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Tips for Parents:  Whole Language | PDF

Español/Spanish: Consejos para padres - La lengua completa

What is whole language?

Whole language is the integration of listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing, and representing into meaningful learning. Whole language is a whole thing. The emphasis is on student-involved and student-directed learning experiences. With whole language, learning occurs in meaningful ways. This Tips for Parents will give you ideas how to help your child use whole language.

How is whole language different from reading?

Traditional reading programs tend to teach independent skills in isolation. Whereas a skills-based reading program teaches students by moving from the part to the whole, whole language instruction moves from the whole to the part:

Skill Based Approach: letter-->sound/symbol-->words/phrases-->sentences-->story/passage--MEANING/COMPREHENSION

Whole Language Approach: MEANING/COMPREHENSION-->story/passage-->sentences-->words/phrases-->sound/symbol-->letter

Tips for Parents: How do children learn?

Think about how children learn—they develop strategies to communicate at a very early age. Children learn to become highly skillful talkers because we immerse them, from birth, in a world of speech.

If children are to become as proficient in reading and writing as they are with talking, they must be immersed in a world of print.

The link between language and the written word is the foundation of whole language.

What does a teacher do in a whole language classroom?

A whole language teacher sees children as individual, curious, natural learners and not as reading groups—(top, middle, or low).

A whole language teacher is committed to teaching children and not just a particular basal reading program. The teacher’s focus is on providing language-rich learning experiences.
Children learn to read by reading—and to write by writing. Using a child-centered approach, students in whole language classrooms learn to read and write because there are real reasons to do so. 

A whole language classroom provides a safe and non-threatening environment: validating children, respecting their ideas and opinion, and encouraging risk-taking.

Tips for Parents: What can parents do?

  • Create a home environment that is “print rich”, encouraging reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
    Demonstrate the whole language process. As you read, write, listen, or speak, allow your child to share in your language activities.
    Set expectations. Children are influenced by the expectations of the adults around them. When you believe in your children, they will believe in themselves.
    Teach responsibility. Children grow in self-reliance if they are encouraged to make decisions in their daily lives.

For more information:

The US Department of Education’s Helping Your Child Become a Reader

The US Department of Education’s A Guide to Reading Tips for Parents

Whole Language video from The Learning Community

Cowen, John E. “A Balanced Approach to Beginning Reading Instruction: A Synthesis of Six Major U.S. Research Studies."  International Reading Association, 2003.

MacGowan-Gilhooly, Adele. “Achieving Clarity In English: A Whole-Language Book." Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2001.

Cómo ayudar a su hijo a ser un buen lector del US Department of Education

Una guía de consejos prácticos sobre la lectura para los padres del US Department of Education

You may also find these Tips for Parents helpful:

Tips for Parents: Parent Involvement

Tips for Parents: Recommended Books

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