Using LEA to Build a Bridge to Self-Expression

The Language Experience Approach intrigued me the first time I read about it. I’ve always liked the idea of using student-generated content as the basis of language practice. The LEA was developed to build literacy in L1, but ESL teachers have successfully brought it into L2 classrooms. I suggested a spin on the original approach several years back, where students in small groups can take on the roles of storyteller, scribe, and active listeners. Click to view.

A number of my private students are working on pronunciation and oral expression. They’re all high intermediate or advanced, and they’ve all developed a good sense of rhythm and intonation through controlled practice. The next step after using examples and texts I found or created was to use their oral accounts. Here are a few of the activities we’ve done:

1) Summaries of stories and texts.
Two students occasionally read assigned texts of fiction and nonfiction on ReadWorks. We use the comprehension questions on the website, but I have also asked them to give me an oral summary of a reading in 5-6 sentences. As they recall the content, I format their ideas into a text we can later use for additional pronunciation practice. I limit my editing with the intention of preserving their original words as much as possible. With the final format in place, students use the text as a script to deliver a polished oral summary. At the next lesson, I may ask the students to give the summary once more, without looking at the text. Some of the wording changes, as is to be expected, but their confidence level is higher and their speech is more fluid compared to the first retelling.

2) An oral account about a weekly happening.
An oral account can also be based on an event in the news or something in the student’s life over the past week. During the warm-up with one private student, I ask what’s new in the world or if anything has been on her mind lately. She’s free to talk about work, family, or issues that concern her. Similar to the process outlined above, a student-generated text is produced. My student talks as I type what I hear. I screen share, so should she choose, she can watch as I put her words into a more natural, readable format. We check for accuracy on my part. Did I change any meaning?  The short text becomes a script that the student uses for daily pronunciation practice before the next lesson. The idea behind this approach is to give practice with topics that are relevant because they’re student-selected.

3) A dialog that taps into a student’s expertise.
A more recent experiment has been to ask the student to explain something to me that I know little about. This places the student in the role of expert and forces him or her to do most of the talking. My job is to ask questions for clarification or more details. As the student explains, I quickly transcribe the statements as best I can. When the basic explanation has been given, we pause and look at what I’ve typed. A period of negotiating and filling in the gaps begins. I’m not always able to catch everything the first time, so together we format our exchange into a full written dialog that captures the original words as much as possible. I also have the chance to suggest more natural wording in this stage. The dialog is meant for independent practice, and we act it out a final time when we meet the following week. My hope is that some of the wording and a lot of the confidence will transfer to real conversations outside our lessons.

The beauty of online classes is that they can be recorded. But in addition to the full video recordings, I offer students an audio recording of any text they must practice independently. The audio recording is for their convenience; it’s easy to retrieve on a mobile device at any time. These kind of teacher-created models can be offered by online and classroom teachers alike.

Got your own spin on LEA? Please feel free to share.


Photo credit: Girl, Face, Colorful, Colors, Artistic by StockSnap. Retrieved from the Public Domain at

One Comment Add yours

  1. Arun Goyal says:


    On Fri 9 Nov, 2018, 10:36 PM English with Jennifer englishwithjennifer posted: “The Language Experience Approach intrigued me > the first time I read about it. I’ve always liked the idea of using > student-generated content as the basis of language practice. The LEA was > developed to build literacy in L1, but ESL teachers have successfull” >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s