ELR Software Pty Ltd
eLr - What's New 2008
eLr-Offline is a compiled "snapshot" of the eLr website which operates as a "stand-alone" program without need for an internet connection. Although we have compiled a new edition each month since its launch in March 2001, it is essentially only the content and internal layout that's been increasing and changing.
This month we have released a totally new version of eLr-Offline built with a new, more powerful compilation "engine". This is a prelude to adding additional functions, such as the ability for users to directly download monthly updates and to save and deliver sets of eLr tasks to clients in electronic form.
This new version initially looks and behaves almost the same as previous ones. Although we've tested it extensively on Windows 7, Vista and XP, it is possible that there may be compatibility issues we've not uncovered. So the eLr-Offline CDs for the next few months will also include a copy built with the old "engine" which can easily be substituted on your computer if you have any difficulties with the new one. Please contact us if need assistance or have comments about this change.
For the last couple of months we've been working in a new section called "Similarities and Differences", in "Using Language". This month there are 20 new tasks in the "Pictorial-Less Common" subsection. The "Similarities and Difference" section now has a good range of tasks at different levels of difficulty; Picture/Word based and Common/Less Common vocabulary. Picture based tasks tend to be easier than the word based tasks. The tasks in the "Common" section contain activities where the vocabulary is concrete, and the relationship between the items is more obvious. Whereas in the "Less Common" tasks, the vocabulary is more specific and the relationship between items is more abstract, or requires a greater level of world knowledge.
The aim of these tasks is to encourage the client to use specific vocabulary to explain how items might share similarities. It then requires flexible thinking to think about the items in a different way, and discuss the differences. The role of the clinician or carer is to model use of language to explain the relationship between the items, and to encourage the client to discuss the features of the two items that make them similar or different. These types of activities encourage vocabulary development, and the use of complex sentences.
There are 20 new tasks in the "Using Language - Similarities and Differences". This month the tasks are all picture based and use the same tasks in 2 models. This allows you to present the same content in different activities, either to provide repetition for some clients, or to allow selection of the most appropriate activity for others. The models are:
MultiPic Slideshow - presents the two pictures with a prompt suggesting that you encourage your client to describe similarities and/or differences.
SpinPic - a spinner game which presents the material in a game format, suitable for younger clients.
The role of the clinician or helper is critical to these activities. The aim of this section is to encourage the client to use specific vocabulary to describe precise ideas. This is often difficult for clients with language impairment, as they are likely to respond with comments like "they're different". By encouraging expressive language to explain how the items are similar or different, the client improves in the ability to detect relationships and use category names. If they are then encouraged to explain how the items are different, their ability to descriptive language improves, and they are encouraged to use more specific vocabulary.
This section is divided into two levels of difficulty. The easiest tasks are in the "Common" section. This means the vocabulary is concrete and frequently used. The relationships between the items is also more obvious. The "Uncommon" section contains less frequently used vocabulary, and the client is required to detect relationships that are less obvious.
This month we have added 48 new tasks to the "Using Language" section in a new sub-section called "Similarities and differences". We've modified the naming of Using Language to accommodate this this addition by renaming the existing "Differences" sub-section to "Detecting errors in pictures". The aim of the new tasks is to encourage use of specific vocabulary when describing how items may share similarities, but also have differences. There are two levels of difficulty. The easiest level (common) contains vocabulary that occurs in everyday activities, and the similarities and differences are fairly easy to detect. The harder level (uncommon) uses less frequently occurring vocabulary, or the relationships between the words is not as obvious.
Four models have been used. In three of the models, there are matching tasks, ie they have the same sets of stimulus words. This allows you to cover the same vocabulary in different ways. It can either allow repetition for some clients, or provide you with choice of activities to allow appropriate selection for your client's age, interests or attention span. The models are:
SpinWord - a spinner game. Each person playing the game has to respond to a prompt question before moving their marker, around a game board eg "How are chair and stool similar, and how are they different?".
TicTacWord - a game where the client has to describe how the two items are similar or different before they click on their selected square to play the game.
