Relative Effectiveness Of Language Experience Approach (LEA) On Achievement Of JSS One Students In English Language Cloze Test

By | July 24, 2014
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John Ogwuche 

Tsebee Ityokaa

Department of English & Literary Studies,

College of Education, Katsina-Ala



This study examined the effectiveness of Language Experience Approach (LEA) on rural learner’s achievement in Cloze Test of English Language (CTEL). Two research hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance. A simple random sampling was used to select 80 rural junior secondary school one learners from Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State. Data were collected using CTEL and the result was analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA). The result showed that there was significant difference between rural students exposed to LEA and rural students without LEA in Cloze test of English Language. It was also found that the effect of the LEA on male and female students was significant. It is recommended that language teachers should tap from the resource of LEA by not undermining experience children get from picture, classroom situation, special events; folktales and recreational centres. Equal attention should also be given to male and female students during LEA programme.




          An appraisal of reading comprehension in many primary and secondary schools in Nigeria has been marked with unpleasantness. Oyetunde (2009) observes that poor methodology is the main cause of children’s reading failure in Nigeria. Many primary and secondary school teachers do not know how to teach reading and even as Nigeria celebrates her 53rd birthday, the teacher-training programme on reading is inadequate. Thus, there is the need to give attention to methods of teaching reading; perhaps such attention could help to reduce the decline in reading achievement of Nigeria.

The methods of teaching, approaches and instructional procedures adopted by teachers are strong determinant of achievement in learning (Oloruntegbe & Omoifo, 2008). Teachers’ initiatives in choosing appropriate methods of teaching and method of assessment could help to evaluate students’ performance in a subject and indicate change in instructional practice and point out areas of student’s deficiency.

Stressing the problems of students deficiency in language skill in Nigeria’s primary and secondary schools, Umolu & Oyetunde (1991) note that the gross inadequacy of pupils language skills is compounded by the fact that the readability levels of most of the textbooks used in schools are above the class level for which the texts were intended. It means that such texts may be too difficult for the pupils and some pupils or students may not have had the experience of the events in the texts recommended because of their poor foundation in reading (Aliyu & Daudu, 2011). Besides, when students are asked to read any material outside their own experiences and language knowledge poor comprehension is likely to take place.

The term Language Experience Approach (LEA) focuses on the child’s own language and the experience the child has of events, objects or situation. Oyetunde (2009, p. 56) points out that in Language Experience Approach (LEA), “children’s speech determines the language patterns of what they will read and their experience determines the content.” It means that language teachers should not undermine students’ experiences in terms of places they visit, items brought to the class, special events and holiday’s events in their countries, stories and folktales they have listened to. Such experience could make reading meaningful to the pupils or students. The principles behind Language Experience Approach (LEA) are indicated by Allens, (1963 pp. 16-18) as follows: Anything children write can be read.

What children think about they can talk about. What they can talk about can be expressed in printing, writing or some other forms. They can read what they write and what other people write. As they represent their speech sounds with symbols, they use the same symbols; they use the same letters over and over. Each letter in the alphabet stands for one or more sounds that they make when they talk. Every word has an ending sound. Many words have something in between them. Some words are used over and over in our language.

Allen’s principles about Language Experience Approach (LEA) clearly reflect some learning theories on comprehension. These include the schema theory, transactional theory, constructivist theory and Gestalt theory of closure. This is because most of what children think about is largely dependent on their prior knowledge or experience. Gunning (2006) views a schema as the organized knowledge that one already has about people, place, things and events. In transactional theory, a reader’s experience also plays a role in understanding a text. Keene (2007) notes that because each reader brings different experiences to reading, each reader will take away a different meaning and understanding. What a child takes away from reading a story for example could form aspects of his or her experience. Thus, there seems to be a connection between a text and children’s prior knowledge. A constructivist theory of learning suggests that learners actively construct meaning by making connections between the text and their prior knowledge (Dixon-Krauss, 2006). Out of the theories of reading briefly explained above, the researchers based his study on Gestalt theory of Closure. The Gestalt psychology began in 1911 in Germany at a meeting of three psychologists: Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgeny Koheler (Galotti, 2004). Gestalt is a German word that means pattern, shape, and organized whole. The Gestalt psychology believes that the whole is more than its separate parts. Thus, during the reading of a story, students are expected to enjoy the story as a whole not as single lines or paragraphs.

