SLAEC combating overly complex approaches to the three Rs

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

“I was born to be a teacher,” says Karen Plourde, executive director at Slave Lake Adult Education Committee.“I stumbled into adult ed, once I left university. Once I taught adults, I never went back to teaching children.”

Plourde develops individualized and new courses to help adult learners. These are used by SLAEC and other adult ed departments around Alberta.

“Forty per cent of Albertans function below a Grade 12 level,” says Plourde. “This percentage can be extrapolated to Slave Lakers. We can assume a large percentage of (these) adults struggle with reading, writing, math or all three.”

The statistics come from the Canadian Council of Learning.

“(I created new courses) because I felt there was a lack of appropriate materials for adults who struggle with reading, writing and math,” Plourde says. “(In other courses), each subject is made much harder that it needs to be for the learner.”

The adult courses are designed differently than those in the education system.

“Alternate learning methods are available for adults who could not advance using traditional educational methods,” Plourde says.

Plourde based the courses on her 35 years of experience teaching adult learners.

So far she has written Read with Sight and Sound, Math Whole Numbers, Speech Recognition, and Write Right. She is working on a course on decimal numbers.

Write Right is the newest course. It teaches adults to use punctuation, including commas, correctly.

As an example of how the courses work, Read with Sight and Sound focuses on whole language learning. Unlike traditional courses, which focus on individual words, whole language learning starts with the full story, then goes down to level of the sentence Plourde says.

“(Learners) absorb the reading material as they go. (The course consists of) high interest stories that the learner can relate to. (Learners have) success very quickly with this.”

In the course, Plourde explains the learner listens to the whole story and follows the written words with their finger. Once they’ve heard and seen the whole story, they focus on the individual sentences. When the learner is comfortable reading the whole story, they call the tutor and read it to them over the phone. The tutor gives feedback. The learner moves on to the next lesson.

After an initial meeting, this course can be done at home. It requires a computer, but not Internet.

These alternative courses are available at the SLAEC office.

SLAEC has been in Slave Lake for over 30 years. It offers one-on-one tutoring and small group instruction in any area of learning, Plourde says. It is financed by the Alberta Government. Each course is individually priced, but the prices are low.

“(SLAEC will) waive the cost if the learner makes it known they cannot afford the instruction,” Plourde says.

Some, such as Read with Sight and Sound, are by donation.

SLAEC tailors courses to the learners’ needs. While the three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) are common, courses can focus on other things, such as aspects of a trade, document use or computer use.

The spring term ends at the end of June. The fall term starts in September.
To search courses and register, check out the website, or contact Karen Plourde at 780-849-8625.

Left to right: Wendy Cahill, new SLAEC program manager, and Karen Plourde, executive-director.

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