It’s October – What’s Happening?

October has entered with stormy weather (I think there’s a song about this..). And as we watch the leaves change colour and blow in the wind, we’ve been able to connect with returning students as well as get to know new students and staff. 

This is a significantly busy month in Fast ForWord. Learning sessions and refreshers have started and again our Coquitlam partners joined us so we’re one big happy family. It’s great to be able to share and gain additional perspectives. And a huge welcome to our new sites starting out on this journey. 

Reading Assistant has relaunched as Reading Assistant Plus. This upgrade includes focused word wall work (integrating well with our Words Their Way program), more stories, practice in fluency (one of the cornerstones of reading) and strategies to strengthen comprehension. We’re very excited that we can offer this to many more sites. Learning session for anyone on current and new sites are in the Staff Development calendar (Nov 2nd). 

I always like to leave folks with a little bit of wonder… This is a TedxVancouver (2015) video of Dr Lara Boyd’s (brain researcher at UBC) description of the wonder of neuroplasticity.  Now what questions do you have? 

 

Assistive Software – Inclusion in the Classroom

There are a number of assistive-type softwares that may help students with access to learning in the classroom. The following focuses on writing, reading, and vision supports. Most are free and can be easily downloaded by the student.

  • EASE of ACCESS: This group of tools offers simple word prediction through the on-screen keyboard, magnifier (for vision support)… Click here for instructions. Note the different ways to gain access whether you are a teacher or student.
  • SpeakIt:  Google Chrome extension that provides text-to-speech for most web content. Has a range of voices and languages to choose. Options are available to adjust the speaking rate and pitch of voice. This is a good one!
  • ClaroSpeak_chromeiconClaroSpeak: Google Chrome extension is a simple text-to-speech reader with word prediction, editing, proofing and speaking dictionary. There is also a more powerful paid app for ipads that includes access to pdf.
  • Rewordify: This is a site that I’ve written about before and is well worth repeating. (Click here for previous post) Any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. Finally, the content can be printed and stored.
  • Word Talk on MSWord:  Text-to-Speech toolbar is part of computer images (click on the tab, ADD-INS). This toolbar provides reading support as well as a simple word prediction dictionary.

wordtalk

  • Kidspiration and Inspiration (graphic organizer to writing):  While this is not technically assistive software, it does have a sound recorder that can support memory or as an audio file embedded within the graphic organizer. The recorder will also show up in Outline Writing view. This provides a seamless process from ideas generation to written output.  All sd41 teachers can have a personal full copy of the software for home use. (See our FORMS page for information on TAKE-HOME software.)
  • Kurzweil 3000: This software is the cadillac of assistive softwares. It will read almost any digital information (print, electronic, pdf or the Web) in clear, synthetic speech, while a dual highlighting feature adds visual reinforcement.  This provides a digital means of engaging with text and supports those students who require alternative methods for accessing, writing and recording information. Click here for more information.
  • iWordQ-CA ($29): This is an ipad app that mimics a simple version of what you would expect from the more robust Kurzweil 3000. In writing mode, text editor includes word prediction, spell checker, dictionary and speech recognition. In reading mode, text-to-speech offers proofing and reading options.
  • Add language keyboards to Win7 devices – access other languages through added keyboards. Click here for instructions.

Do you have any favourites that integrate with reading or writing? Drop a comment in the box below. I’d love to add to the list.

Learning Sessions – Making the Most of Fast ForWord

cropped-autumnleaves1.jpg

Fall is definitely in the air – crisp, clean and clear.  For those of you starting Fast ForWord or returning after a break, we have set this year’s 3 part series:

  * October 15, October 27, December 1; 8:30-12:00 at Schou-TLC

Each session will build upon each other (from neuroscience basics, how the program fits, what it does, reading reports and implementing timely interventions).

*Please email me if you have not signed up (sd41). 

