TEACH: What are some guidelines for adapting someone else’s literacy and numeracy activities?

TEACH (18)

While we want to encourage you to develop and use your own activities for your context, we do understand that sometimes you need to start with what others have already done. And one good place to look is in the support resources that accompany the Learning Progressions.

We’re going to sort through these and tell you where all the activities are. First, we’ll deal with literacy. Then we’ll move onto numeracy with a look a planning example, and then activities.

But before we dig into Learning Progressions, here’s something to remember:

  • Even good ideas need to be situated within the embedding framework we’ve been talking about.

If you want to download or adapt activities from any source including here, you should first think about your answers to these questions:

  1. Does this activity line up with what I know about the kinds of approaches and concepts that I want to use? For example, will it help foster ako and tuakana-teina?
  2. Does this activity meet a specific need that I’ve identified? This might be something that you’ve identified through mapping your programme or teaching resources. Or it might be something that you identified through using diagnostic tools and processes with your learners?
  3. Does this activity fit within my broader programme level strategies and focus for embedding? In other words, am I keeping the main thing the main thing?
  4. Does this activity make sense in terms of the specific learning outcomes that I’ve written? Is there a sense that the activity flows on logically from the outcome that I want?

The more focused you can be with your learning outcomes and activities that logically flow out of this, the more

TEACH: I have my own ideas for literacy and numeracy activities… What should I do?

TEACH (17)

If you’ve got your own ideas, you should experiment…! Go for it. Consider this your express permission to try new things.

Here’s the catch though:

  • Sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Even with the best plans.

But that’s ok. It’s just feedback. It’s not a failure if you try something and it doesn’t work. That’s super helpful for what you do after that. Which might be amazing.

If you teach trades, do some kind of vocational training, or teach ESOL learners, you probably have lots of great ideas for literacy activities already. We’d like to encourage you to develop and use your own ideas based on the work that you’ve done already.

You’re now well equipped to make a judgement call on what kinds of embedded literacy and numeracy suit your learners best. After all, you have:

  1. Made a detailed examination of your own context for teaching and embedding.
  2. Looked at a range of frameworks, approaches and concepts that will help you teach better.
  3. Analysed your programme and some teaching resources in depth to see what the literacy and numeracy demands are.
  4. Developed both high-level programme strategies for embedding as well as specific learning outcomes to focus on key areas that your learners need to work on.
  5. Gathered broad and specific diagnostic information about your learners.

If you have an idea, you should feel confident pursuing it…! Even if it’s just to rule it out as an option.

That said, we can point you to a whole lot of great ideas that you can use or adapt in the Learning Progressions resources. We’re heading in that direction next.

TEACH: Can I see an example of some planning for a literacy activity?

TEACH (16)

Embedding reading comprehension strategies into a foundation hair and beauty class

Here’s a scenario and example of some planning for an activity that embeds a reading comprehension strategy into a foundation learning course in a hair and beauty context. First, read through the scenario, learning outcome, and resources. Then have a look at the activity planned at the end.

You teach a foundation learning course with a focus on hair and beauty. It’s a trades academy course at a local Polytech, but your students come from high schools around the region. You know from their Assessment Tool scores that some struggle with reading comprehension. So, you’ve decided to focus on some different strategies for strengthening this aspect of their literacy knowledge and abilities.

There are no workbooks for the taster course that you’re doing with your current class. However, you’ve been teaching this kind of content for several years. So you know where to find several readings for the course that provide the right information.

You’re happy with the texts because they contain most of the concepts and terminology that you need to teach. The texts are not too long or dense, but you think they also provide a great opportunity to shift the focus to strategies that your learners can use to improve not just their understanding of these texts, but how they approach other reading texts as well.

Learning outcome

Based on your mapping, diagnostic assessment and work with these learners you decided on the following as your intended learning outcome for your first attempt at teaching a reading comprehension strategy:

  • Use reading comprehension strategies in the context of an introduction to dermatology for hair and beauty professionals.

