Since writing is one of the last skills to develop, native speakers of English who are not proficient in reading are less likely to be proficient in writing. Students that have been shamed in the past for their failures in writing, may dislike writing and write as little as possible. ESL (English as a Second Language) learners may also experience the same problems because they are aware of their mistakes speaking English. Thus, ESL and native speaking students are less likely to write because they do not want to see a paper loaded with red marks and corrections.
The language experience approach (LEA) is a powerful tool for tutors to use with any learner who has enough conversational ability to carry on simple conversations, even if that person has no reading skills at all. It uses the language of the learner, dictated to and written down by the tutor, as the basis of the reading material. The material is then familiar and understandable since it is based on the learner’s experience, making it easier to read.
But what if learners make grammatical or other mistakes when dictating to the tutor? What about mistakes that native speakers and ESL learners make in their own writing?
Some tutors feel that they should correct all mistakes and if not they are reinforcing those mistakes. But such an approach defeats the purpose of the LEA and ensures that struggling writers will become more discouraged and less likely to write.
These issues and others will be discussed at the Tutor Celebration of Learning Seminar offered by the Florida Literacy Council and the Adult Literacy League on the morning of September 17, 2011.