General Strategies for Organizing and Managing an ABE Class

Teacher teaching classThe following list provides the new ABE teacher with some general strategies for organizing and managing the ABE classroom.

  • Begin and end your lesson with the whole group together to create a sense of class community.
  • Provide a combination of individualized and whole group instruction during each class session to introduce variety into your instruction and to allow for adequate practice of the lesson objective(s).
    • The benefits of individualized instruction are:
      • Adults need to work at their own pace.
      • Instructional materials can be based on the individual student's assessed level.
      • Some adults need privacy and quiet to learn.
    • The benefits of group instruction are:
      • Adults learn well working with one another, watching and helping each other perform specific learning tasks.
      • Group work encourages critical thinking and builds communication skills.
      • Students learn teamwork and how to relate to age, cultural, and ethnic diversity.
      • Learners discover that they can use their individual skills, talents, and abilities to help others.
      • Students create social networks that promote regular class attendance.
  • Encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. By assisting students in becoming assertive consumers of their own education, you are helping them ensure that they get what they need out of your class as well as providing them with transferable skills that will serve them well in other educational settings throughout their lives. Addressing the importance of student responsibility early on in the learning cycle contributes to clearer expectations in teaching and learning. Strategies for encouraging learners to assume responsibility for their own learning include requiring learners to (1) evaluate their own work or the work of their peers; (2) record the completion of their daily learning activities and assessment results; and (3) maintain a portfolio or notebook of their work to document their progress.
  • Use a topic-driven, rather than a skills-driven, curriculum. Negotiate with students the themes or topics that they want addressed in the curriculum. This helps students to unite around a topic in which they all share an interest. After initial introductions of lessons, students can branch off in various areas according to their abilities.
  • Let students know that you are there to provide guidance to them whenever they want and need it. Tell them that you welcome their questions and that there is no such thing as a dumb question. Then be sure to respond sincerely and non-judgmentally to their questions and always respect and show appreciation for their efforts to master a skill.
  • Use project-based learning. Project-based learning can be a powerful motivator for students to attend class. Teachers can get all students involved in projects such as producing a simple newsletter that is published every few weeks; making a video; or creating and publishing a cookbook or a student literacy magazine. Long-term projects allow students to assume responsibility for leadership roles and other tasks, depending on their strengths and interests. There is a role for every student, regardless of his/her academic skill levels. Students can participate in a variety of ways. When every student contributes to a unified effort with a tangible end result, every student can shares in the sense of accomplishment.
  • Allow for a range of learning approaches. Allow students the freedom to work in a fashion that is comfortable for them.
    • Some may want to work alone; others may prefer working in pairs or small groups.
    • Some may need you to model a skill repeatedly and then guide them as they practice the skill over and over until they can perform it independently; others may prefer not to have you observe them practicing a skill, but will demonstrate it for you when they are ready.
    • Some students benefit from having information presented through various modalities (auditory, visual, tactile/kinesthetic); others may prefer to learn through one, dominant modality. The more modalities through which you offer instruction, the more likely you are to reach all students.
    • Sometimes students process their learning silently. Silence does not necessarily indicate boredom, confusion, or passivity. Try to find out what the silence means. It is helpful to explore with students how they learn best so you can help students work from their strengths.7

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