This focus on dermatology lines up with a new unit that you have to start teaching. There are several texts that your learners will need to read anyway in order to understand the basics and to prepare for the assessment.


You’ve decided to try teaching and practising a number of different reading comprehension strategies over this semester. But the first one that you want to try is related to activating prior knowledge.

You know that good readers use and apply the knowledge that they already have about the world, words and text to help them understand a new text.

Because it’s also the start of a new unit, you decide you’ll try out something you learned in a professional development class a few weeks ago called a KWL activity.

The activity helps learners:

  • Recall prior knowledge (K) of the topic.
  • Generate motivation by identifying what they want (W) to learn.
  • Identify relevant information and monitor what they have learned (L) through the process.


Here are the resources that you know you need:

  • Two texts introducing dermatology for hair and beauty professionals
  • Whiteboard and markers
  • KWL chart for each learner
K: What we know W: What we want to know L: What we learned





Here’s what your actual planning might look like for one activity. This is adapted from the guided teaching and learning sequence on page 47 of Teaching Adults to Read with Understanding: Using the Learning Progressions:


Activity 1: Intro to Dermatology – KWL Brainstorming Activity

  1. Draw a KWL chart on the whiteboard.
  2. Brainstorm what the learners know about dermatology and related topics, writing their ideas in the first column ( K ).
  3. Discuss what information they feel they need to know about the topic. Write these ideas in the second column ( W ) of the chart.
  4. Explain that, as they read the text, the learners will make notes about what they have learned in the third column ( L ).
  5. Give the learners individual copies of KWL charts for them to record their own ideas in the first two columns.
  6. The learners read the text and make notes in the third column (L) as they read.
  7. The learners share their notes with a partner or the whole group to finish.

TEACH: How should I plan my teaching sessions and activities?

TEACH (15)

Every teacher, trainer or tutor involved in foundation education needs to plan ways they can meet their learners’ literacy and numeracy needs within the constraints of the limited amounts of time they have together.

Planning happens in lots of different ways. Let’s have a look at a few different ways that tutors actually manage their planning.

“It’s in my head”

Sometimes we plan things without writing them down. This is something that experienced teachers do. Sometimes the plan might be a few scribbled notes on a piece of paper, but the planning happens mentally.

This kind of planning is usually based on what the educator knows will work from doing the same things on other occasions with the same kinds of learners.

Needs-based or improvised

This kind of planning is when you develop an idea on the spot when a need arises or an opportunity presents itself. This is also something good teachers do automatically and intuitively.

Experienced teachers can improvise a plan based on what kind of feedback they’re getting from their learners and what they know the learners need to do next.


In some teaching situations, it makes more sense to keep a record of what actually happened, rather than to plan extensively beforehand. This is often the case where the learners and teaching contexts are more dynamic.

One example might be an ESOL workplace literacy course where it’s uncertain which learners may turn up. In this case, the teacher might have a loose plan when they start, but then record the session details afterwards only noting what they covered.


A plan can also be a deliberate, written guide for what to do in one or a series of teaching sessions.

This is something that all new teachers do when they’re getting started. Some keep the practice, but just get better at it or find ways to plan faster. Others find that after a time they can shift to planning in their heads or improvising.

For most teachers though, the actual reality of planning reflects some combination of all of these methods. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on written planning. This means that if you are used to planning everything in your head, you’ll need to write some of this down.

If you’re a teacher or a trainer who is used to improvising, you’ll still need to develop a written plan. But there’s an opportunity after each of the three teaching sessions to reflect and review what actually happened.

What are some guidelines for writing up my teaching plans?

Our criteria are simple when it comes to what to include in your teaching plans. If you can answer yes to the following question, you’re likely to include everything we need:

  • If you were away for a day, could a colleague with similar training pick up your planning and resources and teach your class?

We don’t think you need to include any more details than are necessary. Aside from knowing your learning outcomes and having copies of any resources, all your colleague should need is a set of instructions to follow for the activities.

TEACH: What does it look like when you use teaching strategies in context?

TEACH (14)

What does it look like when you use teaching strategies in context?

