Educational CyberPlayGround

Whole Language produced better readers than phonics.

Reliable, Replicated Research

If in fact the following is true, what is its significance? Does early gains by 51%, 67% or even 75% of the lower groupings indicate that over the long haul whole language produces better readers than any and all approaches that stress intensive or explicit phonics?

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a
wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer
be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll
raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not
raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?
yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs.

The following came from CATEnet:

From: Margaret Moustafa
In the last few years we have heard calls for reliable, replicABLE research on how children learn to read.Below is reliable, replicatED, peer-reviewed, empirical research, published in well-respected sources which shows that reading instruction for early readers which focuses on meaning shows greater reading acheivement than reading instruction that focuses on letter-sound correspondences.

Sacks and Mergendoller (American Educational Research Journal, 1997) studied 132 kindergartners in 11 classrooms. They found the children who scored the lowest on entry into kindergarten improved the most in reading achievement in classrooms with contemporary reading instruction and improved the least in phonics-oriented classrooms.

Reutzel and Cooter (Journal of Educational Research, 1990) compared two first-grade classes that had a contemporary reading program with two first-grade classes that had a traditional reading program. They found that the children in the contemporary programs became significantly better readers at the end of the school year than the children in the traditional classes.

Freepon (Journal of Reading Behavior, 1991) compared children in two first-grade classes with a contemporary reading program with children in two first-grade classes with traditional reading programs. She found the children in the two contemporary classrooms not only had a better sense that reading was constructing meaning with print but also were almost twice as successful as the children in the traditional classrooms at sounding out words.

Eldredge, Reutzel, and Hollingsworth (Journal of Literacy Research, 1996) compared the effectiveness of traditional round-robin reading (where children take turns reading a story orally) with shared reading on 78 second graders' reading growth. They found that shared reading typically moved average students from the 50th to the 80th percentile in word analysis., i.e., letter-sound correspondences. They also found that average students in the shared reading group became 20 percent better in oral reading than the students in the round-robin group and the below average students in the shared reading group became 41 percent better than the students in the round robin group in oral reading.

Anderson, Wilkinson, and Mason (Reading Research Quarterly, 1991) asked six third-grade teachers to teach their students four lessons-two lessons with an emphasis on overall story meaning and two lessons with an emphasis on such things as letter-phoneme correspondences and accurate oral reading. They found that the lessons that emphasized overall story meaning led to better outcomes in relation to factors such as students' recall, oral reading, story interest, and lesson time. While all of the reading groups-high, average, and low-benefited from the emphasis on meaning, the average and low groups especially benefited from it.

McTague (Richek & McTague, The Reading Teacher, 1988) taught second- and third-grade children in a remedial reading program to read popular children's books thirty minutes a day for eighteen school days. At the end of the eighteen days (or nine hours) of instruction, without instruction in traditional phonics, the children who had been taught to read in the context of the stories with authentic language did much better in oral reading and comprehension of new reading materials than another group of children of identical age and reading level who had been in the traditional reading instruction program during the same period.

Cantrell (The Reading Teacher, 1999)
studied children in schools where at least 50% of the student population were from low-income families. She compared four multiage primary grade classrooms which focused on reading for meaning and skills taught in context with four multiage primary grade classrooms which taught skills out of context and did not promote meaning-centered reading. She found the students in the meaning emphasis classrooms achieved scores between the 50th and 76th percentile on national norms in reading comprehension whereas the students in classrooms where skills were taught out of context and meaning was not emphasized achieved scores that fell below the 50th percentile.

The 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress (Mullis, Campbell, and Farstrup, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993, p. 30) asked fourth-grade teachers across the U.S. to characterize their reading instruction and then compared the teachers' responses with the students' scores on the NAEP standardized test of reading. This large scale study found that students whose reading instruction emphasized meaning outscored students whose reading instruction emphasized phonics and that students whose reading instruction had little or no emphasis on phonics outscored students whose reading instruction emphasized phonics.
Jim Burke
CATENet Moderator
California Association of Teachers of English (CATE)
WK: (650)762-0100
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