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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.

  • Language is used to express meaning. Whole language philosophy therefore implies that the teaching of language occurs in contexts that are meaningful to learners. Teachers and students are engaged with authentic language use.
  • Values all learners, regardless of their intellectual or linguistic abilities and regardless of their socio, cultural or ethnic backgrounds, and aims to have learners take control of their lives and to become socially critical members of society.
  • Recognizes that 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.
  • Sees listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing as integrated, not separate domains.
  • Recognizes that an individual learner’s knowledge is constructed through reflection as well as 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.
  • Recognizes that 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 and it is the purpose that shapes the text, or determines the genre.
  • Recognizes the nature of learning—risk taking, hypothesis forming and testing within a community. From their experience with language, children form hypotheses about how language works. They try out these hypotheses while actually using language. 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. In classrooms therefore, risk taking is encouraged. Children’s approximations inform teachers about learners’ current understandings of how language works.
  • Recognizes that students learn the sub-systems of language, (phonics, syntax, punctuation) as they engage in whole language use, that is as they use language in meaningful contexts. It is only while students are using language that the teacher can observe the students control of the subsystems, and the needs they may have, and plan appropriate strategies to assist them.
  • Recognizes that 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.
  • Recognizes that teachers are professionals who take responsibility for their learning by observing students closely, from each other and by engaging 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 on the children they teach.
  • Recognizes that 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.

Revised 7/03

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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

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