ELR Software Pty Ltd
eLr - What's New 2008
This month 32 new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling, Short Vowel Sounds - Longer Words". The model is MultiWord Slideshow, using a "detect the real word" activity. The aim of these tasks is to provide material to strengthen letter sound relationships. Each item has 3 non-words and one real word. The client is encouraged to read each word aloud before selecting the real word. This ensures that the client processes each letter in the word.
Fluent readers use a combination of strategies. Once they have mastered letter sound knowledge, many words become automatic, and are recognized by sight. They also use context to increase fluency. However, we are all faced with unfamiliar words which are essentially "non-words" to that reader. When that happens we need to use our knowledge of letter sound relationships to accurately work out the word. Inaccurate decoding of unfamiliar words can substantially affect our ability to comprehend what we are reading.
In the "Reading and Spelling" sections of eLr, there are tasks that provide practice at decoding non-words. The easiest level is "Short vowel sounds - 3 letter words". The new tasks this month focus on the next level of difficulty, "Short vowel sounds - longer words". They contain four or more letters and use the short vowel sounds, the /a/ sound as in hat, /e/ bed head, /i/ bit, /o/ hot watch, /u/ hut won, and /oo/ book could bush. Within each vowel category, there are three levels of difficulty. In level 1 words, each sound has a letter. Level 2 words contain consonant digraphs, and level 3 words are multisyllabic.
The non-words have been carefully selected so that the pronounciation of each non-word will not be confused with a real word. For example, non-words like /wrest/ are not included, as the client may read /wrest/ as "rest". This means that the tasks do not require high level spelling skills. Instead, the focus is on accurate decoding. However, it is suggested that after the client has read the non-words, they write the words to dictation to encourage their ability to process sounds in words.
This month we have added an Articulation Screener located in the "User Guides & Screening Tools" section. It consists of 7 tasks, the first 4 of which use the Slide Show model. These are designed to have the client say 43 single words covering all consonants, vowels and diphthongs, and a range of consonant blends. The remaining 3 tasks use the Drag Central model which is a fun way to encourage the client to use spontaneous speech as they drag icons onto a central picture. You may then print the picture and continue to chat informally, observing their use of speech sounds in spontaneous speech.
A response form for this "Articulation Screener" is available in PDF format which may be printed and used to document the results of the screening. The response form consists of 3 pages. On page 1 you can transcribe the sounds produced by the client. Page 2 is is to record your observations of their use of sounds in spontaneous speech. Page 3 has a table with the sounds listed so you can analyse error patterns and percentage correct.
The "Screening Tools" section was introduced as a new feature of eLr last month. Over the years we have had frequent requests for a way to screen the various communication and literacy skills. The results of our different screeners will also guide you to the areas in eLr that may be used to strengthen skills. Please feel free to give us feedback and comments about these tools, or any other area in eLr.
This month we have introduced Screeners, a new feature in eLr, located in the now expanded section of "User Guides & Screening Tools". The aim of these tools is to assist determination of client strengths and areas of weakness, and to guide your subsequent selection of eLr tasks. A number of people have requested this, and we know that some people use existing tasks to informally sreen for a particualr skill level. This new approach formalizes the process and provides a more efficient, comprehensive tool for this purpose.
The first Screener, in "Screening Tools - Literacy", is for phonological awareness and is broken into two parts. The first part focuses on letter/sound knowledge, and has 7 separate tasks for screening of letter names, letter sounds (single letters and digraphs), and the ability to decode and spell non-words. The second part has 8 task and focuses on the ability to break words into syllables and sounds, identify first/last and vowel sounds, and the understanding of rhyme.
Each component task has a "Practice" and a "Screener" version, and is accompanied by a description of the task with suggested instructions, and a "thumbnail" screen image for easy recognittion. Related eLr Directory sections are also listed, enabling you to quickly locate more activities in that area. A response form for each Screener is available in printable PDF format, allowing you to document the skill level of your client.