The theory of Closure (closing gaps in patterns subconsciously) is an aspect of the Gestalt theory of learning. The application of the theory of Closure can be found in the cloze test of making acceptable substitutions from the contextual clues given. The importance of student’s prior knowledge may help them to close up certain gaps that exist in a story or a text.

One of the unique features of Language Experience Approach (LEA) is that it is the pupils or students’ own language-experiences, the stories pupils are able to tell, their levels and varieties of “language-experience and not the teachers’ models of speech that provide the basic materials on which to base teaching and instructional procedure” (Oyetunde, 2009 p. 56).

Similarly, Language Experience Approach (LEA) has the force of carrying both students in homogenous and heterogeneous groups along in tutorial or classrooms settings, regardless of whether some students are aggressive or possessive in nature. Although the method was first developed for native-English-speaking children (Ashto-Warner, 1963; Spache & Spache, 1964; & Stauffer, 1965), it has also been used successfully with second language learners of all ages. The methods are equally suitable for use with the whole class, small groups or individuals (Bajah & Ade Ajayi, 1985). This implies that the method can be used at different levels and with different groups of learners including disabled readers, gifted children and even maladjusted children (Andzayi, 2004).

One of the variations of Language Experience Approach (LEA) stressed by Andzayi (2004) is the personal experience. This variation involves simple transcription of an individual learners’ personal experience. The teacher or aide sits with the learner, converses with the learner and prompts the learner to speak of an interesting experience from a picture or a topic. Such experience is transcribed as the learners dictate it without necessarily correcting the grammar. Thereafter, errors are corrected during the revision and edition phase.

Another variation noted by Andzayi (2004) is the ‘Group Experience’. Group may be urged to develop language experiences stories together. The steps usually involve choosing the experience which can be pictures, songs, videotapes, films, articles, books, holidays, celebrations, field trips, class projects or any other similar experience. After choosing such experience, the teacher leads the children to organize the activity, conduct such experience, discuss the experience, develop a written account of what was done, read the account and extend the experience to make the second language learners more proficient in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Such variation could make learners learn to tolerate others right from infancy regardless of their gender.

However, it is worrisome that adequate attention has not been paid to Language Experience Approach (LEA) in Benue State. Even though Language Experience Approach (LEA) has being in use for decades now, it is still relatively new in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State. Much research work has not been undertaken in the area. Besides, the achievement of male and female JSS one students in the English language Cloze Test has not been fully compared in the local government. Varied opinions about men and women reading comprehension and literacy have been another concern (Partrinos, 2004; UNESCO, 2008, & Valenti, 2008). Since varied opinions exist about gender and reading and since students’ interest in further reading and writing may be influenced by the experience or prior knowledge such students have, how can we incorporate Language Experience Approach (LEA) in our classroom to help improve students’ understanding of the English Language Cloze Test?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to find out the effects of Language Experience Approach on the achievement of junior secondary school one (JSS I) rural learners in a Cloze test of English language. The study was also carried out to examine the effect of gender on English language Cloze test.

Statement of the Problem

Even as Nigeria clocks 54 years, certain scholars still decry the poor, repetitive and mechanical way of teaching reading in primary and secondary schools. Such a method has compounded the reading problem of rural learners at all levels of the Nigerian education system. Andzayi (2004) lists the problems which include poor methodology, lack of qualified teachers, lack of adequate materials, home background, lack of interest, reading not on the time table, inadequate library facilities in school and lack of print rich environment at home. Besides, Patrinos (2004) found that women experience an 18 percent progress on secondary literacy, while only 14 percent was for boys. In contrast, the 2008 Global Monitoring Report from UNESCO (2008) shows that the most recent data for Nigerians’ adult literacy rate is 78% for men and 60% for women. Valenti (2008) also supports that women read with understanding better than men. But Miller (2009) shows gender parity in students’ reading proficiency.