Here’s an example from a practical horticulture training course for adults. The tutor’s learning outcome is to get the students to:

  • Estimate and then measure out a raised planting bed in the context of a learning to grow vegetables.

The relevant numeracy, in this case, relates to estimation and measurement in metres and millimetres as well as working out area in m2.

Here are some possibilities for the kinds of teaching strategies that the tutor might use:

  • Discuss what participants already know about measuring out a rectangle or other area for building a raised vegetable planting bed.
  • Prompt learners to make links to work they did previously with her using a tape measure to measure length in metres and millimetres.
  • Question learners about what they needed to know in order to use the tape and actually do the measuring.
  • Explain how to use the tape measure, as well as how to develop a personal benchmark for estimating and measuring length, such as your stride or the length of your boot.
  • Give feedback on the group’s ideas on the best way to estimate and then measure out the planting bed.
  • Model how to work out an area calculation on the whiteboard.

Now let’s put it into action

In your assessment for this part of the course, you have to show that you’ve planned what teaching strategies you intend to use. You should already have an idea of your learning outcomes.

Take some time to brainstorm how you will use any of these strategies across the different activities that you are planning for your project work.

  • Discuss…
  • Prompt learners to make links to their prior knowledge by…
  • Question learners about what they needed to know in order to…
  • Explain how to…
  • Give feedback on…
  • Model how to…

These prompts are the same as the ones in your assessment template. If you want to take notes right now, you can download a worksheet for this.

TEACH: Using teaching strategies

TEACH (13).jpg

Using teaching strategies

When your teaching is deliberate and strategic it can make a huge difference to your learners’ progress.

When you work with your own learners, whatever the context or subject, you use a range of instructional strategies to develop their knowledge, awareness and their own strategies for learning.

Using good teaching strategies means that you can provide learning and teaching that:

  • Encourages your learners to work Independently. This is one the goals of all adult education.
  • Is focused, explicit and direct. You need to show your learners what proficient adults know and do.
  • Is directed towards specific goals that the learners recognise and understand. These goals should line up with individual or group learning plans.
  • Is used consciously and deliberately for a purpose. Our approach to embedding is one in which literacy and numeracy are used consciously and deliberately.
  • Provides multiple opportunities to practise. This is so that new learning is reinforced and embedded over time.
  • Is part of a wider environment that facilitates learning.
  • Is relevant, challenging, interesting and enjoyable for the tutor and the learners.

What if I already do this automatically?

Good teachers and tutors do use teaching strategies automatically. And intuitively.

But when you are aware of the range of teaching strategies you can use, you are better able to provide the kind of learning and teaching that is really going to benefit your learners. And you are more likely to choose the best strategies for your teaching purposes.

It’s this shift from automatic and intuitive to explicit and deliberate that we want to cultivate

Can learners use teaching strategies too?

Here’s something else to think about:

  • Both tutors and learners can use teaching strategies.

If the goal of adult educators is to move learners from dependence on the tutor to independence, then to encourage this independence you need to set up activities that require learners to use these same teaching strategies with each other.

One of your roles then is to prepare activities that encourage peer learning and teaching. This is where learners model, question, prompt, give feedback and explain to each other.

TEACH: What are teaching strategies?

02 Teaching Strategies mind map

In Collection 4, we talked about broad programme-level strategies. And you wrote short statements that summarised the “big picture” direction for your embedding.

Here we want to talk about a different kind of strategy – teaching strategies. These are also called instructional strategies.

In general terms, a teaching strategy is simply any teaching approach that develops learners’ knowledge, skills and awareness. In a foundation learning context, this requires critical consideration of what literacy and numeracy to teach, and how to contextualise it in your programme or training.

So the focus here, as with learning outcomes, is on your actual teaching. And we’re going to simplify things

For our purposes, there are six main teaching strategies. These refer to what you – as the trainer or tutor – might be doing when you’re teaching:

  • Discussing
  • Prompting
  • Questioning
  • Explaining
  • Giving feedback
  • Modelling

The mind map above summarises these six teaching strategies.