Language experience approach

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The language experience approach (English language experience approach is) a didactic concept for elementary instruction in reading and writing . It is based on the assumption that children learn to read and write by using the written language independently from the beginning and actively dealing with its structure. He became known in the German-speaking world through Hans Brügelmann's project and book Children on the Path to Writing (1983).


The language experience approach arose from working with disadvantaged groups. The New Zealand elementary school teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner got involved in the 1950s to introduce Maori children to the world of writing. Their guiding principle was that key words should be found for every child that stand for special emotional experiences in their life. This individual “basic vocabulary” could also provide insights into the technical structure of the script. In Brazil, the educator Paulo Freire organized adult literacy campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s. It was also based on the experiences of those affected by talking to illiterate adults about common life problems. He summarized the result of this politically understood enlightenment in key words, from which new words were then formed by decomposition and composition. A third source is the European reform pedagogy of the 1920s. The French teacher Célestin Freinet's experiences with hand printing as an instrument of free expression were particularly influential : children write about what is particularly important to them personally - with the aim of communicating with others, e.g. B. as part of a class correspondence.

Assumptions and demands

According to Brügelmann, the language experience approach is based on certain assumptions and concludes a corresponding didactic implementation:

  • Writing is seen as a medium with its own logic, but closely related to spoken language . The promotion of reading and writing should therefore initially be linked to the spoken language in terms of content and form.
  • Without understanding the importance of reading and writing, many children lack the motivation to engage in the cognitive and motor exertion required to acquire the technical aspects of written language. Reading and writing should determine as many activities in the classroom as possible as a social act and should have individually significant consequences.
  • Learning to read and write is understood as a process of independent reconstruction of the writing system by the children. They therefore need space for individual approaches and for intermediate forms on the way to convention. The lessons should build on the individual experiences of the children with language and writing.
  • Progress in reading and writing could be achieved by confronting the singular of the respective children's writing with the norms of adult writing, as well as through cooperation and exchange with other children, their divergent reading / writing activities (“learning from and with one another”) .
  • The mastery of standard spelling does not have to be required from the beginning, but can be the goal of a longer process. Children could approach the orthography step by step. They are encouraged to do this in class, e.g. B. when revising your texts for a publication, by researching certain spelling peculiarities, by building up a basic vocabulary of very frequent or personally particularly important words.
  • Individual and joint activities should always be related to one another in terms of content and organization, in a framework that gives space for individual experiences. (Brinkmann and Brügelmann)
  • The language experience approach requires a special pedagogical attitude, namely an interest in the personal experiences and ideas of the children and respect for their individual goals and learning paths. (Backhaus and others)
  • It should preferably be implemented in open lessons . (Peschel)


Brinkmann and Brügelmann (1993; 1998) suggest the following activities that should be related to one another:

  • free writing of texts on personally important topics in one's own language and their publication in class books, on posters, through lectures in the group;
  • Reading aloud in a group and individually reading / viewing books of your choice, which are then presented to the others;
  • Explaining and modeling basic ways of dealing with writing in order to make its technical structure understandable and to further develop the individually available strategies of reading and writing;
  • Work on particularly frequent and personally important words in order to automate a basic vocabulary and to get to know and use basic orthographic patterns.

Appropriate materials have been developed to help children learn to read and write independently.

Compared to course-oriented primer instruction

aspect course-oriented ( primer ) language experience-oriented
Letter introduction successive and controlled Incidentally and freely available (thanks to the table of letters)
Sequence of learning to read and write Read first - what can be read is written free reading and writing from the start
Learning development interpersonal in step differentiated - depending on the respective requirements
Language level given - the same for everyone individualized - builds on personal experiences
Content given situation-related
error disorder to avoid Pre- or intermediate form on the way to the norm


A research overview from 2006 summed up: “(...) didactic fertility of free writing in the beginning lessons, for all ability groups, i. H. - contrary to popular claims - also for the underperforming students. On the other hand, there is no evidence that free writing 'as a method' is broadly more successful than norm-oriented courses. ”A current evaluation of studies in various countries on phonetic writing in early lessons shows that the alphabetical strategy is an important step in this phase on the way to spelling skills.


