Review of Extra Language Resources: Language Software to Build Reading and Language Skills in Special Education

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Program Basics

The Extra Language Resources program is aimed at children and adults with delayed speech, reading difficulties, and delayed learning who will benefit from some one on one speech therapy activities.

It can be used as part of a therapy program in isolation, or in conjunction with a classroom program. It can also be used to provide additional home practice for students who have internet access.

Teachers in special education can provide speech therapy aides and assistants with specific information about the speech therapy activities that they want an individual student to complete. The aide can then work with each student in turn, completing tasks and checking them off on a chart or clipboard.

As a motivational boost, ask aides to show students when they reach given targets such as completing half an hour of speech therapy activities in a week. (Although often you will find that simply using kids language software is enough motivation, as many students prefer to learn on a computer than in a whole class, direct teaching format).

Targeted Skills Sets and Activities

The purpose of the program is to provide practice opportunities and build skills in the following areas:

“phonology, phonemic awareness, reading and spelling, semantics, sentence processing and using language” (from accessed on 9/26/2008)

The activities are arranged in a series of folders and directories, grouped according to level of difficulty, skill area and therapy focus. For example, there are activity folders for building phonological awareness in students by asking them to choose from two pictures to indicate which is a match for the word shown below. The words in this activity are grouped in pairs according to beginning sounds (phonemes).

There are thousands of separate activities, providing ample content for skill building over an extended period of time. As a teacher, it can be a little daunting to begin with, but stick with it and ensure you take careful notes of which aspects of the program work best for each student, and keep records of which tasks have been completed.

From a reading and language point of view, try combining it with some work on sight vocabulary (Such as the Magic 100 Words or M100W) and word lists taken from samples of student writing. These can be used to enhance recognition of words that are not easily decoded phonetically. It is a kids language program which would also combine well with the Oxford Sight Vocabulary lists, also available online.

The Benefits

There are significant benefits from this program:

  • It allows for specific, targeted speech therapy activities to be implemented across a range of areas
  • It is suited to use with children and adults
  • It promotes collaboration between therapists and schools, as well as the home setting (This can be hard to do, so check out this article on working with therapists if you need a helping hand!)
  • It is generally user friendly, with the activities arranged in a logical order and with sensible headings
  • It does not overload with sensory input, making it particularly useful for learners who are easily distracted by surplus visual or auditory detail on a screen
  • It allows children to complete therapy tasks in a context which is usually highly motivating - on the computer!
  • It contains an extensive enough activity pool that therapists and teachers are generally able to avoid repetition of tasks
  • It is cost effective compared with many other options, with the program available as a subscription service based on the number of users

The Downsides

As with most programs and activities, there are some down sides although with this program they are quite minimal.

It has not been designed to be used with Firefox - it works with Internet Explorer Version 5 or later, and Windows 98 through to Vista, or on Mac Version 5+. However, for use with Firefox, there is an IE tab that can be added from which will allow the program to run. Editor’s Note: Per a recent check of the technical specifications on the Extra Language Resources website, the software now appears to work with Firefox as well as Safari. The website states: “On Windows (XP/Vista/Win7) we recommend Microsoft Internet Explorer(MSIE v7+), Safari(v5+), Firefox(3.6+) or Chrome(v5+); On Mac (OS/X 10.4+), Safari(v5+), Firefox(3.6+) or Chrome(v5+) are recommended; On Apple iPad use Safari.”

For students who are used to all the animated features of some kids language programs, this one may be a bit of a let down. It is designed for use with a therapist or teacher sitting with the student providing appropriate intervention, prompts and guidance. It has not been built as a ‘student use alone’ style program. From a motivation point of view, it would be important to provide suitable responses to show the student they have answered correctly or incorrectly, as some may not find the on screen response sufficient.

All in all, as far as kids language software programs go, this one has a nice blend of speech therapy activities and reading related content to meet a wide range of special education needs.

Additional information about the program and its features is available at Extra Language Resources website

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