Lesson 7 - Reading Techniques for Adult Basic Education (ABE) Learners Illinois State Library

Language Experience and Sight Word Recognition

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Language Experience

Language experience is a technique in which a story or experience is dictated by the learner and written verbatim by the tutor. In language experience, the purpose is to demonstrate the connection between thought and oral language through dictation. This technique allows even beginning readers to create oral compositions, giving the learner immediate success.

The language experience technique can be used again and again as a learner progresses. In addition, it can be the basis for a learner becoming the writer of original stories. Using the learner's own words and experiences is an effective way to work with learners and can be an icebreaker in a new tutoring situation.

As the learner dictates, the tutor will hear about the learner's world. That information may help the tutor select appropriate materials for future lessons. Language experience works well with any reading level and can be used in a group situation where one person writes as another talks.

To see one's own words written down is a great motivation. The experience or story is an expression in each learner's own words of:

To use the language experience approach, follow the steps below:

  1. Converse to identify an experience or topic.
  2. Ask permission to write parts of the conversation down.
  3. Record the students' words without correcting grammar.
  4. Read the story to the learner.
  5. Ask for changes.
  6. Rewrite a clean copy of the story. Remember to print.
  7. Reread the story.
  8. Read the story in unison.
  9. Ask the learner to select meaningful words from the story.
  10. Teach each selected word. Some may be appropriate for building a word pattern. See Lesson 7, Page 3.
  11. Give students a copy of the story and word cards for home study, keeping a copy for yourself.
  12. Invite the learner to copy the story in their own writing.

Sight Words

Survival words

Service or utility words

Irregularly spelled words

Introductory words in a patterned series (rhyming words)

Specific steps to teach sight words:

  1. You and your students select words to be taught as sight words from language experience stories, reading material, students' personal lists, or students' survival word lists.
  2. Ask your students to pick one word.
  3. Write or have the students write the word on a small card (in cursive, too, on the reverse side, if a student writes in cursive).
  4. Ask the students to put the word in a sentence and write the sentence on a piece of paper and on the back of the word card.
  5. Teach the word by having the students read the word aloud while looking at the word card.
  6. Have the students match the word card to the word in the sentence, saying the word as it is being matched.
  7. Go on to the next word if the sequence is completed. If not, go back to Step 5.
  8. Ask the students to shuffle the word cards and practice rereading them.
  9. Recognize the accomplishment of learning new word cards and file the cards.
  10. Keep others for additional practice.

Environmental Print Book

An environmental print book illustrates common words in our society and can become another tool to build vocabulary. This pictorial tool may help visual learners or English language learners. Have the learner flip through magazines and cut out advertisements for products they know. Tape the ads to blank paper and write the product name next to each ad. Have the learners do this at home. The result will be a large environmental print book you can use to build sight vocabulary. Eliminate the pictures and transfer the words to flashcards to create a word bank for learners to use for practice.