Literacy Theories Essay

Critically assess any two literacy theories and underscore their importance in the literacy acquisition process. Clearly demonstrate how these literacy theories may be applicable in teaching literacy in a grade of your choice by designing lessons that reflect them. What is the best way of teaching literacy? Children learn in various ways, but what theory works best for the majority of students in the classroom? As simple as the words are in those questions are, the answer is by no means easy to come by.

The onlything that can realley be said is to try different ways of teachiing your students. What may have worked for one set one year may not work for the next set the year after. Teachers are faced with the daunting task of finding the best strategy that works. Early childhood teachers were taught that the best way of teaching language is from the bottom up at the same time when we speak and read to our kids are we not going from the top down? Bottom up theory of learning according to Gove (1983) states that Bottom up models assume that the translation process begins with print i. . , letter or word identification, and proceeds to progressively larger linguistic units, phrases, sentences, etc. , ending in meaning (p. 262). A student who uses bottom up theory first learns the basics of language by creeping, their way up from letter sound association. So the letter a says /a/ as in apple,, also c say /k/ for cake. So everywhere they see the letter ‘a’ the assume it has its short sound, but the ‘a’ in cake and other similar words has a long sound. Phonemic awareness plays an important part in bottom up theory, students learn to listen inside a word.

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They are encouraged to do a number of things when they are learning to be phonemically aware, like blending words, putting sounds together to form a word with simple consonant vowel consonant words like bat, mop etc. Segmentation is also learnt where they hear the word and pull its sounds apart example fish. Fish has four symbols but three sounds so segmented it is /f//i//sh/. The others are sound substitution, insertion and so on. Bottom up follow the natural order of how things happen in life, we creep before we walk.

We spoke syllables before we learned words, we learned phrases before sentences. Gough’s (1972)described reading as a sequential or serial mental process. Everything is done in stages. Readers, according to Gough, begin by translating the parts of written language (letters) into speech sounds, then piece the sounds together to form individual words, then piece the words together to arrive at an understanding of the author’s written message. In learning the basics first they are able to spell their names, sound out words and so on.

Reading then becomes an associational process where students start using words to identify things around them, things in pictures and so on. Learning words first gives them the confidence to be able to identify things around them and be able to spell the letters within the word. For example, they learn the colour blue, the student begins to associate everything that has the colour blue on it. They learn the action word run, every time they see the word run or someone doing the section they point it out. Kids learn words like truck, cat dog, walk, hot, sad, and they learn how to associate them with the things around them.

Parallel to bottom-up is the top down theory which is ‘the act of reading that begins reader generating hypotheses or predictions about the material, using visual cues in the material to test these hypotheses as necessary’ (Walberg, Hare, Pulliam, 1981). The cues in the material relates to bottom-up theory which is learning the letters or the words in the sentences. The top down theory is regularly used in the classroom especially at the early childhood level as books are read to students. It is through these books that students vocabulary are developed.

Their growth relies heavily on this for them to relate letters and sounds to their prior knowledge. Not many students are from a print rich environment, so their vocabulary may be limited to that of their community which may limit them significantly. Top-down theory focuses on the reader as they interact with the text. Prior knowledge in decoding is essential in this theory. The belief is that learning is best done by learning paragraphs, or sentences first then narrowing down to words. Top-down accounts for the understanding of a text.

It is from this that students understand not only how to decode what is meant but to also use words in sentences. They link their previous experiences with the stories used to relate to them or learn from them. On the flip side, top-down can never exist nor be used single handily as it requires the characteristics of the bottom theory to be effective. Children grow up on fairytale books like Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, etc. , they all have the same beginnings and ‘lived happily ever after. The End. ‘ The also carry illustrations along with heir words. A student who hears the beginning of a book , ‘Once upon a time, in a land far away… ‘ instantly with the use of illustration tell you what the book is about and how it will end. These expectations allows the reader to learn similar books very quickly, without having paid attention to specific words in the text. However, if the story is different it forces the reader to focus on the individual words if necessary to gain meaning. ‘Processing of print obviously cannot be a totally top-down experience, because a reader must begin by focusing on the print’ (Gove, 1983).