kitchen table math, the sequel: news from Headsprout

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

news from Headsprout

Headsprout bought by DYMO /Mimio

I don't know what this means, but folks are excited about it on the DI list.

If the DI people are excited, I'm excited.


palisadesk said...

I think you mean “excitement on the PT list.” Headsprout has some influence from Direct Instruction, but it is primarily designed on Precision teaching and Applied Behavior Analysis principles. The excitement may be due to the opportunity this presents for Headsprout to increase its R&D (the instructional design team are true geniuses) and reach a wider audience.

I’ll share some experience of Headsprout Early Reading that I wrote for a private listserv a couple years ago, as the info may be of interest to some here. Here’s the first one:

I've had the opportunity to pilot Headsprout with several students in second grade with virtually no reading skills to start. I found the people at HS to be extremely helpful in providing me with information and documentation about the program, its instructional design (a sophisticated "non-linear" approach to induce the ability to generalize and infer alphabetic understanding in new situations -- what the program's developers and the "Morningside Model" refer to as "contingency adduction") -- sample stories, a schema of phonic elements and words, and much more. I am sure they would be more than happy to answer questions and send information.

For parents who are looking for something to do with their own child, all three programs (Funnix 1 and 2 and HS) are excellent, and in fact you could easily use Headsprout AND one of the others. For school use, it depends on what staff you have available, whether you can use DI openly, and similar factors. If a school has an elementary computer lab, HS would be a wonderful addition to the regimen for K and first grade kids. I wouldn't suggest letting them do it *entirely* on their own, but it requires much less 1:1 monitoring than does Funnix, and so can be used with multiple kids at the same time if there are sufficient computers online. I think it would also be an easier sell in a district that is very committed to Whole Language, as mine is. One can hype up the developmentally appropriate for young children aspect, as well as the potential for reducing the "gender gap."

I'm not easily impressed, but I have to say that Headsprout lives up to everything it claims so far, and I have used it ONLY with "hard core" cases. All are now readers and very positive about reading. They are all doing DI as well, but I doubt they would have made the same gains on DI alone (in the limited amount we can smuggle in) without the boost they are getting from Headsprout. I would recommend anyone checking it out and considering it for either home or school use. Be prepared, though -- it's so much fun you'll want to sneak in a little go at it yourself, while a child goes to the bathroom!!

palisadesk said...

Second Headsprout story (followup to first):
I used HS last year with a group of non-reading 2nd grade kids. They ranged from DRA level A (2 kids), 1 (2) 4 (1) and 6 (1) -- all K level. On completion of HS-- in fact, long before completion-- they could read at a 2nd-3rd grade level independently.

The most noticeable benefit for all students was a quantum leap in fluency and word decoding -- sounding out and blending were explicitly taught and practiced till they became automatic. Kids who had struggled for months with CVC words became, in a matter of weeks, fluent at decoding one and two-syllable regular words, and reading in phrases rather than sound by sound or word by word. Two kids received no other assistance so HS wasclearly the cause of their improvement.

One went from the lowest reader in the whole grade to the very best in – 10 weeks.When she finished she easily read fourth grade level stuff independently. All but one had HUGE blending, retrieval and processing difficulties: typical “dyslexic” profile. Now in mid-grade-3, 6-8 months after finishing HS, one is reading at 6th grade level (the 10-week-wonder kid), two at a fourth grade level, one at third (on level) and one at second (she is a borderline slow learner). Their word-attack on the WRMT ranges from 4th to 9th grade level.

The program does require the kids to read to an adult -- in almost every lesson. However, the stories are short and it is easy for an aide, peer tutor or parent to do the monitoring required. There are benchmark reading checks along the way.. The stories towards theend are late 2nd grade level and are multiple chapters, some 800-900 words long. They are engaging but challenging. By then, however, the kids are so confident and highly motivated they will try anything and are sure they can read any text you put in front of them. The increase in fluency and confidence was mind-boggling (and I am used to getting results with DI, so I'm not easily impressed).

Three of these students were ESL with non-English-speaking families who could not help them at home. Four of the five were students whose challenges were severe enough that I would not have put money on their becoming fluent readers. I have to admit I was flabbergasted by the results.

So while it is ideal for families to be involved in the "hard cases," in some circumstances, with the right resources, school alone can get the job done.

The price is pretty cheap on a per-hour basis -- about $4/hr, less than you can get someone to rake leaves or shovel snow. We could provide HS to 1000 kids for the cost of one Reading Recovery teacher :-)

That's an observation I'll keep to myself, for the time being.

I had to laugh at M.'s anecdote about the kids staying in for recess to do HS. I had the same thing happen. They begged to come in at lunch recess, or to give up free time to do extra episodes. They knew they were learning. One kid even came to school early every day to do extra episodes.
They could not get enough. Kids DO know when something is working for
them. Their motivation soared, and so did their self-esteem and perception of themselves as readers.

I wish we could do it with the whole primary division. However, we need to get more computers! And then I'd have to persuade the powers that be that it's a better investment than Reading Recovery.

NB (2011): These students are eighth graders now. Two are high achievers, two are average, and one transferred elsewhere so I have no data. But the gains from HS were lasting ones.