Language Log has two excellent posts on the teaching of reading and the failed whole language ideology.
The first is Mark Liberman's extended meditation on whole language ideology, and the politicizing of the teaching of reading.
But I was more interested in something else. The article revealed to me that there is also a Gallic version of the "whole language" approach to reading instruction, known in France as "la méthode globale". I guess that I should have realized that globalization spreads educational fads just as efficiently as other aspects of culture.
Bill Posner at Language Log also makes two points on the teaching of reading
One is the idea that whole language reading instruction allows children to read material of interest to them while phonics consists of day after day of dull drilling. That isn't really true. There certainly are dull phonics programs, but they don't have to be, nor are whole language programs necessarily interesting. [snip]
The other point is that if we want children to learn to read well, teachers have to be taught how to teach reading. You might think that this would be obvious, but the fact is that teachers generally receive little instruction in how to teach reading in spite of the fact that this is the single most important thing that primary school teachers and the one in which instruction is most needed.
Go read both posts.
(Aside: I was quoted in the first. Below the fold, more of my thoughts on whole language).
I was quoted as saying
"If you believe in whole language, you are likely to be on the liberal-to-socialist spectrum; if you believe in direct phonics instruction, you have to march in the same parade as Phyllis Schlafly, the Eagle Forum, and Dr. Blumenfeld."
I want to amplify that. I should have written,
"the whole-language true believers have you marching in the same parade as Phyllis Schlafly, the Eagle Forum, and Dr. Blumenfeld."
I became a fierce advocate for the effective teaching of reading when we discovered that Jumper Girl was dyslexic. Not to put too fine a point on it, Jumper Girl's parents are well-educated and well-to-do. She had effective remediation.
The fierce advocacy started when I realized that less-fortunate children were being offered Reading Recovery, or stuck in the special-education ghetto of "accommodations". No effective remediation was offered in most school districts then, 10 years ago; and effective remediation is still hard to come by in most districts.
More of my languge posts (in no particular order)
Another Woo Cure for Dyslexia
....how teaching phonics became identified with conservative ideology and fundamentalism, while the disaster that is whole language reading instruction became identified with progressive thought. [snip] I wonder why black parents aren't leading the movement to reform education. Minority [and low-income] children are those most injured by poor instruction.
The evil fad of teaching reading through immersion has also infected Australia. The whole language victims are much more likely to be poor, or Aboriginal.
I wish that every resistant teacher could be made to face the consequences for his or her students of "whole language". There's a word for illnesses caused by doctors -- iatrogenic. "Whole language" -tainted teaching, especially in K-3 classrooms, is a cause of pedagogenic learning disabilities.
I wish it were possible to sue for educational malpractice. I have some candidates for litigation from the whole language area:
the list could go on for a long time. Whole language robbed the children of California of the right to read easily and fluently. Kids in kindergarten in 1988 graduated from high school around 2001--is it any wonder that we're finding that kids aren't ready for college work? If you aren't a fluid reader, able to puzzle out unfamiliar words ("decoding") --you cannot read complex texts.
On the other hand, the whole language
dogmaphilosophy in the elementary classroom is indeed a disaster for many children. So he is wrong about teaching "causing" dyxlexia, but correct that whole language leads to reading difficulty.
Multi-sensory, structured, intensive, instruction in synthetic phonics will allow up to 97% children to learn to read.
But Louisa Cook Moats has some help for teachers (and older students--the Speech to Print textbook and workbook would be suitable for sophisticated high school students).
Joel Brondos writes
Nothing attracts more ire from modern educators than asking children to memorize and practice, whether it be their spelling words or multiplication tables. When polled last year , some six of 10 education professors objected to having kids memorize material. These educators, who teach K-12 teachers, warn that practice, homework and direct, systematic instruction turn kids into automatons, stifling their creativity and ultimately dooming their ability to learn. They even have a term for it: “Drill and kill.”
Today at the Eide Neurolearning Blog, the authors post some brain-imaging studies that reveal the ease that automaticity brings. Once you've invested the effort to master a task to automaticity, the brain does not work as hard.
The bottom line: depriving children of the practice neccesary to develop automaticity makes the work--reading or math--unneccesarily hard.
In the report, the authors made passing mention of some works that teachers of reading should read. They did not, however, list the works in an easy-to use fashion. So I did. Note: the citations are not in academic format--not all authors are listed, I don't indicate editor vs. author, and so on. I use ISBN.
A List of Books for Teachers of Reading and Language Arts
In his 2002 paper, Rhetoric and Revolution: Kenneth Goodman's "Psycholinguistic Guessing Game", Martin A. Kozloff demolishes Goodman's claims.
Notice that there are at least three logical errors in Goodman's opening presentation of his new and "scientific" approach to reading. First, Goodman's new view of reading rests on the fallacy of reification. He transforms what merely a metaphor into a concrete reality. Goodman does not say that reading can (metaphorically) be seen (for purposes of analysis) as if it were a psycholinguistic guessing game. Rather, reading a psycholinguistic guessing game. It not as if readers are guessing at what words say. Readers actually are guessing. [The author--MK--asks readers of this document to consider whether they are in fact guessing at every word on this page.] However, treating a metaphor as a concrete reality a useful trick. It means that whole language rests on a fantasy--a dreamy way of thinking--in which there no boundary between how we think about things and how things actually are. Once new teachers are seduced into this dream world, almost any bizarre and baseless statements can be taken as sage wisdom. [See https://people.uncw.edu/kozloffm/wlquotes.html for examples of whole language statements that have no basis in reality.]
Almost every premise advanced by whole language proponents about how reading is learned has been contradicted by scientific investigations. Almost every practice stemming from these premises has been less successful with groups of both normally developing and reading-disabled children than practices based on reading science. As Michael Pressley, editor of Educational Psychologist, has remarked, "At best, much of whole-language thinking...is obsolete, and at worst, much of it never was well informed about children and their intellectual development...."
Moats lists Whole Language's five fatal flawed assumptions
- Learning to Read Is Not Natural
- The alphabetic principle is not learned simply from exposure to print.
- Spoken language and written language are very different, and mastery of each requires unique skills and proficiencies.
- The most important skill in the beginning stages of reading is the ability to read single words completely, accurately, and fluently.
- Context is not the primary factor in word recognition
And to close on a lighter note, The Instructivist brings us Golf the Whole Language Way.