In a previous post, I talked about some criteria for selecting suitable reading texts to use with learners. Two key points are that texts need to be at the right level and that they need to be intrinsically interesting for the students.
Clearly, one way of achieving both these points is for the learners to produce the texts themselves. The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is a way of doing this, which has its roots in early literacy teaching. It dates back to the sixties and is fairly well known in ESOL circles, but not, I think in general ELT.
Overview of the LEA
1 Working together, the teacher and students choose a topic or activity which can be written up later. This might mean watching a video, taking a field trip or simply bringing in some pictures.
2 Carry out the activity or discuss the topic.
3 Discuss the experience or discussion and write some key words and phrases on the board.
4 The class works together to develop a written account. Typically the students dictate to the teacher, who writes it down. I say typically, because this is at root a literacy activity, so doesn’t assume that the students can write in English. In classic LEA, the teacher does not correct any mistakes or even elicit any corrections. However, I personally feel that for students’ whose first language isn’t English, providing or eliciting a correct model is vital at some stage in the process.
Of course, there is no reason why students who are able to write in English couldn’t work together in groups to write a text.
5 The teacher or a learner or all the learners read the text aloud to the class, and then everyone reads it again silently. This is another stage at which linguistic revisions might be made.
6 Extension activities. Because the students have written the text themselves, they should be quite familiar with the meaning, even if they do not recognise all the words. At lower levels of literacy, students could:
– Copy the story.
– Word or sentence matching (match strips with words or sentences from the text with the text on the board)
– Write down the story as the teacher dictates it.
– Complete missing words which the teacher (or one of the students) has rubbed out.
– Unscramble the sentences from the story (previously scrambled by the teacher)
At higher levels :
– Students revise and edit the text themselves.
– Use this text as a basis for writing their own personalised accounts
– Use the vocabulary from this text to write a new text.
Of course if you have both more and less proficient readers/writers in your class (very common in ESOL), the students could do different tasks with the same text.
The beauty of the LEA is that it is firmly learner centred, using the students’ own experiences as the basis of the work, and can provide a sense or achievement for every student in the class, at very mixed levels. It is also very materials light, and requires little preparation.
I am sure that there is plenty of room for variations on the LEA and would be interested to hear your ideas.