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 and Word Meanings. 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 -
Sixty-six tasks have been revised in "Phonological Awareness" in the "Letter names and sounds" subsection which provides material to teach the relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters) of English - an essential skill in the early stages of reading and spelling development. Issues relating to the introduction of graphemes include the decision about the order in which the letters are introduced (scope and sequence), and how to reinforce use of phoneme-grapheme knowledge to read words. Recent research supports a systematic synthetic phonics approach to address both of these issues. The revisions in this edition have involved reorganising task content to be consistent with the sequence used in Jolly Phonics - a commonly used synthetic phonics approach.
The results of three major international reviews have concluded that phonics is one the five essential skills that form the basis of effective reading instruction (the other four being vocabulary, phonemic awareness, fluency, and reading comprehension). Phonics refers to a method of teaching the alphabetic code, more specifically, teaching the relationship between the sounds in words of the spoken language, and the letters or letter groups that represent those sounds in the written form. The English language is an alphabetic code; hence knowledge about how the alphabetic code works is an essential aspect of early reading development.
There are two main phonics approaches: synthetic phonics and analytic phonics. A "systematic" synthetic phonics approach means that synthetic phonics instruction (see below) is delivered in a logical sequence with continuous evaluation of progress. Most activities are teacher-directed, with corrective feedback about decoding errors.
While research relating to the two main phonics approaches continues, some studies have supported use of systematic synthetic phonics, particularly in the early stages of teaching the alphabetic code. For example, the Clackmannanshire Study (Johnston and Watson, 2006) compared the effect of using systematic synthetic phonics, with analytic phonics, and a combination of analytic phonics and phonemic awareness. The results showed that the group who received systematic synthetic phonics in their first year of school outperformed the other groups in reading age, spelling, and phonemic awareness immediately following the intervention; and after seven years, the gains for the synthetic phonics group had increased for reading, spelling, and reading comprehension.
This is an approach which involves teaching the alphabetic principle from the smallest unit - the grapheme, with a focus on blending phonemes (ie synthesising) to read words; hence the name "synthetic" phonics.
- The phoneme-grapheme (sound-letter) relationships for consonants and short vowels are introduced first: this is often referred to as the basic code.
- The phoneme-grapheme relationships are introduced in sequences which allow immediate application to decoding and segmenting words. For example, in Jolly Phonics, the first set includes "s, a, t, p, i, n"; the second set is "c, k, ck, e, h, r, m, d" etc.
- The processes of blending and segmenting are taught as soon as the student has mastered a few phoneme-grapheme relationships of the basic code. For example, once the student has mastered the first set ("s, a, t, p, i, n"), materials such as magnetic letters may be used to teach students how to manipulate graphemes to read (using blending) and spell (segmenting) a series of words, such as "at, sat, sap, sip, sin etc.".
- Further phoneme-grapheme relationships of the more advanced code are then taught, for example, the graphemes for the /sh/, /ch/, /er/, /ee/ sounds.
- In conjunction with instruction in the basic and more advanced code, use of vocabulary controlled books is used (ie decodable books).
This involves analysis, or breaking the whole word into parts, hence the name "analytic" phonics.
- The student is often taught sight words first.
- Within reading, the child's attention is drawn to the first letter of words.
- The student is encouraged to "guess" or "predict" the word based on the context of the story.
- Blending is introduced only after the student has been taught all letters of the alphabet.
- This approach requires the student to deduce or independently work out the code. It is based on the assumption that all students have the phonemic awareness skills to "crack" the code. However, research has found that about 30% of Foundation students have delays in the phonemic awareness skills required to understand the alphabetic code.
- National Reading Panel, (2000). "Teaching Children to Read. An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction", U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
- Rose J (2006). "Independent review of the teaching of early reading", DfES Publications, Nottingham UK.
- Department of Education, Science and Training (2005). "Teaching Reading: Report and Recommendations - National Inquiry into the Teaching of Reading", Department of Education, Science and Training, Australian Government.
- Johnston R and Watson J (2005) "The Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading and Spelling Attainment", Insight 17, Scottish Education Executive. Available from: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/ins17-00.asp
eLr provides tasks to support the teaching of early reading and spelling skills within a systematic synthetic phonics approach. For example:
- The "Letter names and sounds" subsection provides three activity types to teach the phoneme-grapheme relationships of the basic code: Jumping Letters (student names letter or says the sound); TicTacLetters (a "Tic-Tac-Toe" game to encourage spontaneous recall of letter and/or sound); and MemoryWords (a memory game involving graphemes).
- The "Sound/letter links in words" subsection provides tasks in which the student sees a picture, segments the word into sounds, and is reinforced by seeing the grapheme which represents each sound.
This section contains a systematic approach to building decoding skills, ie use of grapheme-phoneme knowledge to sound out and blend to read a word.
- The section starts with short 3-letter words, and progresses to the extended code including consonant and vowel digraphs and other spelling patterns (trigraphs etc).
- All subsections are organised according to the vowel sound - starting with the short vowels, then the long vowels, and finally the diphthong vowel sounds.
- A range of activity types within each vowel sound section support accurate decoding. For example the Wordsound Buttons model encourages the child to touch each grapheme in a word, say the sound, and blend to read the word. A range of other activities are used to provide repetition and fun ways of ensuring accurate decoding, and finally development of spontaneous recognition of words. These include WordSearch (an opportunity to practice decoding and eventually automatic recognition of words), SmileyMan (to reinforce spelling), MemoryWords and ConnectWords (fun ways of encouraging formation of clear mental images of words to develop automatic recognition - sight words), and LookThenCover (to encourage the student to write the words and consolidate knowledge of spelling patterns).
As with all eLr tasks, the role of the instructor is to ensure that accurate decoding and reading has occurred, and to encourage vocabulary expansion (eg by talking about the meaning, and using the word in a range of sentences).
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 contact us for details.
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