What this PowerPoint presentation adds is suggestions for the teacher’s writing of the students’ dictated stories, noting that editing of word choices and grammar should be kept to a minimum. A lot of people have taken issue with this. “What! The teacher should model improper grammar?” Well, the answer is yes, because what you are really modeling is that what they say can be written, and that their written words can be read.
Roach Van Allen’s gave this presentation at the 1970 International Reading Association conference in Anaheim. I had forgotten that at the time the method was referred to as the language-experience approach: hyphenated. The hyphen was to indicate that it isn’t about language and experience separately, but about a single thing—the melding of experience through and into language. As one teacher once put it, the LEA is “reading from the inside out rather than from the outside in.”
That is, an LEA on eels (the slimy water creatures) for English Language Learners. In this great example of using the LEA with second language learners the teacher brought a tank of eels to school. She encouraged the children, mostly Maori, to talk about their own experiences going “eeling.” They brainstormed words like “creepy” and “slithery.”
The author of this short article makes the important point that of all the approaches to teaching beginning reading, the LEA is “the only one that begins with where the child is in terms of his ability to think with words.” Each child takes from it what they need, when they need it. There is a nifty list of possible topics for experience stories and another list of different types of experience charts, with examples.
The snappy title of this resource is a good way to remember to use the LEA stories to make sentence strips and cut-apart words for practice. It would also be easy to type up and make copies of an LEA story and have pairs or small groups of students cut their group copy into sentences to practice matching their sentences to those on the chart and then cut the sentences into words to practice putting them back together.
This author suggests creating comprehension questions on the dictated story as a followup activity. This addresses a possible concern with the LEA: it only addresses the word recognition aspect of reading, because comprehension of the experience that is talked and written about is pre-established. The concern here is that even emergent readers need to discover that “reading is thinking,” and not just accurate decoding.
Dr. Andy Johnson’s videos are always crisp and to the point. Here, he gives a great description of the LEA: having the experience, writing the experience, and using the students’ own words to practice early literacy word recognition strategies. He doesn’t forget to mention that the LEA should be used within the context of a larger literacy development program. He also recommends that “reading time” should be 80% actual student reading, and 20% skill instruction (not the other way way around).
This author’s opening sentence gets to the heart of the LEA. He says that the approach “probably had its genesis in the creative activities of many teachers who drew on children’s firsthand experiences when structuring early literacy.” His outline of the approach builds in one step that is often neglected: once you have planned a class experience and are engaging in it, it’s important to talk about it—constantly—asking questions, pointing things out, labeling things and ideas.