A whole language approach to literacy in a grade four/five classroom

Smith, Edith Emma (1989) A whole language approach to literacy in a grade four/five classroom. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (35MB)


This two year exploratory study compared a basal reader approach to the teaching of language arts in grades four and five with a whole language approach which used children’s literature, magazines, magazines and a variety of functional reading materials as the vehicle of instruction. The purpose of the study was to identify a teaching method which would most successfully promote the language arts competencies of thirty-nine rural children in a multigrade (four/five) classroom environment. The impact of the two types of school curricula on three criterion measures of language arts achievements were estimated by an ordinary least squares regression method. The outcome variables were reading, writing and spelling. -- To control for the possible confounding effects of home background and prior scholastic achievement, these variables were added to the equations as covariates. An accurate linear composite reflecting the conventional socioeconomic status variable could not be constructed; hence, was dropped from the analysis. Unexpectedly, however, the sex variable for the grade four/five students proved to have significant predictive value. Thus, both sex differences and cognitive ability were selected as the covariates. In effect, the impact of curricular treatments - basal reader versus whole language methods - on reading writing and spelling were estimated while controlling for sex and ability. -- Since whole language methodology is currently regarded as an innovative teaching procedure it was referred to as the experimental treatment. It was found that the impact of whole language on reading performance was negligible though the relationship was in the hypothesized direction. While the same inconclusive finding held for spelling it was argued that this result had important practical implications since spelling is not formally taught as a language skill in the whole language curriculum in the same way that it is when using a spelling text. -- While both reading and spelling competencies proved unresponsive to the experimental treatment compared to the basal reader method, this was not the case with writing. Children’s writing was responsive [at the p ≤ 0.10 level of significance] to the experimental treatment when controlling for sex differences and ability. Finally, it should be noted that sex differences accounted for variance in both reading and writing literacies, while cognitive ability accounted for achievement in reading and spelling. -- In sum, in this exploratory study the whole language approach seemed to be a marginally better methodology for promoting elementary school literacy. Since there is little research demonstrating the instructional advantages of whole language it was claimed that these findings may have important implications for pedagogical practice. Note, however, that the teacher using whole language methodology requires many more resource over and above the standard basal reader in order to adequately meet the literacy needs of elementary school pupils.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/4321
Item ID: 4321
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 166-175.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 1989
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Language arts (Elementary)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics