Adult Ed

Print resources    Life skills   Time to study   GED exam   Classroom management   Employment

Print resources

New York State requires all applicants for adult education classes to take TABE tests in reading and mathematics. A student's scores in the
reading test determine placement in classes, including the pre GED and GED.

The publisher Contemporary's books, Achieving TABE Success in Reading and Achieving TABE Success in Mathematics are designed to assist students in improving their ability in reading and math. Their initial purpose is to improve TABE scores. I am pleased that the books seem to help my GED students in both subjects for GED exam preparation.

The books are well organized, give lots of examples, and give pre and post tests and skills inventories.

The series includes Levels A through E of the TABE tests.

Wright Group/McGraw-Hill, Chicago, 2006


The public library is a marvelous resource for students in all adult education classes and teachers should encourage their students to get library cards. To get a library card, one has only to show proof of address like a driver's license, a utility bill or a phone bill. Children are eligible for a library card as soon as they can print their names; a parent or guardian's signature is required.

Teachers can often reserve time at their local library to spend time with their classes on the computers. Librarians, when given advance notice, will gladly take folks around the library to introduce students to the books, reference rooms and so forth.

You can find everything you need at the branches including maps and hours of operation at the following websites:

  • The New York Public Library (includes Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island) Includes centers for Reading and Writing for adult new readers.

  • Brooklyn Public Library

  • Queens Borough Public Library
    Includes free programs and services for Chinese customers and many branches have collections in Chinese.

The Literacy Assistance Professional Development Center, known as the LAC, is an amazing resource. It has a large collection of reading materials for teachers and adult learners. For more information on it workshops and related activities, log on to For a free subscription to its publication, Literacy Update, email the Web site as well.

Literacy instruction often has to focus on literature and the arts, writing and mathematics, which can leave students missing valuable practice in reading for the social studies and science tests. Here are some suggested materials to enhance the GED materials usually offered.

Print resources in science

I have included these publications again. The material on both Web sites was informative, current and simply written. It was fun! You may not have access to the internet at your teaching site or even at home. However, many of you students do, and will benefit from visiting the two sites.

SCIENCE TIMES appears every week as a special feature of THE NEW YORK TIMES. It contains short, highly readable articles that cover the gamut of current scientific and medical subjects. Charts and diagrams often accompany them. The reading level is generally about 9.0. The students who look through this every week soon become conversant with topics ranging from life in outer space to new treatments for Alzheimer's disease. This is an interesting way for your students to learn and understand new vocabulary and to feel comfortable with the material. The Web site breaks the subject matter into the following areas: earth science, genetics, life science, physical science, social science, space and health.

Print resources in social studies

Your students can have the thrill of reading primary sources that will enhance whatever period you are covering.

Example: If you are discussing defining moments such as the story of the Underground Railroad, wouldn't it be exciting to read an actual account by an active participant? (pp. 182-185)

Visit the U.S. National Park Service Web site for additional information.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has a classroom edition, which is a marvelous introduction for ABE and GED students to the world of business and economics. $199 per year will give you a useful teacher's guide, which accompanies 30 copies of the monthly edition as well as a daily copy of the newspaper delivered to the classroom. The WSJ has a list of business organizations which sponsor classrooms and pay for the subscription. While there is presently a waiting list for potential sponsors, the sales and marketing department can be reached at (413) 598-2172.

TIME ALMANAC WITH INFORMATION PLEASE, SBN# 72440 10535 is an amazing and up-to-date compendium of facts, statistics and useful historic material. The Information Please Web site, contains lots of US history and is fun to visit.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC writes articles about the modern and ancient world. (available in all libraries). Students begin to understand global realities when they thumb through its pages. It is the prime source for new maps. They include country maps, maps of the ancient world, climate maps and so forth. The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Web site, contains digests of feature articles and pictorial illustrations.


