ELR Software produces a range of computer programs designed by speech pathologists for speech, language & literacy intervention. Our programs may be used interactively within therapy sessions, to increase efficiency in service delivery, and to improve access to the Internet for people with special needs. We are also available as consultants to clinicians and research projects in the fields of literacy and accessibility issues associated with the Internet.
The aim of this newsletter is to inform you of developments and changes to our major products eLr (Extra Language Resources), Build-a-Sentence, Word Meanings, Rude Readers and EIA (Enhancing Internet Access). We welcome the opportunity for feedback and questions, and will be pleased to consider including reader contributions and announcements.
This Newsletter (and previous editions) as well as a "print-ready" PDF version of the current edition is available online at www.elr.com.au/news. An email version is also sent monthly to members of our mailing list (See Subscribing/Unsubscribing).
In this issue -
Our revision of tasks which contain nonwords continued this month. Thirty-two tasks in "Reading and Spelling" have been revised. The revised tasks are in the "Long vowel" sections:
And the "Diphthong vowel" sections:
- /ar/ sound spelled with "ar" (eg car)
- /er/ sound spelled with "er" (eg fern), "ear" (eg heard), "ir" (eg bird), "ur" (eg burn)
- /ee/ sound spelled with "ee" (eg feed), "ea" (eg seat)
- /oo/ sound spelled with "oo" (eg moon), "ue" (eg clue), "ew" (eg blew)
- /or/ sound spelled with "or" (eg cork), "au" (eg sauce), "aw" (eg hawk)
- /oa/ sound spelled with "oe" (eg toe), "oa" (eg foal)
- /ow/ sound spelled with "ow" (eg owl), "ou" (eg out)
- /oy/ sound spelled with "oy" (eg boy), "oi" (eg soil)
- /ay/ sound spelled with "ay" (eg day), "ai" (eg sail)
- /ie/ sound spelled with "ie" (eg tie)
Within each of these long vowel and diphthong vowel sounds there are additional spelling patterns which will be revised in the coming months.
A nonword (sometimes called a pseudoword) is a string of letters which looks like a word in a particular language but has no meaning. A "legal" nonword is a string of letters which conforms to the spelling patterns of that language. For example, "ffeg" is not a legal nonword in English because there are no English words that start with "ff", however, "beff" is legal because there are English words with four letters start with "be" (eg beak bean), have "ef" in the middle (eg left weft), and end with "ff" (eg cuff, puff).
The goal of reading instruction is to support the ability to fluently read words and to understand what they have read. Many studies have supported the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) which states that reading comprehension requires two broad sets of skills. The learner initially needs to be able to accurately read the words, and then to understand the meaning of words and sentences, and to possess general knowledge about the context of the topic (language comprehension).
In the early stages of reading instruction, in addition to providing rich language and literacy experiences, there is a focus on developing skills to support accurate word reading. The goal is to develop a large bank of sight words which enables fluency in reading, and also to have the skills to "work out" or decode unfamiliar words, ie to use knowledge of letter-sound relationships (grapheme-phoneme relationships) to sound out and blend to read words. Until the child has decoded these unfamiliar words, they are "nonwords" for that child.
Evidence supports a focus on accurate decoding skills in the early stages of learning to read. Many studies have supported Share's phonological recoding theory (Cunningham, Perry, Stanovich, & Share, 2002; Nation, Angell, & Castles, 2007) and shown that proficiency in accurate decoding (use of grapheme-phoneme knowledge to read words) is a "self-teaching mechanism" which leads to efficient formation of clear mental representations of words, sometimes called "Mental Orthographic Representations", or MORs. These MORs are a key skill in the development of sight words: words for which the reader automatically recognises (has a well-established MOR), and has rapid access to the pronunciation (they can "say" the word) and meaning (they understand the meaning). MOR development is therefore an essential aspect in early reading development, however, Ken Apel and colleagues have shown that children who are at risk of reading delay (ie those with language delay or from low SES groups) are less efficient at developing these clear mental representations of words (Wolter & Apel, 2010). This suggests when addressing the needs of children with reading delay it is important to establish decoding proficiency and MOR development.
Nonwords are useful in addressing these aspects of early word reading. Firstly, they allow an instructor to assess the child's mastery of grapheme-phoneme knowledge: a requirement for accurate decoding of unfamiliar words. Some children may quickly develop a number of sight words and seem to be reading at age level, but may still have significant gaps in their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme relationships. This weakness, which prevents accurate decoding of unfamiliar words, has been shown to be the main deficit in children with reading impairment (Herrmann, Matyas, & Pratt, 2006) and is sometimes not discovered until later grades when the texts no longer provide picture cues to support guessing of words. A young child in the very early phase of reading development would be expected to decode short 3-letter words, and to then progress to mastering knowledge of the grapheme-phoneme relationships of those sounds which are represented by more than one letter (eg, consonant digraphs such as "th, sh, ch", and the range of vowel spelling patterns such as "ee, ea, ow" etc). The inclusion of nonwords in assessment processes enables the instructor to identify any such knowledge gaps which may be impacting on the child's reading and spelling development.
A second use of nonwords is that they provide decoding practice which consolidates grapheme-phoneme knowledge. For example, if a child has a delay in knowledge of the range of vowel spelling patterns, tasks which encourage repeated practice at decoding items (words and nonwords) that contain these spelling patterns helps consolidate grapheme-phoneme knowledge of those target spelling patterns. It is important that nonwords that are used for this purpose contain only legal spelling patterns as this enables the learner to learn letter-sound relationships appropriate to the English language.
- Cunningham, AE, Perry, KE, Stanovich, KE, & Share, D L (2002). Orthographic learning during reading: examining the role of self-teaching. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82(3), 185-199
- Gough, PB, & Tunmer, WE (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 6-10
- Herrmann, JA, Matyas, T, & Pratt, C (2006). Meta-analysis of the nonword reading deficit in specific reading disorder. Dyslexia, 12(3), 195-221
- Nation, K, Angell, P, & Castles, A (2007). Orthographic learning via self-teaching in children learning to read English: Effects of exposure, durability, and context. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 96(1), 71-84
- Wolter, J A, & Apel, K (2010). Initial Acquisition of Mental Graphemic Representations in Children with Language Impairment. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 53(February), 179-195
From January 1st 2017 we have made 2 changes to our subscription processes which affect eLr subscribers.
If you have any questions about these changes and their implementation, or the automatic updating process, please contact us.
As an occasional feature of this Newsletter, we include simple, unpaid announcements of products developed by other small, independent developers, who, like ourselves, are practising clinicians who have put their ideas and experience into resource materials for general distribution. Links and brief information about these sites may be found at www.elr.com.au/links/developers.htm. To date we have listed -
If you would like your materials listed on this page (at no charge), please contact us.
ELR has a number of free or evaluation files available for downloading directly from our website. Please see www.elr.com.au/downloads.htm for specific details. For other supporting materials and documents available for free download, please see www.elr.com.au/support.htm.
ELR Software offers regular, free eLr tutorials over the web. We can provide this sort of support to individuals, or to groups who would like to have an overview of eLr. Please see www.elr.com.au/events for details.
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