Achievement Deficits

Basic Reading Skills

Assessment Measures

The following tests provide information about basic reading skills:

Letter-Word Identification [WJ III test 1]

This test measures the student’s ability to identify letters and words. A low score on this test suggests a lack of reading vocabulary.

Word Attack [WJ III test 13]

This test measures the student’s ability to demonstrate the knowledge of phonetic analysis by decoding nonsense words. A low score on this test suggests a lack of phonics and syllabication skills.

Word Reading [WIAT-II]

This test assesses or measures phonological awareness and decoding skills.

Pseudoword Decoding [WIAT-II]

This test measures the student’s ability to apply phonetic decoding skills.

WRAT-3 Reading

This test measures the student’s ability to read a list of words of increasing difficulty. A low score on this test suggests a lack of reading vocabulary.

Functional Manifestations

A student whose test behavior suggests specific deficits in basic reading skills may have difficulties even in classes where reading ability is not a target skill. Written instructions on tests or worksheets, assignments written on the board, the class syllabus, and word problems in classes such as math, drafting or electronics may present unexpected difficulties for this student. In addition, instructional signs on equipment in classrooms which relate to use or warn of danger may not be comprehended by this student.

In daily life, this student can expect problems with menus, billboards, street signs, warning signs, identifying product names in stores, reading maps, and finding names in phone books, as well as the more obvious reading situations involving mail, instructions with products, driving tests, and contracts.

Instructional Goal

Students will expand sight reading recognition vocabulary as well as practice word recognition strategies which include phonetic word attack, using context clues, and recognition of word parts (e.g. roots, prefixes, suffixes).

Instructional Considerations

Functional visual scanning skills are essential to the reading process and should be addressed early in instruction. Mastery of a given activity must be achieved without sound output before student progresses to the next level.

To improve academic performance, students can use technology to compensate for weaknesses in sight recognition and word attack skills. Such technology includes computer voice output for auditory text editing, books on tape, and “talking” hand-held spellers/dictionaries.

Any program format which engages students to read at their instructional level will stimulate use of word recognition strategies. The same software may be useful for building word identification skills as well as vocabulary.

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Software Characteristics

Software should provide multiple formats for practice.

Having different formats for practice relieves tedium and facilitates generalization.

Authoring component is easy to use.

Having the opportunity to practice personally relevant words enhances/expands the value of the software. Creating personalized reading materials is not practical unless the authoring tool is easy to use.

Software should provide multiple reading levels.

Easily identified reading levels allow an appropriate match between practice material and student’s reading level.

Sound output is desirable.

With sound output students can hear if they have successfully visually decoded a target word. The option to have a word highlighted as it is read is a useful software attribute.

Software should provide TTS capability

Audio reinforcement through text to speech is a useful software attribute.

Recommended Software

Basic reading skills will first be established in the cognitive processing areas.

Fast For Word Reading Series (Scientific Learning)

This software uses the same technology as the Literacy and Literacy advanced, and starts with Reading Prep to reinforce basic phonics and help students move from the spoken word to the printed word.

Locutour Literacy (Learning Fundamentals)

This set of programs helps set the foundation for reading using excellent visual presentations and video clips. It uses the format that Lindamood-Bell pioneered for auditory discrimination and practice using all modalities. It also includes spelling and reading rules practice.

Developing Critical Reading Skills

This software provides pre-testing (“Try-out”), focused practice with feedback and explanation (“Work-out”), and post-testing (“Finals”). There are several aspects which are controlled by the instructor, and it will track specific students’ success. Specific benefits for basic reading skills include the identification of vocabulary meaning in context.

Lindamood Seeing Stars CD-ROM Series (Gander Publishing)

https://shop.ganderpublishing.com

Designed to be used in conjunction with instruction, this program builds from knowledge of phonemic awareness into basic word identification. Level of difficulty can be controlled.

 

 

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Reading Comprehension & Fluency

Assessment Measures

The following tests provide information about reading comprehension:

Passage Comprehension [WJ III test 9]

This test measures the student’s ability to use context clues to determine the appropriate word in a close reading passage. A low score on this test suggests that a student will probably experience difficulty in reading college textbooks.

Reading Vocabulary [WJ III test 17]

This test measures the student’s knowledge of word meanings by supplying synonyms and antonyms.

Since college reading materials assume a level of sophistication in word knowledge, a student with a low score on this test will likely experience problems in understanding lecture content and in comprehending course materials.

Reading Fluency [WJ III test 2]

This test measures the student’s ability to quickly read simple sentences and decide if they are true or false.

Reading Comprehension [WIAT-II]

This test measures the student’s ability to read passages and answer content questions.

Degrees of Reading Power (DRP)

This test measures the student’s ability to choose the correct words, in a close procedure, to complete the meaning of reading passages with increasing complexity as in the Passage Comprehension test, a low score on this measure suggests that a student will experience difficulty in deriving meaning from written materials.

Weakness in any of the reading comprehension skills may adversely affect a student’s school performance.

