When asked to contribute her FLTEACH listserv remarks
for an ESL MiniConference Online article, Lynn Dosch answered,
"This whole language thing has got my dander up...you have my
blessings." She feels as strongly in favor of whole language
as Blaze Ryan does against the approach.
I'm afraid I have to take issue with Blaze Ryan's analysis of whole language. I was
an elementary teacher before teaching French and I taught whole language.
Good whole language doesn't ignore grammar or spelling. I taught nouns,
verbs, etc in 4th grade and while our drafts of writing were full or errors
in spelling and grammar, final copies were always in good English. I am not
the only one who taught this way, less you think I am an anomaly.
Now I love grammar too and still have my high school Warner's grammar. I
loved learning to diagram sentences. But I've asked my educated friends
whether or not they need to know grammar and the answer is universally no,
as long as they speak and write correctly. I have to think about what
certain grammar points are (like transitive and intransitive verbs), but I
still can use them correctly in English and in French.
Now in French, I teach using a whole language approach with TPR and TPRS. I
used to teach direct and indirect objects as grammar topics in French 2 and
it took weeks and the students still didn't use them correctly. Now in
storytelling, students have been using indirect objects since first year and
they speak and write them correctly without knowing they are indirect
objects. Students are much more successful in using object pronouns now
than they were when I taught grammar directly. By 3rd and 4th years,
students are studying grammar more traditionally and are using all they know
about the patterns of grammar to make sense of them. They transition to this
more structured study and greater use of grammar to dsecribe the grammar
patterns without any problems.
I've come to believe that if kids can use the stuff correctly, it doesn't
matter to me if they know the grammar rule or the name we call it
grammatically. My job is to teach them to speak, listen, read and write.
There is time later for courses on the structure of language for those who
like me love language structure and not just talking and reading the
Report by Lynn Dosch
John Marshall High School
2002 ESL MiniConference Online