The whole language approach viewed addressing single words in isolation as ineffective in teaching reading. See below for the Goodmans' quote followed by some of the evidence to the contrary.
“Early in our miscue research, we concluded:
That a story is easier to read than a page, a page easier to read than a paragraph, a paragraph easier than a sentence, a sentence easier than a word, and a word easier than a letter. Our research continues to support this conclusion and we believe it to be true … .
It is through errors ... that we've learned that reading is a psycholinguistic guessing game.
We can teach children letter names and the sounds letters represent and we can teach them words in isolation from the context of language, but we know that these methods do not lead children to read.
Goodman, K. & Goodman, Y. (1981). Twenty questions about teaching language. Educational Leadership,
The following summaries address the Goodmans' flawed theory:
“During reading, the decoding of words always takes place before the understanding of words, sentences or whole texts. Sophisticated eye movement and brain research [event related potential (ERP) studies] have convincingly demonstrated this. The eyes fixate on a word for about 250 milliseconds. During this time, a number of processes occur close together in time, but nevertheless, in a set sequence. The visual shape of each letter is recognised, each letter is translated into its sound equivalent, the sounds are assembled together to arrive at a mental sound equivalent for the whole word, and finally, the meaning of the word is accessed.
Semantic processing occurs last (e.g. Lee, Rayner & Pollatsek, 1999: Sereno, Rayner, & Posner, 1998; Perry & Ziegler, 2002). As readers become more adept, instead of letter-by-letter symbol-to-sound translation occurring in a series, it has been shown that this process speeds up, and gradually groups of letters, common spelling patterns, and high frequency words begin to be recognised all at once, in parallel (Aghababian & Nazir, 2000; Jared, Levy & Rayner, 1999).
Pictures and guessing play no part in any of the word reading processes that occur. Nor is the use of context among the processes that occurs during an initial eye fixation. Only after an initial eye fixation occurs, and only on the occasions where word meaning is in doubt, do the eyes regress back over the preceding text to use context as an aid to meaning. These particular regressions constitute a post reading strategy that may occur afterwards: in effect, a non-reading strategy used to confirm meaning, not to extract it in the first place.”
Macmillan, B. (2002). An evaluation of the Government's Early Intervention Initiative: The Early Literacy Support programme. Reading Reform Foundation Newsletter, 49.
Retrieved from http://www.rrf.org.uk/49%20Bonnie%20Mac ... rticle.htm
“Bruck (1988) reviews research indicating that rapid, context-free automatic decoding characterises skilled reading. In fact, the word recognition of skilled readers provides them with the meaning even before contextual information can be accessed. Rayner and Pollatsek (1987), cited in Liberman and Liberman (1990), argue that it is only beginning and poor readers who use partial visual cues, and predict (or guess) words. This view is echoed by Stanovich (1986) who refers to a significant number of studies in support, and a further list of such studies can be found in Solman and Stanovich (1992).
The second rationale for presuming that contextual cues should have primacy in skilled reading was based on a flawed study by Goodman (1965, cited in Nicholson, 1986). Goodman found a 60-80% improvement in reading accuracy when children read words in the context of a story rather than in a list format. He argued on the basis of this study that the contextual cues provided marked assistance in word identification. There has always been that context aids readers' comprehension, but despite contention in the literature over Goodman's finding concerning contextual facilitation of word recognition, his study is still regularly cited as grounds for emphasising contextual strategies in a Whole Language classroom. The study was flawed in two ways. The design was not counterbalanced to preclude practice effects. That is, a list of words taken from a story was read, and then the story itself was read. Secondly, the study ignored individual differences in reading ability, so it was not possible to determine whether good or poor readers (or both) derived benefit from context. Studies by a number of researchers including Nicholson (1985, 1991a), Nicholson, Lillas and Rzoska (1988), Nicholson, Bailey and McArthur (1991) have discredited Goodman's argument, and found that good readers are less reliant on context clues than poor readers. Poor readers attempt to use context because they lack the decoding skills of the good readers. Nicholson (1991a) argues that encouraging reliance on contextual cues confuses children, and he expresses concern at the rate of reading failure in New Zealand where Whole Language is endemic. A further problem involves the accuracy of contextual guesses. In a study by Gough, Alford, and Holley-Wilcox, (1981, cited in Liberman & Liberman, 1990) well educated, skilled readers given adequate time could only guess correctly one word in four from context. Schatz and Baldwin (1986) pointed out that low frequency words, and information-loaded words, are relatively unpredictable in prose. Finally, psychometric studies indicate that it is not measures of semantic and syntactic ability that predict word identification facility but rather alphabetic coding ability (Vellutino, 1993). Whole Language theorists would anticipate the converse being true.” (p.47-48)
Hempenstall, K. (1997). The effects on the phonological processing skills of disabled readers of participating in Direct Instruction reading programs. Australian Digital Theses Program, RMIT University Library.
Retrieved from http://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/view/rmit:9531