Writing in ABE 142

Printing, Publishing, and Using Student Writing 146

Suggestions for Incorporating Student Writing in Level I 147


Selecting, Writing and Adapting Materials 150

Introduction 150

Stocking Program Resources 150

Factors Affecting Readability 150

Readability Formulas 151

Fry Readability Formula 152

Matching Materials to Students' Reading Abilities 155

Listing Unknown Words 155

Cloze Procedure 155

Writing Basic English 156

Tips for Writing Easy-to-Read Material 157


Making Sense of Spelling 164

Introduction 164

Talking about spelling with your students 164


Determining assumptions about spelling 165

Conclusion 170


Reading And Writing Evaluation 172

Introduction 172

Writing Evaluation 172

Reading Evaluation 174

Charts 176

Introduction 176

Reading Evaluation Charts 176

Writing Evaluation Charts 177

CHART #1 183

CHART #2 185

CHART #3 189

CHART #4 193

CHART #5 195


Learning Disabilities and Adult Basic Education 196

Introduction 196

General Guidelines for Working With Learning Disabled Students 199

Some Characteristics Of The Written Expression Of Learning Disabled Students 201

How the Printed Page Looks to Some People 203



This Handbook for Teachers was written by Susan Hoddinott, Literacy Specialist, Avalon Community College and Coordinator of the ABE Level I Revision Project. The sections on Occupational Knowledge, Health, Science and Mathematics in Chapter 4, "An Integrated Approach to Teaching ABE", were written by Deanne Hulett of Avalon Community College.

The Handbook was produced by the Literacy Office of Avalon Community College.

[Chapter 6 of the Handbook, "Making Sense of Spelling", is a reprint of an article by Robin Millar, Adult Learning Specialist, Manitoba Department of Education and Training]

The Handbook was developed to support the implementation of the Adult Basic Education, Level I Program which was developed by Avalon Community College under contract to the Department of Education, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thanks for advice and input to the Adult Basic Education Level I Revision Team, Avalon Community College: Kathryn Clark, James Griffiths, Adele Sharpe and Audrey Simms

Thanks also to Doreen Newhook, Gail Gosse, and Carol Ann Hawco of Avalon Community College and Shirley Crewe of Labrador Community College

Thanks to the Provincial Advisory Committee, ABE Revision Project, for encouragement and advice throughout the Revision process and the Handbook development process.

Thanks to the National Literacy Secretariat for its support for the activities of the Literacy Office including the production of the Handbook.

Thanks to the Literacy Policy Office, Department of Education, for funding to complete the 1991 revision of the Handbook.

For permission to reprint material, thanks to:

Robin Millar, Adult Learning Specialist, Manitoba Department of Education and Training

Meredith Hutchings, Coordinator, North Branch Public Library Literacy Program, Halifax

The Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology


This Handbook for Teachers has been written to support the implementation of the revised Adult Basic Education, Level I Program in the province's institutions. It is one of two documents which all teachers in the new Level I program should have. The other document is the Adult Basic Education, Level I Program itself. That document contains:

The Program Goals

The Program Outline

A Listing of General Learning Objectives accompanied by Suggested Activities/Skill Areas

A Set of Skills Taxonomies

A Resource Materials List

The Handbook for Teachers does not repeat any sections of the Adult Basic Education, Level I Program. Rather, it provides guidance and support material for a number of areas of the new program. It also provides a discussion of some of the key issues which face the Level I teacher.

This is a very important time in the history of Adult Basic Education, Level I in Newfoundland and Labrador. For the first time, there is a thoroughly developed outline for the Level I program to the general learning objectives level. This marks a significant shift from previous Level I program development efforts. All previous Level I programs in this province have been based on particular sets of resource materials rather than on learning objectives.

Given the new program and the accompanying handbook, it is hoped that teachers will be able to create excellent learning opportunities which focus on the particular needs of the students. The program is designed to enable adults to achieve the fluency in reading and writing, to acquire the knowledge, and to develop the skills required to participate fully in their day to day lives as citizens, workers, parents, consumers and students.

New endeavours such as this one are exciting; they stimulate thought, action and creativity. But they also pose major challenges. This Handbook will help provide teachers with the guidance they will need to make the transition to the new program confidently and smoothly.

The Handbook is not intended to be prescriptive. Teachers, coordinators and institutions are ultimately responsible for the shape which their ABE programming takes. It is hoped, however, that the Adult Basic Education, Level I Program and the Handbook will provide the basis for the development of an approach to Level I programming which is responsive to the needs of adult students, open to innovation, and educationally sound.

Questions and Answers


The revised Adult Basic Education Level I Program breaks entirely new ground in Literacy level education in this province. Most Level I teachers--both those who have worked in Level I for years as well as those just starting--will have questions about the new program. While the Handbook addresses the majority of the questions and issues which will arise, we have tried to anticipate some of your questions and provide answers up front.

With the implementation of the new program, do we have to change everything we are currently doing in our ABE Level I programs?

No. Neither the ABE Program nor the Handbook for Teachers are prescriptions for changing everything you are currently doing. The new program does define program objectives for the first time and, also for the first time, there are general learning objectives which describe minimum competencies to be achieved by students finishing Level I. However, the learning objectives are very general and are not intended to limit the teacher or students. The first year or two should be viewed as a period of transition to the new program. Incorporating the learning objectives into your program will in many cases not entail a great deal of change since the objectives are consistent with what many programs in the province are already doing.

How do we assess students when they first enrol in the program?

There is no prescription for assessment and placement. This Handbook for Teachers does, however, offer several guidelines and suggestions for assessing and placing new students in the Level I program. The Handbook provides an initial Registration/Interview/Assessment form as well as samples of material which you could use to conduct assessments. Many teachers working in ABE will already have established procedures and principles for the assessment and placement of students. If your methods are working, by all means continue to use them.

It is recommended that all Level I teachers acquire a copy of the provincial Reading Assessment Kit, available either through the college or the Department of Education. The kit provides reading assessment selections related to the program content areas of ABE Level I and much of the content is local. It can be used for initial assessment and ongoing evaluation and can also provide a guide for assessing student readiness to enter Level II. For more information, see the Note on page 162 of the Handbook.

Do we need all of the resources listed in the ABE Level I Program Resource Materials list before we can start with the new program?

No. The new ABE Level I Program is not resource-based. There are no particular resources prescribed for program implementation. The titles in the Resource Materials list are suggestions only. It is, however, recommended that programs make an effort to accumulate some of those resources over time. They have been selected from a whole range of materials and many cover the general learning objectives areas very well. They are all appropriate in that they are adult, they are relevant, and there is a high proportion of Canadian content.

Your selection of resource materials will depend entirely on the make-up of your class and on the interests and needs which your students express and which you yourself determine. For example, classes which have a majority of beginning readers will obviously need to stock a higher proportion of materials at lower reading levels and will need to rely more on teacher and student produced materials.

How do we know when a student has satisfactorily attained a particular learning objective?

The general learning objectives are quite deliberately general. There is no prescription for evaluating whether an objective has been attained. The judgement must be subjective in any event. It is the responsibility of the teacher, along with the student, to make that judgement. The Suggested Activities and Skill Areas section of the ABE Level I Program will give you an idea of the intended scope of the objective. The Integrated Units chapter of this Handbook will also provide some guidelines.

How will we know when a student is ready to go on to Level II?

Depending on the institution you are working in, students may or may not have to be tested prior to acceptance into Level II. If your institution requires a certain score on a standardized reading test, then clearly there is not a lot of room for teacher judgement. If, however, your institution will accept a student into Level II on a teacher's recommendation, then you must make the judgement along with the student. All Level I teachers should become familiar with the level of difficulty of materials used in Level II. You should also be aware of the teaching methods used in the Level II programs in your institution. Both of those elements should inform your judgement about whether a Level I student is ready to make the transition.

When a student's reading and writing abilities are getting near those required for Level II material, you should have the student work with the actual Level II materials in the Level I program. You and the student will be able to judge whether the material can be managed or whether it is too difficult. Selections from the Reading Assessment Kit (See page 2 above) will also be useful in determining reading readiness for Level II.

What can we do to help ensure the student makes a successful transition to Level II?

The following activities and procedures should help ensure that students who go on to ABE Level II succeed:

Have the student work with Level II materials as soon as his or her literacy level allows.

When the student is nearing the completion of the Level I program (i.e. is reading fluently enough to cope with Level II material), try and make arrangements for him or her attend a Level II class from time to time. Students in Level I programs will in all likelihood be working one-to-one with the teacher at their own pace a fair proportion of the time. Encountering a different teaching methodology and a faster pace can pose an insurmountable hurdle to the Level I graduate who has not been prepared for it. Where the number of students nearing the end of Level I warrants, special Level II bridging classes make the ideal form of transition from Level I to Level II.

Although we should not deny students the intensive assistance and support which one-to-one teaching can provide, we must be careful not to create dependency on the teacher. Combining one-to-one instruction with group teaching, and having students work in groups will allow them to develop a range of learning strategies as well as the ability to work both on their own and with other students. Developing these abilities will greatly increase their chances of coping with the higher levels of ABE successfully.

Testing is not recommended as a regular element of the Level I program. However, developing study skills is included in the general learning objectives. And, clearly, if students are going to be successful in Level II, they must have developed some test taking abilities prior to entering Level II. The Level I program provides an opportunity to learn appropriate study skills as well as develop test taking skills in an environment which is non-threatening and non-competitive. Note that we are not recommending testing in the Level I program; rather, we are recommending that testing be a subject of study, practice and discussion.

Make an effort to locate the Level I class as near as possible to other levels of ABE classes. This will make it easier to have Level I students sit in on Level II classes. It will also allow for an opportunity to mix the groups occasionally for films, guest speakers and other learning activities. This would be a highly motivating exercise for Level I students and would eliminate the isolation and the stigma which frequently accompany the segregation of Level I programs.

If a student comes to the program with a particular goal (i.e. to get a driver's license, to learn to read maps, to learn to do reports for work, etc.), does he or she have to work within the general learning objectives of the ABE Level I Program?

No. The general learning objectives provide a basic outline of the minimum competencies to be attained by students being awarded the ABE Level I completion certificate. If a student comes with an already defined objective for learning, does not want a Level I certificate, and has no intention of going on to further levels of ABE, then the Program outline is not applicable. (Although, obviously, many of the learning objectives in the Communications section of the program would apply to all students.) The teacher should in those cases allow the student to focus on his or her particular objective. However, teachers should also be aware that students' objectives very often change as they acquire exposure to learning and the skill and confidence which result. Students should not be segregated according to whether they are aiming to complete the program or not. The option of a student's changing his or her goal should always remain open.

If a student is almost ready to move on to Level II when he or she enters Level I, is it necessary to cover all the general learning objectives?

Again, the answer is no. Only students who start the program well within the Literacy level range and expect to be awarded the Level I certificate need to cover all the general learning objective areas. Students whose reading levels are already fairly advanced usually only need a few months to brush up on their skills and get used to being in an educational program before going on to Level II. They should certainly be working within the general learning objectives areas but there is no requirement to cover all the areas. In the case of a very short stay when very few of the learning objectives had been covered, the student would not be awarded a Level I completion certificate. Institutions do not require a Level I certificate for admission into Level II in any event.

Teaching Adults


Most people recruited to teach in Adult Basic Education have been trained and/or have worked principally in the education of children. While there is much common ground in the teaching of adults and children, there are also distinct differences which the teacher should be aware of.

The age of ABE students ranges from 17 to 70 and over, with the average age generally in the 25 to 45 range. There are many characteristics we can assume about this student grouping, including:

The majority of students are mature intellectually, socially and emotionally.

The majority of students bring a wealth of experience and knowledge in a variety of areas to the program.

The majority of students are accustomed to the responsibilities of jobs and families and many have taken responsible roles in their communities as well.

For the majority of students, upgrading their education is only one of many demands they are currently meeting including earning a living and contributing to the running of a household.

These characteristics have direct implications for the ABE program and for teachers of ABE. All decisions with respect to conducting programs should be based on the following considerations:

Sensitivity and respect for the student's maturity. Mutual respect and support should characterize the relationship between student and teacher.

Recognition of the experience and knowledge which the student brings to the class. An atmosphere which emphasizes the value of all kinds of experience and knowledge and which incorporates that into the program through the active participation of all students will ensure a productive learning environment.

Recognition of the responsible roles which students assume in their lives. Students must be allowed to take equivalent responsibility within the program. They should be encouraged to share with the teacher the responsibility for determining their own needs and for making decisions about what works in terms of programming.

Recognition of the multiple demands on the student's time and attention. Teachers must allow the necessary flexibility in view of those demands. This can mean not pressuring students when they are unable to attend class for a while, but rather helping them find ways of continuing to learn while they are away. It can also mean that a student may at times be too preoccupied to participate in certain kinds of intensive or demanding learning activities. The teacher must allow students to have a role in deciding when they will do certain kinds of activities.

Andragogy vs. Pedagogy

Although the majority of ABE teachers may not have had specific training in the teaching of adults, many will be familiar with some of the literature on adult education. Many will have encountered the term "andragogy" in the literature. It is a term which has been relatively newly coined (you won't find it in your old dictionary!) to describe an approach to education distinct from "pedagogy", which usually refers to the teaching of children. In fact the term derives from the Greek word, andros, meaning man. ("Pedagogy" derives from the Greek word for boy, paidos.) The distinction between "andragogy" and "pedagogy" is not simply the difference in the ages of the participants, however. As James Draper(1) has pointed out, although the terms are usually assumed to refer to age groups, "the differences between the two have nothing to do with age, but rather represent different philosophical orientations or approaches to teaching and learning." In the same essay Draper has summarized some of the key differences between pedagogy and andragogy as follows:

- the concept of the learner within the pedagogical framework is that of a dependent learner, whereas in the andragogical framework, the learner is increasingly self-directed and independent;

- pedagogically, motivation is based on external rewards as compared with internal incentives and curiosity within andragogy;

- the climate for learning is characterized, for pedagogy, by one of formal authority, competitiveness and judgment, as compared with an informal climate with andragogy, which is mutually respectful, consensual, collaborative, and supportive;

- planning is primarily done by the pedagogue as compared with andragogy where participation in decision-making prevails;

- in pedagogy, the diagnosis of needs is done primarily by the teacher as compared with mutual assessment in andragogy;

- learning activities are either transmittal techniques and assigned readings as compared with inquiry projects, independent study and experimental techniques within andragogy;

- in pedagogy, evaluation is primarily external to the student and done by the authority teacher, as compared with self-assessment which characterizes the andragogical approach.

Most people who have only had the experience of a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning (and that includes most everybody) will probably expect their education as adults to be similar. They may expect to be dependent on the teacher and may want to defer to the teacher's authority; they may require test results and grades in order to feel that they are progressing; they may undervalue their own ability to determine their needs and help plan a program and may be suspicious of a teacher who proposes it; they may be inclined to see workbooks, reading assignments and lectures as the only legitimate learning activities and may view activities such as discussions, research, and roleplays as nonproductive.

It is perfectly natural for adult students to return to education with all their previous assumptions about education intact. The first challenge for the teacher then is to facilitate a transition to what may be called an andragogical outlook--one in which the student acts independently, perceives the teacher as a guide rather that as a figure of authority, sees learning as the means to self-defined ends, and willingly participates in shaping and evaluating his or her own learning experiences.

Setting The Climate

Malcolm Knowles(2) refers to this facilitation of an andragogical outlook as "setting the climate" --creating an environment in which students will be encouraged to play a more independent and active role than they may at first have expected or even have been willing to play.

Initial Interview

Setting the climate for a learning environment in which students will feel that they can take some control over their learning must begin the first time a student and teacher meet. The initial interview should make the student feel comfortable and it should also establish that the course content is not preset, that it will depend to a large extent on the student's needs both as he or she defines them and as they become apparent in the course of instruction.

Classroom Arrangement

Setting the climate also means arranging the classroom in a way which makes the promise of a mutually respectful and supportive relationship between student and teacher, as well as among students, achievable. A seating arrangement which situates the teacher at the front of the room and students in rows of desks is a typical arrangement in most educational settings. Such an arrangement separates the teacher from the students and puts him or her clearly in a position of authority. It also separates the students from each other. The main eye contact in the room is between student and teacher. When such seating arrangements are used, the opportunities for students to establish relationships and to work together are severely limited. If, on the other hand, the arrangement allows students to sit together at tables at which the teacher also sits, the automatic assumptions of control and hierarchy are not there. Of course, teachers can be just as controlling and students just as dependent and powerless at round tables as in rows of desks. However, the teacher who wishes to create a more democratic classroom in which all students feel that they can influence what happens and what they learn, is helped immensely by such an arrangement and hindered by the traditional arrangement. The ideal classroom arrangement has a number of tables at which two or three people can work as well as a few smaller tables for students who are not yet comfortable working openly and close to others or for students who need privacy to concentrate on a particular assignment.

A Learner-Centered Approach

Conducting an initial interview which establishes the ground for open and participatory teaching and learning, and arranging the classroom in a way which is conducive to this is, of course, only the beginning. All too often students are told they will be able to participate in determining the program and are placed in classrooms which do not at all resemble their previous school experience, only to find out that little else has changed. Books are selected, exercises set and rules made by the teacher without reference to the students. This is something the ABE teacher should guard against. It is easy to promise students that they will have a degree of control, that the program will be "learner-centered" in that it will center on their needs and interests; it is much more difficult to follow through on this promise both because democracy is not "efficient" --it takes work--and because both the student and the teacher will in all likelihood have had no previous experience of anything but the traditional student/teacher roles.

In order to feel that they can exercise a degree of control, students must have a clear idea of the aims and objectives of the program. The teacher should clearly outline the general program objectives to the student and should ensure that the student knows what will be required in order to achieve particular objectives. Students and teachers will need to understand the difference between "learner-centered" and a "do whatever you like, and nothing if you please" approach. Learner-centered does not mean there is no program. If a student's goal is to complete the Level I program, then clearly there are objectives to be met. However, there is no prescribed means of achieving those objectives. This is where the teacher and student have the latitude to make the program learner-centered. For example, the learning objectives relating to health in the ABE Program Outline are general. Learning activities directed to the achievement of those activities can and should focus on the student's needs and interests within the broad areas outlined.

Students should become familiar with the full range of resources in the classroom as soon as possible after they enrol. In this way they will have an idea of their choices in the selection of materials for study. The teacher should make a special effort to point out the materials which are generally within the student's independent reading range and encourage him or her to browse freely. The student may be reluctant to do this at first so the teacher should repeat the invitation as often as necessary. The teacher might also make a point of showing students particular materials as their interests become known. Students should feel free to move around the classroom as they wish, to work with other students to the extent that it is mutually agreeable, and to leave the classroom without asking permission if they need to. Teachers ought to establish with the students at the outset what the limits to free movement are (if any) and what the expectations will be. For example, there may need to guidelines established for attendance (i.e. should students call in if they can't make a particular class, should they call in only if they will be missing several classes, etc.). Whatever the arrangement, it should be clear to everybody. Responsibility for balancing the student's freedom and autonomy with the need for order and regularity within the program must be jointly shared between the students and the teacher.

Students should be encouraged to continuously evaluate learning materials and learning activities. They should understand from the beginning that not all materials are of equal value; they may enjoy some more than others and may find some more helpful than others. It should be established from the outset that there are no required textbooks and that the learning objectives of the program can be accomplished through using a wide variety of print and non-print material. The teacher may have to prompt the student in the beginning. After an activity or a text has been started, the teacher might periodically ask questions to elicit the student's opinion of the activity or text, i.e.: "How is it going? Do you like this book/doing this? Do you think it's helping you? Would you like to try something else?" It may take a while for students to realize that the inquiry is genuine and serious. They may be inclined in the beginning to profess to like whatever they are presented with. They may be afraid that to say otherwise would be to challenge the teacher's judgement. Most of them will have learned not to do this. The teacher will have to be sensitive to their reluctance and try and establish a relationship which will make it easy for the students to speak their minds.

Learning Styles

Teachers and students in ABE should be aware of the variety of ways in which humans learn. And the program should provide a wide enough spectrum of learning activities to cover the range of learning styles that will exist in any group of students. For example, some students will learn well through print and independent study. Others will benefit more from the visual or oral presentation of information either through lecture, guest speaker, discussion or film. Some students will need to write information in order to remember it; others may have developed a greater capacity for remembering what they have seen or heard without the benefit of notes. It is likely that a significant number of students working in Level I of the ABE program will have developed ways of learning which are not dependent on reading or writing. The teacher must ensure that they are permitted to continue to learn in the ways they have developed while they learn to make more use of reading and writing. The value of non-reading ways of learning should be appreciated and promoted. If the program is conducted so that a wide range of activities and media are used regularly (reading and writing exercises, discussions, roleplays, films, videos, tapes, lectures, guest speakers, experiments, demonstrations, field trips, etc.) the teachers and the students are more likely to discover what works best for each student. Students should be assisted with determining the ways in which they learn best and encouraged to use that knowledge to maximize their learning.

Finally, teachers should keep in mind that the program is not intended to teach adults all they will need to know in order to function well in their day to day lives as citizens, workers, consumers, parents, and students. This could not possibly be done, even if it were desirable, since the demands are so different for each of us and tomorrow's demands often cannot be anticipated today. What the program should do instead is help students learn how to learn.

Helping Adults Think About Their Learning Styles and Preferences

Most students in the ABE Level I program will probably come with the expectation that conditions will be dictated to them. In their first experiences of school it is likely that they had little choice about things such as when they could do particular activities and assignments; whether they could work alone, with a partner, or with a group; how much homework they did, etc. They may not have thought about learning activities in terms of the conditions under which they would be most effective because, for the most part, it has not been a matter of choice to them.

A major part of the teacher's role in creating a learner-centered program is to help the students understand that they have a role in determining conditions. But in most cases this will not be sufficient. The teacher will also need to facilitate students learning how to take control of their learning environment in a way which allows them to maximize their learning.

A good starting point--after the students are comfortable in the program setting--would be to have them reflect on their own learning preferences. This could be done by having an initial discussion either with an individual or the group. The teacher could develop a questionnaire based on his or her knowledge of the students. Most standard Learning Styles questionnaires would need to be adapted for use in the ABE program.

Students could discuss the questions and the intent of the questionnaire either alone with the teacher or in the group. They might then be given a week or two to think about the questions as they go about their studying and learning activities. In completing the questionnaire the students should be given the choice of doing it at home with or without help; with the teacher's assistance; or with one or more other students in the program. The teacher should ensure there is a time set aside after the questionnaires are completed for discussing the answers. Students should understand that their preferences will help shape the way their program is conducted and should be asked to participate in the process.

Sample Learning Styles/Preferences Questionnaire

Read the four questions below and circle the choices which you think are most like you. In some cases, there may be two or three choices which suit you. You should circle as many as you think apply to you.

1. What time of the day do you find best for learning?

a. morning

b. afternoon

c. evening

2. Which of the following arrangements do you prefer to learn in?

a. by yourself

b. you and a teacher

c. in a small group (3-4)

d. in a larger group (7-8)

e. with another student

f. with a friend or family member

3. What is the best way you learn something?

a. by reading it

b. by hearing it

c. by writing it in your own words

d. by seeing it (pictures, television, visits to museums, etc.)

e. by trying to explain it to someone else

f. by talking about it with someone else

g. by drawing it out on paper (a diagram or picture)

4. Do any of the following things bother you when you are learning?

a. being in a noisy place

b. being in a very quiet place

c. being interrupted (by a teacher, another student, a family member)

d. having a radio or television on

e. having to stop what you are doing before you have finished it

f. having to wait for others to finish before you can go on

Student Assessment and Placement


One of the most important concerns for Level I teachers and coordinators is the assessment and placement of new students in programs. Many programs in Newfoundland and elsewhere have relied on the use of standardized reading tests to determine students' entry reading levels. The Gates McGinitie reading tests (designed for primary schools) have been used in many centers for placement in Literacy programs. Other centers have used the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and more recently its Canadian equivalent, the Canadian Adult Achievement Test (CAAT).

Standardized tests have not been used extensively in part-time ABE programs in this province. In the past they were used somewhat more in Level I, however. In recent years, the majority of centers have discontinued the use of standardized tests in Level I for two reasons:

the tests do not yield any practical information which the Level I teacher can use in planning a program for a student. A grade reading equivalency does not tell the teacher or the student what areas of reading, writing or mathematics present problems, nor does it suggest an approach for addressing these problems.

testing in any situation can be a very stressful experience. For the adult who has taken the major step of coming back to an educational program after many years and who has already had the experience of failure in the educational system, testing is usually very traumatic. Indeed, it is common for adults to be so stressed by the testing that the results do not give a true picture of their reading ability at all. Many will simply leave when they realize that they have to do a test or will not return after the initial testing.

It is recommended that teachers and organizers in Level I programs do not use standardized reading tests for the purpose of initial assessment and placement. The process of determining what students' abilities and needs are--the single most important element in any program--should not be short cut. The purpose of assessment is to help the teacher and the student determine what the student's needs and interests are and what skill areas and general learning objective areas will need to be addressed. There is no quick or easy way to pinpoint particular problems an individual might have with reading, writing, mathematics, etc. Assessment has to be an ongoing process which only begins when the student and teacher meet for the first time.

Initial Interview

It is recommended that an initial meeting/interview be set up and that a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes be set aside for this purpose. The interview is the first assessment of both ability and need and it is the basis for your first efforts at needs assessment and individualized program planning. It must be emphasized that no attempt should be made to assign a reading grade level within the first few weeks of the student's entering the program. Indeed, you may not see the necessity of assigning a reading grade level at all. It is true that students will often ask what grade they are working at. What they usually are asking with such a question is how long they can expect to have to stay in the program before accomplishing their goal or moving on to the next level. Those questions can be answered without administering a standardized reading test and assigning a grade reading level. And they ought to be answered in a way which is both sensitive to the students's need for encouragement and respectful of his or her right to such information. Your ongoing assessment and evaluation should provide you and the student with enough information to answer those concerns about performance and progress. Ongoing evaluations which involve the students and which help them understand how some learning strategies are useful and some counterproductive will also be the means of making students aware that learning is a process which can be understood and influenced to some extent.

Registration/Interview Form


The following pages provide an example of a registration form which can be used to structure an initial interview. Teachers and coordinators may use the form as is or adapt and modify it as they wish. You may find as you use it that parts make sense to you and seem to work in the interview while other parts work less well. The interview structure is intended to provide an alternative to testing for students entering programs. The form presented here combines personal information, goal clarification and assessment.


The first section of the form documents basic personal information which will be necessary for administrative record keeping. It also contains questions relating to past education and training which may be of use for general assessment purposes as well as for determining interests and programming needs. The interview section is intended to elicit the students' reasons for entering the program as well as their long terms goals; this section also provides a beginning assessment of reading and writing abilities, needs and interests. The order in which the questions are organized is not meant to suggest the order in which the interview is to be conducted. It is recommended that the teacher/interviewer try to establish an informal, relaxed atmosphere in which the student feels comfortable and unintimidated. Most of the information can be gathered through a fairly informal "ice-breaking" conversation rather than through a question/answer exchange. The teacher/interviewer should try in this first interview to ascertain how confidential students wish their attendance in the program to be. This may be an issue if for any reason a message needs to be left for the student at home or at work.

The registration procedure is intended to give the student an opportunity to articulate his or her needs, goals and expectations. It is also designed to provide a means of estimating the level of reading and writing the student is able to handle independently at the time of entering the program. The form provides for two ways of making this estimation:

1. Interview--asking the students direct questions about:

their experience in school

their perceptions about their reading and writing abilities and problems

how often they read or write or attempt to read or write

the kinds of reading and writing activities they engage in

the situations in which reading and/or writing present problems

their strategies for coping when they have problems reading or writing

Students usually have a very good idea of their reading abilities and weaknesses. The questions about the amount and kinds of materials read and the kinds of problems encountered in reading and writing can provide a more concrete picture of the student's level of literacy. These questions can also yield important information about the student's confidence and resourcefulness in terms of employing alternate reading/writing/coping strategies.

2. Selecting one or two short reading passages of appropriate difficulty as determined by the interview and asking the student to:

read orally, having first been given time to become familiar with the passage; and/or read silently and tell what the passage is about orally

write three or four sentences about the passage (opinion, paraphrasing, or whatever seems appropriate to the topic). Alternatively, students can be asked to write a few sentences about themselves or another topic of their choice.

It is critical that students should only be asked to read and write when they feel comfortable, both with the interviewer and in the interview location. Depending on the situation and the student's feelings, the reading and writing can be scheduled for another meeting. Reading passages for this exercise can be selected from material commonly used in the class.

[Alternatively, the student could complete a series of reading selections such as the samples included in the Initial Reading Assessment section of the Handbook, page 26]










Magazines Books Comics

Newspapers Letters Forms

Recipes Instructions


Supermarket Mail Notes From School

Children's Homework Medical Prescriptions


WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM READING SOMETHING? (For example, do you try and sound out words, do you read ahead and then go back and try and figure it out, or do you skip the words you don't know?) ARE WRITING AND SPELLING A PROBLEM FOR YOU? HOW OFTEN DO YOU WRITE? WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU WRITE?

