Sunday, April 22, 2007

kitchen table math, the sequel: A Whole Saturday Of Whole Language

kitchen table math, the sequel: A Whole Saturday Of Whole Language

Myrtle Hocklemeier volunteered to teach illiterate adults how to read. The organization that she volunteered at had two groups. One taught phonics and the other used whole language. She unfortunately mistakenly signed up for the wrong one.

At least she got to use her Attic Greek.

There was yet another demonstration about how whole language worked and phonics was pointless. In a given normal English paragraph several words were replaced with what was supposed to be nonsense symbols. She told us the meaning of those words and then held up a card with those words on them and asked us to tell her what the word said. The class obliged and parroted back the words and this was then pronounced more proof that whole language worked. Then she did something really sneaky, she held up two cards with words which were not in the passage and that we hadn't seen before. What did they mean? No one could answer. Except, the "nonsense" symbols were Attic Greek and so were the words. Because I have studied Attic Greek I was able to call out the English meaning of one of the cards that no one was supposed to know. (I never imagined that studying this language would pay off in such a delicious way--although trivia. It was a beautiful Myrtle moment.) The trainer ignored my out of turn response and told the class that these words, the meanings to which they couldn't identify, were proof that words can't be learned outside of "the whole context". I didn't come there for a confrontation so I didn't say, "But I learned all those words from vocabulary lists and I learned to read Attic Greek by studying rules of how it's pronounced." Nope. I kept my mouth shut. The white-haired old lady nearly high-fived me.
Go read the whole thing and give her your condolences.