1999 Conference Proceedings

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Jerry Stemach, MS, CCC-SLP
AAC and Assistive Tech Specialist
Sonoma County Adaptive Technology Center
7351 Bodega Avenue Sebastopol, CA 95472
Day Phone: (707) 824-6419
FAX: (707) 833-1515
E-Mail ID: lifespace@bigplanet.com

Program description

These engaging mysteries and classic literature books contain a written structure toeliminate reading difficulty, auditory support, and cloze passages to measure fluency and comprehension.

Older students who are significantly behind in reading may struggle with decoding stories written at even a second grade level. Teachers who wish to provide instruction to these students may struggle with finding texts written at this level that are engaging, age-appropriate, and consistent with a standard curriculum.

Older students with emerging reading skills present a unique set of challenges. While they may have received traditional intervention strategies to "catch them up" to grade expectancy, they continue to struggle with issues of attention, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. They are "turned off" to reading. They have participated in one or more remedial programs with failed results. They are easily distracted. They read slowly, word by word. They misinterpret the meaning of the text. Since their own oral language skills for syntax and vocabulary are weak, they make poor guesses at unfamiliar words. Some older second language speakers attempt to read grade level texts in English before acquiring the grammar to do so.

These students require texts written in language that eliminates (rather than minimizes) the linguistic "hurdles" that impede fluency, comprehension, and independent reading. Story content must be age appropriate, extremely interesting, and tied to the demands of the curriculum. Both student and teacher must be confident that the student will read the story independently. The reading assignment must be short enough to provide the satisfaction of completion. Follow up activities must be within the student's ability level and document progress toward a measurable goal.

To meet this need, the Don Johnston Company, Inc., in collaboration with Special Education teachers, university language and learning specialists, speech-language pathologists, and reading specialists has developed Start-to-Finish Books(TM).

Start-to-Finish Books(TM) blend the Don Johnston expertise in technology and accessible software with highly specialized books, written and edited to exacting standards to control vocabulary, sentence complexity, and phonetic regularity. Teachers can be confident that every struggling reader will have a successful and satisfying experience in a Start-to-Finish(TM) book. Here's why.

1. Computer Software and Paperback

Each Start-to-Finish(TM) book is published in both CD ROM and paperback format.

The CD allows the teacher to match options with each student's learning style. With a "Read All" option enabled, the student can listen to the story through the voice of a professional actor. As each word is read, it is highlighted on screen. The reading stops at the end of each page (ending the page in a complete sentence), providing the opportunity to reread. Moving the cursor over any word highlights that word. Clicking the mouse reads the highlighted word.

Students learn to mimic the reader's intonation and fluency. With the support of the "mouse click" to hear individual words, the student willingly initiates a desire to read independently.

The paperback book mirrors the text from the computer screen exactly. Students familiarize themselves with the text on the computer, and then read the paperback text. The paperback has the look and feel of those used by peers.

2. Controlled Text

Start-to-Finish(TM) books are distinguished by text that is written to engage, entertain, and instruct, and then edited to meet exacting standards of vocabulary and syntax. These standards represent research and best practices in the fields of linguistics, language acquisition, reading, and learning. Manuscripts are subjected to both the scrutiny of five editors from these specialty areas and then to extensive clinical trial.

Vocabulary is selected on the basis of frequency of use, phonetic regularity, and instructional value.

Complex sentences are limited to those types that appear first in the language of native speakers. Complex sentences are used only to clarify the relationship between agents, actions, ideas, and events. Each complex sentence is analyzed for readability. For example, in describing the voyage of Christopher Columbus, one could say, "Before he reached land, Columbus sailed for a year." A Start-to-Finish(TM) text follows a rule governing temporal events and says, "Columbus sailed for a year before he reached land." Research suggests that struggling readers rely on word order to determine the sequence of events.

Struggling readers predictably stumble when a noun is used as an adjective, as in "motel door." In reading the sentence, "Harriet Tubman lived in a cabin with dirt floors," the struggling reader may think that Harriet's cabin was dirty. A Start-to-Finish(TM) text follows a rule governing nouns used as adjectives and says, "Harriet Tubman lived in a cabin with floors made of dirt."

Start-to-Finish(TM) texts have removed the linguistic "hurdles" that impede fluency, comprehension, and independent reading.

3. Engaging Stories

Start-to-Finish(TM) texts motivate the struggling reader with age-appropriate stories about historically significant heroes, fictional mysteries, and the retelling of classic adventures. Each Start-to-Finish(TM) book contains links to the curriculum:

Classic Adventures include:

Nick Ford Mysteries include:

4. Fluency and Comprehension Checks

Start-to-Finish(TM) books average 5,000 words in length. Each book is divided into chapters that can be easily "read" in a single session. At the end of each chapter, the student may complete a 100 word cloze paragraph containing 8 "fill in the blank" answers. A hidden timer tracks how long the student takes to read and respond to the passage. After completing the cloze paragraph, the student sees a bar graph of correct responses. The teacher may view a second graph that tracks fluency by calculating the student's rate of correct responding. A supplemental file containing 5 multiple choice questions is available for each Start-to-Finish(TM) chapter.

The vocabulary used in the cloze paragraph and multiple choice questions is restricted to the vocabulary introduced to that point in the story.

Data collection on fluency and comprehension link Start-to-Finish(TM) books to IEP goals and objectives.

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