The Whole Language Approach to Reading

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  • 0:00 What Is Whole Language?
  • 0:47 Teaching Language Arts 101
  • 2:29 Roots of the Whole…
  • 4:01 WLA in the Classroom
  • 5:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
The whole language approach is a term we hear batted around in the educational field, but does anyone really know what it means? This lesson will define the whole language approach and look at the practice.

What Is Whole Language?

In education, reading and writing instruction doesn't always look the same. There are many different philosophies and approaches to teaching children language arts. The whole language approach to reading is a philosophy that stresses the importance of children thinking about their thinking, or being metacognitive. The whole language approach (WLA) focuses on children making sense of skills used in reading and writing, as opposed to just memorizing letter sounds and symbols. When did the WLA approach become popular, and why use it? Let's take a peek into an instructional methods class at a university that's learning about the WLA.

Teaching Language Arts 101

In today's class, the professor, Dr. Tee, is teaching two approaches to teaching language arts: whole language and phonics.


Many people learn to read using a traditional method that relies on the memorization of letters and the sounds these letters make. This is called phonics. Teachers who use phonics to teach reading and writing typically follow a systematic approach that doesn't have context to real text, meaning words are learned apart from books or other written print. Instead, children learn letters, usually beginning with A and ending with Z, along with the sounds associated with each letter. They then put letter sounds together to blend sounds. You have likely been told to sound a word out as a young reader. Your teacher or parent meant to use your understanding of phonics to decode a word.

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