by Steve Tattum
In Parts I and II of this article, we discussed Marilyn Jager Adams four processors and highlighted the phonological and orthographic processors. In Part III, we will address the Meaning Processor and the Context Processor.
These processors are developed in children informally by listening to and talking with family members. They are more formally developed through the experience of parents reading to their children. We know that children from higher socioeconomic families are exposed to more oral language and vocabulary than are those from families in the lower socioeconomic level. Thus, the children from the higher socioeconomic families have an incredible advantage in the meaning and context processors.
When a child is decoding a word, s/he quickly gets support from both the meaning processor that says, 'I know that word,' and the context processor, which says, 'That word makes sense in this sentence'. As these four processors work together, the child develops an increasingly robust list of sight words and becomes familiar with the predictability of the test. This person becomes an independent reader.
Unfortunately, a high percentage of students have neither the vocabulary nor the familiarity with written language to support their decoding process (the phonological and orthographic processors). When these students decode a word, they don't know if it is a real word or not because they cannot locate it in the meaning or context processors.
Such students may have nonverbal learning disorders, but often they come from lower socioeconomic groups and simply haven't been exposed to oral language or print as frequently as have other groups. Thus, even though their meaning and context processors are fully functional, they aren't providing the support needed to help these children decode.
(Read Part IV of this article series to learn more about the four processors.)