Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education




Differentiated Instruction

Capstone Instructor

Dr. Brian Boothe

Second Reader

Dr. Phyllis Burger


whole language instruction, direct phonics instruction, emergent reader, family involvement, elementary


There has been a debate for the past 30 years over which method is superior for teaching emergent readers, whole language instruction or direct phonics instruction? This literature review poses the question: when differentiated instruction is implemented, is it better to use whole language instruction, direct phonics instruction, or use a combination of both? This paper analyzes research studies looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each method. The studies investigate how whole language and direct phonics instruction each have benefits and drawbacks for whole class instruction. It also examines the benefits of direct phonics instruction as an intervention or supplementary instruction for struggling readers. The paper then explores how whole language methods can be used to engage families in reading at home. The findings of the literature review are that both direct phonics instruction and whole language instruction should be taught together in the classroom, with supplemental instruction in direct phonics given to struggling readers, and families of emergent readers should be encouraged to, and supported in, surrounding their children in literature from birth.

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