Nelson-Denny Reading Test

This test measures three areas of academic achievement: vocabulary, reading comprehension, and reading rate.

Functional Manifestations

A student whose test behavior suggests specific deficits in reading comprehension may have difficulty in identifying main ideas, retaining sequences of events, and/or comprehending subtleties (inferences) in written material. The student may attempt classes which involve reading, but may interpret information literally, without drawing conclusions or forming opinions.

In daily life this student is not likely to enjoy recreational reading, and, if interested in current events, is unlikely to obtain this information from newspapers or magazines. In addition, this student may have difficulties in reading situations involving driving tests, mail, product instructions, and contracts.

Instructional Goal

Students will improve passage comprehension by practicing strategies to enhance visualization, identification of the main idea, inferential reasoning, memory for details, and drawing conclusions. Students will use reading skills to obtain information needed to solve problems.

Students will improve vocabulary skills by studying new words and by using contextual clues to deduce meaning of unknown words.

Instructional Considerations

It should be noted that most reading comprehension software tests comprehension rather than teaching strategies. Students need to learn reading comprehension strategies before using the software to practice them.

Games and problem-solving software environments motivate students to work to understand information that they are reading. In this way, application and generalization of reading comprehension skills occurs “painlessly.”

Long-term and short-term memory deficits may interfere with reading comprehension and should be addressed specifically. The instructor should also be aware that success in reading comprehension is dependent upon a student’s understanding the vocabulary in the material being read.

Even when using an appropriate reading level, the use of voice output devices (e.g. hand-held electronic dictionary/speller, or computer voice output, if compatible with software package) will help students compensate for word attack weaknesses.

There are a number of full-featured programs which teach reading from the pre-literacy level through the high school level. Because such programs are costly, they are most effectively purchased by an institution for campus-wide use.

Note:

Software characteristics and suggested software programs for reading comprehension activities are divided into three basic types:

  1. reading comprehension skills only (i.e., main idea, inference, drawing conclusions);
  2. vocabulary development; and
  3. reading comprehension to achieve software goal (games or simulations).

 

 

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Software Characteristics: Reading Comprehension

Control of reading level and passage length is desirable.

It is necessary to control passage length in order to ensure student success in decoding material. Text should be presented at or below students’ reading levels for this to occur. Material of varied lengths need to be available in order to accommodate time constraints of students (e.g., a 50 minute class period), students’ ability to focus and maintain attention on the reading task, and students’ level of performance. Short passages must also be available for students unable to comprehend longer ones.

The ability to receive on-line hints or to review the reading passage while answering comprehension questions is desirable.

Many students’ ability to mentally organize and retain the material they have read is facilitated by hints or being able to review the passage while they consider the answers to comprehension questions.

Software should employ a variety of response modes.

To make tasks more interesting as well as challenging, a variety of response modes is desirable (e.g. multiple choice responses for comprehension questions, underlining for selecting the main idea in text). Because students get bored with repetitive tasks, being forced to respond in different modes promotes different ways of processing information and formulating concepts.

Software should allow students to demonstrate comprehension without regard for spelling accuracy or an exact sequence of words.

Programs which require exact spelling and phrasing may measure areas of weakness rather than focusing on the task of reading comprehension. The option to review vocabulary prior to reading passages is desirable.

On-line dictionaries assist with acquisition of vocabulary knowledge needed to understand a reading passage. Using them provides students with practice in using reference materials as well as assisting with comprehension.

Software should include a variety of comprehension tasks (e.g. finding the main idea, reading for facts, making inferences, and drawing conclusions).

Practice in different types of reading tasks is necessary in order to help students build skills in specific areas and to help students understand the spectrum of activities which encompass reading comprehension.

Text on the screen should be easy to perceive.

An uncluttered screen format and good text resolution is necessary to facilitate reading speed, reduce eye strain, and reduce negative effects from visual perceptual interference.

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Software Characteristics: Vocabulary Development

Screen should be uncluttered.

An uncluttered screen allows relevant information to stand out. Students with visual processing difficulties and poor scanning skills may have difficulty separating the target vocabulary word from other on-screen information if the screen is cluttered.

Authoring component should be easy to use.

An editing or authoring option in vocabulary instruction is very practical for the study of vocabulary because it allows individualization of word lists. Students may input glossary items from their text books in order to prepare for reading or taking exams. Students who input their own word lists will have the additional benefit of manipulating their word list in a way which will enhance their understanding of the words.

Content should be effectively organized.

Objectives for the development of vocabulary should be functional and clearly stated. Whether by grade-level, part of speech, “survival” vocabulary or other system, its organization should be in agreement with the instructional needs of these students.

Sound output for each vocabulary word is desirable.

With sound output for vocabulary words, students receive an additional stimulus for learning. Additionally, having an auditory model for a word may facilitate correct pronunciation of the word. (If sound is not an option provided by a program, the use of electronic dictionaries with sound output would prove to be helpful).

Software Characteristics: Games or simulations which require reading comprehension

Software should provide a motivating environment.

