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Improve Literacy Newsletter

28 July 2010 -- Issue 24


Hi there!

In this edition we're going to be looking at ways you can use what's known as the 'whole language' approach to help with a child's reading skills.

Let's get straight to the good stuff!


In this issue:

1. Using the 'whole language' approach when helping your child to read
2. Ways to use whole language instruction to improve your child's reading
3. Good websites and resources for whole language learning


1. Using the 'whole language' approach when helping your child to read

There has been a huge amount of debate in the past few years about the 'best' way to teach reading in schools. Opinions are strongly divided between 'phonics' instruction and the 'whole language' approach. Phonics focuses on the relationships between the letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language, whereas whole language focuses on the context that words fit into.

The whole language approach has been adopted as the preferred way of teaching reading these days, especially in the United States. However, for emerging readers to successfully develop their reading skills, they should be able to rely on a basic knowledge of phonics. After all, it's almost impossible to understand a passage of text without having the knowledge of how the words are made up. You can familiarise yourself with the basics of phonics in one of our previous newsletters.


2. Ways to use whole language instruction to improve your child's reading

Using the whole language approach can be fun and rewarding if you go about it the right way. Here are a few 'whole language'-based activities you can do with your child to help his reading skills:

Shared reading – simply reading stories together is a great strategy. After reading a story to your child, ask a few related questions and gauge feedback. Talking, listening, and hearing and telling stories creates a rich environment for children to develop their skills.

Follow illustrations – encourage your child to look at the illustrations while you read the storybook to her. This will enable her to make connections between the words that make up the story and the visual representation of the events, as well as helping her to decipher meanings of words she might not know in isolation.

Write about what you have read – after reading a story together, ask your child to write about what he has just read with you. If he is too young for this, or if writing is a turn-off for him, you could encourage him to draw his own pictures to describe what has happened in the story.

Reading fun stuff to you – encourage your child to read to you rather than the other way round. Snuggle up at bedtime as usual, but rather than you reading the story and your child looking at the pictures, have her read the words. Make sure that the material is fun, though. There's nothing more likely to put off a young reader and make her feel like she is back at school than a dull, dry book.

Read in unison – this is another good one for bedtime story reading. It can be great fun to read a storybook together in unison, and a good way to boost your child's reading confidence. When he stumbles over a certain word, you will already have said the word aloud – a clever way to introduce him to the word without making him feel self-conscious about not knowing it.


3. Good websites and resources for whole language learning

Wikipedia -
Gives a detailed breakdown of the whole language approach, with an overview, an explanation of the underlying premises, the latest on the 'current debate' between advocates of whole language and phonics instruction, and a list of prominent 'thinkers'/proponents of the whole language approach.

AVKO Educational Research Foundation -
An article explaining what the whole language approach is, and what it isn't. It also explains the best ways to apply the principles of whole language instruction, and who it can be best suited to.

The Relationship of Top-Down Reading Theories to Whole-Word Reading Instruction -
A fascinating article which explores the original 'whole word method' research tests carried out by James M. Cattell, a researcher at a German university, and the subsequent transition into the whole language method used today.

Whole Language: Getting Started Moving Forward by Linda Crafton is reviewed as 'a book for you if you're just getting started in whole language' (Carol Otis Hurst). The book is written in a clear and engaging style, and is full of ideas and techniques designed to elicit responses in young students. It also contains reading lists, which are intended to serve as the basis of sets of books in the classroom.

The Whole Language Debate Webquest -
The objective of this 'WebQuest' is to provide the resources and information to have an understanding of both the 'whole language' and phonics-based approaches to emergent literacy. It breaks the topics down into logical sections (Introduction, Objective, Task, Process, Resources, Evaluation, Resources).

 
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