The Scarborough Rope Model is a classic framework of a child’s phonological awareness. Here’s how we understand and apply it.
The Scarborough Rope Model has been one of the standard measures of a child’s phonological awareness for about two decades. It was developed by Dr. Hollis Scarborough, and the idea of the test is based on the premise that a child’s ability to segment words into phonemes is directly related to their reading fluency.
What is Scarborough’s Reading Rope Model
Scarborough’s Reading Rope Model is a framework, or rather a metaphor, that allows for a comprehensive view of a child’s phonological awareness skills and their progress towards desirable language comprehension skills and literacy knowledge.
The model is presented as a rope that represents the learner’s progress, with knots standing for different levels of phonemic awareness and skills. Those skills range from the simple ability to recognize and replicate rhyming sequences to more complex processes of segmenting and manipulating word and syllable parts.
Why is Scarborough’s reading Rope useful to literacy development?
Scarborough’s rope metaphor is extremely useful as it demonstrates the fluidity of reading skills and the continuous progress students make while working on their language decoding skills, especially those dealing with reading difficulties.
The model also illustrates how each of the literacy skills is woven with other aspects of the written language and thus offers a more nuanced than the simple view of reading competence that we are used to.
Thanks to its reliance on metaphors of slow but constantly evolving and intertwining language comprehension strands, the model allows those offering reading instructions to identify those areas where each child might struggle and adjust their approach as necessary.
The two main components of Scarborough’s reading Rope
The two main strands in Scarborough’s model are Language Comprehension and Word Recognition. These two concepts are closely related in the science of reading, and each consists of sub-strands representing further reading skills.
- Language Comprehension: This strand of the rope refers to our ability to understand what is being said or written. That includes the broader meaning and idea of the discourse, details that require inference, and aspects of the language that demand we rely on semantics and background knowledge to make connections between speech and phenomena we encounter in our lives.
- Word Recognition: The word recognition strand represents our ability to identify and understand individual words as they are presented to us. That includes sight word recognition, alphabetic decoding, understanding affixes, etc.
Both language comprehension and word recognition are important aspects of language, and they are crucial for developing early literacy. Teaching reading and writing requires that we focus on the connections between the written word and spoken language if we want our students to leave the classroom as skilled readers.
Tips for teaching language comprehension using the Scarborough rope model for educators
The Rope Model is, ultimately, a tool. A useful tool, but a tool nonetheless. That means its efficiency will, in some ways, depend on how you employ it, especially if you’re trying to accommodate students with reading disabilities.
Below, we have a list of five tips to help you make the most out of your sessions.
Use assistive technology
Relying on some assistive technology to supplement the reading Rope Model approach is one of the best ways to ensure quicker progress in learners of all ages.
Text to speech programs, for example, allow the learners to hear, edit, and later imitate sounds and learn proper enunciation.
Speechify is especially helpful in that regard, as it was developed specifically for those struggling with reading problems. You can use the app to help dyslexic students practice listening and reading comprehension and teach them phonics, as it can turn any piece of text into an audio file.
Letting them rely on the app will encourage independent reading, too, allowing for more language immersion and increased language comprehension and word recognition skills.
Create more opportunities for your students to practice and work on all strands of Scarborough models
Practice is key. The more we do something, the better we get at it. The same goes for language. You need to provide your students with plenty of opportunities to practice what they have learned. Ideally, they will do it independently, too. So, provide them with appropriate homework material and encourage group activities that will let them immerse themselves in the language more.
Teach your students how to think about their progress
With independent practice should come independent thinking and reasoning. In other words, it would be helpful to slowly introduce your students to some self-assessment and self-reflection strategies that will allow them to think about reading in a more objective, meta way. Teach them how to ask questions about any given text, how to create summaries of their reading materials, and how to analyze other aspects of the English language, such as syntax. In addition, teach them about verbal reasoning and explain to them that skilled reading requires more than just sight recognition and subvocalizing.
Present reading as more than an academic task
Reading doesn’t have to be just a meaningless drill or a classroom activity. There is a whole world of literature out there, too. You should encourage your students to see reading as something done for pleasure, too. That will help them develop both the lower (more nuanced) and upper strands of the Rope model we described. You can turn pleasurable reading activities into homework assignments and encourage in-class discussion, too.
Vary your teaching materials
The International Dyslexia Association often recommends varying teaching materials to accommodate those with learning and reading disabilities. You can do that with students of all kinds since variety prevents boredom and increases engagement levels. Make sure you assign reading material relevant to everyone’s interests and use infographics to monitor how each student responds to different kinds of reading material.
Keep track of everyone’s progress
Monitoring and assessing each learner is crucial. Relying on the same approach over and over again without any results is counterproductive, so be sure to always be in the know in regard to every learner’s progress. When necessary, try making adjustments to your approach and come up with appropriate intervention strategies depending on the language structures you are teaching.