Why we use symbols
Learning to Read
Some students may never gain full functional mastery of text. For such students, symbols can be a lifeline. But the question exists whether a wider range of students can be helped with learning to read without forming any dependency on the images.
In the SIP project, there has been a focus on supporting early readers. Some students struggle to learn the first 45 high frequency words and schools often have limited material with this vocabulary. The Zed books use symbol support to aid word recognition as well as providing visually stimulating graphics. The books cover topics about real life experiences and students are motivated by the characters. Students begin to see themselves as 'readers' which improves self esteem and their ability to learn.
In the software that Widgit produces, it has always been possible to change the level of symbol support so that reliance on any visual clues can be removed if it is no longer needed.
The Zed books are provided in two levels. Set A has all the words supported, but Set B has the target words as text only. Set A may help in learning the vocabulary, and Set B in reading the text. The advantage of using symbols is that the books can cover more imaginative material. There are also two advantages of having the book electronically. First, small books can be printed for each pupil to read, take home and record progress. The second is that the books can be edited, for example by removing the target words completely for the pupil to hand-write in, removing all the text for a new sentence to be composed or by removing the pictures allowing the pupil to draw their own.