Issues in Educating Students with Disabilities

By Edward J. Kameenui; David Chard et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
WHOLE LANGUAGE AND PROCESS WRITING: DOES ONE APPROACH FIT ALL?

Steve Graham Karen R. Harris University of Maryland

There is a growing concern about the quality of literacy instruction for students with special needs (cf. Allington, 1994; Palinscar & Klenk, 1992). Critics contend there is little special about special education programs for students who have difficulty learning to read and write ( Allington, 1994; Allington & McGill-Franzen, 1989; Singer & Butler, 1987). For example, Palinscar and Klenk ( 1992) found that children in primary-grade special education classrooms spent most of their reading and writing time working alone, completing worksheets, reading directions, and copying board work. They seldom read or wrote for an extended period of time and were "mired in materials that both children and teachers found to be uninteresting and largely irrelevant to their lives" (p. 218).

Critics also claim that literacy instruction for students with special needs focuses too much on the lower level skills of decoding and transcription (cf. McGill-Frazen & Allington, 1991; Palinscar & Klenk, 1992). They indicate that many special education teachers' reading programs primarily concentrate on the teaching of word-attack or word-recognition skills in the context of degraded text or through the use of decontextualized activities such as worksheets. Although such instruction is designed to respond to the difficulties that students with special needs experience with decoding, critics maintain that it limits students' opportunities to learn how to use the "syntactic, semantic, and schematic analysis of text that complement the use of grapho-phonemic analysis" ( Palinscar & Klenk, 1992, p. 212). They further indicate that this approach limits students' opportunities for acquiring im-

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