Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 370, Chapter 1: Knowledge and Beliefs About Reading

The Importance of Belief Systems

A belief system influences the way a teacher teaches. Each teacher can have a different belief system but almost all teachers will agree that the main goal of teaching reading is “to teach children to become independent readers and learners” (Vacca, 2012, p.4).

A systematic instructional approach is an approach the may be effected by a teacher’s belief system. This approach includes direct teaching and a logical instructional sequence. This gives plenty of chance to practice specific skills along a logical timeline.

How Teachers Come to Know About Reading and Learning to Read

Teachers come to know about reading and learning to read in different ways. These ways consist of personal knowledge, practical knowledge, and professional knowledge.

Personal knowledge comes from how a teacher was taught. The way the teacher teaches helps to construct the personal knowledge for their students. Autobiographical narratives can also help to connect personal history as a reader to what is being taught. An autobiographical narrative will help to understand a readers past as well as goals they may have in the future.

Practical knowledge comes from a teachers experience in the classroom as well as experiences outside of the classroom. Teachers can observe their students in the classroom setting and in the community, this can help the teacher to see what learning style may work best for the students as well as things that may be motivating to them.

Professional knowledge comes from workshops, conferences, coworkers, and other professional development opportunities. Teachers may also get a literacy coach. A literacy coach can support a teacher who is just starting in a classroom or they could be a mentor to others who just need some additional help. 

Cognitive Insights into Reading and Learning to Read

One of the most important cognitive aspects to reading and learning to read is the alphabetic principle. The alphabetic principle states that there is a relationship between letters and sounds. Teachers need to understand that children learn the sounds through speech before they realize there are symbols (letters) to represent them.

Skilled readers can also chunk words together into syllables automatically. This knowledge of spelling patterns are also known as orthographic knowledge. This means knowing that the group of letters tion is pronounced “tion” and a skilled reader can figure this out quickly without having to think about it.

Schema Theory can also be used for reading and learning to read, especially reading comprehension. A schemata represents the prior knowledge, experiences, conceptual understandings, attitudes, values, skills, and procedures that a reader brings to a reading situation. If students can bring previous experiences into a reading situation, they will be able to better understand what they are reading as well as being able to remember what is read better. The more a student hears, sees, reads, and experiences new information, the more they will be able to comprehend when they are reading.

Metacognition is defined as “by Ann Brown (1985), refers to knowledge about and regulation of some form of cognitive activity” (Vacca, 2012, p. 20). There are three parts to this:

  1. Self-Knowledge: What students think of themselves as readers
  2. Task Knowledge: How to do the tasks and strategies that can be used
  3. Self-Monitoring: Students monitoring what they are reading and understanding

When a student is reading and they come to a word they don’t know, there are four options for what the teacher can do.

  1. Tell the student the word
  2. Have the student sound it out
  3. Have the student make an educated guess
  4. Have the student say blank and keep reading

Each option can be used to help a student to become a better reader. Options 2-4 can be used before option 1 to give the student an opportunity to figure it out. With option 3, the student needs to use the implicit message to figure out the word. The implicit message is what the reading is suppose to say so the student can use context clues to figure out the unknown word. The teacher can also make the implicit message explicit. This means the teacher is using modeling, demonstrating, explaining, rationale-building, thinking aloud, and reflecting. This allows the teacher to help students to develop their metacognitive awareness and strategic knowledge.

Reading from a Language Perspective

Jean Piaget observed children and how they interacted with their environment. Piaget thinks that as children explore their environment they develop meaning to the events they are experiencing. Children need to interact with the environment around them to develop language.

Lev Vygotsky believed that children played a role in their own learning, this is similar to Piaget. Vygotsky thought children needed to experience external languages before they could develop an inner voice.

Readers look for information cues in written language through these three systems:

  1. Graphophonemic System: This is the print that it provided to the reader as the major source of information.
  2. Syntactic System: This provides the grammatical relationship within the sentence patterns. This means that a student uses the way words are arranged in a sentence to make sense of what the text means.
  3. Semantic System: The reader brings background knowledge, experiences, conceptual understandings, attitudes, beliefs, and values (or in other words, schemata).

There are four steps to literacy development. These steps are:

  1. Text intent: understanding what the author intended to write
  2. Negotiability: creating a meaningful message
  3. Risk-taking: making hypotheses and testing them
  4. Fine-tuning: using text as a resource for following texts

Models of Reading 

  • Bottom-Up Models of Reading – the process of translating print to meaning starts with the print.
  • Top-Down Models of Reading – the process of translating print to meaning starts with the reader’s prior knowledge.
  • Interactive Models of Reading – the process of translating print to meaning starts with both the print and the reader’s prior knowledge.


RTI (Response to Intervention)

RTI is used to identify and instruct those who struggle with reading. RTI uses a three-tier approach.

  • Tier 1 – All students receive research-based instruction
  • Tier 2 – More intensive instruction provided to a smaller group of students
  • Tier 3 – Even more intensive instruction, typically one-on-one to target specific problems

Vacca, J. L., Vacca, R. T., & Gove, M. K. (2012). Reading and learning to read (8th ed.). New York: Longman. 

Classroom Application

Some day I will have beliefs of my own in my classroom that will effect the way I teach reading to students. I will also need to understand the students and their backgrounds to help them to learn to the best of their abilities. I liked the different options for helping a student to figure out an unknown word and will definitely use those in my classroom too. RTI will also be used in my classroom some day to help students who are struggling readers to get the most help they need to help them stay at their grade level.

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