What is Whole Language Instruction?

Whole language instruction has only in recent years gained greater popularity as a viable method for learning, yet there are many classrooms now teaching this method of reading. The whole language technique encourages children to learn to read by allowing for creativity. For instance, the instructional technique integrates learning in the classroom with the learner's full life. Unlike the more traditional Phonics method, whole language does not fragment the lessons into specific skills.

How Does Whole Language Instruction Work?

In a whole language classroom, the books provided to children are typically predictable and repetitive, which generally helps children better understand the text. In addition, whole language classrooms do not require students to be completely accurate when reading. Consequently, since children are not required to read the text word for word, they have more freedom to improvise within the story. However, as long as the inserted words make sense within the story, the variation is considered acceptable. Instructors feel that allowing children this freedom helps encourage a love of reading.

The Instructor's Role

In a whole language classroom, the instructor is more like a guide through the process. Since whole language instruction does not break reading down into sections, the curriculum in these classrooms is much looser. Whole language practitioners focus on encouraging children to explore the world of reading. Additionally, instructors help students apply knowledge that they have already gained to their learning. In light of this, these classrooms commonly consist of more interactivity during reading times.

Who can Benefit from Whole Language Instruction?

Since whole language is more a philosophy than a method, there are some people who may not benefit from using the whole language approach. However, every child learns in different ways. With this being said, it is only natural that some students may require the more traditional, structured form of reading education. However, for those children who thrive from creativity, this form of learning can be extremely beneficial. It takes the watchful eye of a teacher to determine which children would benefit from this way of teaching.

Whole Language is not a Program

Although the framework for whole language has been known since the mid-sixties, there has never been a specific program for using this instructional technique. The very idea of creating a predetermined program goes against all the fundamentals of whole language. For teachers and parents who require students to demonstrate what they have learned through test scores, this type of reading education is not appropriate. Conversely, whole language is a very loose, unstructured method to education.

The Experienced Instructor

An experienced teacher will be able to incorporate both whole language and the traditional method of phonics into their teaching style. However, this is not something that a younger teacher will likely be able to accomplish. Most experienced instructors are better able to recognize that both forms of instruction are beneficial to certain students. When younger teachers focus on only one form of reading education, they cause a percentage of their class to lag behind. As a result, only experience will allow a teacher to realize that both methods are required to reach all the students.

The debate between whole language and phonics is one which will likely never reach a conclusion. Each teaching ideal has its own merits and only personal preference can determine which learning style is best for each individual.