Literacy Scenarios

Unlike the Information Scenarios, these Literacy Scenarios may include student exercises that are most effective when an instructor or parent assists the student (instructor-assisted or parent-assisted contexts). In some cases, the appropriate context will depend on the student's age. The following scenarios show only one context, but many scenarios could also be effective in other contexts.

LS1: Audio Reading of Decodable Books at Student's Preferred Speed

Decodable books are written for a specific reading level (particularly the early reading levels) so that they tell an interesting story with words made up of sounds that the student can pronounce (decode). Decodable books usually focus on one or two particular vowel or consonant sounds to reinforce a recent lesson. See

A teacher who has been using decodable books to teach reading discovers that a teacher in another region has produced audio Talking Book content for each of the books. At the kiosk in a nearby larger village, she finds content modules for five of these decodable books and copies these to her personal Talking Book device. The next day, after teaching a class on words with the "sh" sound, she copies the "Fish Wish" story from her Talking Book device to the device of each student. She tells the students to practice reading the Fish Wish book while using their Talking Book devices for practice. Some of the students have more trouble reading than others, requiring a slower speed audio for maximum learning. Using the Talking Book device's speed control, each student is able to adjust the audio speed to what is best for each learner (with the pitch remaining the same).

LS2: A Family Practices Reading at Home Together

The parents of a four-year old want their child to have a strong start in school, even though neither of them have adequate literacy skills. With the encouragement and instruction of a local NGO, they participate in a "Family Literacy" program that helps them learn to read while also providing them the training to help their children develop early literacy skills. Each week, the parents learn to read a new short book to their children.

Using the Talking Book, parents are able to practice reading the book at home so that they can confidently read it to their children and apply the skills they learned in Family Literacy training. Parents who are not yet confident enough to read directly to their children can play the Talking Book device through an internal or external speaker (such as through their radio via FM transmission). Some Talking Books ("content modules") may intersperse questions or comments throughout the reading to prompt the child to participate in a dialog about the book ("dialogic reading"). The parent alone might not have thought of these helpful prompts to engage a child; and, the device cannot recognize the child's response or continue a conversation. But a parent using the Talking Book device can engage a child in a critically important early literacy exercise, which rarely occurs in households with weak or no literacy skills.

LS3: Phonological Awareness Exercises

Phonological awareness is an important stage in early literacy education when the learner understands the different ways oral language can be divided up. Without involving text, phonological awareness addresses dividing oral language into separate words, syllables, rhyming parts of a syllable (onsets and rimes), and finally individual consonant and vowel sounds (phonemes). Illiterate adults who have spoken a language their entire lives are still unlikely to have phonological awareness at the phoneme level without direct instruction and practice. Without this level of awareness, they will have a much more difficult time learning to read.

A Non-Formal Education program has created a series of Talking Book content modules to help adults with phonological awareness. They hypothesize that adults who first practice phonological awareness exercises at home, before enrolling in night literacy classes, will be faster literacy learners than those who spend the same amount of time in extra group classroom instruction. If true, this would mean less instruction per student, meaning they could serve more students with their available resources.

The content module series is unusual in that it does not require a physical book to be effective (although children would benefit from pictures that the exercise words represent); this means there are virtually no costs to copying and distributing the series. However, this "complex content" does require more time to plan and record than simple content without hyperlinks or interactive exercises.

One of the exercises involves counting. Counting the words in a sentence, syllables in a word, and phonemes in a syllable is the first step before manipulating these parts. The Talking Book device allows a content module to ask the listener to tap a button once for each of the syllables they hear, and then to tell them if they are correct. Another content module can follow a description of rhyming words with examples and multiple-choice questions to find the word that doesn't rhyme with the others. Phonemic awareness can ask the listener to select which word in a list has the same first sound as "dog", and which of the following words would be created if the /d/ sound in "dog" was replaced with an /f/ sound.