It is easier for students to apply and generalize their reading comprehension strategies when they are motivated to read on. Students need to understand information from passages in order to solve problems and reach the goal of the program.

Program should provide the option to stop and save a game in progress.

Due to students’ time constraints, attention spans and general fatigue factors, it is often necessary to stop a game before the goal has been attained. Students often feel more productive when they can save the activity and resume at a later time.

 

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Recommended Software

Fast For Word Reading Series (1-5) (Scientific Learning)

These programs guide students systematically through the elements of reading, reading comprehension and fluency while continuing to build the necessary working memory and long term retrieval necessary to process what they read and use strategies that are effective.

Developing Critical Reading Skills

With components that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises, this software also provides practice with identifying main ideas and the use of inference.

Vocabulary Fitness (Merit Software)

With components that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises, this software provides exercise to help students differentiate commonly confused words by using them in the correct context.

Grammar Shape-Up

Following the common format of the Merit Software products, this software uses components that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises. Providing exercises that deal with specific topics in the categories of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and prepositions and conjunctions, this software has students identify which word is a specific part of speech, select words with similar meanings, and determine correct vocabulary word by providing different contexts.

Reading Shape-Up (Merit Software)

This program works on reading comprehension by providing practice answering questions about paragraph-length material, including sequence, inference, detail, vocabulary in context, and fact/opinion. When combined with Merit-Talker, this program could provide dual input when needed.

Ultimate Speed Reader (Smart Kids Software)

This program facilitates reading speed in order to develop reading fluency. Assessment of reading speed and development of a program of practice is provided, but not required. Information is multiple paragraphs in length. Speed of presentation and number of words grouped/highlighted can be controlled.

 

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Basic Mathematics Skills

Assessment Measures

The following tests provide information about basic mathematics skills:

Calculation [WJ III test 5]

This test measures the student’s ability to perform mathematical calculations from basic operations through calculus. If the test protocol is available, an analysis of the student’s errors can provide insight into whether the student understands the concepts or is making only calculation errors. Prescriptive software must take into account the types of problems with which the student is experiencing difficulty.

Quantitative Concepts [WJ III test 18]

This test measures the student’s knowledge of basic mathematical concepts and vocabulary. A low score on this test may impact the student’s performance in classes which have a mathematical base, e.g., chemistry, anatomy and physiology, accounting, etc.

Math Fluency [WJ III test 6]

Measures the ability to solve simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts quickly.

Numerical Operations [WIAT-II]

This test measures the student’s ability to solve written calculation problems and simple equations involving all basic oeprations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

WRAT-3 Arithmetic

This test measures the student’s ability to perform mathematical calculations under timed conditions. A low score on this test needs to be evaluated to determine whether the score is due to time constraints rather than lack of math knowledge.

Functional Manifestations

A student whose test results suggest specific deficits in basic mathematical skills may also have difficulties in classes where math is not a target skill. Computing changes in measurements within hard or soft science lab assignments, understanding statistics within research articles, and handling the computing requirements within almost any mechanical, drafting or electronic courses may present unexpected difficulties for this student. In daily life this student may expect problems with making change, determining tips, managing financial accounts, estimating budgets; calculating taxes, and any measurement calculations involved in constructing, cooking or sewing.

Instructional Goal

Students will demonstrate knowledge of mathematical concepts, vocabulary, and calculations. Secondarily, students will maximize processing speed of calculations without sacrificing accuracy.

Instructional Considerations

Work on basic mathematical skills can be tedious, so a variety of approaches is helpful. Speed of solving basic processes such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division should be encouraged to promote an automatic response. If that is not feasible, then compensatory techniques such as rapid use of a calculator should be considered. Be aware of differences in instructional approaches between the classroom and the software.

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Software Characteristics

Software should allow control of basic mathematical processes.

Students should be able to control numeric range (e.g. single digit, double digit, etc.) in order to provide practice in appropriate areas.

Software should provide instruction to introduce concepts prior to practicing skills.

This gives students relevant information needed to complete exercises. Avoid math software without a tutorial component.

Software should provide opportunity for drill or game format with frequent feedback.

Immediate feedback is necessary in order correct any errors before a student advances in a program. Drill allows development of automatic responses with basic mathematical functions. Games provide a motivating format for this.

Students should be able to return to missed items.

This will clarify errors and allow students to demonstrate that they now understand the correct procedure.

A customising component is desirable.

Students or instructors can select a specific number of problems and levels of practice in order to create individualized lessons.

Software should have an optional component for monitoring speed of processing.

“Beating-the-clock” is especially motivating in a game format. If students are able to focus and maintain attention, speed, and accuracy, their automatic responses to basic math calculations may improve.

Suggested Software

ModuMath

This program is well sequenced and multi-sensory and provides several modules for laying a math foundation or for specific practice in certain areas. It goes slowly without talking down to the students.

Timez Attack

This program provides time-pressured practice of basic multiplication within a stimulating game environment. Level of difficulty can be adjusted, and mastery is required before moving on.

