How to Use this Guide: Relevant, Readable, Enjoyable

How to Use this Guide: Relevant, Readable, Enjoyable

When I was invited to write this Guide—which derives from PowerPoint presentations I did for Alberta’s Community Learning Network (CLN) and B.C.’s DECODA literacy practitioners—I had to ask: “What would be the best way to do this?” After all, this isn’t a PowerPoint with interaction…It isn’t a book or a training manual, with no interaction. I have published a few books and articles through the years and have done quite a few presentations, but this was a new challenge. Then I had a “radical” thought: “Why not use some of the adult education principles that appear in this very Guide in writing this?”

For some readers the “best way” will be to begin at the beginning and go to the end. The Guide is effectively designed that way…“logically.” However, when teaching adults, “logic” often has to go out the window. That is what keeps it so interesting. As a result, I have tried to apply three principles:


According to adult education research, if we want to hold a learner’s attention learning should be relevant. Why? Because adults are constant problem-solvers, not to mention constant skeptics. Adults reading about their own practice constantly ask:

“How can I use this?”
“Where is the relevance to my work?”
“How do I know this will work?”
“How long will this take to read?”

Therefore, for many reading this Guide the best way will be to “skip around.” Find what is relevant “for tomorrow morning.” For instance, if you have a learner on the verge of dropping out, Section Four on motivation might be a place to start. If you want some insight into the unique needs of many of our learners, maybe head to Section Three that discusses teaching adults. If you have a learner who seems not to “engage,” you may find something useful in the five learning approaches described in Section Five. But, if you want to just lean back and enjoy memorable stories about some of the heroes and heroines that struggled, even died in at least one case, to found our field, Section Two on our landmarks will be a good place to turn.

But, of course, there is always an exception. Section Six: Bringing It All Together is really written to come after Section Four’s teaching methods and Section Five’s learning approaches—as the title implies. Hopefully less confusing that way…


If I know one thing about literacy practitioners, they are busy people. They are “doers.” Most don’t have time to mull over theories or “read a book about how-to-do literacy.” Therefore, I have tried to “chunk” sections so each should take about 15 to 20 minutes to read. At least I have tried.

A note about the images, some images included in this resource are not compatible with smaller screens. They are best viewed on a laptop or computer screen. 


As seen in Section Four, motivating learners involves learner enjoyment. Our learners are volunteer learners, few are required to be in our program. So I often ask: “What will make our learners actually look forward to coming to class or our next tutoring?” Further, “How can I ensure each session will be enjoyable—both for learners and ourselves?”

How, then, to apply that here? I have chosen to write the kind of guide I would like to read.

So, informed by the ancient Chinese proverb “Who can I learn from but from a friend?”, I have tried to write as a friend, a friendly guide. If the tone seems friendly, it is because it is intended to be friendly.

This Guide is intended to be enjoyable, readable and relevant to the important work you are doing. At least I hope so.

One more thing, if you want to do some further reading I have added suggestions and sources in each section. I hope you will check some of them out.

Let’s get started.