Educational Technology:

Fordham's Regional Educational Technology Center is training educators to apply technology to reach and inspire today's media-savvy students. RETC Works to Improve Teaching and Learning. Adults are welcome to free classes if they have a child in the public school system.

For more information about the RETC and its offerings, go to

Visually Impaired
The Computer Center for Visually Impaired People at Baruch College's School of Continuing and Professional Studies is a unique and wonderful resource to be shared with your colleagues and students.

The program has tuition discounts as well as low fee/no fee opportunities for students and people 55 years and over.

The employment benefits of this kind of training are obvious and necessary.

For more information visit

Buyer Beware
In the most recent Tips for Teachers, we talked about dangers of the internet. Here's something to add to that list to share with your students, especially those who have internet access at home.

Buyer Beware Update:

Just to let you know, the spam/scam offer of a university degree - for a price - is still out there. Note this new addition on the website: "no required tests, no classes!, no books." Warn your students that tempting though it may seem, to get through school, they have to earn their academic degrees from legitimate institutions. There is no shortcut. They need to study, prepare, and get passing grades, course by course.

We have touched upon the ads that promise gullible people their GED diploma, no test, nothing except sending in $50.00. The ads are real, nothing else is. I call it SPAM/SCAM.

I received a new spam recently. In brief, it said, "get your university diploma…Get a bachelors, Masters, MBA and PhD diploma. No one is turned down! Call today." It gave a cell phone number, which I called. The recorded voice said, "Welcome to the University," and asking the caller to leave two numbers. You know the rest of the scenario.

Navigating the Outside World
If you do any teaching that includes computers and Internet access, please emphasize to your classes the dangers of the wide-open global system of communication. Its wonders are obvious: you can shop, read the news, plan a trip, get road maps and communicate with families all over the earth. You can also be ripped off mercilessly! The smooth letters from Nigeria that promise to double, triple your money are scams written to entice the unknowing into parting with their hard earned savings. The SPAM invades our lives. Teach your students how to delete everything that is not familiar or known to them from their incoming e-mails. This needs to be shared with your students so they can be more watchful parents as well when their children spend hours tooling around the Internet.

As we prepare our students to enter the world of work and/or higher education, we have to reemphasize the importance of practical writing and communication skills.

Addressing an envelope
Many of our adult GED students do not know how to address an envelope properly. Here is one example. Channel Thirteen is housed in a large office building and there are hundreds of employees working here. If the letter or package does not include my name as well as Channel Thirteen, the mail will be returned to the sender. If proper postage is not affixed, that will also be returned. Name and return address should also be included in anything that goes through the US Postal Service.

Leaving phone messages
Many callers do not know how to leave a clear phone message. When communicating by phone, the caller should give his name slowly and include area code as well as the phone number. It is helpful, too, if the caller indicates when she will be available at that number.

Written communications
Written communications sent by snail or e-mail are often not proofread. E-mails received on our Ed Online website are replete with spelling and grammatical errors which tells me that letters sent by the same people are probably not proofread either. Learning how to proofread one's written work is an integral part of the writing experience. Spellcheck should be introduced in all computer classes. Most adult education classroom teachers know that revising and proofing are the final steps to be introduced and practiced before students hand in written work.

Writing a business letter
Many of our students do not know how to address envelopes correctly or write a simple business letter. Teachers should have all students practice addressing envelopes and writing the simplest business letters to get used to a more formal means of communication. This life skill is necessary for professional, academic and personal interchange.

When students says they have no time to study

If you have small children and are the at home parent, try opening your books when they are napping. If they don't sleep in the day, try to carve out a few minutes in the evening. You can study at the Laundromat while clothes are in the dryer.

If you travel to and from work by bus or subway, you can read, standing or sitting. Some students cannot concentrate with all of the surrounding noise and conversations. Try listening to quiet music. Headphones are very good for blocking that outside interference. If you find your GED book too heavy, make copies of the chapter you are working on for ease while travelling. A highlighter is handy for marking important passages.

