Magazine article Technology & Learning

A Brand New Read: Reading First Gets a Boost with Four New Literacy Programs for Elementary and Middle School Students

Magazine article Technology & Learning

A Brand New Read: Reading First Gets a Boost with Four New Literacy Programs for Elementary and Middle School Students

Article excerpt

This month, we introduce four new ways for educators to monitor and guide students' literacy development, all designed with No Child Left Behind standards and reading research findings in mind. The result: programs that inform educators about student progress, helping teachers manage the range of reading abilities in their classrooms.

Although all share the goal of literacy development, these products target different audiences. ClickN' Read Beginning Reading and Lexia's Primary Reading, ideal for the youngest of readers, are engaging and lively updates to traditional drill-and-practice, phonics-based instruction. Soliloquy's Reading Assistant puts a twist on fluency and oral reading practice for first- through fifth-graders, merging a patent-pending speech recognizer with popular children's stories and poems. Meanwhile, Tom Snyder Productions touts a polished, comprehension-building program to support struggling fifth- through eighth-grade readers.

ClickN' Read Beginning Reading Program (ClickN' Kids)

ClickN' Kids' newest release, designed as an intervention to support students without a solid foundation for reading, is the epitome of a captivating and systematic beginning reading program. ClickN' Kid, a goofy and affable hound, ushers users through a learning journey of 100 drill-and-practice lessons set in colorful, futuristic classroom locales. Each lesson houses four amusing learning environments that progressively teach alphabetic understanding, phonemic awareness, decoding, and word recognition.

In the first setting, the Letter Sound Chamber, ClickN' Kid uses his trusty mobile TV screen to introduce a new instructional element, such as letter sounds like "d" or "m" or the "silent e" rule. Learners then practice, matching a spoken sound to its corresponding letter, then typing that letter on the keyboard. In the next setting, the Listening Cube, kids learn how these new sounds meld into word blends.

With a zoom, ClickN' Kid zips on his jet-powered podium from the Listening Cube to the Reading Room, where the new words are contextualized into a short passage. To add to the interest, each little passage builds upon an ongoing story from earlier lessons. ClickN' Read closes each lesson with a visit to the Speed Chamber, where learners whisk through a timed letter and word recognition review.

ClickN' Read's graphics and quick animated segments are vibrant, but without unnecessary bells and whistles. The program's uncomplicated interface falls to the advantage of less experienced computer users or learners who are easily distracted from the task at hand--focus stays on the lessons.

Primary Reading (Lexia Learning)

From the same masterful developers of Phonics Based Reading comes Primary Reading, a new and improved reading program geared toward five-to eight-year-olds. Its makeover includes a sleek interface, updated sound and graphics, and 11 new activities. Primary Reading learners have the opportunity to improve phonemic awareness, sight words, vocabulary, sound/symbol correspondence, listening, and comprehension skills. Drill-and-practice exercises become gripping activities as they are tucked into animated settings where seals balance balls, pirates toss coins, and lumberjacks parachute down trees.

The fun begins when students log on and select one of the five different levels, each of which contains five activities. Ideal for kindergarten through first grade, Level 1 focuses on sound/symbol correspondence. For example, the "Consonant Castle" asks students to click on a correct consonant to complete words like "jug," "kid" and "van." With each correct answer, a tower or another small portion of the structure pops into place. Ultimately, consonant sounds are mastered and the castle is built.

By Level 4, students develop word-attack strategies within sentences and paragraphs, listen to a narrator read their correctly completed sentences, and practice irregular second-grade words like "many" "does" and "very" using the keyboard. …

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