Sunday, February 29, 2004

Whole Language in an Elementary School Library Media Center.

Whole Language in an Elementary School Library Media Center. This is a good article on how school librarians can help teach whole language in the elementary grades. As a school librarian, I appreciate the content here.

From the site:

In a traditional or basic skills approach to education, learning is broken down into small pieces. Children are asked to learn these pieces and are rewarded for their behavior. Teachers diagnose what children know and then remediate by teaching them what they do not know. Social constructivism, reflected in the whole language approach, is very close to the opposite in its philosophical stance. Learning occurs through use of language and literature, not as a separate part of it. Texts are kept whole, not broken down into parts. Teachers observe and assess what children know and build upon their knowledge, designing a classroom environment and learning activities cooperatively with children so that they become internally motivated to learn. The goals of instruction are broader and address affective considerations. Whereas in a basic skills program the goal is to teach children how to read and write, the goal of a whole language curriculum is to help children become avid readers and writers, to develop a love of learning.

The change from a basic skills to a whole language approach precipitates vast changes in the school library media center. This digest will examine these changes, specifically at the elementary school level, in terms of three curricular foci: theme studies, process writing, and literature-based reading. It will also discuss the new demands placed upon the collection and the school librarian.


Theme studies are not unlike the units of study many teachers have taught for years. The main difference is that theme studies rely upon children's literature instead of textbooks. Children explore a topic in far more detail and spend much longer on each theme than in a textbook-driven program. Children engaged in a theme study use the school media center to seek information about specific topics. They also use works of various genres to supplement their research. Fiction, for example, demonstrates attitudes and behaviors, the reasons to use the information found in nonfiction books. Poetry can provide an aesthetic dimension to the theme study topic.


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