The age-old question on teaching students to read, Top-down vs. bottom up, Right brain hemisphere vs. Left-brain hemisphere, continues to elicit debate even to date. The battle was introduced to me in 1988 in a classroom in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, (Northeastern State University) under the direction of Dr. Ann Bell. This was a turbulent time for education. The notion of restricting became the name of the game in the 1980 and 1990's education reform (Matthew Lynch: Why you need to know about the 1990s) Not only were students required stricter requirements for graduation as standard based education was emerging but higher credential expectation was imposed on teachers to become licensed before entering into their profession. The teaching of reading formed an integral part of the reform. It continues to be a great part of the debate even in the contemporary setting. Through years of teaching in dominate native American schools and international schools , I have came to believe that some cultures are prone to be more right brain, whole language , top-down approach learners. Therefore, making me question curriculum that does not consider the whole brain, the right brain approaches to reading. I concur that we as teachers should adopt reading strategies that brings balance to the learner. Strategies that accommodate the right hemisphere as well as the left, the whole brain approach, are essentially the best.
Strategies to Build Proper Reading Skills
The first step is to appeal to the senses when reading. It worth noting that reading is the function or the duty of the mind. However, the application of the senses provides extra support for the learners, particularly the ones intending to grow their skills. Verbalization of the questions and reading any text or passage aloud will have benefits to the learners. Notably, learners tend to lack the idea of how to ask relevant questions. They also lack the ability to gauge frequently asked questions (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 2008). Mastering the skill is thus invaluable and exceedingly productive. The tutor ought to enhance the skill, especially for visual learners, by using an overhead projector and document camera. Additionally, when applying the mentioned technology it is imperative for the tutor to mark or highlight the key words. The students should always have a pencil or a pen when reading. The tutor has the responsibility of setting the reading goals or helping the learners to set reading goals often in the classroom. Moreover, there need to be classes for assessing the reading skills regularly.
The other strategy is for the tutor to guide the students to make reading goals while in the classroom. Noteworthy is the fact that b the students may fail at times to assess their reading skills, and that could be detrimental in the development of their reading skills. The tutor will certainly gain insight into the students' reading habits. The tutor then has the opportunity to assess the students' success and struggles, which serves as the basis for discussion on setting the objectives. After any reading, which includes a novel, nonfiction text, poetry unit, or short story the tutor should help the students to evaluate their reading skills. Closely, related to this is that the tutor should teach close reading skills by directing and guiding the learners to move beyond highlighting and underlining the key words. In this regard, the students should define new words, coding the new words, making personal connections, citing the current events, categorizing information, summarizing the paragraphs, ordering, numbering, and drawing pictures. Finally, the tutor should offer the students the opportunities to have choice reading. The students have a higher probability to read when they have a choice on the material to read. Providing fictional, motivational, and non-fictional materials are of great essence. The tutor should inquire on the students' interest and then make the relevant recommendations to shape their reading habits. Reading for pleasure has the propensity of building the necessary transferable skills for content reading. Including the entire class or involving all the students is quite important.
Top-Down vs Bottom up Reading Technique
As a tutor, will encourage the students to use both the Top-down and Bottom-up reading or internalization techniques since the two are interactive approaches that enable the students to process information in a great manner, albeit differently. Bottom-up processing or reading is essential in that it enables the students to construct meaning form the most basic branches or units of language that include letters, letter clusters, and at times words. It helps the students to be exceedingly critical since they build meaning from any text by creating a foundation of analysis on the smallest possible units of meaning. In this regard, the students have to commence form the sound of the letters to achieve the necessary understanding. Essentially, the learners begin with sounds and letters, and then build all the way up to the morpheme and then recognition of different words (Mendez, Estefania, Lliviganay & Maribel, 2017). The next step is to build on the words to create a recognizable grammatical structure, sentences, and then comprehensive texts. Bottom-up reading provides the most appropriate method of teaching to phonics, which is the best approach that enhances the learner's approach access to text that eventually leads to internalization or comprehension.
Top-down approach mainly focuses on activities that derive meaning rather than building form the basic, as does the bottom-up approach. As a tutor, I will encourage the students to create meaning through the application of background, perusing the text, and making predictions to make the appropriate judgment based on information gathered. The compression of the text resides with the reader since they use expectations, knowledge, questions, pre-reading techniques, and assumptions to make meaning of the text. Personally, I prefer the interactive method, which is the combination of the two techniques) since it is quite comprehensive and relevant in any reading situation for the learners. For instance, the learner begins reading by applying top-down approach to make meaning of the text, and then change to bottom-up when they encounter unfamiliar wording or information. Using the bottom-up strategy is necessary in decoding the meaning of words before continuing with the reading process.
Right Brain vs. Left Brain Phonics
It is worth noting that learners have varying or completely different learning styles. While the left-brain learners tend to have higher affinity for bookwork, the right brainer tends to prefer discussions, practical projects, and require more interaction during school days. The tutor should identify the students based on the learning skills and then tailor the curriculum with a bit of specificity to meet each learner at the point of need. Notably, the curriculum tends to favor the left-brainers, as it focuses most on the sequential and auditory aspects, consequently leaving out the right brain learners if the two are subject to the same curriculum (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2010). The right brain learners will certainly struggles to learn and retain information under the circumstances. As a tutor, the secret is to identify the right brain learners, then tweak the learning process to help them get in touch with the learning process in the best possible manner. The tutor should use pictures and colors to make phonics easy. The learners should read list of long words with color as the decoding unit. The technique is beneficial with learners who are word-guessers. Additionally, the tutor should train the brain to store picture and sound as a single unit for easier retrieval of information (Waldie et al., 2013). The tutor should also learn the best techniques to teach the learners vocabulary. Towards this end, I may draw cartons to assist in memorizing technical words and make a drawing that symbolizes the meaning of the word. Finally, a tutor may use pre-made vocabulary cartoons for regular enrichment of the lessons.
A proper approach requires combination of various reading techniques for improved comprehension. The objective is to guide the students by providing directions for them to go beyond underlining and highlighting. The strategy is to encourage the students to converse with the text in question by taking notes while reading, as such enhances comprehension and keep them engaged. The students need to have the opportunity to form their own process when approaching any particular text. It is imperative for the students to annotate, as it helps them to identify the suitable, appropriate strategies that work best. Therefore, the students have the chance to try out the process and determine if they work. The tutor should also identify the learning styles that suit various students and apply effective teaching techniques for better learning.
Afflerbach, P., Pearson, P. D., & Paris, S. G. (2008). Clarifying differences between reading skills and reading strategies. The Reading Teacher, 61(5), 364-373. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8963/2672a9e0f3829fd961218c527615713fb4f1.pdf
Mendez, C., Estefania, L., Lliviganay, L., & Maribel, T. (2017). The use of bottom-up and top-down processing as an EFL teaching tool based on schema theory to develop reading skills in 9th graders at "Tecnico Salesiano" high school in Cuenca (Bachelor's thesis). Retrieved from http://dspace.ucuenca.edu.ec/bitstream/123456789/27593/1/Trabajo%20de%20titulaci%C3%B3n.pdf
Tokuhama-Espinosa, T. (2010). Mind, brain, and education science: A comprehensive guide to the new brain-based teaching. WW Norton & Company. Retrieved from https://diannecraft.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Craft-Right-Brain-Student-Reader-Teacher-Study-Guide.pdf
Waldie, K. E., Haigh, C. E., Badzakova-Trajkov, G., Buckley, J., & Kirk, I. J. (2013). Reading the wrong way with the right hemisphere. Brain sciences, 3(3), 1060-1075. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/brainsci-03-01060.pdf
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