ELR Software Pty Ltd
eLr - What's New 2007
This month 236 new tasks have been added to the "Reading and Spelling" section - which incidentally takes the total number of tasks in eLr to over 9,000! As with last month, these tasks are a continuation of the major review that was commenced in January 2007. The aim of the review was to provide a greater range of spelling options for each of the vowel sounds, and also to provide a range of difficulty levels within each of the spelling options. eLr covers 18 vowel sounds in 3 categories (short, long, and diphthong vowel sounds), and 52 different spelling options. So, as an example, the /er/ vowel sound can be spelt with "er" (as in 'fern'), "ir" (as in 'fir'), "ear" (as in 'heard'), "ur" (as in 'hurt'), and "or" (as in 'world'). Within each of the spelling options there are 3 levels of difficulty. Level 1 contains words that are "consonant vowel consonant" words. Level 2 words contain consonant digraphs (eg sh, ch, and silent letters), and level 3 words are multisyllabic.
Last month we added tasks to the "Short vowel sounds - longer words" section, and this month, the new tasks are in the "Long vowel sounds" section. Within each of the long vowel sections, there is now a subsection, called "assorted spellings of this sound". The aim of these new tasks is to provide material to help the student discriminate between the different spelling options. For example, there many confusions in the /ee/ vowel - "feet feat", "bee be", "real reel", "meet meat", "beach beech". And also in the /er/ sound, "herd heard", "world whirled", "fir fur". The new tasks provide activities that focus on reinforcing the spelling of individual words, and also models where the words are used in the context of sentences and word definitions. Eleven models are used in the new tasks, so there is now a large range of different sorts of activities enabling repetition and the presentation of the same word sets in different contexts.
This month there are 108 new tasks added to the "Reading and Spelling" section. The tasks are a continuation of the major review that was commenced in January 2007. The aim of the review was to provide a greater range of spelling options for each of the vowel sounds, and also to provide 3 levels of difficulty within each of the spelling options. eLr covers 18 vowel sounds (short, long, and diphthong vowel sounds), and 52 different spelling options. So, as an example, the /er/ vowel sound can be spelt with "er" (as in 'fern'), "ir" (as in 'fir'), "ear" (as in 'heard'), "ur" (as in 'hurt'), and "or" (as in 'world'). Within each of the spelling options there are 3 levels of difficulty. Level 1 contains words that are "consonant vowel consonant" words. Level 2 words contain consonant digraphs (eg sh, ch, and silent letters), and level 3 words are multisyllabic.
The new tasks are in new subsections in each of the vowel sounds in the "Short vowel sounds - longer words" section. The subsections are called "assorted spellings of this sound". The aim of these new tasks is to provide material to help the student discriminate between the different spelling options. For example, in the /e/ short vowel sound, words like "bread/bred", "read/red" are often confused, and in the /oo/ short vowel sound, words like "would/wood" are difficult for the student to master. The new tasks provide activities that focus on reinforcing the spelling of individual words, and also models where the words are using in the context of sentences and word definitions. Eleven models are used in the new tasks, so there is a large range of different sorts of activities enabling repetition and the presentation of the same word sets in different contexts.
The additions this month are of a different nature to the usual - we have added a library of 21 "User Guides" to improve the help/support mechanisms within eLr. A User Guides section is to now be found on the main "loader page" along with the eLr Directory. Log in as usual (Registered Users) and look for this new section below the Quick Load List.
These "User Guides" aim to provide new and existing users with information about the tasks and the eLr Directory. Each User Guide has a descriptive paragraph or two about a topic, followed by an example set of annotated eLr tasks with a "thumbnail" image of each task. It's possible to directly open any of these example tasks by clicking on the "thumbnail" image. There are 4 sections in the new User Guide Library.
1. The "Usage and Rationale" section describes the design principles behind eLr tasks. They are intended to be used within an interactive language session, and this section has 5 User Guides describing how to get the most out of eLr, and addresses some of the common questions, such as "why no sound", "why no scoring" etc.
2. The "Directory" section has 7 User Guides outlining each of the main sections - Phonology Skills and Early Sounds, Phonology - Later Sounds, Phonological Awareness, Semantics, Reading and Spelling, Sentence Processing and Using Language. The contents of each section is described, and examples of illustrative tasks are provided for you to explore.
