Whole Word Approach
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Just Teach Whole Words!

Many have argued because our language is so erratic, a whole word approach is best. After all, most whole words are pronounced consistently, except for a few like "polish" and "Polish"; "read" and "read" as in "today I shall read but yesterday I read the newspaper". A major difficulty with the whole word approach is the high probability of memory overload.

When Chinese scholars are studying the picture portion of their language, in which a graphic symbol stands for a specific word, after memorizing a few thousand words, they begin to carry dictionaries with them; their memories are not sufficient, i.e., they become overloaded. Similarly we have found that many of the students who, around fourth or fifth grade, are labeled "learning disabled" (LD), are students who employ a whole word strategy; they have few or no decoding skills and are probably suffering from memory overload.

Obviously many students do learn to read using primarily a whole word approach. But we have found that "good" readers who are beginning the fourth grade, who have never been taught the decoding skills we recommend, do in fact have such decoding skills. When given our units in isolation, in nonsense words, or in real words, they know nearly all of them They have discovered for themselves what "works" in decoding our language. By contrast, "poor" readers in seventh grade do not have such decoding skills. When given our units in isolation, in nonsense words or in real words, they know very few of them. (Usually they know only the units that are also whole words in our language like "an" and "can".) They have not been able to discover the elements of our language that help break the code for reading. The CRP teaches the consistencies in our language directly, rather than relying on discovery learning.

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