Phonics vs. whole word/ whole of language

Ramesh

When i worked with primary grades i also found half of the students are finding difficulties to read and write by using whole language approach. Its difficult to memorize 100,000 words to teach the students read and write. The phonics approach is working well, Tamil language had 12 vowels and 18 Consonants and 12 CVC, Once children learn this 12+18+12 They will be able to read and write whatever they want. Phonics is simple approach that can apply to teaching reading.

AYOPEJU FALEKULO

Phonics cannot be taught outside of the child developing a rich use of vocabulary, neither can the study of language end at the gateway of phonics! English language is complex, and even if it wasn’t you still need to delve into the structure of words, sentences and continue to build vocabulary knowledge over the years.

I do not believe that we should complicate the life of a child by making them memorize each written word, it is better to start with auditory perception of language structure, that is the child learning that the words they speak are made up of sound (phonemes) , which is phonemic awareness even before they start learning the symbols, they can hear the sounds and know them, then add on the symbols and start reading, then add onto this knowledge of phonograms and continue to build on the structure and grammar of language as the child enters the elementary years.

The whole language concept is something that has its place in elementary years. I really do not think it serves us well to use this as a method to teach 3 to 5 years old how to read, neither does the Phonics method work if it is done without a good foundation in vocabulary building and language use. Both sides of the coin have their use. That is why following the child is so important, if a child can’t get it via one method then you surely will find what works for the child! Anyway that’s my take.

What Does the Research Say?

Because of disagreements over the years about which type of reading instruction is best, phonics or whole language, the National Reading Panel began a study in 1997 to settle the debate. In 2000, the Panel released its findings, stating that there are five essential components that must be taught in an effective reading program: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension.1

Cons of the Whole Language Approach

Aside from overlooking spelling and technical mistakes, the whole language approach can also present problems for students with reading difficulties. Students with dyslexia and other language processing disorders need explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding in order to improve their reading skills. With the high prevalence of processing disorders (15-20% of all students), many reformers believe explicit and systematic phonics instruction should be used to teach every student how to read – in order to prevent these students from falling behind. The whole language approach works for many students, but explicit and systematic phonics instruction works for students of all levels (and greatly decreases spelling and pronunciation errors).

Constructivist Theory

The philosophy of whole language is complex and draws from education, linguistics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Whole language is a constructivist approach to education; constructivist teachers emphasize that students create (construct) their own knowledge from what they encounter. Using a holistic approach to teaching, constructivist teachers do not believe that students learn effectively by analyzing small chunks of a system, such as learning the letters of the alphabet in order to learn language. Constructivist instructors see learning as a cognitive experience unique to each learner’s own perspective and prior knowledge, which forms the framework for new knowledge.

The above are extracts from ‘What is the “Whole Language” Approach to Teaching Reading?’ from   The Reading Horizons Blog (Sept.23, 2010), with my added emphasis. How different is Constructivist Theory from post-modernism?

 

 

 

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The end of institutional religion?

Time and tide wait for no one. That is an aphorism of note. Freedom to think clearly, to learn as circumstances permit, to act responsibly and pragmatically according to an innate conscience – these undermine any established constraints applied by those controlling institutional religions based on authority – especially an authority of questionable provenance.

I do believe that there is an innate (ie. unconscious) yearning in all humans for the numinous, the Divine, God, or the Creator of all – no matter how these are defined. Deep within our souls there does seem to be an unrelenting urge to be fused with the Divine – from which (whom) we probably parted or were split.

While we are destined to live a series of Earthly lives, we evolve through a conversion of a naive pathway – originating from fear, progressing to awe, and then to faith in propitiating the nature (or planetary) ‘gods’ we created – to supporting a relatively ritualised form of worship. These rituals, most likely to have been introduced by shamans, would then have been institutionalised by a rising priesthood.

Unlike the Hindu priesthoods I have experienced, who did not (do not) control us, most priesthoods elsewhere seem to have instituted systems of control over their believers, eg. Egypt, Europe, the Middle East. Power seems to have the effect of an aphrodisiac.

Regrettably, dogma devised to strength the bonds binding believers became instruments in a competitive war – between not only the principal religions, but also between the sects which grew within each of some religions. Did these sectarian differences reflect divergences in ideology or a contest of human power?

Just as there is a growing distrust of politicians (and their acolytes) in Western ‘democratic’ nations, there is a clear distancing of the populace from institutionalised religion. Or, is it only a wish to change the rituals, allied to a ‘de-frocking’ of a priesthood in the interests of church governance by laity?

If I am correct about an innate yearning in us for an intangible Divine, new forms of reaching out will rise to suit some, while others will remain disinterested in the need for a collective expression of faith. Those of us who prefer a one-to-one communion with our Creator will do so in private.

Whether a religious/spiritual belief is expressed privately or collectively, if it is not reflected in an appropriate way of life, we too may go the way of the dodo!

