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Whole language

The whole language movement is an attempt to improve the teaching of reading in the public schools.

It is the belief that language should not be separated into component skills, but rather experienced as a whole language system of communication; the principles of whole language include:

  • student centered
  • whole to part
  • concept based
  • catalyst for problem solving
  • active learning
  • demonstrated competence

The components of a whole language literacy program include

  • literate classroom environment
  • reading to and with students
  • individualized instruction
  • independent reading
  • students as authors
  • integrating literacy skills into curriculum across disciplines
  • increased parent involvement

Whole langauge has been characterized as encouraging children to guess at the pronunciation of words rather than focusing on phonics or memorization.

Critics of "whole language" maintain that it is less effective than the traditional phonics-based approach, and that it serves chiefly to provide employment for special ed teachers.

Proponents maintain that it does incorporate phonics. Of note is that non-alphabetic languages can only be taught "whole language", one pictogram or character at a time.

Compare to: Phonics see also education



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