Skip to content
Home » Blog » What is the Scarborough Reading Rope?

What is the Scarborough Reading Rope?

This post may contain affiliate links. You may feel free to use them or not use them. It costs you no extra, but I make a small commission. (Please see my/our full disclosure for further information.)

Do you remember the Scarborough Reading Rope? No? Me neither, or at least not until someone brought it up again at a professional development seminar. I looked at it, and thought, “why haven’t I been referencing this the whole time?” It would make explaining and justifying so many things so much easier. So in today’s blog post, we’re going to break down what the Scarborough reading rope is and how SEITs can use it! 

After that experience in that professional development seminar, I honestly think someone should just walk up to teachers and show us something from one of those college classes we didn’t take seriously. 

It would blow your mind how much stuff you learned in college that seemed dumb, is so much more relevant now that you’re actually teaching.

My big one right now is the Scarborough Reading Rope. After looking at it, I have to say, it’s a miracle any of us learn how to read. 

Keep reading to learn about the Scarborough Reading Rope and how SEITs can use it to help inform their instruction and choose areas to target.

If you are a special education teacher or a one-on-one service provider make sure to join my email list! You get access to my free resource library, which includes a checklist of reading skills! It can help you observe your students as they read, and note what they do well and what they don’t! That way you can choose to target specific areas! 

Click here to join!

Imagine a rope. What is it made out of? A lot of individual little threads and strands right? 

Well, the idea behind the reading rope is that fluent reading is like a rope. It’s made of a lot of individual pieces and parts and you need all of those parts to become a good reader.

Copyrighted images used under Fair Use. Originally Published in Scarborough, H. S. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. In S. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook for research in early literacy (pp. 97–110). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

The image above was originally developed not for teachers, but for parents. It was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Hollis Scarborough, who would weave pipe cleaners together for a visual model. 

Essentially there are two strands that make up a rope, the Language Comprehension strand, and the word recognition strand. Within those strands are many threads that make the strand.

The idea is that each thread which represents a skill you need to read. If you are missing one thread then your strand will be weak and your rope will fray. 

Threads/Skills for Language Comprehension Include

  •  Background Knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Language Structure
  • Verbal Reasoning 
  • Literacy Knowledge

Threads/Skills for Word Recognition Include

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Decoding
  • Sight Recognition

The reading rope is a useful tool because it can not only help you explain to parents and other providers on your team what you’re working on and why, but it makes it easier to determine what areas of your child’s performance to focus on.

So typically when we think about teaching reading we think about teaching letter sounds (phonological awareness), so students can break down words into syllables and recognizable sounds (decoding). Eventually, they become fluent enough and quick enough at this process that their brain just recognizes these words right away (sight recognition).

That is what most reading instruction focuses on and that is what most SEITs and SETSS providers are most comfortable working on. 

That’s great. It is what a lof kids need. I’ve got tons of kiddos with dyslexia who work on that a lot.

But what about the kids with auditory processing disorder?

Do they need intervention in word recognition? Probably not because typically children with auditory processing struggle more so with language and understanding it, than recognizing words.

This is the part where you’ll really, really, really want to join my email list.

In my free resource library, you’ll find an amazing checklist and assessment tool designed to help you take notes on what your students do while reading.

It is broken down into Langauge Comprehension and Word recognition components. As your student reads, take notes on what skills they display in each area. 

Later review their performance and put a check next to the areas you want to target. 

To get this amazing freebie, click here!

There is still a lot left to talk about in terms of the reading rope! We’ve hardly scratched the surface because as you’ll see, taking the assessment and figuring out what areas to target is the easy part! 

The hard part is figuring out what interventions and activities to employ to help your students build those needed skills! 

Make sure to join my email list to get that freebie and stay up to date on my recommendations for activities, which will be coming very soon! 

Click here to get access to the free resource library!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *