Case Study | Kim | Intermediate

BackgroundCNLC The Resource Hub 6

Kim is had little formal education in her homeland but was good at school, especially in maths. She has lived in Australia for over 20 years after leaving Vietnam following the civil war there. She completed a basic English course when she arrived in Melbourne. Kim worked as a machinist in a clothing factory in Fitzroy for 12 years and has excellent dressmaking skills. The factory closed down last year and she has been unemployed since. Her redundancy hit her hard but she is determined to find a new job in another industry. She is now studying Aged Care at TAFE full-time. The course is difficult for her so has come to her local community centre for help from a volunteer tutor. She understands the role of the tutor and how much support she can request with her assignments.

Literacy ability

Kim learned to speak functional English on the factory floor to her work-mates from many other countries. She has reasonable proficiency in written English with forms, notes, SMS and email and can read signs, brochures and other short texts. However, the reading demands of a basic vocational course are challenging. She now has to study and make sense of more complex, dense material.


Sewing, helping her family, cooking & walking

Immediate Literacy Needs

Kim’s course demands a lot of independent reading and written assignments on Aged Care outside the classroom contact hours. She has to work through a lengthy manual with several prescribed modules and assignments. She needs to follow links to websites and complete online research. Some of her assessment includes unfamiliar question modes including multiple choice and short answers. She needs to learn and memorise information for class tests. Kim has specifically asked for help with:

  • Locating information online and following links to relevant information.
  • Writing notes and summaries.
  • Spelling and vocabulary on Aged Care.
  • Learning to learn strategies including question and answer style

Lesson 1


Take time to get to know each other and Kim’s learning needs. Explore her course manual and any current assignments.


Select a brief current section from her course manual and practise her skills with reading text book prose. Encourage Kim to skim (fast surface reading) the text to get the main ideas. Scan any graphics or tables for details. Get Kim to read aloud a short passage aiming for speed and fluency, timing her to reach a goal of 100 words per minute. Then work on her understanding of key concepts with questions and ‘hooks’ to familiar ideas.


Get Kim to write 2-3 lines to answer a standard short answer question on a focus topic, eg: Explain one key O H. and S. risk for Aged Care workers. This will give you a picture of her literacy skills and provide material for the session. Encourage her to proof read her text and read over the writing together.

Find a basic online text on the same topic (O H. and S) Read it together and support Kim to write summary notes from the text to augment her own ideas.

Spelling & Vocabulary

Have a personal “Aged Care” dictionary note book ready. Focus on new or difficult words from the session’s writing topic and from the manual, eg, dementia, frail, handover. Break difficult words into chunks eg tion, ai or ent. Discuss meanings and write simple synonyms.

Study Skills

Compose a very simple mind map of today’s reading text to reinforce main ideas and help with classifying and grouping concepts.

Conclusion of Lesson

Ask Kim to bring along any reading or assessment materials from her next TAFE classes to work on together. Read over the O.H and S. writing and her spelling words and remind her to practise at home.

Lesson 2


Talk about Kim’s recent TAFE classes and any study problems or successes she has had recently. Establish her learning goals for this session.


Select a new focus online text to read from her Aged Care course. Encourage Kim to follow the links to the relevant sections and discuss the main features of the website layout and navigation. Again skim for main points, scan for details, and read aloud for speed and fluency, timing her to reach a goal of 100 words per minute. Discuss the need to manage online and paper-based texts as she completes her course work.


Discuss the formal essay writing genre with Kim. Show basic stages of writing an essay: analyse question→ research → plan→ write → edit → redraft. Then choose one topic from her course assessment tasks and rehearse the early stages together.

Find one or two examples of simple essays online to show Kim the layout and presentation conventions.

Introduce the idea of topic sentences as key signposts in essay structure. Write 2-3 topic sentences, jumble the words and get Kim to reorder them.

Spelling & Vocabulary

Select new words from the session’s reading to add to the Aged Care dictionary. Show Kim how English words grow from a root word, eg: medical, medicine, medication; resident, residential, residence. Use a dictionary on an i-pad to show her how the words are related and their word classes. Discuss familiar morphemes, their meanings and spelling patterns. Explain the different word classes formed with each morpheme. Kim can copy these into her personal dictionary.

Study Skills

Practice standard short answer questions from the end-of-chapter in the manual. Distinguish between types of question words and explain demands of each. Eg: outline, describe, evaluate, summarise.


Revise the online text and her spelling words and remind her to practise at home.

Hints for the intermediate literacy learner

  • Learners at this level are often more worried about spelling and writing. However to improve your writing you need to read lots     of the types of texts you want to write. It is important to teach the explicit features of the text.
  • Set up email exchange with your learner as a way of improving personal writing and spelling. Encourage the use of spell check     on the computer.
  • Teach spelling through your learner’s writing. Make a note of the types of errors then teach spelling strategies, word patterns         and rules related to their needs.
  • Get your learner to use the words they want to use in their writing and not worry about spelling. Learners at this level often only     write with simple words because these are the words they know how to spell.
  • If you can’t make a session together set up a Skype or Facetime session.
  • Learning how to learn is important. Teach note-taking, how to organise learning materials, both hard-copy and electronic and planning strategies.

Take the Next Step


Teaching Adults

Follow this link for how to teach an intermediate literacy learner.


Additional Resources

Check out these resources that will help you teach the intermediate adult reader writer literacy learner.

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