We learn all the time, any time – lesson ideas

In 2018 VALBEC is celebrating the possibilities learning opens up for students.

In 2017 VALBEC three contributors to the book, ‘A Fuller Sense of Self’ talk about the benefits they have experienced by returning to education. The stories demonstrate how they overcame a variety of barriers to now feel stronger, more able and more confident than they have ever felt before.

We learn all the time, any time materials provide LLN teachers and students with ideas for exploring how they can start to build strength, ability and confidence.

The Resource

In the book A Fuller Sense of Self (2011) six people described why they returned to education and how that decision shaped and changed their lives for the better. The stories illuminated their lives and learning experiences, describing the challenges they faced, the events that provoked their return to ‘school’, and ultimately how their lives had changed and shifted following that decision.

In the 2017 video A Fuller Sense of Self – Five Years On – The Digital Stories we revisited these students and their stories, to find out where they are now and to discover if and how learning continues to influence their life journey. We tracked down three of our original storytellers – Linda, David and Sue. This time our storytellers kindly and courageously shared their thoughts on camera.

This book and video are the resources for these lesson ideas.

Here’s the trailer

Chpt 1 Awareness and Understanding

Chpt 2 Connection and Community

Chpt 3 Self-Belief and Possibility


Teachers and Learners Materials
Curriculum Alignment

  • Ice breaker/warm up
  • Oral recount
  • Group writing task
  • Drawing on their own experience with learning
  • Grammar and sentence structure

Extension 1: Writing their own story
Extension 2: A dramatic version – mini-plays

  • Sharing with others
  • Own version of ‘Fuller Sense of Self’
  • Prepare a course brochure
  • Attend an open day

Teachers and Learners Materials

The following materials draw on:


Encourage students to talk about their past experiences of learning, particularly literacy and numeracy.

Draw out their strengths – Appreciate their own skills and strategies

Provide them with the tools to continue when things get tough in their literacy and numeracy journey.

Enable students to work alone or in small groups

Recognise extrinsic factors that influence their past and present learning opportunities – to take control of these (or manage them)


Students will be able to

  1. Describe strategies they find effective for learning
  2. Recognise the learning strategies and qualities of other students
  3. Contribute to developing a course brochure
  4. Complete a personal piece of writing of their own choice – e.g. diary, letter to a close friend, an email to a close friend, poem …

Curriculum Alignment

The following alignments are suggestions only.

Certificate of General Education for Adults – this work could contribute to ACSF 2, 3 and 4 – in units such as VU22389 Engage with texts of limited complexity to participate in the community and the companion unit VU22394 Create texts of limited complexity to participate in the community. This work would also be suitable for the project focussed units.

In the English as an Additional Language Framework units related to reading and writing informational, descriptive and narrative texts might be suitable. Electives such as VU21472 Investigate features of the education system in Australia, and BSBLIB304 Develop and use information literacy skills and would also align to parts of this unit of work.


Ice breaker/warm up

Provide a timeline with nothing on it except:

The start …………………………..recently …………………………………..Now………………..……….Next

Keep the distances between each landmark even to encourage students to select the key points in their learning journey

Each person can either tell the teacher or write for themselves about a key moment in their educational history.

Attach another continuum – the people line

People who started me ……. kept me going …… … with me now  … … …I want with me

The focus is on positive influences – people they have loved, trusted, or how they helped themselves.

If negative influences are mentioned – put them on a sticky label and attach at the bottom of the page.

Oral recount

Tell a short recount of how you have experienced support when all around you said you couldn’t/shouldn’t do it (whatever it was) or when things worked against you doing it.  Example:

I moved schools from co-ed to an all-girls school when I was in grade 4. I didn’t know anyone at the new school. I was really uncomfortable with the other students and some of the teachers weren’t kind or helpful. The only time I felt at home was in sport.

Then one day our English teacher took us for a walk in the school garden and told us to write a poem. We had to read out our poems. She picked five poems to put on the noticeboard in the corridor. Mine was one of them. It was a great feeling.

A few weeks later we were being taught how to write cursive script. We were practicing ‘f’. My English teacher invited our Maths teacher to come in and help. This Maths teacher was not my friend. The English teacher praised my handwriting in front of the Maths teacher. Maths was a bit more pleasant after that. I learnt to find my champions and trust their feedback and not to worry too much about the others.

Provide a text model

Read the beginning of ‘Sue’s Story’ from a ‘Fuller Sense of Self’. Let students follow as you read.

Use a time line to note her journey from the beginning to her first day in class. (You will need to add five-year time marker if using the ice-breaker time line)

Give the students words or phrases from the passages:

Born in the Mallee; I hated school; Hard to take a lot in; a home for girls; I certainly wasn’t educated. I wasn’t given books. None of that was encouraged; I cut myself off; a friend broke through the barrier; I was encouraged to go; I thought I would be a failure; I was too scared to answer questions; Now I love reading; I love to sit and watch documentaries. HE SAID I SHOULD KEEP GOING;

Not treated like a number; part of the family; opens up a new world; meet new people; a new social life; you learn by that too; you learn out of class.

Play the Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=HDcC4UiPxPc

Sue and David describe what else they gained. Some examples are:

‘I doubt they’ve realized that it taught me also a bit of independence which I didn’t know that I really had down.’

