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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Using the language experience approach to introduce reading and writing to first and second language grade one school children Carrigan, Anthony


This study provides empirical research on the Language Experience Approach (LEA) to introducing the reading and writing process to beginner, First Language (L1) and Second Language (L2) readers. This is a worthwhile area of current research because LEA is a precursor to Whole Language. In the province of British Columbia, Whole Language is quickly becoming a very popular reading program. Whole Language incorporates a great deal of LEA in theory and in practice. Yet, while many researchers and educators have praised LEA and Whole Language in general, with particular value for L2 students, little empirical research on LEA exists. This study attempts to provide some of this necessary empirical research. An experiment was designed with an independent variable and several dependent variables. The independent variable consisted of one treatment using LEA and another treatment not using LEA. The dependent variables measured growth in reading and writing ability, growth in reading interest, and growth in ESL acquisition. Three Grade One classrooms were involved. Two used a popular, basal reader program and the other used LEA. Fifty percent or more of the students in the three classes were L2 students. Five research hypotheses were formulated. They were: (a) reading ability In the experimental group (LEA) would be greater than in the control group (basal readers), (b) creative writing ability in the experimental group would be greater than in the control group, (c) reading interest in the experimental group would be greater than in the control group, (d) Second Language acquisition would be greater with the L2 students in the experimental group than with those in the control group and, (e) L2 students in the experimental group would perform better in reading and writing ability and would have a greater increase in reading than their L2 peers in the control group. The experiment ran for seven months. During the course of the experiment, a formal checklist was used, in periodic visits to the classrooms, to ensure the experimental group was using LEA and the control group was not. Pretests were given in readiness, ESL ability, skill in independent writing, and in attitude towards reading. Posttests were given in vocabulary growth, reading comprehension, ESL ability, skill in independent writing, and attitude towards reading. The research hypotheses were designed in the experiment as five null hypotheses. Rejection of these null hypotheses occurred if p < .05. ANCOVA were used as tests of significance. Of the five null hypotheses, only the one for reading ability was rejected. There were significant differences in reading ability between the LEA and basal reader groups. The scores on the reading posttests favored the subjects using the basal readers. There were no significant differences in writing ability, reading interest, and L2 acquisition between the two groups and between the L2 subjects in the two groups. The results indicate more empirical research is urgently required. Before Whole Language, similar in philosophy and technique to LEA, is hastily adopted in British Columbia as the next, major Language Arts program, more empirical research is needed to determine whether or not Whole Language is in fact, a superior program.

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