I’m always looking for new opportunities to incorporate powerful reading and writing opportunities with play based learning. The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is a reading and writing strategy that meets all criteria that I feel are important for reading and writing lessons in kindergarten.
Reading and writing lessons in kindergarten must:
1. Stem from child interests (i.e., students will not be asked to trace the word “ant” five times because the letter of the week is “A”)
2. Be flexible in how it is delivered (i.e., multiple entry points such that the teaching strategy can be differentiated so all students, year one and year two, can benefit and be successful)
3. Invite children to recognize and take pride in their reading and writing skills
4. Embrace all forms of language (i.e., The six language arts: reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and representing)
I was first introduced to LEA by our school ELT, Kim Schnarr. While visiting our classroom she discovered a huge interest for Angry Birds among the students. She returned the next day with:
1. black and white pictures of Angry Birds she found on Google Images
2. strips of paper
4. large 11″ x 17″ paper
She found a small group of students who were playing, and listened in on their conversation. After listening she joined in and began engaging in authentic conversation about Angry Birds with them. She later showed them the pictures that she had and spoke to the small group about what they saw in the pictures! The conversation was so fun to watch. The students were so eager to share their ideas and feelings about the topic. Finally, a sentence said aloud by a student was written down by Kim, “Angry Birds break anything!” Kim pointed to each work on the strip and read each word aloud. The student was then invited to do the same. When the student mastered reading each word while pointing to it, Kim cut each word off of the strip and mixed them up. On the large piece of paper the student rearranged the words so that the sentence, “Angry Birds break anything!” could be read again. Below the glued sentence, Kim made four lines for the student to write out “Angry Birds break anything!” on their own. After writing, the student was encouraged to show their work to 4 peers before putting it away.
I was amazed that all of this (speaking, reading, and writing) happened in less than five minutes and the student was so excited to share their cool writing about Angry Birds with their peers.
I’ve since used LEA with many of my students and the interest in reading and writing about student ideas has increased amazingly. Not all of my students go through all of the steps that Kim used with the student above. For example, some students in year one have not demonstrated an interest to put pencil to paper. With these students I simply focus on listening to their ideas, writing their ideas down, and practising reading their idea together with one to one word matching. I am able to gather an enormous amount of assessment for learning from these activities. For example:
Although Kim used the LEA as a small group lesson, I’ve used it mostly for on the spot reading and writing lessons. I use it most often when students show me their art work. I plan to try using it in small group lessons using photographs of student made structures in the classroom construction area. I should also be clear that this is not the ONLY reading and writing experience I use in the kindergarten classroom. I am careful to use a variety of language experiences which I hope to write about in the future