The language experience approach is a method of teaching reading in which the teacher creates text by writing down words dictated by the students. LEA is an effective method to teach reading because it allows students to directly see the correspondence between spoken and written words, and gives students an opportunity to read their own words, which are familiar and meaningful to them.
How to Use the Language Experience Approach
Language experience approach can be used with individual students or groups. While it is most commonly used with young emerging readers, it is also effective for teaching struggling readers up through the middle grades, as well as English language learners.
1. Have the students choose an experience that they would like to write about. For groups, this should be a shared experience such as a field trip or activity that the whole class participated in. For individual students, it could be anything that the student feels is important or interesting, such as a family activity, a story about their pet or favorite toy, or even a television show or movie that they enjoyed. The language experience approach can also be used to create fictional stories.
2. Discuss the experience with the students. This helps them to clarify what they want to write about, organize their thoughts, and come up with specific, descriptive vocabulary.
3. Write the story down as the students dictate it. For groups, have students take turns dictating sentences describing their experience. Record what they say on large chart paper, repeating the words as they are written. For individual students, this can be done on a single sheet of paper, or it can be made into a book. The writing should be done in neat, large printing rather than cursive, to make it easier for the students to read.
Try to stick to the students’ own words exactly as they are spoken with a minimum of correction for grammar or sentence structure. It is important for students to see their own words in print, because they have a personal connection to the words.
4. Read the text aloud. Point to each word as you read the text aloud. After reading the text to the students, have them reread it aloud. With a group, call on individual students to read sentences, or have them read chorally as a group while pointing to each word. Students can illustrate their individual texts and read them aloud to the class.
Since the words that the students dictate are familiar and are used in a meaningful context, students will be able to read more difficult vocabulary than they might ordinarily be able to if they simply saw it printed in a book.
Tompkins, Gail E. Literacy for the 21st Century, Merrill Prentice Hall, 2003.