Extremely Important Skill For Children
Children learning to talk is a very important skill they learn, as talking and listening is their way of communicating with their families, friends, and the wider community. Teachers need to provide children with plenty of opportunities to allow them to engage in interactive talking and support them to read and write. It is important that teachers not only develop understanding about children’s academic learning but also about their significant cultural and social differences, personality traits, and behaviors in order to cater to a diverse audience and ways of children learning that benefit them. Theories of literacy development that influence effective teaching of literacies for diverse groups of junior primary students include the four main theories behaviorism/bottom-up, psycholinguistics/top-down, transactional and critical.
Behaviorism/Bottom-up developmental learning theory
Behaviorism/bottom-up literacy development according to (Flint et al, 2016) is learning based on a series of small discrete steps from the simplest to the most complex. Firstly, the children need to learn the basics of phonics, how to decode, vocabulary, and grammar before moving on the more complex skills such as reading comprehension (Tustin, 2019) LaBerge and Samuels theory focuses on automaticity with the assumption that decoding (world analysis) and comprehending (comprehension) are seen as two different tasks. The process puts emphasis on mastering decoding initially so that the mind can start with comprehension.
The Behaviourism/Bottom-up theory can be used in conjunction with behaviorist teaching which embodies a practice and reward system. Students are given learning tools such as textbooks, flashcards, and other stimuli which can help break down the reading into discrete skills. By practicing small parts of a complex process, they can reach a level of automaticity. Behaviorism/Bottom-up theory is heavily focused on the decoding process (word analysis) “However, there is more to reading than decoding. Bottom-up theories do not consider the reader’s background and prior experiences” (Flint et al, 2016)
This theory is an effective way of teaching literacy as it allows the children to start at the bottom and work their way up, this provides the teachers with opportunities to identify where the students are at, what they are lacking, and to then teach those skills directly (Gunning, 2013). The bottom-up theory is to help to make reading easier but according to Kusleika (2014) this model of reading is seen as insufficient because reading is more than just sounding out words
Psycholinguistics/top-down developmental learning theory
As stated by Flint et al (2016) psycholinguistics/top-down theory is an embodiment of two fields; psychology and linguistics. It was determined by Goodman (1968, 1986) that meaning is what’s most pertinent to the reading process, thereby readers will not engage with the text if they can not make sense of it (Flint et al, 2016). The top-down theory emphasizes the bigger picture (meaning) before moving on to the smaller pieces (sounds/letter) it is referred to as the top-down theory according to Flint et al (2016). This theory is centered around integrating students’ needs and interests into the curriculum to ensure they are actively involved in what they read, write and learn (Flint et al, 2016). “A top-down theory ascribes to a progressive ideology that supports learners as knowledgeable beings able to construct meaning from texts” (Flint et al, 2016)
According to Flint et al (2016), the whole language model is considered to be a reflection of the top-down theory and is described as a set of beliefs and not a method. This model is used by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) with numerous principles that value learning that has meaning (Flint et al, 2016). The foundation of these principles is that language is to be used purposefully and authentically.
According to Kusleika (2014), the top-down approach is more for the fluent readers who are able to read easily but does not support the students who are still learning or struggling to decode individual words. A reader with no background of the topic will struggle to engage with the text, their classmates and to make predictions about the texts they are reading, therefore might feel defeated and left behind (Kusleika, 2014).
Transactional developmental learning theory
Another reading theory to be discussed is the transactional reading theory. According to Kusleika (2014) “Rosenblatt’s (1978) transactional theory emphasized the social nature of learning as meaning is created in the transaction between the reader and the text”. This theory is a mixture of ideas from John Dewey and Vygotsky and it highlights how individual social and cultural factors influence the reader’s responses and interpretations of texts, making each “transaction” a unique event (Kusleika, 2014).
Critical developmental learning theory
“Critical literacy theories encourage teachers and students to question texts — to wonder who or what is missing, address issues of power, and consider alternative stances or ways to interact with the text.” The critical developmental theory encompasses perspectives that invite teachers and students to problematize and question current beliefs on practices. According to Kennedy et al. (2012), there are four resources model embedded in critical literacy in the broader context of reading. They identify the following as key aspects of literacy and, by implication, literacy instruction: “coding (word identification) practices, text meaning practices (focusing on the relationship between ideas in a text); pragmatic practices (focusing on how the reader can use the text, including options and alternatives); and critical practices” (Kennedy, 2012).
Critical theory enables children to have opportunities to analyse how texts are constructed to inform, entertain, persuade and make us think (Kennedy et al, 2012)