National Council of Teachers of English Logo

Whole Language Beliefs - Previous Revision

WHOLE LANGUAGE PHILOSOPHY is continually developing. It draws upon scientifically based research from many areas including psycholinguistics, socio-psycholinguistics, linguistics and cognitive psychology, and from on-going classroom research. It is a set of underlying principles that inform teaching practice. It is not only a philosophy of language learning; it also embraces a progressive ideology based on the goals of democracy and social justice; as such it embraces all learning. Whole language is about all learning. Whole language is about:


Teaching of language occurs in contexts that are meaningful to learners. Teachers and students are engaged with authentic language use. When students are engaged in authentic language use, three things happen simultaneously: they learn language, they use language to learn, and they learn about language.




All learners are valued, regardless of their intellectual or linguistic abilities and regardless of their socio, cultural or ethnic backgrounds.  Learners take control of their lives and become socially critical members of society.



Listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing are integrated, not separate domains.



An individual learner’s knowledge is constructed through interaction, collaboration and transaction with others. Social interactions immerse the learner in demonstrations of language in use. Parents play an important role in the language education of their children.



All language is used in context. The context changes according to the subject matter and the purpose of the communication. As the context changes so does the language. Language is always used for a purpose which shapes the text or determines the genre.



Children form hypotheses about how language works from their experiences with language. They try out these hypotheses within the context of authentic language use. With further experience they test and refine them, forming rules or generalizations. These personal hypotheses are refined according to the social conventions of the language community of which the individual is a member.  Children’s approximations inform teachers about learners’ current understandings of how language works. This process is encouraged in classrooms where children take risks.



Students learn the sub-systems of language, (phonics, syntax, punctuation) as they engage in language use within meaningful contexts. It is only while students are using language that teachers can observe the student’s control of the subsystems, and plan appropriate strategies to assist them with their needs.



The role of assessment in the classroom is to inform teaching. Assessment involves talking with children, listening to them read, reading their writing, observing them at work, and observing their work over a period of time. Assessment is central to the teaching and learning process; it grows out of, and informs instruction recognizing the individual strengths and needs of all students.




Teachers are professionals who take responsibility for their learning by observing students closely. They learn from each other and engage in on-going professional development. Whole language teachers are knowledgeable and informed about current issues, concepts, research, theory and practice and are able to articulate their beliefs and are thus in the best position to make curriculum decisions which impact the children they teach.

Revised 11/08


Document and Site Resources

Share This On:

Page Tools:

Join NCTE Today

Related Search Terms

Join or Renew your WLU Membership Today!


Copyright © 1998-2018 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved in all media.

1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283

Looking for information? Browse our FAQs, tour our sitemap and store sitemap, or contact NCTE

Read our Privacy Policy Statement and Links Policy. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use

Visit us on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linked In
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

Document URL

Document Owner

Organization Name

NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts