Having read, and digested the Herald Sun’s (April 17, 2011 p18-19) special report, ‘Old School plan to give literacy a lift’, I’ve felt the need to respond, and I’ve chosen my space to respond to this one…
Teachers may find articulating ‘whole language’ challenging, as it’s not a term ‘bandied’ about in our profession. It’s said, but always requires clarifying even to those ‘within the know’. What you will hear is teachers discuss a ‘balanced’ literacy program. So what does this mean? A ‘balanced’ literacy program recognises the need to provide a ‘varied diet’, a collection of experiences, and explicit teaching for young learners.
Young learners require different approaches within their whole program of instruction to ensure their individual learning needs are met and deep understanding is achieved. This is possibly the best descriptor for ‘whole language’ I can articulate.
Teaching phonics is important within a ‘balanced’ literacy program. The teaching of phonemes, graphemes, consonants, short vowels, rimes and phonograms are essential for children to understand, and use our alphabet, and are… documented learning outcomes in our state curriculum. Victoria has a lot to be proud of!
To teach a program which places greatest or total emphasis on phonics, will not give ‘literacy a lift’ in my opinion, balance will!
We often use the term ‘barking at print’, and this refers to a child which can read aloud fluently, but has very little understanding of what he/she has read. This I see as a huge problem, as parents with aspirations for their children to be wonderful readers, can see fluent ‘reading aloud’ as achievement, the ‘holy grail’, and the harder the book, the bigger the words, the better.
These parents are often presented at a later stage of their child’s schooling with a student achieving lower than expected comprehension levels. And this begs the question, why do we read? You can answer this for yourself, reflect! I’m hoping here, that you’re thinking about the importance of deep comprehension, the pleasure reading can give, developing a love of language, or to learn about and understand our world! Decoding is a skill, comprehension is the goal.
I have responded to this article because I am passionate about literacy acquisition.