Fortune cookies - this activity allows for much more flexibility, and can be used in ways that suit different age groups and interest levels. For older clients, the items may be clicked on the computer screen, and the client provides verbal descriptions about similarities and differences. For younger clients, the activity can be turned into a game, where a number spinner is used to select the items on screen. As another variation, the prompt items may be printed and cut up to make cards which can then be incorporated into a range of games. And lastly, like all eLr activities, these tasks are easily incorporated into classroom activities on a "Smartboard".
MultiWord Slideshow - the content in these tasks is based on the content of the previous three models, but is extended slightly. It requires the client to describe similarities and differences between three items instead of two (as in the other 3 models).
In all of these tasks, the role of the clinician or helper is to provide cues and prompts, and to encourage expressive language within context and conversation. If the client has difficulty recognizing the items, or has weak associations between items, it is suggested that activities in the "Semantics" section be used to increase vocabulary knowledge and associations ("Naming", "Categories" and "Associations").
This month we have been working in the "Activity Toolbox" area to extend the function of the WordGame builder and the PhonPic Tool. There are two new tasks that will allow you to produce your own activities specifically designed for your clients' needs:
WordGame Builder - Typing with words. This model is based on an existing model currently used in many of the eLr sections, such as "Phonology Later Sounds", and "Reading and Spelling". In the Typing with words model, the screen displays buttons with a word on each button. The client, by clicking on the buttons, arranges the words to make a sentence. Further support may be provided to the client by clicking the 'prompt' on. This displays the target sentence, so the client can complete the task by matching the words. Alternatively, the client may read the prompt sentence, click it away, and then complete the task without seeing the prompt sentence, thus encouraging recall. The aim of this new model is to allow you to use your own sentences for the activity. Here are some of the areas that may be targeted using this model:
- Strengthening knowledge of sentence structure
- Use of pronouns
- Understanding word meanings in the context sentences
- Verb tense
- Use of flexible sentences
- Use of adjectives and adverbs in a sentence
- Articulation and phonology at the sentence level
PhonPic Tool - Slide show. This model is based on the Slide show model which is commonly used in sections such as "Phonology", "Semantics" and "Phonological Awareness". The model is a very simple one. The screen displays one picture at a time which is useful for providing an uncluttered way for the client to either name the pictures, or describe or perform other language functions that you may be working on. This new model allows you to select vocabulary that targets specific phonological or articulation errors. You are presented with 3 grids that contain a choice of sounds for the initial or final consonant, or the vowel sound, in single syllable words. So, for example, if you want words that all start with a sound (such as /s/), click the 's' in the initial sound grid. The available words appear, and from these words, you make your choice by clicking on the words. Click the forward double arrow (top left of the screen) to start the activity. This activity would be useful for goals such as:
- Articulation or phonological processes
- Describing features
- Explaining uses of an item
- Generating short stories about the displayed picture
A further 23 new tasks have been added to "Semantics-Concepts-Colour". This is a continuation of the section that was opened in July. As described below, there are two sections in "Colour". For this month, the tasks are in "Other colours". This includes the colours black, white, gray, brown, purple, orange and pink". In this section we did not start with activities targeting a single colour. The reason for this is that by the time students begin on these colours, they would have mastered the concept of colour.
The same models are used again DragCentral, and LR IconPlacer. The combination of these two models provides you with inital tasks that are totally 'free form' (DragCentral), allowing you to tailor your input to suit client needs and interest. It also allows you to include other concepts if appropriate. Then LR IconPlacer provides activities with a bit more structure, as there are 9 prompts (or instructions) with each activity. However, even in this model, you are able to modify the tasks to suit client needs and interest.-->
We have continued working in the "Semantics-Concepts" area. This month there are 28 new activities in a new section called "Colour". This concept is a very early one for children with emerging language skills. The "Colour" section is divided into two subsections - "Basic colours", and "Other colours". The new tasks for July are in "Basic colours".
