As today young children are engaged in informational technologies more than ever before, their favorite activities are gaming, accessing the Internet, watching television, or using any other digital media. However, this does not mean that reading is no more considered a critically important and one of the most beneficial activities for them. Thus, the effective teaching of reading is one of the most important objectives that teachers have in primary school. To acquire skills of the teaching of reading, young specialists have to understand the components of the reading process; the way these components are used; and different models of reading. In the following paper, the way a balanced approach to the teaching of reading in the classroom can be developed, and the description of using reading models including the skills model, the psycholinguistic model, and the socio-cultural model will be addressed.
Three Models of Reading
The Skills Model
The skills model of reading observes the reading process from the point of view of abilities and skills that are necessary to acquire and operate information during reading (Luke & Freebody, 1999). The theorists of this model define reading comprehension skill as the ability to understand written words, word combinations, sentences, and to see conceptual connections between them. The authors of skills model theory show a close connection between reading and literacy by stating that both of these notions describe the same phenomenon because they both integrate such important skills as critical thinking, comprehension, listening, and speaking. The skills model defines reading as the ability to comprehend any kind of printed text including digital texts, visual texts, book-based texts, and environmental texts. The theorists of this model state that reading assumes accepting, assessing, and comprehending graphophonic information, semantic information, and syntactic information (Annandale, Bindon, Handley, Johnston, Lockett & Lynch, 2004).
The Psycholinguistic Model
The psycholinguistic model describes reading as the process of decoding written signs and symbols to gain information from them (Kandel, Peereman, Grosjacques, & Fayol, 2011). The theorists of the psycholinguistic model believe that each set of written signs and symbols has an allocated linguistic meaning, and is aimed to communicate ideas and thoughts between people (Harris, 2006). The authors of the psycholinguistic model define the purpose of the reading process as the necessity to identify the message, assigned by an author into the written text. To do so, readers must possess such important cognitive skills as:
- the ability to make predictions,
- the ability to use certain strategies to help them over-complicated parts in the texts such as sound and word separating, grammar structures identifying, word figures comprehension,
- the ability to draw on one’s background knowledge such as the knowledge of sounds, words, grammar structures, having experience in reading to apply it to the new reading (Walsh, 2011).
The Socio-Cultural Model
The socio-cultural model of reading assumes that children are inseparable from their cultural and social backgrounds and contexts, and for that reason, knowledge and information, acquired during reading, are embedded within their social experiences (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, & Holliday, 2006). According to the authors of the socio-cultural model of reading, literacy is a social notion, and it is acquired in such socio-cultural locations as homes, classrooms, places of religious worship, workplaces, sports clubs, etc. (Harris, 2006). This model of reading implicates that cognitive ability, required for learning and mastering literacy skills, is embedded in the social and cultural world, and is located in particular socio-cultural contexts that an individual sees and participates in on a regular basis. The authors of the socio-cultural reading model believe that the most important condition for acquiring excellent reading and literacy skills is collaborating in learning tasks with other students as knowledge and information are only gained and spread in human communities (Holliday, 2008). Thus, social interaction appears to be the most important condition for learning reading skills.
A Balanced Approach to the Teaching of Reading
To provide a balanced approach to the teaching of reading in the classroom, the three above-discussed models can be utilized. In particular, the skills model provides much insight into the specifics of the teaching of reading by means of making an emphasis on the importance of acquiring such important skills as (1) the ability to comprehend graphophonic information, (2) the ability to comprehend semantic information, and (3) the ability to comprehend syntactic information by students. Explicit and systematic instruction is provided by teachers to their students as a part of the skills model with a purpose of helping students develop important reading and comprehension skills (Statkus , 2009). For this, teachers often choose to work with different kinds of texts, and pay attention to their students on the peculiarities of each of those texts, their message, and what particular social and cognitive skills they teach. For example, if a teacher in the third grade has a lesson objective to teach one’s students better techniques of text comprehension, he or she may choose a narrative text about a pet’s daily life. Using this text, a teacher may offer the class to make predictions regarding each part of the story plot. As a result, students will add to their body of background knowledge and will develop such an important reading skill as the ability to make predictions regarding the further development of a story plot. The other example of an effective teaching strategy based on the skills model is using Big Book Shared Reading. While this task, a teacher should be specific about the learning outcomes and the lesson objectives for one’s students. He or she should explicitly identify what students have
to attend to during the reading process. Also, it is a good idea to offer students a row of questions to the text, and to explain in which particular parts, the answers can be found. Another effective idea is to offer students tasks that require deeper thinking and engagement because only tasks of this kind play an important role in developing the key reading skills. On the contrary, ‘mechanical tasks’ such as worksheets filling in or word finders are rarely utilized by an experienced and well-qualified teacher because one understands that they are of a low level of effectiveness in developing students thinking abilities and cognitive capacity (Winch et al., 2006). To sum up, by means of using a skills model, a teacher may learn how to help one’s students develop word- and text-level- skills and knowledge including comprehension, phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and oral language.
