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Studywiz Review

A reading skills framework program, reviewed by Carol Allen.

If you get the chance to try Studywiz… have a go! This new piece of software from Inclusive Technology has a selection of on-screen books, each of which has an accompanying set of comprehension questions for the reader to try. It doesn't sound very exciting written as simply as that, however this is one of the increasing number of excellent framework programs offered by Inclusive Technology which provide the teacher with a structure into which they can place their own work and thus differentiate for a class, group or individual student with greater ease.

Studywiz - selection of themes

In the same way that Switch It! Maker and Choose It! Maker have a bank of pre-prepared materials to get you started, Studywiz has a good variety of texts sorted into 'Themes' ranging from Fables, through Poetry to other fiction and non-fiction texts.

In each theme there are selections of books varying in length which are colour-coded to indicate reading difficulty so that everyone should be able to find a good starting point.

By clicking into Edit mode, existing books can be modified, either textually; by adding additional photographs or illustrations, or by altering the associated questions in order to focus them more directly to your own teaching objectives.

This software is designed to support reading but can usefully be used for a range of language development opportunities.

Studywiz offers access to differentiated activities which support all four of the communication modes. i.e. reading, writing, speaking and listening. By offering this access, information skills are presented in an enjoyable way and classroom teachers are given another valuable teaching tool to support those learners who need both structure and repetition to consolidate learning, yet variety to maintain motivation.

At its simplest level, Studywiz can be used for reading comprehension ie reading the text and answering questions. If the student needs a measured amount of text to focus on at one time, perhaps because of a visual impairment or perhaps due to a lack of confidence when reading, then the text can be revealed sentence by sentence. This makes it easier for the learner to assimilate the content of the presented text in manageable stages.

I thoroughly enjoyed the disappearing text option where the speed can be set to encourage reading at a set pace. This has obvious classroom applications for example, to support the student who is a slow reader as by working on the same piece of text they may be able to cope with a steady increase in reading speed as they practice. Conversely, for the reader who races along making both reading and comprehension errors, the software can support a slower, more measured approach.

Keywords exercise

By picking out keywords from the text in another exercise, a student can be taught the reading skills of scanning for information, accurate note taking and then can formulate their own version for re-telling using the keywords as prompts. The structured approach this provides will not only help with cross-curricular study skills but also with the difficult task of formulating points sequentially before speaking.

As there is the facility for the student or teacher to record their own voice reading the texts, there are lots of other enjoyable teaching opportunities that present themselves. We tried reading one text in a variety of voices, a slow, plodding, boring, voice; a silly, squeaky voice and a newsreader voice and then were able to discuss what effect was created by the different styles. This leads nicely to creating spooky stories ourselves and reading them with suitable spooky voices and the odd howl!

One regular curriculum activity is to create a book for another audience and read it to them, for example, writing a story book for younger children. The final performed reading can be quite a daunting moment, so perhaps next time we'll be able to use Studywiz to prepare and practice, and for some students, to present their work!

Carol Allen
November 2001

recording sound into Studywiz
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