Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on Teaching Reading
Reading is an interactive process that takes place between the person reading and the text being read. Reading involves an effort to understand the written material. The result of reading should be comprehension, and the read text consists of letters, words and sentences that present a certain meaning. Reading is a complicated activity that entails the use of both thought and perception. The two basic processes involved in reading include word comprehension and word recognition. Word recognition defines the understanding and establishment of connection between text symbols and one’s own spoken language. On the other hand, comprehension is the making of connection and sense of connected strings of words that make up the text’s sentences.
In order to read successfully an individual has to utilize acquired background knowledge, grammatical knowledge, vocabulary, experience with literary pieces as well as other strategies in order to successfully read and comprehend the text. Traditionally, the purpose of learning to read was to get access to other forms of literature of interest. The study of any language’s grammar, vocabulary and sentences was highly valued even without actual reading being done. However, as from the 80’s several theoretical perspectives have been proposed in the teaching of reading. These proposed perspectives have brought about major issues, themes and influences.
These have in turn influenced classroom instruction in a significant manner. This paper shall review the various proposed perspectives and their application. Learning reading is an essential goal in education for both adults and children because it opens new opportunities and worlds for the learners. It offers a means through which an individual can enjoy literary work as well as obtain new knowledge. It also enables the conducting of daily life activities such as read about directions, read a magazine or make a job application-just to mention but a few. Teaching reading uses diverse proposed methodologies used to encourage the learning process (Kamil et al, 2010).
Among the proposed methods is the testing and measuring method. The application of this method involves the stating of predetermined measurable objectives for the learning activity. After the instructional sessions the teacher makes measurements that determine whether the student has attained the set objectives of the learning process. The second methodology is referred to as subject matter approach. This methodology’s emphasis is laid on how many concepts, quality facts, and generalizations a certain learner is able to achieve at the end of the learning exercise.
The third methodology is referred to as the student decision-making and affective dimension. In this method a student is required to make a selection of sequential reading literary pieces of his/her own preference. Quality attitudes are portrayed by this method when learners are allowed to select books they have a personal interest in reading (Bush & Huebner, 1979). Finally, the problem solving methodology emphasizes reading as an important tool to be used in solving contemporary issues in society. The ability to learn and extent of learning is weighed based on the ability of the learner to solve problems efficiently based on read text, through contextual application.
Testing and Measuring Method
This methodology emphasizes the use of tests in measuring the achievements attained by the student in reading activities learned. State designated tests meant to harmonize the measurable objectives are commonly applied in making these measurements. The objectives to be measured are precisely stated and after each instructional session the teacher assess the learners to determine whether the set objective has indeed been obtained.
The test administered to the learners should harmonize with the objectives set for the learning exercise. The method’s measurement aspect ascertains whether the precise ends of the activity have been attained. This method has influenced the way teachers teach reading. According to the method teachers have to teach towards the attainment of set goals, thus teaching is not a random but a focused activity. The method leads to the development of a highly structured curriculum that defines what students should attain.
This also makes the learning activity to be a highly structured and defined process. Since the matching of activity to time in terms of attainment of goals is of great significance, students have to be supported towards attaining the set goals within the set time frame (Pearson & Taylor, 2002). This may be enhanced through the use of secondary and primary enforcers such as tokens and prizes promised to students before the start of the learning exercise. Students are thus motivated to work towards attaining the set goals within the set time.
Subject matter method in teaching reading
This method of teaching reading emphasizes the importance of students in attaining relevant subject matter from the content used in learning reading. This can be viewed as a communicative approach in teaching reading. This based on the theme of effectively being able to pass a message to the reader after s/he has read the text selected. Thus the main objective of the method lies in the assessment of the learners understanding of concepts and facts within the text used in teaching. Vital concepts, generalizations and facts are selected for the students to act as targets of what they should achieve by the end of the learning exercise.
