SOFTWARE / SHAREWARE REVIEWS
By DIANE MCCARGAR
Lectra is a shareware program that contains 14 different exercises to improve reading skills. The types of exercises used in the program would probably be familiar to most teachers, but what makes the program exciting is the fact most of the exercises are generated based on text that the student or the teacher has typed. This allows the teacher to reinforce work that students have previously seen outside the computer lab.
The types of exercises generated include: cloze, mixed sentences and text, sentences without spaces, text with errors, flash words, and speed reading. The program also contains 4 general reading exercises not based on the typed text.
Students can practice putting words in alphabetical order and they can practice selecting a word that doesn't fit in a list of words. The program also contains two memory exercises - one with words and one with pictures - and a multiple choice quiz. A separate utility program allows you to create your own quizzes and lists of words.
The program is generally easy to use, except I had trouble using it the first time because the toolbar at the bottom of the program was hidden by the taskbar in Windows 95. (This can be avoided by hiding or moving the Taskbar while the program is in use.)
The one drawback to the program is its help messages. It's not that they aren't helpful, but some of the messages contain grammatical errors.
The English version of the program was translated from another language. (The program is also available in French and German.) I have been told that attempts are being made to correct these mistakes and an updated version will be available shortly.
The program tracks students' results, including how fast they complete the exercises. It also allows you to enter lists and groups of students. You can then quite easily have different students work on the same computer and the same text and their results will be stored separately.
Despite the flaws mentioned above I would recommend this program. You can download a trial copy of Lectra at http://www.hrnet.fr/~mbrun .So often I am disappointed by shareware, but this program was an exception.
Ultimate Word Attack
This program is very popular in many Adult Basic Education programs for its valuable practice with spelling, pronunciation and definitions. The program includes over 4,000 words grouped into themes and word lists based on the level of difficulty and subject areas. Learners can choose from word lists of nouns, adjectives or verbs, with additional lists of each part of speech. Word Attack features an authoring program which allows the instructor to create custom word lists based on themes, classroom material or individualized student needs.
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