Word Shark was installed on one computer and two users had access to this laptop for a period of approximately 6 weeks.
I decided to use it for a reading focus only. I identified some sounds the two users were having difficulty with (for example, ear/air, etc) and for the two users and then set up their profiles accordingly with relevant word lists so that they could access games and activities around these specific sounds only. I then took a “before” assessment of the words on the lists and then post trial I did an “after” assessment to see how much progress that had made with these specific words.
The students were both Y6 girls. Both have a formal identification of dyslexia. Both have a reading age more than 4 years below their chronological age. Both have some difficulties with engagement in the curriculum and with engaging with learning generally. There was agreement with both their class teachers and their LSA’s that they could use the laptop and Word Shark as many times as they wanted in the day – I encouraged them to use it 3 times a day if possible. In fact, they used it for short bursts (10-15 minutes generally), sporadically (not every day) but still regularly throughout the trial. Usage across the six week period was approximately 2 hours each student in total.
As I was working with one of the children, I was able to monitor her usage and to check she wasn’t staying on the same words/sounds for too long. The other child was not one I was working with and therefore I had less of a chance to make sure she was going through all her word lists. This shows the importance of the programme being properly implemented by a TA or teacher – I had shown both the child and her LSA how to change word lists easily, but unfortunately this was not done regularly. This is a little frustrating but probably illustrates the difficulty of many programmes or interventions – they are most effective when implemented properly.
Feedback form both students was incredibly positive. They liked the range of activities they could choose from. They also liked that these activities were short. They really enjoyed the motivational game which followed each activity. They could also (post trial) see that the programme had been effective in helping them to learn the target words. They liked being able to work independently through the programme (although it is clear that it needs to be properly overseen by an adult).
My own experience
I found that Word Shark was easy to set up, also easy to explain to teachers/Senco. Support from Word Shark was excellent on the few occasions I could not work out something for myself (for example how to track data). The “how to” videos were also useful. I found the data tracking useful to monitor the students work and how long they had spent on the programme. I would have liked to have set word lists to learn for homework from this point of view not having a licence that could be used across various devices is restrictive. Ideally students would also have the opportunity to practice the skills at home as well as at school, although of course the word lists could be printed as flash cards to follow up at home.
Word lists Child AA Child YI
PRE POST PRE POST
Longer words for au/aw 1/8 8/8
Longer words for air/are 0/8 8/8
ie sounding ee 0/7 5/7
ear sounding er 2/7 7/7
ear as in year 1/8 5/8
aw 1/8 8/8 2/9 9/9
au 0/7 3/7
air 0/8 8/8 4/8 8/8
TOTAL WORDS READ CORRECTLY 0/16 16/16 10/62 53/62
NUMBER OF MINUTES SPENT ON WORD SHARK 1 HOUR 52 MINUTES 1 HOUR 53 MINUTES
As you can see, the impact for child AA was lessened by the fact that the programme was not administered correctly and therefore AA stayed working on the same word lists throughout the trail (2 word lists only). Thjis does not therefore feel a fair reflection of the product, although it still showed impact as she learned all 16 words that she did work on. Child YI, however, had the word lists changed for her regularly and therefore accessed all word lists given to her. Child YI learned to read 43 words in less than 2 hours of time on WordShark. Words were tested in isolation only – it would be interesting as a follow up to see if these words can also be recognised in context. If I get any interesting results after doing this I will et you know but both students are on school journey this week.
I have already recommended Wordshark to the schools I am working in. One school (Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Roehampton) are going to be buying in a number of licences. The reason I am recommending it is that I believe it provides a motivational, fun and ultimately effective way of overlearning target words (which can be set by the teacher and therefore tailored to an individual learning programme). I shall also speak to my manager Janet Goring about spreading the word throughout the team so that they can include it in recommendations where appropriate. I think it would also be a great tool for our team to use for teaching, particularly in setting follow up work/homework for children they are working with, but due to the way the product is licenced/installed, I can’t see this working for us. If there is a way around this, it could be discussed.
Alix Mumford – Wandsworth Literacy and Numeracy Support Service