An Adult Literacy Activity

by Nancy Hansen
Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Area Literacy Council

One of the most enjoyable summertime activities that my volunteer
tutors have conducted was this one: I assigned two different
learners to two different volunteers. The learners knew
each other as good friends. The tutors decided to have a session
in the park and encouraged each learner to invite a friend.

here we have two learners, two friends and two tutors, six magic
markers in hand, seated at a picnic table covered with blank
newsprint. They enjoyed a picnic brown-bag lunch together,
then proceeded to do a “progressive story”.

What is a progressive story? It’s a story written piece-by-piece
by several people in sequence. The first person writes
the introduction to a narrative, then passes the pen to the
second writer. The second writer independently adds another
event in the story, then passes it along to the third writer,
and so on. The results are unpredictable, and are often

who could write a sentence for the story wrote. Those
who could not yet write drew a picture. Each person then moved
to the right and continued that story at the new place at the
table with their magic marker.

When they finished moving and ended up back at their “plate”,
they read the story aloud that was written by their friends
in literacy. I hear there was a whole lot of giggling and laughter
going on.

course, progressive stories can also be written on newsletter
copy for those times when picnic tables wouldn’t be practical–or

“picnic table-sized” story was posted on a wall at
our office for many months after the summer ended. It
was a wonderful and memorable “writing” experience
for all.

Sioux Falls Literacy Council in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is
a community-based literacy program that trains volunteer tutors
and assigns them to teach reading, writing and spelling to adult
learners on a one-to-one basis. We are a small organization
within the literacy network of providers in the community-at-large of our rural area, but continue to advocate
for the development of skills which
often improve the quality of life for our adults.

Nancy Hansen has been the Sioux Empire United
Way-sponsored agency’s executive director since 1990.