Parent Communication and Involvement

A Letter to Parents
Lori Jackson

I send a letter to parents before school starts. I always do one monthly and have always spent lots of time explaining what I believe in and what we'll be doing together in the classroom. I had come to a different sort of conclusion, for my local audience. They know me, I am pretty well respected, so I feel like I can use the terms Whole Language a bit more freely and felt I needed to do so this year more than ever. I want to talk to my families a lot more about where the current trends could be taking us. My district went through DISTAR in the early to mid seventies and it wasn't popular with anyone. I hoping to contrast, as the year progresses,
the kinds of literacy activities their children are involved with with those scripted, trained monkey programs well remember by older parents and by the grandparents of my students.

Hooked on Whole Language
And Literacy Instruction

I have been a Whole Language teacher for years.
It gets bad press, it gets good press and most people don't really know what it is.

Whole Language is not a program or set of materials or even a specific way of doing things. Whole Language is a philosophy of education which has a set of beliefs which guide teachers in their work with children and in their teaching of literacy.

One of those beliefs is that children learn best in meaningful situations. Basically, it is the belief that interest drives understanding. Whole Language teachers are more likely to use lots of real books and poetry in their classrooms. Using the old reading textbooks does not fit this belief system.

Another belief is that children learn from the whole and that the parts are best learned in relationship to something meaningful. I will be teaching phonics, I teach will phonics every day. I expect your children to learn to use letters and sounds to read and write well. I will not be using workbooks. I will not be using isolated drill and practice.

The belief that reading, writing, speaking and listening are part of a big picture drives my instruction. We will be speaking, singing, writing, reading and listening every day.

I am proud to be a Whole Language teacher. To me, it means that I respect my students and know that while learning is work, working can be rewarding. Most of the time it will also be fun.

Lori Jackson has been teaching for nine years in Todd County, South Dakota. She is currently teaching as part of a 1-2 looping partnership. Her undergraduate work was complete at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, having accumulated too many credits not to, she is currently pursuing her master's degree in reading at Sinte Gleske University in South Dakota. She is a CGI trainer/mentor teacher and uses the philosophy of Whole Language to guide her classroom practice.


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