Cognitive Constructivism & Social Constructivism: Whole Language

*Content adapted from Maddux, C. D., Johnson, D. L., & Willis, J. W.  (1997).  Educational computing: Learning with tomorrow's technologies.  Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

The constructivist classroom is an environment where students build or construct their own knowledge. That does not mean they work alone or that they do not learn from what others have learned. To the contrary, many activities are hands-on and involve building on the work of others. Problem solving is often done within cooperative groups, and the tasks are meaningful to the lives of the students. This is the context of a whole language classroom. Proponents of this approach to teaching literacy stress the importance of relating what is new to what is known. After converting this to Piagetian jargon, we would say the student is given opportunities to assimilate and accommodate (http://web.psych.ualberta.ca/~mike/Pearl_Street/Dictionary/contents/A/adaptation.html) in a continuos process of achieving equilibrium (http://web.psych.ualberta.ca/~mike/Pearl_Street/Dictionary/contents/E/equilibration.html) and building schema (http://www.valdosta.peachnet.edu/~whuitt/psy702/cogsys/piaget.html). Perhaps the most fundamental principle of the whole language approach is that written language is learned the way oral language is. Children are expected to learn to read and write as they learned to talk, that is gradually, without a great deal of direct instruction. Learning is emphasized more than teaching. There is no division between first learning to read and later reading to learn. Whole language approaches also tend to emphasize writing about what the child already knows and can explain verbally. Early "writing" activities, for example, might involve the child describing his or her neighborhood and the teacher writing what the child says on a large piece of paper.

For more information on whole language approaches to reading and language arts you can click on the links below:


What is the whole language philosophy?

In addition to giving introduction, definition, examples of reading approaches, this web page lists several features of whole language approach.  It also describes some characteristics of a whole language philosophy.

URL: http://www.sil.org/lingualinks/library/literacy/glossary/cjJ590/vao1750.htm

Phonics vs. Whole Language Which is Better?

This web page focuses on the ongoing debate over the best way to teach children to read focuses on two methods: phonics-based and whole language reading programs. There have been countless arguments on each side, but never any strong enough to convince people that one is clearly better than the other. Here are some of the interesting paragraphs: URL: http://www.superkids.com/aweb/pages/features/reading/phonics.shtml


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