Math Playground (this is a free website)

http://www.mathplayground.com/index.html

This program facilitates basic mathematics skills by providing math manipulatives for basic topics. There are also flashcards which can be timed for addition, subtraction, mixed +/-, and multiplication. Multiplication can be adjusted for specific areas of difficulty.

 

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Mathematics Reasoning

Assessment Measures

The following test provides information about mathematics reasoning:

Applied Problems [WJ III test 10]

This test measures the student’s ability to solve word problems in mathematics. A low score on this test may indicate a lack of mathematical vocabulary or a lack of understanding of math concepts. The student will struggle with problem solving activities in some vocational programs such as nursing or drafting and in classes such as algebra or chemistry.

Quantitative Concepts [WJ III test 18]

This test measures knowledge of mathematical concepts, symbols, and vocabulary.

Math Reasoning [WIAT-II]

This assesses the ability to reason mathematically. Including identification of geometric shapes, solving single and multi step word problems, interpreting graphs, identifying mathematical patterns, and solving problems related to statistics and probability.

Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project [MDTP]

This test measures a student’s performance in algebra readiness, elementary algebra, and intermediate algebra.

Functional Manifestations: Mathematical Reasoning

A student whose test results suggest specific deficits in mathematical reasoning may be able to handle the calculations involved in course work, but may not be able to determine the calculation process needed or to set up the calculation. The struggle in algebra and statistics classes may be obvious, but other courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology, and courses of study such as business, nursing, computer sciences, drafting and electronics may also present difficulties.

In daily life, this student may generally avoid situations requiring mathematical reasoning. The student may need assistance in budgeting, managing financial accounts, calculating taxes, determining efficient travel routes, verifying hours adjustments and taxes in their employment, and in modifying tasks involving construction, cooking, or sewing.

Instructional Goal

Students will demonstrate the reasoning and sequencing involved in word problems and in more complex mathematical processes.

Instructional Considerations

It is extremely important that students be taught necessary mathematics vocabulary (e.g. difference, sequential, yields).

Many algebra texts now include the possibility of acquiring tutorial software correlated with the text. Software not related to a text should be evaluated in terms of its terminology, content and solution processes as related to the students’ courses. There are non-computational skills underlying many mathematical processes (e.g. short-term and long term memory, sequencing). These must be addressed specifically.

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Software Characteristics

Word problems should present reasoning processes in a sequential fashion and include a variety of problems.

Students benefit from following clear models. Extended practice develops automatic responses to structuring and solving problems.

Feedback should be frequent and educational.

If response is repeatedly incorrect, the process for achieving an accurate solution should be demonstrated.

Software should provide extended practice with a wide variety of problems and/or the option of repeating problems with different numbers.

Students benefit from repetition in learning to structure and solve problems. This enables them to develop a format for approaching mathematical problems.

It is desirable that software cover a wide variety of mathematical processes.

A comprehensive program allows students to progress to higher levels without having to learn how to use a new program.

Recommended Software

Modumath (WTCSF)

This program is well sequenced and multi-sensory and provides several modules for laying a math foundation or for specific practice in certain areas. It goes slowly without talking down to the students.

There are lots of practice exercises for calculation as well as excellent visual representations for math word problems.

Word Problem Shape-Up (Merit Software)

With components that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises, this software develops mathematical reasoning through the use of different operation vocabulary within each unit: add/subtract only, multiply/divide only, add/subtract/multiply/divide, operations using fractions, and operations using deciamls and percents.

Pre-Algebra Shape-Up (Merit Software)

Using components that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises, this software also provides “Warm-up” practice sections for specific aspects of each topic.

Mathematical Reasoning is addressed with different subjects within each unit: Understanding Percents, Ratios-Fractions-Percents, Words to Numbers, Introduction to Equations with add/subtract, Introduction to Equations with multiply/divide, Converting Metrics, Introduction to Graphs, Reading Line/Column Graphs, and Reading Pie Charts.

 

 

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Basic Writing Skills

Assessment Measures

The following tests provide information about basic writing skills:

Spelling [WJ III test 7; WIAT II, WRAT-3]

These tests measures a student’s ability to spell words correctly. Problems in this area will be reflected in the student’s work.

Editing [WJ-R test 16]

This test measures the student’s ability to recognize and correct errors in spelling, punctuation and capitalization, and usage. A low score on this test suggests that a student will have problems in proofreading written work to find and correct errors.

Note:

For basic writing skills, the Functional Manifestations section and the Software Characteristics sections have been assigned to two primary aspects of writing in order to cover each area with appropriate depth. These two areas are

  1. Spelling, and
  2. Writing Mechanics and Proofing.

Functional Manifestations: Spelling

A student whose test results suggest specific deficits in spelling may have difficulties even in classes where writing is not a target skill. Taking notes during lectures, writing down assignments accurately, and writing answers to in-class tests and quizzes within a specified time may present unexpected problems. Students with severe deficits may even have difficulty finding correct spellings in dictionaries or understanding their own writing after some time has passed.