  • U. Andresen: In search of the origins of the language experience approach . In: Grundschulverband aktuell , H. 104, 2008, S. 8-10.
  • U. Andresen, A. Speck-Hamdan: Language experience approach - what could it be? In: Grundschulverband aktuell , H. 104, 2008, S. 3.
  • S. Ashton-Warner: Teacher . Simon and Schuster, New York / Secker & Warburg, London 1963.
  • A. Backhaus et al. a. (Ed.): Democratic primary school - participation of children about their life and learning . Universi Verlag, Siegen 2008.
  • E. Brinkmann: Language experience approach . In: Heckt, Neumann, 2001, pp. 333–334.
  • E. Brinkmann et al. a .: ABC learning landscape . Lernbuch-Verlag Friedrich, Seelze 2008.
  • E. Brinkmann, H. Brügelmann: Idea box written language 1 (with didactic introduction, openness with security ). Publishing house for educational media. Hamburg 1993/2010, (PDF).
  • H. Brügelmann: Children on the way to writing - a primer for teachers and laypeople . Ekkehard Faude, Konstanz 1983 (3rd combined and extended edition 1989; 9th edition by Libelle, CH-Lengwil 2013).
  • H. Brügelmann: My way to the language experience approach . In: Grundschule aktuell , H. 104, 2008, pp. 23–24. (PDF; 1.3 MB)
  • H. Brügelmann, E. Brinkmann: Inventing writing - observation aids and methodical ideas for an open beginning lesson in reading and writing . Libelle, CH-Lengwil 1998 (2nd edition 2005; preliminary version “Discovering the Scriptures” 1984).
  • H. Brügelmann, E. Brinkmann: Free writing in the first class? A critical review of research findings . Primary School Association, Frankfurt 2008 (PDF; 542 kB)
  • J. Doll: Literacy as political education. Remembering the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire . In: Backhaus u. a., 2008, pp. 134-142.
  • E. Ferreiro, A. Teberosky: Literacy before schooling . Heinemann, Portsmouth / London 1982 (span. 1979).
  • C. Freinet: Pedagogical Texts. With examples from practical work according to Freinet . Rororo 7367, Reinbek 1980.
  • P. Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed . Kreuz Verlag, Stuttgart 1971 (Rowohlt 1973; Engl. 1972).
  • D. Heckt, K. Neumann (Hrsg.): Handbook German classes from A to Z . Westermann, Braunschweig 2001.
  • F. Peschel: Open teaching - idea - reality - perspective and a tried and tested concept for discussion . Part I: General didactic considerations . Part II: Didactic considerations . Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, Baltmannsweiler 2002.
  • J. Ramseger: Opposite schools. Radical Reform Schools in Practice . Julius Klinkhard, Bad Heilbrunn 1975.
  • J. Reichen: Reading by writing. Reading course, student material and teacher commentary . Sabe, Zurich 1982 (Heinevetter, Hamburg).
  • G. Sennlaub: Do you enjoy writing or training in essays? Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1980 (6th edition 1994).
  • A. Speck-Hamdan: The acquisition of written language needs the world, writing and others? In: Grundschulverband aktuell , H. 104, 2008, S. 4–7.
  • G. Spitta (Ed.): Free writing - going your own way . Libelle, CH-Lengwil 1998.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Sennlaub, 1980, p. ... Ferreiro, Teberosky, 1982, p. ... Brügelmann, 1983, p. ... Spitta, 1998, p ...
  2. ^ Ramseger, 1975, p. ...
  3. cf. Doll 2008
  4. cf. Brügelmann 1983, 2008
  5. Brinkmann and Brügelmann (1993; 1998)
  6. Backhaus u. a., 2009, p. ...
  7. Peschel, 2002, p. ...
  8. Brinkmann et al. a. (2008ff)
  9. ^ Brügelmann, Brinkmann, 2006, p. 1
  10. Brügelmann, H. (2019): Empirical studies on the effect of a sound-oriented construction of words ("invented spelling") on spelling acquisition. A systematic overview. [1] accessed on August 26, 2019