The initial tasks are designed to provide optimum support for students who may not have mastered the concept. They use the DragCentral model. This model displays a picture in the middle of the screen, and moveable icons on either side. The student is encouraged to manipulate the icons, while the clinician/carer provides language models relating to the concept. The first few tasks focus on only one colour - red. To reinforce the colour, the student is able to match a red icon to the red picture. This matching activity develops the concept of 'same' and also that the 'same' items are all the one colour.
The tasks increase in complexity along the following lines:
Towards the end of the section, the LR IconPlacer model is used. This model displays a central picture with 9 moveable icons to the left. There are a series of prompts which may be used to guide the clinician/carer in the sorts of activities that will strengthen the concept. The model can be modified to suit your needs. For example, if you would like to use your own prompts and reinforce other targets, you may turn the prompt "off". You can also modify how the model behaves. The default is for the icons to return to the original position between each prompt. However, if you would like the icons to stay on the picture between prompts, deselect "Auto-reset". This would be good to do after you have completed the task, so that the student can have 'free play' with the icons and pictures. Some of these activities are quite fun, eg dressing boys and girls, putting food in stoves and fridges, and putting animals in sheds or on vehicles.
Twenty-four new tasks have been added to "Semantics-Concepts". We have been adding to the concept categories over the past 3 months. This month most of the tasks are in a new new subsection "quantity" which has activities targeting the early concept of "counting", and the more abstract concepts of "few/many/most/all/some". There are also new tasks in a new subsection of "inclusive/exclusive" called "all but one/except".
All of the new tasks use the LR IconPlacer model. This model presents a scene and 9 icons on the screen. Each task has 9 instructions (prompts) which provide a guide in how to use the task. This is a free form model, which means the icons may be placed in any location. The role of the clinician or helper is to provide feedback about the accuracy of the response, and to model use of the concept at a language level appropriate to the client. You can modify the task by turning these prompts "off". This allows you to give instructions targeting different goals, or use the activity as a barrier game, where you and the client take turns in giving instructions.
If you prefer the icons to remain on the scene (rather than return to the side of the screen when you move to the next instruction), deselect "Auto-reset". Some children enjoy building up a picture. This may be printed and used as a paper based activity, encouraging the client to use expressive language to describe the picture.
This month we have continued to work in "Semantics-Concepts" and added 24 new tasks in a new subsection called "Inclusive/Exclusive". Within this subsection there are two groups of tasks covering concepts "a/both" and "either/or/both/and". The tasks use the LR Icon Placer which displays a scene and a number of icons. The prompt provides appropriate instructions to teach the target concept. This model permits the client to place the icons in any location and the clinician/helper provides feedback and modifies the task to suit the interest and learning needs of the client. Within each concept the tasks are graded in difficulty. For example, an easy instruction for "and" would be "put the banana and the apple in the fridge", while a more difficult instruction for "either/or/both" is "put either a book or a sock in both baskets".
We have also modified some of the tasks from last month and added one more task the "in front/behind" subsection. We received feedback that some of the scenes in the "in front/behind" section were too close to the icons. So the tasks have been changed to allow more room.
These tasks provide flexible material to teach basic and abstract concepts. They are also useful for clients who have auditory processing problems. In each section the instructions begin at an easier level containing one concept. The more challenging levels contain more than one concept requiring mastery of the concepts and the ability to process more than one concept at a time.
There are 21 new tasks in the "Semantics-Concepts-Spatial" section. We are aware that there is a great need for activities to strengthen the client's understanding of concept words, and also their ability to use concept words within functional speech. For the next couple of months, we'll be focusing on this area.
This month, most of the tasks are in two new sub sections - "Front/behind", and "First/middle/between/last", and there are also three new tasks in an existing sub section - "On/under/beside/next to". In each of the sections, the tasks start with very simple pictures (eg putting the icon "in front" or "behind" a horse). As you progress through the items, you'll notice that the scenes become more complex and may depict an activity. For example, in one task, a woman is mopping the floor, and the instructions relate to putting items "between the bucket and the stairs" etc.
