Adams believed that reading was very interactive, and all the processes work simultaneously while reading. All components of the reading system must develop, building upon other skills, and then connect with the other components. To become skillful in one area, the reader must also be skillful in the other reading areas. She compared the process of reading to that of driving a car. If a car does not have any gas, it can not go any where. In reading, if the reader is not familiar with print and is unable to transform the print into mental energy and gain meaning and understanding from the text, then the reader will struggle, and perhaps fail, at reading. Without connecting and understanding print, reading will not be developed.
Ehri believed that in the Word Identity Amalgamation Theory, which stated that when first graders start learning to read, they are already very developed with speech. However, they must learn to incorporate print into their prior knowledge. According to this theory, word units have several different identities: Phonological (how words sound and are articulated), syntactic (their roles in sentences), semantic (word meanings), and the orthographic identity (words are represented visually) is added last. A printed word has been learned when it’s orthographic image has been formed and it is amalgamated (bonded) with the other three identities.
Her study examined how the images are established which represent sound in the memories of beginning readers. Participants were taught visual cues to four sets of cvc nonsense sounds. One set had a squiggle, another showed a single letter, and the last two sets had an initial letter plus a spelling aid- one set was correct spelling and the other was not. These sets were shown to the subjects, one card at a time, and the children had to remember what sound each squiggle or letter represented. The experimenter would say “This (squiggle or letter name ) stands for sound.” On the cards with the stimulus letters along with the spellings/misspellings, the experimenter would say, ” The Letter (name) stand for (sound).” The children had to repeat the sound. Once testing trials began, children were given 5 seconds to recall the sounds of the squiggle or letter, and they were allowed a maximum of 15 trials. Each child was given a different set/order of cards.The results showed that sounds of a stimulus letter plus a correct spelling aid were learned the fastest, followed by letters without any spelling aids, and sounds recalled for the squiggle prompts or the stimulus letter accompanied by a misspelled aid were learned the slowest. These results show that the print helped students recall the sound associated with the stimulus letter.
Perfetti believed that decoding should be an automatic process that occurs naturally. Since students are not focusing on decoding, they can move their focus to comprehension (meaning). He performed a study using 32 third-graders and 32 fifth-grades, with half being skilled comprehenders and the other half were less skilled comprehenders. His purpose was to determine if decoding ability was the only difference between good and poor readers, or if they could also be differentiated based on their vocabulary knowledge. Each subject was presented words by a projector with a shutter. The words were presented in random order and consisted of high-frequency and low-frequency words, and pseudowords. When the shutter opened, a timer started. When the subjects initiated response, the timer was stopped. Afterwards, each subject was given a multiple-choice vocabulary test to test knowledge of real words in the set of words were given. The results found that the third and fifth-grade skilled readers were faster at reading all types of words, but both groups named high-frequency words the fastest, followed by low-frequency words, and named the pseudowords the slowest. These results showed that efficient decoding skills does effect comprehension. Those who lack decoding skills must place their focus on decoding, but those whose decoding skills are automatic can focus on comprehension.
Joshi’s article discussed the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension. Students who have strong vocabulary can read and understand text easily and can learn new words in context. On the other hand, students with poor vocabulary read less because reading is more difficult for them, and they learn fewer words in context (Matthew Effect). They benefit more by being taught vocabulary through direct instruction. In order to teach vocabulary, teachers can embed words in sentences and model how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of the word. Teachers can also use antonym/synonym activities, structural analysis (teaching roots and affixes), and visual displays of words such as webbing to teach new vocabulary. It is also important that teachers require students to consistently use the vocabulary, not only in their writing, but also in their speech. Using the words in their writing and speech will embed the words in their memory and help them expand their vocabularies, thus improving their reading and comprehension abilities.
Daneman and Carpenter believed that good readers were faster at processing information and that they required fewer processes than poor readers to complete the same task. They believed that working memory capacity played a vital role in comprehension. Working memory is the ability to connect prior knowledge with new information, and remember it. Working memory plays a role in comprehension because as a person reads they must connect new and prior knowledge to get meaning out of a text. In order to link working memory and comprehension, subjects must be measured for working memory span and comprehension. Working memory and comprehension are measured by tests, such as the SAT. After completing tests on 20 college undergraduates, they found that there was a significant difference between good and poor readers. Therefore, working memory does play a role in comprehension. A reader who has to really concentrate on reading the text, can place less focus on comprehension.
So what do all of these studies have in common? First, they all maintain that reading is a very complex process, and the different processors must work simultaneously while reading. Second, all the processors and skills depend, build, and grow upon each other. If one processor or skill is lacking, then the entire reading process is going to suffer. In order for a student to be a skilled, successful reader, teachers must ensure that students receive a strong foundation in reading, and they must review/reteach any skills that students may be weak in. Although it may be a tedious and difficult task to pinpoint where a student’s weakness in reading lies, it is very important that we pinpoint and strengthen their weakness to help improve overall reading ability and comprehension.
After reading all this research, I have a better understanding of how the process of reading really works. Until this class I had no idea how complex the reading process is. There are so many skills that must be mastered in order to be a skillful and successful reader that it doesn’t seem surprising that there are so many students who struggle with reading. As a teacher, I am going to have to differentiate instruction to try to ensure that the needs of all my students are met, and I must consistently review/reteach those necessary skills for reading. I realize the importance of vocabulary, and I hope to be able to include a vocabulary lesson in my daily schedule. The information I have learned throughout this class will definitely benefit me as a teacher, and I plan to share this information with my colleagues.