The actual tasks in these screeners use the standard eLr models, but they have been modified so that the client is not given feedback about correct or incorrect responses. This is consistent with the usual administration of any assessment task. During the screening process, the clinician is able to make decisions about when to discontinue the screening process, based on the responses of the client.
Feel free to let us know any feedback you may have about the "Phonological Awareness Screener". Over the next few editions, we will be developing Screeners for other areas of language and literacy skills.
There are 120 new tasks this month, in two areas - "Reading and Spelling - Diphthong Vowel Sounds", and "Phonological Awareness - Letter names and sounds".
There are 58 new tasks in "Diphthong Vowel Sounds". In this section there are 7 diphthong vowel sounds (/oa/ as in 'boat', /oy/ as in 'boy', /ow/ as in 'fowl', /ay/ as in 'day', /ie/ and in 'die', /eer/ as in 'deer', and /air/ as in 'pair'). A diphthong is a vowel sound where the mouth glides from one vowel sound to another in the same syllable. This contrasts with other vowel sounds (eg long vowel sounds, where the mouth produces just one sound, as in /ee/, /oo/, /ah/).
Each diphthong vowel sound has a number of different spelling patterns. For example, the /oa/ sound can be spelt as 'oa' (boat), 'oe' (doe), 'ow' (blow), 'o_e' (nose), and 'o' (most). This is one of the reasons why the spelling of vowel sounds can be so difficult for students, particularly if they also have a language impairment. In eLr there are activities for each of the spelling patterns at 3 levels of difficulty. This month, the new tasks are in the "assorted spellings" section for each of the diphthongs. This means that you are able to give lots of practice with each of the spelling options, and then provide activities where the student has to differentiate the spellings (eg know, no, role, roll). The new tasks use the Paired list sentence completion, ClueWords, and MultiWord Slideshow models. MultiWord Slideshow is particularly challenging, as the student has to work out which is the 'real' word out of a series of non words.
There are 62 new tasks in "Phonological Awareness". We have done an extensive review of what was the "Alphabet" section. It is now called "Letter names and sounds", and the content of the activities has been revised to be more useful for those children who have a significant problem learning letter names and sounds. The tasks are organized in a way that will enable you to teach letter names and sounds in a more controlled way. The letters are introduced in groups so that the sets contain letters that are visibly very different, and also allow combinations to form words. The models used are Jumping letters, TicTacLetters, and MemoryWords. This enables lots of repetition using motivating games. The clinician or helper is critical in the teaching of these early skills. You can choose to use the activities to teach either letter names or letter sounds. And it is necessary for the clinician or helper to listen to the student and provide feedback about the accuracy of their response.
There are 48 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling - Diphthong Vowel Sounds". These tasks add to the new sections that were begun last month. The aim of the new sections is to provide activities that help the client discriminate the spelling of diphthong vowel sounds.
Many people with spelling difficulties have major problems spelling vowel sounds. eLr has sections devoted to each vowel sound. There are 6 short vowels (/a/ cat, /e/ bed, /i/ hit, /o/ hot, /u/ hut, /oo/ book), 5 long vowel sounds (/ar/ car, /ee/ bee, /er/ fern, /oo/ moon, /or/ horn), and 7 diphthong vowel sounds (/ay/ day, /oa/ boat, /oy/ boy, /ow/ howl, /ie/ die, /eer/ deer, /air/ pair). Within each of the vowel sounds there are subsections for the most frequent spelling choices. For example, the /ay/ sound can be spelt with "ay" day, "a_e" cake, "ai" hail.
The new tasks this month all focus on helping the client work out which is the correct spelling. The new tasks use the ClueWords and Sentence completion models. These models enable the client to work out the appropriate spelling based on the meaning of the word. For example, there are tasks that focus on words like "way, weigh, gait, gate, male, mail" etc.
eLr has hit a landmark this month with over 10,000 activities. The program was launched in February 2000, and at that point it had about 1,800 activities. Each month over the past 8 years we have been beavering away, adding new tasks, new models, and new sections. There seems to be no end to the possibilities and needs. So keep giving us feedback and ideas, and we'll attempt to provide engaging activities that target specific needs, and enable you to provide efficient sessions and home programs.
