Phonics Based Reading and Decoding

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The reading process as a whole is a very multifaceted area, and is relentlessly changing. As a future upcoming school teacher, it is imperative for me to understand the process and theories behind the reading act itself. Therefore, before I started my assignments working with my student, I researched some theories about reading in order to know the reason behind the importance of it. The three theories which I consider are the most essential, and which I feel are disheveled to account for the reading process are sub-skill theories, interactive theories and trans-active theories. I deem that all three of these theories have mechanisms that fit simultaneously to account for reading and the understanding of reading. One theory alone cannot account for every phase of the reading process. The sub-skill theory reading approach is one that has been around for a long time, (since I was a little girl playing outside eating dirt and making mud pies) and is based on instructional strategies to teach letter-sound relationships, sight words and decoding skills (along side others), until the reading act becomes routine. Comprehension does play a role in this theory, but in my opinion it played a very small role. I know this system works, because it is the way I was taught to read. I believe it is essential for young children to understand the connection between sound and symbol relationships. This approach gives children a tactic for sounding out words that are unfamiliar to them. Decoding the pronunciation of a word can sometimes lead to the word’s meaning, only if the child is familiar with the word. However, the goal of reading is to gain meaning from the text, not just to pronounce the words correctly. When the reader is unable to attach meaning to the word, the decoding skill becomes useless. Being an employee of a school district and working in the classroom with students, I have witnessed many students who are prolific readers, can sound out even the most difficult words, but do not have an indication about the meaning of what they have read. Studying a reading skill in isolation does not give assurance of its use in practice. This is the point where I believe the interactive theory comes into play. The interactive theory makes the connection between the reader and the text, and the theory states that the result of this uninterrupted interaction produces meaning. One of the most significant aspects of this theory has to do with the reader making predictions about what they are reading (top down processing) while at the same time, they are using visual cues from the text to test these predictions (bottom down processing). Unlike the sub-skill theory in which there is extreme focus on words and skills are stressed more than meaning, however, the trans-active theory takes it one step further and gives value to the reader. In this case, the reader uses their background knowledge and experiences to bring meaning to the text. If the reader is unable to relate to the text, they are unable to obtain meaning from it. This is an indispensable characteristic of the reading process, in my opinion. At Rose City Middle School we have learned that good teaching bridges the gap between previously learned knowledge and new material. The reading process is no different- it must link the spaces between the print and the information contained in it to background knowledge. However, the interactive theory explains this connection, but I believe it leaves out another imperative characteristic of the reading process, and that is the characteristic of the reader’s emotion. The trans-active theory is the only theory that includes emotion, which in my opinion, is an essential part of any reading experience. I think it is true that reading stimulates both cognitive and affective aspects, and the reader brings to the reading their own beliefs, values and attitudes. These feelings affect their responses to the reading, and the framework of...
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