All of the new tasks use the LR IconPlacer model which has been slightly modified this month. This model is used to encourage the client to follow and give verbal instructions. The screen displays a scene and a number of little pictures (icons). There are a series of prompt instructions which are read to the client by the clinician/ helper. During the activity, spontaneous language is encouraged, and because the icons may be placed anywhere, the clinician is able to add complexity or make the task simpler, to suit the needs of the client. The modification this month is that as you move between instructions, the icons return to their original position. This means that during the task, each item will have an equal level of complexity. However, if you would prefer the icons to accumulate on the scene (as they have done previously), de-select the "Auto-reset" check box.
This month's tasks are 80 further additions to the "Most frequent words" section in "Reading and Spelling". This section starts with the "first 100 words" and we've been progressively adding more words, "second 100", "third 100" etc. This month it's the "fifth 100" and "sixth 100" which will enable you to provide graded practice over more than 65-70% of all general English words used in reading and writing. Encouraging students to become more automatic in their ability to read and spell these words increases fluency and their confidence. The development of reading and spelling requires a range of skills. These include:
- letter knowledge, ie knowing the names and sounds of letters
- aspects of phonological and phonemic awareness, eg knowledge of letter sound relationships, knowing how to break words into sounds, and blend sounds to make a word
- knowledge of word meanings. This is a very broad based language skill that enables the student to understand what they have read (reading comprehension).
- being able to automatically recognize words to enable fluency in reading. This skill comes about in a couple of ways. Once the student can decode words, they become more familiar with the words and can quickly recognize them. Another way this skill can be developed is by completing activities that contain words that are frequently used. And this is where the "Most frequent words" section in eLr may be of assistance.
The models in these sections encourage reading and spelling. The LookThenCover model is a good one to start with, as it introduces each word. WordSearch, MemoryWords and ConnectWords are good to encourage quick decoding, and SmileyMan reinforces spelling skills. All eLr tasks are designed to be completed in an interactive session. This enables you to talk about the words, discuss meanings and put the words into sentences. This encourages expressive language and comprehension skills as the client explains and explores the meanings of each word.
There are 80 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling - Most frequent words". To date eLr has included activities targeting the first 200 of the Most Frequent Words. These first 200 words represent, on average, two-thirds of all the words used in reading and writing.
The new tasks this month extend this section to include the third and fourth hundred frequent words. These activities encourage the development of a larger number of words that can be automatically read and spelt. Each one hundred words is divided into 4 levels (25 words in each level), and each level is broken for convenience into sets of 12 and 13 words.
The models used include LookThenCover, WordSearch, MemoryWords, SmileyMan and ConnectWords. This means that you can present each set of words in a variety of activities. LookThenCover is an excellent model for introducing a set of words. WordSearch, MemoryWords and ConnectWords are good to encourage quick decoding, and SmileyMan reinforces spelling skills.
These activities provide a motivating way to practice basic reading and spelling skills. It is suggested that the tasks are completed within an interactive session where you discuss the words with your client. For example, you can talk about the meanings of the words and practice putting the words in example sentences. This helps generalize reading and spelling skills, and encourages the development of oral language and the understanding of word meanings. These skills are important for reading comprehension.
This month there are 26 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling - Long Vowel Sounds". We have continued on with a review that we began last month, by adding activities focusing on decoding non-words in each of the subsections. The activities all use the model MultiWord Slideshow, with 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.
These types of activities provide lots of practice at decoding unfamiliar words. To become a fluent reader, we need to use a number of strategies. Some words are known by "sight", but when faced with unfamiliar words, we need to use our knowledge of letter sound relationships to accurately work out the word. By encouraging the client to read the words aloud, we can ensure that they are accurately decoding.
The non-words have been carefully selected so that no matter how the client pronounces the word, it will not be confused with a real word. For example, non-words like /phorm/ are not included, as the client may read /phorm/ as "form". The tasks do not require high level spelling skills. They focus on accurate decoding. However, it is suggested that after the client has read the non-words, having them write the words to dictation encourages consolidation of their ability to process sounds in words.
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