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SYNOPSIS Topic 2 provides you with an overview of the different models of reading , (bottomup, top-down and interactive reading models) and the approaches to teach reading. The reading models provide insights to the ways different readers approach reading. This topic also discusses various approaches to teach reading. LEARNING OUTCOMES By the end of this topic, you will be able to: define the meaning of the three theoretical models of reading distinguish the application of the three reading models identify the various approaches to teach reading.



Theoretical Models of Reading



According to the literature surrounding reading theory there are three primary models which readers use: bottom-up, top-down and interactive models of reading. These 1

models have been used to explain the cognitive processes that occur as readers interact with the text. These reading theories will be discussed in turn.

Bottom-up reading model The central idea of the bottom-up reading model is that reading is a process of decoding a series of written symbols into aural sounds. Meaning is then derived from the blending of sounds. The diagram below describes this process.


discriminating every letter

matching phonemes and graphemes

blending sounds

discriminating every letter



(Cambroune, 1979)

Using this model, readers process each leatter as it is encountered. The letters or graphemes are then matched to a phoneme of the language. The phonemes are then blended together to form words. Meaning is then derived at the end of the process. A typical reading programme that adopts this model is the phonics approach. Text processing is linear whereby the incoming data or information has to be received before the higher level mental stages can transform and recode the information. Schemata is hierarchically organised from the most specific at the bottom to the most general at the top. This model is also known as outside-in (Cambourne, 1979) or part-to-whole model.

Top-down reading model 2

In the top-down model, the reading process is a reverse of the bottom-up model. Here, reading is conceptually driven. Readers use their background knowledge to make predictions as they read the text. The following diagram illustrates this model of text processing.

past experience, language intuitions and expectations

selective aspects of print


sound, pronunciation if necessary

(Cambroune, 1979)

From this diagram, it can be seen that the model emphasises the reconstruction of meaning rather than the decoding of form. The interaction of the text is central to the process and the reader brings to this interaction his/her knowledge of the subject at hand, his/her knowledge and expectations about how language works, interest, motivation and attitude towards the subject or content of the text. In other words, the reader hypotheses or makes an assumption of the text and uses his/her background knowledge to confirm the hypothesis or assumption or reject the propositions. As with the bottom-up model, the top-down model also employs a linear text processing approach. This model is also known as inside-out model, concept-driven model and whole-topart model.

Exercise 1

What kind of readers are most likely to adopt the top-down reading approach? Why do you think so?

Exercise 2 In groups of 3, discuss how you use bottom-up reading approach for Year One pupils. Present your discussion in class.

Interactive reading model

The interactive model, like the top-down model, is also reader-driven. It views the reading process as an interaction between the reader and the text. Stanovich (1980) claims that readers process text, not by linear processing as advocated in the two earlier models, but by utilizing information provided simultaneously from several different sources, and that they can compensate for deficiencies at one level by drawing on knowledge at other levels. These sources include all those described in the two earlier models of text processing, that is phonological, lexical, syntactic, semantic and discourse knowledge. In other words, the interactive model views reading as a cyclical pattern whereby textual information and the readers mental activities occur simultaneously executing both top-down, bottom-up processing. When the reader employs the interactive model, he is seen as using his expectations and prior knowledge to guess the content of the text while contributing the bottom-up processing to ensure that new information is also utilized.

** A note to teachers With the insight that there is more to comprehension that the words on the page provides, these theoretical models help explain the way our background knowledge guides the comprehension process and the implications for second language reading. Eskey and Grabe (1988) suggested two general implications for ESL reading. First, that a strong, bottom-up foundation of basic identification skill is paramount. Second, reading for meaning, that is ultilising the top-down approach should also be well developed because reading is not just limited to decoding skills.

Approaches to teach reading 4

Reading ability is best developed in association with writing, listening and speaking activities. Even in those courses that may be labelled reading, your goals can be best achieved by capitalizing on the interrelationship of skills, especially the readingwriting connection. It is a mistake to rely on one approach to teach reading because a method that works for one child may not work at all for another. Good teachers have recognised that children learn in different ways and need different strategies. In this module you are introduced to three methods to teach reading. They are using sight word, language experience and phonics method.

Sight Word Approach Sight word acquisition is an important building block in the construction of a childs ability to read. What is sight word? Sight words are words that appear so often in a text that readers are able to read by sight without having to decode them. Sight words are also words that cannot be decoded and must be memorised by sight. Knowing these high frequency words and being able to recognise non-decodable words by sight are extremely important skills for reading fluency. In order to read well, children need to read sight words very quickly. Memorisation of sight words is necessary and few words at a time are highly recommended.

