The language experience approach is a very effective method for getting students in the beginning grades to read and write meaningfully. It utilizes the experiences of children. It brings together all the language arts skills. In this approach a child's speech determines the language patterns of what she will read, and the children's experiences determine the content. The emphasis is not on decoding from the printed page but rather on speaking to express a thought, followed by the writing of that thought. Since the written material is made up of the child's experiences, the child will have more of an incentive to learn to read.
The experience story is written co-operatively after the class has had a real or vicarious learning experience. This approach is effective with all students at various ability levels. The opportunities are unlimited. Reports on field trips, summaries of stories, answers to problems; television shows, original stories, descriptions of holidays or special events and so on.
The teacher structures the actual experience for the group. Following the experience, the teacher guides a class discussion during which the class reviews the experience, practises the vocabulary to be used in writing the story; lists important points to be included in the story; then writes the story.
For example the children have had an experience together, such as a walk in the school garden. They loved their walk and wanted to record what they did.
'What shall we call our story?' the teacher asks first. She starts with this question so that children will stick to a topic and they will need a topic to stick to in the first place. Anupama suggests, 'Our walk'. Raja says, 'The School Garden'. Shaku says, 'What we did'. The teacher writes them down on the blackboard, one below the other, saying the words as she 35 writes. Then she repeats the titles... . 'Let's read them, ' she says.
The School Garden
What we did
The teacher then proceeds thus: 'Let's think about these good ideas. If we call it "Our walk" what might a visitor not know?' 'She won't know that we went to the school garden' says Neerav. 'He won't know which of our walks it was', says Arun. 'That goes for "What we did" too', pipes in Tommy. 'Who thinks he can put these good ideas together so that the title will be more exactly what we want to say?'
'Our Walk in the School Garden', says Tommy. If he doesn't, the teacher is ready with the question 'What shall we call our walk in the school garden?'
'Will that tell that we took a walk? Will it tell where we went for a walk?Yes. Now how many of you like our new title better?' Everyone thinks it is good.
The teacher writes the new title on a big piece of paper. She prints the title neatly on it. She says the title carefully as she writes. 'Who will read the new title for us?' Then she selects different children to come up to the paper and place an index finger on either side of the title and read it to the class. 'Now let's all say it.' Everyone says it, even the timid, the shy and the children who still have not started to speak English, as she runs her hand below the title from left to right.
Next she asks: 'Now, what are some of the things we would like to say about our walk in the school garden?' Arvind contributes, 'We saw squirrel' .'We saw a squirrel, ' the teacher says and has the child repeat after her. Then the children read: 'We saw a squirrel in the garden.' In the same way, other sentences are added until the teacher has written two or more. To start with, the story may be short, but it gets longer as they get to do a few more stories.
Our Walk in the School Garden.
We saw a squirrel.
He ran up the tree.
He sat on the tree and looked at us.
We looked at him sitting on the tree.
We saw a bird too.
The class reads the whole story together along with the teacher. The children draw pictures of themselves walking in the garden. Each picture is cut out and pasted into a composite picture to illustrate the story. The teacher then writes the sentences in the same size as the story chart and with the same spacing. She keeps these sentence strips in a pocket chart. Children match the sentences, compare the words and read them. In a week's time all of them would be reading 'their story'!
[Now the teacher provides another experience -this time - the school dog or a trip to the zoo or beach etc.]
'Who remembers what our chart was about? Who remembers what the title was?' One child may say, 'I can read the whole thing by myself' and prove it. Another may remember the sentences she said! The teacher gets the children to take each strip and match it with the chart.
Children arrange the sentences according to the story. The teacher cuts the sentences into phrases and words which the children put together as correct sentences.
The teacher then draws the children's attention to the words. 'Who can find the word we in our story? Let's read the sentences and listen and watch for we'. They hear it. They see which it is. Likewise they go through the different words.
Then she tests their recognition by holding up word cards and asking children to read. She helps those who still can't make it. She also tests comprehension skills such as recalling the details, finding the main idea [Where did we take a walk? What did we see? What was he doing? etc. ]
In the group instruction exemplified by this chart experience, children who do not learn readily, learn from those who progress rapidly. Helpful comments are made by keen observers.
'What makes you know that the word says We?'
'It's a short one.'
'It starts with that long funny looking letter.'
There will be many more occasions for chart making and reading during the year. Children will begin to pick up a vocabulary of words they know by sight from seeing them so often and reading them with so much pride because they wrote the story.
Twinky is our dog.
Twinky lives in our school.
Twinky is our school dog.
Twinky plays with Us.
Twinky runs after us.
Twinky likes milk and bread.
Thus this language-experience approach makes use of the oral-language background of each child as the basic ingredient for word recognition. It values the thinking of each child, regardless of how limited it is; it encourages each child to express his thinking in many forms, especially in oral communication. This then can be presented in written form by a teacher or by the child. After that it is read by the author and others, which later leads to reading the written language of others from a variety of sources. All this influences the thinking and oral language of the reader so that his spelling, writing and reading improve. A language-experience approach to instruction in the beginning grade helps the development of all the language skills - listening, speaking, spelling and writing.
The teacher can make it a point to read or tell something from children's literature every day; provide a place for children to express their ideas through art; discuss topics of interest with children; provide a time and place for children to record in writing and illustration what they see, hear, taste, smell, feel, imagine and discover; tell stories from real experiences and write books which record the real and imaginary experiences of the children in the class.