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By Phil Bartle, PhD

15. Avoid Traditional, Orthodox, Useless Topics (eg Alphabet, Poetry, Foreign Drama):

In a school setting, it is common to teach the whole alphabet to the pupils. But what is an alphabet? It is a collection of characters, each with a different shape, and each representing a different sound or set of sounds.

The alphabet and the letters in it do not represent anything practical or useful in the lives of your literacy participants. They are awkward to memorise, and they are not directly connected to daily life.

Do not teach the alphabet. Teach only those letters in it which are in the words you have chosen as practical and useful to learn (differing from community to community, and differing between various groups in the same community). Eventually, perhaps the literacy participants will learn every letter of the alphabet, or at least all of those to be used.

And what is poetry? The poetry taught in schools has been screened to be "suitable" for pupils. It is usually very sophisticated, and always highly impractical. What practical use would a poem be to illiterates learning basic literacy? What about other forms of literature? Yes, these may be pleasurable to read – at least for some people. If they are not immediately practical, relevant and useful to your literacy participants, do not teach them in your programme.

If one of the participants shows interest, give encouragement and support, and suggest that they study the poetry, drama, prose or other literate arts, in other settings.

Notes on all of the above (long document)

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