In daily life this student may not write formal or informal correspondence (letters, memos or messages), and may have difficulty taking phone messages, filling out forms, writing checks, or locating any information which is alphabetized (e.g. names in the phone book, books at libraries, information in encyclopedias).

Instructional Goal

Students will learn and review new spelling words, spelling patterns, and phonics skills.

Instructional Considerations

Before students work on spelling software, it is important that they understand what spelling strategies work best for their learning styles. They also must know what spelling skills they are expected to use or develop when using spelling software.

If students will be using handwriting to take spelling tests, it is important that they use handwriting to practice spelling as well as practicing at the computer keyboard.

Correct spelling is primarily the result of applying phonics knowledge (auditory analysis, auditory memory, and sound- symbol association) as well as visual memory; and visual- motor memory. Ideally, the software should provide spelling lists for each critical element in the development of phonics skills.

If students use compensatory technology, they can concentrate on critical aspects of writing (content, organisation, cohesion, word choice) instead of being concerned with spelling accuracy. Compensatory technology includes on-line spelling checkers, dictionaries, thesauruses, hand-held spelling checkers, abbreviation expansion software, macros, and voice input.

Software Characteristics: Spelling

Software should provide lists of words exemplifying a given rule and provide a logical hierarchy of rules.

Activities which focus on words exemplifying a single rule encourage generalization of the rule (e.g., adding suffixes to words ending in silent “e”) and are more useful than drill designed for memorization of isolated spellings. Rule complexity level should reflect the reading/spelling level of words in word list (for example, -tion vs. -sion) would not be an appropriate rule for a second grade level list of spelling words.

Authoring component is easy to use.

The opportunity to practice personally relevant spelling lists enhances/expands the value of the software for students. Creating personalized lessons is not practical unless the authoring tool is easy to use.

Students should have multiple formats for practicing skills.

Having different formats (e.g. flash card, unscramble, crossword, word search, spelling bee, spell in context) for practice relieves tedium and facilitates generalization.

Software should include a range of levels and topics covered and/or provide data disks for different levels and topics.

This allows students with differing spelling levels to use the software. Students can progress through levels of greater spelling mastery without having to learn a new program.

Sound output is desirable.

Sound output confirms target words for students who are not sure they have read the word correctly. The psychological process of learning new spellings usually begins by hearing a word (either aloud or sub vocally).

The software program should permit students to adjust the amount of time allowed for studying new words.

Students require different amounts of processing time in different contexts. Processing time decreases with familiarity. It is difficult for students to learn new information when under pressure.

 

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Suggested Software: Spelling

Completion from Partial Information (Parrot software)

This program challenges spelling skills by providing several partially written words included within a specified category. Missing letters can be vowels only or random letters.

Vocabulary Fitness

With components that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises, this software helps develop spelling skills by requiring the student to identify possible errors within a sentence.

WordQ

This software works within the word processing software interface, thereby not requiring the student to switch between software interfaces. By assisting students with spelling options this software also learns the words most commonly used by students, building a usage history that allows for word-prediction functionality as well.

Functional Manifestations: Writing Mechanics and Editing

A student whose test results suggest specific deficits in writing mechanics may avoid classes where writing is a target skill, but may still encounter difficulties in writing essay answers on tests, taking effective notes in lectures, writing directions to complex assignments or messages to instructors. In daily life, this student may not produce formal or informal correspondence (e.g. letters, memos or messages), or instructions as given by doctors or other professionals.

Instructional Goal

Students will demonstrate knowledge of the rules of capitalization, punctuation and grammar and practice strategies for monitoring and correcting errors in written work.

Instructional Considerations

Students must see the relationship between their written work and rules they are learning.

Students can improve the writing mechanics in their written assignments with the help of on-line editing aids such as grammar manuals and grammar checkers working in coordination with their word processing program.

Students should be encouraged to use more than one program to improve their writing mechanics. No one program provides enough practice material in enough different contexts to ensure mastery of a concept.

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Software Characteristics: Writing Mechanics and Editing

Proofing programs need to provide control over aspects of writing mechanics covered in a given activity.

Students should be dealing only with material for which they have prepared themselves.

Instruction should be clearly presented with ample examples and no jargon.

Clear presentation facilitates comprehension. Examples facilitate comprehension and generalization.

Feedback should be frequent and educational.

Students should have access to a printed record of progress including number attempted, number missed, percent correct, and list of errors. (They can use this information to assess performance and set new goals). The students should also be provided with immediate feedback as well as hints and opportunities to retake missed items as this practice creates a model for self-cueing. When students successfully re-take missed items, they can feel successful as they are learning a concept.

Authoring component is easy to use.

Creating personally relevant material with which to practice a skill is always beneficial to the student. An instructor can individualize instruction by using an authoring component when one is provided. However, for both student and instructor, creating personalized lessons is not practical unless the editing tool is easy to use.

Providing numerous practice items is desirable.

Students need a great deal of practice with grammatical concepts before achieving fluidity with the concepts.