Further, the psycholinguistic model also offers important details that can be utilized by teachers with a purpose of improving their teaching skills. From the point of view of the theorists, who designed this model, reading is one of the most important processes that humans invented to improve the exchange of thoughts and ideas between them, and thus the teaching of reading should be addressed as the process of improving students’ cognitive abilities (Harris, 2006). For example, to improve an individual’s teaching of reading skills, the authors of the psycholinguistic model suggest using the tasks of word solving (Fountas & Pinnell, 1999). The tasks of word solving implicate investigating words with the aim of learning more about their origin, their history of development, and their role in the current language system and vocabulary. One of the interesting ideas on practicing the skill of investigating words during reading can be seen in the following comment by Fountas and Pinnell: “if children are noticing ing words in reading, those words might surface in writing, and they might also be learning how to add ing to a word to make another word in an activity that is called word study” (1999, p. 20). To implement this idea in one’s teaching practice, an individual may choose a word in shared reading, for example, ‘adding’, and may offer one’s students to find the way the author is using this word in the text. As a result of this task, students will have to create a table describing how this particular word is applied in the class reading. Thus, students will improve their cognitive abilities to use particular words, will enlarge their scope of background knowledge, and will see how to apply ing for constructing the other worlds from different roots. The theorists of the psycholinguistic model make an emphasis on such important tasks while teaching reading as word study experiences by saying that “word study experiences involve direct attention to words through minilessons, independent application of strategies, principles and concepts, exploration and discovery regarding words, and summary and sharing of new learning” (Fountas & Pinnell, 1999, p. 21). Among the important options that teachers may utilize to do so is letter sorting, word sorting, using letter books and alphabet books, designing word webs and word schemes, constructing new words from different morphemes and letters, creating and using word charts and word walls, and playing games with words both in groups and individually with every student in class (Anstey & Bull, 2006). While choosing a particular cognitive task from a variety of tasks for reading, a teacher should remember about:
- supporting the children’s learning of particular principles or contexts within texts;
- using the language understandable for students, and easy enough to identify what is expected from them during a certain practical session;
- utilizing powerful examples in assisting children with learning a strategy that they can use in their independent reading practice;
- showing explicit connections across the reading texts.
Finally, the socio-cultural model suggests many details that can be implemented by teachers to make the process of teaching reading skills more effective. The theorists of this model make a special emphasis on collaborating strategies for acquiring new reading skills by students. In accordance with this model, to improve the teaching of reading practice, teachers should ensure high levels of student participation, should be deeply knowledgeable about literacy learning in groups, should effectively utilize a variety of classroom activities, should support students at word and text levels, should differentiate and target their instruction, and should ensure a positive classroom atmosphere of mutual cooperation, respect, and understanding among learners. In modern-day learning conditions, collaboration between students may be incensed by the use of multimodal literacy. According to Walsh (2011, p. 12), multimodal literacy can be defined as “meaning-making that occurs through the reading, viewing, understanding, responding to, producing and interacting with written text combined with other models, particularly with screen-based texts”. For example, to use a social-based multimodal literacy strategy, a teacher may offer one’s students to combine a text reading in a book with the implementation of digital technology such as the SmartBoard technology. For this, students in the class may be divided into 3 groups. First, each group should read the first part of the offered class reading, and make a summary of the key details. The groups should compete for the best summary. Then, students in groups will read the next few pages in the book, and make their predictions regarding the development of the story plot. The groups should compete for the most precise prediction. The teacher may use the SmartBoard technology to help students in fulfilling these tasks by writing students’ predictions on the SmartBoard to make it easier for them to organize their thoughts and demonstrate their new comprehension skills. Besides, the SmartBoard technology offers a teacher the opportunity to demonstrate particular pages from the class reading to students, and to circle the keywords on those pages. This important tool may be used by the teacher to help students learn the skills of finding the key points in the text, summarizing the text, and making their predictions concerning the further events in the story plot. In addition, the teacher may write word combinations that help students make their predictions regarding the further development of the story plot on the SmartBoard.
The effective teaching of reading requires the careful implementation of many important components both theoretical and practical. It also requires knowing about the specific needs of any particular student in a class and offering the kind of help, which is necessary to him or her. As an effective teacher watches one’s students’ progress, he or she can utilize the knowledge of a specific reading model in a class by choosing a specific teaching strategy based on this model. Depending on students’ needs, a teacher has an option to select from the skills model, the psycholinguistic model or the socio-cultural model. Each of these reading models discusses the matters related to the teaching of reading from a different angle. In particular, the skills model makes an emphasis on the importance of building such necessary reading and comprehension skills as the ability to comprehend graphophonic information, semantic information, and syntactic information; the psycholinguistic model stresses the importance of developing cognitive capabilities such as comprehension, prediction, drawing on one’s background knowledge; and the socio-cultural model shows the importance of working together for students, and acquiring the new reading and comprehension skills during the process of their socialization. Of course, every teacher should understand that there exists no panacea for any student, and for that reason, a teacher should incorporate a variety of teaching strategies and methods because in each particular case, diverse teaching approach based on different reading models is required.
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