Letters Notes to Teachers Grocery Lists


OTHER WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU NEED TO WRITE SOMETHING BUT YOU DON'T FEEL ABLE TO DO IT? (For example, do you get family members to help, ask someone else to do it for you, leave it undone?)

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL INTERESTS? (For example, would you like to learn about mechanics, crafts, childcare, nutrition, history, current news, etc.?)

Reading/Writing Assessment









Initial Reading Assessment


The object of an initial reading assessment is simply for the teacher and the student to get an idea of how the student reads and to start to determine what aspects of his or her reading will need to be worked on. Teachers who decide to use standardized reading tests as a means of doing an initial assessment do not actually gain much information about the student's abilities which they might use to plan a reading program. Most reading tests will simply yield a grade equivalency score. And both the value and meaning of grade equivalency reading scores are very much open to question. Herbert Kohl, a well respected American educator, has written:

They (Standardized Reading Tests) measure non-defined levels of reading growth. There is no such thing as a 6.5 as opposed to 6.4 or 6.6 level of reading. These numbers were developed by averaging out the results of applying the test to a sample of students (the so-called normalizing or standardizing group) so the scores would come out in years and months to fit the number of years and months in school year. The numbers do not have meaning in terms of the process of reading.(3)

While we realize that students may be subjected to standardized reading tests in order to be accepted into further upgrading in some institutions and for some programs, it is recommended that teachers make use of alternative ways of assessing reading skills when the student enters the Level I program. This would lessen the stress on the student and provide a great deal more information for both the teacher and the student to work with in terms of planning a program.

The Registration/Interview form in this section of the Handbook provides a framework for structuring an initial assessment through informal conversation as well as through short reading and writing tasks. The Reading/Writing Assessment section of the form is deliberately open-ended. Many teachers will have developed their own assessment tools and, as they become familiar with the procedure of initial assessment and placement, they will change and adapt as it seems appropriate.

For teachers who are just beginning in the Level I program and who do not want to use standardized reading tests, the following pages present some ideas for the initial assessment of reading skills. The ideas are based on similar assessment tools developed by Literacy teachers in the United Kingdom and published by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit.

Teachers may use the selections on the following pages if they seem appropriate. Alternatively, these selections might give teachers ideas for making their own selections. Teachers should note that the selections are intended to be examples only. It is not suggested that the following pages can constitute a program's assessment kit; rather, teachers can use the examples to compile sets of similar material at varying degrees of difficulty. As they use materials such as these in the ways suggested, they will undoubtedly discover a range of uses for the assessment that are not suggested here.

The selections in the following pages have been chosen to represent something of the variety of reading which adults encounter in their day to day lives. Such a selection provides for an assessment of skills which is not limited to items such as word recognition and literal comprehension, items which are normally the focus of standardized testing. They can also provide insights into how the student is able to differentiate varying formats and vary reading strategies accordingly--in other words, how he or she copes.

Reading Assessment Selections

There are four selections actually provided here:

a continuous piece of prose

a recipe

a simple business letter

a simple form

The teacher can add to these selections by bringing two or more of the following items to the assessment:

local newspaper

local store flyers

TV guide

popular magazine

The four reading samples provided in the following pages vary in difficulty. Although there has been no attempt to determine their "readability" level, the overall level of the four selections is fairly simple. The teacher might want to make or choose some more difficult samples to add to these. If these selections are used and a student seems to have no difficulty with one, it is advisable to have him or her continue through all four selections, nevertheless. The differing formats allow for a different type of questioning. For example, a reader who can read a continuous piece of prose fluently may have trouble with another format.

Initial Reading Assessment
Sample Selections

Sample Selection 1 Prose Selection


In introducing the first selection, the teacher should first give the student some background information. Explain that the selection is taken out of a book. If you have Woman of Labrador in your program, it would be a good idea to have it on hand to show the student. In any event, talk about what the book is about and give the student the opportunity to respond, either to share information and views or ask questions.

Allow the student adequate time to read the selection and encourage him or her to reread if s/he wants to. Then ask a few questions, combining both literal and inferential comprehension.

Some examples of questions your might ask:

Where was Elizabeth Goudie born?

Why did she have to work so hard as a child?

What do you think she means by girls' work and boys' work?

What is one particular job she remembers having to do?

How do you think she feels about her childhood?

What was her father like?

Sample Selection 2 A Recipe


To start the second selection, explain that it is a recipe for fish cakes. Talk informally with the student about the kinds of foods s/he likes, whether fish cakes are a regular part of his or her diet, whether s/he has ever made fish cakes, etc.

Allow the student adequate time to read the recipe. Then ask appropriate questions based on what you know about the student from the conversation. Examples might include:

Is this recipe like the one you use/does this sound like the fish cakes your are used to?

What are the main ingredients of the fish cakes?

In your own words, tell me how to make fish cakes according to this recipe?

What do you have to do with the fish in the recipe? (i.e. soak, boil, mash, fry)

Sample Selection 3 A Business Letter


To start the third selection, explain that it is a business letter from a company to a woman. Ask the student if s/he ever writes or receives letters from businesses or government in the mail? What types of letters? How does s/he deal with the letters?

Allow the student adequate time to read the letter. Then ask questions to determine the student's ability to get information from the format of the letter as well as from the text.

Examples might include:

What is the name of the company sending this letter?

Who is the letter written to?

Who wrote the letter? What is her job?

When was the letter written?

Why is the company writing the letter to Mary Smith?

Where does Mary Smith live?

What does Mary Smith have to do?

What decision do you think she will make about the sink?

Sample Selection 4 A Form


To start the fourth selection, explain to the student that s/he will be asked to fill out a mock application form. The form asks for the kind of information typically asked for in application forms. Advise the student to read the application form over before beginning to fill it out.

Allow the student adequate time to fill out the form. Check the completed form for accuracy and completeness. Discuss with the student any parts s/he may not have been able to fill out. Your observations might include:

Did the student notice the instructions to print the information?

Did the student put the information in the order requested?

Were there words/concepts which the student did not understand? (i.e. marital, next of kin)

Was the form filled out neatly within the space provided?

Initial Reading Assessment
Sample Selection 1


I was born April 20, 1902, at Mud Lake, Labrador. I was the oldest and my father kind of took me over and saw to it I did my share of the work. Mother was always busy with the smaller ones so I had to do girls' work and boys' work too. Father was often around when I was doing my work and saw to it I did it right, so I spent a lot of time with him and he became one of the best friends of my life besides being my father. He was a gentle man and he was kind but we didn't get away with anything. When we were told to do something we had to do it without any delay, but I always respected him for that.

I remember so well when my father started expecting me to get out of bed at five o'clock in the morning and have my mother's breakfast on the table by six o'clock. To me it seemed to be a very hard task, but I made a try at it. This was the beginning of a hard working life for me and this was expected of the average Labrador girl at that time.

(Excerpted from Woman of Labrador by Elizabeth Goudie, The Book Society of Canada Limited, 1983)

Initial Reading Assessment
Sample Selection 2

Fish Cakes

2 lb. salt cod fish 8 medium potatoes

1/4 cup flour 1 medium onion

small piece salt pork

1. Soak the fish overnight

2. Boil the fish for 15 minutes

3. Boil the potatoes and mash them

4. Cut the onion into small pieces

5. Cut the salt pork into small pieces

6. Fry the pork in a frying pan until it is brown

7. Remove the pieces of pork from the pan but leave the fat to fry the fish cakes in

8. Mix the mashed potatoes, the fish, and the onion together and make it into cakes

9. Dip the cakes into the flour

10. Fry the cakes on both sides until they are brown

Initial Reading Assessment
Sample Selection 3

5 First Street
St. John's, NF
A1C 2P6

January 28, 1991

Ms. Mary Smith

P.O. Box 45

Gate Cove, NF

A9K 4A8

Dear Ms. Smith:

We received your order for a double kitchen sink [Order # 3487] on January 26. We are very sorry but the sink you ordered is not in stock at present. We can substitute your order with another sink from our current stock. The sink we would supply you actually costs $20.00 more than the one you ordered. It is the same size as the one you ordered. We will let you have the higher priced sink for the same price as the one you ordered if you would like.

Please let us know if you would like us to send the sink that is in stock. You can speed up your order by telephoning us at 721-3456.

We are very sorry for any inconvenience.

Yours truly,

Margaret Black

Business Manager

Initial Reading Assessment
Sample Selection 4


[Please Print]













Literacy Tests and Standardized Reading Tests

It is recommended that in general teachers and students work together to assess reading and writing skills on an individual basis. This should not ordinarily require anything more than reading materials which are interesting and relevant to the student and writing activities which arise naturally out of the program or out of real life situations. However, if the teacher or the student would like to use a more formal kind of testing, there are a few tests of literacy skills which may be useful. The British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training has several assessment kits available including:

The Adult Basic Literacy Assessment Kit. This kit is described in The Adult Basic Literacy Curriculum Guide and Resource Book (BC) as follows: "The kit assumes that reading is the process used to unlock meaning; the meaning of the selections is the concern of the included items. For that reason, you will find no items for assessing phonic or syllabication skills. The kit is practical in its emphasis; it assesses skills individually. For example, the ability to use context clues to identify unknown words, the ability to pronounce unknown words, and the ability to find the main ideas."

A.B.E. Assessing English Skills: Reading

A.B.E. Assessing English Skills: Writing

All three are recommended. They can all be ordered from Provincial Curriculum Publications, Marketing Department, Open Learning Agency, P.O. Box 94,000, Richmond, British Columbia V6Y 2A2 Telephone: (604) 660-2190

Literacy Volunteers of America also has a reading assessment kit which tests for word recognition and word analysis skill. R.E.A.D. (Reading Evaluation Adult Diagnosis Kit) can be ordered from: Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc., Widewaters One Office Building, 5795 Widewaters Parkway, Syracuse, New York 13214 Telephone: (315) 445-8000

Occasionally a student will request to be tested and very occasionally someone will insist on it. It is understandable that students who have been tested prior to coming to the program and been given a grade reading level would want to know, after they have been in the program for awhile, whether their tested reading level has increased. Students who are considering applying for a program where a test is required could also benefit from an exposure to standardized testing. So, while standardized testing is not recommended within the Level I Program, it is recognized that teachers might need to use the tests occasionally. The two standardized reading Tests currently in use in the institutions in Newfoundland are the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE), and the Canadian Adult Achievement Test (CAAT). The TABE Levels E (Easy) and M (Medium) cover reading levels 2.6 - 6.9. Levels D (Difficult) and A (Advanced) cover reading levels 6.6 - 12.9. The CAAT has three levels of assessment. Level A covers 1-4; Level B covers 5-8; and Level C covers 9-12.

TABE tests can be ordered from the Canadian Test Centre, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 330 Progress Avenue, Scarborough, Ontario M1P 2A5 Telephone: (416) 293-1911

CAAT tests can be ordered from The Psychological Corporation, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Canada, 55 Horner Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M8Z 4X6 Telephone: (416) 255-4491

An Integrated Approach to Teaching


The Adult Basic Education Level I program has two broad areas of general learning objectives: Communications and Program Content Areas.

The process of developing general learning objectives under these two categories assumed an approach to teaching which would integrate the learning objectives from both categories. In other words, it is recommended that the learning objectives listed in the Communications section be pursued through reading, writing, discussing, viewing, and listening to a variety of materials related to the Program Content Areas. This approach is consistent with the overall program objective of grounding literacy instruction in the real issues and materials which the adult students have to deal with in their day to day lives as citizens, workers, consumers, parents, and students. An integrated approach is also clearly more efficient than an alternative approach which would have students working with two separate sets of curriculum materials--one for Communications and one for Program Content Areas.

Teaching Communication skills through materials related to the Program Content Areas does not mean that instruction in Communications using materials or activities which concentrate on specific skills cannot take place. Indeed, there will always be a necessity to focus on specific skills within Communications and there will be times when workbooks, drill exercises, and controlled vocabulary reading may be appropriately used. What the integration means, rather, is that the major focus of the program in terms of resources should be on materials relating to the program content areas: Government and Law, Consumer Education, Occupational Knowledge, Social Studies, and Health and Science. Mathematics should also be integrated into all of the other content areas in such a way as to ensure that mathematical operations and concepts are not understood simply as abstractions but are used to enhance students' abilities and increase their sense of control in those areas.

This chapter presents a suggested method of integrating the categories of general learning objectives through the development of Integrated Units. In the development of Integrated Units, each of the general learning objectives listed in the ABE Level I Program (Content Area) has been elaborated in terms of the learning activities which could facilitate the attainment of that particular objective as well as the attainment of objectives within Communications and Mathematics.

Organization of the Integrated Unit

The Integrated Units presented here are organized under five headings:

General Learning Objectives



Getting Started

Learning Activities

General Learning Objectives

Each unit begins with a breakdown of the general learning objectives which will be worked on in the suggested learning activities and through the suggested resources in that unit. The learning objectives include all the objectives for the particular content area as outlined in the ABE Level I Program as well as the targeted Communications and Mathematics objectives.


At the beginning of each of the units there is a list of the vocabulary and concepts which are central to that content area. Although many of the terms may already be familiar to the student, the aim of the unit is to enable the student to understand the terms and concepts more fully and to develop related skills.


Each of the units has a fairly extensive list of resources which are recommended for working within the units. Many of the resources are available within the home, the institution, or the community. All other recommended materials are listed in the Resource Materials list of the ABE Level I Program or at the end of the section. It is not necessary to have all of the materials listed, although some are especially recommended within certain sections of the unit. The materials which are actually chosen for use will depend on the students' interests and needs.

Getting Started

This section serves to remind the teacher that all learning activities must start from where the student is. It suggests ways of assessing needs and stimulating interest within the content area. It also underlines the importance of allowing student input to help shape the instruction, the learning activities, and the selection of resources.

Learning Activities

This section of the unit describes a range of learning activities which could be pursued by individual students or by groups of students. The learning activities focus on the learning objectives and key concepts within each of the program content areas. In some sections, resources are suggested. It should be noted that the learning activities are only suggestions. They are intended to help focus and clarify the learning objectives for the teacher; there is no intention of limiting the teacher. The learning activity outlines are deliberately open-ended; they describe a range of possibilities. The teacher is encouraged to select activities which seem appropriate for a particular student or group of students and should feel free to develop other activities based on the dynamics and the requirements of the teaching/learning situation.

Accommodating Differing Skill Levels in Groups

The majority of Learning Activities outlined in the Integrated Units in this Handbook can be pursued over a wide range of literacy skill levels. And it is recommended that teachers integrate different skill levels in all student groups for the purpose of instruction. It is often assumed that adults with low literacy skills must improve these skills before they can participate in "higher" level literacy activities. This is simply not true. And a program which reserves meaningful material until a student has achieved a certain reading level will in all likelihood lose the majority of the beginning level students before they ever significantly increase their reading level.

There are two very important points to be made with respect to content of literacy programming for beginning readers or non-readers:

Adults who have very limited reading skills are very often quite intelligent. Their reading skill level does not reflect their experience or their knowledge. Level I programs must allow all students the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and to share their knowledge and views. If we reserve that privilege for the more advanced readers, we perpetuate the exclusion and the hierarchy which in many cases defeated the students in their first experience of education.

Adults learn best when they are interested in what they are learning and motivated to learn. It is critically important that all students, regardless of the skill level they are working at, be involved in learning activities which are mature, relevant and stimulating. The best way of ensuring reading readiness is to create an environment in which students are active learners engaged in using a wide variety of media--including print--to extend their knowledge. The beginning reader who approaches reading material with the clear objective of gaining some information from that material is already well on the way to being a fluent reader.

Suggestions For Accommodating Differing Skill Levels for Group Activities

The following suggestions should make it possible for the teacher to involve all students in work within the Integrated Unit regardless of their literacy skill levels.

Gather a variety of materials related to the topic at different levels of difficulty

Pair beginning readers with more advanced readers where it is mutually agreeable. This allows for peer tutoring which can often be the most effective means of learning.

Rewrite important information so it is accessible to beginning readers

Allow for a variety of non-reading learning activities including discussion, films, roleplays, experiments, field trips, videotapes, etc.

Read important materials aloud to students. Encourage more advanced readers to participate in reading aloud to the group.

Have student groups participate in brainstorming exercises

Tailor writing assignments and activities to each student's skill level

Develop specific skill exercises for beginning readers from the topics in the Integrated Units. (For example, make flash cards for the important new words that arise in the unit; or ask the student to dictate sentences related to the topics or issues in the unit.)

Integrated Unit

General Learning Objectives

Through completing a range of activities related to government and law, students will work towards the attainment of learning objectives from several areas of the ABE, Level I program. Students who complete this unit should develop skills as listed in the following areas:

Government and Law:

Demonstrate understanding of the basic structures of Canadian government

Demonstrate understanding of the processes of Canadian government

Demonstrate understanding of Canadian government programs and services and utilize appropriate programs and services

Demonstrate basic understanding of Canadian systems of taxation

Identify basic rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens and residents

Distinguish the broad areas of family, criminal and consumer law


Classify and categorize information relating to the various areas of government and law covered, including government structures and programs, income tax forms, etc.

Use vocabulary related to government and law

Present related personal experience orally and in writing

Express personal opinion orally and in writing

Develop listening and notetaking skills

Perform practical writing exercises including writing letters of complaint and letters of inquiry and filling out a range of government form

Scan a variety of text formats including telephone directories, government pamphlets, newspapers, forms and taxation tables to locate specific information

Paraphrase information contained in government information pamphlets, television and newspaper accounts, etc.

Examine positions of political parties on specific issues and evaluate for personal significance

Identify purpose and intended audience of government and legal information pamphlets, political advertisements, etc.

Recognize bias in the presentation of political leaflets and political campaign information

Skim a range of information sources and make a selection appropriate to the task

Select appropriate print material for the location of required information


Apply mathematical skills to a variety of tasks including

calculating income and of needs for applications for social programs (i.e. social assistance)

calculating taxes including sales tax, income tax, etc.

distinguishing gross income and net income

calculating eligible deductions for income tax purposes

reading taxation tables

Numeracy skills include:


calculating percent

adding and subtracting whole numbers and decimals

multiplying and dividing whole numbers and decimals


government politics

federal criminal law

vote citizen

human rights Premier

advocacy Member of Parliament

election family law

Prime Minister human rights

provincial Member of the House of Assembly

Vocabulary/Concepts (Continued)

consumer law campaign

social programs democracy

municipal politics


The Canadian Citizen

Sharing The Law

It's Your Right

Can We Make A Deal?

Let's Talk About Rights

You Pay For What You Don't Know

Women and the Law in Newfoundland and Labrador

Learning the Law Through Mock Trials

The Human Rights Code (Newfoundland)

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Young Offenders Act - A Program of Instruction

The Residential Tenancies Act

mock election kit

guest speakers (human rights, advocacy groups, government departments)

newspapers, magazines, films

visits to the House of Assembly and/or videotape of proceedings of the House of Commons

teacher-produced fact sheets on government structures, political parties, etc.

information pamphlets from government, human rights groups, advocacy groups, etc.

political pamphlets

political maps of Canada and Newfoundland

Getting Started

Before starting any learning activity or lesson, it is critical to ensure that students understand why they are participating in that particular activity or lesson. If the instruction is to be meaningful, students must be given an opportunity to demonstrate what they already know about the subject and to articulate their needs and interests in the area. Teaching and learning become meaningful and useful only when students see the sense of what they are doing and when their input helps to shape the material. They will be interested in the subject and motivated to learn if they can answer those questions:

How does this affect me?

What do I need to know about this?

How can I use any new information in this area in my day to day life?

Learning Activities

The samples of learning activities which follow are intended to provide a guide for teachers for the development of a range of other learning activities in response to student interest and need. The activities are intended as samples only; the list is by no means comprehensive.


All students will have some experience of government. As an introduction to this section of the unit, the teacher can pose a set of questions to the students and have them address the questions through a discussion. Questions to stimulate interest and discussion could include:

Have you ever had to deal with a government department? Which departments have you had to deal with? Did you encounter any problems?

Have you ever voted in an election? How did you decide who to vote for?

Do you pay taxes? What taxes do you pay? Do you know where your tax money goes?

Do you know which politicians represent your area? Do you know which political parties they represent?

The discussion is itself likely to generate many more questions and students will most likely have opinions and stories to share. The teacher should use this initial discussion as the beginning of a needs assessment of individuals and of the group. You should have an idea of the extent to which the students know about the general structure and function of government. The discussion should also reveal the students' level of interest in the area.

Canadian Government Structures

Students should become aware of the three levels of government in Canada--federal, provincial, and municipal. In order to clarify what each level of government is responsible for, the teacher might first help students list as many government services and programs as they can think of together. Then a chart could be drawn up with a column for each level of government and students could be asked to try and match the service or program to the appropriate level of government. The list might include such services and programs as:

family allowance

old age pensions

medical care



social assistance

unemployment insurance

garbage collection

street cleaning


The teacher could next ask students to identify as many politicians as they can think of. This could include some research as well. Students could be given a few days to look at newspapers or watch television news and note the names of politicians. As a group they could then be asked to decide what level of government each politician was elected to. The teacher could also pose the question, "Where does this politician work?" This would lead into locating each governing body (for example, House of Commons, Ottawa).

Canadian Government Processes

As an introduction to this area, the teacher could arrange a visit to the House of Assembly. Alternatively students could be asked to watch the parliamentary channel on television or the teacher could arrange to make a videotape of the parliamentary coverage. Videotaping for group viewing would be preferable as the teacher would have the opportunity to instruct and students would be able to ask questions, replay parts as necessary, and discuss. As they watch, the teacher could point out the parliamentary process including the party structure of Canadian government. Students should try and identify what is being debated as they watch or when they visit. They should be able to identify the three political parties and try to identify each party's position or concerns about the issue(s) being debated.

Students should be given an opportunity to discuss their feelings and opinions about elections. Those who vote can be asked to reflect on how they make their decisions about whom to vote for. Do they always vote for the same party? Do they generally know what each of the party's stand is on issues which concern them? Those questions can lead to a discussion about party platforms, party solidarity within government, and the voter's responsibility to know what a party stands for before voting. Students should be encouraged to pick an issue which concerns them (i.e. education, public housing, unemployment insurance, fisheries policy) and try and find out what position each of the three parties takes on the issue. A class project could involve writing letters to each of the three parties, either federally or provincially, to inquire about their position on a particular issue.

Many students are intimidated by the actual process of elections. Much of the mystery can be taken out of this by using a mock election kit and having students actually 'cast votes' in the classroom. They could also stage a mock election campaign around one issue which affects everyone. Two or three students might develop policies on the issue and "run" in an election. Such an exercise would make the real election process more clearly understood by students who may not normally pay attention to what politicians say.

Government Programs and Services

To start this section, students might be asked to brainstorm as many government departments as they can think of. Given the list they could then be asked to try and decide which departments they have listed are federal and which provincial. They might also be able to name some of the functions and responsibilities of each department they have listed. They should become aware that government departments are in place as the means through which the government provides programs and services to the people, that they are there for our benefit and we have a right to use their services. After they have made a list through brainstorming, they could use the government pages of the telephone directory to add to the list. There may be departments that students are not aware of and don't understand the function of. The teacher should be prepared to help out here.

Students could next be asked (again through group brainstorming) to generate a list of social programs which are provided in Canada and to decide which level of government is responsible for each. The list should include Social Assistance, Medical Care, Unemployment Insurance, Canada Pension and Family Allowance. They might then discuss entitlement to those social programs. The teacher could bring in application forms and pamphlets on a range of social programs and have students study them in more detail. They could practice filling out the forms and learn some of the common language of the forms and pamphlets. Students might be very interested in discussing how long those programs have been available and what people did before such programs were in place. Stories of Newfoundland during the Depression would provide some of this background. Victor Butler's Sposin' I Dies In The Dory is highly recommended for group reading in this context.

Finally, students could discuss their personal experiences with some of the social programs and services. They might share problems they have had accessing services or getting through complicated bureaucratic procedures. This discussion can lead to finding out how to deal with bureaucracy when you are in need of a program or service. The Information Sheet, Positive Ways of Dealing with the Government, at the end of this unit may be helpful here. The teacher could also arrange for a speaker to talk to the class about their rights when dealing with government or when trying to access public services and social programs.

Canadian Taxation

Taxation is a very complicated area and the intent of having students work in this area is only to ensure that they have a basic understanding of:

the reasons taxes are collected

the different types of taxes people are required to pay

the level of government which collects each tax

the approximate amount of various taxes and the way in which the amount is arrived at (for example, property tax as a percentage of the property value, income tax as a percentage of net income, etc.)

As there will undoubtedly be many opinions on taxation in any group of adults, the teacher should start a session on taxation by giving students the opportunity to share their opinions. Questions such as "Do you feel you should pay tax?" "Do you feel you pay a fair rate of tax or too much tax?" should trigger students' interest. It should also reveal the extent to which the individual or group is aware of the function of taxation. It is quite common for people to see taxation simply as a penalty. Many do not see the connection between the collection of taxes and the provision of government programs and services. Students should become aware that taxation is the means by which money is collected for the running of government and the provision of public services such as highways, medical care, family allowance, social assistance and the many other programs and services which people rely on the government to provide. They should also distinguish the general functions of government collected income tax and sales tax from specific taxes such as property tax and school tax. An understanding of the ways in which taxation of citizens pays for the running of a country should give students a sense of "ownership" of government departments and of public programs and services.

Most students will have filed income tax returns at some time in their lives. While it may not be practical to teach filling out the actual forms with the majority of students in the Level I Program, the teacher should teach the basic elements of the calculation of income tax. Students could be guided through the major sections of the form either individually or as a group. They should, for example, understand the terms gross income, net income and deduction and should be aware of the general areas for which they can claim deductions. They could also discuss the rates of taxation, comparing the income tax due on several net incomes. The personal information section of the income tax form would present an opportunity for practising form filling. Students whose reading and mathematical skills are fairly advanced and who are interested in learning how to fill out a tax return might be grouped to do this.

Students should discuss the options they have for filing their income tax returns if they are not able or confident enough to do it themselves. This discussion should deal with the question of paying a private tax return company to complete the forms. Can students afford this? Many students may also avail of the early payment of tax refunds by tax companies. They should discuss the benefits of getting the cash early versus the relatively high price they pay for that service.

Rights and Freedoms

The overall aim of this section of the program is to provide students with a sufficient knowledge of their basic rights and freedoms as Canadian citizens or residents to ensure that they will be able to claim those rights. As it is quite a complex area, the best way to introduce the subject and to develop each topic is through the use of case studies to illustrate particular rights or acts of discrimination. It's Your Right, published by the Department of Secretary of State, is a useful source of case studies dealing with:

fundamental freedoms

employment rights

tenant rights

discrimination (age; sexual harassment; equal pay; race, colour and ethnic origin; and disability)

Teachers should be aware that certain rights come under federal control while others are controlled by the provinces and territories. This becomes important when a person needs to make a complaint or seek assistance or compensation. Students need to know generally how to find out whether a case should be brought before the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Provincial Human Rights Commission. They should also discuss how they would go about bringing a case to either commission or how they would go about simply making an enquiry. Roleplay would be a useful way of illustrating infringements on basic rights and freedoms. Students could also roleplay the initial steps they would take to assert their rights.

Classes should have copies of the guide to the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and The Human Rights Code (Newfoundland) as resources for the teacher and for the more advanced students to do individual research. Sharing The Law would also make an invaluable classroom resource. It can be read individually by the more able readers and would make an excellent resource for the teacher in the preparation of more easily read material including fact sheets.

Students should be given the opportunity to share their own personal experiences with respect to human rights and discrimination. If there are cases where students feel they have not been accorded their basic rights or where they have been the victims of discrimination, a useful exercise would be to have the group brainstorm what action might be taken. Students should be encouraged and guided to write about their experiences and to write letters to Human Rights Commissions or advocacy groups to find out about appropriate courses of action. This topic lends itself very well to a number of guest speakers. For example, the teacher might arrange visits from representatives of such agencies as the Human Rights Commissions (federal and provincial), unions, and advocacy groups such as Oxfam and Amnesty International. It might be useful for the teacher to prepare a list of questions together with the students to send in advance to the guest speaker. There should also be room for open discussion with a guest speaker.

Canadian Law

The overall aim of this section of the program is to help students understand generally the following three broad areas of law:

family law

criminal law

consumer law

The subject of law could be introduced by having students identify the areas of law which affect them in their day to day lives. The teacher might pose a set of questions to the individual or to the group to stimulate discussion. Questions which would stimulate curiosity and interest might include:

Which of the following are criminal offenses?:

impaired driving

poaching rabbits

not wearing a seatbelt

kicking someone

driving without a licence

Are some criminal offenses more serious than others in the eyes of the law?

How does society decide what the penalty for a crime will be?

Is it legal to marry your stepmother or your husband's father?

Do couples in common law relationships have the same rights as legally married couples? (for example, with respect to child custody, alimony, pension, etc.)

Do a husband and wife own all their property and assets on a 50/50 basis?

What happens to property when the owner dies without a will?

If you buy a used refrigerator and discover it doesn't work, do you have a legal right to get your money refunded?

Do you have to go to court to get a divorce?