LS4: Interactive Phonics Lesson: Word Families

One technique for helping children and adults learn to read is to have them predict and build new words by changing one letter or digraph (pair of letters that make one sound). To help English language learners master letter sounds with this technique (note that this applies to learners of any alphabetic language), a Talking Book content module is created by the Ministry of Education to accompany a textbook. The textbook lists words like "fall", "ball", "wall", "tall", each on successive pages. The first page lists the word "fall", with the letter "b" just below the letter "f" in "fall". The audio of the Talking Book pronounces the word "fall" and then asks what word do we get if we replace the "f" in "fall" with a "b"? The student thinks about the answer before turning the page, and then turns the page and hits the next page button to see and hear the word "ball". Underneath the "b" in "ball" is the letter "w"…and the exercise continues.

Instead of just decoding and predicting the results of word manipulation, teachers can use the Talking Book device to also engage students in encoding and actual manipulation of letters in words. Following the audio "Help" instructions for the "Word Manipulation" content module, the instructor (or adult student) simply marks each of the four multiple-choice buttons on the device with a different letter (labeling "b", "f", "t", and "w" with a thin piece of chalk). The device is now ready for a content module that can now ask the student to create the word "ball" by pressing the appropriate letter to add to the front of "all". The student then gets instant feedback about their answer ("Yes – you are right. Adding the letter 'b' to the front of 'all' does make the word 'ball', as you will see on the next page." or "The letter you selected was 't'. That doesn't spell 'ball'; that makes a different word. Do you know what word? … The word 'tall'. Now try once more to pick the letter that will make the word 'ball'.").

LS5: Embedded Vocabulary Building and Reading Comprehension Tests

Taking advantage of the audio hyperlink functionality of the Talking Book device, educators create content that adds a vocabulary lookup feature to what would otherwise be a simple reading of a common storybook. As the listener plays the recording on their device, a button lights up (and optionally, a quiet tone sounds) when a targeted word has just been spoken. Pressing the button while it is lit interrupts the story to define the word. When the listener is ready to continue, the story replays the previous few seconds and continues where it left off.
The student may prefer to first have the device follow each hyperlink automatically, inserting the vocabulary definition into the story without user action. Later, when replaying/rereading the book after having learned most of the words, the student will prefer to hear definitions for a selected subset of the targeted words.
At the end of the story, a few multiple-choice questions are presented to the vocabulary memory and reading comprehension. The Talking Book device provides instant feedback in response to the student's answer.

LS6: Word-by-Word Reading for Literacy Education and the Power of Content Authoring Software

An early reading student, who may be a child or an adult, wants to practice decoding and properly pronouncing text within a book aimed at her reading level. She starts by placing the book near her Talking Book Device and playing the associated content module. As the content is played, the student tries to follow along. She is helped by hearing a background audio icon that plays at the end of each line of text and another one that plays at the change of each page.

Even with these line and page cues, the student decides to slow the playback down by 50% to have a better chance to follow the words.

Even with the slow speed, the student (and maybe her teacher or parent) wants to hear each word read one at a time. She starts the playback over, but as it starts, she pushes a button representing a "short jump forward" which causes the playback to jump to the next word and then pause. She presses it again to hear the next word read (then automatically pausing again). She can continue this one word at a time through the whole book. Instead, she decides to jump to a specific page by pressing a button representing a "long jump forward" a number of times. Then, by hitting the "short jump forward" button again, she is able to have the recording played back word-by-word again.

This scenario is possible because the author of the content either used a Group Talking Book Device (typically used by NGOs and the same thing powering kiosks) or our content authoring software that runs on PCs. Through either of these options, content authors are able to designate any number of index points (well, maybe any number less than 10,000 or so) to serve as both "short jump" anchor points (like words, lines, or pages) or "long jump" anchor points (like lines, pages, or chapters). The content authors are also easily able to insert audio icons at points that may or may not coincide with these internal anchor points.