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Building a logical teaching sequence means controlling for the sequence of letters, words, and phrases or sentences. An important teaching principle is to only ask a student to read something which only uses letters that they have been taught to read. This means controlling for the letters which have not been taught as well. These untaught letters could be considered “noise”. SynPhony does this beautifully. It finds the signal (the letters you want to focus on) and removes the noise. At each step in the teaching sequence (regardless of which sequence you choose) SynPhony always knows which words fall within the reading capability of a student. This information is then used to control for sentences as well.
In normal texts that have not been designed for teaching a student to read it is very unusual to find suitable reading material to use at the beginning. This is because if you follow the principle of “removing the noise” you place severe restrictions on what you can use, especially at the earliest stages. Most literature is written for literate people and the authors choose the words to craft their sentences based on semantics and grammar, not phonetics or grapheme-phoneme correspondences.
The Scope and Sequence page provides comprehensive functionality to produce and modify a sequence as well as creating and modifying phrases or sentences which are suitable for use at every stage in constructing a literacy curriculum. It takes care of the tedious task of controlling for words and sentences based on their letters to free up an author to focus on creating phrases and sentences that fall within the range of a student's reading ability. The first time time this tool was used in a workshop over 1000 phrases and sentences were created within a few days by a small number of native speakers.
The Scope and Sequence page contains 3 sub-menus that help you to create and manage the process of writing material for students. The main one is the “Scope and Sequence Chart”. Clicking on this sub-menu will display the chart. The menu controls allow you to change the font size, copy the chart to the clipboard for use in a spreadsheet, and show or hide a number of columns in the chart. These columns are: “Show word categories” and “Show decodable sentences”.
This chart will be used to write short phrases and, later in the sequence, short and simple sentences. It can be used to modify the sequence as well by moving letters earlier in the sequence (up) or later in the sequence (down). By default it looks like this:
The chart consists of 5 columns. The first column contains a green and red triangle in each cell. Clicking on the green triangle will move the entire row up one row. Clicking on the red triangle will move the row down one row. The second column is the row number. The third column indicates how many decodable words there are at that stage in the sequence. The fourth column contains the focus letter or grapheme-phoneme correspondence (GPC). This can also be a multigraph. The fifth column contains all of the decodable words. If you move a row up or down SynPhony will recalculate which words (and sentences if that column is visible) are suitable for each row based on which letters have been introduced previously.
The chart also consists of rows. A new row is added every time you click on a letter in the control panel. The rows will follow the same sequence of letters you select in the control panel. So you can construct the sequence either by the order of letters you select in the control panel or by modifying the order in the chart by clicking on the triangles, moving the rows up or down. A new letter will always be added to the bottom of the chart. Unselecting a letter that was selected in the Control Panel will remove that letter from the chart regardless of which position in the sequence it is in.
When the option to “Show word categories” is selected you will see 6 further columns, labeled: Actors, Nouns, Verbs, Category 4, Category 5, and Nonsense. Using these columns is not manditory or obligatory but they can help once you have a lot of words to look through. Many language databases have a few thousand words so once you get past 10-15 letters the program could present several hundred words for a single stage. This becomes tedious to manage so these columns can help with categorizing words that are useful for building simple sentences.
Not all words in a language are equally suitable for being used to teach reading. Children can most easily understand sentences that have simple concrete nouns and verbs that are easily depicted by illustrations. The word category columns can be populated with such useful words by the user to make it easier to find words for writing decodable text. When the word category columns are visible you click on a column header (for example: “Nouns”) and then you double-click on a noun in the Decodable Words column. That will move that word into the “Nouns” column. Clicking on a different header and then double-clicking on another word will move it into the selected column. If you make a mistake, or if you change your mind, simply double-click on a word in one of the word category columns to move it back. This will enable you to find suitable words quicker to use when constructing simple phrases and sentences. The 2 columns labeled Category 4 and 5 are simply useful containers. Not all languages have the same parts of speech, such as adverbs or adjectives, so these can be used for any category deemed useful by the user.
When the option “Show Decodable Sentences” is selected in the menu then another column will be added to the chart. This column contains cells that can be filled in with text by the user. When you click into a cell it will have a red border and a text cursor to indicate where you can start typing text. When a user has created simple sentences in these cells SynPhony stores these sentences in the brower's internal storage system. They don't get stored as normal files in the computer's file system.
You can write incomplete sentences (phrases) or complete sentences for SynPhony. At the beginning of a teaching sequence you can use short phrases instead of sentences because usually you don't have enough words to write complete sentences. It is important to understand that SynPhony does not know all the words in every language nor does it know any grammar of any language, nor any morphological rules. Therefore, for SynPhony to know where a phrase ends or where a sentence ends you must use sentence final punctuation for each phrase and sentence. If you don't, the program doesn't complain but it will think that what is actually two or more phrases or sentences is a single one.
At the beginning of a teaching sequence it is important to look at the decodable words and try to create sentences using only the words for the current lesson (the current row) and words from previous lessons. But SynPhony is very forgiving. If you use words that contain letters that have not been introduced yet, or you even use words that SynPhony doesn't know about yet (that don't exist in the language database), the program will allow you to do that and remember the sentence you created. It may not appear in the cell in which you wrote it, but it will appear in a later cell when all the letters used in that sentence have been introduced. When you click outside of the cell where you wrote the text SynPhony imports the text and evaluates each sentence for the letters and words it contains. It then recreates the chart and fills in the words and sentences into the appropriate row.
The Decodable Sentences chart gives you options to manage the list of decodable sentences which users create. The menu gives you the ability to copy the chart to the clipboard to use in another program such as a word processor or spreadsheet. It also lets you export the sentences in a format that is suitable for adding to the language's database. This should only be done by someone who understands the database structure as it involves editing the underlying file which contains the entire database. Any mistake could prevent the program from working completely. This option also enables the merging of decodable sentences from multiple people if they have been writing decodable sentences in the same language but on different computers. You also have the option of editing the sentences. This may be useful if you forgot to add a period at the end of some sentences or made spelling mistakes. If the program already contained some decodable sentences you have the option of showing only the new sentences that are not part of the permanent database.
The New Words menu option gives you tools to view and potentially edit any new words that were introduced through the writing of decodable sentences. You have the option of changing the number of columns, and copying the words to the clipboard to use in another program. You can also delete any words if they have been spelled incorrectly. Finally, you can export the new words in a format suitable for adding to the language's database. This should only be done by someone who understands the database structure as it involves editing the underlying file which contains the entire database. Any mistake could prevent the program from working completely.
The process of exporting is valuable because the language database gets new words and sentences through the work of others. This can be done as follows: All of the participants who created decodable texts for the same language export their sentences and words using the export function provided in the menu options. These are collected by one person who understands the structure of the database. This person adds the new material to one database file and then redistributes it to the other participants. Now everyone has all of the new words and new sentences in the permanent database and can benefit from the work of the entire group. The developer would be very willing to do this work if no one else is available. The contact info is in the footer below.