In this lesson, we’ll examine how to teach reading using whole-to-part strategies, including what psycholinguistics says about the ways words differ from each other.
Raza is a new teacher and he’s very excited. He really wants to help his students succeed, and to learn to love reading like he does. But he’s a little worried, too.
He knows that many students in his school struggle with reading and other academic subjects. What should he do? How should he teach reading to help his students succeed?An instructional strategy is a way of approaching teaching something. It’s like a road map for how to teach a topic. For example, Raza can teach reading many different ways: he can have students follow along as he reads to them, teach them to use their fingers to trace the words, or he could teach students how to sound out unfamiliar words. All of these are different instructional strategies.To help Raza decide how to teach reading, let’s look at some common instructional strategies, including psycholinguistics, whole-to-part, and reader-based strategies.
Raza wants to figure out the best way to teach his students how to read.
And he wants them to learn not only how to read, but also to learn to love reading.One of his friends suggested that one place to look for how people think and learn is not in the educational field, but in the psychology field. According to Raza’s friend, many psychologists study how people think and learn, and what they find out can help educators like Raza be better at teaching.Raza’s friend is on to something. Psycholinguistics is a field of study that combines cognitive psychology and linguistics. Essentially, psycholinguistics brings together information on how people learn with information about the study of language. In turn, teachers like Raza can use psycholinguistics to help mold their teaching.
Psycholinguistic studies show that we decode information on three levels when reading: visual decoding involves noticing the differences in the shapes of letters and words; syntactic decoding involves noticing the differences in the sounds of letters and words; and semantic decoding involves understanding the differences in the meaning of the words.If someone only notices the differences in the shape of the word ‘dog’ and the shape of the word ‘button,’ they aren’t going to get very far in understanding what they are reading. They are only processing words at the visual level.Semantic decoding is the deepest level of processing and involves knowing that a dog and a button are very different from each other! This is the level of decoding that Raza wants his students to be able to do. Yes, they should also be able to visually and syntactically decode, but semantic decoding is the ultimate goal.
But if semantic decoding is the goal, how does Raza get his students there? How can he teach them to semantically process information, while also instilling in them a love of reading?One instructional strategy that aims to do just that is whole-to-part or whole language reading instruction.
In this approach, reading is taught through a text-rich environment instead of through explicit phonics instruction. So instead of teaching students how to sound out words, Raza will focus his efforts on surrounding his students with written language and will read to them. Through this, they will learn to read.Explicit phonics instruction focuses on visual and syntactic decoding, hoping that it will lead to semantic decoding. For example, Raza might teach his students to recognize the letters and the sounds each letter makes.
Then they would learn to put the letters together to sound out words.In contrast, whole-to-part instruction tries to bypass the visual and syntactic decoding and go straight for semantic decoding. By filling his room with written language and continually exposing his students to texts, Raza hopes they will learn semantic decoding naturally, kind of like how people learn their first language by simply being surrounded by it.One variant on whole language instruction is reader-based instruction, which focuses on offering students texts and letting them discover their texts naturally. For example, Raza might have lots of different books available in his classroom and let each student pick the books that they want to read, instead of focusing on having the class read the same book. Since everyone’s interests are different, reader-based instruction is meant to make reading enjoyable for everyone.
An instructional strategy is a way of approaching teaching. Psycholinguistics combines the fields of cognitive science and linguistics to create strategies based on what we know about how people think and how language develops. According to psycholinguistics, we decode information on three levels: visual, or how letters and words look; syntactic, or how letters and words sound; and semantic, or what letters and words mean. Semantic decoding is the deepest of the three.
One psycholinguistic strategy is whole-to-part instruction, also called whole language, which involves teaching reading by exposure to a text-rich environment instead of through explicit phonics instruction. Reader-based instruction focuses on offering students texts and letting them discover their texts naturally.
Once this lesson concludes, you should be successful at:
- Defining instructional strategy
- Describing psycholinguistics and the three levels of decoding information
- Explaining how whole-to-part instruction is used to teach students