Recommended Software: Writing Mechanics and Editing

Vocabulary Fitness

Using modules that provide pre-testing, focused paractice with feedback and explanation followed by post-testing exercises, this software allows the student to develop skills in identifying possible errors within a sentence.

Focus on Grammar

This program provides grammar practice in several areas.

Grammar Fitness

With pre-testing, focused paractice (with feedback and explanation) followed by post-testing exercises, this software has students identify possible errors involving possessives, confused words, irregular plurals, fragments, run-ons, modifiers, agreement, etc.

 

 

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Written Expression

Assessment Measures

The following tests provide information about written expression:

Writing Samples [WJ III test 11]

This test measures the student’s ability to express ideas by producing single words, simple sentences and complex sentences. A low score on this test will be reflected in the quality of written course requirements such as tests, in-class assignments, and out-of-class papers.

Writing Fluency [WJ III test 8]

This test measures the student’s ability to write clear sentences under timed conditions. A low score on this test suggests that a student may not have sufficient time to complete assignments.

Written Expression [WIAT-II]

This test measures the student’s ability to combine and generate sentences and to produce a persuasive essay.

Functional Manifestations

A student whose test results suggest specific deficits in written expression may be able to handle simple writing tasks, but may encounter difficulty when there is limited time to write, or when more complex writing is required. Organisation of ideas, integration of concepts, or expressing interpretation of symbolism may present difficulties for this student, especially in timed situations such as essay tests.

In daily life this student may not enjoy writing, and therefore avoid complex writing tasks such as formal correspondence to businesses, politicians, or the media. This student may avoid employment in a setting where complex writing skills are a requirement (e.g., correspondence, memos, briefs, reports, summaries).

Instructional Goal

To enhance the student’s ability to facilitate and monitor expression of ideas in sentences and paragraphs. To develop the ability to monitor written language production.

Instructional Considerations

In order to practice writing skills, the student first needs to learn or know the basic components of writing (i.e. pre-writing, writing, and editing). Instruction in these areas must be clearly presented in order for the student to practice them.

Although students are often reluctant to spend time on generating and prioritizing their ideas, programs which help them brainstorm and visually organize their writing are helpful in reducing the time they spend in formulating their first drafts.

On-line editing programs (e.g. spell-checkers, grammar checkers) can be very effective in assisting students with written expression. However, as they are not considered computer-assisted instruction, their use will not be addressed here.

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Software Characteristics

Software should have components to facilitate brainstorming and organization of ideas.

Students often need instruction in organizing and planning written language. Using pre-writing software activities helps to establish a solid framework for written composition.

Software should have components to check for grammatical and spelling errors.

When using a word processor or a program designed to teach writing skills, interactive spelling and grammar checkers can be effective in helping students learn to find errors in their written work. Optional tutorial information about why the identified aspect could be in error and suggestions for possible revisions allow students to learn from their mistakes. Such features enable students to identify errors they might not otherwise have noticed; students are then actively involved in the proofreading process.

The program should provide feedback to students about the content of their written work.

Students can become aware of common errors and problems in writing (e.g. homophones, clichés etc.) when analyzing feedback.

Software should provide a word processing component with editing features.

While students are learning to produce and edit written language, it is better for them to produce a final document without having to transfer the file into a word processing program before proceeding.

Program should provide organizational skills with feedback.

Students who cannot generate ideas or independently organize them without concrete examples may benefit from putting information into outlines which can become frameworks for essays.

Software should provide supplementary exercises.

Supplementary exercises (i.e. paper pencil activities) designed to give practice in all aspects of producing written work gives students writing practice in a controlled environment. Generalization of skills is more likely when multi-modal practice occurs.

Recommended Software

Inspiration (Included Templates)

The templates included in Inspiration provide an excellent structure for several types of writing assignments across various disciplines (Language Arts, Planning, Science, Social Studies, Thinking Skills). This program is a key tool in any college writing lab.

Paragraph Punch

This software focuses on specific topics in each unit: Reasons, Details, Example, Cause and Effect, and Sequence.

Students answer questions and follow guided steps to help construct a paragraph. Exercises include brainstorming, listing ideas, writing sentences from the list, combining sentences to make a paragraph, and editing to improve the paragraph.

Essay Punch

This software presents the student with questions to answer, including examples of correct answers to help ease the student into process.

Working on specific topics such as Persuasion, Information, and Description, written expression is developed through answering questions and following guided steps that help construct a paragraph. These exercises include activities in brainstorming, organizing ideas, writing paragraphs, and combining paragraphs for essays.

 

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Phoneme/Grapheme Knowledge (WJ III Achievement Cluster)

Definition

This cluster represents a subset of Phonemic Awareness, which involves analyzing speech sounds and associating them to read or to spell words. Phoneme/Grapheme Knowledge evaluates ability to analyze sounds as well as proficiency recognizing phonic (sound pronunciation) and orthographic (sound/spelling) patterns. Thus, both decoding (reading words) and encoding (spelling words) are involved.

Assessment Measures

Word Attack (Test 13)

Presents a series of phonetically correct “nonsense “words for a subject to blend (put together the sounds into one word) and correctly pronounce. This involves decoding—seeing words to pronouncing them.