The discussion around questions such as these is likely to generate many more questions from the students. There will probably be questions relating to actual situations which students would like an answer to as well. Sharing The Law and Family Law (from the Women and the Law in Newfoundland and Labrador series) will provide the answers to the majority of questions that are likely to be posed. They would both be suitable for group readings led by the teacher and the more advanced readers in the class. They also provide excellent resources for the teacher for presentations to the class or for the preparation of more easily read materials and fact sheets. Family Law deals with a wide range of issues including marriage, common law relationships, matrimonial property law, termination of marriage, custody of children, change of name and domestic violence. Sharing The Law covers the court system, criminal law, arrest, consumer law, debts, family law and wills. It also has a very helpful guide to resources.

When preparing materials on such complicated issues as law it is advisable to embed the issues in case studies. The teacher can "invent" and write up case studies which will be readable to the majority of students. Students can also "invent" case studies and roleplay.

Virtually everybody is intimidated by the court system. People who do not understand the procedures or who are not confident in their ability to read things presented to them in court usually feel completely helpless when they are required to appear in court. Students should have an opportunity to examine the court system. They should be aware of the various types of courts (Provincial Court, Supreme Court, Family Court, Small Claims Court, Traffic Court) and of the types of matters generally dealt with in each. They should also understand:

the role of juries

the process of jury selection



Learning The Law Through Mock Trials would make an excellent resource for informing students about the law and the court system. Where there is opportunity, a field trip to observe part of a trial in progress would also be an excellent aid to understanding how the court system works.

The following agencies and groups may be contacted for information or advice or to arrange for a guest speaker. Most agencies listed would also have information pamphlets, resource guides, etc. which you could have them send you for your class.

Newfoundland Human Rights Commission

Department of Justice

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's, NF

A1B 4J6

Telephone: 729-2709 (5812)


Canadian Human Rights Commission (Atlantic Region)

P.O. Box 3545

Halifax South Postal Station

Halifax, Nova Scotia

B3J 3J2

Telephone: (902) 426-8380

Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland

P.O. Box 1064

Station C

St. John's, NF

A1C 5M5

Telephone: 722-2643

Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women (NF and Labrador)

131 LeMarchant Road

St. John's, NF

A1C 2H3

Telephone: 753-7270

Consumer Affairs Division

Department of Justice

5 Provincial Locations

(for addresses refer to Consumer Education unit)

Consumer Organization of Disabled People in Newfoundland and Labrador

Department of Social Services Building

Box 422

St. John's, NF

A1C 5X4

Telephone: 722-7011

One Voice - The Canadian Seniors Network

901-350 Sparks Street

Ottawa, Ontario

K1R 7S8

Telephone: (613) 238-7624

Landlord Tenant Relations Division

Department of Justice

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's, NF

A1B 4J6

Telephone: 729-2610

Canadian Mental Health Association

Newfoundland Division

93 Water Street

P.O. Box 5788

St. John's, NF

A1C 5X3

Telephone: 753-8550

Oxfam Center

382 Duckworth Street

P.O. Box 18000

St. John's, NF

A1C 6C2

Telephone: 753-2202

Community Services Council

2nd Floor, Suite 101

Virginia Park Plaza

Newfoundland Drive

St. John's, NF

A1A 3E9

Telephone: 753-9860

Native Friendship Center

61 Cashin Avenue

St. John's, NF

A1E 3B4

Telephone: 726-5902

The National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO)

456 Rideau Street

Ottawa, Ontario

K1N 5Z4

Telephone: (613) 234-3332

In Newfoundland you can also contact Sarah Walsh, Community Services Council, 2nd Floor, Virginia Park Plaza, P.O.Box 5116, Newfoundland Drive, St. John's, NF A1C 5V3 Telephone: 753-9860

Association for New Canadians

P.O. Box 2031

Station C

St. John's, NF

A1C 5R6

Telephone: 722-9680

Federation des Francophones de Terre Neuve et du Labrador

272 Duckworth Street

St. John's, NF

A1C 1H3

Telephone: 722-0627

Amnesty International

P.O. Box 13265

Station A

St. John's, NF

A1B 4A5

Telephone: 726-6267

John Howard Society

7 Garrison Hill

St. John's, NF

A1C 3Y7

Telephone: 722-3122

Information Sheet: Positive Ways of Dealing with the Government

1. Positive Attitudes

(a) We are citizens of Canada and have the rights of citizens including the right to insist that the government act fairly, making sure that our rights are respected.

(b) The governments of our country, province, and municipality (city or town) are our governments. They are paid for with taxes. They exist to help build a healthy community for all our people and it is our right to help in this task, not just at voting time but all the time.

(c) We are entitled to courteous service and have the responsibility to be courteous as well.

2. Control

Stay calm. Handle stress well. Be well prepared (get help), breathe deeply, and take your time. The way we think determines the way we feel. Think positively. Never yell.

3. Courtesy

Give respect and expect it.

4. Bearing

Stand straight. Maintain good eye contact with the person you're talking to. Be confident and self-possessed.

5. Speech

Be clear and direct. State exactly what you want.

6. Getting Help

Do your homework. Get help. Know your rights and the Regulation on which your concern rests. If you are in doubt, contact a community agency. Find an advocate to help you. It is your right. When you bring an advocate to a meeting with a government worker, introduce the advocate and give his or her name.

7. Perseverance

Sometimes it takes a while to find the right government department. It may take six phone calls. It may take six visits to the office. Do not give up. Have patience and seek help.

8. Confidence

Be confident about presenting your case, and confident about disagreeing (calmly and firmly) with the government worker if necessary. State the Regulation on which your concern is based. Asked the government worker to state the Regulation on which his or her position is based.

9. Realistic Expectations of Government

(a) Don't be offended if government seems impersonal to you. Government workers make decisions in terms of policy and regulations.

(b) Expect to fill out government forms, and take steps to get help if you need it. Expect questions. Government workers have to ask them for their records. Take your time answering questions, and never sign anything you don't understand.

(c) Understand that the individual government worker is just a small part of the bureaucracy. The power of government workers is limited by their job descriptions. Remember too, that hundreds of people go through their offices each day.

(d) Don't expect miracles. Be prepared to appeal a decision, and have the perseverance to see the appeal through.

10. Ask to Speak to the Supervisor

If you find that you are being badly treated in an office, or if you and a government worker have come to a dead end, calmly ask to speak to the Supervisor. Most government workers will not be offended by this request because it is a structured system. For instance, it can take the responsibility for a difficult decision off the shoulders of a worker. The Supervisor is there to handle situations that are complex. It is your right to ask to speak to the Supervisor.

11. Appeals

Appealing the decision of a government worker is also a structured part of a number of government departments--Unemployment Insurance and The Workers' Compensation Board (W.C.B.), for example. If you are not satisfied with the decision of a government worker, ask if there is a way to appeal it. If there is a way, then appeal the decision. It is your right as a citizen to do so. There are citizens who are afraid to ask government workers for information or to question their decisions. Such citizens feel that they will be offending the worker, and that the worker will get back at them in some way. Experience has shown that government workers respect citizens who stand up for their rights in a calm, firm manner. Most government workers have a strong sense of fairness. Their decisions are based on policy and regulations, not on whether they like you or not. Stay out of personality conflicts with government workers. State your interpretation of a regulation, and if you can't reach an agreement, then appeal the worker's decision. Keep the relationship calm and businesslike.

Acts, Regulations, and Policy

Government offices are run by Acts, Regulations, and Policy

Acts set out the broad, legal principles that are to govern a certain area of law--income assistance, for example. They also give an official order (a mandate) to a specific government (department) to administer that aspect of the law--the Ministry of Social Services and Housing and income assistance, for example. Acts are passed by the Legislature (federal or provincial).

Regulations are the detailed rules that let a government department carry out its mandate under the Act. These Regulations are passed by the Cabinet, through Order-In-Council. They are not debated in the Legislature. Both Acts and Regulations are "the law."

Policy is the interpretation of the Act and Regulations by senior government officials. This policy is the guideline for government workers, and the policy manual is much thicker than the Act or Regulations. Policy is not the law. It is only an interpretation of the law, and it is not the only interpretation possible. Now you can see why the appeal process is so important. It is the citizen's way of challenging the government's interpretation of the Acts and Regulations.

12. When you have dealings with a government, keep your own file on the matter. Keep everything you receive from the office, and keep copies of everything you send it. If possible, take notes during interviews with government workers.

13. When dealing with a government worker, always get the worker's name and office telephone number.

14. When a government worker says your concern is outside his or her responsibility, ask the worker who is responsible for your concern--or how you would find out.

15. When you go to (or telephone) a government office, don't tell your entire story to the person at the front desk. They're not trained to deal with it. Just state exactly why you've come to (or telephoned) the office, and the receptionist will refer you to the right government worker.

16. Climb the chain of command. Perseverance is needed.

17. Make it clear, calmly and courteously, that you will argue strongly for your position--that it is important to you.

18. If you become bogged down in red tape, and your concern seems to have become lost in the system, seek help from your elected representative at the appropriate level (municipal, provincial, or federal).

19. Evaluate how you're doing:

(a) Are you making yourself clear?

(b) Are you creating more problems than you're solving?

(c) Are you reaching your goal?

Information Sheet: Positive Ways of Dealing with the Government reprinted from the Adult Basic Literacy Curriculum Guide and Resource Book with the permission of The Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology

Integrated Unit

General Learning Objectives

Through completing a range of consumer related activities, students will work towards the attainment of learning objectives from several areas of the ABE, Level I program. Students who complete this unit should develop skills as listed in the following areas:

Consumer Education:

Carry out money transactions

Make appropriate choices in a variety of financial and marketplace situations

Choose and apply strategies for the purchase of goods and services

Identify basic rights and responsibilities of consumers

Use appropriate procedures for accessing consumer protection services


Identify purpose and intended audience of advertisements, information pamphlets, etc.

Distinguish between fact and opinion in advertising

Identify unwritten meanings in advertisements in a variety of media

Evaluate advertisements, consumer information, commercial information, etc. for personal significance

Classify and categorize information for budgeting, comparison shopping, etc.

Scan a variety of text formats including labels, classified ads, schedules, guarantees, pamphlets, forms, catalogues, etc. to locate specific information

Use consumer related vocabulary

Present personal consumer related experience orally and in writing

Perform practical writing exercises, including writing lists and business letters; filling out forms (guarantees, warranties, banking forms, etc.); and addressing envelopes and packages


Apply computational and problem solving skills to a variety of practical consumer activities, including:

money transactions


calculation of sales tax

unit pricing and comparison shopping

interest and credit payments

metric and imperial unit comparisons

Numeracy skills include:


rounding off

adding and subtracting whole numbers and decimals

multiplying and dividing whole numbers and decimals


consumer unit price

advertise consumer rights

sales tax interest

credit comparison shopping

banking budget

contract guarantee/warranty


Can We Make A Deal?

Consumer Survival Skills For Today

It's Your Right

Sharing The Law

local magazines, newspapers, tourist information, etc.

credit card applications

department store flyers

blank cheques

bank deposit and withdrawal forms

free advertising samples (through mail and in stores)


videotape of television ads

audiotape of radio ads

advertisements from magazines, newspapers, etc.

Getting Started

Before starting any learning activity or lesson, it is critical to ensure that students understand why they are participating in that particular activity or lesson. If the instruction is to be meaningful, students must be given an opportunity to demonstrate what they already know about the subject and to articulate their needs and interests in the area. Teaching and learning become meaningful and useful only when students see the sense of what they are doing and when their input helps to shape the material. They will be interested in the subject and motivated to learn if they can answer those questions:

How does this affect me?

What do I need to know about this?

How can I use any new information in this area in my day to day life?

One very effective means of making lessons, activities and discussions around Consumer Education real is to present the issues as concrete everyday problems and situations rather than as "issues" or "topics" to be studied. You might start out with a list of possible topics or issues to be dealt with, i.e. credit, banking, comparison shopping, labels, advertising, refund and exchange, guarantee and warranty, etc. This list would probably not stimulate much interest if it were presented to a student or group of students as topics. What you can do instead is invent a situation or scenario for each possible issue and use the response both as a needs assessment tool and to set the stage for further learning. Here are some sample issues translated into situations:

Exchange and Refund Policies

Mary bought a clock radio at a local department store for $49.98. One week after she bought it, the plastic button for setting the time broke off. She brought the radio back to the store and asked if she could exchange the broken radio for a new one. The salesperson asked for the receipt but Mary couldn't find it. Does the storeowner have to replace Mary's broken radio with a new one?

You have just purchased a sweater at a sale for $19.95. When you put it on at home, you notice a seam in the sleeve is ripped. You think the sweater was cheaply made and it was probably not a wise decision to buy it even though the price was good. You are not interested in having another one like it. You still have the receipt and you decide that you will return the sweater and ask for a refund. Do you think you will be able to get a refund?

Initial discussion of the above two questions could focus on issues such as:

the ways in which individual store policies vary with respect to refund and exchange

the almost universal requirement to present receipts for exchange, refund or service

the common practice of "final sale" or exchange only when prices are reduced

the procedure you would follow if you found yourself in a situation like one of the above (for example, who do you talk to when you go back to the store?)


You are in a large department store on a Saturday in early December. You have just started shopping for Christmas presents. A woman in the uniform of the department store comes up to you and asks if you'd like a store credit card. She tells you there are many advantages to having the card. Sometimes card holders get special prices in the store. And she assures you that you only need to make a small minimum payment on your charge every month. The offer sounds good to you. You have been worrying about where you will find the money to buy all that you would like to buy for Christmas. And you think it would certainly be nice to get a special price sometimes. Will you decide to take out the store credit card?

Discussion around this decision should ask what the usual cost of maintaining a store credit card would be. How does the interest compare with the interest on major credit cards, for example? If you use a credit card of any kind, is it wise to make the minimum payment? The teacher could make up a sample charge and calculate the interest due on the charge every month. The group could compare the interest paid on an account in which the balance is kept low and one on which only the minimum is regularly paid. Discussion should also explore options other than credit cards as the means of obtaining extra money for a particular purchase. Comparisons of bank and credit union rates of interest on short term loans with the interest rates on major credit cards and store credit cards would make a very useful research project for a student or group of students. This is also a project which a teacher might take on in order to prepare a "fact sheet" for future use.


Bill has bought lottery tickets every week for the past five years. Last week he won $3,000 and was presented with a cheque for that amount on Friday afternoon, October 20. He and his wife, Joan, spent the weekend trying to decide what they would do with the money. They finally decided to treat themselves to their first vacation in eight years of marriage. They never really had a honeymoon so they decide to spend the $3,000 on a trip to Niagara Falls. But they will have to wait until Joan gets her holidays in June. Joan thinks they should put the money in a bank until they need it for the trip. Bill thinks the money is safe enough in the house. What do you think they should do?

Discussion around this question should focus on the advantages as well as the costs of banking. The teacher can help the group calculate how much interest Bill and Joan's $3,000 would earn if it were in a savings account for the seven to eight month period. Further discussion might arise from questions about the range of reasons for which people choose to use the services of a bank: interest paid on savings; the convenience of cheques versus the risk of carrying sums of money on your person; the use of cheques as automatic receipts for proof of purchase or personal record keeping; the lower interest rate on bank loans compared to credit cards, finance companies, etc.; The group could go on to discuss the costs of banking: what is the cost of writing a cheque, taking out a loan, etc.

Comparison Shopping

Michael and Jan are at the supermarket doing the family's weekly shopping. They need to buy laundry detergent and there are several brands on sale. They are trying to decide which of the following is the better buy:

a 12 litre box at $8.99

a 6 litre box at $4.89

Discussion around this scenario could look at how students decide what to buy when they go shopping. How can you decide which is a better buy? The teacher could introduce the concept of unit pricing at this stage. The discussion might also explore brand loyalty, relative quality of different products, and other reasons for making choices apart from price (e.g., environmental concerns, personal taste and preference, habit, etc.).

These are some examples of how the teacher can get a student or a group of students thinking about an issue in a way which clearly connects the issue to people's everyday lives and demonstrates how learning more about the various issues can help people with the decisions they must make on a day to day basis as consumers. Teachers can invent situations or scenarios for any consumer related issue which may seem appropriate. Quite often it is not necessary to invent situations. If the group is comfortable with each other and there is an opportunity to talk during the class time, real issues and problems which individuals have to deal with will inevitably come up. Teachers should capitalize on any such issue that may arise in the class and create a learning activity or lesson around it. A real situation is naturally the best stimulus for learning.

Whether the situation or problem is invented or real, teachers can have students discuss each situation or problem and share any personal experiences of the same or similar problems if they would like to. Students should be encouraged to express their needs and interests in this area. Through the discussions and through allowing students to express interests and needs, the teacher can use the initial presentation and discussion of issues as an informal needs assessment of the individual or the group. The students' discussion around each issue, situation or problem will help you decide which areas will need to be developed and to what extent they will need to be developed. For instance, in the discussion around a scenario such as the one on whether or not to put money in a bank, it should become evident whether a student is already informed about banking and whether he or she uses a bank. With some individuals and in some groups you may need to examine a wide range of banking matters, i.e. service charge, types of accounts, types of loans, interest charges, etc. With other individuals and groups you may only need to develop lessons on loans and interest or mortgages. The extent to which you cover any particular item should be determined by the level of need as well as the interest of the student.

Learning Activities

The samples of learning activities which follow are intended to provide a guide for teachers for the development of a range of other learning activities in response to student interest and need. The activities are intended as samples only; the list is by no means comprehensive.

The Consumer

A lesson on The Consumer could be opened with a discussion of consumer behaviour. The teacher and the students might start to examine their own buying patterns and discuss what types of consumers they are. The teacher might pose a number of questions like those that follow to start the discussion:

How do you determine what products you buy? (For instance, do you make a list and only buy the things on it or do you go shopping and buy things because they appeal to you?)

Do you look at labels for information about the products?

Do you compare prices of same or similar items?

Do you buy name brands or no-name brands?

Do you buy things on sale?

Do you use coupons?

Do you use the newspaper or store flyers to find specials?

Do you ask store policy on exchanges and refunds?

When products come with warranties or guarantees, do you fill them out?

Do you keep receipts in case you need to return things?

A variety of lessons might come out of these questions:

Comparison Shopping: Ask students to bring in flyers from local grocery stores, convenience stores or supermarkets. Have a student or a group of two or three students choose a particular store flyer. There should be two or three stores represented for purposes of comparison. Discuss the concept of unit pricing with all the students and as a large group practice relating quantity to price to determine unit price. When the students are comfortable with the process (through estimation or calculation--using a calculator) each group can work on determining unit prices from the flyers they have chosen. Ask all students or groups of students to choose the same food items so that a price comparison of different stores can be arrived at.

Exchange and Refund: The discussion of the subject of exchange and refund could be started with an invented scenario such as the one at the beginning of this unit. Students could then be encouraged to share their personal experiences of exchanging and refunding items. They could be asked, "What are some store policies on exchange and refund?" and the answers could be listed and checked at a later date for accuracy. The key points which need to be presented or to come out of the discussion and research should include:

Exchange and refund policies vary from store to store and it is the responsibility of the consumer to be aware of the store policy before purchasing a product.

When you buy something at a sale, it is a common practice of stores to make it a "final sale". In some stores this means there will be no refund or exchange while in others it may mean you can exchange but cannot get a refund.

Stores have a responsibility to act in good faith. If you buy an appliance, for example, it must work or you have a right to return it whether or not the store said it was a final sale.

Virtually all stores require a receipt as proof of purchase before they will give a refund, exchange an item, or service a product.

Students should also discuss the usual procedures for returning items for exchange, refund or service. They should know that this too varies from store to store. Some stores have customer service desks, in some the salesperson handles the whole business and in others only the manager is permitted to deal with returned items. The discussion should deal with what the customers' options are when their requests are refused and they feel they have a right to what they have requested. Richard Darville's Can We Make a Deal is an excellent resource for this. Several chapters deal with the consumer's rights in the marketplace.

Warranties and Guarantees: Ask students to think about what items they own which are currently under guarantee. As items are named, they can be put on a list for the whole class to see. They can then be asked to think about and list any items for which they have had to make use of the guarantee for service or replacement. There are several questions which the class could discuss, including:

What types of items are always accompanied by a guarantee or warranty when they are purchased new?

What types of items are usually guaranteed?

What types of conditions usually accompany a guarantee or warranty?

What should a consumer consider when deciding whether to buy an extended warranty?

What are the usual time limits on guarantees and warranties?

What items might carry the option of extended warranties?

Information which can be presented might include: Some guarantees and warranties can only be availed of by the original purchaser. Many guarantees will not be honoured if the forms are not completed and mailed to the manufacturer at the time of purchase. There is usually a lot of fine print which outlines exceptions to guarantees; with many items, not all parts are guaranteed, for example. Ask the students to bring in some samples of guarantees for items which they now own. The class can look at the samples and learn to "translate" some of the language of guarantees. The teacher can also gather examples of guarantee forms or photocopy some of the students' samples and have students practice filling them out.

Advertising: As an introduction, ask students why they think manufacturers and sellers advertise their products. Do advertisers strictly tell the truth? Have students bring in magazine ads and newspaper ads; videotape a selection of television ads for the whole class to view; make a tape of radio ads for the class to listen to. Discuss common techniques of advertisers:

appeals to emotions--love, pride, insecurity, snobbery, etc.

use of authority symbols i.e. a doctor advertising aspirin, claims that "studies have proven" that one detergent makes clothes whiter than another, etc.

use of stock words like "revolutionary", "new", "bargain", "amazing"

images of health, youth, sexuality, fun, etc. associated with the product

use of famous people, movie stars, etc. to give the product credibility

use of coupons or free samples to have people buy the product

use of humour, music, attention getting gimmicks, etc.

Have students (individually or in groups of two or three) look at a selection of ads from a variety of media and think about the message or messages in each of the ads. Each student or small group can then be asked to share with the whole class what they think the ads they have looked at are saying. Commercials for beer, cars and cosmetics make some of the best material for beginning to look at advertising because the messages are usually fairly obvious.

Students can be asked to think about their own reactions to advertising. Are their buying habits influenced by advertising? Do they always drink the same beer or cola or buy the same laundry detergent, for example? If so, do they know why they do?

Another issue which should be discussed is the cost of advertising. Have the students do some research to find out the cost of placing a commercial advertisement in the local newspaper or on a local television station. The teacher might find information on the amounts of money which large corporations spend on advertising nationally and internationally. Questions such as "How much does a beer company pay to advertise during the hockey playoffs?" will give the group insight into the high price paid for advertising. The discussion could then focus on the question of who pays the cost of advertising. Do corporations allow the cost to be taken off profits or is it added to the price of the product?

Labels: Ask students to think about and list as many functions of product labels as they can think of (i.e. contents information, fabric information, care instructions, instructions for use, brand name advertising, warnings, etc.). The group could then discuss whether they make a practice of reading labels, whether they feel the language and the format of labels are too difficult, and whether they consider not reading labels a problem. Ask the students to bring in a variety of labels from products around the home. They may also bring in products with the labels attached. The class should be encouraged to bring in a range of products and labels to include warnings, content, care instructions, use instructions, etc. They could practice reading the labels individually and in small groups. Ask the individuals and small groups to present their labels to the class. Discuss the samples of labels represented. Discussion should focus on:

the importance of knowing what is in the food you eat (The teacher can help students figure out what many of the common food additives are through referring to a dictionary or encyclopedia or through asking a consumer advocate to come and talk to the class.)

the importance of knowing what fabric your clothing is made of and how to interpret the instructions for caring for each garment

the necessity of knowing whether a product is harmful and of knowing how to handle toxic substances such as oven cleaners, paint and paint solvents, adhesives, etc.

the importance of using products such as medication and cosmetics only as directed


The teacher could introduce the subject of budgeting by asking students to reflect on how they plan their weekly or monthly expenditures. Can they predict at the beginning of a month what their expenditures are going to be and how much money they will have left after the basic expenditures (rent, utilities, food, etc.) are taken care of? The teacher might then "invent" a family (setting a figure for the family income and the expenditures for rent and utilities) and have students individually or in pairs draw up a budget for the family. Students could be asked to plan and budget for all the additional expenses the family might incur including food, household cleaning and maintenance items, clothing, entertainment, transportation and incidental expenses. The class could then come back together to compare budgets. As a second stage in teaching about budgeting, the teacher could encourage students to develop a personal budget based on their real income and expenditures and try to follow it for a set period. At the end of the period, they could look at whether they have been able to follow their plans for spending. Have they had unexpected costs? How have those costs affected the whole budgeting process? Do they feel their income is adequate?


The idea of contracts is usually very intimidating to most people. The first thing the teacher should do when introducing the subject is demonstrate that contracts in some form are used regularly by all consumers. For example, one of the most commonplace contracts that consumers engage in is a simple purchase of a product. Many of the students may also be protected by a union contract. Students can be asked to brainstorm and list the various types of contracts which any of them have been or are currently party to. Examples include marriage contracts, rental agreements, mortgages, contracts for home or automobile repairs, employment contracts, union contracts, etc. Discussion will reveal that not all contracts are written. It should be pointed out though that, provided the four elements of a contract are present, contracts are legally binding, whether written or verbal. An excellent resource for teaching and learning about contracts is Richard Darville's Can We Make A Deal. Written for ABE students, this book provides clear explanations of the legal aspects of contracts in the context of the everyday events and problems of ordinary people. After reading selections from the book, students can discuss what they have learned and apply it to their own situations. The teacher could also bring some sample contracts to class and have students examine the language of contracts. Much of it will be extremely difficult reading but students should work both individually and in groups at learning some of the more common elements and terminology as well as the usual layout. Students should also practice drawing up simple contracts for such things as home and car maintenance for their own protection.

Sales Tax

Most students will already be aware of sales tax and many will know what the rate of sales tax is for their province. In introducing the topic the teacher could talk more generally about taxation, i.e. which level of government collects which taxes, what our taxes are used for by governments, the varying levels of provincial taxes across Canada and of municipal taxes across the province. The introduction to taxation should be brief but sufficient to put sales tax in context. Specific questions about sales tax which could be first of all brainstormed in the group and if necessary researched by students would include:

What is sales tax?

Which level of government collects sales tax?

What are sales tax revenues used for by government?

What items are taxable?

Who determines the rate of taxation and what will be taxed? Are these decisions subject to change?

When students have a basic understanding of questions such as those, they can begin to practice calculating sales tax with a calculator. Give students catalogues or department store flyers and ask them to find one item they would like to purchase. Have them figure out the total cost of an item including the sales tax. Encourage students to work together at first so information can be shared. They should also practice roughly estimating sales tax so that they will be able to determine the approximate total cost of an item before deciding to purchase. This estimation will involve both calculation of percent and addition so it may require considerable practice.


The subject of banking could be introduced with the question, "Why use a bank?" or "Why do people use banks?" This should stimulate a discussion and could be the basis of a brainstorming session on the function of banks. Some students may use a bank and will be able to contribute their knowledge to the discussion. Others may have opinions which can be discussed. Many may feel, for instance, that only people with lots of money use banks. The lesson should address both the advantages and the costs of banking.

Students may need to know:

the different types of bank accounts available (savings, chequing, etc.)

how to open an account

how to fill out withdrawal and deposit forms

how to write cheques and balance a bank book

how to use banking machines

how to pay bills through a bank account

The teacher will have to do some research and should collect materials from two or more banks to demonstrate the ways in which forms vary from bank to bank. There should also be a discussion of the fees which banks charge for services such as cheques and bills and of the variation in charge from bank to bank. Students should be aware of the types of loans which are available and of the conditions which usually apply to loans. Mortgages should be dealt with separately from short term and long term loans. Students should actually practice calculating interest on loans and with the teacher determining the final price paid for a loan of $2,000, for example. The group could also practice calculating the interest payable on a savings account balance.


This subject could be opened by asking the students to list the types of credit they are aware of that may be available to them. This discussion should generate a list which would include:

bank loans

personal loans from friends or family

major credit cards

store credit cards

store credit (in smaller stores customers may have an ongoing bill)

Students could be asked to share experiences relating to credit or experiences of others which they are aware of. They might brainstorm the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing goods and services on credit. The class should cover the following issues:

What are the costs of credit? This would involve comparing the interest charged on loans from banks, credit unions, and finance companies with that charged on major credit cards. It would also involve comparing the interest charged on major credit cards with that charged on store credit cards. Students should practice calculating various rates of interest on a given loan and comparing the costs.

What conditions usually apply to credit? This would involve a certain amount of research to find out what would happen with various forms of credit if the customer were unable to keep up payments. The range of penalties, from increased interest (for example, on credit card charges which are not paid off regularly ) to the creditor claiming property in lieu of payment should be discussed.

Consumer Protection

The overall aim of the Consumer Education unit is to help students gain the information and knowledge they will need in order to be critical and aware consumers. After completing the work in this unit they should be more aware of what their rights are and more able to assert those rights. However, even the most aware and the most assertive consumers can become victims of misleading advertising and unfair business practices. Students should know how to proceed if they find themselves in a situation where they feel they have not been treated fairly. They should practice "troubleshooting" both individually and in groups. This can start with a roleplay around presenting their case to the manager or owner of the store or business. In this way they can discuss the most effective ways of asserting oneself without antagonizing the other party. They should practice putting their case in writing in the form of a letter to the store or business. They should then discuss what options are available if they do not get satisfaction at the store or business. They could practice finding consumer advocacy groups or agencies in the telephone directory. They can also roleplay telephone calls and in-person interviews with personnel from consumer protection agencies. They can then put their case in writing again, this time in the form of a letter to the consumer protection agency.

