To be a skilled reader one must master a hierarchy of individual skills successfully and failure to master any single skill will cause the reading process to break down. For example if a student cannot recognize letters that student will not be able to recognize words and word combinations. All these skills need to be performed effortlessly and automatically so that the person can focus on the meaning of text. Lack of automaticity and skill will compromise comprehension. Reading Skill evaluations lead the student through testing of skills that comprise the reading hierarchy, starting with very simple skills and moving progressively to more complex skills, The purpose is to identify where in this hierarchy automaticity breaks down. Skill Builder activities should be directed at this identified weakness. Typically there are 8 skills tested and the automaticity results for each are compared to typical results for a student of the same age. By looking at the pattern of results for all the skill tasks, doing well on some and poorly on others, there can be a strong suggestion of a variety of different reading problems. The student with a reading disability [dyslexia] will have a very different pattern of performance than the garden variety poor reader or attention deficit reader.
Our Skill Builder products are designed to develop fluent (fast and accurate) reading skills. Our skill builders focus on letter recognition, letter sounds, syllable sounds, word identification and spelling.
Most of our Skill Builders are focused on word identification as this is the area that most often inhibits skilled reading. The word identification exercises produce fast and accurate word identification and encourage the student to sight recognize words which is the goal of any reading program. The system has word materials ranging from rhyme sets through subject matter materials like physics, history, chemistry and even SAT prep.
With all exercises the student may get the definition of any word with a simple click. Any exercise can be turned into a spelling exercise where the software speaks words and the student inputs the spelling with the keyboard. The system allows users to define their own word sets to use with the Skill Builder system.
Instruct students to respond as quickly and accurately as they can. Remind them periodically if you notice them delaying response.
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Yes! Our evaluations measure the degree of automaticity on the different skills that are required for proficient reading. Our evaluations pinpoint where it is in the process of reading that automaticity is breaking down. Skill Building activities can then be focused at the identified weak point. By looking at the pattern of proficiency across all of the tasks in an evaluations a number of reading problems can be identified.
An evaluation consists of 3, 5 or 8 tasks depending on which evaluation is performed, with each task focusing on a single reading skill. These tasks start with simple skills and range up through comprehension on most evaluations. All of the tasks work essentially the same way. An item is presented on the screen [e.g. word identification] or through the speakers [e.g. listening comprehension]. The student makes his/her response out loud or by clicking onscreen buttons and the computer measures how long it took the student to respond. A scorer flags the response as correct or not by clicking the different mouse buttons. The process repeats until all items in a task have been presented, responded to and scored. Some tasks are organized by difficulty. For example, the Word Naming Task is organized with words consisting of 3 letters, followed by 4 letters, and then 5 & 6 letters. If any task becomes too difficult for a student, the task can be terminated and you can continue to the next task.
The pre-reading evaluation should take about 30 minutes. The other evaluations will take between 1 and 2 hours depending on the student and how many breaks are taken.
An evaluation consists of 3, 5 or 8 tasks. The evaluation may be suspended at the end of any task and resumed at a later time or date. To continue an evaluation where it was left off, login the student and then select the suspended evaluation for the student.
We have testing appropriate for children of kindergarten age and up.
Knowing the source of a problem often makes it easier to come up with a strategy to deal with the problem. It would be important to test your child if you are trying to get services for your child at a school. You can use the report from the evaluation to support your request for services. However, it may be appropriate to skip the evaluation and go straight to Skill Builder. Our Skill Builder exercises focus on sight recognition and work effectively with most common reading problems.
There does need to be someone present to score any task that requires a SPACEBAR press response. The only tasks that do not require a SPACEBAR press are the comprehension tasks. The computer cannot reliably detect what was said. Speech recognition software has not developed to the point where the little subtleties in speech that make an answer incorrect can be detected. A “scorer” must be present to indicate the correctness of responses. This person does not need to be a trained professional. The correct response can be heard with a mouse click. This allows peers, paraprofessionals, and others to score a response by comparing the response of an examinee with the correct response generated by clicking the mouse.
Our Evaluation software measures both the time it takes to respond and the accuracy of the response for each task item in an evaluation. In all of the tasks the computer starts a stopwatch with the presentation of an item and stops the stopwatch when the person responds, measuring the response time. For spoken responses, the system uses a SPACEBAR press as the student speaks as the event that stops the timing. After a student has made a spoken response followed by SPACEBAR press, a scoring control becomes active. Use the cursor to click the appropriate score button. Take your time scoring as the response time has already been measured when you score.
Upon completing an evaluation, the software generates a detailed report based on the student’s performance on the evaluation tasks, both in accuracy and speed, and on a set of questionnaire item pertaining to background information for the student. This report is 8 to 10 pages in length and is completely customized for the student based on the particulars of the testing results and questionnaire information. This report is printable and even editable and can be regenerated at any later time. This report is a very good starting point if you are trying to get services for your child at a school.
The main sections of the report are:
View Sample Report
This is an excellent use of the Evaluation System. We recommend initially performing a Full Evaluation that usually consists of 8 tasks. Following that we recommend performing a Progress Evaluation which consists of the core tasks, shown below, at regular intervals.
Because the actual tests are different every time they are administered they may be administered frequently. In the testing the software calculates grade level percentile which is a measure of how a child’s performance compares to other students in the same grade. The software can create reports and graphs displaying a student’s progress over time. By examining the grade level percentile of performance over time one can evaluate the effectiveness of an Skill Builder intervention strategy. For an intervention strategy to be effective the student’s percentile scores need to be rise, indicating that the student is closing the gap relative to peers.
