Tutor Tips - An Approach to Reaching Reluctant
or Struggling Readers
should you do when your student just can't get the hang of
reading or writing? And what should you do when he or she
balks at reading the books you have available?
The "language experience approach" is a wonderful
way to get ALL students eager to read and write. Tutors using
the language experience approach take dictation from their
students, (or have the students do their own writing) then
use the students' own words as reading material. Sometimes
tutors will engage in some activity with their students beforehand
to provide a topic that students will want to talk about.
Here's an example of how you might use this effective approach:
- Ask about a subject (be it a television show, video game
or a recent experience) that your student enjoys. Encourage
your student to talk about what interests him most, in whatever
manner is comfortable for him.
- As your student speaks, neatly write down his experience
IN HIS OWN WORDS. If he says "don't" where you
would say "doesn't", you should still write "don't."
This is the time for your student to express his own thoughts
in his own way. Of course, you'll want to write with printed
letters, not cursive.
- When your student has finished his description or narration,
review his "writing" and read it together. You
may be surprised how easily your student can read his own
words--even words that might otherwise be considered difficult.
- Your student's creation will be important to him and
should be treated as such. Encourage him to illustrate it
and/or staple it into the form of a book. (Although older
students may not be interested in this last step, the language
experience approach is useful at any age.)
Many teachers and tutors find that the language experience
approach is enjoyable as well as effective. What could be
more interesting for a student than reading his own words
about a subject that he knows and cares about? Or a story
that he has created all by himself?
In addition to providing enthusiasm for reading and writing,
the language experience approach helps students make the connection
that words on paper are really just "talk written down."
When Professor Roach Van Allen first described this approach
in the 1960's, he showed how it creates a most natural bridge
between spoken language and written language:
" What I can think about, I can talk about.
What I can say, I can write.
What I can write, I can read.
I can read what I can write and what other people can write
for me to read."
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