The teacher might arrange to have a representative from a consumer advocacy group or a consumer protection agency visit the class. Students could prepare a list of questions to be sent to the representative prior to the visit so that he or she would have a chance to research and prepare answers. There are several consumer protection agencies in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are set up to protect consumers from unlawful practice in the marketplace. If a consumer protection officer is not available in your area, you may wish to have your students write letters to the nearest office and have information sent to the class. Consumer Affairs has 5 locations in Newfoundland and Labrador and are willing to visit classes providing they have ample notice. If you live in an area which is a long distance from the nearest Consumer Affairs Branch, you could contact the local high schools or community groups to see if the visit might be of interest to several groups in the community. The agencies listed below can be contacted if you have a complaint, if you need information or advice, or if you would like to arrange for a guest speaker.

Consumer Affairs (Provincial) Five locations:

Consumer Affairs Division

Department of Justice

P.O. Box 8700 P.O. Box 2222

St. John's, NF Gander, NF

A1B 4J6 A1V 2N9

Telephone: 729-2591 Telephone: 651-4555

Provincial Building Sir Richard Squires Building

3 Cromer Avenue P.O. Box 2006

Grand Falls, NF Corner Brook, NF

A2A 1W9 A2H 6J8

Telephone: 292-4264 Telephone: 637-2445

Elizabeth Goudie Building

Happy Valley/Goose Bay


A0P 1E0

Telephone: 896-3332

Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Federal)

Cormack Building

2nd Floor, Suite 202

2 Steers Cove

St. John's, NF

A1C 6J5

Telephone: 772-5525

Better Business Bureau of Newfoundland and Labrador

P.O. Box 516, Fairview Bldg.

360 Topsail Road

St. John's, NF

A1C 5K4

Telephone: 364-2222

Consumer Organization of Disabled People in Newfoundland and Labrador

Department of Social Services Building

Box 422

St. John's, NF

A1C 5X4

Telephone: 722-7011

Integrated Unit

General Learning Objectives

Through completing a range of activities related to Occupational Knowledge, students will work towards the attainment of learning objectives from several areas of the ABE, Level 1 Program. Students who complete this unit should develop skills as listed in the following areas:

Occupational Knowledge:

Identify basic employment rights, human rights in the workplace, and union benefits

Outline procedures for securing employment rights, human rights and union benefits

Examine issues related to pay and apply to own situation

Investigate selected occupations in terms of working environment, physical demands and employment benefits

Examine a range of selected occupations in terms of educational skill and experience requirements


Categorize information relating to basic employment rights and human rights in the workplace, including equal pay for work of equal value, freedom from discrimination and personal harassment

Examine the structure and benefits of a union

Use vocabulary related to occupational knowledge including pay-related vocabulary

Examine the Labour Standards Act with specific reference to public holidays, standard working hours, rest periods, minimum wage, overtime and notice of termination

Classify and categorize selected occupations in terms of working environment, physical demands and employment benefits

Examine a range of selected occupations in terms of experience and educational skill required and evaluate for personal significance

Scan a variety of text formats including union collective agreements, government pamphlets, classified ads and payslips to locate specific information

Paraphrase a variety of work-related texts to gain understanding of contents

Present personal occupational experience orally and in writing

Perform practical writing exercises including completing job application forms, preparing resumes and writing business letters

Participate in mock job interviews

Discuss current issues relating to employment and unemployment, provincial and national industries, and current labour relations


Apply computational and problem solving skills to a variety of practical activities including:

calculating net and gross income, vacation and overtime pay, wage deductions

reading taxation tables

calculating income tax

completing income tax forms

Numeracy skills include:


rounding off

adding and subtracting whole numbers and decimals

multiplying and dividing whole numbers and decimals

calculating percents


employer labour

employee union

minimum wage contract

net/gross income collective bargaining/agreement

deductions grievance

pay raise /increments strike

overtime /vacation pay insurance

Vocabulary/Concepts (Continued)

termination pensions

notice application

layoff resume



It's Your Right

The Workplace and You: A Woman's Guide to Employment Law

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Employee Benefits Program*

How to find a Job in Today's Market*

Job Futures*

Workers Compensation - An Overview, Information for Employers, Workers' Handbook*

A Guide to the Labour Standards Act, Some Answers on Labour Standards in Newfoundland*

Career Directory*

A Woman's Almanac (1989, 1991)*

Stages - Literature of Newfoundland and Labrador Book 2

But Who Cares Now? The Tragedy of the Ocean Ranger

Dying Hard

Death on The Ice

Night of the Caribou*

pay slips

job application forms

unemployment insurance forms

workers compensation forms

income tax forms

union contracts

pamphlets from government agencies, including women's policy office


* Information on ordering these resources is on Page 90 of this Handbook. All other listed resources are in the Adult Basic Education Level 1 Program, Resource Materials chapter, Pages 70 to 88 or they are materials which are in the public domain.

Getting Started

Before starting any learning activity or lesson, it is critical to ensure that students understand why they are participating in that particular activity or lesson. If the instruction is to be meaningful, students must be given an opportunity to demonstrate what they already know about the subject and to articulate their needs in the area. Teaching and learning become meaningful and useful only when students see the sense of what they are doing and when their input helps to shape the material. They will be interested in the subject and motivated to learn if they can answer these questions:

How does this affect me?

What do I need to know about this?

How can I use any new information in this area in my day to day life?

Learning Activities

The sample of learning activities which follow are intended to provide a guide for teachers for the development of a range of other learning activities in response to student interest and need. The activities are intended as samples only; the list is by no means comprehensive.

The Workplace

Most students would have had some experience in a work situation. The teacher and students might start to examine their own work situations. As an introduction to the unit, the leader could ask questions to initiate a discussion around basic employment rights in the workplace. These could include:

What is a starting wage or the average wage for a job?

How does the minimum wage relate to the average wage?

How many hours do you have to work for a regular job? What is considered overtime? How much are you entitled to for overtime pay?

How many weeks vacation are you entitled to? Is the vacation pay included in the hourly rate or is it a number of days a year? What statutory holidays can you take?

What provisions are there for maternity leave, adoption leave, special leave, educational leave, etc.?

What is the notice of termination?

Is there a union?

What is the safety record in the workplace? Are you covered by workers' compensation?

Are there any training programs for the workers?

A variety of lessons may come out of these questions:

Employment and Human Rights: In a discussion of human rights in the workplace, the students should be aware of the labour laws protecting them. If the unit on "Government and Law" has already been studied, students should be able to identify equal pay for work of equal value, freedom from discrimination and freedom from personal harassment in the workplace.

A case could be presented where two employees, Jane Masters and Bill Learning, are working for a cleaning company in the same position. They are receiving different wages--Jane, $5.50 per hour and Bill, $6.75 per hour. As they are essentially doing the same work, they shouldn't receive different wages based on their gender. Two people could be doing very different work and then comparisons are hard to make. It is necessary to examine the skills involved, the effort required, the responsibility attached to the work and the physical working conditions. Points can be assigned for each and totals can be compared. Then men and women who do work of equal value must be paid equally, even if their jobs are different. This is true of jobs in the federal Government, although it may not occur in other places of employment. It's Your Right is an excellent resource for these issues of basic employment rights.

Here in Newfoundland there was a Pay Equity Agreement signed in 1988 which would provide workers in the public sector with equal pay for work of equal value. The Provincial Government was supposed to put this into effect in 1991. However, in April 1991 with the passing of Bill 16, all pay increases were eliminated for 1991-1992 and the retroactivity clause in the pay equity agreement was eliminated. This means many female workers will continue to earn less. The legislation has resulted in a strong union reaction and a coalition of many labour groups has been formed to protest government action and to try and change the situation. There have been many newspaper articles and editorials on this topic. Students should be encouraged to read these. It is a good case for distinguishing between fact and opinion in information.

Another form of discrimination in the workplace is discrimination on the basis of marital status. It would be interesting to read the case of Roseann Cashin. Her story is found in A Woman's Almanac (1989). She was discriminated against by the CBC on the basis of marital status and she fought against her dismissal and won compensation for herself.

Union: The students should be aware of union and non union workplaces. A discussion could draw out the names of some of the most familiar unions in the province. As an introduction to this area, the teacher could arrange for a representative from a union to come and discuss the structure and some of the benefits of belonging to a union.

Students may want to prepare some questions to ask the speaker. It would be informative to look at different union collective agreements to get an idea of important issues for employees. From a historical perspective it may be interesting to read about some of the main labour disputes in Newfoundland. The International Woodworkers of America (I.W.A.) signed up the loggers in Badger in 1959. The provincial government, then under Joseph Smallwood, was against the union and their first strike resulted in tragedy. The Fishermen's Protective Union (FPU) was started in 1908, but later it was replaced. Have students identify the present day fishermen's union and some of the main people associated with it.

Reference skills could be improved by doing research on union and labour leaders. It is important to keep a file of relevant newspaper articles related to labour issues. These provide reading material for more advanced readers and can also be used for group listening skills and points of discussion for all students. In A Woman's Almanac (1989, 1991), there are profiles of Linda Hyde and Theresa Walsh, both involved in the union movement. These could be used to initiate discussion.

Worker Safety: This is an important issue for both employers and employees in the workplace, as injuries result in suffering for the worker and decreased productivity for the employer. The Occupational Health and Safety Act covers building safety, fire regulations, evacuation procedures and other aspects of safety for employees in the workplace. An individual has the right to refuse to work in a place that he deems unsafe e.g., on a boat without liferafts or in a laboratory without protective glasses. A health and safety inspector can be called in to check on any possible violations. Education of workers is important and people are available to give workshops related to worker safety. In many workplaces there is a Health and Safety committee, made up of people from both management and union. Health and Safety Committees take responsibility for seeing that fire drills are carried out and that other safety procedures are followed for the prevention of accidents and injuries.

Most students are familiar with the Workers Compensation program. It is a program insuring workers' income against loss that may be caused by a work injury or disease. Some students may have been injured on the job and therefore have dealt directly with people from the Workers Compensation Commission. They may want to relate personal experiences to the group. A counsellor from the Rehabilitation section of Workers Compensation could give a talk on the options available to injured workers. These include getting back to work, academic upgrading, job retraining or long term disability.

Workers Compensation has developed an information program to provide a better understanding of the work insurance system, and to focus attention on accident prevention and cost savings. They have booklets and information kits explaining the programs and procedures. The material is available from their Public Relations Officer. The laws are constantly being changed and at present (May, 1991), there is a lot of ongoing discussion regarding Workers Compensation. Students should watch the television news, listen to radio reports, and be prepared to talk about it in class. For better readers, current newspaper articles can be read for information. It is a good idea for the teacher to clip articles relating to worker safety from the newspaper and other texts and keep them in an updated file.

At present there is concern for the safety of workers involved in the offshore oil activity. With the start of the Hibernia development, there have been accidents reported at the Bull Arm site. Students should be encouraged to give their opinions both orally and in writing on occupational health and safety issues. For the beginner learner, it may be necessary for the teacher to use the language experience story to record the student's own experiences. There is an article in the book, In the News, "Worker Safety", which deals with an accident in the workplace. There is also a video, See No Evil (from the National Film Board), which deals with an accident in the workplace. Students could watch this and discuss their reactions to it. This could lead to a writing exercise giving their opinion on the situation. They could also write describing the most dangerous job they have ever had and suggesting safety precautions to improve the situation. As newspapers are an important source of information, it should be noted that any of these topics can be considered Current Affairs and there is overlap between many of the units in the ABE Level 1 program. For example this section on worker safety can be linked to the content in the "Government and Law" section and also to parts of the "Health" unit.

From a Social Studies perspective, the students can be asked to make comparisons and draw conclusions regarding the state of traditional jobs in Newfoundland including fishing, forestry and mining. The story of "The Greenland Disaster" in Stages is an account of the sealing conditions 80 years ago. Death on the Ice by Cassie Brown is an interesting novel and Night of the Caribou by Douglas Howe is another account of a fishing disaster. More recently, the tragedy of the Ocean Ranger can be examined in a book, But Who Cares Now? The Tragedy of the Ocean Ranger, by Douglas House. In Dying Hard, by Elliot Leyton, students can read the story of death and illness from working in the fluorspar mine in St. Lawrence. By examining some of the local literature, students can discuss improvements that have been made over time and some continuing problems with regard to working conditions in different occupations.

Pay-Related Issues: Ask students to examine sample pay cheques and to identify the deductions that are normally made. They should be able to distinguish between compulsory deductions- income tax, canada pension and unemployment insurance--and optional deductions including union dues, medical and dental insurance, life insurance, company pension plan. It would be useful to examine actual pay slips and calculate net and gross income, making the necessary deductions.

Students could look at the Tables in the Guides to Income Tax, CPP and UI deductions so they are familiar with the vocabulary used in this area. Including some mathematical practice can be useful.

When this section is discussed, it would be a good opportunity to show the link between the different federal and provincial government programs and services including unemployment insurance and Canada Pension. Students may be more familiar with the unemployment insurance program. They should know the rules about unemployment insurance regarding eligibility, benefits and requalification. Canada Pension benefits, including old age security, guaranteed income supplement, survivors' benefits and disability benefits could be studied. A discussion on insurance in general may also be appropriate at this time. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Employee Benefits Program pamphlet is a useful resource for discussion on insurance. This may have been covered previously in "Consumer Education", but again the connection between the different aspects of the program is established.

Minimum Wage: Many students may be familiar with the minimum wage legislation. A discussion about it could be initiated by asking some of the following questions:

What do we mean by the minimum wage? Who sets it? How often does it change?

Is it adequate? Does it keep pace with inflation?

What do you know about the poverty levels for individuals and families? How does this compare to the amount received by people on social assistance?

Do you think everyone should receive a guaranteed income? If so, how could we decide on what a fair salary would be?

Most employment contracts come within the scope of the Labour Standards Act with regard to vacation pay, public holidays, hours of work, minimum wage, wage protection, employment of children, notice of termination, and maternity and adoption leaves. It may be possible to invite a person from the Labour Standards division of the provincial government to discuss the issue or get the booklets, Some Answers on Labour Standards in Newfoundland and A Guide to the Labour Standards Act, from the Department of Employment and Labour Relations.

As of April 1, 1991 the minimum wage in Newfoundland is $4.75 an hour and it applies to every employee, sixteen years of age and over with the exception of "casual babysitter" and employees between 14 and 16 years of age. A "casual babysitter" is someone who, from time to time, provides child care in the home of the child e.g., while a parent is shopping, attending meetings, visiting in the evening, etc. Where an employer and an individual have agreed to an ongoing child care arrangement in the home of the child, the individual would not be considered a casual babysitter. For example, an individual caring for a child of a nurse working 5 different shifts every 2 weeks, is not a casual babysitter. The overtime rate ($7.12 per hour) should be paid for more than 44 hours work a week. Students should notice the exceptions to the law and be aware that the laws are revised and changes made, especially to the rate of pay.

As a comparison, the minimum wage is $4.25 an hour in Nova Scotia (but that will increase to $5.00 in January 1992); $4.75 an hour in P.E.I.; $5.00 an hour in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Northwest Territories; $5.40 an hour in Ontario; and $5.30 an hour in Quebec. These are the rates as of May 1991. The minimum wage has normally increased every 2 or 3 years: it was $4.25 an hour in 1988 in Newfoundland. It may be of interest to note that in 1968 there were no equality laws and men and women were paid a different minimum wage; men over 19 received $1.10, while women received 85 cents an hour. Now it is stated in The Human Rights Code (1988) that, "There shall be no difference in wages between male and female employees, employed in the same establishment who are performing, under the same or similar working conditions, the same or similar work on jobs requiring the same or similar skill, effort and responsibility, except where that payment is made pursuant to a seniority or merit system." This is known as the "equal pay for work of equal value" principle.

Once the students are familiar with the different sections in the Labour Standard Act, they could discuss many of the social issues arising from it. With regard to the minimum wage legislation, information can be presented in the form of a case study. If Joan Forest is working in a fish plant earning a starting wage of $6.75 per hour and has two young children at home who need child care, can she afford to employ a babysitter and be required to pay her the minimum wage of $4.75 per hour? She may feel she cannot afford this amount. From an employer's point of view, Joan may prefer to pay her babysitter $2.75 per hour, a more acceptable wage for a casual babysitter perhaps. In this case, Joan might feel that working would be more worthwhile for her financially, but would it be a fair wage for the babysitter? This is a very real situation for many people.

It would be interesting to consider here the role and responsibility of government in day care.

Should the government be involved in subsidising or supporting day care?

Are there sufficient day care centres available to meet the needs?

Do people want to have their children cared for in their own homes?

Should all day care workers be trained?

Are day care workers paid adequately?

The students should be asked for their opinions and encouraged to express them orally and in writing.

Another issue which is related to minimum wage is whether this is an adequate salary for a person. Get the students to use their mathematical skills to compute a yearly gross salary for a 40 hour week. This works out to $9,880.00 per year. Some may consider this an adequate salary for a single person, depending where they live. Normally, it is considered to be cheaper if a person lives in a rural area, rather than an urban one but students' views on this might differ. The National Council on Welfare issued figures in 1989 for incomes considered to be at the Poverty Level. These are:

$18,900 for a family of four in a rural area (18,000 people)

$21,749 for a family of four in a town of 30,000--100,000 people

$24,481 for a family of four in a city of 500,000 people

Statistics Canada does not define a "Poverty Level". In their document, Income According to Population Distribution - 1989, they put the Low Level Income cut-off as follows:

$8,983 for a single person, $18,145 for a family of four in a rural area

$11,537 for a single person, $23,481 for a family of four in a town of 100,000--499,000 people

$12,148 for a single person, $24,706 for a family of four in a city of over 500,000 people

A yearly income of $9,880.00 (the minimum wage) for a single person would fall short of these levels, unless the person was living in a rural area. It may be a useful group exercise to come up with a likely budget for a single person, and this could be part of the discussion of whether the minimum wage is adequate, or whether there should be a higher guaranteed income for everyone. If the group had the figures for the amount of money people received on social assistance, this could also be compared and discussed. Issues related to "Government and Law" are likely to arise from this.

Selected Occupations

As an introduction ask students to name a number of different occupations and classify them into different categories. The teacher could get a list of occupations from the local Canada Employment Centre and students could examine them and compare them to their own suggestions. They could select those of interest and use them to discuss different occupations in terms of working environment, physical demands and employment benefits. There may be some people who haven't been employed in waged labour--the occupations of student and homemaker can also be considered in these terms. The question of whether these occupations are seen by the public to be valid can lead to a good discussion.

Do homemakers deserve to be credited for the time spent caring for young children, elderly parents or other dependents?

Should those years be counted as pensionable?

Do paid workers and non-paid workers feel the same worth?

Is self esteem tied to receiving a pay check?

Different occupations could be examined in terms of educational skill and experience required. Students could be asked to consider their own cases.

Have they decided to improve their skills because they want to increase the possibility of finding a job?

What is the relationship between educational skill and occupational choice?

How does income relate to level of education?

It may be of interest to look at the publication, Job Futures - An Occupational Outlook (Vol.1 and Vol. 2) or the abbreviated version in the handbook. These describe the link between the educational system and the labour market through the experience of recent graduates, and discuss the current and future job market situation for specific occupations. The index listing fields of study and occupations can help students become aware of possibilities for future employment. Students could choose an occupation of interest and do some individual research on their chosen occupation. They could then find someone in that position whom they could interview. They should prepare a set of questions beforehand to ask the individual. Some students may prefer to interview a friend or relative initially, but others may be prepared to visit a worker they do not know in his or her workplace. There is a career directory available which lists businesses participating in a "job shadowing" program. The directory was produced by the St. John's Board of Trade for use by high school students. The directory also includes names of people willing to speak to groups about their particular jobs. Guest speakers could be invited to present information on selected occupations. There are "Job Search Strategies" workshops given by local Canada Employment Centres as well. CEC counsellors can be contacted for further information.

A number of different job application forms can be collected and given to the students to complete. They can also prepare their own resumes, write business letters, and participate in mock interviews.

The following agencies and groups may be contacted for information or advice, or to arrange for a guest speaker. Most agencies would also have information pamphlets and resource guides.

Newfoundland Human Rights Commission

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Telephone: 729-2709 1-800-563-5808

Dept. of Employment and Labour Relations

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Labour Standards

Telephone: 729-2742

Labour Relations Division

Telephone: 729-2711

Labour Standards Officer

Provincial Building, Grand Falls NF A2A 1W9

Telephone: 292-4286 or 292-4285

Labour Standards Officer

Annex Building, Lundrigans Complex

Riverside Drive, R.R.1, Corner Brook NF A2H 2N2

Telephone: 637-2364

Dept. of Employment & Labour Relations

Provincial Building, Wabush, Labrador NF AOR 1BO

Telephone: 282-3611

Occupational Health and Safety

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Telephone: 729-2705 1-800-563-5471

Career Centre Hotline

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Telephone: 729-6600 1-800-563-6600

Workers Compensation Commission

P.O. Box 9000, Station B,

St. John's NF A1C 5T7

Telephone: 778-1000 Public Relations 778-1223

P.O. Box 850

Grand Falls NF A2A 2T7

Telephone: 489-9883

P.O. Box 474

Corner Brook NF A2H 6E6

Telephone: 639-9960

Women's Policy Office

P.O.Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Telephone: 729-5098

St. John's Board of Trade

P.O. Box 5127

St. John's NF A1C 5V5

Telephone: 726-2961

Newfoundland Teachers Association

3 Kenmount Road

St. John's NF A1B 1W1

Telephone: 726- 3223 1-800-563-3599

Newfoundland Association of Public Employees

P.O. Box 1085

St. John's NF A1C 5M5

Telephone: 754-0700 1-800-563-4442

Public Service Alliance of Canada

The Light Building

50 Harbour Drive

St. John's NF A1C 6S4

Telephone: 726-6453

Newfoundland Federation of Labour

P.O. Box 6114

St. John's NF A1C 5X8

Telephone: 754-1660

Canadian Union of Public Employees

Regatta Plaza, 84 Elizabeth Avenue

St. John's NF A1A 1W7

Telephone: 753 -0732

Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland

P.O. Box 6116

St. John's NF A1C 5X8

Telephone: 753-6040

Revenue Canada Taxation

St. John's NF A1B 3Z2

Telephone: 772-2610

Canada Employment and Immigration Commission

Employment Centres (Unemployment Insurance)

St. John's NF

Telephone: 772-4700 1-800-563-5455

West End - P.O. Box 2150, St.John's NF A1N 2Z9

Central - P.O. Box 8548, Station A, St. John's NF A1B 3P3

East End - P.O. Box 4800, St. John's NF A1C 5T8

Health and Welfare Canada

Income Security Programs

P.O. Box 9430

St. John's NF A1A 2Y5

Telephone: 772-5500

Information and Referral to Federal Programs and Services

St. John's NF Telephone: 772-4365

From all other exchanges Telephone 1-800-563-2432

Ordering Information

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Employee Benefits Program - This deals with the insurance programs.

Contact Tony Lannon, Department of Education, P.O. Box 8700,

St. John's, NF A1B 4J6

How to Find a Job in Today's Market, Job Futures - An Occupational Outlook (Vol.1 and 2 1990 and Handbook)

From the local Employment and Immigration Centres or contact office.

Workers' Compensation - An overview, Information for Employers, Workers' Handbook - From the Public Relations office in St. John's or local offices (See above)

A Guide to the Labour Standards Act: Some Answers on Labour Standards in Newfoundland - From Labour Standards Division, Department of Employment & Labour Relations, local offices (See above)

Career Directory

St. John's Board of Trade (See above)

A Woman's Almanac (1989, 1990)

Order from Breakwater Books P.O. Box 2188, St. John's, NF A1C 6E6 Telephone: 722-6680 or 1-800-563-7323

Night of the Caribou by Douglas Howe

Order from Lancelot Press, Hantsport, Nova Scotia

Integrated Unit

General Learning Objectives

Through completing a range of health-related activities, students will work towards the attainment of learning objectives from several areas of the ABE, Level 1 Program. Students who complete this unit should develop skills as listed in the following areas:


Examine the factors which affect physical and mental health

Identify major diseases in terms of symptoms, causes and preventative measures

Identify the major categories of drugs, their uses and abuses

Identify the basic systems of the human body and their overall functions

Describe the human reproductive system and factors that may contribute to or jeopardize reproductive health


Identify the relationship between food and health

Define nutrition and name the major food groups

Relate diet and exercise to physical and mental health

Analyze typical menus and plan nutritious meals

Present related personal experience orally and in writing

Express personal opinion orally and in writing

Discuss the relationship between stress and mental health

Identify the conditions which cause stress

Identify conditions which may contribute to good mental health

Use vocabulary related to all health topics

Classify and categorize information relating to major diseases according to symptoms, causes and preventative measures

Categorize information relating to drugs, their uses and abuses

Distinguish between prescription and non-prescription, licit and illicit drugs

Interpret medication labels and warnings

Scan a variety of text formats to locate specific information

Paraphrase information contained in government and health information pamphlets, television and newspaper accounts

Identify the basic systems of the human body and their overall functions

Examine the human reproductive system

Recognize factors that may contribute to or jeopardize reproductive health

Classify information related to birth control options

Perform practical writing exercises including letters of inquiry


physical health drugs

mental health licit\illicit drugs

stress prescription

exercise non-prescription

nutrition antibiotic

calorie tranquillizer

disease stimulant

infectious\non-infectious disease hallucinogen

heredity narcotic

genetic body system

causes circulatory

treatment respiratory

preventative measures digestive

symptom skeletal

virus urinary

bacteria nervous

fungus reproductive

malignant birth control

benign sexually transmitted disease


Your Body in Health and Sickness

Breast Cancer Series

B.C. ABE Intermediate Science - Disabilities, Disease, Drugs, Nutrition Workbooks

Health - A Way of Life*

The Wonders of Science*

My name is Rose

Coping (Books B and C)

A Woman's Almanac

April Raintree*

A Day at a Time*

The Medicines your Doctor Prescribes*

government legislation - Canadian Mental Health Act

pamphlets on nutrition and the Canada Food Guide (look for the recently revised issue)

mental health pamphlets, alcohol and drug dependency pamphlets, health information pamphlets from government and health organizations

newspapers, magazines

teacher produced fact sheets on diseases, student writings

guest speakers

films, filmstrips\VHS tapes

* Information on ordering these resources is on Page 108 of this Handbook. All other listed resources are in the Adult Basic Education Level 1 Program, Resource Materials chapter, Pages 70 to 88 or they are materials which are in the public domain.

Getting Started

Before starting any learning activity or lesson, it is critical to ensure that students understand why they are participating in that particular activity or lesson. If the instruction is to be meaningful, students should be given an opportunity to demonstrate what they already know about the subject and to articulate their needs and interests in the area. Teaching and learning become meaningful and useful only when students see the sense of what they are doing and when their input helps to shape the material. They will be interested in the subject and motivated to learn if they can answer these questions:

How does this affect me?

What do I need to know about this?

How can I use any new information in this area in my day to day life?

Learning Activities

The sample of learning activities which follow are intended to provide a guide for teachers for the development of a range of other learning activities in response to student interest and need. The activities are intended as samples only: the list is by no means comprehensive.


Most students will have some knowledge of health issues. As it is a very broad topic, the introduction to the unit could start with a discussion of the definition of health. From this other questions could arise including:

What are the differences between physical, mental and social well being?

Can you name some factors which affect physical health?

What factors affect mental health?

How is food related to health?

What do you understand by the term nutrition?

Are you familiar with the Canada Food Guide and its recommendations?

Do you know which government departments deal with health issues?

What are some of the most common diseases?

What drugs do you take? What are their effects?

How many systems of the body are there? What are their functions?

What do you know about the human reproductive system?

This general discussion is likely to generate many more questions and students will most likely have opinions and stories to share. You should have an idea of the extent of the students'

knowledge and level of interest in the area. The World Health Organization defines health as a "state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease". Health is what allows people to live up to their full potential. Using this definition and the students' discussions as a starting point, different aspects of health can be discussed and studied. These may include the following:

Physical Health

A good way to think of physical health is in terms of fitness. Being fit means you have enough energy for both your daily work and leisure activities. Physical health is more than just not being sick. It is possible to have a disease (for example, diabetes), yet still be physically healthy in other ways. Ask the students to suggest some factors which may affect health. The answers may include culture, family, peers, religion, media, drugs, exercise, stress, diet, food, and environment. Health behaviour is to some extent a matter of personal choice. Students can look at their own physical health, think about what influences their health behaviour and see if they can suggest things which would improve their health. People should realize health is always changing and most people are usually somewhere between healthy and unhealthy.

