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Models of Word Knowledge

Models that have been developed for explaining the relationship between word knowledge and reading ability include instrumentalist (bottom-up) models and knowledge (interactive) models. Both these models are employed to some extent in contemporary classrooms for deaf students.

Instrumentalist Models

"Instrumentalist models" place emphasis on direct instruction of words and exposure to as many words as possible. These models are most useful to the practitioners of traditional approaches to language teaching such as the audio-lingual approach and the oral/aural method, which are influenced by the "natural order" of language acquisition. Often these bottom-up models advocate development of drills and practice of target words that essentially present word lists first, then provide practice reading the words in context, and finally have the students write down the meanings of the words in their individual contexts.

Knowledge Models

"Knowledge models" place emphasis on presenting words in conceptual and integrated schemas that help bridge the new word information with more familiar word associations. These interactive models emphasize "the integration of conceptual or interrelated associations" of a particular word (Paul, 1996). The various knowledge models give practice by describing the different meanings of words and by showing examples of the words in differing contexts to give a total picture of the word and its various uses in English (see "Vocabulary Building Ideas" in the SEA Site module, Reading and Writing in Content Areas).