The objectives of teaching sight words are to: enable pupils to associate the appearance of each sight word with its sound/pronunciation (sight to sound correspondence) read sight words in context recognise sight words quickly and effortlessly. (rapid recognition)

Exercise 1 Based on your experience, what kind of practice can you do to achieve the above objectives? Work in your study group.

Language Experience Approach 5

Language experience approach is suitable for all levels of learners. By using the Language Experience Approach (LEA) to teach beginning readers how to read, pupils can connect their life experiences with learning written words. The unique factor about this approach is that the pupils own words are recorded or used as they describe the event or activity. This allows them to interact with the text and gain knowledge and understanding through their experience. The LEA can be used with individual pupils or group. While it is most commonly used with young emerging readers, it is also effective for teaching struggling readers.

Procedure to use the learning experience approach

1. Have the pupils choose an experience that they would like to write about. For groups, this should be a shared experience such as a field trip or an activity that the whole class had participated in. For individual pupils, it could be anything that the pupil feels is important or interesting, such as a family activity, a story about their pet or favorite toy, or even a television show or movie that they enjoyed. The language experience approach can also be used to create fictional stories.

2. Discuss the experience with the pupils. This helps them to clarify what they want to write about, organize their thoughts, and come up with specific, descriptive vocabulary.

3. Write the story down as the pupils dictate it. For groups, have pupils take turns dictating sentences describing their experience. Record what they say on large chart paper, repeating the words as they are written. For individual pupils, this can be done on a single sheet of paper, or it can be made into a book. The writing should be done in neat, large print rather than cursive, to make it easier for the pupils to read. Try to stick to the pupils' own words exactly as they are spoken with a minimum of correction for grammar or sentence structure. It is important for pupils to see their own words in print, because they have a personal connection to the words.

4. Read the text aloud. Point to each word as you read it aloud. After reading the text to the pupils, have them reread it aloud. With a group, call on individual pupils to 6

read sentences, or have them read chorally as a group while pointing to each word. Pupils can illustrate their individual texts and read them aloud to the class. Since the words that the pupils dictate are familiar and are used in a meaningful context, pupils will be able to read more difficult vocabulary than they might ordinarily be able to if they simply saw it printed in a book.

Phonics Approach An alphabetic, phonic approach to teaching reading has been used for centuries. In the 19th century, this kind of approach began to be called phonics. Since then it has been further developed and modified. Today a phonics approach is used in varying degrees in most reading instructions. This approach has been included in the KSSR syllabus. A phonics approach teaches the relation of the letters (graphemes) to the sounds (phonemes) they represent. The theory behind the phonics approach is based on two assumptions: most languages have consistent phonemes (sound) to grapheme (letter) corelation. Once children have learned the relationships of the letters to the sounds, they can pronounce printed words by blending the sounds together. Knowing these relationships helps early readers recognize familiar words accurately and automatically and "decode" new words. Though this approach has been well received, there are some grey areas which makes it not a complete model or a stand alone approach to teach early reading. For instance, a child can use phonics to work out that b-a-t means bat because the letters represent their most common sounds; but phonics is of no help in reading eye as there is no correspondence between the letters and the sounds the letters represent. Furthermore, English has its many irregularities, therefore it makes it harder for ESL learners to identify unfamiliar words. The use of phonics assumes that once readers know how a word is pronounced, they will associate it with a spoken word they already know and therefore understands it. However, the problem may arise especially with intermediate pupils who may come upon a new word which they have not heard of. So working out how a word might be pronounced is not going to guarantee understanding.

Phonics may be useful and helpful at the initial stages of developing reading but it needs to be supported by other methods as the readers reading proficiency develops. Exercise 3 7

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves kindergarten and first grade children's word recognition and spelling.

Do you agree with the quote above. Justify your answer.


Cambourne, B. 1979. How important is theory to the reading teacher? Australian Journal of Reading, 2: 78-90 Eskey, D.E. & Grabe, W. 1988. Interactive Models for Second Language Reading: Perspectives on Instruction. In P. Carrell, J. Devine & D. Eskey. (Eds.), Interactive approaches to second language reading (pp. 223-38). New York: Cambridge University Press. Stanovich, K. 1980. Toward an interactive-compensatory model of individual differences in the development of reading fluency. Reading Research Quarterly, 16:32-71.