There are a host of topics on webinars that you may be interested in taking advantage (click here):  

  • 2015 Dyslexia Research and Remediation (October is Dyslexia Month)  
  • Literacy for ELL 
  • Autism: New Research and Interventions
  • Inside the Brain of the Struggling Reader

Connectedness & Relationships

belonging

 

Welcome back. Exciting things are afoot… This month is all about connecting and relationship building. Behind every one of those faces are stories waiting to be heard.

Changes to both our infrastructure and Fast ForWord content is going to make this an exciting year. If you are interested in having this program in your building, please contact me (there will be training in October).  If you are a continuing site, here are some possibilities to consider:

  • new 3 day protocol with 40 minutes or 90 minutes available (*consider getting as close to 200 minutes/week as your goal for success). This may provide timetable flexibility to some sites.
  • new reports – detailing immediate achievement
  • Raz-Kids (our famous online support for reading fluency and comprehension) has changed its weblink and management look. New weblink is: kidsa-z.com (Please ensure that you have changed your links on class blogs and school websites.) This program is great for classroom teachers. Applications are found > FORMS
  • ARC-BC – register for a new year. Information and training: http://www.arc-bc.org/
  • New BC curriculum – get the latest to explore –  https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/

When Opportunity and Resources Meet = Success Happens

newyear2015Connecting a ‘just right’ opportunity to engage in independent deeper thinking and a resource that allows that to happen is a challenge. When the two meet, it’s almost magical, especially when it can include students who struggle with reading and writing. For these, time is spent mostly on the mechanics of reading/writing, leaving little cognitive energy for deep thinking. While some resources require a strong commitment to mastering the tool (I’m thinking Kurzweil 3000 – still the master of all reading/writing supports – click here for information), others may offer similar experiences with less need for front-end learning.

I wrote about Rewordify before in a previous post so I won’t go into the ‘how to’s here.  Upon first blush, the online site may look rather simple. Dig a little deeper and you will find other layers worth exploring. Its basic premise is that any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. And finally, the content can be printed and stored.

rewordify_result

If you have not had a chance to explore this application, you may be surprised at how useful it can be for many students. It is free, though it requires access to the internet. (*Note: You do not need to register to use the site.)

Writing is another challenge that some of our students struggle to get their thoughts down on paper. While I believe that access to computers provides a wider range of choices, there is an application using ipads that offer a basic level of support with regards to word prediction and integrated reading (*this is not speech-to-text).  For those of you already using the computer version (you’ll see this as similar), GoQ Software has developed an ipad version. Named iWordQ Ca (I’ve been waiting for the Canadian spelling and French is included!), the cost of $25 may be worth it. iwordq_writeIt offers a very simple text editor (no images) for writing connected with anticipatory word prediction software. Definitions with examples, pop up with a tap of the finger. You can even add your own words into the lexicon thus including any specialized content vocabulary (think science, social studies). Typed words and sentences can be read back giving you a bit of quality control on the actual writing.   Reading mode gives the writer a chance to do some more proofreading as well as revision.  You might also use it for oral practice by speaking alongside the reading mode, if the end goal is a presentation. (*Note: Speech recognition is only found on the newer ipads. Need wifi access for this app to work.)
For those of you who know me really well, you’re waiting for why I like this app over the many that are out there. That can be seen in the Export feature – multiple ways. Writing is a complex form of communication needing opportunities to engage in a variety of other formats. iWordQ Ca can save files in the app, send to a Dropbox account as well as open in many other apps such as Google Drive! Our Google Apps for Education accounts marry nicely with this process, thus allowing for the inclusion of collaboration and dialogue, images, hyperlinks, charts or slides. Oh, did I forget printing too?

question mark personOur goals drive the use of any application. These apps add to the communication realm. However, I wonder if we should be asking wider questions such as… how will these serve to enhance deeper thinking processes, how will they create independence for the student, how will they bring connectedness and collaboration with classmates, how will they support self regulation?
Hope you get a chance to explore these or cause you to ask more questions. I’d love to hear how you’re using these applications or other apps in your classroom.