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 -
Twenty-four new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling - Other vowel sounds - Schwa vowel (neutral vowel)". This vowel sound often causes difficulty for children learning to read and spell because it has so many spelling patterns (see below for a discussion of the neutral vowel and the reason for its range of spelling patterns).
All tasks use the MemoryWords model which is a word based memory game. The screen displays "cards" organised in a grid. Players take turns clicking (on a computer) or touching (on an iPad) cards to find matching pairs. The role of the teacher or support person is central to many eLr activities. In this case, the learner is encouraged to read the word out loud and receive corrective feedback from the support person to ensure that they have accurately read the word.
The MemoryWords model, when combined with the other models in this section helps to provide repetition in reading and spelling target words. For example, when teaching words with the schwa vowel, you could introduce a set of words using the WordSoundButtons model (which shows how to break the word into syllables), follow this with WordSearch or SmileyMan (which encourages reading and spelling of words), and then with the MemoryWords model which provides repetition to assist formation of accurate mental images of words. Within each activity, a discussion of the meaning of the word encourages neural linkages between the meaning and spelling patterns, thus forming sight words (Ehri 2005. Learning to read words: Theory, findings, and issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9(2), 167-188).
To understanding the "neutral" vowel sound, it is useful to briefly discuss the English vowel sound system. Within English pronunciation, depending on your accent, there are about nineteen vowel SOUNDS, which are spelled with the six vowel LETTERS (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y). This means that most of the vowel sounds need to be spelled with combinations of letters. There are three main types of English vowel sounds: short, long, and diphthong vowel sounds. The common spellings are as follows:
The six short vowel sounds are usually spelled with one vowel letter: /a/ as in cat, /e/ as in bed, /i/ as in pig, /o/ as in hot, /u/ as in bus, and /oo/ as in book (which is spelled with 2 letters). Each of the five long vowel sounds has a number of different common spelling patterns.
- /ar/ - "ar" as in hard, "a" as in last
- /ee/ - "ee" as in heel, "ea" as in pea, "e" as in she, "ey" as in key, "y" as in lady
- /er/ - "er" as in fern, "ear" as in heard, "ir" as in fir, "ur" as in fur, "or" as in worm
- /oo/ - "oo" as in food, "ue" as in blue, "ew" as in flew, u_e, as in rule, "u" as in flu
- /or/ - "or" as in fork, "au" as in haul, "aw" as in paw, "a", as in ball, "ore" as in core
Similarly each of the five diphthong vowel sounds is spelled with a number of spelling patterns. Diphthong vowels are sounds in which two vowel sounds are blended within one syllable. They include:
- /oa/ - "oa" as in foal, "oe" as in doe, "ow" as in blow, "o_e" as in nose, "o" as in most
- /ow/ - "oy" as in boy, "oi" as in boil
- /ow/ - "ow" as in fowl, "ou" as in loud, "ough" as in plough
- /ay/ - "ay" as in day, "a_e" as in cake, "ai" as in hail
- /ie/ - "ie" as in die, "i" as in find, "i_e" as in kite, "y" as in fly, "igh" as in night
- /eer/ - "eer" as in deer, "ear" as in fear
- /air/ - "air" as in pair, "are" as in hare
This leaves the last, and most confusing vowel sound - the neutral vowel, technically called the schwa vowel sound. You'll notice that all the examples above show spelling patterns in single syllable words. That means that the word is always spoken in the same way, ie it has the same stress pattern. Single syllable words are "stressed" whereas words with more than one syllable have a "stress pattern", which means that some syllables are stressed and others are not stressed.
For example, in words like "above" and "below", only the last syllable is stressed (a-BOVE, be-LOW), while in words like "forest" and "dragon", the first syllable is stressed (FOR-est, DRA-gon). In longer words, there may be one or more stressed syllables. For example, in hospital, only the first syllable is stressed (HOS-pi-tal), but in lemonade, two syllables are stressed (LEM-on-ADE).
When we produce stressed syllables the vowel sound is produced corectly to match the spelling pattern. However, as each syllable (by definition) always has a vowel sound, when we say an unstressed syllable we say the vowel in a neutral way, using the unstressed /uh/ sound. Hence the schwa vowel (or neutral, or unstressed vowel) has many spelling patterns because no matter how it is spelled it is always pronounced as /uh/. Some examples of the schwa vowel spelling patterns are as follows:
- "a" spelling: afraid (a-FRAID), ballooon (ba-LLOON), normal (NORM-al)
- "e" spelling: camel (CAM-el), linen (LIN-en), behind (be-HIND)
- "iI" spelling: devil (DEV-il), raisin (RAI-sin), credit (CRE-dit)
- "o" spelling: carbon (CAR-bon), lemon (LEM-on), custom (CUS-tom)
Within eLr there are a number of sections with activities to support the teaching of multi-syllabic words. The "Other vowel sounds" (which is the area we are discussing in this edition) contains subsections targeting 2-, and 3- or more syllable words. Other sections targeting multi-syllabic words include "Prefixes and suffixes", "Syllabification", "Word patterns", and the "Homographs" section which includes words that are spelled the same but have different meanings depending on which syllable is stressed. If you would like more information please contact us.
We gave a detailed example about using our new DictionaryWords model in the September 2016 edition of ELR-News. Although this model may be used to build various word-games, it also allows researchers and clinicians to efficiently retrieve of all manner of word lists from a dictionary of 24,000 most frequent English words according to phonological structure or spelling.
We've made a WordSearch version of the DictionaryWords available for free use at www.elr.com.au/links/CSGRT. Have fun using this model and contact us if you would like support via email, phone, or an online tutorial.
Our free, regular eLr tutorials (webinars) are continuing. Some sessions are intended primarily for new eLr users, and people just interested in finding out more about what eLr offers. For example, one regular session is called "What is eLr and how do I use it?". Other sessions are intended more for existing subscribers and will target specialized topics such as "How to provide free eLr for home practice" and "eLr and literacy". Please see www.elr.com.au/events for details and to sign up for those which are of interest to you.
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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