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Servant4Christ

Whole language approach?

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In researching, I came across a curriculum that uses a whole language approach rather than phonics in the early grades. Has anyone used this method? Comparisons are obvious in the difference of approach but how do children using this method do age level wise and on standardized tests?

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People use it.  It isn't scientifically sound and doesn't have a strong backing when it comes to how the brain learns. 
This article, The Reading Wars, has quite a bit of information, but there are others I could link you to that show the swing back to evidence-based approaches, like this one here from Arkansas: What Parents Of Dyslexic Children Are Teaching Schools About Literacy.

Do what you will, but I'll be blunt: there's a sound reason why explicit phonics is given to a child who has trouble learning to read and not more of a whole language approach, at least when a teacher knows what they're doing.

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I went through my teacher education back in the early 90’s when this was gaining a lot of ground and the university where I did my credential work bought into this philosophy in a big way. I don’t think it’s very credible anymore. There may be bits and pieces that are useful, but overall, I think phonics is the way to go.

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Thank you! I wasn't looking into it for myself, but for a friend who's looking at possibly homeschooling as her family size grows. I do my best to give well researched recommendations (when asked) to help make the fear factor of venturing into homeschooling a little less overwhelming. I stumbled across this method and couldn't for the life of me wrap my brain around how it would work let alone whether it could be successful. But I just couldn't resist a little research project 😀

Edited by Servant4Christ
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I have 25 years of anecdotal experience teaching remedial students who guess from whole language based methods, multi-cueing, sight words taught as wholes, and leveled readers that are predictable and use words they have not yet been taught to sound out.

Emily Hanford's lastest article and podcast explain why this is a bad idea, each version is slightly different:

https://www.apmreports.org/story/2019/08/22/whats-wrong-how-schools-teach-reading

And, why sight words taught as wholes cause problems and how to teach them with phonics:

http://www.thephonicspage.org/On Reading/sightwords.html

Summary of scientific research on reading, recent brain research at end:

http://www.nrrf.org/web-pages-in-support-of-the-science-of-reading-2019/

 

Edited by ElizabethB
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6 hours ago, Servant4Christ said:

Thank you! I wasn't looking into it for myself, but for a friend who's looking at possibly homeschooling as her family size grows. I do my best to give well researched recommendations (when asked) to help make the fear factor of venturing into homeschooling a little less overwhelming. I stumbled across this method and couldn't for the life of me wrap my brain around how it would work let alone whether it could be successful. But I just couldn't resist a little research project 😀

It works mostly OK for some people, that is part of the reason it gains traction.  A certain percentage of the population will figure out how to read no matter what is done, their brain figures out the pattern of the words and does fine.  But, even some of them will have a bit of a guessing or spelling problem, you end up with better results for everyone if you use a good phonics program. Even with phonics, some people need a lot more repetition than others, and the whole language is even more damaging as a foundation to those with dyslexia, who need even more repetition and phonemic awareness work and may need multi-sensory methods.

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Thankyou! As a newer member of this forum, it is awesome to be able to ask a genuine question and get enough info in response to feel as though I've been thoroughly educated!

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All I can say, is that the words I have to express my feelings on whole language methods, and that they are STILL in use despite decades proving they are inferior, are not words I can use in polite company. 

Seriously though, there is ZERO credible information supporting whole language methods. Some kids will learn despite it, but none do better because of it. And many won't learn at all with it. 

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18 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

All I can say, is that the words I have to express my feelings on whole language methods, and that they are STILL in use despite decades proving they are inferior, are not words I can use in polite company. 

Seriously though, there is ZERO credible information supporting whole language methods. Some kids will learn despite it, but none do better because of it. And many won't learn at all with it. 

Me x1000!  The hundreds of children I've remediated and their parents X10,0000.  It is so hard to undo the guessing habits.  It makes me angry and sad, all the children harmed when the knowledge about how we should teach is out there.  

I warn siblings in my group class that their younger siblings will likely remediate to grade level faster than their older siblings, and may sometimes even surpass them overall, and it will not be their fault.  I also tell them that I have had all my older students get to grade level, it just takes more work and more nonsense words to undo the guessing habit. I wrote a LinkedIn Article about how to overcome the guessing and train new habits:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/building-good-reading-habits-liz-brown?trk=related_artice_Building Good Reading Habits_article-card_title

Edited by ElizabethB
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And here I thought this was a NEW method! But it's really just a new curriculum using an older method that's been tested and proven inferior to a solid phonics program? Good to know. Thanks!

