Sunday, 30 January 2011

Teaching Reading – Blending or segmenting

Project background

I was invited to assist in the Teaching Reading project, which had increased beyond the scope of one learning designer to manage amid a busy schedule, and to add some interactivity to a rather text-filled content map.

I printed out my allocated parts of the content map PowerPoint at 6-slides per page; cut them out, sequenced them, stuck them in a 'scrap book', and then made my design notes around them: re-sequencing and grouping where necessary.  This paper prototyping gave a clear view of the content and how it all related and a great advantage in speed, time, and effort in the overall learning and interaction design.

Teaching Reading – Blending or segmenting

The course content map (a long PowerPoint submitted by the SME) referred to a list of words written as graphemes to demonstrate how readers blend, and writers segment words by sound (phoneme) and letter icon groups (graphemes).

Having already considered a sliding time line for the Gulliver's travels extract in Struggling readers it again seemed suitable here. It just needed organising, so I spoke with Damien, the product's interaction designer.

The referred words were Primary children level rather than for the Secondary pupils taught by the target learners (Secondary teachers) so I needed to come up with a selection. 'Education' has been my favourite word (not the meaning per se, just the word since I was about 4 years old) so I indulged.

I quickly visualised how to play the spoken words and display the graphemes, and to play the phonemes that created each word. This would give a multimedia dimension that also enabled learning if sound is not a preference. I also played with making it a more formative exercise - but my instinct returned me to an exploratory learning sequence rather than a forced one.

Heuristically, we developed a cunning strategy to have the graphemes display as the media-playing time line was navigated by the user, each phoneme audio playing as each is passed. On dragging the slider quickly, the phonemes would combine and the complete word play. Nice. Then all we needed to do was place these 3 examples within their own mini slide show / carousel. Damien visually treated the page similarly to the 7-levels of reading graphics. This tied things in nicely with the rest of the product.

Once I had the words sorted, we recorded me speaking them out and making the individual component phonetic sounds. This was fine for early high-fidelity prototyping but my Son provided the final audio. He didn't get paid but due to his being a genuinely struggling reader, he deserved something more for all the time he spent learning new words and spelling them out in an unfamiliar way. Thanks, Son!

I think this is one of Damien's and my own favourites from the program. It's only a shame that the vendors developing the product didn't treat the audio with the finesse we achieved at prototype. For this reason, the final version just doesn't quite cut it by comparison.

Course details

Course materials Crown Copyright 2010, produced by The National Strategies for the Department for Education.

Objective: For teachers to develop their understanding of the struggling reader and that their role includes teaching literacy and reading skills regardless of the prime subject matter.

Production team


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