3. The "Models" section has 6 User Guides describing all the 51 models (or game types) currently used in eLr. Models are often used in a number of different sections, so the User Guides provide an example task, and a comment about how it may be used in the various sections.
4. The "Sample Clients" section provides you with 3 User Guides covering different fictitious clients, eg a young child with phonological and language delays, an older child with literacy impairment, and an adult with an acquired language disorder. For each of the clients, a selection of appropriate tasks are illustrated and discussed.
We hope the "User Guides" will be useful for existing users to look at, and maybe find some areas you haven't explored. They should also be useful for those people planning inservice training to integration aides and assistants. Please feel free to give us feedback about this addition, as we plan to continue to add to and modify its contents.
104 new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling - Diphthong Vowel Sounds". These additions are a continuation of the changes begun in January where we added 3 levels of difficulty in the Vowel Sound sections. This month the new tasks provide level 3 words (ie multisyllabic words) in the "Diphthong Vowel Sounds". The models used are Word Search, LookThenCover, SmileyMan, and ConnectWords. The models work well together to introduce and practice spelling patterns. Introduce the pattern using LookThenCover then practice recalling the spelling with SmileyMan, and provide repetition in a fun way using the WordSearch and ConnectWords models.
Now, as long as suitable words could be found, all the different spelling choices for short, long and diphthong vowel sounds have three levels of difficulty available. Level 1 words are predominantly consonant-vowel-consonant words. Level 2 words contain consonant digraphs and silent letters, and level 3 words are multisyllabic. Further tasks targeting discrimination between the different spellings for each vowel sound will be added soon.
We have also made a small change to the listing of topics in "Reading and Spelling" so that all sections relating to "vowel sounds" are grouped together at the top of the list. This change will hopefully make the classifications in this section a little clearer.
Nineteen new tasks have been added to "Using Language - Sequences". To accommodate most of these new tasks we have added a new sub-section "Narratives". The names of the existing sub-sections have also been changed to more clearly describe the contents. So now, under "Sequences", there are 3 sub-sections:
The aim of all the sequencing tasks is to strengthen abilities in the use of specific language, and production of sequences of sentences to describe routines and stories. The model used in all these tasks is ImageSequencer. This model displays a number of pictures on the screen (2 - 8 pictures, depending on the complexity required), and it allows for modifications to vary complexity. By selecting "length" you are able to present 2, 3, or up to 8 pictures in the sequence. To provide repetition you may start by having the client describe the 2 picture sequence. Then repeat the procedure, each time increasing the length of the sequence. This allows for slight increases in difficulty, but also encourages consolidation of the ability to produce descriptive language.
The new tasks are predominantly in the "Narratives" sub-section. The stories cover themes like 'a picnic that gets rained out', 'a spilt paint episode', 'dropping eggs' and 'a boy who doesn't want to eat his dinner'. There are also some useful additions to "Familiar Routines", eg 'going to the dentist', 'going to the doctor', 'having a hair cut'. These new tasks should provide material to work on:
We have made some subtle changes to ImageSequencer model. In this model, visual feedback for the selected picture is provided by yellow highlighting . But we've realized that in some of the sequences, the visual feedback for the selected picture was not obvious because the pictures were too dense. We have reviewed all of the sequences and simplified the pictures so that the yellow highlighting (within the picture and on the border) is very clear.
A total of 134 new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling". All of the tasks use the Word sound buttons model, and appear in "Short Vowel Sounds - longer words", "Long vowel sounds", and "Diphthong vowel sounds".
In Word sound buttons a word appears on the screen, and the client is required to segment the word into sounds. This model is best done with a clinician or helper providing feedback to the client, as the client's verbal response is integral to the task. The instructions for the model suggest that the best procedure is for the client to read the word, verbally 'sound out' the word, and then click the buttons to check. The buttons provide feedback about how each sound is spelt, eg "shout" is broken into "sh-ou-t". This enables the client to see that there are 3 sounds in the word, and that the /ow/ sound, is a diphthong, and spelt with the "ou" spelling. By clicking on the "?" at the top of the screen, further help is given. The 'help' includes a description of how the model works, and also some tips about ways to extend the task. For example, a good extension to this task is for the client to write each word after they have broken the word into sounds.
