Whole language The “Whole Language” theory was created in the 80s by a group of American educators to help children learn how to read, but it was extended to foreign language learning. This theory is based on the principle that a foreign language must be taught as a whole, without being divided into its components, such as grammar and vocabulary, emphasizing that students must learn how to read and write in a natural way, the same way they learn their native language, and giving more importance to activities which are relevant to the students.
There has been lots of discussion if this theory is na approach, a method, a philosophy or a belief. A research shows that “Whole Language” is considered more as na approach, but each teacher implements the theory in their classroom according to their interpretation and their students characteristics.
APPROACH· Language theory: Language is seen through an interactional perspective, i.e., it is considered a vehicle of personal relations. It is always used in a social context and applied in real situations which are relevant to the students.. Learning theory: There is an emphasis on learning authenticity, because, only applying what has been learned in a real situation, the subject or topic will be internalized. Learning in “Whole Language” must be authentic, personalized, student-directed and collaborative. Students’ experiences, their needs, interests and aspirations are also important.
DESIGN· Objective: To learn applying the language in a real context. · Syllabus/Curriculum: Always using what was leaned in real situations. Content is organized according to the students’ needs to communicate. · Activities: Reading authentic texts, writing to a real audience, using texts produced by the students and always interact “writing”, “reading” and other skills.
· Students’ roles: Learners are collaborators and also evaluators of their own and others’ learning, with the help of the teacher. They select learnign materials and activities. · Teachers’ roles: As it is a student-centered approach, the teacher is seen as a facilitator and an active participant in the learning community rather than an expert passing knowledge. The teacher has the responsibility of negotiating a plan of work with the learners. · Whole Language instruction advocates the use of real-world material rather than commercial texts. Materials: literature pieces, newspapers, signs, handbills, storybooks... – brought to class by the students.
PROCEDURES- The use of literature- The use of process writing- Encouragement of cooperative learning amont students- Concern for students’ attitude- Activities that are often used in Whole Language instruction are:- Individual and small group reading and writing- Ungraded dialogue journals- Writing portfolios- Writing conferences- Student-made books- Story writing
- Many of these activities are also common in other instructional approaches, such as Communicative Language Teaching, Content-Based Teaching, and Task-Based Language Teaching.- What differs in Whole Language teaching is not the incidental use of such activities based on the topic of the lesson or an item in the syllabus but their use as part of an overall philosophy of teaching and learning that gives a new meaning and purpose to such activities.- The Whole Language movement is not a teaching method but an approach to learning that sees language as a whole entity.- Advantages claimed for Whole Language are that it focuses on experiences and activities that are relevant to learners’ lives and needs, that it uses authentic materials, and that it can be used to facilitate the development of all aspects of a second language.
- Critics, however, see it as a rejection of the whole ESL approach in language teaching and one that seeks to apply native-language principles to ESL.- Whole Language proposals are seen as anti-direct teaching, anti- skills, and anti-materials, assuming that authentic texts are sufficient to support second language learning that skill development will follow without special attention.