‘Religious pluralism’ in secular schools

How dare religious separatists seek to indoctrinate primary school students in secular state schools in sectarian religion! Church attendances are continually falling. Many parents do not marry, or have their children baptised. Non-religious private celebrants increasingly conduct marriage ceremonies. Only after death can a religious service be expected to occur. This situation defines modern, white, ‘Christian’ Australia, no matter that Roman Catholic (camouflaged as ‘right wing’) politicians are in (temporary) control of federal parliament.

For those who believe in sectarian religion, there are religious schools available in our capital cities for their children. They may even attend church regularly, taking their children with them. Churches exist everywhere for those whose children are seen to need to learn about the benefit of religious affiliation.

Religion is to be lived, and not to be used as a weapon. The ‘forest’ religions of Asia – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc – are lived – without challenge to one another. Only the 3 ‘desert’ religions – and their doctrinal sects – adopt a competitive approach to those who are ‘not of us.’

Taking doctrinal religion into public schools in Australia, using laypersons who are not trained in the art and skills of teaching, would be a retrograde step in a nation doing rather well in integrating the wide ethno-cultural diversity of recent decades.

Do continue to pray as you wish – in your own places of worship or at home. But do not shove divisive doctrinal theology down the necks of innocent and impressionable children. Children need a broad education which emphasises the unity of humankind. Our teachers have done an excellent job so far. Do not interfere with that.

Way back in the 1970s, I drew up an outline of a program for educating primary school children about religion – what it is about, what it means, and so on. This was accepted by: my school board (of which I was chairman); our teachers; all the priests in the national capital, Canberra; and by the A.C.T Schools Authority. In drawing up this outline, I had consulted experts in Flinders University, and other prominent people involved in religious education.

I heard nothing more after I had moved on. Any change, especially emanating from outsiders, is traditionally anathema to the practitioners and protectors of a prevailing paradigm.

Are humans programmed for spiritual experiences?

I had a spiritual experience in a Yoga Ashram. It was an incredibly emotional experience when I was in deep meditation. It was personal.

On the contrary, Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual exposure (refer a relatively recent post of mine) was about the underlying processes of the Universe. His description of the event – in a dream? – was unbelievable. It cannot be discounted. A real experience cannot be sneered away by professional sceptics. We know very little about ourselves and our Earthly home.

Is there a facility in the human brain (and psyche) which enables some of us to have religious or spiritual experiences?

Many years ago I read that some scientist had made the following discovery. When an electrical probe touched a particular part of the brain, the patient reported sensations which seemed to be, or were interpreted as, of a religious nature. What staggered me was the suggestion that the origin of religious experiences had now been found.

As I wrote in one of my books, this is akin to saying that the music, scenes, etc. we experience through radio or television actually originate in these machines!

However, I realised that a specific area of the human brain may be ‘programmed’ (by evolution?) to receive signals which we interpret as religious or spiritual. Surely, we have all been emotionally influenced by beautiful sights, inspiring music, religious chants, and suchlike – up to a level akin to ecstasy.

Neuroscientist Prof. V.S. Ramachandran said “ … with the lie detector we were able to show that the human brain apparently responds particularly strongly to religious ideas … … we concluded that evolution might have equipped the human brain with special circuits for spiritual experiences. That would explain why all people have a religion. … … these are highly speculative ideas … “ (Refer Ramachandran’s article on Consciousness ‘In the Hall of IIlusions’ in Stefan Klein’s ‘We are all stardust,’ – a most interesting book.)

In my view, it pays to have an open mind to achieve a glimpse of reality.

The fall of Singapore

Seventy-five years ago, the great British Empire abdicated its responsibility for protecting its colonial subjects in Malaya (which included the island of Singapore). At the age of 13, my boyhood ended. For almost 4 years, my family and I lived in semi-starvation, and some fear, under a Japanese military occupation.

The stress contributed to the premature death of my father (at 47); my 3 uncles also experienced early death. For most of that Occupation, I lived a lonely unhappy life, away from my family.

Our colonial masters took a hiding from ”short, squinty barbarians” (words allegedly uttered by the English). For weeks, 11 children aged 13 to 2, and their young mothers, watched from a rubber estate as British military trucks rolled south in an unending stream. The little ones used to wave to the troops – who naturally waved back.

I was old enough to wonder why the British were rushing to Singapore. All that the Japanese had to do, I thought, was to cut off the water supply from the mainland. I did not know that the intention of the fast withdrawal was to escape by sea. Some did. Most reportedly did not.

The Japanese were clever. Just as they had landed on the north-east coast of Malaya without significant challenge, by moving through mangrove swamps, they had invaded Singapore by bypassing the causeway. As well, while they chased the British (and Australian?) troops down the highway on the west coast of Malaya, the latter would reportedly arrive at some road junctions only to find a few Japanese waiting for them. Presumably, these Japanese had cycled their way through the rubber estates adjoining the trunk road.

