PhonicsTutor Frequent Words
One thing no one in education seems to agree on is reading methodology. A confusing profligation of approaches have been suggested with no end in sight. A point of general agreement, it seems to me, is that the officially sanctioned paradigm, whole-language learning, is not effective. Just about everything else conceivable has been suggested, usually with a coterie of devotees, all of whom seem to believe that their way is "best by test."
Ironically, the method that research upholds as the most empirically validated is also the most demanding: phonics-based learning. Tedious for kids, exceedingly difficult for both amateurs and professionals, the phonics method has been a pedagogical stepchild: respected, but definitely disliked. Because of this status, it's a pleasure to see that an old favorite of Education Update, 4:20 Communication's PhonicsTutor has finally released a new addition to its well-received phonics-based reading software, PhonicsTutor Frequent Words edition.
For those who've unforgivably forgotten our review of the parent suite in 2001, PhonicsTutor provides both a tutorial and assessment system intended for both non-readers and remedial readers. Briefly, the program teaches the student to recognize words in print by breaking them down to the phonemic level through a series of eight modes, from word-sounding to ultimate recognition and spelling. The software, however, is not "drill and kill," or a mechanical tutorial: it's specifically designed to enable interaction between the learner and a teacher. This interactive process not only stimulates the learning relationship and discourages the use of the product as "busywork," but additionally ensures that it will be appropriate for learners of all ages and levels of mastery.
What's specifically new in the latest build of the product is that, in response to numerous customer requests, the developer has standardized the curricula by using as its basis the most statistically frequent word in the English language. According to the manufacturer, "Six different frequent word lists, such as the Ayres list, were examined and entered into our database-By knowing how to read and spell these words, a student will have mastered 96% of all words used in telephone conversations and 76% of all words in print."
Compared to a number of other approaches I've encountered, the latest version of PhonicsTutor seems like an ideal implementation of this concept: One thing should be mentioned though: unlike some enterprise software for education, assessment is not done electronically-the software's focus is on teaching. The package provides a student workbook with traditional pencil and paper tests to inventory student progress. While this might seem like a unnecessary added burden, it not only keeps the size of the program down, it also reinforces graphic skills that are complementary to those that the tutorial is designed to develop.
Very reasonably priced for the market, and available for both institutions and individual learners and families, anyone with a need to augment reading skill for one or more learners should definitely get more information at the company's site at www.phonicstutor.com.#