This summer, students in READ 6313 Literacy Development and Language Study were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
I first read about the language experience approach (LEA) as an undergraduate in the education program. The foundation of the language experience approach is the students’ own experiences being written and read as dictated to the teacher verbatim, with no editing. Then, the teacher and the students read the story aloud. Through LEA, beginning readers can learn about the conventions of print, print directionality, basic punctuation and that what they say, that is, oral language, can be written and read. Other activities may include writing the story in their journal and illustrating it.
One of my class assignments was to design a lesson plan that implemented LEA during my field observations. The students in the class I was assigned to were first grade emergent bilinguals. They chose to dictate to me a five-sentence story about their favorite holiday, Christmas. Below are examples of Kathleen’s and Raul’s copies of the story.
I realized, then, that students had authentic experiences that they were eager to share. Seeing their own stories in print and reading them afterwards provided a rich learning experience for them while validating their experiences. Just as they read what someone else has written in their textbooks and library books, their stories are meant to be written and read, too.
Now, as a graduate student, one of our assigned textbooks, From Phonics to Fluency by Timothy V. Rasinski and Nancy D. Padak, offers many more methods and techniques for implementing LEA. As the students progress to higher-grade levels, teachers can continue to plan lessons using LEA. These lessons can focus on a specific academic subject, with emphasis placed on the vocabulary, their prior knowledge of the topic, or their new understanding. Teaching advanced grammar can be incorporated into any academic subject with LEA. Indenting paragraphs, placing exclamation marks, colons, semicolons and commas in the appropriate places as the students dictate their experiences will provide them with an added learning experience. Also, the use of conjunctions can be learned through LEA activities.
The language experience approach is a philosophy that has been studied and implemented for many years. It has provided an advantage to students at all grade levels with their reading, writing and in the content areas. Enriching students’ learning is important. LEA activities will provide this and, at the same time, it will encourage them to be a part of their own learning experience.