EuroCALL 2002, Aug. 14-17

May Main Page
What Chinese Students Need
Featured ESL Professional
Teaching Vocabulary Through Reading
Can Adult ESL Learners Fly?
Shakespeare in the ESL Classroom?
Developing Storylines
An Index of ESL MiniConference Stories
Notes and contacts
Search the site

Submit your email,
join ESL MiniConference

ESL MiniConference Online!

Whole Language Isn't That Radical--And It Works!
Grammatical Accuracy Still Highly Valued

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 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 language.

Report by Lynn Dosch
John Marshall High School
Rochester, Minnesota

2002 ESL MiniConference Online