"In the 1950s the Dick and Jane readers used a "whole word" approach to teaching reading where words were repeated on each page enough times that, according to behaviorist research, students could remember them."
This article has a great overview of phonics vs. whole language debate, within the framework of behaviorist/constructivist approaches.
Man, for a reading professor the article had some serious typos (even I, the horrible speller that I am, noticed.)
The major “flaw” in his argument and core of his article is the premiss that phonics = behaviorist/teacher-centered/direct instruction and whole language = constructivism/student centered instruction.
What he doesn’t understand, or fails to mention, is behaviorism and the constructivism are two sides of the same coin.
He writes about E.F. Skinner the behaviorist
|”I could make a pigeon a high achiever by reinforcing it on a proper schedule”
who studied under Pavlov using the same methods, language development in humans is the same as conditioned stimulus response, ie Pavlov’s dogs. Moving forward, these kinds of animal behavioral programs are now seen in DISTAR Mastery Reading programs like Teaching Your Children to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
which even uses hand signals, the same ones used when training dogs!
Then he talks about L.S. Vygotsky, the Soviet psychologist who conducted research in higher skill levels, known in the US as Higher Order Thinking (HOTS) which deals with changing attitudes, values and beliefs. The term “Constructivist” learning used by Vygotsky when training teachers is to build on knowledge that children have already learned refers to the building of knowledge in a particular direction - dictated by the social/political outcomes of the one doing the directing/teaching, i.e. state mandated tests and curricula (teaching to the test). Even more interesting is Vygotsky worked with another Soviet psychologist Alexander Luria who also had Pavlov as a mentor. They were all working on behavioral disorganization in humans.
|Phonics proponents led by Rudolph Flesh in his book Why Johnny Can Read attacked the whole word approach because it did not get students into reading children's stories that did not have carefully controlled vocabularies. Phonics advocates focus their efforts on the primary grades and emphasize the importance of students having phonemic awareness, that is an understanding of the alphabetic principle that the spelling of words relates to how they sound when spoken. A problem with English is that it does not have a one-to-one sound symbol relationship that would make reading much easier. The many homonyms in English such as to, too, and two create difficulties for students, even at the university level in regard to spelling.
Actually the man’s name was Rudolph Flesch and the book was entitled Why Johnny Can’t Read
. By teaching children to read using traditional phonics -- not using Skinner’s “rat training” phonics methods -- you had far less control over what a child read because they didn’t need a controlled vocabulary. This goes back to the controlled direction of learning of Vygotsky. The problem has been over emphasized, even by sincere people that merely want to teach children to read. The 44 sounds that the majority of people recognized can be spelled just over 400 ways. Eight-five percent of the words in English language can be read with knowledge of only 70 phenograms. A large number of the remaining words can be learned on a as need basis, and they are seldom needed.
Anyway, this has taken me ages to type up inbetween feeding my kids dinner, admiring DD’s self-made math problems and getting them to bed. LindaCL has clarified the confusion between whole word and whole language which has helped, thank you!
I think my point in all this is there are phonics and and then are phonics, and the phonics that should be bashed are those that employ the dog training techniques not the tried and true method of yesterday. They must of worked because in 1882 5th graders were reading Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll and many more.
DD was definitely taught to read using the Whole Language approach that Linda describes but still has holes that a better understanding of phonics would fill. You can at guess just so many words....
As I refreshed this post, I just noticed flyingspaghettimama's post. I have to say this is a facinating discussion!