Significant considerations in esl/efl literacy
Theories of reading and their implications to the
teaching of reading in esl/efl classes & the place of
schemata theory on foreign language reading
by Hasan Bilokcuoglu
Abstract: Researches, reviews, suggestions, remarks, and opinions to improve the teaching of reading in ESL/EFL classes, regarding to the findings of various researches and individual experiences, are now attainable in the language teaching literature. This paper attempts to summarise the various theories of reading, models and the place of schema theory in reading comprehension and its implication into the foreign language reading classroom. Recently, schema theory has been one of the significant fields of research that has definitely been taking its place in the ELT's key issues catalogue. It should be underlined that, despite the fact that a schema can be defined, it is not a phenomenon that is actual or concrete in terms of scientists are able to literally put their hands on it. Just like other numerous things that are talked about in the field of education, schema is an empirically unverifiable subject, such as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), Universal Grammar (UG), IQ, and so on. Nevertheless, the effects (of schema theory) on language teaching are quite clear. Thus, language teachers must bear in their minds that schema theory is 'functionally' beneficial in their teachings and can help their students in learning a foreign language. By taking these key issues into consideration, learners' level of reading proficiency may remarkably be upgraded.
Chaper I: Foreign language reading comprehension: theories and models
Reading, which is one of the most essential skills to develop due to some reasons among the four language skills, is probably the most intensively studied skill by educators and scholars in the language teaching field. The findings of the research done for a number of decades on the phenomenon of reading comprehension have aided in formulating theories about what really operates best in the teaching of reading. Consequently, language teachers have many choices regarding teaching methods and techniques that they can choose from to teach reading in the SL (Second Language) or FL (Foreign Language).
Being aware of how vital reading is for the students, the job of language teachers is to develop and improve their ability in reading comprehension. To be able to reach this goal, language teachers should always try to make their reading lessons effective by applying the most suitable method (and techniques) in accordance with the theories.
This chapter will not only attempt to draw a guideline for applying a theory of reading, but will also describe some major theories of reading.
1.2. Theories of reading
Since the 1970s, three approaches have been dominant in the history of English as a foreign language. These approaches are ?the bottom up' processing (also known as driven processing) (Gough, 1972; Rayner and Pollatsek, 1989), 'the top-down' data processing (also known as conceptually-driven processing) (Goodman, 1975; Smith, 1971) and 'the interactive' models (Rumelhard, 1977; Stanovich, 1980). In the bottom-up processing, learners use their linguistics ability to process a text, whereas in the top-down process, learners activate their background knowledge and reflect it on the text they read. The third approach entitled "interactive model" claims that a learner needs to combine the two processing mentioned above with a piece of reading text to grasp the utmost comprehension. In the top-down processing, learners use their prior knowledge to make predictions about the text. On the other hand, in the bottom-up processing, learners use their linguistic knowledge to recognize linguistic elements, such as words, sentences, semantics, etc. to do the construction of meaning. In practice, learners mostly adopt a top-down approach to predict the probable theme, and from there they move to the bottom-up approach to check their understanding. It is obvious that efficient readers can 'switch' styles according to the type of text they read.
One of the major factors in relation to reading is the Schema Theory, which Bartlett (1932) first used to explain how the knowledge that we already know about the world is organized based upon our previous knowledge and experience. This theory, which will be discussed in the following chapter in a more detailed way, takes our idea of the interactive reading process a stage further by proposing that efficient readers relate texts to their background knowledge of the world.
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