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'Whole language' approach gets a critical read.

Rancorous ran·cor  
Bitter, long-lasting resentment; deep-seated ill will. See Synonyms at enmity.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin, rancid smell, from Latin
 debate over the best way to teach youngsters how to read currently focuses on the "whole-language" approach employed in grade schools throughout the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , Canada, and elsewhere. Whole-language classes reject traditional phonics approaches, which teach sounds associated with letters that make up words. Instead, teachers read interesting stories aloud, and students write stories and read them aloud, often collaboratively.

Whole-language proponents hold that reading skill emerges naturally among children immersed in literature, just as speaking develops naturally among kids exposed to daily torrents of conversation (SN: 2/29/92, p.138).

But new research, presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. Description and history
The association has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m.
 in Toronto last week, suggests that educators should avoid relying exclusively on whole-language techniques, especially for children who start out with meager mea·ger also mea·gre  
1. Deficient in quantity, fullness, or extent; scanty.

2. Deficient in richness, fertility, or vigor; feeble: the meager soil of an eroded plain.

 reading skills. Rather, psychologists argue, teachers must tailor lessons to each student's needs by weaving together appropriate strands of phonics, whole-language, and mental strategies for effective reading.

"I think we'll see a lot of research in the next few years on one-to-one reading instruction strategies, especially with poor readers," asserts Michael Presley of the State University of New York (body) State University of New York - (SUNY) The public university system of New York State, USA, with campuses throughout the state.  at Albany. "We can design instruction that retains the best of whole language as it does much, much more."

A study of third-graders in Grey County, Ontario Grey County is a county and census division of the Canadian province of Ontario. The county seat is in Owen Sound. The population was 89,073 in 2001.

It consists of:
  • City of Owen Sound
  • Town of The Blue Mountains
  • Town of Hanover
, where public schools employ a whole-language curriculum, finds that substantially more boys than girls display severe reading problems. Ineffective readers apparently try to glean meaning from the general context of a story because they fail to "sound out" individual words accurately, assert Janet Glasspool and Gretta Hutton of the Grey County Board of Education in Markdale.

Glasspool and Hutton studied 124 third-graders chosen at random from English- and French-speaking classrooms. They tracked the children's progress during the fall 1990 to spring 1991 school year.

Sixteen boys and four girls showed minimal or no comprehension of written material on a reading comprehension Reading comprehension can be defined as the level of understanding of a passage or text. For normal reading rates (around 200-220 words per minute) an acceptable level of comprehension is above 75%.  test.

Moreover, when asked to read out loud and then recount a story, 39 boys and 18 girls met criteria for ineffective reading. These students usually did not attempt to correct oral reading errors, even if an error made no sense. Yet about three-quarters of these children scored adequately on the reading comprehension test, indicating that they derive meaning from the general context of a story.

Teachers need to conduct vocabulary-building exercises with these youngsters and take more time for oral reading and group discussion in class, the researchers argue. Phonics instruction may also prove helpful in some cases, they add.

Whole-language classrooms typically emphasize the reading of fairy tales This is a list of fairy tales, the dates of their earliest known printed version, the author and, if known, the collection of tales in which it was published. It should be noted, however, that not all stories listed below would be categorized as fairy tales by a strict definition  and other fiction, but Canadian boys generally reported much more interest in books about animals, science, and other nonfiction topics, Glasspool and Hutton note.

Other strategies can also aid particular children experiencing reading difficulties, they contend. These include placing visual aids visual aids
Noun, pl

objects to be looked at that help the viewer to understand or remember something
, such as drawings, above words in reading textbooks and studying groups of letters that occur in different positions within different words.

Poor readers indeed benefit from such methods, holds Andrew Biemiller Andrew John Biemiller (July 23, 1906 in Sandusky, Ohio - April 3, 1982 in Bethesda, Maryland) was a prominent leader of American liberalism in the 20th century.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1926, Biemiller became active in the Socialist Party of America and
 of the University of Toronto Research at the University of Toronto has been responsible for the world's first electronic heart pacemaker, artificial larynx, single-lung transplant, nerve transplant, artificial pancreas, chemical laser, G-suit, the first practical electron microscope, the first cloning of T-cells, . A 16-week training program for ineffective readers designed by Biemiller and his co-workers, which uses phonics and taped reading selections so that students can hear the text as they read it, boosts reading comprehension in Toronto third-graders attending whole-language classes, he says.

Those who complete the program read much more on their own than classmates Classmates can refer to either:
  •, a social networking website.
  • Classmates (film), a 2006 Malayalam blockbuster directed by Lal Jose, starring Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Indragith, Sunil, Jagathy, Kavya Madhavan, Balachandra Menon, ...
 who read poorly and receive only whole-language instruction, Biemiller asserts.

Children tend to enter school with one of two strategies for oral reading, he adds. Some read all of the words in a passage and make numerous errors, whereas others skip words they do not know. The latter group makes much faster progress in reading accuracy and comprehension, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.


Successful readers first learn to understand individual words on the page and then move on to grapple with to enter into contest with, resolutely and courageously.

See also: Grapple
 the context of sentences and stories, the Toronto researcher holds. "The ability to read words out of context is where the action is in early reading," he contends.

Phonics combined with the teaching of reading strategies greatly helps poor readers when offered throughout the school year, Pressley says. During the 1991-92 school year, Pressley directed a study of five second-grade classes receiving whole-language instruction and five second-grade classes emphasizing "transactional strategies" instruction.

The latter approach varies from one child to another, using a mix of phonics, silent and oral reading, story writing, and coaching in basic strategies for successful reading. These include using a rapid return sweep from the right-hand side of the page while reading, monitoring whether a passage makes sense, rereading difficult sections, and self-correcting reading errors.

Reading skills improved more among students getting strategies instruction, particularly among those who started out as poor readers, Pressley says.

This multifaceted approach, which many highly effective reading teachers already use, offers help to educators dealing with children from disadvantaged homes, where exposure to print is often minimal, he says. It may also prove successful with the increasing number of children who start school speaking a language other than English, Pressley contends.
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Title Annotation:whole-language reading instruction methods
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 28, 1993
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