The literacy toolbox is based on computer aided teaching differentiation. Differentiation has long been recognized as the gold standard in general education. The vast majority of teachers would agree with the principle of tailoring teaching methods to each student but those same teachers would also point out the practical difficulties of implementing this in the classroom.

Explicit phonetic instruction works for the majority of children but it is well established that there are about 15% of children for whom it is not the optimal strategy. Literacy Toolbox provides the teacher with an easy way to supply a differentiated strategy for those children.

Perceptual Learning

Perceptual learning (as a teaching strategy) originates out of the University of California and the work of Philip Kelman. It has had great success in maths and sciences and is now making an impact as a remedial literacy strategy in situations where phonics is not a perfect fit.

Literacy Toolbox applies the principles of perceptual learning to literacy skills. Perceptual learning focusses on skills acquired through carefully crafted experience rather than carefully crafted explanation. The student is given all the support they need to read any level of material from day one. The support comes in the form of a program feature which vocalizes any words the student is not sure about. With this support the student can read any material they are intellectually capable of understanding. Because the student always succeeds in their reading and because the student selects material they are interested in, reading becomes more about the subject matter and less about the mechanics.

Asking for words to be vocalized by the computer breaks up the flow for the student so they would rather avoid it where they can. Very quickly (amazingly so) students reduce their use of vocalization support in favour of the much quicker process of  ‘decoding’.

Interesting Reading Topics

The key, we have found, is to make the material sufficiently engaging that the student becomes impatient with the vocalization process and applies their creativity to the decoding process. We make the material interesting by offering hundreds of passages on different non fiction topics including sports, science, pastimes, pop psychology etc.

The only limitation on the material is the student’s ability to understand it (as opposed to their ability to decode the words in which it is expressed).