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« The Elegant Simplicity of Effective Instruction. Part 2 | Main | Next They'll Make the Constitution Unconstitutional »

Wednesday, November 24, 2004



In the spirit of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I've got a money makin' proposition for Professor Plum and his regular readers:

--Whole Typing--

We'll write books about how typing is just about guessing at letters, and that instruction in home row, letter reaches, and other methods of "piece by piece" instruction on how to type words ignores the fact that words are WORDS, not letters. I mean, who could argue with that: do we not call them "words" and not "collections of letters"? (Am I getting the edubabble arguments down, Professor?)

We'll argue that students should just sit down and type, and that when they type "incorrectly," we'll say that they have been confused by someone else's construct that they should have even bothered with letter-by-letter typing, and that they should be given even MORE "typing recovery" time to focus on learning the WORDS they need to type.

We'll even argue that teaching the letters in the "old fashioned" way destroys the fun and enjoyment of typing, and that it is MUCH BETTER to let kids get typing words right away, rather than get bogged down in typing letters one at a time. Geez, who can argue with that?

If it weren't for the business world ....

I was about to say that the business world would see that its new hires did not know how to type, they would do something to change the instruction of its FUTURE hires; but, alas, they have done nothing to stop the travesty of "word guessing" in reading.

I think there's a future in "research" for your graduate school, Professor.


But seriously, perhaps you should consider putting these essays together in a slim volume and float it for publication. It might be a great stocking stuffer for any conservative on your shopping list. Ho ho ho.

Sorry, I know it's still a day too early for Christmas, though the circulars in my paper this morning tell me different.


But seriously, perhaps you should consider putting these essays together in a slim volume and float it for publication. It might be a great stocking stuffer for any conservative on your shopping list. Ho ho ho.

Sorry, I know it's still a day too early for Christmas, though the circulars in my paper this morning tell me different.

John Anderson

I've only read two posts, but as far as I am concerned you are preaching to the choir.

What does a see-and-say whole-language "reader" do when coming across an unknown word without which no sense can be made? Guess. If no guess seems to work? Give up: skip.

What does someone who was schooled before this became the way to read? Guess*. If no guess seems to work? Reach for a dictionary and look it up. Maybe even both, out of curiosity - and the knowledge that said curiosity can be satisfied without having to ask everybody you meet about the word until you find someone who recognizes it.

Which would I want my kids to do? Well, does my having four dictionaries and three encyclopedias in my "Favorites" list give you an idea?

* Even at guessing, the phonics reader has an advantage: not only "what might fit the context" but also "might this word sound like something I have heard and understood in the oral version".


As the science geek that I am, I noticed the good perfesser's scenario of the unskilled reader and the observer:
But we rarely see anything like this guessing process. Even when readers make a high rate of errors, reading is so fast it is hard to imagine that somewhere in their subvocal thinking they perform the mental guess work. The only thing available to the observer of the above reading sample is the reader saying, "James said, (three-second pause) This lion."

This not true any longer; an observer with the right equipment can observe quite a bit more, from the tracking of the eyes to the actual activity of different regions of the brain. One way to look at what the brain is doing is with functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.

I quote from

Dr. Eden and colleagues Peter Turkeltaub, Lynn Gareau, and Dr. Tom Zeffiro of Georgetown, and Dr. Lynn Flowers of Wake Forest University, studied 41 people aged between six and 22 using fMRI to examine which parts of the brain were employed when they saw words. Using a method where subjects were asked to locate tall letters within a word - forcing them to read the words implicitly - the researchers correlated brain activity with scores on reading tests to see if more advanced readers had more activity in certain brain areas than less experienced readers, and vice versa. Then they studied brain activity during reading related to scores on tests of phonological skills.

The fMRI scans showed that young children just learning to read used the left temporal regions of their brains; increases in age and the associated gains in reading, were characterized by a suppression of the visual areas of the right hemisphere - supporting Orton's theory.

The study also showed that the same locus in the left temporal lobe engaged during reading in younger children is also more active if children are good at phonemic awareness, such as understanding that "pop" without "p" is "op." These measures are frequently employed for behavioral evaluation of children at risk for developing reading problems and these new findings provide an anatomical correlate of this ability.

In other words, whole-language theory is subject to scientific testing... and the brain activity of readers is different from that of guessers, proving it wrong. It's long past time to stop considering the advocacy of such nonsense as "academic freedom" and put it firmly in the category of fraud and charlatanism.

I got this with
The first result I got was on hyperlexia, which is quite interesting in its own right.

Sean Walmsley


--Since you seem to be so committed to scientific research, would you please provide me with scientific evidence that whole language has for two decades controlled how reading is defined and taught in schools, how reading failure is understood and handled, and how reading teachers are trained and certified?


The evidence is in ed schools, Sean, and in state departments of public instruction, and in the organizations that certify ed schools (NCATE, for example), and in the organizations that support (or guide? or legitimize) what goes in in different areas of ed schools (e.g., International Reading Association, National Education Association, National Council of Teachers of English).

Just examine ed school course syllabi in reading; or (until No Child Left Behind) state standard courses of study; or what was advocated by NCATE, the NEA, the IRA, and the NCTE); and the articles and books written by ed professors; and the sorts of questions asked on the PRAXIS exam about reading; and the methods of instruction used in schoosl (again, until No Child Left Behind) . With rare exceptions (Texas, some universities in Florida and Oregon, and the occasional renegade ed professor) it's been whole language.

There have even been books, on the order of apologies, by persons who pushed whole language--Bill Honig, former head of ed for California, described how whole language took over California. [I forget the name of the book.]

Tribe of Dan

"It's Elementary!: Elementary Grades Task Force Report"
by Bill Honig, California Dept of Educ Staff, California Dept. of Education

Is this the one, Dr. P?? It is selling for .18 per used copy.

Vic Charlton

Please see the Frankenstyle Monster (Frank[Smith]Ken[Goodman])Style

15. RALI Volume 4 Number 2

* The Frankenstyle Monster
* The Reading Foundation
* The Scandal of Britain's Illiterate Kids
* Letters


I'd appreciate comments.

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