Connecting Top-Down Theories of the Reading Process and Whole-Word Reading Instructional Practices
Top-Down Theories of the Reading Process
- Duirng reading and learning to read, language is processed from the whole to the parts, as in taking a completed jigsaw puzzle apart.
- Learning to read is based on "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts", as asserted by Gestalt psychology.
- Learning to read is accomplished naturally and holistically through immersion in print-rich and language-rich environments.
- Repetition in reading is focused on practicing phrases, sentences, or stories again and again until the text elements are interalized,
- Language stimuli in beginning reading material are not controlled but represent naturally occurring patterns of langauge such as "run, run as fast as you can..." in the "Gingerbread Man" story.
- Learning how to read stories, sentences, or phrases is assumed to lead to a perception of the parts andt heir relationship to the whole text and meaning.
- Repeated readings of authentic books of interest with help or independently are assumed to lead to an ability to read fluently with comprehension.
- Mistakes or miscues are seen as positive indicators of students' willingness to take risks.
- Having a large oral language base gives students access to printed language.
- Comprehending texts provides access to new vocabulary wors and increased insights into how the sound-symbol system works for decoding unknown words.
Whole-Word, Sight-Word, or Holistic Reading Instruction
- Reading instruction begins by engaging children in an abundance of stories and books read aloud to and with children.
- Instruction proceeds to demonstrate during the reading of various sizes and types of books how good readers sound when they read.
- Guessing the identity of a word based on the pictures, the meaning of the text, or the first letter clue (minimal cues) is encouraged so as to leave large amounts of attention capacity available for meaning or comprehending.
- Children are encouraged to learn many words by sight without further decoding or analysis. Using letter sounds to unlock words is seen as the strategy of last resort.
- Children are taught to read with patterned books and authentic children's literature stories to optimize the chance that children will have something to read of worth and something that will make sense. Controlling the language too strictly is viewed as having a detrimental effect on the comprehensibility of the language.
- Children practice reading a story again and again to internalize the language, structure, and meaning of stories. Analyzing story language too closely (sound-to-letter blending) is viewed as unnecessary to produce skilled, fluent readers.
- Control over the reading of the stories or books is gradually released from the teacher model to the children.
- Decoding ability is the product of language insights gained as children construct the meanings of a variety of texts and text patterns.
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