Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

An Interactive, Instructor-Supported Reading Approach vs. Traditional Reading Instruction in Spanish

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

An Interactive, Instructor-Supported Reading Approach vs. Traditional Reading Instruction in Spanish

Article excerpt


This study analyzes the effects of the Interactive Reading with Instructor Support (IRIS) model on reading comprehension, as compared to a traditional (direct-teaching/lecture format) instructional model. The IRIS model combines reading strategies and social mediation together in the Spanish as a second language environment. In the IRIS model, elements of strategy-focused instruction, scaffolding, and language promoting assistance are operant. The IRIS model, a collaborative learning approach, presents no disadvantage in reading comprehension when compared to a traditional direct-teaching model. Furthermore, a slight trend in the data shows an increase in recall performance of the experimental group (the students participating in the IRIS model) when compared to the control group throughout the term.

Key words: reading comprehension, socially mediated reading, collaborative learning, strategy-focused instruction, interactive reading

Language: Spanish, relevant to all languages

Over the last two decades, the reading of authentic texts has been increasingly rec- ommended as a component of the beginning and intermediate foreign or second language curriculum (Gilmore, 2007; Nunan, 1999). The potential of literature to provide opportunities for improved linguistic and cognitive development in bridge classes has also been discussed (Mantero, 2006). However, at both beginning and intermediate levels, authentic texts may be problematic for students, since they contain unfamiliar linguistic structures, vocabulary, and cultural content or perspectives that impede student comprehension (Pusack & Otto, 1997; Ketchum, 2006). Ketchum (2006) maintains that instructors can present linguistically challenging texts to students, if they prepare students adequately in the formation of appropriate schemata, which are mental organizational structures that assist comprehension by helping students to integrate background knowledge with new knowledge. Nevertheless, the issue of how to specifically assist students in the formation of schemata for comprehension may represent a dilemma for instructors, making the use of authentic reading texts as problematic for them as they are for students.

It is still not completely clear how texts become comprehensible to students or how students comprehend and recall important information from authentic texts. Traditionally, a bottom-up view of reading instruction prevailed in the classroom in which it was believed that a reader constructed meaning by working from letters to words to sentences (Stanovich, 1990). Traditional strategies for teaching reading based upon bottom-up views included simplifying the text, building vocabulary, analyzing words and sentences, reading repetitively, and answering comprehension questions-mainly teacher-directed classroom activities.

As students continued to struggle with comprehension skills under such traditional models, other approaches based upon a top-down view of reading comprehension were promoted in the classroom. Those holding a top-down view perceived reading as a holistic process in which readers draw from their background experience, intelligence, and textual clues to construct meaning. They arrived at this meaning by making predictions about the text, guessing at the meaning of words, determining the purpose of a text, distinguishing the main ideas, seeing patterns, and interpreting and drawing inferences (Goodman, 1967; Duffy & Roehler, 1986). It is believed that this processing helps students to form schemata that are essential to good reading comprehension (Anderson & Pearson, 1984 in Horiba, 1993; Carrell, 1983; Minsky, 1982 in Shrum & Glisan, 1994). In a top-down approach, tasks may be simplified, but the text itself is not simplified. Students are also considered capable of more complex tasks in which they can negotiate meaning and engage in joint problem solving, either with the instructor or other classmates (Rogoff, 1990). …

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