Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Project SEEL: Part II. Using Technology to Enhance Early Literacy Instruction in Spanish

Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Project SEEL: Part II. Using Technology to Enhance Early Literacy Instruction in Spanish

Article excerpt

Custom-made digital media are rich, varied, and motivational early literacy materials. An important component of Project SEEL (Systematic and Engaging Early Literacy Instruction) was the use of tailor-made digital books and activities in the reading curriculum. Project SEEL team members created computerized materials in Spanish to relate to children's personal experiences and highlight target literacy patterns. These materials gave the children additional exposure to literacy patterns and added variety to the instruction. In this article, the authors describe the rationale for developing digital materials and explain how they were created and integrated into the literacy curriculum for a Spanish kindergarten class.

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To acquire literacy skills, children need to be exposed frequently to letter-sound patterns at their reading level (Adams, 1990). Computerized materials have great potential for supplemental reading practice. Whether children receive support in using the computer or navigate through the activities on their own, direct instruction time can be increased (Whitehurst & Fischel, 2001). As these authors noted, without computer-based early literacy interventions, "One could never hope to have the teacher-to-child ratios that would allow children to proceed individually at their own pace" (p. 12). As a source for additional practice, digital literacy materials have the advantages of being customized, interactive, and shareable.

CUSTOMIZABLE

Teacher-made computerized materials may be designed to fit children's reading levels and to increase encounters with particular letter-sound patterns (Walker, Rattanavich, & Oller, 1992). Computerized materials add variety to the presentation of target patterns and increase and enhance the limited number of decodable texts available in Spanish. Even the available commercial reading series, such as Cuentos foneticos (Scholastic, 1998) or Vamos de fiesta (Ada, Campoy, & Solis, 2001), provide only a small set of examples for each targeted pattern. Although rereading such texts may increase the frequency with which children encounter a pattern, varied exposure to different examples helps increase the fluency and automaticity of word recognition (Clark, 1988; Rasinski & Padak, 2001). Because computerized programs maintain children's interest, they offer increased opportunities for children to practice identifying particular phonic patterns (Whitehurst & Fischel, 2001).

Educators can customize computerized materials to various reading levels and accommodate individual children's abilities (Whitehurst & Fischel, 2001). Because frequent exposure to target literacy patterns is important in learning to read (Hiebert & Martin, 2001), customized materials help by highlighting the targets children are developmentally ready to learn. In addition, by incorporating target patterns or words to which children have already been exposed, the teacher can use the computerized programs to reinforce skills and strengthen automaticity and fluency of word recognition. Incorporating elements children have encountered in instruction expands the potential for accuracy (Stein, Johnson, & Gutlohn, 1999).

Teachers making computerized materials can select content to fit their students' backgrounds, experiences, and interests (May, 2003; Walker et al., 1992). Personalized computer programs can provide purpose for reading by dealing with events that children already know and care about. Active meaning construction occurs when children connect texts to their own experiences (Ladson-Billings, 2000; Morrow & Gambrell, 2001; Rosenblatt, 1978), and their ability to build upon prior knowledge can develop when texts relate to everyday events, community practices, and personal experiences. Connecting texts to personal experiences is particularly important for teaching reading to children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Gallego & Hollingsworth, 2000; Gutierrez-Clellen, 1999). …

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