Many of you reading this page probably learned how to read using the whole-language method. This strategy maintains that the natural and effective way is to be exposed to whole words in context. Students learn how to read by recognizing words they have seen before. In the past generation this has been the dominant teaching strategy throughout North America. It replaced phonics, wherein children were taught to sound out the letters to form words. The whole language method was instituted with little or no research and has been severely criticized in the past. A recent study may have resolved the question of which method should be employed. An educational psychologist at the University of Houston described the experiment at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The subjects were 375 low-achieving, poor, first-grade students in Houston schools. The students were divided into three groups. One was educated according to the whole-language philosophy, a second group was taught using a pure phonics strategy, and the third was taught employing a mixed or embedded phonics technique. At the end of the term students were asked to read words on a list of 50 words. The number of words each child could read was recorded.
a. Can we infer that differences exist between the effects of the three teaching strategies?
b. If differences exist, identify which method appears to be best.