Shock Horrors ! There be Hidden Ghosts !

ghost of Whole language past


I accidentally shone a light on

The Ghost of Whole Language Past ……

and was stunned.


I have a brother and sister attending tuition. The brother is the younger of the two and also the most impulsive so I put him on a programme called SCORE. The incentive is to ‘beat the dragon’ by reading all of the words on the page accurately. Misread one of the words and you are locked in to the ‘practise’, which is around 6 or 7 pages before reaching the next ‘Dragon’ page.

The incentive is to focus & maintain attention (the antithesis of ‘guessing’). The reminder is “Remember, read what you actually ‘see’ – not what you ‘think’ you see.

Every student begins on book 1 – page 1. Here it is …

ran       pan      man      tan

tan       man     pan       pan

man     fan       ran        tan

pan      tan       man      ran

ran       fan       tan        fan

The brother has completed book 1 (6 Dragon pages with the need to stop & pactice only once. He is as competitive as he is impulsive, which is a blessing). His ability to focus & maintain attention is improving .

Now, having seen her brother earn ‘Dragon Stamps’, the sister pleaded to do SCORE like her brother. She is currently using left to right processing competently & is accurately reading words such as – sinkers, slivers, whisper, clever, duller, plover, undone, nothing, covering, plovers, blistered, shovels, walkers, quickest, smothers, discovered. (these lists come for Phonics Unlimited / Level 2)

It’s a big web site – this link will get you directly to the file if you are interested.

Two things happened:

1. As you might note, the sister is just starting in on Unit 7. It was evident she was struggling with the concepts involved in the use of the final ‘e’ mad/made etc. So I had already stopped and used the Ease into Reading Kit name/sound confusion cards (Free download at this link

Name Sound Confusions is the first PDF on row 2. A ‘click’ will automatically start the download.)

2. She wanted to begin doing SCORE & get ‘Dragon Stamps’ like her brother. So I gave her Book 1 page 1 (all students begin there & skip through the ‘Dragon’ pages till reaching a sound pattern that needs attention, at which time they stop & practice).

What happened next blew me away – for the first row above instead of reading  ran     pan      man      tan   – she read    rain    pen    man    pan !!! 3 tries later she had not managed the first line.

The learned ‘guessing’ confusion from infant grades is still debilitating her! So many cvc words are visually similar and here she was still taking a stab at them!

No wonder she began to struggle when we met the ‘final ‘e’ concept. (Unlike other letters, vowels can say both their name and their sound in words).


Now we need to go right back to the start and begin mopping up that early ‘muddy puddle’ made by Whole Language methods applied inappropriately to infant grades.


Guess who will be screening her students on that first page of SCORE? How many more are suffering from an early ‘muddy puddle’ of confusion? I should have known better. Our research indicates that, while 2 syllabic words become manageable, simpler 3 syllabic regular words take a hit (think about how similar they are – complement/component).

So there you are. You can’t assume that because students can read complex 2 syllabic words that they will be able to read the simpler (though longer) 3 syllabic words, with cvc components.

Now we need Dragons to purge the Ghosts of Whole Language Past …

baby dragonL-B-J-image-l-b-j-36430574-1008-792<- Ummm perhaps a bit

too small for the task just yet.

That one ->

might be up to be up to the job.


Makes you wonder just what other debilitating  consequences might be lurking as yet unseen…