Research Hypotheses

HO1    There is no significant difference between rural Language Experience    Approach (LEA) group and rural non- LEA group in the English          Language Cloze Test.

HO2    There is no significant difference between the mean achievement of       male and female students who will undergo treatment on LEA.

All the hypotheses were tested at 0.05 levels of significance.

Research Design

The researchers used the post-test only equivalent-group design for the study. The design did not include a pretest but the randomization process which ensured that the selection bias was removed in order to minimize internal and external validity threats to the study. The subjects were made equivalent through randomization and the amount of time allocated for the topics was 2 months.

Since the study is a true experiment, two secondary schools were selected in the rural area through a simple random sampling with replacement technique. The study was carried out in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State. A table of random digits was used to select 80 Junior Secondary School one (JSS I) students that participated in the evening programme. Each of the members of the population was assigned a numerical value from 1 to the end and picked from the table of the random numbers. A coin was tossed to determine the experimental group. The group was exposed to Language Experience Approach (LEA) while the control group underwent the traditional method of teaching reading in the classroom.

The Treatment

The treatment was in line with Umolu and Oyetunde (1991) description of Language Experience Approach (LEA). Each topic followed five stages telling a story, and discussing the story, students dictating and teacher writing, reading stories together, students’ illustrating stories and students practicing reading the stories. See Appendix I for the sample of the stories items.

Stage 1

The teacher asks each of the students to tell a story about item generated by them. The items include things they do in the morning, in school, at home or during any special event (holidays). At times, the teacher asks the student(s) to draw a picture of what they saw and say something about it.

Stage 2

The teacher writes stories on the board as they dictate and read aloud each word while writing it. Each student is urged to give a title to their stories.


Stage 3

Both the teacher and the students read the story together. The teacher and the students select some generative words from the story or the passage and write them on flashcards.

Stage 4

The teacher urges the students to illustrate their stories by drawing the picture on the opposite pages of the stories and take turns in matching the flashcards with the words on the chalkboard and use the context from the sentence to identify the word.

Stage 5

Each of the students takes turns to practice reading their stories to their peers. The teacher urges them to work in groups on a variety of activities using the flashcards to help them learn to read faster and generate sentences with the words or phrases and even exchange their stories; read them and make comments on them. The best stories are hung on the wall.

The contents of the Language Experience Approach (LEA) materials were generated from the students’ own needs and the experiences. The non-LEA group was taught the same reading lessons through a conventional method. The non-LEA group underwent the traditional treatment of using the prescribed Oxford English for JSS I and research assistant who has a master’s degree in  English Language education was trained for a week to teach both the LEA and non-LEA group.

The Research Instrument and Data Analysis

The researchers constructed the Cloze Test of English Language (CTEL). The 70 item questions were reduced to 58 after the validation. The CTEL was divided into two passages and the participants were made to answer the questions in 1 hour.

Three language education experts validated the CTEL and the trial testing was carried out. The result of the trial testing formed the basis for psychometric indices of the final testing. The correlation coefficient of the CTEL using Spear-man Brown formula was 0.68. one mark each was allotted to each scoring point.

Since this is true experimental design study the researcher used Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to find out whether the differences between the group posttest means score were significant or not. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to find out the effect of the independent variable (LEA) on the dependent variable; (Cloze Test of English Language). The test enables the subjects to make the most acceptance substitutions from the contextual clues given. In the CTEL, every fifth word was deleted and the participants were urged to complete each gap in the text using the most appropriate letters or words provided after the passages.


The results are presented in two tables based on the hypotheses formulated.