Your children can be great assets to you when it comes to math. Often they are learning what you now need to relearn after so many years away from school and can work with you. Or, if you have a child who needs help, you work together (and learn together). If you don't have children, find someone at work who is willing to act as a peer coach during a break or at lunchtime. People form study groups through their churches or social clubs. There is help out there, you need to look for it.

When you are taking GED practice tests, ask the kids to watch a sibling so you can study without interruption. Disconnect the phone if necessary so that you can try to simulate a test environment. Do not have the TV on when you take practice tests! If you have a spouse or partner, ask them to take on some of your chores from time to time. Your pursuit of more education is a family affair!

Kids are introduced to calculators from the early grades and on up. If you do not know how to use one, go to your kids or family members for help. They are so proud when they can show you something.

When you read to small children, ask them questions. What is the book about? Who is the main character? If you are reading Charlotte's Web, is it Charlotte or Wilbur? Why? Is it sad or happy or both? When you practice with the young, you are learning how to ask the same kinds of questions when you read fiction. (GED Reading Test). When you help your kids with map assignments, you are helping yourself as well (GED Social Studies Test).

When you go to the library, remember that it is a quiet place. If your home is too noisy or lacking in privacy, plan to spend more time at the library.

GED exam

This excerpt is from Garrison Keillor's "Laying on Our Backs, Looking Up at the Stars." In this segment, he talks about the country's immigrants. It could be used in a GED, pre-GED or ESL class and could serve equally well as a writing assignment or to promote a class discussion.

Everyone makes fun of New York cabdrivers who can't speak English: they're heroes. To give up your country is the hardest thing a person can do: to leave the old familiar places and ship out over the edge of the world to America and learn everything over again different than you learned as a child, learn the new language that you will never be so smart or funny in as in your true language. It takes years to start to feel semi-normal.
GED teachers often supplement the GED preparation books with other reading materials. You can expose your students to the greater world by introducing them to prominent Americans who have made extraordinary contributions to our life and culture. One such person was Gordon Parks, a photographer, filmmaker, writer, and composer who died recently. Do not wait for African American History Month to introduce them to his first book, The Learning Tree. Parks's novel is based on his childhood memories and was later made into a film that he directed.

GED Exam: Poetry is included in the Writing skills portion of the GED exam. For some students, that presents a real challenge. is a marvelous resource to help increase their understanding and enjoyment of poetry. Billy Collins selected the poems when he was the Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress. There is a poem for each day in the year. The poems can be read or listened to and are intended for the high school audience. By using the site, students can practice reading the kinds of poems they may find in the GED test.

Language Arts Writing, GED Essay: Here's good news for students who are practicing for the Essay portion of the GED test. You have more time than you think to compose, edit and rewrite your essay. "You may begin working on the essay section of this test as soon as you complete the multiple-choice section." Most students complete that first part early and should welcome a little more time to complete the essay.

The following quotes are snippets from an in depth interview with Jacques Barzun by Ruth Wattenberg in "American Educator," American Federation of Teachers, Fall, 2002. The issue entitled "Lighting their World, Celebrating the Subjects Teachers Teach," reminds us that teaching is a calling and that our knowledge, passion and excitement for our subject can ignite the fire of enthusiasm in our students, even for the short time they may be in our classes.

Take social studies, for example: "...history is a story - full of colorful and dramatic events and persons, of triumphs and dreadful actions, which must be known in order to form a true notion of humankind."

Within the interview, Barzun named four of the five GED Exam subjects (save for the grammar/essay) as core academic subjects. Nowadays, writing should be taught across the curriculum.

Social Studies, Mathematics, Science and Literature: "...They are the subjects that have the power to open our minds, free our thinking from conventional opinion, and discipline our minds to think productively. Each subject enhances our thinking differently, each in a different domain."

Please take note, if you are a GED teacher in a New York State GED Preparation Program.

