Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Woo hoo, I inspire debate!

Crypticlife, pointed out that my post on "I hate whole language" had inspired a pretty big reaction on the Teachers Applying Whole Language listserve.

If you go to the Search the TAWL Archives page and put in "I hate whole language" into the subject search field, you get 106 responses.

I read a few, but unfortunately the listserve doesn't allow me to read all the messages and one time (and my finger got tired of clicking).

I did come across a few gems of posts though. Several teachers were asking advice on how they could improve their students decoding skills... duh!

I have been researching several scholarly articles in preparation for the upcoming debate on whole language at Edspresso, and consider myself a lot more educated on the issue. The more I read, the more certain I am that early reading instruction should stress phonetic decoding.

My original impression is that whole language puts the cart before the horse. Whole language is based on the premise that reading is natural, and tries to reverse engineer "skilled readers". This reverse engineering though, neglects to take into account the subconscious phonetic decoding that skilled readers are able to do almost instantaneously.

I actually have several articles and papers in pdf format full of markups and notes, but I am trying to decide if I want to put together a wonkish post on whole language fallacies or wait until the debate mentioned above.

Laziness and the desire to get in a "smoking gun" during the debate cause me to want to wait, but showing off my new found knowledge, kind of makes me want to attempt to look intelligent. In the end though, laziness and procrastination wins out.


Dewey said...

If you're interested in the science of early reading instruction you should definitely check out the following study by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) http://www.nctq.org/nctq/images/nctq_reading_study_exec_summ.pdf

They, like you, like reading programs that actually teach reading.

CrypticLife said...

I'd encourage sharing whatever you have prior to the debate, Rory. Others will have plenty of time to respond anyway, and should have plenty of time to respond.

My impression of WL advocates is that they have many misconceptions. I've read on the TAWLers' boards:

* DI advocates don't care about the research
* DI advocates aren't willing to discuss the issues
* DI advocates are adamantly against changing their minds
* DI treats children in a "factory" model while WL treats them in a "plant" model (wonder how many WL teachers are actually farmers too?)
* DI is mindlessly following a script
* DI never teaches meaning
* "real" WL uses phonics when appropriate
* lots of students are "word-callers" -- able to decode a word but unable to say what it means

My impression of WL advocates is that they care about kids and want to treat them kindly. They seem lacking in scientific literacy and an ability to think in a formalistic logical fashion, and many seem to have poor computer literacy as well. They think DI advocates lack compassion.

It's a pity. Much of what DI is actually does goes far beyond just use of phonics. It relies on positive reinforcement, and a very clear -- reflexive, even -- understanding of what that entails. A DI instructor loses no compassion. The training for a DI instructor is not easy, and takes a lot of dedication and skill.

WL teachers like to say they use everything as needed. I have never heard them say how they decide someone needs a particular technique. You would think, with such a program, there would be a tremendous amount of assessment to check for different needs a student might have. You'd think that the assessment tests would be extraordinarily well-researched and defined, and have very clear standards. I suspect, however, the assessment is "individual teacher qualitative assessment". I suspect WL is largely a techniqueless art, and that parents at home could quite easily teach their children just as well without any training at all.

I'll read the link with interest, Dewey.