Building Vocabulary and Spelling Skills

For many adult literacy learners, building a bank of vocabulary is necessary before they embark on a writing activity. But what are some effective strategies for building vocabulary? And how can you help an adult learner develop the spelling skills they need?

Building vocabulary

Some great strategies to use in your tutoring sessions include:

  • draw mind maps – use mind maps to generate and expand vocabulary on different topics
  • read model texts – read a text on the topic your learner wants to write about. Ask them to highlight the vocabulary they would like to use in their writing. Talk about the meaning of any new words.
  • create a set of flash cards – include definitions or pictures, synonyms, antonyms or word families

Developing spelling skills:

Some great techniques to incorporate in your tutoring sessions include:

  • use flashcards, highlighters, tiles, jigsaws and puzzles to help a learner visualize the spelling of new words – (click on this link to see an example of a teaching technique using visualization)
  • use rhythm, mnemonics, or adapted pronunciation to help remember how words are spelled using their auditory methods (e.g. Wed – nes – day, k – nife)
  • talk about the patterns of letters in words and think about how common patterns have common meanings – look explicitly at prefix and suffix patterns, syllables, silent-e at the end of words, word parts and compound words

If you are looking to help an adult learner build their vocabulary and improve their spelling skills, there are many guides, online resources, Apps and workbooks that will help provide the strategies and activities to use in your session.

Tutor Training and Guidance

Reading Partners of San Jose Library have many great videos. Search for ‘vocabulary’, ‘spelling’, “mind mapping’ or ‘word banks’ in their YouTube collection

For LU Tutors, Proliteracy’s Online Training course: A Way With Words – Strategies for Strengthening Adult Learners’ Vocabularies is a great place to start. The course helps you think about the importance of vocabulary instruction. It is packed full of useful tools for assessing your learner’s vocabulary and strategies to help them develop their word banks in different contexts.

If you’re not sure how to log in to Proliteracy, contact the LU Program Director.

The Literacy Tutor’s Guide from the Centre for Family Literacy is also a great resource for ideas on how to teach writing skills to adult learners. All LU tutors receive a copy of this Guide during Basic Training. There are also copies available in the LU library.

The Frontier’s College Tutors Guide also provides the tutor with lots of guidance and tips on teaching writing skills to adult learners. You can find a copy of this guide in the Tutor Guides section of the LU Resource Hub.

Online resources and Apps for Vocabulary and Spelling

Here are some resources that are featured in the Resource Hub. Click on the links below to find out more about each resource).

Workbooks and Games

Also check in the LU library – there are lots of workbooks and guides that you can use in a tutoring session with an adult learner. Here are just a few:

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