Models of reading


Another objective was to evaluate different models of reading and writing. In this we looked at the bottom-up model which focuses on parts to whole word/sentence/text. There is an ’emphasis on decoding text by matching graphemes to phonemes to build up the sound of words’ (ppt. handouts), and words are then put together to form both sentences and texts.

We also looked at the top-down model which focuses on the whole to the parts. It relies on predicting the whole context and we bring our previous knowledge in this approach, asking ourselves ‘does that make sense?’. It suggests that readers use ‘what they already know about the structure and meaning of language…knowledge of the world, text structure and cues from illustrations to extract meaning’. This doesn’t completely ignore decoding skills, which can be used if needed.

Another model we looked at was the Interactive Model which combines both approaches meaning that readers will predict meaning based on existing knowledge but also use what they know about sounds, letters and words.

We then moved on to looking at the Simple View of Reading. This was ‘proposed by Gough and Tunmer (1986) but also promoted by The Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading: Final Report DES (2006)’ and ‘involves both word recognition and comprehension’ (class ppt). It is suggested that ‘learning word recognition is a finite task but developing abilities to comprehend different texts continues through life’ and this marks a move from learning to read to reading to learn. I’m not too sure if I agree it’s that simple as I feel I have to try to understand words just as much as comprehension, especially in teaching otherwise I wouldn’t have made a glossary page.

We also looked at the Searchlights Model, which replaced the Simple View. Jennifer Chew provides an overview in relation to primary in the the Teaching Times.

The last model we looked at was Frith’s Staged Model of Reading, which has 3 main stages (taken from course ppt handouts):
1) logographic stage – recognition of words by sight (social sight words)
2) Alphabetic stage – concept of letter-sound relationship, development of decoding skills
3) Orthographic stage – large number of words recognised automatically by matching to an internal lexicon (a visual cue e.g. wh- – you might guess ‘when’, ‘where’ etc. Here you might recognise root words, prefixes, suffixes, letter patterns and groups that have meaning e.g. magician, clinician.

This model did make me wonder how you can understand the logographic stage before the alphabetic stage, and whether it is entirely possible to understand social sight words without any knowledge of the alphabet.

We then completed an activity where we looked at the Adult Literacy Core Curriculum‘s reading section and tried to find:

1) Evidence of the influence of the top-down/bottom-up models of reading.


Rt/E1.1 – ‘follow a short narrative on a familiar topic or experience’. It explains that adults should be taught to ‘know and use a range of text-levelstrategies to get at meaning: their own background knowledge of content, the
context of the text as a whole, presentational devices’. The CC gives the example of ‘read their own composition which someone else has written down’ which is lending itself to a whole knowledge approach.


Rw/E1.2 – ‘decode simple, regular words
– understand that own language experience can be used when reading, to help predict sense and meaning of words
– understand that illustrations and other graphics can give clues to the likely meaning of individual words
– understand that written words correspond to their spoken equivalents and are composed of letters in combinations, to represent spoken sounds
– identify sounds in familiar regular words from spoken experience and recognise correspondence between sounds (phonemes) and letters (graphemes).

The Core Curriculum seems to be heavier on top-down processing than phonics, as even in the phonics ‘section’ it stipulates that adult learners should be taught to use their knowledge to understand texts.

2) Evidence of the staged model of reading

The Staged Model of reading is evident in the CC through the levels, but also in at text level, sentence level and word level in the Entry 1 Reading section. For example:

Rw/E1.1 Possess a limited, meaningful sight vocabulary of words, signs and symbols
Rw/E1.2 Decode simple, regular words

Recognition of orthographic stage seems to come after Entry 2 – root words enter the CC at E3 (Rw/E3.5), prefixes at E2 (Rw/E2.3),

3) Evidence of the simple view of reading

The CC uses a mixture of top-down and bottom-up processing, highlighting the need to use a combined approach to reading.


What did you learn? 

I learnt that there are more models than I originally thought there were! It was useful looking at the Core Curriculum and school literacy policy as it became apparent that a mixture of the different models seem to be used. As in ESOL, there is not enough evidence to suggest that one model, or method is enough for development on its own, yet each one brings a thought-set that can enhance understanding around reading and what’s essential to consider.

How will you apply it? Practical implications? Resources made/changed? For assignment? Meet with? Find out more about? By ___ in my teaching.

I can use this in my assignment, and also in my teaching as this knowledge underpins my understanding of the curriculum and is useful to think about when planning. In the simple view of reading, it justifies the need to develop all skills as on two axes, with learners making process in both in order to reach competence.

I tried this on:

I think you’re trying it all the time as the ultimate goal is to move towards competence, but it can be used to determine longer term progress by using to underpin all sessions rather than a technique used in one.

What went well?

What would I change?

How will I make changes?

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