Language Experience Approach (LEA)

LEA is an approach based on the use of students' own spoken words as the reading text. The teacher records what students say and helps them to read the written version of their own speech. The generated text can be used for word study, discussion, grammar and syntax practice, and prompts for student writing.

LEA is an especially effective approach for beginning adult readers because:

  • Writing down students' thoughts demonstrates that we think their ideas, language, and experiences are important.

  • Transforming students' spoken language into printing on a page helps the new reader begin to understand the relationship between oral language and written text.

  • The reading text produced is familiar and meaningful to the students. This familiarity helps new readers comprehend what they are reading.

  • Figuring out the words is easier because the readers know, in general, what words are in the passage. The predictability of what specific word comes next is high because we are using the student's own language.

  • Having familiar text enhances comprehension and decreases demands on readers' attention. Thinking can be focused on figuring out the words without losing the meaning of what is being read.

The process is often as follows:

  1. During a story or discussion about a topic of interest, the teacher records several sentences as narrated by the students. The student's words are reproduced exactly, without grammar correction, using correct spelling and punctuation. This allows students to see the association between written words and the words they have spoken. Correction of grammar or syntax can occur after this fundamental principle of reading is understood.

  2. The teacher reads back what has been dictated, and then the students work together to read and discuss the text.

  3. The teacher notes the kinds of difficulties that students are having as they read, and uses this information to plan focused lessons on those points.