Sandy Jacobi: Mini-grant 2000

For this project I would like to research and design a curriculum for teaching basic reading and writing skills to students enrolled in pre-GED-level programs. This curriculum would be intended to supplement existing instruction, and would be suitable for "pull-out" classes of students needing direct instruction in phonics, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary improvement. It would also be appropriate for high-intermediate and advanced students in ESOL programs, particularly those from a non-European language background and those whose reading and writing lags behind their speaking.


During the past 10 years of working in Rhode Island adult education, I have witnessed the need for more intensive and effective ways to teach reading and writing to students in pre-GED programs, where the typical student is most likely to come from an ESOL background with little or no formal education, or is a native-speaker of English with a record of school failure and possible language-based learning disabilities. Both types of student typically lack a solid foundation in phonics, word attack skills, grammar and vocabulary, with reading levels that hover around Grade 5 (or lower).

Though many of us question the value of the GED as the only academic goal for a diverse group of learners, the fact remains that it's the only show in town, and that it requires high-level reading skills. The "typical" pre-GED student, with his/her lack of reading fluency, is at a disadvantage and often needs very basic, remedial instruction in order to even begin to work with GED preparation materials.

Finally, with Rhode Island companies laying off hundreds of workers, adult education centers are likely to see an influx of ESOL students with an almost native ability to speak colloquial English and the desire to earn a GED, but with large gaps in their reading and writing. It is this type of student that we need to serve better.


In the phonics and spelling area, I would like to prepare mini-lessons based on multisensory reading programs such as Wilson and Lindamood. During the past 3 months, I have been "test-teaching" sample Wilson lessons with great success in a pre-GED class of ESOL background students in Pawtucket, and I intend to include and expand on these in the project.

By "grammar " I don't mean the teaching of unhelpful grammatical terms, but ways to help students make sense of what they are reading. English is particularly confusing in its use of the same grammatical form for many functions, as well as the existence of multiple meanings of a single word. I would like to research existing programs for helping students understand the building blocks of a sentence, paragraph and piece of writing, particularly those using a multisensory approach. Project Read's Written Expression and Comprehension program is an example of one that could be adapted for adult use.

Finally, building on phonics and grammar awareness, I would like to explore other ways to expand students' vocabulary to meet the reading requirements of the GED and higher education.

Communicating the Results

I would be pleased to present my findings at any forum for adult educators. In addition, I will provide a final report that can be disseminated on the Internet.

Sandy Jacobi
(401) 941-6631
email: Sandy Jacobi

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