When 2 large British warships were sunk off the east coast, we knew that the British were finished. We were then not to know that Japan would, single-handedly, effectively end the colonial rule of most of Asia by the French, Dutch, and British. When the Europeans reluctantly left during the post-war period, they presumably expressed regret that they had not had the time to teach the ‘natives’ how to govern themselves. Quaintly, the last Governor of Hong Kong has been quoted as actually saying something to that effect – after 99 years of control.

Read ‘Singapore Burning’ by Colin Smith for an interesting portrayal of the way the mighty fell; and some strange behaviour by the rubber barons.

My own experiences and observations are set out in depth in my memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny’. Extracts will be published as posts on this site, to be copied to Facebook and to my book pages on amazon.com.

Separate legal rights for minority populations? (2)

By the third generation, an immigrant cultural group will have accepted the host nation’s institutions and adapted to prevailing social mores. While institutions are necessarily durable, social mores will be an on-going feast, with mutual adaptation.

The cohesive influences in this process are public education, habituation (that is, being  comfortable in  on-going contact through sport or just socialisation with those whose ancestors may once have been ‘them, not us’), and that innate or instinctive reaching out displayed by very young children who have not been taught any prejudice about skin colour, language and other irrelevant matters.

Most importantly, in Australia, everyone is free to pray as they wish, to cook, dress and eat as they wish, and to speak their language freely.  They are only required to accept the host nation’s institutions and social (ie. behavioural) mores, and to respect all other cultural communities.  Immigrants know all about this as they seek to enter Australia.  On what basis, by what right, can they then seek to have the host nation’s institutions altered, especially when religion has been successfully kept separate from governance?

Different laws and different institutions for each separatist ethnic minority immigrant community?  How quaint!

In my second book ‘The Karma of Culture,’ initially published under my birth name Arasa, I deal with the cross-cultural impacts of a diverse immigrant intake, and the potential for Asian cultural and spiritual values to influence Western thinking about democracy, human rights, and societal values.

The book also teases out the implications for immigrants who choose to retain their cultural values and practices unaltered, in terms of a possible diminished access to the prevailing equal opportunity; and examines the consequential benefits of relinquishing inconsistent behaviour and attitudes. 

I am an 88-year old bicultural Asian-Australian who had published three experience-based narratives with analysis on ethnic affairs, multiculturalism, citizenship, refugee entry, and migrant settlement assistance; and a memoir which overlays a blend of history, sociology, and personal experiences with an Asian spirituality onto an integrated Australian persona, under my conjoined Westernised name. 

 

Separate legal rights for minority populations? (1)

A number of Moslem mullahs want sharia law (a law of Islam) to be introduced in Australia, a secular Western nation in which religion and law are kept separate.  The bulk of Moslems in the country are relatively recent arrivals.  Since Islam has no separation between religion and law, are these mullahs seeking a separate legal and cultural existence for members of their religion in a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural, cosmopolitan nation?

Way back in history, it would have been normal for a tribe, which is a collection of extended families bound by blood, to find itself living in proximity to another tribe with different cultural traditions.  They may even co-exist, especially if they were nomadic.  Indeed, it is also likely that some nomadic tribes camped on the outskirts of agrarian settlements.  The normal pattern of human conduct – contest or co-operation or tolerant co-existence – would no doubt have then applied.

However, with the creation of modern nation-states with implicit tribal boundaries, the entry of ‘outsiders’ or foreigners would be subject to control by the rulers of such states.  Border control now applies universally.  Normally, immigrants with divergent cultural values and traditions would remain on the fringe of the host society, as ‘them, not us’!  As long as religion-derived cultural differences are upheld by both host and immigrant communities, co-existence (hopefully peaceful) is all that can be excepted.

In a migrant-collecting nation such as Australia, which offers equal opportunity to all immigrants irrespective of origins, cultural traditions, or religious affiliations, separate and parallel ethno-religious legal structures need to be avoided.  Official policy is integration (as in a fruit salad), not total assimilation or absorption (as in a blended soup).  Immigrants (first generation Australians) may, in order to access the prevailing equal opportunity (known as the ‘fair-go’ ethos), give up certain practices (such as wife-beating or spitting) or even amend some of their cultural prejudices.

The second-generation (the local-born) would unconsciously be bonding closely with the host people.  The latter would themselves have evolved over time through the integration of earlier immigrants.  The third generation would, without any divisive interventions by priests or politicians, now become part of the host people.

This is the first part of one of my articles in www.ezinearticles.com.  My core question is as follows.

Has the war of civilisations commenced?  Prof. Huntington of the USA prophesised that, in the foreseeable future, the great civilisations of mankind are likely to engage in war against one another.  It does not need much imagination to realise that cultural wars will not need armaments of the traditional kind.  The wars, ideologically-driven, will be tactical.  The first of such wars will probably be between the West and Islam, probably because of the way Western colonisers treated the Moslem peoples over the last two or three centuries.

Read Part Two.