Mental Health

There is not a lot of suitable instructional material available in this area, although many issues can be covered through discussion. Very often, when mental health is discussed, the issues of mental illness, stress, substance abuse, emotional stability and feelings of self esteem and self confidence are also involved. There are a few novels dealing with some of these mental health issues and stories in selected books which students would be able to read. Any discussion on mental health and related issues should be dealt with in a sensitive manner. Many students may know of people who have had mental health problems or who have had a mental illness. It is important for everyone to realize the difference between the two, as there are many myths surrounding mental illness. Students could be asked to talk about these myths which may include:

"Mental illness is the same as mental retardation."

"Mentally ill people are all weird."

"Mental illness is not treatable."

The discussion and subsequent study should aim to dispel the myths. Students should become aware that mental health means the well-being of an individual--mind and emotions. The mentally healthy person is able to cope adequately with the demands of daily life. This means having self-respect, being able to think for oneself and make one's own decisions, and being able to accept responsibilities. It also means liking and trusting others and establishing satisfying and lasting personal relationships.

Mental illness is still a stigmatized disease which some people choose not to talk about. For the mentally ill person, however, the illness is real and just as serious as any physical illness. There is no single cause, no single illness. Causes may be physical (for example, brain damage, or chemical imbalance) or they may be a response to a life situation (for example, grief or isolation). Mental illness is never a question of failure of willpower.

Just as there are many kinds of cancer and arthritis, so there are many kinds of mental illness. These include: schizophrenia, depression, affective psychoses, personality disorders, manic-depressive illness, neuroses, and alcoholism/drug abuse. Many people are surprised to see alcoholism and drug abuse included, but these have become two significant causes of poor health today. Most types of mental illness can be controlled--though not necessarily eliminated--through the prescription of psychiatric medication. It may be possible to have a medical person come in and speak to the class about prescription drugs. Students could ask questions about the side effects of specific drugs, the effect on concentration, expected outcomes, and any medical precaution to be taken.

A reading group could read the article "Food and Drugs Don't Mix" in Coping (Book C). Alcoholism and drug abuse can lead to poor mental health and groups could read the stories of "Johnny Cash, Superstar" in Coping (Book C) and "Carol Burnett" in Coping (Book B). Along with the readings, students should be encouraged to write about mental health or mental illness in a general way or from personal experience, if they are comfortable with that. They should read the story, My Name is Rose, to see what another student has written.

There is a connection between mental health and personality and the following can be discussed:

self expectations (real and unreal)

stress and stressors in our lives

peer pressure


drug and alcohol consumption

People with poor mental health and/or mental illness are generally stigmatized by society. There is a CBC film on loneliness presented by Man Alive which would make a good contribution to the discussion. Students may be stimulated to present orally or in writing their personal feelings or experiences.

Mental illness is often referred to in literature and society as a disability. Students may not agree with that, as it may not be visible as in the case of someone in a wheelchair or someone who is blind. They usually agree that the disability doesn't have to be permanent. This is a good opportunity to discuss disabilities in general and the rights and responsibilities of those with mental illness. Use It's Your Right as a resource. Copies of legislation dealing with equality, discrimination, human rights, and housing are also useful.

Mental health is not a very well understood topic and it is infrequently discussed. However, it is a very broad topic and affects everyone's daily life.


Stress is an unavoidable fact of life. It is the pressures from outside that make someone feel tense inside. Some stress is acceptable, even expected. Too much stress can affect both your physical and mental health. The key to dealing with stress is coping. The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests that individuals may need help when several of the following factors exist:

frequent tenseness, unable to relax

excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs

poor concentration, feeling confused

constantly carrying work problems home

feeling out of touch with your feelings

having constant feelings of inadequacy

Students could be asked to brainstorm about daily life situations that cause stress. A follow-up exercise could be to suggest methods of adequately dealing with stress. Reference skills could be practiced through looking up information in an encyclopedia or medical dictionary. Scanning a number of pamphlets for relevant information is another useful activity. These activities are also suitable when dealing with other health issues.


Have the students discuss their views on, and their knowledge about, nutrition. Often people who have a little knowledge can be persuaded to eat certain foods and avoid others for reasons that are wrong. They may go on fad diets or take unnecessary food supplements because of misinformation about nutrition. Here are a few statements about nutrition that aren't necessarily true, but they are familiar to most people:

"Fish is brain food."

"Honey and sugar are equally good as energy sources."

"Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs."

"Eating grapefruit before a meal will help burn off fat."

"Onions can cure a cold."

The type of food we eat is influenced by many things. Do some brainstorming within the group and see if the following are mentioned: habit, family customs, affordability, climate, food business, advertising, emotions. It is important to think about what you eat and why you are eating it. What you know about food affects your choice. The more you know about nutrition, the more likely you are to try different foods.

As an activity, have the students examine their own food choices.

Do they use convenience foods?

How does their lifestyle affect their food choice?

Are they influenced by advertising?

Is price a major factor?

What foods do you need for good health? The answer to this question should reveal the extent of the students' knowledge if discussed generally, but it might also reflect their ability to buy certain foods. All foods are made up of nutrients, which are the substances needed by the body to carry on life processes. There are six main kinds of nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. These are needed to nourish the body by supplying fuel for energy, providing materials for building or maintaining body tissue and providing substances that act to regulate body processes.

Carbohydrates and fats provide fuel for energy. The main carbohydrates are sugar and starch. Many foods that contain carbohydrates also contain cellulose or fibre, which is important as roughage. Fats should be kept to 30% of your daily diet. Saturated fats--those from most animals--are solid at room temperature and eating large amounts have been linked to heart disease. Unsaturated fats--vegetable and fish oils--are liquid at room temperature and are better for health. The unused fats are stored as body fat, so they are linked to weight.

Proteins should make up about 12% of the diet, as they are needed to build new cells. Animal protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, cheese and eggs, but there is also protein in nuts, beans, cereals and vegetables.

Minerals and vitamins help regulate the body processes and are present in most foods. As long as you eat a variety of foods each day, you will get all the minerals and vitamins your body needs. Water is the other essential nutrient and it is also found in many foods.

Give the students a copy of the Canada Food Guide or some other source which illustrates a balanced diet. The Canada Food Guide has been rewritten and teachers should try to obtain the revised version. It now stresses disease prevention and the foods reflect low fat choices. Each day we should have a certain number of servings from all four food groups: breads and cereals; meat, fish or other protein; milk; vegetables and fruit. Ask the students to keep a daily record of the food they eat over a week and then categorise it according to the food guide. They may wish to share their findings with the group and this discussion can be used as a summary of the topic of nutrition.


The teacher could introduce this topic with a questionnaire for the students:

Do you think the person who is out jogging in all kinds of weather is crazy?

Would you give up watching your favourite T.V. show to play some sport?

Do you usually walk up the stairs or use the elevator, given a choice?

Do you ride in a car when you could walk?

Do you take part in any organized physical activities?

Which of the following activities do you do: walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics, hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball, skiing, dancing, other?

How much time do you spend each week on exercise?

What are some of the benefits of exercise?

The students could then analyze their own answers and identify areas which could be improved upon. They may wish to plan a personal exercise program. To be fit, it is necessary to exercise the body regularly. The benefits of exercise include:

1. avoiding some health problems (for example, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure)

2. improving the circulatory and respiratory systems

3. improving coordination

4. controlling weight and reducing stress

Tips on Exercising

Before starting on any exercise program, you should have a medical examination. It is sensible to choose a variety of activities to prevent boredom. You should exercise at least 3 times a week. Remember to warm up beforehand and have the right clothing for the activity. Don't overdo it, but aim to improve your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility.


The definition of disease is any condition that affects normal functioning unfavourably. A simple way of classifying disease is by cause. There are infectious diseases such as measles, colds, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and there are non-infectious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease.

Infectious Diseases: These are caused by the invasion of the body by micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The micro-organisms can pass from person to person or from animal to person. Bacteria produce toxins, which make the individual sick. Examples of diseases caused by bacteria include tuberculosis and whooping cough. Viruses are smaller and they enter and grow within the body cells. The cells cannot continue to carry out their functions and this makes the individual feel sick. Examples of diseases caused by viruses are the common cold, chicken pox, and influenza. Fungi commonly cause skin disease (for example, athlete's foot). Parasites use their host as a food source and weaken them so they can't resist other infections. Examples include lice, scabies, malaria, tapeworm, and amoebic dysentery. In general most infectious diseases develop fast, do not last a long time, and are not fatal. Some may cause damage over a long time or they may recur. They are transmitted by air, insects, food and water, wound infections, direct contact, and sexual contact.

Non-infectious Diseases: These include degenerative diseases caused by the malfunctioning or degeneration of the body's cells, organs or systems. Some may be caused by viruses and others seem to occur in families. Examples of degenerative diseases are heart disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and cancer. Genetic diseases are caused by errors in an individual's genes either inherited from an ancestor or through mutation. Deficiency diseases are caused by a lack of a nutrient such as a vitamin or mineral in the diet. Examples include certain gum and teeth diseases, anaemia and rickets.

The students should understand the causes of diseases and see the relationship between lifestyle, environment and heredity, and a particular disease. The class can also categorise any information they have according to symptoms, treatment and preventative measures. Ask for suggestions about prevention. Answers should include: immunization, improved sanitation,

control of disease spreading insects, public education, isolation of infected patients, balanced diet, change in lifestyle, and genetic counselling. Discuss examples of some of the more common screening tests done to identify diseases (for example, EKG, EEG, pap smear, mammogram, brain scan, blood analysis).

What does the body do to defend itself against disease? This question can lead to a general discussion of defence systems. There are the general defences or overall resistance which depends on age, nutrition, and general health. Then there are mechanical barriers--for example, skin, when it remains unbroken or mucous membranes protecting tissues.

Immunity is another form of defence. The white blood cells in the lymphatic system destroy bacteria and filter impurities through the lymph nodes. The body also develops acquired immunity. If a foreign substance enters the body, antibodies are manufactured and these destroy the virus or bacteria.

There is a virus that destroys the white blood cells and causes the condition called AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). People with AIDS are not protected from other diseases and many times die from rare forms of cancer, or pneumonia and other respiratory complications. The AIDS virus can be spread from one person to another through sexual contact, through coming in contact with blood of an infected person, or through drug users sharing needles. So far there is no cure for AIDS. However, scientists are working on a vaccine against the AIDS virus.

Being inoculated or immunized against a disease with a vaccine is another way to get immunity. Immunization is important in preventing widespread epidemics of diseases (for example, smallpox, polio and cholera) in the general population.

The topic of disease lends itself well to a research project. The students may choose one of the major diseases (for example, cancer, heart disease, diabetes or STD) and use their reference skills to look up information in encyclopedias or medical dictionaries. They can collect pamphlets from health organizations, newspaper and magazine articles and teacher produced materials and scan them to gather information. If the information is written at a high reading level, the teacher can read it aloud to the group and have them paraphrase the information. It is important for students to understand the vocabulary and to use it effectively. Some students will be able to write a report on the topic, while others may prefer to present it orally. A discussion is likely to follow, as most students will have personal stories to relate regarding these diseases and they may wish to share them within the group.


Ask the students what comes to mind when they think of the word "drugs." The responses are likely to be numerous and varied and to include medicine, cocaine, needles, hash, alcohol, antibiotics, tranquillizers, overdose, crack, dealers, abuse, and cigarettes. This brainstorming technique can be useful for the teacher to show students how to then categorise the information. This can be used as an outline for a writing exercise dealing with main ideas and details and it can lead into report writing. In the ABE Level 1 program, the content material should be used as a basis for achieving the communications learning objectives and this topic lends itself well to this.

It is a good idea to start off with a definition of drugs. Drugs are any chemicals that have an effect on the body, mind or behaviour. Drugs can be classified in the following two ways:

1. how drugs are obtained or made available to people

Prescription drugs--those given by a doctor or other medical professional to prevent and treat diseases (for example, an antibiotic such as penicillin or a tranquillizer such as valium). The patient must be responsible and use the drugs sensibly.

Non-prescription drugs--medicine that can be bought over the counter without a prescription from a health professional. It is medicine we may use to treat ourselves for minor ailments. Examples include aspirin (ASA) and cough medicine.

Licit drugs--any drug that is approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration. Certain restrictions may apply. Examples include alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.

Illicit drugs--drugs that aren't approved for individual use. It is against the law to take these drugs and both the possession and the sale of such drugs are punishable by law. Individuals caught with illicit drugs and convicted of possession for their own use are usually punished less severely than those convicted of trafficking (sale) of the drugs to others. Examples of illicit drugs include marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

2. how drugs affect people

Stimulants--drugs which speed up activity in certain areas of the brain and spinal cord. Ask students to name any stimulants they are aware of, which may include amphetamines ("uppers"), caffeine, nicotine, and cocaine. The effects of stimulants vary from mild to strong. Stronger stimulants elevate the mood to give power and energy in the short term. Examples of these are cocaine and amphetamines. Long-term effects are usually the opposite with people becoming depressed, fatigued and paranoid. A dependence quickly develops with the use of these drugs, as some are very addictive. Students should be encouraged to examine their own habits concerning the use of the common stimulants of nicotine in tobacco and caffeine in tea, coffee, chocolate and cola.

Depressants--drugs which slow down the central nervous system and cause muscles to relax. Tranquillizers and barbiturates are examples. Sedatives cause drowsiness and hypnotics cause sleep. Barbiturates are used as sleeping pills, but high doses can be very dangerous and lead to coma or death. People might not realize alcohol is a depressant and shouldn't be taken with sleeping pills. Driving under the influence of alcohol can cause accidents because of slowed reflexes and disorientation. The effects can include strong psychological and physical dependence. Sudden withdrawal can lead to hallucinations and convulsions.

Narcotics--This is a legal term which refers to the drug opium and products and substances that have similar effects. They act as pain killers. Students may be familiar with codeine, morphine, demerol, opium, heroin or methadone. These narcotics depress the brain and spinal cord and reduce the ability to perceive sensations of touch and pain. They produce tolerance and dependence quickly and are legally obtained by prescription only. Heroin, however is not legal. Dependence is rapid and withdrawal symptoms are severe. Methadone, similar to heroin, may be used as a substitute to help those dependent on heroin, by lessening their symptoms. Marijuana, which is smoked, alters mood, thinking and behaviour. The long term effects are still being studied, but large doses may cause hallucinations. Legally it is classified as a narcotic, as are cocaine and its more potent processed form, "crack".

Hallucinogens--These drugs cause great changes in the way a person feels and interprets things. It is difficult for the mind to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Some come from natural sources. These include magic mushrooms, mescaline, and peyote. Others are manufactured artificially. LSD is perhaps the best known of the artificially manufactured. Effects of hallucinogens include confusion, nausea, and mood swings from complete joy to absolute terror.

Initiate a discussion by asking the students the following:

What drugs do you take?

What do you take them for?

What are their characteristics and effects?

Use the examples given and have them classify the drugs into groups according to their characteristics and effects. Ask the students to think about drug abuse. What are some of the problems associated with it? Answers could include infections, AIDS, malnutrition, overdoses, dependency in unborn babies, and crime. Students may wish to relate personal or general experiences about drugs and this can be done orally or in writing. There are a number of stories listed in the resources which are suitable for reading groups. Both fiction and non-fiction reading is suitable and writing activities could follow.

The World Health Organization states, "A medicine is useful if the expected benefits for the patient outweigh the risks involved in its use." Students should be shown different medication labels and warnings and asked to interpret them. If they are well informed, then they can be responsible for the rational use of prescription drugs. The pamphlet, The Medicines Your Doctor Prescribes, is a useful resource. Some of this may have already been dealt with in the "Mental Health" section or in the Household Hazards section of the Science unit. Any unfamiliar vocabulary should be dealt with.

Human Body Systems

Introduce the topic with pictures or models of the human body and ask the students to name the basic systems of the body. They could then be given a list of the systems and their functions and asked to match them. This would give some idea of the extent of their knowledge in this area. Many students may not be aware of the human body.

The systems to be covered are:









As there may be a number of unfamiliar terms in this area, the teacher may choose to read information sheets to the group, while they listen and follow along. They could each keep a folder with these sheets and a diagram of each system, to use as a reference. There are a number of workbooks with easy explanations and question and review sheets for students to complete, if additional material is needed. The Steck-Vaughn Series, The Wonders of Science - The Human Body, is suitable for this level.

Human Reproductive System

This may be an area where a guest speaker from the local Planned Parenthood or public health nurse could be invited to give a talk, or show a video and be involved in a group discussion. Students could prepare questions beforehand.

The students should gain certain knowledge about the human reproductive system. The activities of the human body are controlled by the glands, which produce hormones. During puberty, the sex hormones control the development of male and female sex characteristics. In females, the sex glands are the ovaries and in males, they are the testes. These glands are part of the reproductive system and both the male and female reproductive systems should be discussed. Students should be able to list the reproductive organs or name them on a diagram. The vocabulary used and understood should include the following: testes, scrotum, sperm, semen, urethra, penis, ovaries, egg cells, fallopian tube, uterus, fetus, vagina, menstrual cycle and period. Ask the students to outline the reproductive process; their explanation should give an indication of their knowledge.

In a discussion, draw out the factors that contribute to reproductive health. Then look at what may jeopardize reproductive health. This may be an opportunity to include information on genetics and heredity. Related to this topic is the issue of birth control. The students should identify different options of birth control including rhythm method, intra uterine devices (IUD), the pill, tubal ligations, creams, condoms, and vasectomy. This could lead to a discussion on rights and responsibilities of partners. With all the media attention nowadays on reproduction and technology, students may wish to express their opinions orally or write about related issues including in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood and abortion. These issues all have legal implications, so again it is possible to overlap content areas in the program.

The following agencies and groups may be contacted for information or advice or to arrange for a guest speaker. Most agencies listed would also have information pamphlets and resource guides.

Department of Health - Public Service

Confederation Building

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 3Z2

Telephone: 729-3124

Public Health Services Building

Forest Road

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 3Z2

Telephone: 729-3440

Health and Welfare Canada

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 3Z2

Telephone: 729-3606

Alcohol and Drug Dependency Commission

120 Torbay Road

Prince Charles Building Suite 105

St. John's NF A1A 2G8

Telephone: 737-3600

Alcoholics Anonymous - Central Office

P.O. Box 26074, Cornwall Ave. Post Office

St. John's NF A1E 5X9

Telephone: 579-5215

Canadian Mental Health Association Nfld. Division

P.O. Box 5788

St. John's NF A1C 5X3

Telephone: 753-8550

Canadian Cancer Society

P.O. Box 8921

St. John's NF A1B 3R9

Telephone: 753-6700

Canadian Diabetes Association

P.O. Box 9130

St. John's NF A1A 2X3

Telephone: 754-0953

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

P.O. Box 5819

St. John's NF A1C 5X3

Telephone: 753-8521

Newfoundland Lung Association

P.O. Box 5250

St. John's NF A1C 5W1

Telephone: 726-4664

Ordering Information

The Wonders of Science - The Human Body

This is one in a series of 6 science books. It covers the human body systems and their functions.

Order from: Steck-Vaughn Company, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 30 Progress Ave., Scarborough, Ontario M1P 2Z5

Health - A Way of Life

This is a text book for the Junior High Level. It has a lot of general information on all aspects of physical health, mental health, disease and drugs. It would be a good reference book for the higher level reader. It is published by Scott, Foresman & Co.

Order from: Gage Educational Publishing, Division of Canada Publishing Corporation, 164 Commander Boulevard, Agincourt, Ontario M1S 3C7

A Woman's Almanac (1989, 1990)

Each year a diary is published featuring women of Newfoundland. Their stories cover a wide range of topics and are of local interest. The reading level is at a fairly high level, but it is recommended for group readings.

Order from: Breakwater Books, P.O. Box 2188, St. John's, NF A1C 6E6 Tel: (709) 722-6680. Back issues cost $4.95

April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton

This is a story of a Métis woman and her life in the city. It deals with the issues of foster care and adoption.

Order from: Pemmican Publications Inc., 412 McGregor St., Winnipeg, Manitoba

R2W 4X5

A Day at a Time

This is one book in a series dealing with mental illness.

Order from Fearon Education, 500 Harbor Blvd., Belmont, California, 94002

Tel: 1-800-877-4283

The Medicines Your Doctor Prescribes

This is a pamphlet put out by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada dealing with responsible use of prescription drugs. It may be found in a local drugstore.

Order from Director of Publications, PMAC, Suite 302, 1111 Prince of Wales Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K2C 3T2

Integrated Unit

General Learning Objectives

Through completing a range of science-related activities, students will work towards the attainment of learning objectives from several areas of the ABE, Level 1 program. Students who complete this unit should develop skills as listed in the following areas:


Describe the earth's position in the solar system

Identify the forces influencing day and night, the seasons, climate and weather

Identify hazards in the environment

Discuss human responsibility for environmental health

Identify basic science concepts and vocabulary

In this unit, it is felt that the material related to the basic science concepts and vocabulary in the program outline (particularly objective 7) should be taught by a qualified science teacher. The students need to become familiar with laboratory safety and experimental procedures. Without the expertise of a trained science teacher, the students will find it difficult to gain sufficient knowledge to succeed in the Level 2 program. It would be preferable for all the science to be taught by a science teacher, but this is not always possible. Even if it is taught by a science teacher, much of the material should also be incorporated into communication skills. Science material relating to the earth, day and night, seasons, climate, weather and the environmental issues is of a more general nature and much of it can be taught by the regular program teacher. The first four objectives outlined in the science program content area have been included in the section on Health in this unit.


Describe the earth's position in the solar system

Scan information related to day and night, rotation, and time zones

Describe the seasons and the factors that cause seasonal changes

Distinguish between climate and weather

Identify the differences in the factors affecting climate and weather

Use science-related vocabulary

Discuss and evaluate information about household hazards including poisons, chemicals, electricity, heating accidents and fire

Classify and categorize information specific to safety including the safety of children, the disabled and the elderly

Scan a variety of text formats including pamphlets, labels, newspaper articles and signs to locate information related to workplace and transportation safety

Discuss and interpret information about environmental hazards including air pollution, water pollution, and carcinogens

Use environment-related vocabulary

Distinguish between fact and opinion in articles related to environmental and health issues.

Evaluate current environmental and health information for personal significance

Present personal experience orally and in writing

Perform practical writing exercises including paraphrasing information and writing letters


planet climate household hazard

solar system weather preservation

rotation greenhouse effect chemicals/poisons

revolution recycling safety

time zone conservation environment

latitude extinction of species pollution

longitude carcinogens ozone layer

seasons acid rain reforestation


B.C. ABE Intermediate Science - The Weather Workbook

The Wonders of Science - The Earth and Beyond*


Mars, Uranus, Saturn, Stars*

Life in the Rainforests, Life in the Deserts, Life in the Oceans*

Why do Volcanoes Erupt? - Questions about the Planet*

Why Things Are - A Guide to Understanding the World Around Us*

Science Works - Ontario Science Book of Experiments*

What We Can Do For Our Environment*

pamphlets from government departments and other public information material

newspapers, magazines

teacher-produced fact sheets

student writings

Human Health and the Environment (Audio Visual Catalogue) - Health and Welfare Canada

National Film Board of Canada films and videos

computer software

* Information on ordering these resources is on Page 124 of this Handbook. All other listed resources are in the Adult Basic Education Level 1 Program, Resource Materials chapter, Pages 70 to 88 or they are materials which are in the public domain.

Getting Started

Before starting any learning activity or lesson, it is critical to ensure that students understand why they are participating in that particular activity or lesson. If the instruction is to be meaningful, students must be given an opportunity to demonstrate what they already know about the subject and to articulate their needs and interests in the area. Teaching and learning become meaningful and useful only when students see the sense of what they are doing and when their input helps to shape the material. They will be interested in the subject and motivated to learn if they can answer these questions:

How does this affect me?

What do I need to know about this?

How can I use any new information in this area in my day to day life?

Learning Activities

The sample of learning activities which follow are intended to provide a guide for teachers for the development of a range of other learning activities in response to student interest and need. The activities are intended as samples only; the list is by no means complete.


As an introduction to science, it may be helpful for the regular program teacher to get an idea as to what the students think of science by using brainstorming techniques. Some of the students may feel people have to be very clever to understand science. There is a common perception that science involves some eccentric person in a white coat in a laboratory conducting experiments which are not understood by most people and which do not have any relevance to everyday life. At first it may be necessary to concentrate on demystifying science and showing students where it is present in everyday life. Later when they have had some exposure to everyday science and are more confident, it may be appropriate to introduce the more academic aspects of science.

An individual's immediate environment is a good place to look for everyday evidence of science. Through a general discussion about this, see if students can suggest examples of science around them. Some of these might include the following:

Food--Making bread could be one they are familiar with. It is the chemistry of yeast reacting with sugar to produce tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that causes the bread to rise. There is a similar reaction of fermentation when making beer or wine. If food is left uncovered for days it will start to rot--this breakdown is caused by micro-organisms living and growing on it. An example of this is the mould that forms on bread. These micro-organisms can also be used to make food. Cheese, yogurt and sour cream are produced from bacterial cultures.

Taste--The flavour of food comes mostly from its smell, because of all the chemical receptors in the nose. That's why food has little taste when a person has a cold.

Clothes--In winter when it gets colder, people tend to wear heavier clothes of a darker colour such as black, navy, brown, dark greens and reds. This makes good science sense as dark colours absorb light and change it to heat. In summer when it is hot, people wear pastels and white because they reflect the heat.

Metal--There are several processes relating to metals which can be discussed. Two of the most common ones are:

1. Oxidation--Some metals will rust, while others won't. Rust is the result of a chemical reaction between the iron in the metal and the moisture and oxygen in the air. The dissolved iron reacts with oxygen to form iron oxide, the soft brown-red coating we call rust. Cars are painted to protect the metal, but if scratched and exposed to air, then rusting can start. Another way to protect metal is to galvanize it, as is sometimes done with nails and garbage cans.

2. Expansion--If it is too difficult to unscrew a metal top on a glass jar, it can be made easier by running it under hot water. Metal expands faster than glass, so the top loosens and it is easier to open the lid.

Cars--There are a lot of scientific principles involved when driving a car, but people take it for granted. For example, combustion drives the engine, friction keeps the car on the road and shock absorbers absorb the elastic energy of the rubber tires to prevent bouncing around.

If students can be encouraged to first approach science through some concrete examples, they may become less wary of science and more open to reading and discussing more academic science topics. Technology is related to science and students could discuss some of the technological advances they might use now in their everyday life. Examples might include computers, bank machines, scanners at checkouts, microwave ovens, compact disc players, cellular phones, and LCD watches. These products have all resulted from improvements in scientific knowledge.

Science Notes for Level 1 Program Teachers

The following section is intended to give the teacher some background information on topics covered in the general learning objectives. All of this material is not meant to be covered by the teacher or learned by the student. It is presented here simply as a reference source. Some of the topics have suggested activities, but these are only suggestions and a lot depends on the material available to the students and their interest.

The Earth

It is suggested that the teacher approach the earth science section by exploring general concepts through the specific. The earth is our immediate environment and so the teacher should start with it and work out from there, relating day and night, the seasons, and climate and weather to the solar system. The teacher could introduce the discussion with some questions, including:

What is the source of the earth's heat and light?

What causes day and night?

The students may have a better idea of the concepts if a concrete model is used. It may be possible to get a model of the sun and earth, either from within the ABE program or from a local school or library, to illustrate the idea of rotation causing day and night. A flashlight shining on a globe would also give the same idea. From this discussion of the earth's movement and day and night, the concept of time can be introduced. Time is related to a particular position on the earth, or the latitude of a place. Most people are aware of being 1/2 hour later in Newfoundland than Nova Scotia and students can probably tell you about different time zones in Canada. Ask if anyone has telephoned a relative in a different part of the country and remembered to take the time difference into account. On maps and in the telephone directory, the five time zones in Canada are shown.

As further practice in reference skills, students may wish to use an atlas to find a particular place of interest by using the key to longitude and latitude. The amount of material covered will depend on what comes out of the discussion and the students' interest in the material that is available.

As an introduction to the seasons, the teacher could ask some of the following questions:

Do you know any places where it never snows?

Is there any place where the sun doesn't set for six months?

When it is Fall in Newfoundland, is it also Fall in Alberta? in Australia?

From the specific answers about different climate and seasons in different places, the discussion could lead to the general concept of the earth's orbit around the sun, the length of the year and the two hemispheres. Students can be asked what else besides the earth and sun is part of the solar system. The moon, stars, planets, meteorites, comets and asteroids may be mentioned. See if they can name some of the nine planets. Show them a diagram of the solar system. If there is a student who is a fisherman, then he may be interested in talking about the moon and tides. Students could take any part of the science program and read further if they are interested, but most of the learning will take place through discussion.

Weather: This refers to the day-to-day changes in the atmospheric conditions in a particular area. It can be described on a purely local basis (for example, St. John's), or for a larger area such as the Avalon Peninsula or the West Coast. Ask the students to describe the weather on that day. See if the description includes the six main components of weather--temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation and cloudiness. Discuss these terms:

Temperature refers to how hot or cold the atmosphere is, as measured by a thermometer. Two scales are used--Celsius (C) and Fahrenheit (F). Freezing point is 0C and 32F, warm is 21C or 70F, hot is 35C or 95F.