When sending in applications (Form A) for taking the test, you may now be required to submit a new attachment (TAF) indicating that the student has demonstrated readiness by getting the minimum passing scores (410 with an average of 450 to make the 2,250 minimum required score.)

Help your students learn how to verify the credentials of any advertised offers:
  • Learning how to make intelligent choices should be an integral part of any classroom discussion.
  • This ongoing conversation should include checking out sources and finding out if offers of education or dental services or anything else are legitimate and professionally sound. If there are charges for these services, students should find out what is being offered and whether or not the same service is available somewhere else for no charge.
  • Credentials of schools and programs advertised on TV and in buses and subways can be verified by checking with the government and non-government agencies listed in Tips for Students.
Reinforce the value of knowing the directions ahead of time for each test. The directions for each test are now located on the back of the test booklets.

Remind students that the math test is given in two parts, the first one permits use of the calculator but not the second one. They need to know how to use an alternate format for giving answers since a grid is included in the answer sheet as well as the familiar five answer bubble format. There is a formula sheet provided on page four in both parts of the math test. Students should be comfortable using this when appropriate.

Directions to the test site are essential. If the student is going to an unfamiliar location, please encourage them to do a trial run before they go to take the test. Remind them to take lots of extra time; traffic is not in their control.

A working watch, required ID, two number two pencils, a pen, a drink and a snack should be part of the survival kit of the test taker.

These tips deal with the calculator used in the GED exam.
  1. Encourage students to buy their own calculator and to not rely only on practice during class time. If their GED class does not provide calculators for use during class time, then students will have no choice but to buy one. (See our Ask the Expert question on this topic for specifics.)

  2. Take the time, as soon as possible, to become at least as comfortable and proficient with the calculator as you expect your students to be.

  3. The calculator must be the exact model that will be used countrywide on the test: The Casio Fx-260 Solar Fraction.

  4. The calculator is only as good as the person using it! Estimating in advance can help students avoid careless errors, such as putting in too many zeros or the decimal in the wrong place.

  5. The FX-260 is small and the buttons are close together. Try using a pencil eraser instead of a finger to avoid hitting the wrong button.

It is important to time students at every opportunity, not just when they are taking practice tests. This is to help enhance their ability to finish the GED test in time or to complete any other timed test. Along with timing them, encourage your students to time themselves so they do not rely on you or a test proctor to complete a test or assignment promptly. Remind them to wear a watch to class and to the GED exam.

When writing essays at home or in class to prepare for the GED Writing exam, students should spend no more than 45 minutes brainstorming and completing their written assignment. Even if they cannot finish in the allotted time, they become familiar with that constraint and can eventually finish promptly.

Classroom management

Be prepared
We call it belt and suspenders! Many adult educators do not have their own classrooms and go to different sites, which is all the more reason for them to take the essential supplies with them. I am talking basics here like chalk, eraser or dry erase marker. The list should include extra copies of handouts in case new students arrive. In case you have arranged to show a video and you find that the VCR isn’t available or malfunctions, be sure to have backup copies of similar material to share with the class.

Setting the tone and the commitment.
It is a good idea to distribute a letter of intention to each new student. This should reflect what you have outlined in your first class concerning academic goals for each student and class as a whole and your expectations for them. Wish students well and give them the sense that you will be there for them. Encourage them to make their own list of personal goals, apart from the academic ones. Examples might be taking driving lessons, doing more exercise, becoming involved in their children's education by joining the PTA and so forth.

Written contract.
It might be useful, especially in a distance model (like our GED CONNECTION tutorial) to ask students to read and then sign and submit some kind of agreement for program participation. I have found that those students who return the signed "contract" tend to make a more serious commitment to the course and give it priority because by signing and returning that agreement, they make that promise to themselves.