The addition of these tasks complements the other literacy models in the vowel sections of "Reading and Spelling". In each section, you are able to introduce a set of words using LookThenCover (where the client sees the word, covers it, and writes or types the word). WordSearch is a good follow up activity to consolidate reading and spelling. Word sound buttons would fit well at this point, as the client has practice at saying each word, breaking it into sounds, checking the word and writing the word. This reinforces the spelling of the word pattern. SmileyMan then provides practice at independent recall of spelling, and ConnectWords is a fun game, to revise reading and recognition of word patterns.
A shuffle mechanism was added to the MultiWord Slideshow. This model appears in "Semantics", and "Reading and Spelling". A series of words appears at the top of the screen, with a prompt or question at the bottom. The client or helper reads the prompt, and the client selects an answer from the words. For example, the prompt might be "which ones are liquids", and the client chooses from a series of words like, "milk, water and cup". The addition of 'shuffle' means that when the shuffle option is selected (at the top of the screen), a 'Re-shuffle' button appears. By clicking this button, the series of words are shuffled, allowing for repetition of the item.
176 new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling - Short Vowel Sounds Longer Words" and "Long Vowel Sounds". As was described in last month's newsletter, we are completing an extensive review of the vowel sections in "Reading and Spelling". The aim is to provide specific sections for each of the vowel sounds, and then to provide most of the spelling options for each sound. The vowel sounds are divided into Long Vowel Sounds, Short Vowels Sounds, and Diphthong Vowel Sounds. There are a total of 18 vowel sounds, and 52 spelling options. Within each vowel sound, there are 3 levels of difficulty. Level 1 words have sound letter correspondance (apart from the spelling of the vowel sound). This means that as the student sounds out the word, each sound is represented by a letter. Level 2 has words that don't have sound letter correspondance, so the words will contain consonant digraphs, such as "ph", "ck", "th" etc. Level 3 words are multisyllabic. This makes it easier to have students achieve error free learning at their appropriate level. By assessing their phonological awareness, you are then able to teach word patterns, based on their mastery of sound letter relationships.
In previous newsletters we have highlighted the main models used in the "Reading and Spelling" sections, as they work so well together. The models are LookThenCover, WordSearch, SmileyMan and ConnectWords. I have found that the LookThenCover is a good model to introduce each word set, because the student gets a chance to focus on each word. The word is presented on screen. By clicking the "cover" button, the word is hidden, and the student is encouraged to write the word, and/or type the word, using the onscreen alphabet buttons or the keyboard. Following this activity, a WordSearch seems to always motivate children. And I have found they tend to 'sound out' the word as they click on the letters. SmileyMan is also fun, and encourages them to recall the words they have just written, and to use the onscreen alphabet to spell the words. ConnectWords is based on Connect 4, and is a good game, which encourages decoding of the words as they play the game.
There is still more to add to the vowel sections in "Reading and Spelling", so give us feedback about the current models and the restructure of the Directory.
A total of 117 new tasks have been added to "Reading and Spelling - Long Vowel Sounds" and "Diphthong Vowel Sounds". The models used include LookThenCover, WordSearch, SmileyMan and ConnectWords. These models provide a good range of activities for each set of words and work in a complementary way to reinforce both decoding and spelling skills. LookThenCover is a good activity to introduce the word sets. The student looks at the word, covers it, and then either writes it, and/or types it using the onscreen alphabet buttons or the regular keyboard. Following this, the WordSearch model is fun, and reinforces decoding skills. These WordSearch games can also be printed and completed as a paper based activity. SmileyMan is a hangman type game, and encourages the student to recall the words, and also spell them using the onscreen alphabet buttons. Teachers have reported that this on screen alphabet is very useful in reinforcing knowledge of alphabetical order. ConnectWords is a game, based on Connect 4. For any of the activities, the "?" at the top right corner of the screen provides instructions on use, and suggestions of ways to expand the activity.