There are 144 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling - Diphthong Vowel Sounds". Within this section there are 7 diphthong sounds. Each sound has a number of sub-sections focusing on the most common spellings of that sound. For example, the /oa/ sound (as in 'boat') has 5 common spelling patterns (eg "oa" foal, "oe" doe, "ow" blow, "o_e" nose, and "o" most).
So the tasks this month are in a newly added sub-sections called "assorted spellings for this sound", one for each diphthong sound. They are intended to give the client practice at discriminating the spelling patterns. For example, some activities specifically target spelling confusions, eg road/rode, lone/loan, doe/dough. The models used in these tasks are LookThenCover (to introduce a set of words), Word sound buttons (to practice sounding out the words), WordSearch, MemoryWords and ConnectWords (to reinforce word recognition), and SmileyMan (for spelling practice). Feedback from clinicians and teachers is that these activities are motivating, and encourage repetition.
This month we have continued to expand the vowel section in "Reading and Spelling". 73 new activities have been added to the "Long vowel sounds" section using the MemoryWords model. The MemoryWords activities provide a fun way to practice decoding skills. Each game can be adapted to suit the client needs. For example, depending on the task, you can choose the complexity level by selecting for a game with 4, 6, 8 or 10 pairs. If a client needs longer to decode the words, selecting "slow" means the words stay visible for a longer period allowing increased processing time.
There are 3 vowel sound sections in "Reading and Spelling" - "Short vowel sounds", "Long vowel sounds", and "Diphthong vowel sounds". A total of 18 vowels sounds are each divided into the main spelling options for each sound. Within each of the spelling options, there are 3 levels. "Level one" includes words that have sound letter correspondence. "Level two" includes consonant digraphs, and "Level three" has mutlisyllabic words. This allows you to increase the level of difficulty to match the clients phonological awareness skills.
We've been working in two sections this month and a total of 60 new activities have been added. 46 of these are in "Phonology - Skills and Early Sounds" in the "Early Sounds" section, and provide activities to encourage accurate production of the early developing sounds in isolation (ie /p, b, t, d, m, n, ng, h, w/). The models used are DragCentral, Jumping icons, and Jumping letters. The two picture based models (DragCentral, and Jumping icons) are particularly useful for young children. They provide simple reinforcement activities for attempts at producing the sound. The role of the clinician is essential at this step, as it is often necessary to use specific strategies that are selected to suit the individuals needs. The Jumping letters model uses letters as a stimulus for production of the target sound. This can be useful for older children who need to work on sound production. It can also be a useful activity for children who are delayed in the development of literacy skills, eg knowledge of letter names and sounds.
The remaining 14 new tasks in "Semantics" are in a new section called "Picture Associations". We have made a slight change to this area of the Directory and have created two subsections dealing with "Associations" - "Word Associations" and "Picture Associations". This makes it easier to locate picture based activities targeting the ability to make connections between concepts. The new tasks are all in a new subsection called "Who eats What" (thanks Rebecca for your suggestions and for emailing us some examples that you have been using). In this section we have used PicPairs and MultiPic Slideshow.
You will notice in these new tasks that there has been a modification to MultiPic Slideshow. This model now allows the matching of pictures in a much more visible way. When the correct selection is made, the red highlight visibly depicts the pictures or concepts that are associated. Have a look at these new tasks and let us know what you think. We'll do some more in this section in the coming month or two.
This month 72 new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling", in the "Diphthong vowel sounds" section. All of the tasks use the MemoryWords model. This model is particularly effective in providing practice at automatic recognition of words. When the task loads, the words are arranged in a predictable layout. By selecting "shuffle" and clicking "reset" (the double back arrows), the cards are shuffled or re-shuffled. Task difficulty can be modified by adjusting the number of pairs. Print the screen, cut up the cards, and you then have a paper based memory game, providing opportunity for repetition. This model complements some of the other models in the "Reading and Spelling" section, such as LookThenCover, WordSearch, SmileyMan, and ConnectWords.
