“Education is the most powerful weapon which
you can use to change the world.”
Whole Language was created in the 1980s by a group of
U.S educators concerned with the teaching of language arts,
that is, reading and writing in the native language (L1).
The teaching of reading and writing in the L1 (also called
the teaching of literacy) is a very active educational
enterprise worldwide that has led to a number of different
approaches and methodologies.
One of these approaches focuses on decoding, which is the
teaching of language components separately (grammar,
vocabulary, word cognition, & phonics).
Whole Language argues that language should be taught as a
Whole Language instruction is a theory of language instruction
developed to help young children learn to read, and to the teaching of ESL
(English as a Second Language).
Whole Language approach emphasizes learning to read and write
naturally with a focus on real communication and reading and writing for
In the 1990s, Whole Language became popular in the US as a
motivating and innovative way of teaching language arts to primary
In language teaching, Whole Language shares a
philosophical and instructional perspective with
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) since
it emphasizes on the importance of meaning and
meaning making in teaching and learning.
Whole Language also relates to natural approaches
to language learning since it is designed to help
children and adults learn an L2 in the same way
children learn their L1 (esp. in ESL case
Theory Of LanguageTheory Of Language
Whole Language views language from an
interactional perspective. In this perspective,
language functions as a vehicle for human
Heavy emphasis on is placed on “authenticity,”
on conversation. For example: in mastering the
sociolinguistic signals for apologizing, a Whole
Language perspective requires an authentic
situation in which one truly needs to apologize
(esp. in ESL classes).
Theory Of LanguageTheory Of Language
Whole Language also views language as a vehicle
for internal “interaction,” for egocentric speech,
for thinking. We also use language to think (Rigg,
A Functional model of language is also referred
to in Whole Language because language is seen
as something that is used for meaningful
purposes and to carry out authentic functions
(esp. for ESL Adult classes).
Theory Of LearningTheory Of Learning
The learning theory underlying Whole Language is in the
humanistic and constructivist schools.
Whole Language is said to be authentic, personalized, self-
directed, collaborative, and pluralistic. Such
characteristics are to focus learner attention and to
Constructivist learning theory hold that knowledge is
constructed, rather than received or discovered.
Constructivist learners create meaning, learn by doing,
and work collaboratively in mixed groups on common
Objectives in Whole LanguageObjectives in Whole Language
Integration of reading, writing, and other skills (listening
The use of authentic literature rather than “artificial.”
A focus on real and natural events rather than on
specially designed written stories which do not relate
to the students’ experience.
Reading is conducted for the purpose of comprehension.
Use of student-produced texts rather than teacher-
generated or other-generated texts (esp. in ESL classes).
Whole Language instruction advocates the use of real-
world materials rather than commercial texts.
Students are selectors of learning materials.
Choice is vital in a whole language class, because
without the ability to select activities, materials, and
conversational partners, the Ss cannot use language for
their own purpose.
Schools make use of class sets of literature, both
fictional and nonfictional.
Learning & TeachingLearning & Teaching
Reading for the purpose of comprehension.
Writing for a real audience and not simply to practice
Writing as a process through which learners explore and
Integration of reading, writing and other skills.
Reading and writing in partnership with other
Learner & Teacher RolesLearner & Teacher Roles
The teacher is seen as a facilitator.
The teacher is an active participant in the learning community, and not
an expert passing on knowledge to the Ss.
The teacher teaches Ss, and not the subject matter.
The teachers creates a climate that enables collaborative learning.
The learner collaborates with his classmates, and with the teacher (pair
work and whole group activities).
Students are evaluators of their learning process with the help of the
The learner is self-directed, his experiences are used as resources to
enrich the learning process.
The use of literature.
The use of process writing (pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing).
Encouragement of cooperative learning among Ss (pair work and whole group
Concern for Ss’ attitude.
Individual and small group reading and writing.
Ungraded (with no grade in class) dialogue journals.
The Whole Language movement is not a teaching method but
an approach to learning that sees language as a whole entity.
Each language teacher is free to implement the approach
according to the needs of particular Ss and classes.
Advantages claimed for Whole Language are as follows: focuses
on experiences and activities that are relevant to Ss’ lives and needs, use
of authentic materials, it can be used to facilitate the development of
all aspects of an L2.
Whole Language promotes fluency at the expense of accuracy.
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