Growing up literate. (evaluation) Betsy Staples.
This month we return the emphasis of Growing Up Literate to things verbal as we consider Micro Speed Read from CBS Software and Snoopy's Skywriter Scrambler from Random House. Micro SpeedRead
Speedreading is a controversial skill. We know people who claim to speedread everything and who become downright tiresome on the subject. We know others who, having completed expensive speedreading courses, have reverted to their old habits and refuse even to discuss the matter. We think that speedreading is useful and appropriate for certain types of material, inefficient or even unpleasant for others. We frequently find ourselves skimming newspaper articles, for example. On the other hand, we think that curling up in bed with a good book is a pleasure not to be tampered with by Z-patterns, S-patterns, or comprehensive quizzes.
If you have a desire to read faster--whether for profit or pleasure--CBS has provided an excellent way to train yourself to do so. The Micro SpeedRead package is a satisfactory amalgam of computer technology and old fashioned ink on paper print technology, which is, after all, the form in which most of what we read appears.
The 210-page user's manual begins with an introduction to speedreading and an opportunity to evaluate your current reading speed and comprehension. You read an article in the book as the computer times you. When you finish, the computer calculates your speed. Next, you take the comprehension test, and the computer calculates your score again.
After several of these preliminary tests, your attention is focused on the computer screen again as the program demonstrates several techniques that can improve your reading speed: idea clustering, line pacing, double line pacing, and hand pacing. You then practice the techniques using articles in the book as the computer times you and tests your comprehension.
Throughout the course, you are encouraged to keep track of your progress; skeletons of rate charts are included in the Appendix.
The user's manual is very well done. It is comprehensive and thorough and, although devoid of illustrations, visually appealing. The reading selections are varied in length and subject matter and surprisingly interesting.
The package includes four disks, but you change disks only between lessons, so there is no distracting swapping in the middle of a task or test. Summary
Micro SpeedRead is an efficient, effective course in speedreading. At $125 it is cheaper than most speedreading courses, and it has the added advantage of being self-paced; you can spend as much or as little time as you have available.
Of course, the long-term effectiveness of the package is dependent entirely on your willingness to hone the skills it introduces. Increasing your reading speed from 200 wpm to 800 wpm in a week may be rewarding, but it won't make any difference in your life unless you practice until the techniques become second nature to you.
Micro SpeedRead can be used equally effectively in the home and in the classroom. And since the only limit to its usefulness is the ability to comprehend the reading selections, it can be used in almost any grade and by all but the youngest members of the family. If speedreading is your goal, we recommend Micro Speed Read without qualification. Snoopy's Skywriter Scrambler
"Not another word scramble game," you say? That's what we said. But first impressions can be deceiving. Its title notwithstanding, Snoopy's Skywriter Scrambler is not a word scramble/unscramble game. It is an entertaining how-many-words-can-you-make-from-this-word? game featuring Charles Schulz's popular canine aviator.
The game begins as Snoopy flies across the screen in his Sopwith Camel trailing a banner on which appears a word. He then reports the number of words he can make from that word and asks for your estimate of the number you can make. You type in a number, and the game begins.
The three difficulty levels--High Flier, Daredevil, and Ace--affect only the minimum number of words you must make in a round to win points and the number of points you can score with each word. A high flier must make only five words in a given round, while an Ace must make 10.
To enter a word, you have only to type it and press Return. The longer the word you make, the more points you score. If the word you type is correct, it is quickly added to your tally for the round. If your word is one Snoopy doesn't recognize, there is a short pause before Snoopy chides you gently and disallows your guess. You continue to enter words until your time runs out.
If you get stuck and find that you are unable to find any more words, you can press the right arrow key and the letters of the object word will be rearranged, offering you a different perspective and, frequently, an opportunity to find more words.
If you better your estimate for two rounds in a row, you earn bonus time in which you can continue to make words and augment your score.
A two-player option on side 2 of the disk allows two players to take alternate 30-second turns making words from the same game word. Using side 1, players can alternate rounds for a total of five rounds. We found the latter option somewhat less equitable than the former; some words were simply more difficult to dissect than others, and several times it seemed as though one player got all the troublesome words while her opponent was merrily racking up high scores and bonus time.
In several hours of play, we found only a few words that Snoopy did not know. These we could have added to Snoopy's Word Bank if we had wanted him to accepted them in future rounds. New game words, each containing as many as 199 words, can be added to the disk as well. Documentation
The small 16-page booklet is typeset and illustrated with the familiar Peanuts characters. It tells you all you need to know about loading the disk and playing the game.
No educational objectives are offered with the game, but we feel safe in saying that players will benefit from the spelling practice offered by Snoopy's Skywriter Scrambler. If they are encouraged to link meanings with the words they spell, they will probably improve their vocabularies at the same time.
Snoopy's Skywriter Scrambler combines just the right amount of whimsy with a serious spelling challenge to create an enjoyable game that will provide hours of enterainment in home or classroom.
Products: Micro SpeedRead (computer program)
Snoopy's Skywriter Scrambler (computer program)