A Case Study of Literacy Development Through Whole Language in a Tenth-Grade Language Arts Classroom
Flora, Sharon Ashman
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The Problem: The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe and document the perceptions of twenty-two tenth-grade English students and their two language arts teachers as they implemented Atwell's whole language reading/writing workshop approach toward the development of true literacy, which was defined in this study as the ability to use critical thinking skills to solve problems. Procedures: The researcher was a participant observer in the classroom approximately twice a week, one hour a day for an 18 week period. In this case study, theory was grounded in the contextual descriptions that the students and teachers revealed through interviews, portfolios, journals, and observations of their learning to be readers and writers. Relationships between whole language and active learning were examined through changing teacher roles, changing student roles, and changing student concepts. Findings: Finds of this study showed that the Atwell readinglwriting model is a successful vehicle for literacy development. Teachers and students adopted new roles enabling them to become more effective problem solvers. There was a collaborative effort between student and teacher to choose meaningful content, benchmarks for success, and evidence of student self-reflection. This pedagogy combined curriculum, instruction and assessment in an integrated way to support students in their active construction of knowledge and meaning as they used self-regulated, creative and critical thinking. Conclusions: The conclusions of this study were that students have to be active participants in a constructive learning environment to produce authentic products; teachers must perceive of themselves as facilitators rather than controllers of learning; students must perceive that they have been given the trust to make appropriate choices about their literacy development; and each student must be able to reflect upon and to develop his or her individual literacy. Recommendations: The model was applied with success in this one classroom providing clear evidence that there are implications for future studies: (a) Whole language helps students learn. (b) Authenticity is an essential aspect of whole language. (c) Whole language and authentic assessment involve student interaction. (d) Teacher evaluation should be focused on learning instead of assigning grades.
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