Language experience approach

This section focuses on the writing element of the language experience approach.
For an overview of all elements of the language experience approach and examples of it in practice see The language experience approach (Reading and Viewing). While the approach can be used across the primary years, it is particularly suitable for F-2.

A key element of the language experience approach is creating a text about a shared experience. The text can be written by the teacher (Modelled Writing), by teacher and student together (Shared Writing) or the student (Independent Writing). Language experience texts typically include visual elements such as photographs of the shared experience or illustrations by students.

Language Experience

In this video the teacher and her students participate in a Language Experience activity: making bread. A key feature is the talk by the teacher and students before, during and after the experience. What is talked about is then written down and read back.

​Composition of the text

Through the composition of the text, teachers can support young writers to:

  • relate a shared experience to an audience which requires the use of decontextualised language
    Writers need to think about how the reader will be able to understand or appreciate what the shared experience is about. In preparing their account of the shared experience, students need to make use of decontextualised language, that is, language to ‘talk about things that are not about the here and now – objects removed from the present context in both time and space’ (Raban, 2014, p. 9).  This ‘talk’ serves as a rehearsal for what might be written.
  • develop an understanding of the differences between spoken and written
    Spoken language used to accompany an activity or to recount an experience is quite different to the language used in a written account.

    For example, on an excursion to the zoo, children will make comments which accompany the action such as ‘Look, that elephant is lifting its trunk.’ Talking about the experience, the child might say ‘There was this elephant at the zoo and the elephant was lifting its trunk’. 
    In writing about the experience, this account could become ‘Yesterday at the zoo, I saw an elephant lifting its trunk.’

    Moving from language accompanying action to more written like language, the following differences can be noted:
    • tense - present continuous (is lifting), past continuous (was lifting), simple past (was, lifted)
    • use of an adverb of time ‘yesterday’ and an adverbial phrase of place ‘at the zoo’ to locate the experience in time and place in the written recount
    • a simple sentence which includes an embedded clause (an elephant lifting its trunk) to compress the thoughts into the one sentence
    • a shift from contextualized language accompanying the action to decontextualised language
    • the determiner ‘that’ or ‘this’ to point to the elephant lifting its trunk, and the use of the indefinite article ‘an’ to refer to one of the elephants seen at the zoo.   

  • learn about concepts of print and the conventions of written language such as ‘In English, we write from left to right’ or ‘Sentences begin with capital letters and end with a full stop’
  • use and control of grammatical structures of English such as:
    • subject – verb agreement
    • write using simple, compound and/or complex sentences
    • use time connectives to sequence the text 
    • use pronouns to refer to nouns in the text.
  • compose different genres such as recounts and procedures.

Examples

Through writing different genres, teachers can model or explicitly teach about the features of the texts.

See the examples of a recount and a procedure below:

Making pancakes

Yesterday we made pancakes. We mixed some flour with eggs and milk with a wooden spoon to make a smooth batter. When the batter was smooth, we poured the batter into a hot pan to cook the pancakes. We flipped the pancakes to cook them on both sides. Once the pancakes were ready, we buttered them and spread some jam on top. Then we ate them. Yum!

Some features of the recount include:

  • adverbs and adverbial phrases of time (yesterday), place (into a hot pan) and manner (with a wooden spoon)
  • time connectives (when, once)
  • adverbial clauses of time (when the batter was smooth)
  • action or doing verbs (made, poured, buttered)
  • simple past tense
  • past tense forms of regular (poured) and irregular verbs (made)
  • statements
  • personal comment
  • vocabulary choices relevant to the experience.

How to make pancakes

Ingredients:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • flour

Steps:

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl.
  2. Beat the eggs.
  3. Add the milk and eggs to the flour.
  4. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth.
  5. Heat some oil in a pan.
  6. Pour in some batter.
  7. Flip the pancake so that it is cooked on both sides.     

Language features of the procedure

Some language features of the procedure include:

    • adverbial phrases of place (into a bowl, on both sides) and manner (with a wooden spoon)
    • time connectives (until)
    • action or doing verbs (sift, add, stir)
    • imperative verb forms (sift, add, stir)
    • commands
    • adverbial clauses of time (until the batter is smooth)
    • personal comment
    • vocabulary choices relevant to the experience.
  • draw on their knowledge of spelling
  • make choices about the words and images they might use to compose a text for an intended audience
  • use high frequency words as well as known and new vocabulary related to the shared experience
  • revise and edit their texts
  • practise handwriting through writing their own texts or copying a text.

For information on using the language experience approach with EAL/D learners, see: Language experience approach and EAL/D students

Reference

Raban, B. (2014). Talk to think, learn and teach.  Journal of Reading Recovery.  Spring, 5-15