Teaching Basic Literacy

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Teaching Basic Literacy using the ‘Language Experience Approach’

• Simple to learn and use and develop over months.

• Suitable and effective with individual learners and small groups, and flexible to allow for different types of learners in different moods.

• Very few materials needed: paper to write text on, scissors.

• Personal, contextualised, values learner experience, motivating and engaging, especially when you make the texts into a ‘book’.


1. With visuals, discuss learners’ likes and dislikes eg. food / drink

2. T writes a short text on a large sheet of paper, using what learners say about the food, eg. ‘I like fish and potatoes. My sister cooks potatoes every day. Sometimes she puts green vegetables with the potatoes. It’s great when we all eat together.’

3. ‘Read’ text again together/ individually several times.

4. Cut up text into sentences and individual words – learners re-order text.

5. Learners try to read again.

6. T focus on capital letters, full stop to divide sentences, similar spellings/patterns.

7. Learners copy out text.

8. Any of the stages can be repeated, reviewed, supported as many times as necessary.

Here are 3 useful videos to show the Language Experience Approach:

a) http://esol.britishcouncil.org/content/teachers/staff-room/continuing-professional-development/language-experience - training session at British Council, with great embedded video of Language Experience Approach in action with an individual

b) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aV7nDQ-cO4 – about teaching children, but this can also, of course, be used with adults

c) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAMdcyL1RRU – adult groups, post zoo-trip - she says we need to write it exactly as learners say, but we can feed in corrections if we choose to

Another very useful approach to help with basic literacy is Reflect ESOL:

http://www.reflect-action.org/reflectesol - download free PDF: Reflect ESOL Resource Pack