Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This qualitative study on literacy development within a whole language classroom focuses on the reading and writing experiences of five second grade students. The classroom teacher was also a participant in the study and practiced various whole language teaching methods in the teaching of reading and writing. The data gathered for this study were descriptive fieldnotes developed from the observations, in-depth interviews of the participants, documents from the site, and writing samples.

The portraits of the students described specific learning behaviors and styles that came forth as they read books and wrote stories in journals. The portraits also defined the connections they were making to the literacy environment in which they were immersed. The portraits also detailed elements in their family backgrounds and school life that affected their learning. The teacher was also described in a portrait that focused on her personal background, professional development, and growth as a teacher of elementary school children.

The themes that emerged from the data were classroom environment, learning, instruction, and self. The participants experienced or demonstrated knowledge learned through these four areas.

The study implied that students at an early age in literacy development learn through various ways of communication of which reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the forefront in any successful literacy event. The students may have benefited from instruction presented through small groups and engagement in the theme studies, which included children’s literature. The teacher in her quest to teach reading and writing from a whole language philosophy may have learned more about this approach by continuing to question the benefits of whole language and then taking the risk to act on them in ways that best serve students.