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This link is to an short, useful video on how and why to generate a language experience story with learners.  Thank you, Bow Valley College in Calgary, Alberta!


Creating and capitalizing on learner-generated texts is one classroom practice that exemplifies balanced literacy instruction.  Learner-generated texts immediately provide relevant, meaningful, level and age-appropriate reading material.  In creating learner-generated texts, teachers tap into learners’ often more developed listening and speaking skills to build literacy (Geva & Zadeh, 2006).  Oral processing skills and print literacy skills are interconnected and interdependent (Tarone, Bigelow & Hansen, 2009), and as learners practice and build their oral abilities, learner-generated texts provide a means to connect these skills and to present oral language on paper.  The result is an array of rich and interesting readings for students.
The traditional method of producing learner-generated texts is the Language Experience Approach (LEA).  In LEA, students first share a common experience, perhaps a field trip or an experience like making a sandwich in the classroom.  Then, the teacher guides them to re-tell the experience aloud.  Students recall what happened to a teacher or another scribe who writes down their words.  Later, these words are then used as reading texts.  From here, a number of bottom-up focused techniques can be used to focus on word analysis and particular sounds and structures.  Then, students revisit the entire text they have created, and perhaps add to it (see Whole Part Whole description under Balanced Literacy).   LEA is an efficient technique in working with emergent readers as it connects what they are able to communicate orally to what they are learning to do in print (Crandall & Peyton, 1993).  However, LEA is but one way to generate learner stories.  Here are some more options:

Crandall, J. & Peyton, J. (Eds). (1993). Approaches to adult ESL literacy instruction. Baltimore: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems Co., Inc. 

Geva, E., & Zadeh, X. Y. (2006). Reading efficiency in native English-speaking and English-as-a-second-language children: The role of oral proficiency and underlying cognitive-linguistic processes. Scientific Studies of Reading, 10(1), 31-57.

Tarone, E., Bigelow, M., & Hansen, K. (2009). Literacy and second language oracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Using the Language Experience Approach with English Language Learners: Strategies for Engaging Students and Developing Literacy, by Denise D. Nessel and Carol N. Dixon. (Corwin Press).


Types of Learner-generated Texts:

  1. Shared experience
  2. Students’ newsletters
  3. Picture stories
  4. Responding to a visual
  5. Using a volunteer/higher level student as a scribe
  6. Transcribed taped conversations
  7. Journal entries
  8. Texts for wordless books 
  9. Photo books
  10. Class posters
  11. Overheard student stories

Examples of learner-generated texts can be found here:

Minnesota Literacy Council, Arlington Hills site blog:

ESL student writing at Literacy Network of Dane County, Wisconsin.
Access to the writing on the Literacy Narratives wiki at:

ESL student writing at College of Lake County. Access the essays, together with teaching suggestions and lesson handouts, at:


Key Resources for teachers about learner-generated texts:

Croydan, Alysan.  Making it real:: Teaching pre-literate adult refugee students.  Written by Alysan Croydon. Illustrated by Jamie Treat. Available at

New American Horizons. (Producer). (2010). Building literacy with emergent readers. Available to view for free online at

Building Literacy with Adult Emergent Readers: a 30-minute video with Andrea Echelberger of St. Paul, Minnesota.  In this lesson, Andrea demonstrates a Whole-Part-Whole approach to teaching literacy, using a learner-generated story of a shared experience and demonstrating activities to develop beginning literacy skills.

Parrish, B. (2004).  Teaching Adult ESL: A Practical Introduction. McGraw-Hill.

This text includes a clear introduction to Language Experience Approach (LEA) and strategies for using the technique in a wide variety of ways.