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Thank you for such
Old 06-09-2006, 08:00 AM
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an informative post, and thank you for backing up what you say. I am going to disagree with you, but I appreciate that you have really read and thought about what you post. I get so tired of teachers who don't even know what they're talking about bashing whole language--yet they can't even define whole language! So I appreciate that you are knowledgeable.

I stand by whole language, as well as the NCTE and the IRA. The reason I say this is because I can't believe the CRAP that passes for writing instruction on this board, and in classrooms across the country. Basic Writing Skills. Empowering Writers. The Write Stuff. Step Up to Writing. Write Reflections. All these programs are geared toward teachers who have no clue in the world how to teach writing or how to evaluate it.

Diagramming sentences, or spending inordinate amounts of time on grammar/parts of speech instruction is such a waste of time, yet I read over and over on here not only that teachers are wasting time that way, but they want better ways to do it! No one here has been able to give me a satisfactory answer yet when I ask them exactly HOW this helps their kids become better writers. The teacher happens to like doing it, so that's the instruction the kids get.

I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is to read about teachers giving kids worksheets to do, and calling that language arts instruction. Kids need to WRITE, not do worksheets. I have said before that I think the main reason that teachers who do not teach writing in a writer's workshop is that they lack more than just basic classroom management skills. Over and over, I've been told that it's not possible to keep the other kids on task while they take three whole minutes to conference with a student. That's just plain sad. Teachers can't manage kids, so they deliver sub-par instruction.

I can tell you that my kids write heads and shoulders above all the other kids at their grade level in the district--and I am one of the only whole language, writer's workshop teachers around. Yet all I hear is that it just can't work.

Having ranted, I will say that I understand that some who read this document want things set in concrete: here is the standard we propose, here is how to meet it. The problem with that is, whole language, as stated, is a PHILOSOPHY and not a program. So no, there is no whole language website, but there's a BWS site. No one person pioneered or thought up whole language. Unlike the programs out there, no one profits from teachers deciding to do whole language. If you've had enough hours in your undergrad (I'm talking about majoring in English, not education--education, sorry, is a pseudo-degree which prepares a person to do very little in the way of actual teaching. Many states have discontinued that degree altogether, and all should) then whole language is really the best answer. It hits all kids at their level ALL THE TIME and is based on the teacher's thoughful diagnosis and reflection. Unfortunately, many teachers feel safer with a program like BWS that gives them all the worksheets they could ever need, and they don't have to reflect on a thing. Just grade the worksheets.

I'm sticking with whole language, as I know the instruction I give is far superior to the worksheet queens' instruction. And I stand by the NCTE and the IRA (I also hold a minor in reading instruction--18 hours in my undergrad. Most teachers are also woefully unprepared to teach reading, but that's another rant). These organizations have done more to promote best practice (did you know that today's recognized best practice, all of it, came from these very people?) than the superintendent (yes! superintendent!) who made up BWS, or any of the other for-profit programs out there. The people who AREN'T selling a program are the people you should be listening to.
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