The tasks this month are a continuation of the major review that was done in January. In this review we adjusted the Directory to make it easier to find words that contained each of the vowel sounds as well as the different spelling options for each vowel sound. We did a lot of research to identify words containing the different vowel sounds, and have organised the words into 3 levels of difficulty. Level 1 words have sound letter correspondence (apart from the spelling of the vowel sound). This means that as the student sounds out the word, each sound is represented by a letter. Level 2 has words that don't have sound letter correspondence, so the words will contain consonant digraphs, such as "ph", "ck", "th" etc. Level 3 words are multisyllabic. This makes it easier to have students achieve error free learning at their appropriate level. By assessing their phonological awareness, you are then able to teach word patterns, based on their mastery of sound letter relationships.
We welcome your feedback about this section and any other eLr section. Over the next few months, the vowel sections of "Reading and Spelling" will continue to be expanded.
A total of 41 new picture based tasks have been added this month. There are 13 new sequences in "Using Language - Sequencing - Re-ordering - Common" section. We've had a lot of positive feedback about these sequences and many people asked to have both male and female sequences in the common daily routines. So there are now both boy and girl sequences about getting dressed, putting on shoes, having a bath, brushing teeth, going to bed, and going to kindergarten.
We have also had feedback about the need for more "pronouns" tasks in eLr, so in this edition we've added 28 new tasks to the "Sentence Processing - Parts of a Sentence - Pronouns" section. These new tasks use the Drag Central model, and provide activities that enable you to introduce target sentences that suit your needs.
In the Drag Central model there is a central scene which, for most of the new tasks is a male or female holding a box, basket or a bucket, and on either side of the screen are "draggable" objects. The client is encouraged to drag items into the box, basket etc, and say or listen to sentences that contain the appropriate pronoun, eg "He has a train", "The train is his", "I'll give the train to him", "This is the boy's train". Some of these tasks contain 2 or more people so it's also possible to introduce sentences such as "Their book is on the table". The open ended nature of these tasks means that they can be used for comprehension and expression of pronouns. The client can listen to your instruction, or you can encourage them to give you the instructions.
We've also included in this expanded pronouns section some of the boy/girl sequences described above as they provide contextual practice at using pronouns. When commenting about a sequence, the client should be encouraged to use the pronoun, eg "He is putting on his sweater. Now he is putting on his shoes", and so on.
This month we have continued to work in the "Reading and Spelling" section. There are 118 new tasks in "Short vowel sounds - longer words". Last month we implemented a major revision of the vowel sections in "Reading and Spelling". The aim is to provide a systematic way of working on vowel sounds and the different spelling options for each of the vowel sounds. The 18 vowel sounds are divided into "Short vowels", "Long vowels", and "Diphthong vowel sounds". For each spelling option there will be 3 levels of difficulty. Level 1 contains words where there is sound - letter correspondence. The Level 2 words do not have sound letter correspondence, so words will contain consonant digraphs, such as /ck/, /sh/ etc. Level 3 words are multisyllabic. The words for this month are the Level 2 words in "Short vowel sounds - longer words".
This revision has been an interesting and satisfying process. It was interesting because when you collate the lists of spelling options you find that many of the so called "exceptions" actually contain only a few words. For example, the /o/ sound spelt with "a" has about 6 common words (wash watch squash salt was want). There are a few others, but they are not commonly used words. It's satisfying because eLr can now provide activities for each spelling option at levels which match your client's skills. I also have found that the models used in these sections are fun, and cover a good range of skills, ie WordSearch, LookThenCover, SmileyMan, ConnectWords. Another model, Word Sound Buttons which gives practice at breaking the words into sounds will be added over the coming months.
Feel free to give us your feedback. We are often able to respond to your suggestions and value your opinions on what works, and what your wishlist might be.
Following the "Reading and Spelling" review last month, we inadvertently introduced a bug in the "Session Planner". It meant that the "Edit" option in the "Session Planner" didn't work if it included any tasks from the new subsections of "Long Vowels", or "Diphthong Vowel sounds". The bug has been fixed this month. It will only affect people who have the February Edition of eLr-Offline (as a new subscription or 6-month update in January). Please contact us, if this is affecting your ability to provide "Session Plans". If you use eLr directly from the website, this bug won't affect you.