Atmospheric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere overhead and is measured by a barometer. Changes in pressure usually mean shifts in the weather. Rising warm air forms a low pressure area and falling cold air forms a high pressure area.

Wind is the movement of air from high to low pressure areas. The greater the difference in pressure between the areas, the stronger the wind will be. The wind pushes the weather systems around.

Humidity refers to how much water vapour the air contains. The more moisture there is in the air, the higher the humidity. Cool air holds less water than warm air. When the relative humidity is 100%, air is said to be saturated.

Clouds and precipitation occur when air cools below its saturation point. This happens when warm humid air rises and cools and the water vapour condenses and forms droplets. These droplets form clouds of different types. The precipitation which follows takes different forms. Some clouds bring rain, snow or thunderstorms or mean fair weather. Cloudy days as a rule are cooler than clear ones. The opposite is true at night, because clouds act as a blanket keeping the earth warm.

An illustration of evaporation and condensation can be demonstrated in the classroom. Plug in the kettle and let it boil. The water evaporates and turns into steam; when the steam meets the cool air, it turns into water vapour--the white cloud you see. Put an ice-cold metal spoon in the white vapour coming from the spout and see the vapour condense into droplets and fall to the floor. This is similar to what happens in the rain cycle.

The scientific term for the study of weather is meteorology and meteorologists study the different air masses and the warm and cold fronts to predict future weather.

Climate: This is the atmospheric conditions of a place on a seasonal or yearly basis. It can be described as the result of observations over many years. Distinct weather conditions form a particular climate type in a climatic region. Some parts of the world are hot and rainy nearly every day; they have a tropical, wet climate. Others are cold and snow-covered most of the year; they have a polar climate. There are many other climates in between, where it is neither consistently hot nor consistently cold. Most people live in these temperate climates.

Students can be asked to look for this information in an atlas. Climatic descriptions use yearly averages for things such as rainfall, prevailing wind direction, average maximum and minimum temperatures for January and July and day-to-night variations. Discuss with the students some factors affecting climate. These include latitude, elevation, distance from the ocean, location on a continent and vegetation density. Compare these with the factors affecting weather. To distinguish between climate and weather, remember there is a great difference in the climate of Florida and Newfoundland, although the weather may be the same on a particular day.

Climatic Changes: The teacher can read different information to the group about climate and global issues and they could brainstorm some effects of climate. The enormous variety of life on earth results from the variety of climates and the resulting changes that have happened over the earth's history. It has influenced the development of cultures and civilizations. In agriculture, the farmer takes note of the climate when planting crops, allowing for the right growing season and harvesting.

Over the earth's life time the climate has changed, but quite slowly. Scientists believe we are in an interglacial period, when warmer temperatures have caused the ice caps to recede to Antarctica and the Arctic. Many centuries from now, the glaciers may advance again. Scientists are concerned now that human activities are causing dangerous changes in the earth's climate. Temperatures around the world have risen slightly since the 1870's.

Students may know the term for this warming trend--the greenhouse effect. This is related to current environmental issues discussed later. The greenhouse effect is the means by which carbon dioxide, water vapour and other gasses in the atmosphere absorb some of the earth's radiated heat keeping it warmer. If there is a change in the atmosphere, then the greenhouse effect is altered. The amount of carbon dioxide has increased by more than 20% over the past 100 years because of different human activities. If temperatures continue to increase, then some regions where crops now grow would become deserts. People must be aware of the consequences of their actions in affecting climate changes.

Household Hazards

This topic could be introduced by giving the students a sheet of the hazardous product symbols and asking them if they recognize any and can identify them. The symbols will include poisonous, flammable, explosive, and corrosive and the three degrees of seriousness: danger, warning, caution. Let the group give examples of where they have seen these labels on products in the home (cleaners, bleaches, antifreeze, glues, aerosols, etc.). Brainstorm some of the other things, besides chemicals and poisons, which are hazards in the home. Electricity, fire, heating accidents, cooking, smoking, small objects, water, carpets, household plants, medications, etc. may be suggested.

Safety is directly related to dealing with these household hazards. They affect individuals differently and the information should be evaluated for personal relevance. Discuss ideas for safety practices which may include keeping poisonous substances in original containers, reading labels carefully, ventilating areas where chemical fumes are present, keeping poisonous products or plants out of reach, flushing unused medicine down the toilet, not leaving dangerous objects around, covering electrical outlets, etc. Students can classify and categorize information specific to the safety of children, the disabled and the elderly.

Present the scenario of a child drinking from an open bottle of cleaning liquid. What should be done in this situation? Are the students familiar with emergency procedures? How are safety and health related?


Other areas where safety is a concern are in the workplace and in transportation. (Workplace safety should also be covered in Occupational Knowledge area.) Students can scan a variety of texts including pamphlets, newspaper articles and signs to locate information related to safety. In the area of transportation, highway safety begins with knowing and obeying the rules of the road, driving defensively and maintaining and operating a vehicle in good condition. There are special safety concerns for anyone operating a snowmobile, an all terrain vehicle, or a motor bike and students should discuss these.

Environmental Issues

The environment consists of everything around us, both living and non-living. We all share the water, air, food and soil. Living creatures shape the environment and humans have managed to make permanent changes, some of which have been harmful. People must realize their responsibility for environmental health and see themselves as part of both the problem and the solution. The "Greening of Canada" is something people can strive for. Brainstorm to come up with the many ways individuals can be involved in being more environmentally friendly. A discussion could include the following:

Garbage--This is a good place to start. Most Canadians produce 2 kilograms a day, which includes paper, organic waste, glass, metal, plastic, textiles and wood. See if everyone is familiar with the 4 R's--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover--and ask the students for examples of each. Encourage people to participate in any recycling programs available in their area. Students can write letters to the mayor of their town asking why they do not have a "blue box" program or suggesting recycling programs, explaining why they are important. Neighbourhoods can be cleaned up and the collected garbage can be sorted into recyclable materials. Discuss the idea of a compost heap in the garden, where grass cuttings, soil, vegetable peels, tea bags, egg shells etc. are placed in layers and turned regularly until the material decomposes and can be used for enriching the soil in the garden.

Conservation--This is the protection of the Earth's natural balance and the wise use of its resources. Natural resources are things found in nature which people use. There are renewable natural resources and non-living, non-renewable resources. Ask for some examples of both. It is now understood that natural resources will not last forever and measures must be taken to protect all aspects of the environment. This includes the plants and animals. There are 500 animal species worldwide that are endangered and may become extinct through human actions. Discuss how people are speeding up this process by overhunting, by introducing new species which change the balance within the ecosystem, by destroying habitat, and by polluting the environment. Many species of animals are rare. Others are threatened and may become endangered if nothing is done to protect them. One hope is captive breeding in zoos or game parks and then releasing the animals back to the wild, if a safe habitat can be found.

Trees are the oldest living thing in the world and are very important for the environment. What are some of these benefits? Trees consume carbon dioxide and produce life giving oxygen, they store rain water and release it slowly as it is needed, they provide shade and cool the air and they provide beauty and homes for birds and animals. Over the years, the environment has been altered to provide fields for farming and land for cities. The remaining wilderness areas provide an environment for the birds and animals, but it is disappearing. Canada still has more wilderness areas left than many other countries. The two National Parks in Newfoundland are Terra Nova and Gros Morne and there are many Provincial Parks. It is not only trees that are important for the balance of nature, but also the swamps, bogs, marshes and ponds that make up the wetlands.

There is a lot of attention now being paid to the state of the tropical rain forests of the world. They cover about 7% of the earth's land surface and are disappearing rapidly because they are being cut down for lumber and making way for farm land. They need to be saved from destruction. A useful discussion could be held on the subject of saving trees. Students should become aware of the importance of using recycled paper, using cloth instead of paper where applicable, preventing forest fires by following fire safety rules, and planting new trees. Students should be encouraged to listen to the news, watch T.V. and read newspaper reports on these issues and share any relevant information with the group.

Household Environment--Home is the immediate environment for people and there are other things they can do to make their house environmentally friendly, besides sorting through the garbage. They can check through the house for toxic wastes. Through brainstorming, develop a list of common toxins around the household including paint thinners and strippers, weed killer, motor oil, lighter fluid, and bug sprays. These should be handled carefully, stored properly and disposed of in a safe place in the community, not poured down a drain or into the ground. Students should become aware that there are now phosphate-free detergents available as well as other non-toxic (and sometimes homemade) cleaners which are better for the environment. For example, baking soda, vinegar and ammonia, and water act as cleaning agents and air fresheners.

Pollution--Prevention or elimination of pollution is another way to "green the environment" and the students will probably have personal stories to relate to the group. If you ask the students to name the biggest environmental problem, it will likely be pollution. This is a broad topic and lends itself well to research for information in encyclopedias, reference books, magazines, newspapers, government and organizations' pamphlets. All the gathered information can be classified into different topics by the group. Then students may wish to pick a certain topic and prepare an oral or written presentation for the group. In this way, they could all learn from each other and work at their own levels. If there is a particular article of interest to everyone, it can be used for group reading and then discussion.

Air Pollution--This is "dirty air" caused by such common pollutants as carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. These pollutants come from burning fossil fuels for electricity and using gasoline in cars, as well as from factories, furnaces and woodstoves. Smog is a problem in some large cities and can be a serious hazard to health. Students might be able to suggest ways of reducing air pollution, including insulating houses to use less energy, regulating industrial waste, improving public transportation, etc.

Water pollution--This is a major problem, as water is one of the earth's most valuable natural resources. Causes of water pollution include: dumping of toxic chemicals and release of heated water into streams and rivers by factories; dumping of raw sewage into rivers or oceans by cities and towns; release of fertilizers and pesticides from farms into waterways; and spilling of oil from tankers.

Indoor Pollution--This is not talked about as often as other forms of pollution, but it can be a problem to health. Ask the students to suggest causes of indoor pollution which could include smoke, chemical fumes, urea formaldehyde insulation (UFI) and other insulations, carcinogens (cancer causing agents) from burning material, etc.

Alternative Energy Sources--Ask the students to consider other sources of energy as another way to improve the environment. These include solar energy, especially when houses are built. Wind can also be harnessed and, in Newfoundland, perhaps windmills are suitable. Students can write on things they can do in their own lives which can improve the environment and help reduce pollution. They might want to write letters to one of the environmental groups asking for information about a particular issue.

Current environmental concerns

Ozone--This is a colourless gas found in a layer about 24 kilometres above the surface of the earth. The ozone layer is important because it is efficient at absorbing much of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Since too much of this radiation is dangerous to living things, the ozone layer acts as a filter and prevents the ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth's surface where it could be harmful to life. The thinning of the ozone layer changes this amount of protection from ultraviolet light. In 1984, scientists discovered that there was a thinning or "hole" in the ozone layer over Antarctica. It varies with the seasons but appears to be getting slowly and steadily worse. One risk associated with this is the increase in skin and other cancers. Scientists suggest that polluting gases Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are damaging the ozone layer.

CFCs--These are the pressurizing gases used in many types of aerosol sprays, as well as in fridges and freezers, and as the foaming agent in many insulating plastic foams. When these are used or broken down, they release CFCs into the air and these gases rise high into the atmosphere damaging the ozone layer.

Greenhouse Effect--This is a warming of the atmosphere caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air. The light energy from the sun is converted into heat when it reaches the earth's surface and then it spreads out in all directions. This heat may be trapped and absorbed by carbon dioxide and water vapour in the atmosphere. This makes the atmosphere and the earth's surface warmer, like a greenhouse whose glass walls and roof trap heat from the sun. The more carbon dioxide there is in the air, the greater the greenhouse warming effect will be. Students should be aware of some of the factors which contribute to an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere--these include the burning of coal and oil (especially by industry) and exhaust fumes from motor vehicles. Some of the harmful results of the greenhouse effect include droughts, flooding and altered ecosystems. We may wish for warmer weather in Newfoundland, but the greenhouse effect could be serious for the whole planet.

Acid Rain--This results when the oxides of sulphur and nitrogen react with water to produce sulphuric and nitric acids. Unfortunately, some of the pollution in the air contains these oxides which react with water vapour to produce raindrops containing dilute acid solutions. The water vapour can be held in a cloud for a long time before it actually falls as rain. Therefore, acid rain may fall and affect environments far from the pollution source. Discuss the signs of acid rain damage and results of acid rain. These can be the destruction of the balance of a lake or river ecosystem resulting in the killing of fish and plant life, as well as the development of disease in land plants. Acid rain can also eat away at metal and damage stone and other building materials.

The following agencies and groups may be contacted for information or advice or to arrange for a guest speaker. Most agencies would also have information pamphlets and resource guides.

Environment Canada

P.O. Box 5037

St. John's NF A1C 5V3

Telephone: 772-5588

Publications Office, Environment Canada - Atlantic Region

Queen Square, 45 Alderney Drive, 15th Floor

Dartmouth Nova Scotia B2Y 2N6

Telephone: (902) 426-7990

Inquiry Centre, Environment Canada

351 St. Joseph Boulevard,

Hull Quebec K1A OH3

Telephone: (819) 997-2800

Council of Ministers of the Environment

3rd Floor, Building 30, 139 Tuxedo Avenue

Winnipeg Manitoba R3N 0H6

Telephone: (204) 945-1576

Dept. of Environment and Lands

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Environment Officer

Telephone: 729-2552

Wildlife Division

Telephone: 729-2817

Dept. of Mines and Energy

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's NF A1B 4J6

Alternative Energy Sources

Telephone: 729-5757

Conservation Officers

Telephone: 729-5759

City of St. John's

P.O. Box 908

St. John's NF A1C 5M2

Geri King - Environment Specialist

Telephone: 576-8613

Nova Recycling Ltd.

22 O'Leary Ave

St. John's NF A1B 2C7

Telephone: 579-7466

National Film Board of Canada

Building 205, Pleasantville

St. John's NF A1A 1S8


Salmon Association of Eastern Newfoundland

Wedgewood Medical Centre

St. John's, NF

Telephone: 722-9300

Newfoundland Freshwater Resource Centre

Quidi Vidi Rennies River Development Foundation

P.O. Box 5, Nagles Place

St. John's NF A1B 2Z2

Telephone: 754-3474

Friends of the Earth

251 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 701

Ottawa Ontario K1P 5J6

World Wildlife Fund

90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 504

Toronto Ontario M4P 2Z7

Ordering Information

The Wonders of Science - The Earth and Beyond

Order from: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 30 Progress Ave. Scarborough, Ontario M1P 2Z5

Saturn, Uranus, Mars, Stars by Seymour Simon, Oceans by Seymour Simon

These books are published for children, but the explanations and illustrations are clear and suitable for adults.

Order from: Morrow Junior Books, 105 Madison Ave, New York, New York 10016

Life in the Rainforests, Life in the Deserts, Life in the Oceans by Lucy Baker

This is a series dealing with ecology.

Order from: Scholastic - Tab Publications, 123 Newkirk Road, Richmond Hill, Ontario,

Why do Volcanoes Erupt? - Questions About the Planet by Dr. P. Whitfield

A good reference book that covers a wide range of questions dealing with general science.

Order from: Penguin Books Canada, 280 John Street, Markham, Ontario L3R 1B4

Why Things Are - A Guide to Understanding the World Around Us

This has good explanations and illustrations of many things in our environment.

Order from: Simon Schuster Inc. N.Y., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Scienceworks - An Ontario Science Centre Book of Experiments

Order from: Kids Can Press, 585 1/2 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M6G 1K5

What We Can Do for Our Environment

Order from Publications Office, Environment Canada - Atlantic Region, Queen Square, 45 Alderney Drive, 15th Floor, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 2N6 Telephone: (902) 426-7990

Integrated Unit

General Learning Objectives

Through completing a range of mathematics-related activities, students will work towards the attainment of learning objectives from several areas of the ABE Level 1 program. Students who complete this unit should develop skills as listed in the following areas:


Apply mathematical and problem solving skills

Estimate answers to problems orally or in writing

Solve word problems orally or in writing

Perform whole number operations

Perform operations with fractions

Perform operations with decimals

Perform operations with percents

Use different scales of measurements in a variety of practical applications

Demonstrate facility in the use of the calculator for real life applications

Numeracy Skills Include:

estimating quantities, total cost, measurements, answers to word problems

handling money


unit pricing and comparison shopping

calculating provincial sales tax and GST


interest/credit payments

calculating income and deductions

measuring for carpentry, decorating, cooking, sewing etc.

using different scales of measurement e.g., distance, mass, capacity, time, temperature, area and perimeter

estimating and computing accurately in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division

performing whole number operations including place value, rounding, averages

performing operations with decimals including reading and writing decimals, rounding, converting to fractions

adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing whole numbers and decimals

performing operations with fractions of same and different denominators and mixed numbers

performing operations with percents including converting to fractions and decimals

calculating percents in real life applications

performing basic measurements with the metric system

checking basic operations on the calculator

computing basic operations in word problems on the calculator


Scan word problems and locate and understand main question

Identify important facts and supporting details

Extract extra data and determine missing data

Locate key words in problems which suggest problem solving strategies

Select appropriate operation for calculating answers

Skim graphs, tables, charts for relevant information and perform the appropriate task

Paraphrase information to set up own word problems

Use mathematics related vocabulary

Develop estimating and questioning skills both orally and in writing


estimate rounding

calculate compute

solve application

convert addition

subtraction multiplication

division sum

difference total

product answer

quotient divisor

dividend whole numbers

Vocabulary/Concepts (Continued)

averages fractions

numerator denominator

proper fraction improper fraction

mixed number decimal

place value percent

discount interest/credit

tax (sales, GST, income) unit pricing

measure distance

mass capacity

time temperature

perimeter area

square rectangle

data graph (bar, line, circle, pictograph)

table diagram


Basic Skills with Whole Numbers

Basic Skills with Fraction

Basic Skills with Decimals and Percents

Basic Skills with Math: A General Review

Contemporary's Number Power 1 - Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division*

Contemporary's Number Power 5 - Graphs, Tables, Schedules and Maps

Contemporary's Number Power 6 - Word Problems*

Solve - Action Problem Solving Series:

Whole Numbers (Book 1), Fractions (Book 2), Decimals (Book 3)*

Refresher - Working with Numbers*

Refresher Mathematics*

Refresher Mathematics - Teacher Resource Book*

computer software

teacher produced practice sheets

teacher and student produced word problems and practical applications

newspaper flyers from supermarkets, hardware stores, chain stores



* Information on ordering these resources is on Page 134 of this Handbook. All other listed resources are in the Adult Basic Education Level 1 Program, Resource Materials chapter, Pages 70 to 88 or they are materials which are in the public domain.

Getting Started

Before starting any learning activity or lesson, it is critical to ensure that students understand why they are participating in that particular activity or lesson. If the instruction is to be meaningful, students must be given an opportunity to demonstrate what they already know about the subject and to articulate their needs and interests in the area. Teaching and learning become meaningful and useful only when students see the sense of what they are doing and when their input helps to shape the material. They will be interested in the subject and motivated to learn if they can answer these questions:

How does this affect me?

What do I need to know about this?

How can I use any new information in this area in my day to day life?

Learning Activities

The samples of learning activities which follow are intended to provide a guide for teachers for the development of a range of other learning activities in response to student interest and need. The activities are intended as samples only: the list is by no means comprehensive.


In ABE Level 1 there is an emphasis on the integrated approach to teaching, where material focuses on issues people have to deal with in their day to day lives. Mathematics should be approached in a similar way and integrated into all of the content areas in such a way as to ensure that mathematical concepts and operations are not simply understood as abstractions, but are used to enhance students' abilities and increase their sense of control in all areas.

Traditionally introductory mathematics has focused on two separate areas: problem solving and applications, and performing basic operations. Many students are presented with these as separate entities and start mathematics by trying to master the basic operations in the order of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They have continued with this order and once a section has been mastered, they have considered it finished and continued on to the next section. Many times the students then do a review of an operation and do not remember how to calculate the answers. There is frequently very little carry-over when students attempt an exercise involving mixed operations. What they have learned is a particular mechanical pattern of doing an operation, without any thought or connection to practical examples from their everyday life. A different approach would be to make the problem solving skills and application of mathematics to everyday life of paramount importance. Emphasis would be placed on problem solving and understanding the application of mathematics, and performing the operations would come later.

Problem Solving

Many students find it difficult to deal with problem solving, as often they do not know any strategies for approaching problems. The teacher needs to create a framework for approaching mathematics, where students are given a real life problem, asked to discuss it, see that the solution is mathematical and decide on the approach to be used.

A useful skill for all students to develop is estimation. This skill can be an important strategy in approaching word problems and it is also helpful when dealing with mathematics in everyday life. Generally, students do not use rounding skills to get an estimate of the numbers involved in a problem, in order to estimate the answer. Without doing this, the students have no idea whether their calculated answer is reasonable when they check it. Some time, maybe 15 minutes each day, could be spent practising rounding numbers and estimating answers. This should help students improve their problem solving skills.

At first, students should be able to estimate, using examples where there are large differences in amounts and where choices are given. For example:

If I buy an iron which costs $17.99, a television set which costs $349.99 and a VCR which costs $175.50, estimate the approximate cost without tax. ($500 or $1,000)

John's babysitting earnings for three evenings are $19, $11, $8. Estimate his total earnings ($20, $40, $60)

The following bills must be paid: property tax $630, electricity $243, telephone $82, water $90, heating $394. Estimate the approximate total cost ($1300, $1400, $1500)

After students develop the ability to estimate answers where the given choices are very different, they should then work towards estimating between choices of finer distinction. Later they should provide the answers themselves.

I want to buy 2 movie tickets at $5.75 each, a box of popcorn for $2.50, and 2 drinks at $1.25 each. Will $15.00 be enough money? In order to answer this question easily, you must use approximate numbers and estimate the answer--2 x $6.00, 1 x $3.00, 2 x $1.00 for a total of $17.00. No, $15.00 is not enough money.

People need to work out the tax on items. Students are aware that the provincial sales tax is 7% and the GST is 12%. If a pair of sneakers costs $67.99, about how much tax will I pay on them? To have an idea of what tax will be charged, approximate or round the tax to 20%. Round the cost of the sneakers to $70.00 and estimate the answer--$70.00 x 20% = $14.00 or $70.00 x 10% = $7.00 x 2 = $14.00

Jack had $1,409 in his account. Two large purchases he made were $590 and $303. Estimate how much money was left in his account after the two purchases. Round the amounts e.g., $1400 - ($600 + $300) = $500.

These examples use estimation and there is no exact calculation of the correct answer. The examples given should be from everyday life and have real application for the students. Both students and teacher should work together to create their own word problems. Students should be encouraged to work without pen and paper when working on developing this skill. Present a situation to the group, give them sufficient time to estimate the answers and then let someone volunteer the answer. The teacher may then want to show on paper or the board how to go about the estimation problem. Once the problem has been solved by estimation, students may want to do the exact calculation. Students need to demonstrate a facility in the use of the calculator and using it for calculations in word problems would be appropriate.

If students can create their own word problems, it shows they have an understanding of the concept. Ask them to put the examples they create on index cards and then they can exchange problems. They should also provide the answers through estimation or calculation. For students who are not able to write the problems, teachers should transcribe their ideas. Build up a bank of problems associated with everyday life from the following areas: banking, budgeting, cash transactions, sales tax, discounts, consumer credit, housing, home renovation, travel, transportation, insurance, pay cheques, income tax, property tax, and utilities. In all these areas discussion and math should be mixed, so that Mathematics is integrated with Consumer Education, Occupational Knowledge, and Government and Law.

Unit pricing is a skill which people can use every day and it is necessary to use estimation.

A 2 Litre bottle of Coke costs $2.69, a 1 Litre bottle of Coke costs $1.49, a 750ml bottle costs 69¢ and a 355ml can costs 49¢. Which is the better buy?

A 150ml tube of toothpaste costs $2.45 and a 100ml tube costs $1.69. Which is the better buy?

Five 1 Litre cans of motor oil cost $1.49 each and a 10 Litre container of oil costs $12.75. Which is the better buy?

There are opportunities in many of the program content areas to use mathematics and the teacher should take advantage of these.

Bring in the advertising flyers from the newspapers, look at the prices of different items and suggest some problems. Plan meals for one day for four people and see if $25.00 covers the cost.

Allow yourself $100.00, get a catalogue from Consumers Distributing, Sears, Canadian Tire etc. and choose 3 gifts for family members. Work out the tax and see if you can afford it.

Look at a utility bill. Explain that electricity is measured in kilowatt hours. Find the total number of hours that appears on the bill. Notice the price of electricity per KWH. Round the numbers and estimate the approximate charge. Estimate the GST and then estimate the total charge to check the bill.

When the students discuss smoking, get them to work out the approximate cost of smoking for a year if they smoke 1½ packs of cigarettes a day at $5.25 a pack. If 35% of the cost goes towards taxes, estimate how much this is. Working with the cost of cigarettes provides an excellent math example with real life implications for budgets and health topics.

Strategies for problem solving

Students sometimes need to be reminded of different strategies for solving problems.

Following these steps will make it easier to solve word problems:

What is the question? Study the problem and decide what you are being asked. Rewrite the question in your own words or draw a picture to clarify it.

What are the facts? Underline the facts that you need.

What is the plan? Choose an operation and decide if there is one, two or more steps.

What is the answer? Estimate your answer first and then compute it using a calculator.

Does the answer match the question? Is it reasonable? State what it is.

In problem solving students should be encouraged to use the calculator for computing the answers. This ensures students concentrate on the problem and not on the operation.

The following are useful strategies for problem solving:

1. Find the question.

2. Organize facts in a table or a graph.

3. Recognize a pattern.

4. Identify and cross out extra information.

5. Rewrite problem in own words.

6. Make a drawing.

7. Use logic.

8. Work backwards.

9. Recognize key words.

10. Choose an operation.

Most math books include a section on the key words used in word problems. These key words can provide hints about the correct operations to use. But, while it may be helpful to recognize some of these key words and to understand their meanings, students should not concentrate solely on finding these words and then think there must be a definite connection to an operation. For example, they may see the word "of" and think it must mean multiply, without actually considering the complete meaning of the word problem. When this happens, the technique of looking for key words serves to reinforce a "mechanical," non-thinking attitude to mathematics.

Performing Various Operations

Each student has very different abilities, interests and needs and this is often quite obvious in mathematics. It may not be appropriate or necessary for every student to achieve all of the objectives. All students should know the whole number operations and at least understand the concepts of fractions, decimals and percents, if they are to succeed with everyday applications. Students tend to either like math and do well at it, or feel they can't do it and are not interested in it. This attitude can be the stumbling block preventing success. It may be necessary to discover what it is about math that the student feels is difficult and work on that area first until he can do it. This may require trying several different approaches until the appropriate one is found. Often giving the students small sections to master at a time increases their confidence and leads to improvement. Success at the start is a great motivator.

Many students are bothered by not knowing the multiplication tables. Perhaps they could be given a limited time to see if they can learn them. Most students remember the beginning tables 2, 3, 4, 5, but have difficulty with the larger numbers. Explain to the group that some of the students may be able to study the 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 multiplication tables that they don't know and with drill and practice learn them. For other students this is a frustrating, futile task and having a copy of the multiplication tables to refer to at all times is an easy solution. The teacher should use reason in pushing memorization, as there may be a learning disability that prevents the student from learning by this method.

With the emphasis on starting with practical applications in mathematics, estimating and then calculating, there will be a shift away from learning the basic operations in strict order and following any particular sequence in ABE Level 1. The numbering system for the general learning objectives is not meant to suggest sequence. Students will need to know how to perform the various operations, but they can be practised mainly in a variety of word problems and in mixed drill exercises, rather than by completing drill sheets of the same type of examples.

Problem solving, applying mathematics to everyday situations, alertness to the reasonableness of results, estimation and approximation--and then appropriate computational skills--are basic mathematical skills that need to be mastered by the students.

Ordering Information

Contemporary's Number Power - K. Tamarkin

Number Power 1, Number Power 5, Number Power 6

Order from: Contemporary Books Inc., 180 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60601 Telephone: (312) 782-9181

Solve - Action Problem Solving - Brian Enright

Book 1 - Whole Numbers, Book 2 - Fractions, Book 3 - Decimals

American in content, but has the steps for problem solving skills.

Order from: Curriculum Associates, Inc., 5 Esquire Road, North Billerica, MA 01862-2589

Refresher - Working with Numbers

This is a refresher book, so it goes beyond the concepts necessary for ABE Level 1. Examples are set out clearly. Uses estimation with the operations and suggests a number of problem solving strategies.

Order from: Steck-Vaughn Company, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 30 Progress Ave., Scarborough, Ontario M1P 2Z5

Refresher Mathematics - Teacher Resource Book - Edward Stein

Refresher Mathematics - Edward Stein

Order from: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1870 Birchmount Road, Scarborough, Ontario M1P 217 Telephone: (416) 293-3621

Teaching Writing In Adult Basic Education


Many Literacy programs focus learning activities primarily on reading. Writing is seen as secondary to reading and many programs are developed on the assumption that students must be able to read before they can learn to write. In such programs the focus of writing tends to be on learning to spell, improving letter formation, writing answers to questions to demonstrate reading comprehension, and learning to write words related to particular contexts such as employment or money. Many widely used "packaged" learning programs include writing only in the form of sentence completion exercises. Even when grammar and the principles of composition are taught, they are frequently presented as isolated skill exercises of the "fill in the blank" variety. Writing is pursued in a fragmented and decontextualized way.

