Title: READING PROGRAM REVIEWS: SIPPS AND SPENCER LEARNING’S ULTIMATE PHONICS COMPUTER SOFTWARE PROGRAM
Many programs in the market intend to aid with the classroom learning reading experience, offering various strategies and approaches to the didactic process. One of the key distinctions currently existing in the market is between commercial reading programs and computer software reading programs. The former can be understood as a more traditional approach, using manuals and books, whereas computer software programs obviously employ technology to help aid the student. At first glance, more traditional approaches would seem ideal to the reading format, insofar as it introduces students to books, alongside providing a more interactive didactic approach. However, with the obvious increasing prevalence of technologies, such as the Internet – which is a heavily text based medium – computer software programs can also be considered to address a subsequent area concerning how people read. In short, whereas in the past reading was obviously concentrated in the text format of books and newspapers, it seemed logical that reading programs would take the same format. However, because literacy is such a great part of current technology, computer software programs can no longer be viewed as a didactic novelty. Rather, there very worth lies in making the student familiar with the unique environment of digital, online and computer reading that is ubiquitous. The following paper shall review two examples of such programs, one from each respective medium, in order to provide a summary of their contents alongside a means by which they could possibly be used in the classroom setting.
The commercial reading program SIPPS, an acronym which stands for “Systematic Instruction in Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, & Sight Words is a decoding curriculum that aids in both reading comprehension and the development of reading fluency. The program is available in different forms as determined by grade-appropriate levels, such that versions of the program appear in kindergarten to grade 3, grade 4-12, and optional library formats. Each of these formats is themselves split into respective levels, for example, the k-3 program includes beginning, extension and challenge levels. These various levels demonstrate the apparent value that SIPPS gives to context, as the program understands that there are different stages in the learning process. Accordingly, the format lends itself to both a wide number and specific number of applications simultaneously, taking into consideration the unique challenges of the prospective student willing to learn.
The beginning level provides the basics. Phonemic awareness, short vowels, single consonants, and sight words are stressed, with the intent being for the student to “understand and use short vowels”, know seventy-three sight words and read and spell new words. Subsequent levels contain aims as learning how to read single-syllable words and complex vowels, while also stressing irregular words that break traditional rules, by using one hundred and fifty of the more commonplace irregular words. The most difficult level includes six syllable types, morphemic roots, prefixes and suffixes, high-frequency academic vocabulary at three developmental levels, and sight syllables and their meanings, with the intent being to master polysyllabic words. The SIPPS program’ familiarizes the students with reading from books. In this regard, it is more traditional and, I would suggest, a foundational approach to education. In this regard, retention is a crucial idea in light of the program, and thus it would have to be used most ideally on a daily basis, irrespective of program. Also concerning literature on reading programs, intensity is also crucial, which means that it should be used in the classroom for prolonged amounts of time. Moreover, since the SIPPS program is split into levels, it is thus crucial to understand where students are in regards to their own individual reading skills. This approach can take advantage of the program’s tiered level instruction format: for example, the educator can create groups of students at the same reading level and let them use these aspects of the program.
Spencer Learning’s The Ultimate Phonics Computer Software Program incorporates computer technology in order to teach reading. As the name of the reading program indicates, it uses a phonics based approach, an approach supported by academic literature that suggests that phonics is the most efficacious tool for learning how to read in English. The program therefore advances a strategy of the extensive teaching of all possible phonic sounds and rules. The program takes a gradual and cumulative approach, introducing smaller words first in order to build a solid foundation for the student. Gradually new rules are introduced. Moreover, as the program stresses, they emphasize reading real words, as opposed to merely memorizing phonetic rules. Accordingly, rules are placed in a context based learning situation, which arguably can be used to underscore the purely practical value of the theoretical abstractions constitutive of reading and grammar. Furthermore, the program emphasizes that no experience with phonics teaching or reading teaching is necessary, as the software claims to absolve this need with its extensive programs. The program basically presents words and sentences asking students to read them. Moreover, the program takes a more serious educational approach, without using cartoon images and various other distractions: the focus is on reading itself. The program claims to be beneficial to readers of all ages, and, in addition, has quality endorsements from various literacy coordinators that stress the efficacious nature of the program. A further emphasis is placed on the simplicity and directness of its program, which can be interpreted as taking into account the newness of the reading experience: no learning capabilities of the student are assumed from the outset.
Accordingly, the program’s simple and cumulative approach, concentrating on education, as opposed to attempts to trick the student into learning through technological gimmickry, shows how the product understands its aim as a didactic and educational tool, as opposed to what they term other “edutainment” programs. In my own teaching considerations, it would thus be valuable to utilize this program precisely because of its main strengths, which I view as a cumulative approach that does not presuppose any knowledge and takes learning as an interactive process,. Moreover, its emphasis on education as opposed to entertainment makes the product seem worthwhile in the current reading program market, according to its clearly stated goals.