Edited by Servant4Christ
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2 hours ago, Servant4Christ said:

And here I thought this was a NEW method! But it's really just a new curriculum using an older method that's been tested and proven inferior to a solid phonics program? Good to know. Thanks!

Actually goes back to the 1800's!  There was a period of whole word teaching from 1826 to 1876. In the early 1800's and previous, everyone that learned to read learned with syllables, Quintillion even mentions syllables!!  Whole language was found to be inferior with a large survey by Rice in the 1800's, then again and again and again each time it was tried, but it is strangely compelling to the people in the education schools for some reason. 

In the 1800's it was syllables in English, but until the 16th Century, people learned to read in Latin first with syllables, then in their native language with syllables.

Here is a the history of reading instruction with a timeline:

http://www.thephonicspage.org/On Phonics/historyofreading.html

And more about syllabic phonics and its history:

https://infogalactic.com/info/Syllabic_phonics

Because it was taught in one room schools and it is actually pretty easy teach if you've watch the teachers teach it 5 or 6 times in a row in your one room school, there are no teacher's manuals explaining how to teach people to read with a Speller.  The most extensive writing I've found about how it was taught is in the education section of the Slave Narratives, I've compiled most of the references here:

http://thephonicspage.org/On Phonics/

Edited by ElizabethB
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It is unlikely that anyone is going to be able to produce a whole-language "standardised tests" statistic because it means different things to different people. Some of these meanings can be done in an environment that isn't using whole-language as a method of reading instruction, but as a setting to support and encourage reading. Most of these are common to any household where literacy is considered important for children to learn, Others are completely opposed to phonics. Some of the features common to whole-language methods:

 

- Emphasis on lots of varied books, often but by no means necessarily good ones.

- Frequent practise of reading skills in subjects other than language classes (and often as a separate session).

- Finding reasons to read and write that are relevant to the student's life in some way, not just sticking to purposes in a textbook or classical exercises.

- A variety of approaches to reading, including reading out loud, reading independently and, where available, reading in groups

- Encouraging a love of books and reading.

- Whole-to-part approach to learning to read

- Meaning-first approach to learning to read

 

It's the last two that get whole language into trouble as an instruction method. Not only do young children often not do well with whole-to-part learning in general, but  reading is highly orientated towards parts-to-whole. If a fluent reader is having trouble reading, they don't generally start with the word and then look at the components of it. More likely, they either use context to figure it out (a context the beginning reader won't have yet, in particular they don't yet have a concept of "plausible word" separate from "possible word") or they quickly think through the phonemes/syllables (not quite the same thing, but lots of people never get taught the word "phoneme" in relation to reading) of each word and piece it together from there (which is simply a faster version of what children do when they are learning to decode using a solid decoding method).

Further, reading is a code. It is possible to derive what that code means from understanding the way in which it is written. Code-first (which is what phonics is) allows a student to decode what they are reading, which gives a generalisable approach (making the act of reading easier) as well as a way to avoid the majority of errors. A student taught through phonics will still learn some things via methods familiar to whole-language advocates (notably homonyms - there's no purely phonical method of teaching a student that the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms has nothing to do with animal anatomy, nor that Baloo in the Jungle Book isn't singing about carrying what's important in "Bear Necessities"). However, a student who knows the reading code has the tools to spot when that sort of situation is occurring in their reading, and therefore when to consult their meaning/context-based cues and when to get the dictionary due to genuinely not knowing what the word they've just encountered means.

This is why, as a general rule, some sort of phonics-first method is a good idea. It's because phonics gives the child the tools to figure out the code with which words are formed.

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"Whole language" is nothing but sight reading with fancier terms, and sight reading has proven to be a failure for most children.

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My favorite statement about whole language comes from my mentor teacher in grad school, which is that Whole Language only works well when kids actually have a whole language. That is to say, for kids who have been read to from birth, have a very large vocabulary already, and have already internalized letter/sound correspondence and basic phonetic patterns. They will learn to read fine using any method you want to use-including just continuing to do what you've been doing with no formal instruction. (And, in fact, this is the case for most kids who learn to read spontaneously before age 5). Unfortunately,  few 5-8 yr olds actually have a whole language, as opposed to parts of a language-so let's give them the parts they are missing to build a whole language. I am very happy, now, that I got assigned to her and to the school I was placed in, because it meant that after several years of being seeped in whole language propaganda, I ended up learning to teach using Spalding, mostly with kids who did not speak English at home and had not been read to in English before starting school.

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12 hours ago, Ellie said:

"Whole language" is nothing but sight reading with fancier terms, and sight reading has proven to be a failure for most children.

