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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy

Using the Language Experience Approach to Build Confidence in Early Readers
Stephanie Bartell

“But I can’t read…”

If your students ever utter those words most dreaded by reading teachers, you might want to consider incorporating Language Experience Approach into your classroom routine. Language Experience Approach (LEA) is a method for helping even the youngest students feel like readers. The technique involves thinking of an experience, putting the experience into words, then transcribing the words for students to practice their developing reading skills. LEA primarily supports the development of word recognition, but also supports comprehension and writing development.

Steps to Implementation:

  1. Prompt the student to think of an experience he/she can talk about.
  2. Discuss the experience with the student, asking the student to tell a story about what happened.
  3. Transcribe the story while the student dictates and watches. (Be sure to transcribe the exact language of the child.)
  4. Read the text aloud to the student to verify that the story was recorded correctly. Make any changes necessary.
  5. Teacher reads the text aloud fluently.
  6. Teacher and student read the text together several times.
  7. Student reads the text alone with teacher support.
  8. Teacher asks students several questions about the print in the text. For example, Can you show me the word that starts with, ends with, same sound as…?  Can you find the word that means the same as…?  Can you find two words in the ____ word family? Can you read the sentence that tells about…?
  9. Make a copy for the student to practice reading independently.

Helpful Hints:

  • If possible, plan a shared experience. The more concrete and shared the experience the more powerful the LEA.
  • Have a complete discussion before writing the text. Help the student rehearse what to say and arrange the story in sequential order.
  • Brainstorm a list of words the student might want to use to describe the topic.
  • Be sure the student can see you writing the words on the page. It is helpful to later type the text so the student has a clean copy to practice reading.
  • When the child knows the story well, write the story on sentence strips and cut up the sentences. Have the student put the story back together.
  • Use the story to create a word bank on known words.
  • Group experience stories are valuable, but the most impact of word recognition is with individual stories.

If you have questions about LEA, or experiences you’d like to share, please contact me.


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