Spelling of Sounds (Test 20)

Nonsense words are presented orally and subjects are asked to spell the words as they sound. The purpose of the test is to evaluate phonological coding skills as well as recognition of the most common orthographic or visual letter sequences/combinations found in most English words. This type of task is called encoding—hearing sounds to spelling them.

Functional Implications

A person with a good foundation in phonetic and orthographic structure generally reads and spells fluently. At the same time, because neither task requires understanding of word meaning, per se, some people who have adequate phoneme/grapheme knowledge may not have college level reading skills because they have not acquired appropriate reading strategies. Nonetheless, both decoding and encoding represent important first steps in reading and spelling. It also is important to note the key role auditory processing plays in acquiring phoneme/grapheme knowledge. For example, if a person has difficulty with auditory processing itself, then grasping the difference among similar sounds, he/she may, therefore, have difficulty learning orthographic “rules.”

Examples

A student who struggles with decoding is likely to find reading tedious because he/she does not easily pronounce written words. This weakness may lead to skipping words that are not easily read or to becoming easily frustrated. Some students also may mistake similar words for one another, which then causes misinterpretation of passages.

Weak encoding results in misspelling, which frequently affects written assignments and note taking. When this happens, students may avoid written assignments or may not produce high quality work because word choice is limited to words that are easily spelled.

Instructional Goal

Students will apply skills in discriminating, analyzing and segmenting phonemic sounds together with whole word reading skills to improve decoding of words.

Students will apply skills in identifying and discriminating phonemic sounds together with skills and knowledge of rules to improve spelling.

Instructional Considerations

Skills in decoding need to develop at the single word level prior to integrating into reading at the phrase or sentence level. This process often requires word to picture matching types of tasks. Selection of appropriate vocabulary is important. As the skills develop to use at the phrase or sentence level, use of vocabulary within context and later out of context will be useful.

Spelling ability can improve significantly more at the single word level as opposed to within phrase or sentence level. Most students will need to develop careful proofreading skills to monitor for spelling after writing rather than interrupt their thoughts to monitor for spelling simultaneously.

Students may benefit from using technology to compensate for weaknesses in decoding and/or spelling of words in longer written material. Technology for decoding includes screen readers, e-text, audio production of text (e.g. tape, MP3), and other electronic reading devices. Relevant current technology for spelling includes an array of spell-checkers, word prediction software, text readers, and hand-held spellers/dictionaries.

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Software Characteristics

Sound and graphics should be of high quality

Production of phonemic sounds should replicate human voice as closely as possible. Graphic demonstrations or identifications should also be clear.

Software should provide a variety of activities, be motivating, and yet not be childish

Because this type of practice can quickly become boring, it is important that a variety of tasks and reinforcements be available. Many of the software products for this skill have been developed for children, which can be demeaning for adult students.

Feedback should be educational

Information relevant to the correct answer should be highlighted (perhaps as cues), and there should be feedback to explain ways the inaccurate response did relate to the correct answer, and how it did not.

Software should require mastery before student can advance to a higher level

Some software allows the student to move ahead independently or with too little evidence of task mastery. Confusion and frustration will result if a student advances without complete mastery in this skill.

The software should control for carefully sequenced activities

Phonemic awareness involves skills that must develop in careful order. The instructor should be able to control which aspects of the program would be appropriate for the student at a given time.

Recommended Software

Fast For Word Literacy/Literacy Advanced (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level.

The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students). Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading.

The research basis and individualization of the rate of delivery of the stimuli (via internet connection) to each student to keep them successful, but challenged and motivated, makes this the gold standard for software programs.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

Locutour Literacy

This set of programs helps set the foundation for reading using excellent visual presentations and video clips. It uses the format that Lindamood-Bell pioneered for auditory discrimination and practice using all modalities. It also includes spelling and reading rules practice.

Earobics (Cognitive Concepts)

This program provides auditory memory and auditory processing exercises for student practice.

Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program CD-ROM (Gander Publishing)

Designed to be used in conjunction with instruction on phonemic awareness, this program provides additional practice with visual/auditory input.

 

 

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Oral Language (WJ III)

Oral Language consists of standard and extended clusters that evaluate several areas such as receptive/expressive vocabulary, listening ability, comprehension, and memory. While the standard cluster is purely an achievement measure, the extended cluster may be used as an aptitude measure to compare performance in other achievement clusters to predict an oral language/achievement discrepancy.

Assessment Measures

Standard Battery:

 

Story Recall (Test 3)

Evaluates listening skills, comprehension, and memory for details. Several short stories—with increasing length—are presented on tape/CD, and then the subject is asked to recall and recite story details.

Understanding Directions (Test 4)

Requires listening to directions and then following the directions by pointing, in correct sequence, to items in pictures. The directions become more complex, requiring both greater listening attention and decision making.

Extended Battery (includes Test 3 and 4, and the following tests):

 

Picture Vocabulary (Test 14)

Largely an expressive language task that examines oral language development and word knowledge by presenting pictures and asking the subject to give one word definitions.

