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 -
Seventeen new tasks have been added to "Phonological Awareness - Vowels - Diphthongs". The aim of the tasks in this whole section is to increase the learner's ability to accurately identify vowel sounds in words so that they may learn the spelling patterns that match vowels, as the reading and spelling of vowel sounds is often difficult for some learners.
In English there are about 19 vowel sounds (depending on accent) which are classified into three groups. There are six short vowel sounds: /a/ as in cat, /e/ as in bed, /i/ as in pig, /o/ as in hot, and /oo/ as in book. This group is often taught first and is the easiest to master because the sound-letter correspondence is reasonably consistent. The next group is the long vowel sounds of which there are five: /ee/ as in feet, /oo/ as in pool, /ar/ as in card, /er/ as in bird, and /or/ as in corn. You'll notice that when you say each of these sounds, your mouth stays in the same position. For example, when you say /ee/, your lips remain pulled back, and when you say /oo/ your lips remain pursed.
The last group of vowel sounds is called diphthong vowels. The word "di-phthong" literally means "two sounds" or "two tones". These sounds are also known as "gliding vowels" - when two adjacent vowel sounds occur within the same syllable. There are seven diphthong vowels in English: /ay/ as in day, /ie/ as in lie, /oa/ as in boat, /oy/ as in boy, /ow/ and in owl, /air/ as in hair, and /ear/ as in hear. Unlike the long vowel sounds, when you say a diphthong vowel your mouth changes shape. For example, when you say /oy/ (as in "boy"), your mouth changes from the /or/ sound to the /ee/ sound.
Learning to spell the long vowels and the diphthong vowels is difficult for many learners because each of these vowel sounds can be spelt in a number of ways (eg the /er/ sound can be spelled with "er", "ir", "ur", "or", "ear"), and conversely many of the spelling patterns can be pronounced in different ways (eg "ow" is pronounced differently in cow and blow). There is one more vowel sound in English, called the neutral vowel (or the schwa vowel). It occurs in the unstressed syllable of multi-syllabic words and therefore can be spelled with a range of spelling patterns. Examples of the neutral vowel occur in words like the /a/ in "a-bout", and the /er/ in "butter". Given that learning to read and spell vowels is a challenging process, it is important that learners are able to accurately identify vowel sounds in words, as this enables them to form well specified matches of spelling pattern to vowel sound.
All of the new tasks this month use the PicTextMatch model. In this model a picture is displayed on the screen along with a choice of letters and the matching mouth sounds (icons that shows the mouth shape for each sound). The learner is instructed to listen to the word, say the word, and then decide which letter/mouth sound occurs in that word. A choice of two or three possible vowel sounds is displayed and this simplifies the task of identifying and naming the vowel. In the easier tasks, the learner is presented with a choice of two, and in later tasks, three options. The activities are graded with the easier tasks presenting a choice of vowel sounds with a high contrast, that is, they look and sound very different (eg /ay/ and /oy/). Once this level has been mastered they may progress on to activities where the choice is between vowel sounds that are often confused, such as /ay/, and /ie/.
As with most eLr activities, the role of the teacher or support person is central in providing feedback about accuracy of response, and ensuring that the learner has accurately pronounced the vowel. Accurate production of the sound combined with linking of the spelling of that sound enables the learner to develop well specified mental images of spellings of vowel sounds.
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 is also able to offer free eLr support and short 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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