Whole Language Principles
Taken from Whitmore, K. F., & Goodman, K. S. (1996). Practicing what we teach: The principles that guide us. In Whitmore, K.F., & Goodman, K.S. (eds.), Whole language voices in teacher education. York, ME: Stenhouse
- Language is the medium of communication, thought,
and learning. It's central to whole language programs.
- Language is authentic when it serves real language
purposes in real speech acts and literacy events.
- Language must be whole and functional to be
comprehended and learned.
- Written language is language: a parallel semiotic
system to oral language.
- Reading and writing are processes of making sense
through written language.
- Making sense of print involves three language cue
systems: graphophonic, syntactic, and semantic
- Language learning is universal. All people can think
symbolically and share a social need to communicate.
- Invention and convention are two forces that shape
language development and concept development.
- Each learner invents language within the convention
of the social language.
- Learning language, learning through language, and
learning about language take place simultaneously (Halliday, undated).
- Written language is learned like oral language: in
the context of its use.
- Learning is an ongoing process. It occurs over time,
in a supportive, collaborative context, and is unique for each learner.
- Reflection is a central part of the learning
process, and self-evaluation is a major part of the reflection process.
- What you know affects what you learn.
- There is a zone of proximal development (Vygotsky
1978) that develops in learners: the range of what they are capable of
learning at any point in time
- Learners must be trusted to assume responsibility
for their own learning.
- Whole language teachers are curriculum makers; they
initiate appropriate learning opportunities for their pupils and invite
them to participate.
- Whole language teachers mediate learning; they do
not intervene and take control of it.
- Whole language teachers are kidwatchers (Y. Goodman
1985); they know their students. Whole language teacher educators are
teacher watchers. They also know their students.
- Teachers are sensitive, as kidwatchers, to learners'
zones of proximal development and provide enough (but not too much)
support and mediation.
- Teachers support learners' ownership over their own
- Teachers must enable students to empower and
- Teachers need to accept diversity and teach for it
- Whole language teachers are advocates for their
- The whole language curriculum is whole in two
senses: it is complete, and it is integrated.
- The whole language curriculum integrates all aspects
of the curriculum and the whole student around themes and inquiries.
- The whole language curriculum is a dual curriculum:
it builds thought and language at the same time that it builds knowledge
- The curriculum starts with learners, building on who
they are, what they know and believe, and where they are going.
- The curriculum reflects the culture and realities of
- The whole language curriculum is broad enough to
include the interests and needs of all learners and deep enough to support
substantive learning at all levels.
- There are no artificial floors and ceilings in whole
language. Learners may start where they are and go as far as their
interests and needs take them
- Whole language brings the outside world into the
classroom by valuing and then relating learners' life experiences to class
room learning experiences.
- Each whole language classroom invents itself as a
learning community (Whitmore and Crowell 1994).
- A major aspect of education is being socialized into
a community: joining the literacy club (Smith 1988).
- Whole language teachers value collaborative learning
communities and consciously work to create a sense of shared involvement.
- Only in democratic classrooms can children learn to
be citizens in a democracy. College classrooms and staff development
programs need to be democratic, too
Goodman, Y.M. 1985. "Kidwatching: Observing
Children in the Classroom." In Observing the Language Learner (pp.
9-18). A. Jaggar and M. T. Smith- Burke,ed. Newark, DE an dUrbana, IL:
Co-published by international Reading Association and National
Council of Teachers of English.
Halliday, M.A.K. undated. "Three Aspects of
Children's Language Development: Learning Language, Learning
Through Language, Learning About Language." In Language Research:
Impact on Educational Settings. G.S. Pinnell and M. Matlin Haussler,
eds. Unpublished manuscript.
Smith, F. 1988. Joining the Literacy Club. Portsmouth, NH. Heinnemann.
Vygotsky, L.S. 1978. Mind and Society. Cambridge", "MA: Harvard University Press
Whitmore, K. F., and C.G. Crowell. 1994. Inventing a Classroom: Life in a Bilingual, Whole Language Learning Community. York, ME: Stenhouse