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Language Experience Approach

I saw the most amazing final product from a wonderful piece of curriculum yesterday. A teacher here at Korea University showed me her students' final reports on a group survey project they had conducted as part of their Academic English (EFL) class as freshmen. These are students who had studied a lot of English, but had not really put it to use in real world situations very much. For this project, students worked in small groups to design a short survey about a topic of their choice, usually relating to foreigners' impressions of or experiences in Korea. They then went around town to areas known to be commonly visited by foreigners and had the foreigners complete their survey. They took pictures of each subject and pasted the pictures into their final report along with the completed surveys. They then wrote up the results of their survey, and each group member wrote a series of journal entries detailing their experience planning, conducting, and reflecting on this project. Students found the project very challenging at first, but by the end, they were very grateful for having been pushed to use their English, go out and talk to people, and also to think about what it means to be a global citizen who travels or lives abroad and interacts with others from around the world.

This project impressed me not only because of the depth of thought that was apparent in the reflection pieces, but also because it was obvious that students really spent a lot of time using their English for so many different but related purposes. These bound books of surveys, pictures, and writings are pieces that students can be extremely proud of, and which can inspire them to challenge themselves similarly in the future. The project can be considered an excellent example of the language experience approach, in which language or literacy students go out and have some real world experience with their tutor or classmates, and then write as a way of reporting and reflecting on it. Sometimes the class can write one piece all together on the board, or a private student can compose their reflection with intensive help from their tutor. But the idea is that everyone has a shared experience to draw on, and the writing is an authentic piece of reflection and summary. I look forward to having more field trips and language experiences with my ESL and foreign language students in the future. If you have tried this kind of approach with your tutees, feel free to post about it in the comments section below.

Happy field-tripping!

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