Grade level percentile is a measure of how a particular score compares to the scores of other children in the same grade on the same test. The percentile scores range from 1 [lowest] to 99 highest and a score that is 50th percentile is exactly average. For example a score in the 59th percentile would mean that the score is as good as or better than 59% of the scores for other children in the same grade. The results of our testing are typically reported as percentile scores.
A student makes his/her response frequently by speaking out loud and pressing the SPACEBAR at the same time. If the scorer has a mouse then scoring can be performed without interfering with the keyboard area.
No microphone is used with these.
We have Skill Builder exercises starting with the alphabet so a 4 year old could benefit from our exercises. The next more difficult exercise is our Word Families exercise. This consists of words with common endings [rhyme] such as cat, mat, bat or car, far, jar. After that the word exercises are organized by grade level difficulty starting with 1st grade. We also have math fact Skill Builder exercises.
A practice session should take between 10 and 20 minutes. We recommend 1 practice session per day at least 4 times a week. These exercises are meant to be short and focused.
The reason so many approaches fail is that they stick with the same basic instructional method and merely intensify instruction with it. That instructional method most frequently is phonics. Although most children respond well to phonics instruction, some student simply do not. With such a child, he/she is being instructed at their weakness instead of strength. If a child has had intensive phonics instruction without the desired progress in reading skill it is time to try a different approach. Our Skill Builder Exercises are not phonics-based and emphasize sight recognition through repeated practice. Many children that have struggled in learning to read make very good reading progress using our Skill Builder Exercises.
Indeed NO microphone is used with the Skill Builder Exercises. No microphone is used for either testing or skill building.
You should see progress with a child in 1 to 2 weeks. The software will display progress after each practice session.
The repeated practice a person gets with the Skill Builder Exercises indeed improves spelling because the child is developing a mental representation for the words. You can also turn an exercise into a spelling exercise by having the software “speak” the words out loud and the child spells the words using the keyboard. With our Designer Module you can create custom lists such as spelling lists.
We do have Skill Builder Interventions for math facts. These work just like the word activities except the child speaks the answer to presented math facts. There are two math fact Skill Builder Exercises, one for Addition and Subtraction and the other one for Multiplication and Division.
Typically each Skill Builder exercise consists of 3 sets of words, each set consisting of 160 words for a total of 480 words. The 3 sets are of equal difficulty. The student starts with the first set of 160 and practices with them until it is mastered and then proceeds to the second and then third sets. Mastered is determined by a set of specific accuracy and speed criteria being met and the software will inform you when a set has been mastered.
The time needed depends on the child and how conscientious you are in having your child practice at the recommended intensity [once a day at least 4 times per week]. A general range would be from 2 to 8 weeks.
Yes. Most children make very good reading progress using our Skill Builder Exercises and adding words to a child’s sight vocabulary is always a positive. You can customize the materials presented using our Designer Module to create spelling or vocabulary lists or to master subject matter words and terms even before a class is taken.
The most important thing in selecting a starting point is to not start at too difficult a level. It is much better to start off too easy than too hard. It is a much better to say to a child that these materials are too easy and we will skip ahead than the reverse which may provoke an attitude. The general rule of thumb is 1 to 2 grades below the child’s actual grade depending on how much the child is struggling. We want the child to have a positive experience from the start. If you perform an evaluation of reading skill using our Evaluation Module, you will find a recommended starting point in the report that is generated.
Our Skill Builders are particularly effective with children who have struggled in learning to read and have not experienced many successes in this regard. The fact that a child sees his/her improvement, and the software clearly shows the improvement, is probably the best motivational factor for a child who has experienced repeated difficulties. In addition, we do recommend a reward system for your child.
Yes! Being able to create custom sets of materials with our Designer Module adds great flexibility to our Skill Builder system. Using our Designer software you can create materials that run just like our Skill Builder Exercises but with your own material.
Yes. You would change the way a student responds to the individual items in the exercise. Rather than speaking the word out loud, the student would respond with something that indicates the meaning of the words. For example, if the item were “color” the student might respond by saying “red”. Also the student can get the definition of a word by dvl-clicking dbl-clicking on a word during the “Preview” and “Review” phases.
We recommend a reward system to encourage practice with the Skill Builder Exercises. There is a right way and a wrong way to provide rewards for practicing academic tasks. The wrong way is to reward a child for engaging in a practice activity, for simply going through the motions in the practice activity. The right way to reward a child is to make the reward contingent on improved performance. That is, the reward is provided if the child’s performance on a given occasion is better than it was on a previous occasion. The Skill Builder software clearly shows performance progress.
Our system is set up so that when a student makes a response and simultaneously presses the space bar to record the time taken to make the response, the student automatically hears the correct response. If students are working alone they then score the response they made as correct or incorrect by comparing their response with the correct response. The issue with students working alone is whether they score their response accurately. If they cheat, much of the benefits of practicing can be negated. Another factor of working with another person is that students are more motivated to practice when they can show off newly developing skills.
The Designer Module provides tremendous flexibility to Skill Builder tools. Any kind of activity that is used with the standard system can be used with your own materials. You can create custom spelling or vocabulary list for use with the Skill Builder Module. As an example, many schools have lists of words for each grade that students should have mastered by the end of the school year. It is a simple matter to make Skill Builder exercises out of those lists.
Creating foreign language materials for Skill Builders is an excellent use of the Designer Module. When creating materials you can select whatever font you wish to use including foreign language fonts.
It is easy to create vocabulary exercises for use as Skill Builders. When the student practices with the vocabulary items the student should speak something that indicates understanding of the meaning of the word. For example if the word is ‘furniture’ the student might say “table”. The student can get the definition of a word by dbl-click on a word during the “Preview” and “Review” phases.
Yes. When you create a custom Skill Builder exercise the system will use Text to Speech [TTS] technology to add the pronunciation to its sound library.