Some of the points that we include in our agreement include keeping weekly phone appointments, informing us if they have to cancel or change time or date of the weekly meeting, "trying" to keep outside interruptions at a minimum. This might include turning off the TV, not answering call waiting when it rings and other interference that makes for a very unsuccessful meeting between the tutor and the student.

Essential supplies
Here is a list of essential supplies and materials for the literacy/GED teacher: chalk or dry markers and erasers, highlighters, scissors, stapler, pencil sharpener, #2 pencils, paper clips, post-it notes, and scrap paper for essays and math practice. Most of you will not have your own classroom and will not be given storage space. Literacy teachers need to be resourceful. A dictionary and a few other reference materials including current maps of the US and the world are important to have available. (The new GED test will be more global in outlook, making familiarity with far away places a necessity.)

Know your students
The first few days are the critical ones. Get to know everyone's name, and have them interview one another in twos and then share what they have learned with the class.

Group goals
Set goals for the semester, and remember that you are part of a learning collaborative and that students' opinions should be factored in.

Main objective
Your main objective is to help your students prepare to take and pass the GED exam. Therefore, it is a good idea to experience the practice tests by taking them yourself before administering them to students. Reading about the test and how to prepare the student is not as effective as doing it. You begin to appreciate how daunting these tests are for many people and how frustrating a long exam can be, especially for those who have been out of school for a long time.

New teacher, new class
Bring handouts suitable for a mixed reading level, and get to know your students as individuals and as a learning group in the first few days.

Personal goals
You should find out why your student has decided to pursue the GED. Formal questionnaires are one way. A more informal approach is to give a written assignment, such as "What prompted you to come back to school?" or "What do you hope to gain from the course?" The response can double as a writing sample.

Relax, and remember that the students are adults, often returning to school after being away for many years. They may be just as nervous as you are.

Staying in touch
At the beginning of the semester, emphasize how crucial it is for people to let you know if they cannot come to class. If they move or change their phone or beeper numbers, they need to inform you. If they do not have a phone, they can ask a friend or neighbor to call you. Remember, in many cases you are educating people for the workforce. Instilling professional responsibility is part and parcel of your teaching mandate. Student retention (Attendance issues) If a student with excellent attendance stops coming to class and has not been in touch, try phoning. Your expression of concern can mean a lot. If the phone is disconnected, try writing. If the card or letter is returned, you will know that the student has moved and probably won't be coming back.

Touching base
Make an effort to speak with each student every time the class meets. It is critical that you take those few, essential moments to touch base with individual students while the rest of the class is taking practice tests or doing personal assignments. Do not be afraid to be personable.


Filling out forms
In addition to having your students take practice GED tests, it is also wise to have them practice filling out the section for personal data, as well as the bubble answer sheet. Errors in personal data information delay the scoring of the exam.

Job application
For many of our students, the application is the first contact with the potential employer, and, therefore, the first impression of that applicant. It is paramount for that application to be filled out fully, accurately and neatly. Emphasize the importance of preparing in advance the full name, address and phone number of any former employer, as well as the name and title of the person to whom the applicant reported. The first impression has to be a strong and positive one.

Names, addresses and titles of any personal references should be current. Prior permission is essential before listing anyone's name on an application.

A flawless application can take the entry-level applicant to the next step in the hiring process.

Vocabulary for assessing employability skills:
  • Adaptive skills. Personal qualities such as cooperation, creativity and patience. These traits help make one a good friend, family member, and worker.
  • Transferable skills. Those talents or abilities including social ease, organizational skills, artistic flair which can be useful in the workplace.
  • Prerequisite skills. These are required for hire. Examples might be knowledge of computers, specific mechanical competencies including licenses, speaking other languages.

WIA (Workforce Investment Act)
Many adult literacy programs receive support from WIA (Workforce Investment Act) through their state education departments in varying amounts and with different accountability requirements. But the message is clear. We are preparing people for the workforce and suitable skills should be woven into lesson plans where appropriate.