The method emphasizes the acquisition of skills such as critical and creative writing, understanding of content for application purposes and securing of the main ideas in a text. The method lays emphasis on developing a learner’s intellectual capacity because it is subject centered. In the teaching of subject matter the teachers may thus emphasize a deductive form of learning in the class. Teacher tailored tests and discussions can be utilized in appraising the students’ progress. This form of subject centered approach forms a logical reading curriculum whereby the teacher selects appraisal procedures, objectives and learning opportunities (National Reading Panel, 2000).
Student decision making and the affective domain method
Affective domain emphasis requires that a student should select a series of preferred literary pieces to be used in the process of learning reading. This forms a psychological curriculum because a student selects what to read out of his/her own preferred choices. The selected material is meant to be meaningful, purposeful and interesting to the student. Making reading an enjoyable and likeable activity stresses the achievement of affective objectives by the learners. This method desires and indeed makes learning reading an interesting activity within the classroom.
Books of different complexity may be provided to the learners depending on the level of their learning. The learners are allowed to select an appraisal method to be used at the end of the reading exercises conducted using the chosen books or literary material. Other applicable appraisal methods may include the use of dramatizations or drawing of illustrations (Tompkins, 2010). Word proficiency can also be tested by allowing the student to read out aloud from the text used in teaching.
Problem solving method in teaching reading
A problem solving based curriculum may utilize a variety of different reading materials. The role of the tutor in this method is to stimulate learners to identify any problems within the designated stimulating environment. The theme within this method emphasizes the different purposes of knowledge; whereby different people read for different purposes-to obtain information used in solving their individual problems. The method is thus important in illustrating purposeful reading within the classroom context. Thereafter, students are asked to gather information to solve the identified problems.
Different literary materials such as encyclopedias, textbooks, brochures and many others may be used in the fact finding exercise. The students are then asked to develop a hypothesis which they later test through the use of data and facts gathered from the research material used in the exercise. The hypothesis should not be absolute, but rather tentative. The teacher should aid the students in the testing of the hypothesis.
The tested hypothesis may be accepted or refuted. These problem solving skills are applicable in societal activities as well as within the curriculum. Thus the theme of this method is that; acquisition of reading skills is not an end in itself, but rather a means of acquiring knowledge to use in the events of problem solving. The reading is thus spurred by the need to solve problems. A high level of cognition and capacity to carry out effective analysis, synthesis are necessary in appraising and utilizing obtained information to come up with solutions to problems.
The teaching of reading utilizes different methods such as the testing and measuring method. In this method goals are predetermined and set for students. After the teaching the students are then assessed by the teacher by use of tests based on the goals set to gauge their achievement. The subject matter approach emphasizes the amount of concepts, generalizations and facts attained by the student at the end of the teaching exercise. On the other hand, the student decision making method students are required to make decisions that are responsible in selecting sequential literary material to be used in the teaching exercise. Finally, the problem solving perspective aims at providing skills in reading that will help in fact gathering-used in the solving of problems based on facts and data gathered.
Conclusively, the problem solving approach should be given greater emphasis as a means of teaching because measurable objectives for students should be reflective of their capability to solve problems. The subject matter learned should also not only be gleaned for the sake of it, but rather for the purpose of acting as a tool to solve problems. Similarly, the students’ selection of books should be based on an effort to understand a certain topic properly so as to use the information for future curricula activities. Finally, for students to have effective reading and they should be assisted to acquire a greater command in comprehension skills and word recognition, and all these acquired skills should finally be able to support problem solving activities in life and academics.
Bush, C.L. and Huebner, M.H. (1979). Strategies for Reading in the Elementary School. Macmillan Publishing Incorporation, NY: New York.
Kamil et. Al, (2010). Teaching Reading. Retrieved on 24th September, 2010 from http://www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/dept/smec/iae.
National Reading Panel, (2000). Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction, Volume 2. The Panel.
Pearson, D.P. and Taylor, M.B. (2002). Teaching reading: effective schools, accomplished teachers. Routledge.
Tompkins, G. (2010). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.