Hypothesis 1

There is no significant difference between LEA group and non-LEA group in the English Language Cloze Test


Table 1

A one-way ANOVA means scores between LEA and non-LEA group in post CTEL


Source of Variance  Sum of Squares  df    Variance Estimate  F   P       F-crit
Between-group       128.48                1    128.48                33.2 <0.5  4.00Within-group           301.26               78   3.862

Total                       429.74              79


Since the obtained f of 33.2 is greater than the critical table value of 4.00, it means that the null hypothesis is rejected; proving that there is significant difference between students exposed to Language Experience Approach (LEA) and students who did not undergo treatment in a cloze test of English Language. Thus, the f is statistically significant. To ascertain where the standardized difference lines between the Language Experience Approach (LEA) and non-LEA groups, the researchers found the eta value to be 0.55 or 55 effect size.


Hypothesis 2

There is no significant difference between the mean achievement of male and female students exposed to LEA.

 Table 2

A One-way ANOVA Mean Score between Male LEA Group and Female LEA Group in a Cloze Test of English Language


Source of Variance  Sum of Squares  df    Variance Estimate  F   P       F-crit
Between-group       240.3                  1    240.3                 45.9  <0.  4.00Within-group           408.22               78   5.23

Total                       648.52              79

Since the calculated f of 45.9 is greater than the critical value of 4.00, it means that the null hypothesis that the mean scores of the male LEA and female LEA groups are equal in the population is rejected. It implies that there is significant difference between the achievement of male students and female students exposed to LEA. To find out where the difference lies, the researchers calculated the eta value and found it to be 0.61. This shows a medium-to-large effect size.


Discussion of Findings

The results in table I revealed that there was a significant difference in the performance of the experimental group exposed to LEA and the control group who were exposed to LEA in Cloze test of English Language. Since the F is statistically significant, it means that the subjects exposed to LEA differ in their achievement from those that underwent the conventional method. The eta value was found to be 0.55. Such findings support that of Strickland (1990) who found that subjects exposed to LEA were better than their counterparts who did not undergo the treatment in the use of language comfortably and with confidence. The result of this study is at variance with that of Halpern (2009) who found no statistical difference in the scores of students exposed to LEA ad those not exposed to LEA in a test of reading comprehension. The researcher discovered 0.4 mean difference between LEA group and non-LEA group in favour of the LEA group. But the difference is not statistically significant.

The result in Table 2 also shows a significant difference between the achievement of male and female students in a cloze test of English language. Since f is statistically significant, it means that male students exposed to LEA differ in reading achievement from female students exposed to LEA in the CTEL. The eta value was found to be 0.61. This finding contrasts that of Miller (2009) in a study on reading proficiency of college students. He found that female students who are exposed to LEA were not better than their male counterparts in a test of reading ability. The result in Table 2 corroborates that of Strauss (2008) who reveals that primary school boys and girls normally show differential patterns of achievement in reading.

The result in Table 1 and 2 however were not complete because of the failure in calculating the HSD or the Scheffe in order to ascertain exactly the direction of the significance between LEA and non-LEA groups and between male LEA and female LEA groups. Future researchers may endeavour to work on this aspect.



The study investigated the relative effectiveness of language experience approach on achievement of JSS one students in English language cloze test. The study also examined gender variables between the male LEA group and female LEA group in a cloze test. Based on the data collected and analyzed, LEA appears to be effective in enhancing the reading comprehension of students in JSS one class. The implication of the findings is that language instructors should familiarize themselves with the use of LEA in primary and junior secondary school one level. Based on the findings, the following recommendations are made:

  1. All language instructors should be trained in the use of LEA especially now that many scholars and educators are calling for the movement from teacher-centred approaches to learner-based approaches as in Nigeria.
  2. Seminars, workshops and conference should be constantly organized in various schools to enlighten teachers on the need to use LEA and its resultant effect in making students achieve better in the English language.
  3. Government should provide facilities and manpower that could aid the teaching and learning using LEA with ease especially in primary and secondary schools nationwide.
  4. Language teachers should not undermine experiences children get from places such as zoos, wild life, libraries, airports, commercial banks, museums, language laboratories, recreational centres and homes.
  5. Language teachers should provide experience for LEA stories through pictures, classroom incidents, special events, excursions and folktales.
  6. Equal attention should be given to male and female students learning reading comprehension or English through LEA.
  7. Storytelling and story retelling strategies of LEA should be well planned by the teachers in order to motivate both male and female students to develop interest in listening, speaking, reading and writing.




