The Whole Language Debate

A WebQuest for Introduction to Early Childhood Education EDUC-300-01
Spring 2004

Designed by Logan Okita

Literacy is an important life skill.
Introduction | Learners | Standards | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits | Student Page


Welcome!  This WebQuest is designed to provide you with the resources and opportunities to explore two forms of emergent literacy:  Whole language and phonics-based.  Although and because education is political, you as a future educator will eventually come across these two forms.  You will be able to make better decisions if you make informed decisions.  This superficial WebQuest is designed to help you make these informed decisions in the future.

Whole language approach is the philosophy of literacy development that advocates the use of real literature--reading, writing, listening, and speaking--to help children become motivated to read and write (Morrison 327).  It is also known as sight word or look-say.  Whole language is a method used in emergent literacy.  Another method is based on phonics instruction and places an emphasis on teaching letter-sound correspondence.  After learning the correspondence between letters and sounds, children are able to combine sounds to form words and eventually make automatic connections between words and sounds outside of the classroom.

"Children who are phonemically aware can think about and manipulate sounds in words. They know when words rhyme or do not; they know when words begin or end with the same sound; and they know that a word like bat is composed of three sounds /b/ /a/ /t/ and that these sounds can be blended into a spoken word. Popular rhyming books, for example, may draw children's attention to rhyming patterns, serving as a basis for extending vocabulary (Ehri & Robbins 1992). Using initial letter cues, children can learn many new words through analogy, taking the familiar word bake as a strategy for figuring out a new word, lake"  (NAEYC Position Statement).


By the end of their time using this WebQuest, students will be able to make an informed decision about the type of emergent literacy curriculum they feel is most successful by contributing to a discussion of this content and/or by using these materials in subsequent professional work.

By the end of their time using this WebQuest, parents will be able to identify which type of emergent literacy curriculum is being used in their child's classroom by observing the classroom, assignments, child's progress, and speaking with teachers.  Parents will also be able to make informed decisions about their child's education based on this knowledge.


Your task for this WebQuest is very simple.  You are to look at the different web sites, articles, and books to help you to become informed about emergent literacy.  


Resources Needed

There are several books that may prove to be helpful.  These books are available at the Pacific University library:

  • Goodman, Kenneth S. ed.  The Whole Language Evaluation Book.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann Educational Books, Inc. 1989.
  • Meyer, Richard J.  Phonics Exposed.  New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2002.
  • Krashen, Stephen D.  Three Arguments Against Whole Language & Why They Are Wrong.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann Educational Books, Inc. 1999.
  • Brown, Hazel and Cambourne, Brian.  Read and Retell.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann Educational Books, Inc. 1987.
  • Government document.  Put Reading First.  September 2001.


Students will be asked to explain their opinions and the basis of these opinions to the class.  The class will not criticize the opinions of others, but be open to other opinions and provide evidence to support their own opinion.

Credits & References

College of Education, Pacific University, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove, OR  97116

Supervising Professor:  Mark Bailey

The WebQuest Page and the Design Patterns page are available online to further assist the development of technological tools in classrooms.

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Last updated on (April 29, 2004). Based on a template from The WebQuest Page