Cutting to the chase: The discredited whole language teaching method emphasizes “pre-reading strategies” because students who have not been taught phonemic awareness/decoding skills (phonics) cannot sound out words well enough to free up their brains to comprehend the text.  

To get around those inherent problems with whole language, the whole language proponents have come up with a strategy called “pre-reading” which often is so detailed and time consuming that the students know all about the story without ever having to sound out the words and actually read them.  

Now a big argument has erupted over the Common Core Standards between those who know it is crucial for students to achieve mastery in sounding out words to the automaticity level vs. those whole language proponents who rely upon their pre-reading strategies (i.e., meta cognitive strategies) that actually eliminate the need for students to be able to read the text.   

The empirical reading research done by NIH using MRI’s and cognitive reading instrumentation prove that good readers read almost every single word; therefore, good reading curriculum should require children to sound out individual phonemes,  and segment/blend them into words — that leads to sentences, that lead to paragraphs, that lead to entire texts. This is the part-to-the-whole concept that follows the way the brain develops in humans.   

The “reading wars” that are occurring over the Common Core Standards pit those who follow the cognitive brain research vs. those who practice whole language strategies, including time-consuming pre-reading methods that end up giving students a “crutch” so that they don’t feel as if they ever need to learn to sound out the words fluently, automatically, and correctly.   

In one kindergarten example, the teacher spends 20 minutes preparing children for a six-minute reading.

 By the time they actually read the book, “there wasn’t a single shred of an idea in there that the kids didn’t already know,” he said. “What they were learning was that reading [the text] wasn’t really necessary.”

 …”In too many classrooms, the actual text never enters the discussion,” he said. “It’s all about kids’ feelings about it, or their experiences related to it. The teacher spends 45 minutes wallowing in that space, but never gets into the information in the text.”

Common Standards Ignite Debate Over Pre-reading

By Catherine Gewertz

Vol. 31, Issue 29, Pages 1,22-23

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