Language Experience Approach

The language experience approach is an approach to reading instruction based on activities and stories developed from personal experiences of the learner. The stories about personal experiences are written down by a teacher and read together until the learner associates the written form of the word with the spoken.

Here are some benefits of the language experience approach:
  • It brings together writing, reading, art, and language.
  • It extends the learners' creativity in storytelling through writing.
  • It helps learners understand that what they think and say can be written.
  • It is learner-centered and demonstrates that the learners' thoughts and language are valued.
  • It provides reading material that is predictable and readable because it uses the learners' natural language.

Here are some things to do with language experience stories:
  • Read a story to the learners several times during the week for review and reinforcement.
  • Make a copy of the language experience story on a large poster for use in the class. 
  • Make copies of the story for the following people or for locations where the stories will be available for reading.
  • Make a book of stories. 
  • Work together to edit, print, and produce the book. 
  • Use a collection of one person's stories or of the work of many. 
  • Make sentence or word cards for learners to match to the story. 
  • Create a fill-in-the-blanks exercise with the story text.

Building Literacy with Adult Emergent Readers: Andrea Echelberger of Saint Paul, Minnesota, works with a Whole-Part-Whole approach to teaching literacy, using a learner-generated story of a shared experience and demonstrating activities to develop beginning literacy skills. See this video and more here:

The Language Experience Approach and Adult Learners by Marcia Taylor, June 1992