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Education Worldwide

Basic Literacy Skills for Adults Via Video Clips

A lease, an atlas, a newspaper article, instructions in work settings, campaign posters – all those quite important reading materials might be a struggle to comprehend for adults with basic reading skills day in and day out. Moreover, it is not only reading, but also lacking basic skills in writing, mathematics or finance which makes getting and keeping a job, raising kids and coping with everyday life difficult. What can be done to help those people?

TV411, based in the United States of America, has come up with a simple but very well executed idea: using short video clips distributed via television and the internet in order to provide informal education opportunities for adults. This literacy project produces short videos that embed basic skills such as reading, writing, math, science and personal finance in really entertaining and sometimes funny scenarios as well as examples and case studies of peers acquiring those skills themselves.

For instance, in a very amusing scenario a figure called "Question Man" sees a judge for help to understand his mother's lease who has got a problem with her landlord. The judge helps him to understand the notoriously difficult legal language and shows him a reading strategy using one's own knowledge and contextual clues. Watch for yourself:

The videos are accompanied by interactive lessons that teach and reinforce specific points related to the video's teaching goals on TV411's website.

With regard to reading, other videos explain how to learn new vocabulary, understand newspaper stories, using an atlas or a roadmap, register with the library and pick up a book, understanding medicine labels and many more topics of importance for illiterate adults revolving around everyday life.

Learners might register for free at the website and can access a personal portfolio page that tracks their online activities. Teachers working with adults in community or library settings find downloadable lesson plans and worksheets for specific video clips.

TV411 was founded by Dr. Marian Lapsley Schwarz who was inspired by Sesame Street and a BBC literacy program for adults. Schwarz created the Adult Literacy Media Alliance that produced TV411 under the auspices of the non-profit company Education Development Center.

TV411 public television series was first aired in 1998. So far, TV411 has produced a series of around 120 video clips. TV411's 31 half-hour episodes are still widely broadcast today and have attracted tens of millions of viewers.