Oral Comprehension (Test 15)

Measures listening, reasoning, understanding of what is heard, and word knowledge. Subjects listen to a series of increasingly complex sentences and then supply the final missing word. (Comparison of this test with Passage Comprehension (Test 9) can be useful in determining if auditory attention is an issue to be further considered.)

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Functional Implications

People with good oral language skills are proficient listeners who have good stores of word knowledge, as well as ability to utilize semantic and syntactic clues. Good short-term memory and auditory processing also are involved in oral language. In contrast, those who have poor oral language frequently struggle with oral directions, especially if they are complex or lengthy, and they also may need visual input to understand and master concepts.

When a person displays difficulty in other achievement areas such as reading, math, or written language, comparison with oral language skills may provide good input for instructional strategies as well as a basis for an aptitude-achievement discrepancy.

Examples
  1. A student with a deficit in oral language, especially listening comprehension, is enrolled in a history where the instructor routinely lectures without providing handouts or writing on the board. The student may struggle with note taking and comprehension of lectures content.
  2. In an anatomy class a student can describe the position of items in the body as well as explain their uses, but he/she struggles to “name” the item with a one word definition because of difficulty with single word-symbol association.

Instructional Goal

Students will practice listening to information of increasing difficulty and complexity and demonstrate understanding and retention of the material.

Students will demonstrate understanding and use of an increasing array of vocabulary.

Instructional Considerations

Although software requiring responses to auditory-presented, task-specific directions (up to five steps) is available, there is no commercially available software that monitors comprehension of lengthy material directly. There are many emerging products and websites that require for listening to lengthier information designed for the English as a Second Language (ESL) learner. These allow for students to listen to more lengthy information through dialogues and lectures, some of which are academic in nature, and respond to multiple choice or short-answer questions.

There are reading comprehension products that allow a spoken component to run simultaneously with the reading. For these to be purely auditory in nature, the monitor would need to be obscured, which would impact navigation of the program.

As content increases in length, students will need to utilize strategies to assist short and long-term retrieval in order to organize and retain information.

It should be noted that tests used to measure these skills require a verbal/oral response, while most computer software requires a written or motor response.

Software Characteristics (Verbal)

Speech production should be of high quality

The quality of the speech, as well as inflection and prosody, should approximate human speaking as closely as possible.

Control of passage length and complexity is desirable

Material of varied length and complexity need to be available in order to accommodate and yet challenge students’ skills and ability to maintain focus on the information.

Software content should reflect differing levels and types of complexity

Material can increase in difficulty in many ways: in length, in grammatical complexity, and in the abstractness of its ideas. The software should effectively organize difficulty levels acknowledging these parameters.

Content should require association and/or analysis of ideas

Students should not be able to easily guess using common sense or trial and error. Responses should reflect accurate understanding of material presented. Tasks should require students to determine main ideas, make inferences, and/or draw conclusions.

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Software Characterisitics (Vocabulary)

Objectives and content should be clearly organized

Whether by grade-level or topic, organization should be in agreement with the instructional objectives for students.

Response processes should reflect knowledge of word meanings or relationships

Both multiple choice and single word entry responses should be available, but unless instructional objectives stress accurate spelling, the program should provide some assistance and/or accept a range of spelling accuracy in responses. When responses are inaccurate, the correct answer should be displayed.

Authoring component is easy to use

Entry of material relevant to students’ current needs is the most functional use of these programs.

Spoken output is desirable but needs to be of high quality

It is highly useful for students to hear as well as see new vocabulary in order to more easily generalize its use into spoken language; however, the quality of speech and inflection should closely approximate human speaking.

Recommended Software

Fast ForWord Literacy/Literacy Advanced (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level.

The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students). Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading.

The research basis and individualization of the rate of delivery of the stimuli (via internet connection) to each student to keep them successful, but challenged and motivated, makes this the gold standard for software programs.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

This helps receptive oral language by training listening and direction following skills. It is important to note, however, that students need to work with live humans to practice expressive oral language skills.

Listening Skills & Conditional Statements (Parrot Software)

These programs all give verbal instructions to be completed, up to 3 steps in Memory for Directions, up to 5 steps in Listening skills, and 1 step that increases in linguistic complexity in Conditional Statements. Memory for Directions can be verbal or written, while Conditional Statements can be verbal, written, or both.

Using Propositional Speech (Parrot Software)

This program facilitates word finding and production by requiring the user to say the name of an item and a specific preposition in order for the program to move the item.

Reading Shape-Up (Merit Software)

When used in conjunction with Merit-Talker, this program provides questions about paragraph-length material, including sequence, inference, detail, vocabulary in context, and fact/opinion. This provides dual input, but the screen could be turned off or obscured.

Developing Critical Reading Skills (Merit Software)

When used in conjunction with Merit-Talker, this program can be used both to identify vocabulary in context or to identify main idea and to inference within paragraph length material. This provides dual input, but the screen could be turned off or obscured.

 

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