What is the reading rope?

Wondering what is the reading rope and how does it apply to kindergarten literacy instruction? Look no further because we’ve broken down the research here for you. Find out what is the reading rope and what it means for teachers plus more below!

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Read all of the Simply Kinder Science of Reading articles here.

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What is the reading rope?

Have you heard the reading rope being discussed and are not sure what exactly it is or how it impacts literacy instruction? We’ve been learning and exploring the topics and research behind the Science of Reading here at Simply Kinder, so let’s dig into what is the reading rope.

The Reading Rope helps explain the many strands woven into skilled literacy instruction. This concept was first introduced by Dr. Hollis Scarborough, as she demonstrated with pipe cleaners to show how there are 5 main strands that work together to develop skilled readers.

Two main strands are needed: language comprehension and word recognition:

The goal of reading is to become fluent and read with automaticity but many components needs to be present for children to do this including all the strands outlined in the reading rope.

The Science of Reading research focuses on how to understand these different components and use the best practices to develop students into fluent readers.

The Reading Rope Strands

The two main strands that weave into skilled reading are language comprehension and word recognition:

Word recognition is composed of:

  • Phonological awareness
  • Decoding
  • Sight recognition

Language comprehension is composed of:

  • Background knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Language structures
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Literacy knowledge

ALL of these strands must be explicitly taught, practiced, and formed in the brain before reading automaticity can take place for students.

Reading Rope implications for instruction

If even one strand is weak then students will struggle to become fluent readers. Students need explicit instruction on each of the strands and plenty of time to practice to develop these skills. Let’s break them down!

If a student is struggling with reading, then finding out which part or strand is weak can help target intervention and support.

Language comprehension

Background knowledge: Formed by exposing students to a variety of literature that’s cross-curriculum and having rich discussions about the content before and after reading.

Vocabulary: Developing a wide vocabulary of familiar words will increase the odds of students becoming fluent readers. Exposure to new words and understanding how to find meaning in context is key.

Language structures: This refers to the order of words (syntax) and the meaning of the text (semantics).

Verbal reasoning: This includes figurative language and the ability to understand its meaning while reading. Such as metaphors, smilies, inferences, idioms, etc. Explicit instruction is needed for these skills.

Literacy knowledge: Exposing students to a wide range of literature from fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and much more.

Word recognition

Phonological awareness: This is the recognition that the sounds they make need to match the letters and words seen on print. Word mapping is a great activity for this. Learn more about word mapping and get a free printable here.

Decoding: This is the ability to say the sound of each part of the word students see and then blend together to form a word. Learn more about decodable readers & word work activities plus grab a free set from the best-selling bundle here.

Sight recognition: All words should eventually be read from sight but how do we teach the most common high-frequency words to students? Decoding is key to being able to recognize words by sight! Learn more about teaching decoding sight words here.

The Reading Rope key takeaways:

The reading rope is a concept presented by Dr. Hollis Scarborough. It’s based on science and research to explain how people become fluent readers.

Remember according to Scarborough (2018), “Weakness in ANY strand can disrupt reading, and weakness in SEVERAL strands can disrupt reading more.”  

Teachers should use these strands to help guide their literacy instruction and intervention. Using tools like a Sound Wall, Decodable Readers, Word Mapping, and more can help!

Shared the reading rope with parents. This provides the opportunity for additional support at home!

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