01 April 2006

CSUN 2006/SQR3 and Literacy Software

How do you use literacy software in the classroom? As I've said in previous posts I think this type of software can do some remarkable things, including increasing "read to time," allowing access to cognitively-appropriate information even when skills are low, and supporting sight word recognition (the important value of word-highlighting). But like everything else, the best uses come when the uses of these packages are tied to instructional methods.

This is especially important with older students. When I meet with students exiting secondary education I can always tell if they came to decoding "late." They can read, but they have no strategies for handling content. They are weak on understanding what sentences are, what paragraphs do, and have not developed real reading strategies. This is because these skills are usually taught in primary schools - secondary schools concentrate on more advanced skills. So when an older student begins to use literacy software as an accommodation, we need to help those students do all that eight-year-old to ten-year-old work on managing the information they get from texts.

SQR3 is one method of building comprehension skills. It is a method that audio books could simply never support, because it requires students to move back and forth through the text multiple times, and because it works best with extensive notetaking and highlighting. All of this is impossible with a book-on-tape (or CD), but easy with WYNN or Kurzweil 3000.

SQR3 - Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review works this way when combined with high-level scan-and-read software...

Survey the chapter. Check through it, looking at headings and paragraph topic sentences (here it really helps to use the secondary highlighting of the sentence being read, and the easy click and read interface). Read the introduction to the chapter. Skim questions, key words and summaries at the end of the chapter. All this helps to create a context for remembering information.

Create and answer questions. For each section in the chapter, ask these 4 basic questions: 1. What is the main point? 2. What evidence supports the main point? 3. What are the applications or examples? 4. How is this related to the rest of the chapter, the book, the world, to me? Here's
where the notetaking and highlighting features in this software work perfectly. You might even start by having students create notes with these questions at every paragraph if the subject seems particularly hard for the reader. And, of course, they can use spoken "Voice Notes" to do this, typing is not required.

Read the section
Read the section actively. Search for the answers to your questions. Answer the questions with a new set of notes, and perhaps, highlights in a different color.
Recite the main points
Verbalize the answers to your questions using Voice Notes. You may also have students verbally summarize paragraphs or sections. This builds memory. Have the students then play back their voice notes to hear themselves.

Go back re-listen to your notes, and anything that you've highlighted. With WYNN or Kurzweil a student can do this again and again.

Notice all the built in supports. Unlike audiobooks (or school property textbooks for that matter), the student can highlight and make notes "in the margins" to their hearts content, and can even get rid of extraneous notes easily if their understanding of the chapter changes.

And, in addition to being a primary reading tool, WYNN or Kurzweil becomes a long-term study tool, and it is a tool that the teacher can easily check the use of.

Thanks to Renee Clark of FreedomScientific, the company responsible for WYNN, who ran a CSUN Conference Session on this topic. -Ira Socol

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