There is a growing body of research which demonstrates the advantages--indeed, the necessity--of teaching reading and writing as complementary activities. Francis E. Kazemek sums up this view of the function of writing in the process of becoming literate(4):

Writing should be an integral part of adult literacy instruction. Reading and writing, as mutually supportive activities, cannot be separated without fragmenting the written communication process. Writing gives the adult a chance to think like an author, explore different styles and purposes for writing, read and reread, edit, and in general transform "writer-based prose" into "reader-based prose". Writing also gives adult learners the time and opportunity to explore their own feelings, express their own ideas, and clarify these ideas and positions on various important issues.

Most importantly writing should free adult students from the detrimental effects of their past schooling experiences. Writing activities should encourage risk taking, reliance on personal resources, and exploration of different functions of language and writing. Writing activities in an ABE program should dispel the notions that spelling must be perfect, that if you can't spell, you can't write, and that you must be able to read before you can write.

In the same article, Kazemek makes the following recommendations for adult literacy educators:

Make writing an integral and equal part of each lesson.

Develop writing activities which are based on the students' real interests and needs.

Help students to focus on functional uses of writing (writing to communicate and do something), but make sure that they also write to explore and express the self and the beauty of language.

Make sure that you as the teacher participate in all writing activities as a fellow writer and learner.

Get students to write extensively. Help them to focus on communication and expression, telling them that the mechanical aspects of writing (spelling and punctuation) can be dealt with later during the editing process.

Help students learn how to rely on their own resources as already-proficient language users. Get them to take chances.

Use the students' and teachers' writing in a variety of ways: reading; re-reading; sustained silent reading; cloze or selective deletion activities; editing, discussing, and reformulating ideas; and, of course, such things as spelling, handwriting, and punctuation.

Using Language Experience in the Level I Program

"Language Experience" is being increasingly used in a wide variety of Literacy and Adult Basic Education programs as a key element of teaching reading and writing. Although it is often used only with students who are just beginning to learn to read and write, it can be a valuable technique to use with students at all levels and in all program areas.

What Is Language Experience?

Language Experience simply means using material generated by the student as the basis for teaching specific literacy skills. It is based on the idea that students will learn better from material which is relevant to their lives and which uses their own language structures and patterns.

How Does The Teacher Incorporate Language Experience into the Level I Program?

The way in which the Language Experience approach is used depends on the reading and writing ability of the student. Non-readers and beginning readers will have to generate materials primarily by dictating to the teacher. The teacher transcribes the student's exact words onto index cards or directly into a writing journal. The teacher might start with the language experience approach by writing two or three sentences from an informal conversation with the student. This will be a less intimidating exercise that asking the student to dictate. Students will naturally be concerned about how they express themselves when they know it is to be written down. The teacher should encourage even the beginning student to dictate ideas on a variety of subjects, including:

personal information (name, address, why he or she has come to the ABE program, details about his or her family or job, etc.)

personal opinion on local news, current events, films, records, etc.

personal tasks which require literacy skills, i.e. writing a letter, filling in a form, or writing a report for work

If the student prefers, the teacher can supply him or her with a tape recorder, a blank tape and a private area to record in. The student might feel more able to compose thoughts in private and may be less likely to be intimidated by the teacher writing down what is said. The teacher can transcribe from the tape later. For the beginning student, dictation should be transcribed in lower case printing. The teacher should be careful to print as neatly as possible, and to insert capital letters, commas and periods as appropriate. Although these details should not be a focus of teaching with the beginning student, they should nevertheless be modelled from the start. It is also important to write down the student's exact words. The teacher should not make grammatical corrections or rearrange word order. If there is a difference between what was spoken and what the teacher wrote down, the student will probably read what he or she has spoken, not what is printed on the page. This will obviously be confusing and it does defeat the purpose of the exercise.

Students who are able to write can generate language experience material without the teacher's assistance in transcribing the material. The teacher's role with more able students is that of facilitator. For instance, the teacher might suggest a topic for a student or a group of students to discuss. Possible topics might include A Job I Enjoyed/Did Not Enjoy or A Movie/TV Program Which Has Affected Me. After the discussions students could be given time to write as much as they would like about the topic.

Suggestions for Using Language Experience Text to Teach Literacy Skills

Non-Readers and Beginning Readers

The Language Experience material generated by non-readers and beginning readers can be used as the core of their program until they have enough sight word recognition to read other material. Their own words are certainly the best ones to use to help them develop a core of recognized words. When students who can read very little first begin the program the teacher could engage them in informal conversation about their interests and needs. Two or three key sentences could be written down. Those sentences then become the initial teaching material. There are many possibilities for exercises based on those sentences, including:

The teacher prints the sentences, exactly as spoken, on separate pieces of paper or index cards

The teacher reads the sentences to the student. Each sentence is read once and then repeated in the same order--but more slowly--two or three times until the student remembers them.

The teacher asks the student to read along with him or her (choral reading).

The teacher and student repeat the choral reading until the student reads each word with expression and without trouble.

The teacher gradually reads in a lower and lower voice until the student is reading alone.

After the student can read the sentences, the teacher can make photocopies of each of the sentences and ask the student to match the sentences which are the same. Then, taking one sentence at a time (several copies) the teacher could do some of the following exercises:

Cut the sentence in two. Ask the student which piece of the sentence comes first. The teacher could vary by cutting the sentence into three pieces and having the student do the same task.

Cut the paper so each word is separate. Give the student the words one at a time and ask him or her to match it to the word in an uncut copy of the sentence.

Have the student read the whole sentence again and locate specific words which the teacher dictates.

Have the student practice printing or writing the sentence. (Students should begin cursive writing as soon as they are willing to try.)

Make another sentence or sentences with the words that have been used. Follow the same procedure to help the student read the new sentences.

Have the student begin a personal dictionary of the key words that have been used in the sentences.

Make flashcards of the key words in the sentence and have the student practice identifying those words out of context.

Make flashcards of the smaller "sight" words in the sentence (e.g. of, the, in) and have the student practice reading those cards.

Repeat the exercises with all of the sentences.

Have the student read the sentences whole again. The teacher may have to help through choral reading practice again.

More Advanced Readers

Perhaps the most valuable way of using language experience material with more advanced readers is to help them become better at oral reading. They can work on improving reading speed and expression through reading their own material. Because they know what it written and the language pattern and vocabulary are their own, they will not be afraid to take the risks that are necessary in order to read fluently. They will be more willing to guess at a word which they do not know on sight and to read ahead to try and use context to determine unknown words. The teacher might also provide the student with a tape recorder, a blank tape and private space in which to read. The student might be more comfortable with this arrangement until he or she becomes more confident at oral reading. Another bonus of taping is that the student can listen to the tape and do some self assessment. Students who are not happy with the reading (they may think it is too slow, too fast, too stilted, for instance) should be encouraged to erase and try again until they are satisfied.

Students who are ready to study some of the basic elements of word analysis and sentence writing skills should work as much as possible with their own composition. They could be asked, for instance, to find the statements and the questions in a particular piece of writing; to underline the nouns or the subjects; to identify plurals; to locate root words; etc.

Developing Topics Through Brainstorming

For many students in Level I programs, the most difficult part of writing is getting started. Most are so concerned about what the writing will look like--how many spelling and punctuation errors it will have or how their handwriting will look--that they find it very difficult to "think" about a topic. It is very important that the teacher help remove the concern for mechanics and help students come to understand writing as primarily a means of getting things done (letters, lists, forms) and of communicating ideas (letters, stories, opinions). The teacher can also help students develop a way of thinking about topics so that they do not always encounter a "But what can I write about that?" kind of block. Brainstorming is a very effective way of approaching this problem with students. The method works both with individuals and in groups. What it does is help students get a handle on a topic by bringing some kind of system to it.

The brainstorming process should be started slowly and carefully. The teacher might start by choosing a topic which is entirely familiar to the students and asking them to suggest a certain number of thoughts/ideas which occur to them around the topic. An example of a topic which might make a good introduction to brainstorming is "Christmas Traditions". The teacher could write the topic, "Christmas Traditions" in the center of a large piece of paper. (Use a flip chart or group the students around one table.) Ask the students to think about the things which are Christmas traditions in their families. Each tradition that is suggested is then grouped around the center topic. The teacher then asks the students to think of what topics occur to them with one of traditions. Each tradition (for instance, Christmas Food) could then be the focus for more detail. What kinds of food? (for instance, Christmas Dinner, Christmas Eve dinner, Baking). These subtopics are then grouped around the larger topics. In this case "Christmas Dinner", "Christmas Eve Dinner" and "Baking" are all grouped around "Christmas Food", which itself is connected to the main topic, "Christmas Traditions". Another topic generated on this subject would certainly be Christmas tress and this could lead to the subtopics, "Getting the Tree", "Decorating the Tree" "Favourite Decorations", etc. When the topic of Christmas Traditions had been reasonably covered, students could be asked to choose one limited area to begin writing about. Students who are able to write longer compositions could be encouraged to choose a broader area (for example, Christmas Food). The brainstorm would have already generated a rough outline of the topics that might be covered in that composition. If the brainstorming has been done in a group, it could generate several compositions on Christmas which could then be put together and read by the group.

Note: Semantic Mapping, the brainstorming process of organization applied to reading, would also prove to be a very useful technique to help students organize, comprehend and recall information from reading, listening or viewing. In this process, instead of simply answering questions about what they have read or what they know from listening or viewing, the students develop "semantic maps". Like the brainstorming, a semantic map is a visual display of how words, facts, and ideas are related. The technique develops comprehension skills by helping students extract information from a passage, a discussion or a film in a meaningful and organized manner. For practical ideas on the use of semantic mapping in teaching, Reading: Mapping for Meaning (Books 1,2,3) by Linda Ward is recommended. It is published by Sniffen Court Books.

Using the Word Processor to Teach Writing in ABE

ABE programs which have the use of computers with word processing packages have a very valuable aid for the teaching of writing. The wordprocesser allows students to edit their writing to an extent which is not at all possible with pen and paper. Words can be added and deleted as they decide it is necessary, spelling can be easily corrected, and whole pieces of text can be moved from one place in the composition to another. This gives students practice in organizing their writing and reorganizing it as they reconsider whether it flows or not. They can experiment with using synonyms; they can write two or three versions of a piece of writing, save them all, and compare. Not surprisingly, students tend to produce a great deal more work on the wordprocessor than they do with pen and paper. For all the reasons that teachers find composing on a word processor easier, so do students. And there is nothing like seeing your composition (however small) in print to motivate you to continue.

Teachers should have a basic knowledge of wordprocessing before attempting to use it as a teaching tool. They do not, however, have to be computer experts and they do not have to be touch typists! To start, they should know how to access the wordprocessing program on the computer, how to save material and access it later, how to print, how to exit, and how to do some very basic troubleshooting. They should also know some of the most used functions of the wordprocessing package: insert, delete, tab, indent, underline, bold, center, spacing, move, etc. How much actual wordprocessing the students learn will depend on their ability and interest. The teacher can make that decision along with the student. They should be comfortable with some of the basic terminology of computers and should be able independently to enter and exit the program and to save and print material. Acquiring those skills should be a major focus of the first few lessons although the lessons should also include some practice in writing and using the basic editing functions.

One of the most useful resources for using the wordprocessor to teach literacy skills is a publication by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit in the United Kingdom. The kit, entitled Wordprocessing For Literacy Skills, presents a wide variety of ideas for using wordprocessing in literacy programs. Although it would not be appropriate to use directly with students because of the differences between Canadian and British English, it is very useful to give the teacher ideas. Most of the following ideas have been adapted from this publication.

Sample Exercises for Wordprocessor

One of the most motivating exercises for students to do on the wordprocesser is the one-sided telephone conversation. To begin the exercise the teacher could make up one speaker's lines of a telephone conversation and save it on disc (or several discs if it is to be a group writing exercise). This could also be printed on a blackboard, flip chart, or on paper and photocopied so the students actually type both sides of the conversation on the wordprocessor. The student or students could then be asked to imagine what the other person is saying and type it in the spaces. The answers can be short or long as, of course, the wordprocessor will allow as much space as the writer requires. This is a particularly fun and motivating exercise to be done in a group. Students are amused to compare each other's answers.

Mary: Hello, Joan. How are you?


Mary: That's too bad. I thought we could go to the card game this evening.


Mary: Really! Who would have guessed?


Mary: No. I tell you I had no idea.


Mary: Yes, I was there. But I didn't see a thing.


Mary: Yes, of course I would.


Mary: I know how you're feeling, Joan. But I think you should go to the card game anyway.


Mary: OK. I'll wait for you to call me. Talk to you later.


Mary: Bye.

After students have completed one or two conversations that have been presented by the teacher, they could begin to make up telephone conversations themselves, delete one side, and have another student or students complete it. It is also a good exercise to have students pair up to complete conversations.

Another good exercise would be to have students change a written story by adding words or phrases from a list of possible ones. The teacher might give the student or a group of students a "bare bones" paragraph. A list of words and/or phrases could be printed above the paragraph and students asked to add any that they think would fit the paragraph. There should be some possibility for words and phrases to go in one or more places. This lends variety and makes it more than simply a "fill in the blanks" exercise. The teacher might take a short paragraph from a text or from a student's writing and delete some words (describing words, for example) or phrases. A student or a group could be given the list and asked to put them back into the paragraph so that they make sense. Teachers and students should understand that in this exercise there is no absolute "correct" answer. As long as the paragraph makes sense and flows well, it is acceptable. Here is an example of how such an exercise might work:

The woman sat quietly in a chair. Her grey head hung down. Suddenly a small cat ran across the room and jumped playfully into her lap. A little smile passed across the woman's face. She started to pet the cat and to talk to it in a low, sad voice. The cat licked her hand and purred happily.

The teacher could produce a copy of a short paragraph such as the one above with all the words in bold left out. (Note: there should be no blank spaces. The paragraph should make sense with the words deleted.) The students can be given the list of deleted words and asked to fit as many as they can into the paragraph.

Other ideas for using the wordprocessor to teach literacy skills include:

Free Writing

Ask students to use the wordprocessor as their pen and paper and write about anything they would like to.

Assigned Topic Writing

As an example, the teacher could facilitate a group discussion on a topic that everybody is interested in and have them write their opinions on the topic after the discussion.


Students could be given a simple paragraph, a set of instructions, a recipe, etc. with the sentences written out of order and asked to put them in the right order.


Students could be given a short composition (four or five distinct paragraphs) with no paragraph breaks and asked to insert paragraph breaks and indent where appropriate.

Correcting Spelling Errors

The teacher could take any short and relatively simple paragraph from a text or from a student's writing and write it (on a board, photocopied paper, or directly on the computer) with a few words deliberately misspelled. Students could be asked to find and correct the errors. In order to teach wordprocessing skills at the same time the teacher can have some words with too many letters so they practice the delete function and some words with incorrect letters so they can practice the insert function. Another way of having students correct spelling is to spell a word in three ways across a line and have them delete the misspelled words.

Capital Letters

The teacher could write short paragraphs and letters with no capital letters in and have students insert capitals where appropriate. It is suggested that both paragraphs and letters be used for this exercise as conventions for using capitals in parts of a letter and in addresses are different from regular composition. Another lesson could be made with a list of words with some proper nouns mixed in. Students could be asked to decide which words in the list should be capitalized.

Quotation Marks

One of the best ways to have students understand the function of quotation marks is for the teacher to present students with a text of their own conversation. This can be done one-to-one with the teacher having a conversation with a student, taping it, and then writing it out as a conversation. In this example of such a conversation transcribed, the teacher's name is Joe and the student's name is Cathy:

Joe walked into the classroom and greeted Cathy. "Hi, Cathy. How are things going today?"

"Pretty good", Cathy replied. "But I don't know what I can work on today. Do you have any ideas?"

"How about quotation marks?" asked Joe.

"What about quotation marks?" asked Cathy. "Do they bite?"

Given the text of an actual conversation they had participated in, students could be asked to pick out the words which were actually spoken and put quotation marks around them. A teacher could also tape a small part of a group conversation (not too many participants!) and have the group try to decide where the quotation marks would go.

Obviously the uses of the wordprocessor are numerous. Where possible the teacher should try and combine writing skills with wordprocessing skills. For instance, an exercise which involves moving text would combine wordprocessing skills with the practice of some very important organization and revision skills. The exercises on sequencing and paragraphing are excellent examples of these uses.

Printing, Publishing, and Using Student Writing

More and more Literacy and Adult Basic Education programs are encouraging students to write material which can be photocopied and put together with other students' material in a book or magazine format. Some programs keep the material "in-house" for use by the teachers and students in the program, others make more copies for distribution to programs within their institution, their town or their province. In the past three or four years there has been an increasing trend to actually publish student written material through commercial publishers. East End Literacy, a community Literacy program in Toronto, is one example of the trend. A whole series of small books written by and for students in that program have been published commercially and can be purchased across the country. Other programs have had collections of writing commercially printed and have distributed them widely themselves. There are a few regular magazines of student writing now being published, notable Voices from British Columbia. Newfoundland programs will have produced several collections of writings by and about students by the end of 1990 and there were two or three collections produced prior to 1990. Many programs have had a regular student newsletter going for several years.

There is little that motivates students more to write than seeing their writing in print. Most students in Literacy and Level I programs have felt quite intimidated by books and printed material. Becoming authors themselves usually helps enormously to remove some of the mystery and the fear which surround print and publishing. Printing and using student writing also acts to build the confidence of the students both in their ability to write as well as in the worth of their ideas. They very often feel that what they have to say does not count, that it wouldn't be important enough for a reader to want to read it. Students will often remark, after they have read their composition to a group or after they have heard it read, "That doesn't sound too bad."

Suggestions for Incorporating Student Writing in Level I

If your program has access to one or more wordprocessors, it is fairly simple to produce student written material. Ideally the students also type the stories and, along with the teacher, lay it out. If you don't have a wordprocessor, a typewriter will do. And there are still many programs which simply photocopy hand-printed material and staple it together. So the "look" of what you produce depends on the facilities you have access to. But, however basic or polished it looks, it can be useful in Level I programs in all the same ways.

Student produced material is useful both for the work and the skill that goes into the production as well as for the uses the material produced can be put to in programs. (See Using Language Experience in Level I, above.)

Students should discuss how they want their material distributed before they submit it for that purpose. Many students would be happy to have other students in their program read their material but would not want it distributed outside of the program. They should also be given the option of signing their material or leaving it unsigned. In general, it is probably a good idea to advise students against disclosing highly personal information or feelings in their writing unless it is perfectly clear that the student understands all the possible implications of disclosure. In terms of topics, the most common type of material produced by students in Literacy classes is the narrative account of some aspect of their lives or experience. This is a good place to begin. However, as students' writing abilities improve and as they are exposed to ideas and information in their programs, the teacher should really work with them to change the primary writing from narrative to include descriptive, opinion, etc. This is best facilitated by creating lots of opportunities for students to think about and discuss issues in their local areas, their province and the country. For example, the teacher might bring in a film on worker safety or invite a speaker from the Human Rights Commission. Those activities could be followed by one or more discussion groups in which students express their experiences and opinions and hear other students' views. The students could then be asked to write about their experiences and their views and to consider whether their perspective has changed as a result of the new information or as a result of listening to other, perhaps differing, views. As they write they should be encouraged to revise and to consider whether writing down their ideas can help them clarify those ideas. Student produced material on one or more themes is more useful in general than a simple collection. Teachers can use such material to introduce and explore a topic before beginning other learning activities on that topic.

Students writing material to be included in a collection or to be used by other students in the class present an excellent opportunity for teaching about the process of revising work. Even the student who is unable to write but must contribute material through dictation should be encouraged from the beginning to revise. In this case, the teacher should read back what was dictated and ask the student if he or she wants to reconsider and perhaps to change the wording or to move a sentence. As students become more able writers, they should be taking primary responsibility for revision. They should understand that this is most crucial if their work is to be published. They should be taught to revise first for clarity of ideas, development of ideas, and continuity. Students who are able should also proofread and revise for errors in spelling and punctuation. Teachers should not "revise" to change the natural pattern of a student's language. But they should, in the final proofreading, ensure that there are no spelling errors in the copy which is to be distributed.

Selecting, Writing and Adapting Materials


In terms of selecting materials, there are two areas of concern for Adult Basic Education Level I teachers:

1. stocking the program with a variety of materials at appropriate reading levels and suitable to student interest and program content areas

2. matching materials to the independent reading levels of particular students

In some ways these two tasks are similar, but there are also important differences in the way in which teachers might approach them.

Stocking Program Resources

In stocking a program with appropriate materials the teacher and/or coordinator must bear in mind three main concerns:


student interest

program content areas

Factors Affecting Readability(5)

1. The language of ordinary people is usually, in its very nature, "readable" for less able readers. Assess all prospective class material with this in mind. Is the language -the sentence structure, general vocabulary use--the same as people's everyday speech? Even if there are unfamiliar words used, this should not be a problem provided the sentences are straightforward and clear. A word of warning though: dialects written as they are spoken make very difficult reading for all but the most fluent readers, When you are choosing local literature--and this makes the very best Level 1 material--choose only those which are written for the most part using standard English spelling.

2. Reading is made predictable and, therefore, books more readable by:


tables, charts, diagrams

print styles (large print, clear organization and layout--headings and subheadings, etc.) Remember, though, that if you have access to an enlarging photocopier, you can make any book large print.

3. Content should be interesting and relevant. If the subject is interesting, if the student needs to know about the subject or already has some knowledge of the subject--and especially if it's local--it will be more readable even if it's somewhat difficult.

It is important that program materials be selected at a range of reading levels as programs should be accessible to all adults with reading levels within the 0-7 range. Although many formulas have been developed for determining the "readability" of material, there is no simple or sure method of assigning reading levels to materials. But then, the teacher must remember that there is also no magic formula for assigning a reading ability level to students. The only reading materials which are perfectly scorable on readability formulas are those which have been produced according to the formula. And although these may have some limited use in the Level I program, teachers are encouraged to use materials from the students' everyday lives and a range of other materials in the program content areas which have not been developed according to a pre-set reading level. It will be necessary, in the selection of those materials, for the teacher to determine the approximate level of difficulty.

Readability Formulas

There are essentially two main types of readability formulas in use, those based on word frequency and those based on numbers of sentences and syllables in a given number of words.

Word Frequency Formulas

The first type, word frequency formulas, are based on lists of the most frequently used words in selected material commonly read by children at a particular grade level. Readability of a passage or book is determined by counting the number of times words from a given list appear in the text. There are many obvious weaknesses with such a method. Perhaps the thing which most disqualifies it as a tool for Level I teachers is the fact that all the word frequency formulas are based on lists taken from children's reading material. Words which commonly occur in children's reading material may not occur commonly in material written for adults; nor would they occur in the normal speech of adult students.

Sentences/Syllables Formulas

The determination of reading ability through calculating numbers of sentences and syllables avoids the limitation of being child-centered and in this sense it can more appropriately be used in the selection and grading of materials for Level I programs. Teachers and coordinators are cautioned, however, not to rely solely on any readability formula. Reading (and language) are simply too complex to be described in such a purely mechanical way. For, while there may be some truth in the premise which underlies this second method of determining readability--that short words and short sentences generally make material easier to read than longer words and longer sentences, there are countless exceptions to this rule. A formula based on this premise would rate "angst" as an easier word that "education" or "Newfoundland" and "gene" as an easier word that "bookcase"! Still, for teachers faced with deciding among a number of materials and, especially for those who may not have had a lot of experience scanning texts for readability, a formula such as the Fry Readability Graph may be able to provide some assistance, providing it is used with judgement and common sense and is not the sole criterion used.

Fry Readability Formula(6)

To use the Fry Readability Graph, given a text for which you need to know the approximate level of difficulty, select passages as indicated below and follow the steps outlined:

1. Select three 100-word passages from near the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Skip all proper nouns.

2. Count the total number of sentences in each hundred word passage (estimating to nearest tenth of a sentence). Average these three numbers.

3. Count the total number of syllables in each hundred word sample. There is a syllable for each vowel sound; for example: cat (1), blackbird (2), continental (4). Do not be fooled by word size, for example: polio (3), through (1). Endings such as -y, -ed, or -le usually make a syllable, for example: ready (2), stopped (2), bottle (2).

4. Plot on the graph the average number of sentences per 100 words and the average number of syllables per 100 words. Most plot points fall near the heavy curved line. Perpendicular lines mark off approximate grade level areas.

Example Syllables Sentences

per 100 words per 100 words

1st Hundred Words 124 6.6

2nd Hundred Words 141 5.5

3rd Hundred Words 158 6.8

Total 423 18.9

Average (Divide by 3) 141 6.3

Readability 7th Grade (see dot plotted on graph on the following page)

If great variability is encountered either in sentence length or in the syllable count for the three selections, then randomly select several more passages and average them in before plotting.


Few books will fall in the grey area but when they do grade level scores are invalid.

Matching Materials to Students' Reading Abilities(7)

Selecting materials which are at the appropriate reading level for a student and which are also interesting and relevant presents an ongoing challenge. While teachers must be careful not to select materials purely on the basis of reading level regardless of interest, it is equally important that "readability" not be disregarded. Students must have access to a variety of materials which are within their independent reading range. While it is appropriate for teachers to read more difficult materials to students in order to ensure that they are exposed to content which stimulates and challenges them, it is important that any reading they do on their own be at a reading level that they can easily cope with. If the material is too difficult they will soon get frustrated and give up.

Students should always be involved in the selection of appropriate materials for their own use. The teacher will need to ensure that the students are aware of the range of materials available in the program and that they are introduced to new material as it is acquired for the program. Students should be encouraged to try material in order to decide if it is at the appropriate level. There are several methods which might be employed in order to help make this decision. The following two methods are recommended:

Listing Unknown Words

A good method of determining whether material is within a student's independent reading range is for the student to make a list of the words which s/he doesn't know as s/he reads a new item. As a general rule, if there are 5 unknown words on the first page, the material is probably too difficult. Comprehension will be poor and the student will become frustrated.

Cloze Procedure

Another method which can reveal whether material is manageable or whether it is too difficult is the use of cloze procedure on a sample of material. Cloze (the random deletion of words) can be a useful method both of increasing reading fluency and of assessing weaknesses and strengths. The following steps could be followed in order to determine whether a given material is within a student's independent reading range:(8)

1. Select a short passage from the material you are considering. Except with the very beginning reader, a passage of at least 100 words should be chosen. You should aim for about 35 deletions.

2. Delete words systematically--every seventh word, for example. If you delete a word in every four or five, you are not leaving in enough of the text to make sense. There are not enough clues for the reader. On the other hand, if you delete less than one word in ten you are not making the most use of the exercise. The reason for deleting words in this way is to ensure a random selection of different types of words. If you choose the words yourself, you might end up choosing mostly one type of word (e.g., nouns, verbs, prepositions).

3. Do not delete words in the first two or three sentences. The reader should have a sense of what the passage is about before s/he encounters any deletions. Try to finish the passage with a complete sentence as well.

Depending on the length of the material being assessed, several passages should be chosen for the cloze procedure. If the student is able to insert words which make sense in most of the blanks, the material should be within his or her independent reading range. (Note: Answers do not need to be the exact words deleted but they should make sense in the context.)

Writing Basic English

Even when there is a reliable system established for assessing the reading level of materials and for selecting resources for the program and for individual students, the problem of availability of materials relevant to student interest and to program content areas remains a major challenge. It will always be necessary for teachers to create materials for use in the program. This will require that teachers understand how to write basic English and that they understand how to write material within an approximate grade level reading range. If a teacher is well aware of a student's reading and writing ability, writing things which are readable for that student comes fairly naturally. There are, however, some general guidelines which can make the exercise of writing program materials more consistent.

Tips for Writing Easy-to-Read Material

1. Use the language of the reader. This means using local patterns of expression, but dialect (non-standard spelling) should not be used.

2. Use everyday words. This does not necessarily mean short words. If you use new or unfamiliar words, make sure you do the following to help the student learn the new words:

define explicitly

make the meaning clear from the context

repeat the word in a variety of sentences

3. Make more use of simple sentences than complex sentences. Complex sentences should not contain more than one subordinate clause.

4. Use the order of subject followed by predicate for the majority of sentences.

5. Vary the length of sentences.

6. Use definite active subjects in sentences. Make people the subject where possible. You should be careful not to so this at the expense of meaning or style, however.

7. Write in the narrative (story telling) mode where possible.

social studies, consumer information, etc. can be made clearer in this way

issues can be raised within stories and generalizations made in the discussion or the questions which follow

8. The narrative mode should not replace other formats when other formats are more appropriate or when other formats are the means of teaching specific skills

9. Write in chronological order as much as possible.

10. Materials should be broken up into manageable units. Depending on the reading level of the reader and the difficulty of the material, the units might be single lines, short paragraphs or short chapters.

11. Dialogue should be used with care. For the low level reader, it can make for slow going. Much of dialogue has implicit meaning. This is a more advanced skill.

