IDL Literacy Overview for Teachers
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IDL has several unique features:
- Offers the facility to adjust the background and text colours to minimise visual stress
- Masks incorrect typed responses
- Incorporates a touch-typing course into a remedial programme
- Echoes back learner spoken responses via the computer
- Integrates all of these features into over 1000 carefully graduated exercises
- Is available to use wherever there is an internet connection
- Can be used with individual or groups of learners, and supervised by different members of staff as it’s easy to use
A learner's performance in an initial assessment determines the point of entry on the programme.
The programme consists of approximately 1000 graduated exercises, commencing with recognition of the alphabet and finishing with comprehension and essay writing tasks appropriate to fluent readers (reading age above 12 years, 6 months), with accurate spelling (spelling age above 12 years, 6 months).
The progression through the programme follows a standard path similar to that defined in any standard phonics-based scheme, eg: Alpha-Omega (Hornsby and Shear, 1993). Additionally, a touch typing course is woven into the fabric of the exercises.
A Typical Lesson
- In the early stages of the programme, pupils will hear words and see them displayed on screen simultaneously.
- Each line of text is displayed in a different colour (selected at the onset by the learner), to facilitate the training of correct eye-scanning movements. Incorrect responses cue the computer to say: “Please try again”. If the word is incorrectly typed at the third attempt, the word is displayed on the screen momentarily. Three incorrect responses also cue the computer to tell the learner to ask for help. In practise, the finely graduated nature of the exercises rarely makes this necessary. When a sentence is complete, the computer cues the learner to read back the sentence into a microphone. The system then plays back this input, so the learner hears his/her own voice stating the sentence. The exercise finishes by hearing: “Well done, you did that very well” or similar.
Meares-Irlen Syndrome (Dyseidetic)
Learners with Meares-Irlen Syndrome (Dyseidetic), will have found it difficult to associate letter, word and sound because print causes them visual stress (Wilkins, 1995). Their perception of print erratically moving on the page is not conducive for developing reading skills, and consequently they make less than average progress in reading. If they have no phonological disability their spelling skills are usually in step with their reading, and therefore have no difficulty in developing this once the visual stress is reduced or removed (Jeanes et al., 1996).
In contrast, the learner with phonological problems may develop some reading skills, but has inadequate strategies for decoding new words and learning to recognise spelling patterns (Goswami and Bryant, 1990). Dysphonetic learners generally have the largest difference between reading and spelling ages.
How are these problems remediated by the IDL Intervention?
- IDL reduces visual stress for learners with Meares-Irlen syndrome by allowing the learner to select their own print and background screen colour. The precision with which learners can select colour is increased by the fact that the colour choice area provides many thousands of hues and has the ability to vary the intensity of each.
- Some learners no longer need to adjust the colour of their screen after using it for several months. This evidence may support Wilkins theory of the stress originating relatively late in the visual processing neural-system (Wilkins, 1995); the implication being that changes in neural processing pathways can take place. This possibility has previously been demonstrated for a number of visual perceptual phenomena (Gregory, 1990). The alleviation of visual stress combined with a clear graduated and progressive series of exercises explains why Dyseidetic learners achieve the best results with IDL.
- The relationship between phonological ability, the ability to detect the component sounds in words and the ability to learn to read and spell is well established (Goswami and Bryant, 1990). It has been established that for the beginning reader, different processes are engaged for reading and writing (spelling).
- Spelling in particular is particularly vulnerable to poor phonological ability.
- Phonological ability has been broken down into two distinct components:
The first component is an ability to distinguish the onset sound and the following string of sound (rime) in a word. This ability is thought to stem from the linguistic capacity to recognise and play with rhyme that most learners develop naturally before starting school.
The second component is the ability to hear the individual phonemes in speech. Phonemes can be defined as the smallest units of sound, which in any given language differentiate one word from another; they are subjective and have no physical reality outside of the human brain (Moore, 1989). When we talk we release a stream of sound; our ability to segment and accord meaning to this stream of sound is a perceptual process that takes place at several levels or organisation within the hearing system. While some of the processing takes place in the inner ear, much takes place later.
- When we listen to someone speaking, we subconsciously decode the speech as a series of phonemes; when we learn to spell we must either bring this process to the fore of our consciousness or develop a new conscious analogue to this process. Learners with phonological problems find this very difficult and typically present a challenge to remedial teachers. Dyslexics have been found to have a persistent difficulty with the analysis of speech sounds (Hulme and Snowling, 1994).
- IDL directly tackles phonological awareness, rather than onset/rime awareness. When the learner sees and hears text simultaneously, and talks back to the system, phonological awareness is developed.
- Re-reading pulls together the available information to make the sentence (or phrase) whole and clarifies meaning, an important component in remedial reading strategies (Riley, 1966).
- The design of the short, finely graduated exercises ensure over-learning and frequent positive feedback. Particular letter/sound correspondence is secured before moving on.
IDL Literacy effectively improves reading and spelling amongst pupils with various literacy problems, removes visual stress by the use of colour, and is very effective overall – particularly with those who have poor phonological skills. The effectiveness is due to the integration of reading and writing, the integration of visual and auditory cues to teach letter/sound and blend/sound correspondence, a continuum of exercises that start with recognising the alphabet, and the requirement to re-read typed sentences.