Chapter 2 Connection Community (0:42 – 1:12)

‘Yeah, I’m not treated like a number or like you’re uneducated … nose up you type of thing. They treat you like you’re a part of the family and that’s what it is, a family. And it opens up a new world to you, you meet new people in class, numeracy and like that, it’s like a new social life. And I think you learn by that too. Not just in the class. You learn out of the class.’

Student select the words and phrases they feel apply to them. They put these aside.

Group writing task

Tell the students you’re going to write for them. (Some of this language will be useful in a later activity)

  • Ask them to describe what happened to Sue and David.
  • If needed and according to student reading skills, provide a word list – felt horrible, in the beginning, confident, not alone …
  • Write down exactly what the students say in the order they provide it.
  • Let them, as a group, read it.
  • If possible, ask them if they want to change anything or add anything. Does the order of the information make sense (a beginning, middle and end)?
  • Make the changes. Write a clean copy of the final text. Students can copy or type this, as appropriate.

Drawing on their own experience with learning

  • Who sees parts of Sue’s or David’s experience in their own life experience?
  • Invite everyone to select words and phrases from the two stories to use in their own story.
  • Check if anyone wants to add good/bad factors from their own experience with learning – at school, work …
  • Let them put these on their time line. Note that the timeline gives them a place to start their own stories or, if more comfortable for them, they might like to start somewhere else on the time line.

Grammar and sentence structure

Ideas (select the language focus that is most relevant for the current group of students – parts of speech such as adjectives for feelings and experiences; sentence structure)

Use single words from Sue’s story to identify nouns, verbs, adjectives. Use some of the language they have used to show that they are using these words all the time.

Treat sentences the same way – write one of their sentences on the board – select a simple sentence. Discuss the need for a subject, verb and often an object for good English sentences.

Genre – Do you think Sue would use the same words and sentences if she was writing a letter or an email? How would she speak if she was being interviewed on radio/TV? Draw out their understanding of how people change the way they speak/write for the people they’re communicating with and/or the media they’re using.

Extension 1: Writing their own story

Point out that in the group writing task they have just done a fairly standard class room activity for writing.

  • They have thought about what they know about a topic, listened to or read someone’s experience, talked about it,
  • written a first draft about what they remember,
  • reviewed the writing and made some changes or edits to ideas.

Give them a dot point process map of that activity – see below.

Discussing a new topic

  • What are we talking about today?
  • Brainstorm ideas about the topic from your own experience, or, what do you know about this topic?
  • Read or listen to new material on the topic
  • Write a short report/recount on the topic using your own experience and the new material.
  • Read and check you have all of the information you want
  • Remove ideas you don’t need or add more ideas
  • Check that the ideas are in a story-telling order – beginning, middle, end
  • Look at spelling, punctuation and handwriting
  • Prepare a final copy.

Prepare an appropriately formatted final copy – students’ names, title of the piece, date.

Extension 2: A dramatic version – mini-plays

  1. As above for Extension One but get them to write about each stage in the present tense rather than the past tense. Point out that writing in the past tense suggests the action is over and done with. Using the present tense can make the reader feel as though it is happening in front of them.
  2. First, second or third person – Give the students a picture from the newspaper – a footballer jumping for a spectacular mark, a picture of a car accident … In separate groups, students describe what happened (group 1) as if they were the player/driver, (group 2) as if they were a spectator, (group 3) as if they were related to the person taking the mark or driving the car. Encourage descriptions of what happened and how they felt about it. Groups can then share their stories. Discuss the differences in how the stories were told – language (verbs, adjectives, pronouns), sequence of the action, facts and opinions.

It can be quite emotional.

  1. Invite students to prepare a dramatic presentation of one or more stages of their timeline – they can narrate it and others can act it. Workshopping this can involve looking for other words to say what happened and how the author felt.

Sharing with others

Ask: What is the use of experience if you keep it locked inside you?

Prompt: we have shared our experiences with people we know. What is the best way to share this with people like us but not in contact with the school/house/institute?

Two possible methods:

  • Our own version of a ‘Fuller Sense of Self’
  • A brochure/video for the school/house/institute to encourage people to give the course a go
  • Attend an open day for the school/house/institute

Own version of ‘Fuller Sense of Self’

  • Read/scan the book online or in hard copy.
  • Discuss the practicalities of making a book – ask them what they think they would be able to do – someone could draw a picture for the cover and/or cartoons for the stories; who can type; who could find out how much it would cost to get it printed? …
  • Provide a brief, dot point outline of what is needed. This becomes a work plan or procedure
  • Then discuss the idea of a brochure.

Prepare a course brochure

  • Locate two or three brochures – paper or online – about literacy and numeracy courses for them to compare
  • Point out key features: any text that quotes past students describing why they did the course and why others should do it; course outcomes; costs; school location; pictures …
  • Draw comparisons between the benefits Sue and MAT said they gained, and those in the brochures.
  • Ask what a brochure for their course should tell people who might want/need classes.
  • Do a de-construct of the brochure design and the skills involved – typing, photography, design – pretty colours etc. Look for interest or skills students have that could contribute to these elements.

Attend an open day

The next section could be about giving advice to someone thinking about going back to school.

To explore how learning for adults is promoted provide students with the link below:


Clicking on an image will provide more information on how some groups celebrated Adult Learners’ Week this year.

This could then build to an excursion to a nearby college or TAFE where students can investigate how the college or TAFE promotes learning to adults and/or offers them a learning pathway to a desired job or career.