12. Make maximum use of pictures and diagrams. These make material more predictable and, therefore, more readable. Look for clear diagrams and pictures -with labels where applicable.

13. Use typed copy where possible. Where it is not possible to have the material typed, print clearly and uniformly. Although most of us normally print without too much concern for maintaining correct letter heights and many of us insert capital letters in the middle of words, etc., you should be careful not to print in this manner for beginning readers. It simply presents another obstacle to reading. Printing should follow the same patterns as the typed copy.

14. Construct a variety of exercises based on the material created. Exercises can serve to reinforce comprehension and to develop and strengthen specific skills. Exercises can focus on:

1. comprehension

cloze exercises

open-ended comprehension questions

true/false exercises

detailed comprehension questions

2. vocabulary

3. phonics awareness

4. spelling

5. punctuation, grammar, etc.

6. reference and study skills

15. Involve the student in the process of writing materials as much as possible. All materials should reflect a balance between the students' interests and needs and the Level I general learning objectives. For suggestions on using the experience story and involving students, refer to chapter 5 of this Handbook.


Original Chapter from Streets of St. John's, Volume 1(9)

Trunk Lane
The Heyday of the Trunk

Now barred by "Do Not Enter" signs at one entrance and "Overnight Parking Only" at the other, Trunk Lane is a revealing look back at recent past. The trunk factory (the building is still standing) operated by the Belbin Family served a very heavy demand. The firm also made suitcases.

Trunk Lane is a lane between Monroe and Cabot Street. You can easily miss it but you should not. With its factory now closed, it is a mirror of a past when everyone had to have several trunks in their home. Trunks made there must still be in hundreds of homes throughout the city.

The demand must have been incredible. Some of the older houses had no cupboards or linen closets. The winter bedding was taken off the beds in late spring and stored away for another year in trunks.

There were not many Newfoundlanders travelling in those days, but if you were moving you stowed all your belongings in trunks and put them aboard ships or on the train. Also, students coming to the city for education or to work needed them: closet space was at a minimum in the boarding houses where they stayed.

Mr. Donald Belbin still lives at 111 Cabot Street, in what's said to be the oldest house on the street (and the most impressive). There are suggestions it was part of Knowling's Farm. Mr. Belbin says that it was a family business from the start, started by his grandfather and grandmother. From all accounts, it was the only business making hand-made trunks in Canada.

The trunks were sturdy objects indeed, Mr. Belbin says, "When a lock was put on them, they hoped they would never have to remove it, so sturdy was the construction."

The business continued for 90 years or so, until it closed in 1973. So sought after were those trunks that they say there is a Belbin hand-made trunk in practically every corner of the world. During World War Two, many were taken to Moscow. And there are also a number in China and Japan, and many other countries.

Mr. Belbin has the first two trunks made at the Trunk Factory, belonging to his grandfather and grandmother. These are collector's items. The factory is still in perfect condition and the original lamps are still there. To have made trunks in Newfoundland that are found in every corner of the world inclines me to hope the City Council and Heritage Foundation will preserve the site forever.

"Trunk Lane" Adapted for Approximately Grade 2-3 Reading Level

(Adapted by Eileen Riche, ABE teacher, Avalon Community College)


Trunk Lane is a street in St. John's. It was named after a factory that was on the street. The factory made trunks and suitcases.

Many people had no closets or cupboards, so they kept their blankets and sheets in trunks. When people travelled on a ship or a train, they put all their things in trunks.

The Belbin family owned the factory. It was the only factory in Canada that made hand-made trunks. The trunks were strong and lasted a long time. Many of them can still be found in places around the world.

Trunk Lane is between Monroe Street and Cabot Street. The factory closed in 1973, but you can still see it there.

"Trunk Lane" Adapted for Approximately Grade 5-6 Reading Level

(Adapted by Elizabeth Warren, ABE Level I teacher, Avalon Community College)

A Look At The Past

You might not even notice "Trunk Lane" today. Traffic signs at both ends of the street block the view. But not long ago, it had an important place in the history of St. John's.

Trunk Lane is located between Monroe and Cabot Streets. The Belbin family owned and operated a trunk factory there for approximately 90 years. In fact, the building itself is still standing. It is in perfect condition and even contains the original lamps.

Years ago, there was a great demand for the trunks and suitcases made at the Trunk Factory. There were several trunks in every home. The trunks were used for many different reasons. In those days many of the older homes did not have cupboards or linen closets. So every year the extra blankets and quilts used during the cold winter months were stored in trunks for the summer. When people travelled from place to place, they stored all their belongings in trunks and put them aboard ships or on the train. Also, when young people came to the city to go to school or find work, they stayed in boarding houses. Because most of these boarding houses did not have enough closet space, the boarders used to store their clothes in trunks.

Mr. Donald Belbin still lives at 111 Cabot Street, in what is said to be the oldest house on the street. (It is certainly the most impressive.) Some people think that Knowling's Farm helped to start the trunk business but Mr. Belbin says that his grandmother and grandfather started the family business by themselves. As far as we know, it was the only business in Canada* producing hand-made trunks.

Mr. Belbin is proud that the trunks made at the factory were so sturdy. Even the locks were so strong that once they were put on the trunks, they were very difficult to remove. Mr. Belbin still has the first two trunks ever made at the factory. These trunks belonged to his grandparents and are now "collectors' items".

The Belbin trunks that were made here in Newfoundland were very popular. Not only Newfoundlanders, but people from all over the world, wanted them. During World War II, many of them were taken to Moscow. A number of trunks can also be found in China, Japan and many other countries.

These hand-made trunks played an important role in the lives of people all over the world for many years. Since the factory closed in 1973, no more Belbin trunks are being made. Therefore, I believe that City Council and the Heritage Foundation should work to make sure that the Trunk Factory is preserved forever as a historical site.

* Of course, Newfoundlnd was not a part of Canada when the Belbin family first started the trunk factory. It became Canada's tenth province in 1949.

In the above samples of material adapted to different reading levels, it is obvious that in making materials easier to read, it is sometimes necessary to leave out details and information. This is especially true when materials are being adapted for very beginning readers. Materials at below the grade 3 reading levels should be presented in manageable units. This can be dealt with to some extent by adapting short sections of the material and making a reading selection of each section. It is important, however, that in rewriting and adapting materials, especially in the program content areas, the student does not miss any of the information or the details which enrich the text. The way in which the adapted text is used is crucial to avoiding this. If the teacher reads aloud the original material to the student and then presents a simplified text for the purpose of reinforcing literacy skills, then the student has not lost any of the richness of the original text. It is recommended that adapted material be used primarily in this way.

Note: There is a Reading Assessment Kit now available from the Department of Education, Advanced Studies Division. The kit is intended to match entering students to reading materials which are appropriate in both level of difficulty and interest. The kit consists of three parts:

Part 1 consists of an Informal Reading Inventory screening reading levels from beginning levels to Grade 10.

Part 2 checks the individual's knowledge of varying printed formats.

Part 3 provides suggestions for applying the Cloze technique to all types of reading materials.

The Kit was developed by Avalon Community College especially for use in the new Adult Basic Education Level I curriculum.

Making Sense of Spelling
Robin Millar


Students and teachers alike often feel that working on spelling is a necessary evil. They find spelling manuals and books boring and ineffective in helping students improve their spelling. Hours are spent filling out spelling workbooks only to find that the students still make spelling errors in their writing. Working on improving spelling has never been seen by either teacher or student as interesting or beneficial.

In the past, many students have experienced spelling lessons as instant and constant failure. Not only did they regularly get seven out of ten wrong, but teachers reacted to their failure as if they had character deficiencies, giving the impression that good spelling was seen to be an example of superior moral fibre rather than a useful skill.

On the other hand, there may be many students who never had any spelling instruction at all! They muddle along hoping that their own spelling strategies might work, no matter how ineffective or inefficient these strategies are. "They used to tell me to go away and learn the correct spelling, but nobody ever told me how" is the common cry for students with spelling problems. Some students are left with an inability to read back their own writing and no method to learn how to spell.

There are many misconceptions about the nature of spelling and its value in writing as well as uncertainties about effective memorization methods for learning new words. All of which has given spelling a bad name. Students can learn to spell and anyone can benefit from this spelling experience.

Talking about spelling with your students

There are many misconceptions and confusions about the nature and/or value of spelling. An important starting point for teachers and students is to talk about spelling. If teachers don't have enough information from students about how they learn, they cannot judge whether students are effectively using spelling strategies or not. Teachers and students need to share spelling histories and past learning experiences. Myths of spelling should be discussed and activities developed which augment these discussions.

However, only one single discussion about spelling, spelling strategies, language approaches, etc. is not enough. For many students, the discussion needs to happen several times in different contexts so that the relation of particular language work and spelling is reinforced. Students need to be encouraged to ask questions and think about how they learn and how they need to learn. Current research in adult literacy concludes that the most important skill that teachers can bring to adult eduction is the skill of explaining why.

Determining assumptions about spelling

We have found that a number of misconceptions and half-truths abound in the minds of students. For good spellers these misconceptions are not particularly distracting, for weak spellers they can be devastating. Teachers often compound these misconceptions by misguided advice. We feel it is important to discuss these half-truths with students so that they can apply their own strategies and methods more easily and adjust them to the realities of learning to spell. Teachers should use the common misunderstandings we list below to prompt further discussion with students and clarify which part of the statement is true and which is misleading.

[Note: A useful format for carrying on this discussion is to put each of the "Myths" on large bubbles such as those used in cartoons. The bubbles are then placed on the wall of the meeting room and all participants can read them and discuss them in small groups prior to a full group discussion.]

"If you want to learn to spell,you should read more."

Teachers and students alike are confused about the relationship between spelling and reading. It is true that spelling is a sub-skill of writing and that writing is a language skill related to reading. However, as skills, the two activities differ enormously. Much has been written about what happens when we read (see F. Smith, Reading and H. Arnold, Listening to Children Read). Teachers can refer to these writers for a more thorough examination of the reading process.

However, the reading process is both more complex and less demanding than spelling. In reading we do not want to concentrate on the ordering of each letter in a word in order to get meaning from a text. We want to read as efficiently and quickly as possible in order to understand the content of what we read. Reading is dependent on recognition skills.

Spelling, on the other hand, is dependent on skills of recall. To spell accurately, we must remember all the letters, in sequence. We must pay attention to detail. If we do not, the errors we produce will make it difficult for a reader to decipher our text.

Thus, telling a student to "go away and read more" will help the student improve his or her reading skills but will not necessarily improve his or her ability to remember the correct spelling.

"There's no logic in English spelling - that's why it's so hard."

We are not claiming that learning the English language efficiently and fluently is an easy task. We realize that learners have many difficulties with English because the spelling of words does not always correspond accurately with the way they are spoken. Because English spelling is not 100% phonetically accurate, many learners become discouraged or frustrated when writing English. Some languages correspond exactly to their spoken symbols. Most romance languages --French, Spanish, Italian--are more regular than English.

However, the fact that the spelling system of English is not phonetically regular does not mean there are no conventions, regularities or avenues which can make sense of the spelling system.

In fact, the English spelling system is 85% phonetically regular (i.e., accurately reflects sound/symbol correspondence).

Teachers many find that discussing the derivations of language can help readers and writers decipher meaning. Many words in the English language come from other languages and the spelling is dependent on how that word is spelled (or even pronounced) in the original language.

"There is one correct way to learn spelling."

Many students are embarrassed about the methods they use to learn spelling. The commonly believe that unless you can spell in your head you do not have a good spelling approach. Oral spelling is not only an incredibly demanding and difficult way to spell, but also awkward and unrelated to the circumstances when we ordinarily use spelling--in writing.

One educator has described those people who seem to be born good spellers as "catchers". These individuals seem to be able to learn to spell accurately without any (or very little) practice. They have excellent visual memories and can draw on this facility to remember how to spell. But, only a small portion of the people who write are "catchers".

Learners should understand there are many effective methods to learn how to spell. Their search will be to identify the one that works for them.

"I make spelling mistakes because I don't speak properly."

A student of ours in Britain once commented, "If I work on my spelling, will I speak like Prince Charles?" This confusion between spoken and written language is a source of bewilderment for many students.

In some ways, because the English spelling system is irregular and thus we must learn words visually (how they look, not how they sound) all English language learners are in the same position when learning to spell. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. So called "correct" or "proper" English dialects do not pronounce words as they are spelled. It is true that individuals whose accent or dialect omits certain sounds may have a more difficult time learning some of those words. However, this does not mean they cannot learn these words.

Confusion about pronunciation can be further complicated by learners who have never heard a word pronounced but have only seen it in print. Young readers and writers commonly have this problem with expanded vocabulary. These learners might not have a problem with spelling but would not dare to use a particular word in speech.

Other learners may have a word in their active vocabulary but have never identified it in writing. For example, one student clearly understood the meaning of miscellaneous and could easily use it in context. However, when the word was shown to her, she did not have the word attack skills to decipher it.

"If you get stuck, just sound it out."

English spelling must be learned visually. Sounding out words can be disastrous for students. It is true we need sounds to link into the beginnings and/or structures of words. However, an over-emphasis on sounds will inevitably lead us to discrepancies and word confusions.

Many students, for example, have spent hours learning homophones together; e.g. filling in the gaps for they're, their and there. Unfortunately, what they learned was to remember those words in the same chunk. Often students can "spell" these words correctly but cannot remember where to use them in the context of their writing. Sounding out the words in these cases will not help. Students need methods for reducing these word confusions. Rather than using a "sounding out" strategy with beginning spellers, we would encourage an attitude of inventing spellings. Thus learners can use not just sounding out approaches, but also visual and structural ones as well.

"If you learn the rules, you'll be able to spell."

There are regularities and spelling conventions in English spellings and this is helpful for some students learning to spell. For example, the knowledge that ly endings are not spelled ley can be helpful.

Unfortunately, most "rules" in English are not rules at all but regularities. For every rule there seems to be an exception. Or, the rule is so involved that students cannot remember the entire rule. For example, most of us remember "i before e except after c". The additional part we forget is "except when sounded like /a/ as in neighbour and weigh."

Most spellers who were "catchers", e.g. unconsciously good spellers, never memorized the rules. They learned the conventions and then memorized the words that were exceptions.

We have found that showing students these regularities in words can be helpful. We often emphasize learning patterns of words. For example, we might link words of similar construction (found, sound, round, etc.) on a student's spelling list. This helps to develop a sense of structure and relieves memorizing stress.

"Look it up in the dictionary."

Dictionary skills are useful in some contexts, but of limited applicability with beginning spellers. Many students have had only frustrating experiences with dictionaries. If the students' guess at a spelling puts them in the wrong section, (e.g. "inuff" for "enough"), then a week spent in the "I" section of the dictionary will only leave the student furious at words, writing and language in general.

Dictionaries are useful for students who are making minor spelling errors such as independant for independent; compleatly for completely; seperate for separate; etc.

We recommend that less emphasis be placed on correctness in spelling than on better guesses. Students who have significant spelling problems or who are beginning writers should be encouraged to invent spellings and then be given a correct version if the piece needs to be rewritten.

"Disguise your spelling with messy handwriting."

Many students have cleverly figured out that their spelling difficulties can be disguised through sloppy handwriting. Criticisms about conscious errors, e.g. messy handwriting, are somehow more tolerable than criticisms about bad spelling. There may be some truth to this belief. Learners may indeed be able to "slip some errors by the teacher" Unfortunately, this approach does not help the student learn how to spell. It continues to confuse the learners and leaves them with fuzzy visual images of many words. Not only that, but now the student is acquiring poor handwriting skills in addition to poor spelling skills.

Good handwriting can help a student learn to spell. Students should not abuse this skill but develop it to their advantage so that spelling can be improved, not made worse.

"I don't want to learn to write, I just want to learn to spell."

Spelling cannot be learned in isolation. Unless we are regularly writing the words we want to learn to spell, we cannot be expected to remember them. We need practice, context, understanding and motivation in order to learn.

Unless students commit themselves to a program of writing with spelling, they will find spelling boring, repetitive and unrewarding. Words will be difficult to memorize and very easy to forget. Writing provides us with the words for the spelling list. Without the writing, we have no need for correct spelling.

"Why bother? Good spelling isn't important. It's the ideas that count."

Ideas and the content of what we write are clearly far more important than the technical excellence of a piece of writing. However, good spelling actually helps the writer in several ways. First, the writer gains confidence in his or her own writing because s/he knows the execution is correct. Confidence in writing helps the writer develop fluency.

Second, when we no longer have to stop and think about how a word is spelled, but can execute spelling unconsciously, then our fluency increases and the emphasis on composing can take place. If we have to stop constantly and try to recall how a word is constructed, we lose the thread of our thought and the writing and thinking processes become frustrating.

Third, we know from how readers predict a text that when we are slowed down in the reading process (ie. having to decode unconventional spelling for example), we become frustrated with reading. Not surprisingly, we become critical of the writer if the reading is too irritating or frustrating. Good spelling helps the reader; poor spelling hinders the reader.

"You'll put students off if your correct their spelling."

Red marks on a page have been the reason many students gave up in school. Students in adult eduction again and again relate experiences of teachers who underlined or corrected all the errors or mistakes in a piece of writing which made the student feel useless and worthless, not just as a writer, but as a person.

Nonetheless, all students understand that their writing will have mistakes. They find it patronizing for teachers to say, "Spelling doesn't matter", because they know that in the real world it does. If no corrections are made, students will either feel their work is unworthy of attention or that it is all correct. Either way, they are not helped in the learning process.

Teachers and students need to agree on a marking method which is helpful to both. Students may need help in identifying mistakes, proofreading, learning correct spelling or what are "good" errors and what are "poor" errors. A particular focus on a particular type of error may be negotiated for each lesson or time period.


These are only a few of the misconceptions about spelling and the spelling system that students frequently mention. Sometimes, teachers can get students to add to the "myths list" as they learn more about the English spelling system and how it works. Discussion about these myths should be on-going. Teachers and students may need to refer back to the myths time and time again before they accept that their half-truths are not whole truths.

[Robin Millar is the Adult Learning Specialist for the Manitoba Department of Education and Training. Making Sense of Spelling is based on several chapters from Unscrambling Spelling by Cynthia Klein and Robin Millar (Hodder and Stoughton, 1990. It is listed in the Recommended Resource List of the Adult Basic Education Level I Program.]

Making Sense of Spelling is reprinted from Literacy, the Journal of the Movement for Canadian Literacy (Vol. 13, No. 5)

Reading And Writing Evaluation


From the initial interview and from the initial reading and writing assessment, the teacher will have insights into the student's strengths and weaknesses in reading and writing. The student's stated preferences in terms of specific educational interests will help the teacher gather high interest materials for use in the classroom. About three weeks after the initial assessment, a student who has attended classes regularly could be introduced to the reading and writing evaluation charts included in this chapter. These charts can become the primary records of the ongoing evaluation of the student's progress. Teachers should be aware that the charts are essentially a written record of what the student and the teacher observe with respect to various aspects of the student's reading and writing strategies over a period of time. As students practice oral reading, as they develop and practice various strategies for understanding what they read, and as they learn to communicate their ideas and express their feelings in writing, they should be encouraged to examine the strategies they are using and, with the teacher, evaluate those strategies for effectiveness. As teachers and students discuss different reading and writing strategies and as students watch their habits and patterns, they will be more able to recognize what appears to work for them and what does not. When students recognize what they are doing when they read and write or when they try to read and write, they are better able to make changes and correct unproductive habits.

Writing Evaluation

We present here two examples of how a teacher might conduct a writing evaluation, given differing skill levels.

Scenario I

Introduce the writing evaluation charts to your students, either individually or as a group, explaining that the charts will help both you and the student observe and record writing progress over time. Go through each section of the chart, explaining each item in terms which the student will understand. The student should understand at this stage that it will be through watching his or her feelings about writing and approaches to writing that you can work together on ways of making writing an easier and more rewarding activity. You will be able to discuss with each student the progress he or she is making and recommend ways of changing strategies. Tell your student that you will both participate in an evaluation of writing progress by using these charts periodically (for example, every two months). Make it clear that the comments made on the evaluation charts will be both yours and the student's. Some students may at a later stage wish to discuss with other students their approaches to writing, their feelings about writing, and their writing progress. Group discussions around writing may be offered as an option.

The evaluation of writing must be an ongoing, everyday process. However, in order for the teacher and the student to assess the rate of progress and change, it would be a good idea to conduct periodic formal evaluations. Making a record of the amount written in a given period, for instance, would serve as a measure of one aspect of the student's progress. Noting various aspects of the quality of the expression of ideas, the organization of the writing, etc. would round out the picture and give the teacher and the student the information they will need to work with.

The actual date for the formal evaluation need not be declared by the teacher ahead of time. To do the evaluation, an individual student or a small group might be given a copy of an easily readable passage to read silently. Guide the student or the group in reading the material aloud after it has been read silently. Encourage pertinent discussion. Allow time for the students to reread the material on their own. Students should be encouraged to ask for help with difficult words either from other students or from the teacher. Ask the students to write on the topic without help from others. Allow 10 to 20 minutes for this activity--remember to record the time you allowed. If you want to measure the increase in writing output over time, you must allow the same amount of time for writing in subsequent evaluations.

You will need to have time immediately after this exercise to evaluate the writing exercise with each student in private.

Scenario II

Allow for a different type of evaluation with non-readers, beginning readers and students who are unable to write a sentence. As you will note from the Writing Evaluation Charts, interest and motivation to write are of primary importance. The ability to organize thoughts is essential too. You must, therefore, provide an opportunity for your non-writing student to express his or her opinions on the reading material which you or others have read aloud with him or her. Such students need your undivided attention while they dictate their opinions on the topic. Record their expressions accurately. Provide feedback immediately to ensure that you have understood their ideas. Students should receive praise and encouragement for this activity because if they've shared an opinion with you they have already made progress in communication skills. These students need to understand that communicating with others is the primary object of writing and that clear communication is the main objective at this and later stages of writing, whether for work or for daily survival. Be sure to record that the evaluation was an oral one on that assessment date. Go through the first two charts (Formation and Development of Ideas and Organization of Texts), item by item; determine your student's attitude toward eventual competence in each area i.e. letters, reports, etc. Charts #3 and #4 (Mechanics of Writing and Revision) need not be referred to in the evaluations until the student can write a short paragraph.

Reading Evaluation

The evaluation of reading habits and strategies is something which the teacher and the student should be involved in on a continuous basis. The teacher should ensure that there is an ongoing, open discussion with the student about his or her attitude to reading. The student should be encouraged to say when a reading assignment is interesting and when it is frustrating; when it is easy and when it is difficult. The teacher's role is to help the student come to understand why he or she reacts to reading in a particular way. Are certain subjects simply not interesting to the student? Does the student find it difficult to concentrate on reading for a period of time? How does the student feel if there are several unfamiliar words in a text?

Time should be set aside on a regular basis for discussion of the reading the student is currently doing. The teacher should share any observations he or she makes with the student, individually and in private. It is vitally important that the student understand as much as possible about the reading process, i.e. that reading is a process of getting meaning from print, that people read for a purpose, that reading strategies and habits determine how effectively the reader will get meaning from what he or she reads, and that different types of reading material require different strategies.

In order for the teacher to see what is going on when a student reads or tries to read, it is necessary to observe the student as he or she reads and studies. But it is also necessary for the teacher to listen to the student read orally. Only in this way will the teacher know how a student deals with unfamiliar words and what strategies he or she uses to make sense of what is read.

The teacher should periodically set aside a period of at least thirty minutes to listen to a student read orally and to discuss the reading with the student. It should not be set up as a formal evaluation as this will certainly cause the student to feel stress. Oral reading is itself a stressful activity for most students. It is important to select reading material which is well within the student's independent reading level. The teacher is advised to make only mental notes during the reading; writing notes would be a distraction and would probably intimidate the student. The teacher must also resist the temptation to "help" with unfamiliar words since the object of the exercise is to determine how well the student can get the meaning from the text by his or her own means.

The Reading Strategies chart which follows provides clear guidelines for both the teacher and the student in their observations and discussions of the student's reading.

Reading And Writing Evaluation Charts


The reading and writing evaluation charts presented here have been taken from Adult Literacy: Reading and Writing Activities(10) by Meredith Hutchings of Nova Scotia. They are recommended for use in the ABE Level I program as a means of ongoing evaluation of students' reading and writing progress. They should also be useful as a record keeping tool. Both the reading and writing evaluation charts are intended to be used to record observations which the teacher and the student make as they examine and discuss together the student's reading patterns, habits, strategies and progress. It will be necessary for teachers using the charts to spend individual time with each student. Conducting fairly formal evaluations and holding discussions on a regular basis will provide the teacher and the student with an ongoing picture of the progress made.

Reading Evaluation Charts

There are three reading evaluation charts provided here:

Use of Reading Strategies Chart

Attitude to Reading Chart

Summary of Reading Progress Chart

Chart #1, Use of Reading Strategies, directs the evaluation to noting what the student primarily concentrates on while reading: (a) understanding the meaning of the text; or (b) figuring out each word correctly without considering what the text means. The charts outline several reading behaviours which point to the strategies listed under (a) and several which indicate that strategies listed under (b) are being used. As is noted at the bottom of Chart #1, the student who generally uses reading strategies listed under (a) can be seen as someone who is trying to read for meaning and is using some fluent reading strategies to keep the meaning central, (while) the student who is mainly using strategies listed under (b) can be seen as someone who does not focus enough on the meaning. This kind of student should be encouraged to try some of the other more fluent strategies under (a).

Chart #2, Attitude to Reading, directs the evaluation to noting the student's attitude to reading including the kinds of materials generally enjoyed or disliked and the kinds of materials general chosen or avoided. The chart also includes a section for noting the student's frustration threshold and response to frustration and a section dealing with his or her general attitude towards reading. Documenting those observations should prove useful both as a record of the student's attitudinal changes and as a means of sensitizing the teacher and the student to the role attitude plays in the achievement of reading fluency.

Chart #3 is a Summary of Progress chart. It includes space for summarizing reading strengths and weaknesses and planning future reading goals. It should be completed as a collaborative effort between the student and teacher.

Writing Evaluation Charts

There are five writing evaluation charts provided here:

Formation and Development of Ideas

Organization of Texts

Mechanics of Writing



The sequence of the five writing charts presents the elements of the writing process in order of importance--from the generation of ideas, to the organization of ideas, to the mechanics of writing, to the revision of the written product. This provides a useful set of guidelines for both the teacher and the student. The teacher is asked in Chart #1, Formation and Development of Ideas, to observe the student's attitude to writing including interest and motivation, confidence to think of ideas, clarity of ideas and quantity of writing. Expression of ideas is the key to becoming a fluent writer and until the student achieves some facility in this, other concerns about the written work should be minimized.

Chart #2, Organization of Texts, focuses on the kinds of writing the student can do alone or with assistance (i.e. lists, forms, sentences, letters, stories, etc.). This chart also examines the student's ability to use various formats and his or her ability to organize, sequence and expand ideas.

Chart #3, Mechanics of Writing - Spelling, Punctuation and Letter Formation, provides the teacher and the student with some direction for observing spelling skills and patterns as well as a checklist of the most basic elements of punctuation. There is also a chart for recording the student's printing/writing abilities. The mechanics of writing is deliberately sequenced after the formation and development of ideas and organization of texts. Teachers should ensure that students concentrate on the abilities and skills outlined in the first two charts before becoming too concerned about mechanics. For just as the student who is concerned with pronouncing every single word in reading is not likely to achieve fluency, the student who is worried about having every word spelled correctly can lose sight of the fact that writing is first and foremost a means of communicating ideas. Requiring complete accuracy too soon in the development of writing can permanently impede the development and expression of ideas.

Chart #4, Revision, focuses on the student's willingness and ability to revise written work. The chart presents the key elements of revision (adding, inserting, deleting, rearranging ideas, etc.) which again provide a guide to the teacher and student for planning future work. It is recommended that teachers encourage a process of writing, revising and rewriting from the very beginning. As Chart #4 makes clear, the revision process is a process of revising and reorganizing ideas as well as a process of correcting mechanical errors. Learning to write fluently and confidently means finding a balance between those two revision purposes. For the beginning writer, the emphasis in revision should naturally be on clarifying, expanding and organizing ideas rather than on correcting errors.

Chart #5 is a Summary of Progress chart. As with the reading evaluation section, this chart provides space for summarizing writing strengths and weaknesses based on the observations on the preceding charts. Planning future writing goals is then based on this analysis of strengths and weaknesses. Like the reading evaluation, the writing summary and planning chart should be completed as a collaborative effort between the student and teacher.

Teachers should be aware that the reading and writing evaluation charts are intended as a guide only. As they observe students and begin to note their observations, they may become aware of additional items which should be recorded. They should feel free to make changes and additions as needed.

Teachers should also note that while it is possible to identify certain reading and writing strategies as better (i.e more productive) than others, all strategies are useful and correct in some circumstances. The fluent reader uses a wide range of strategies in a largely unconscious process of getting meaning from the reading material. Students should understand that it is not that some strategies are good and some bad; rather, some strategies enable the reader to understand what is being read more efficiently while other strategies can slow the reader down.

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