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ERIC Number: ED498005
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jan
Pages: 33
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Whole-Language High Jinks: How to Tell When "Scientifically-Based Reading Instruction" Isn't
Moats, Louisa
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
In this practitioners' guide, a recognized reading expert explains how educators, parents, and concerned citizens can spot ineffective reading programs that may hide under the "scientifically-based" banner. Although the term "whole language" is not commonly used today, programs based on its premises remain popular. These approaches may pay lip service to reading science, but they fail to incorporate the content and instructional methods proven to work best with students learning to read. Some districts openly shun research-based practices, while others fail to provide clear, consistent leadership for principals and teachers, who are left to reinvent reading instruction, school by school. The purpose of this guide is to help educators and parents spot programs that truly are research based -- and those that are not. Moats exposes scientifically untenable practices in reading instruction, including: (1) use of memorization, picture cues, and contextual guessing for teaching word recognition instead of direct, systematic teaching of decoding and comprehension skills; (2) substitution of teacher modeling and reading aloud for explicit, organized instruction; (3) rejection of systematic and explicit phonics, spelling, or grammar instruction; (4) confusion of phonemic awareness with phonics; (5) reliance on leveled and trade books to organize instruction; and (6) use of whole-language approaches for English language learners. The author suggests ways of separating good from poor programs and explains that good reading programs: (1) use valid screening measures to find children who are at risk and provide them with effective, early instruction in phonology and oral language; in word recognition and reading fluency; and in comprehension and writing skills; (2) interweave several components of language (such as speech sounds, word structure, word meaning, and sentence structure) into the same lessons; (3) build fluency in both underlying reading skills and text reading, using direct methods such as repeated readings of the same text; (4) incorporate phonemic awareness into all reading instruction, rather than treating it as an isolated element; (5) go beyond the notion of phonics as the simple relationship between letters and sounds to include lessons on word structure and origins; (6) build vocabulary from the earliest levels by exposing students to a broad, rich curriculum; and (7) support reading comprehension by focusing on a deep understanding of topic and theme rather than just a set of strategies and gimmicks. Document includes a foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Martin A. Davis, Jr. (Contains 50 endnotes and 1 table.)
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation & Institute. 1701 K Street NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-223-5452; Fax: 202-223-9226; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Guides - Non-Classroom
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Washington, DC.
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001