For the last 2 weeks we have been immersed in the vowel sound sections of "Reading and Spelling" implementing a long considered, major restructure of this area. The aim is to make the Directory classification more consistently reflect spelling according to vowel groupings, and to provide you with skill levels within each category. The previous categories "3 letter words" and "4 letter words" are now "Short vowel sounds - 3 letter words" and "Short vowel sounds - longer words", and the related sections "Long vowel sounds" and "Dipthong vowel sounds" have also been reviewed and revised. This whole group is now more clearly defined according to the vowel "sounds" so that each sound has its own subsection, with activities targeting the various spelling choices for each of the sounds. In making these changes:
a) We have increased the number of spelling choices under each of the vowel sounds. For example, the diphthong vowel /i/ (as in "bite"), now has 5 subsections covering the range of spelling choices, eg "ie", "i", "i_e", "y", "ey", "igh". Previously there was only one spelling choice for the /i/ vowel.
b) We have introduced levels of difficulty under each of the spelling choices.
- Level 1 contains words where there is "sound/letter" correspondence (ie each sound is represented by a letter, apart from the vowel spellings).
- Level 2 contains words where there is not sound letter correspondence. This will include words with "ch", "sh", "ll" etc.
- Level 3 contains multisyllabic words.
This improvement means that you'll be able to assist your clients achieve "failure free" practice. Once you have established their level of understanding of how sounds relate to letters, you will be able to prescribe spelling and reading practice at a level where their understanding of phonological awareness and sound/letter relationships matches their target words.
c) In reviewing all the tasks in these sections, we've also made adjustments to sentence and vocabulary complexity in those models that use phrases and sentences (eg Typing with words. Most of the word and sentence choices previously used were completed a number of years ago, and continued experience using the tasks has indicated that shorter, simple sentences were needed to provide a clearer context for the word meanings.
As usual the website has all this new material, as does eLr-Offline from this month on. If you are using a previous version of eLr-Offline you won't see these changes until you receive your next CD. However we've constructed the task numbering and content so that the Guest access mechanism (ie clients using eLr tasks from the website) will provide essentially the same tasks from either the previous classification, or this new one, although the individual task content has frequently been altered slightly to more accurately fit the new classifications. We hope you enjoy these changes but more is to come, and over the next 3 months we will be expanding the remaining subsections within the vowel targets.
There are also a total of 130 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling" in the (now restructured) categories "Short vowel sounds", "Long vowel sounds", and "Diphthong vowel sounds". The models used are WordSearch, SmileyMan, ConnectWords, and LookThenCover. These models, when used together, are an excellent way to introduce new spelling and reading targets. The WordSearch activity is a good way to introduce the set of words. When the client has completed the WordSearch, print it, so that s/he has a reference point. LookThenCover would then be a good follow up activity as it encourages the client to write/spell each of the words. SmileyMan is a "hangman" type game, which provides practice at recalling the words and ConnectWords is a fun activity which then reinforces reading skills targeting the same set of words. The models, when used together, cover reading and spelling of each word set or spelling pattern you may be working on.
This month 29 new tasks have been added to "Semantics - Associations - Other Associations". These tasks were prompted by the improvements which were made to the PicPairs model last month. This model was one of the very early ones that we developed and it had limitations in its scope. With the improvements, it provides for more items within each task, and more importantly, much greater visual impact for clients who are needing to detect relationships between objects and concepts.
The improved PicPairs model displays two columns of "thumbnail" pictures; the client selects a picture from the left hand column, and then chooses the related picture from the right hand column. Correct responses are reinforced by the two related pictures being increased in size and moved together to the middle of the screen. An additional reinforcement for correct response is that the caption highlights red. With the placement of the pictures together in the centre of the screen, the relationship becomes more concrete. The task can be modified to suit client needs by having the items displayed as pictures only, picture plus words, or words only.
As with all eLr tasks extensions are encouraged. In the case of the new tasks the client may be encouraged to use specific language to explain the relationships, strengthen receptive and expressive vocabulary by discussing each of the items ("what category do they belong to", "tell me more things in this category" etc) and strengthen oral narrative ("where and how the item is used").
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