Go read my initial post first to get some context and I'll try to deal with the TAWLers arguments, such that they are, as they come up.
I don't understand how people cannot see that WL is offering MORE strategies, not fewer.
More strategies: yes. More productive strategies: no. Not only have they inserted a bunch of unproductive strategies to confuse naive readers, they've downplayed the most productive strategy, letter-sound correspondence, as the strategy of last resort.
It isn't like taking MOST OF THE LETTERS OUT of the words, it is not requiring every single letter to be agonized over every single time.
But, unfortunately, that is how skilled readers process words. That's what eye-movement research has shown us. Skilled readers do so at a very rapid pace. I would think any teacher of reading would be familiar with this research.
I watched Reading Mastery in Roseville one time in CA, and they were making the kids sound out SAID! Kids who could read better already than that lesson was calling for were penalized for being able to say the words automatically because they weren't slowing down and sounding out the parts.
"Said" is one of the first irregular words taught in the Reading Mastery sequence. We're talking like the second month of kindergarten when kids are just learning how to read. First the word is taught in isolation and then read in connected text. It is a difficult word for children because it is one of the first words they are taught that breaks the phonetic rules.
The kids are taught to sound it out /s/ /a/ /i/ /d/ phonetically and then taught that it is pronounced /s/ /e/ /d/. In this way, the child has a mental hook that the letter combination s-a-i-d equals /s/ /e/ /d/. They wanted to get to the meaning, and were told to stick with the single letters.
A child who can read the passages with no errors is most likely a child that is misplaced in the sequence. This would be a teacher placement problem, not a curriculum problem.
And, despite the effort to make it impossible to read that Call of the Wild passage, it wasn't so impossible, either.
It wasn't meant to be impossible, it should have been at an instructionally comprehensible level, but at a word identification level that was meant to be at the frustration level (80%). It also demonstrates how difficult it is to guess at the omitted words even when read in context and with some phonetic clues and word structure clues provided. It demonstrates that skilled readers aren't able to read a passage with fluency once the phonetic markers are removed. Skilled readers do not rely on context clues to identify unknown words. They do rely on context clues to ascertain meaning, as this TAWLer demonstrated. But, let's not kid ourselves, that's not reading. And, any kid whose decoding skills are so bad that he can only identify 80% of the words is a kid who will have no love for reading even if he can get the gist of the passage through context clues. This is the main fallacy underlying whole language pedagogy.
The example in the Times article, showed the boy "guessing" "pumpkin" and being told to "look at the word." How is that telling him to randomly guess? One clue was how long the word was, but if that did not cause him to actually look more closely at the letters in that word, another clue was surely to follow.
So, here's a few guesses that might have worked just as well as "pea" -- pop, pup, puppy, petunia, and the like.
The boy is guessing because he clearly hasn't been taught that the p stands for /p/ and ea stands for /ee/ or /aa/. All the kid needed to read the word was to know two phonics rules to read the word. Some kids will figure this out. But others won't unless it is explicitly shown to them and ample practice provided.
It is impossible to get what a real supportive reading session would be given one small example like that. The author of the article in the other publication made unfounded assumptions that the boy did not look at the word but at the picture. Well, if the picture was being used to give him the words, he wouldn't have said "pumpkin" then, would he.
Or maybe there was a picture of a pumpkin and a pea and the kid just happened to pick the wrong one. That wouldn't happen if he'd been taught to read correctly now would it. Guessing at pictures isn't reading. And guessing at pictures or predictable text does not translate into reading regular text without pictures.
They didn't point out that he was using background knowledge of what would fit in a sentence that must have been about food, vegetables, or farming...and that he didn't just throw out random words beginning with "p".
Another problem is that many at-risk kids lack the background knowledge that they'll be asked to call on to engage in these whole language guessing games. Again, this argument clearly shows that this TAWLer doesn't know the difference between using background knowledge for word identification as opposed to ascertaining word meaning. Most readers know all the vocabulary and background knowledge to fluently read the Call of the Wild passage, but once the letter identification clues are removed, skilled readers are unable to activate that vocabulary and background knowledge to identify the missing words from the context provided.
This makes me so mad. How can they gloss over the fact that the district is successful by the very measures that are being used to push other programs that they don't want to use?
Except that it's not successful. As I showed here. Madison's Reading First eligible schools are underperforming in the balanced literacy program.
As for the Call of the Wild passage... If a student had that many gaps in their reading, then I would say it is too difficult and they need to read at a lower level. They will spend their whole time trying to figure out the words and make no sense of the story.
Welcome to what reading is like for a kid who has weak decoding skills. Skills they won't be taught explicitly or in a systematic manner in balanced literacy.
And the Jack London example is beyond nonsense, because as someone ... has already said, a text this full of holes is far above the reading level of reader. Guess book choice and teacher guidance count for nothing!
It's an easy test. If the child struggles to identify at least 2 out of every 10 words read, then the level of the book is at the same level of modified Jack London passage I provided. Most books my first grade son comes home with in his balanced literacy class fall into this frustration level category because the books are not carefully vetted for decodability. These teachers really have no clue what they are asking of their students. Apparently, when it comes to whole language instruction, teacher guidance doesn't count for anything.
This guy makes it up as he goes along. Nothing is referenced to any citation. Obviously, he is not planning to debate ... using any recognized, peer reviewed research. He is only out to smash whole language. Makes me wonder why he is so passionate about this when you consider that there are probably fewer than 5% of teachers in the world who even know what whole language is, let along claim to be whole language proponents!
This is a pot, kettle, black moment. This is the crowd that cites their own opinions as research and doesn't know how to design a scientific study if it bit them. Please.
This blog isn't a research paper. I try to cite when I can, but I don't cite every well-known point. As always, if someone doubts any point I make, provide a reason why you doubt it, and request a cite. One will be provided.
Plus, I have nothing against Whole Language per se. I just dislike bad instruction. And, whole language is bad instruction based on bad science practiced by ideologues on unsuspecting children.
There's also a No True Scotsman fallacy thrown in there too. See if you can spot it.
Keep those arguments coming TAWLers. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.