Reading instruction is of central importance for teachers to improve the learning outcomes of students. There are different approaches to reading instructions that can be used by teachers depending on personal preferences and the needs of students. The present paper provides a reflection Chapter 2 of Vacca et al.’s (2018) book titled Reading and Learning to Read, which focuses on different approaches to reading instruction. First, the paper provides a brief overview of the chapter. Second, it outlines five main points I found important. Third, it draws connections between these five points to my learning experience. Finally, it discusses the application of these five points to my teaching practice.
Chapter 2 of the book by Vacca et al. (2018) focuses on a variety of methods and strategies a teacher can use to help the students learn to read. Vacca et al. (2018) claim that every teacher needs to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of all the methods and apply them accordingly to meet the needs of students. Additionally, a teacher needs to develop a strong belief system and ensure that the selected method is in line with the philosophical stance. There are three different belief systems concerning curriculum development introduced in the chapter, including the bottom-up approach, top-down approach, and interactive models of teaching. According to the bottom-up approach, the students are first taught the basics of reading, and then they gradually learn to read complex texts. The top-down approach is the opposite of the bottom-up approach, as it provides students with a complicated text to read, and they learn to read by communicating. The interactive model includes the elements of both top-down and bottom-up approaches. The chapter also discusses instructional methods, including basal-reading, language-experience, literature-based instruction, and technology-based instruction approaches. The chapter concludes, however, that expertise is more important than the selected approach. Teachers are to understand that every child will learn differently and learn to adapt instruction based on the situation.
Five Main Points and Connection to Learning Experience
I was able to draw five critical points from Chapter 2 of the book by Vacca et al. (2018). First, I realized that there are two contradicting systems of beliefs concerning the reading curriculum, and interactive beliefs compromise between these two extremes. For instance, interactive beliefs about reading state that “students process letter–sound and meaning cues simultaneously to identify unrecognized words” (Vacca et al., 2018, p. 39). At the same time, the bottom-up philosophy states that students should use only the letter-sound cues, while the top-down approach states that students should look for meaning cues (Vacca et al., 2018). In my learning experience, I have met teachers that have different beliefs, which affect their choices of instruction methods.
Second, I learned that there are eight conditions for learning according to the top-down beliefs system, including immersion, engagement, expectation, responsibility, response, approximation, employment, and demonstration. Vacca et al. (2018) state that “when these conditions are operating at an optimal level, learning is powerful and durable” (p. 43). In my learning experience, I often came across the problem that approximation was a missing link, as teachers did allow mistakes or corrected the students abruptly, which made the top-down approach ineffective.
Third, I realized that the integrated language arts approach is based on the idea that language should not be taught in separation from the real world. Vacca et al. (2018) write that the approach “views learning and teaching in an all-inclusive way and mimics the real world” (p. 45). When I receive knowledge that I can use immediately in the real world, and the instructions show me how it can be used, I have a burning desire to learn.
Fourth, the chapter stresses the fact that teachers should use individualized instruction based on the accumulated knowledge and experience. Vacca et al. (2018) state that individualized instruction is associated with “selecting appropriate instructional approaches is understanding the learning profile of an individual” (p. 49). Finally, I believe that the central point of the chapter is that expertise matters more than the selected approach. Vacca et al. (2018) point out that the “usefulness of a certain instructional practice may depend on the skill level of each student.” Thus, it is always central to understand the individual needs of every student. In my learning, I realized that teachers with more experience could provide individualized instruction to meet the needs of students with ease even when they do not realize what approach they are using. While young teachers often try consciously to use different formal approaches and fail, as they do not see what the audience needs. Thus, expertise is of crucial importance to teachers, as not everything can be learned in the classroom.
Application to Classroom Practice
I will be able to use all five things I learned from the chapter in my classroom teaching practice. First, I will adhere to interactive beliefs, as I find vital points in both bottom-up and top-down approaches. In particular, I help my students to find clues both in sounds and grammatical meaning to learn new words. Second, I will ensure that I allow mistakes and correct my students gently not to discourage them. This implies that I will focus more on rewarding them for their right answers rather than punishing them for mistakes. Third, in my classroom practice, I will ensure to provide students with the example of how they can use the received knowledge in everyday situations, as a language should not be taught in separation from reality. Fourth, I will try to use my experience to provide individualized instruction to my students. I will try to prioritize their needs over my beliefs about what works in general. Finally, I will focus on gaining expertise from every class I teach. This implies that I will try to reflect on what I learned from each class I teach and use this knowledge for the benefit of my students.
Selection of the reading instruction is a complicated matter that requires teachers both knowledge and experience. Every teacher should be aware of the different reading instruction, including basal reading approach, language-experience approach, integrated language arts approach, literature-based instruction approach, and technology-based instruction. Teachers should select the most appropriate method based on the philosophical viewpoint and the individual needs of every student. Educators should assess the needs of every student using their experience.
Vacca, J., Vacca, R., Gove, M., Burkey, L., Lenhart, L., & McKeon, C. (2018). Reading and learning to read (10th ed.). Pearson.