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Appendix 1

The following are samples of the story items given by five of the rural learners.

Benjamin said,            “I saw Ada at the market yesterday.”

Ruth said,                    “Tomorrow is my birthday.”

Ene said,                     “We sing a song.”

James said,    “I wash my clothes at home.”

Mary said,        “I have a copy of a story book here.”

Those samples constitute aspects of what students do in schools, at home and outside the school environment.

The story items were sometimes complemented with open-ended queries that moved students to talk about their experience. Such

Queries include:

What do you think …?

Why did …?

What would happen if…?

Tell me more about …?

Do you mean that …?

Appendix 2

The English Language Cloze Test

Number: —————————–

Sex: ———————————-

Class: ——————————–


Read the following two passages in 1 hour and fill in the gaps with any word or group of words that could appropriately go with the sentences or complete the spaces provided.

Passage A

Once upon a time, many, many years ago, the Tortoise thought that he would like to have all the wisdom in the world. No one else would (1) —–any, he thought. He (2) ——– be the only wise (3) —— in the whole world; (4) —— else would have to (5) —— and ask for his (6) ——- in order to charge (7) —— for it!

So he (8) ——— out to collect the (9) ——- in the world into (10) ——- gourd. As he collected (11) ——- into the gourd (12) ——– closed it with a (13) —— of leaves, saying to (14) ——- as he did it, “(15) ———- one more piece that (16) ——- else will have”. Having (17) ————- these of wisdom (18) ——– a long time, he (19) ———- that his gourd is (20) ———— but he did not (21) ———– it would be safe (22) ———– keep it in his (23) ————. It might be stolen.

Passage B

The Tortoise decided to put the pieces of the wisdom among the leaves at the top of a very high tree where no one else could climb. So he took a (24) ———– to the tree. He (25) ——– the rope round the (26) ——- of the gourd (27) ——— the rope over his (28) —— so that the gourd (29) down in front of (30) ——- stomach. He tried to (31) ——– the tree, but he (32) ——- that the gourd kept (33) ——- in the way. His (34) ——- and legs were too (35) —–. He tried and (36) —— kept on trying, but (37) ——- success.

Suddenly, he heard (38) ——- laughter behind him. It (39) —— a hunter who had (40) ——- watching him. The hunter (41) ———– him to hang the (42) —– behind him for easy (43) ——– of the tree. The (44) ———- stood still thinking. He (45) ——— “if such a sensible (46) ——— of advice is not (47) ——- my gourd, how much (48) ——– wisdom is there in (49) ———– world that I have (50) ————-  collected”? He saw how (51) ———– it was to try to (52) ——– have all the world’s (53) ———–, so he smashed the (54) ———- against he tree and (55) ——- it. All the bits of wisdom inside it escaped, scattered are flew all over the world to be found almost anywhere today.

List of Words for Passage A 

Started            wisdom           have                everybody                    he                    advice

person             come               would               each                a                      house

to                     himself            full                                collected          think                 for

nobody            that’s               decided                       roll                   piece

List of Words for Passage B

his                   neck                head                            rope                 hung                put

without             and                  tied                              arms                found               some

getting             thought            was                             short                tortoise            been

gourd   broke   to                                 more    climb   wisdom

climbing           inside   the                               not                   foolish piece

Note: you are free to use any of the words above twice if necessary.

56. Do you like passage A? Give reasons for your answer ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

57. Do you like Passage B? Give reasons for your answer ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

58. How do you view the whole story? —————————————————————————————————————————————-

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