Forty-two new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling" - "Verb tense endings". These additions are a continuation of the fairly major review of this section that began last edition. The new tasks are all in the "irregular" verb tense section, and use the WordChanger and List matching models. The List matching model provides a clear demonstration of how the spelling changes for the different verb tenses. The client clicks on a target verb then selects the matching verb from a list. The WordChanger model is a sentence based activity and shows verb tense changes within a sentence context. The client reads the sentence, and then clicks on the verb to see the verb change tense. These tasks provide a great way to promote discussion about the subtle change in meaning when verb tense is modified. It promotes the meta-skills of talking about language and sentences.
360 new tasks have been added to "Verb tense endings" in the "Reading and Spelling" section. This follows an in depth review of over 3,000 verbs and revision of our classification of them. We selected only the more commonly used verbs, and categorized them into "regular" and "irregular" verbs (see www.usingenglish.com/glossary). An regular verb (in English) is defined as a verb that follows the pattern of taking "-ed" for the past simple and past participle (or "-d" if the verb ends in "e"). An irregular verb is one that does not take "-ed" for the past simple and past participle . Some irregular verbs do not change (eg put), while others may change completely (eg buy bought, go went).
So we've completely revised the "Verb tense endings" section to have two main sections - "Regular" and "Irregular" verbs. These are each broken into a series of subsections based on spelling rules relating to the various verb types. For example there is a new subsection for the rule "when adding a suffix ("ing" "ed") to a regular verb that ends in an "e", drop the "e" and add the suffix".
Verbs are often difficult to master for many students, whether they have a language delay or not. This review highlighted that most verbs follow the rules. The spelling issues with the irregular verbs only occur in one of the verb tenses - the simple past tense. This means that the irregular verbs follow the spelling rules in the other tenses (such as present tense, present and past participles), but don't follow the rules in the past tense.
For example, regular verbs follow the pattern -
- talk talks talking talked
- hop hops hopping hopped
While irregular verbs follow the same patterns except for the simple past tense -
- bite bites biting bit
- buy buys buying bought
- grow grows growing grew
- keep keeps keeping kept
The models used in the new tasks are mostly the single word models, eg WordSearch (to prime the vocabulary), MemoryWords and ConnectWords (to encourage practice of quick reading skills), Word sound buttons (to reinforce phonemic knowledge of the words), and LookThenCover and SmileyMan (to consolidate spelling). In subsequent versions of eLr, sentence based models will also be added to these subsections. We invite feedback about the revision of this section, and welcome comments and suggestions.
One hundred new tasks have been added to eLr, in "Reading and Spelling - Short Vowel Sounds". The tasks all use the MemoryWords model. This is one of the 5 models that work very well in the consolidation of literacy skills. For those unfamiliar with the 5 models, we have found that the models LookThenCover and WorkSearch are great for introducing sets of words. MemoryWords and ConnectWords then work well to practice decoding and sight recognition, and finally, SmileyMan encourages recall of spelling patterns. Word sound buttons is another useful model which provides practice at breaking words into sounds.
We have made a subtle change to the Session Planner which is used to print lists of tasks for home practice. The change is that each task now has the full task description. This enables your clients to clearly see the relationship between tasks. For example, in literacy, you may have given your client activities that focus on a particular spelling pattern. Your client will now be able to see the different models that have matching sets of words, so they can practice the same set of words using a variety of models.
During our workshops in the US, we had a request to modify some of the games so that more than 2 people could play. This month the SpinWord and SpinPic models have been changed to enable up to 6 clients to play the game making it more useful for small group sessions. We also found that, as in Australia and the UK, many schools are using Smart Boards (interactive white boards). eLr works exceptionally well with this technology, as it allows you to use it within whole class activities.
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