THIS makes sense to me. If they would've used the term "sight reading" instead of "whole language" it would've clicked for me right away and I would've stopped my research. Sight reading without phonics is something I avoid like the plague.

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2 hours ago, dmmetler said:

Whole Language only works well when kids actually have a whole language. That is to say, for kids who have been read to from birth, have a very large vocabulary already, and have already internalized letter/sound correspondence and basic phonetic patterns. They will learn to read fine using any method you want to use-including just continuing to do what you've been doing with no formal instruction. (And, in fact, this is the case for most kids who learn to read spontaneously before age 5). Unfortunately,  few 5-8 yr olds actually have a whole language, as opposed to parts of a language-so let's give them the parts they are missing to build a whole language.

I don't think I could've asked for a more perfect explanation. Thank you!

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2 hours ago, Servant4Christ said:

THIS makes sense to me. If they would've used the term "sight reading" instead of "whole language" it would've clicked for me right away and I would've stopped my research. Sight reading without phonics is something I avoid like the plague.

Sight reading PLUS the ridiculousness of teaching kids to, if they see a word they don't know, FIRST look at the pictures, then words around it, etc et and only lastly to try to sound it out. 

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5 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

Sight reading PLUS the ridiculousness of teaching kids to, if they see a word they don't know, FIRST look at the pictures, then words around it, etc et and only lastly to try to sound it out. 

Yes, I agree! An added level of ridiculousness.

It's called multi-cueing, and is a bad plan and leads to guessing.  But try talking most teachers out of it, harder than getting someone to change their religious or political views.

There is even a whole book about miscues, where they explain it (but the explanation made no sense to me) and explain the difference between a high quality and low quality miscue.  They are all bad miscues to me, just teach phonics and then you don't have to worry about miscues.  They argue, "but aren't more more options better?" No, they're not. Just teach the one that works reliably and doesn't lead to guessing.

I wish I was making up this book, but it is real and often assigned in teacher training, "Miscue Analysis Made Easy."

https://www.amazon.com/Miscue-Analysis-Made-Easy-Strengths/dp/0325002398/ref=sr_1_2?crid=12XBTCS2YG5FA&keywords=miscue+analysis+made+easy+building+on+student+strengths&qid=1568681955&s=gateway&sprefix=miscue+%2Caps%2C187&sr=8-2

Edited by ElizabethB

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3 minutes ago, ElizabethB said:

Yes, I agree! An added level of ridiculousness.

It's called multi-cueing, and is a bad plan and leads to guessing.  But try talking most teachers out of it, harder than getting someone to change their religious or political views.

There is even a whole book about miscues, where they explain it (but the explanation made no sense to me) and explain the difference between a high quality and low quality miscue.  They are all bad miscues to me, just teach phonics and then you don't have to worry about miscues.  They argue, "but aren't more more options better?" No, they're not. Just teach the one that works reliably and doesn't lead to guessing.

I wish I was making up this book, but it is real and often assigned in teacher training, "Miscue Analysis Made Easy."

https://www.amazon.com/Miscue-Analysis-Made-Easy-Strengths/dp/0325002398/ref=sr_1_2?crid=12XBTCS2YG5FA&keywords=miscue+analysis+made+easy+building+on+student+strengths&qid=1568681955&s=gateway&sprefix=miscue+%2Caps%2C187&sr=8-2

Because the problem with a kid who struggles reading is that he doesn't understand the pictures well enough to guess from them. Sigh. 

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7 hours ago, Servant4Christ said:

THIS makes sense to me. If they would've used the term "sight reading" instead of "whole language" it would've clicked for me right away and I would've stopped my research. Sight reading without phonics is something I avoid like the plague.

They have to keep changing the names of this stuff as parents find out and demand phonics.

Whole language, whole word, balanced literacy, sight reading, etc. At least balanced literacy added in a bit of phonics, so a bit better, but still not great.

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7 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

Because the problem with a kid who struggles reading is that he doesn't understand the pictures well enough to guess from them. Sigh. 

Yes, clearly his fault or your fault, they couldn't be using a poor method or anything. 

Some children will struggle and need more repetition with any method but more children struggle with whole language based methods, and when you have a phonics foundation, at least there is no guessing to undo.  I have had remedial boys overwhelmed by Spalding, but they don't guess, they just get overwhelmed and read slowly and have trouble figuring out which sound to use; with a switch to a normal phonics method they usually remediate easily with no guessing to un-train.  I have not yet had a girl overwhelmed by Spalding, their brains seem to be able to handle the language overload better.

Edited by ElizabethB

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