Language Experience Approach (LEA)

Language experience activities provide opportunities for development and reinforcement of English sentence structure and concepts/vocabulary words.

Appropriate for students of all ages

  • Connects ASL to written English/connects written English to experiences
  • Reinforces English language structures
  • Reinforces vocabulary concepts and use
  • Reinforces reading and writing skills
  1. Select an appropriate experience.
    1. The experience should be aligned with curriculum and with the IEP goals and objectives of the students.
    2. The experience may be as elaborate as a field trip to a community site or as simple as an experience in the classroom such as a cooking, art, or science activity.
  2. Plan the experience and prepare the necessary materials.
    1. For a field trip: Visit the site (if possible) so you will know the language learning opportunities (e.g., vocabulary, syntactic structures). For all experiences: Determine the vocabulary and structures you will target for language learning.
    2. Gather materials to prepare the students (e.g., pictures, videos, websites, word cards, books).
  3. Prepare the students.
    1. Provide activities to motivate students for the experience. For example:
      • Read a book/story that is related to the topic.
      • Using materials you have prepared, explain clearly to the students what they will see, what they will do, and what they are expected to learn. Students add other things they want to learn (using the K-W-L strategy would be effective).
    2. In the pre-experience activities and discussions, link the oral/signed language to print as much as possible using not only vocabulary words, but connected language as well.
  4. The experience.
    1. During the activity, take advantage of all opportunities to link language to their experiences.
    2. Use a camera (instant-developing or digital) to capture the major events.
  5. Discuss and write about the experience.
    1. Allow the students time to look at the pictures and discuss their trip/activity.
    2. Students sequence the pictures.
    3. Using the pictures as a guide, students dictate a story about their experience.
      • For younger children, the teacher may record it on the board. Students can illustrate most of the sentences on the story chart.
      • Older children may write the story independently or with a partner.
      • When the story is completed, read it to the children (see McAnally, Rose, & Quigley, 2007, pp. 149-152 for suggestions for using different communication modalities) or let the older children share their stories with classmates.
  6. Reinforcement and practice activities.
    1. For younger children:
      • Use word cards prepared prior to the experience. Students identify each one and find it in the story.
      • Use some of the word cards for spelling words. Children practice saying/signing, fingerspelling, and writing each word.
      • Read the sentences to the children. Ask them to “read” the sentences giving them as much help as necessary for success.
      • Children sequence the pictures again and put them into a photo album. Help them write a sentence about each picture.
      • Write one or two sentences from the language experience story on a large sheet of paper. Give each child a paper, help him/her read the sentences, and then illustrate the sentences with original artwork.
    2. For older students:
      • Use the steps in a process writing approach. After the students have written their stories, they share them with a small group of students who respond to the composition (commenting on parts that are well-done and asking for clarification on parts that are unclear).
      • Students revise composition and return to response groups until they are satisfied with the content. Students edit composition for changes in syntax and punctuation commensurate with their skill levels.
      • When composition is in final form, students may select formats for publication (for a more detailed account of the writing process, see Rose, McAnally, & Quigley, 2004, pp. 180-183.) For a detailed example of a language experience approach, see Rose, McAnally, & Quigley, 2004, pp. 107-110.

McAnally, P., Rose, S., & Quigley, S. (2007). Reading practices with deaf learners. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.

Rose, S., McAnally, P., & Quigley, S. (2004). Language learning practices with deaf children. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.