American education » Interactive model of reading

Published: 4-07-2011, 10:16

Interactive model of reading

A theory of learning to read based on a combined use of phonics, whole words and other experiential materials. Developed in 1976, the interactive model incorporates all previous learning theories and teaching approaches, including the two most prominent: the “bottom-up” and “top-down” models. The bottom-up model theorizes that learning of reading takes place by piecing together small parts, or phonic sounds, to form letter sounds first and then a word sound. The contrasting top-down model insists that children learn entire words by sight, by the distinctive shape of the word, rather than by individual letters, and that they must then take each word apart to learn each letter and its sound. Experienced teachers recognize that children use both methods to some degree, with some students learning sight words more easily than others and instinctively distinguishing words by their distinctive shapes—pizza, for example. Other children seem unable to distinguish entire words when first learning and are almost totally dependent on “sounding out” each new word, letter by letter.
The interactive model of reading recognizes that children learn from all information sources at their disposal: letters, sounds, syntax (the context in which a word is used), shapes and experience. Most reading teachers depend on this broader, more flexible model, which recognizes that different types of reading produce different types of learning. Studying for a vocabulary test, for example, produces slow, letter-by-letter, word-by-word learning experiences, while reading of literature is a faster, scanning process in which children learn meanings and spellings intuitively by syntax and repetitive visual sightings of words.
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