It is a fact that students with language-based learning disability require more intense structured instruction over a longer period of time in order to acquire many aspects of language. In first grade my daughter was given the tools to be an engaged reader, but by 3rd grade she was using none of them. It was expected that she would improve while reading on her own, and some kids do, but she was not. I steered clear of any school that had used whole language instruction when I chose her school because I knew that technique would not work for her. She was not the type of kid that would memorize the words she read with constant exposure. I chose a school with a phonetic based reading instruction, and it served us well in regard to reading fluency, but what about comprehension?
So, how did I end up at a school that thought reading instruction once a week was adequate for a third grader. Those students with language-based learning disabilities will be identified and given additional instruction, but what about those other students like my daughter. What is the instruction protocol for comprehension? Maybe this is where whole language should come in. Maybe it’s not either or but both approaches which would best serve students. What happens to those average students that need a structured explicit level of instruction throughout their reading acquisition? Reading is more than just reading the words. Students must ask themselves questions about the text, spend time checking for comprehension, be able to visualize the text, understand grammatical markers in order to understand the passing of time, decode strange words, and figure out the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary based on the context, to name a few of the components required of good readers. Many students both those with language disabilities and those with no disability require regular explicit structured instruction in reading at the very least through third grade regardless of their reading level.