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The reading fluency and phonics method developed in Scottish Borders
formerly known as Bordertalk

What are the Doorway Talking Computer Materials?
What are the expected learning outcomes?
Who are the Materials suitable for?
How is a Talking Computer Materials session run?
Where did the idea come from?
<< Use The Doorway Talking Computer Materials

What are the Doorway Talking Computer Materials?


 The Doorway Talking Computer Materials are a programme of on-screen exercises to help a pupil develop awareness of the common phonic patterns and word attack skills. The exercises are arranged in sets of  about twenty "tasks" in these levels Level A1, Level A2, Level AB1, Level AB2, Level B1, Level B2, Level C1, Level C2. These levels refer to the levels A,B and C of the Scottish Five to Fourteen Curriculum. The choice of target words is taken from work done By Mrs I Middleton, who classified the words to be learnt in the SBC spelling scheme.

Each level of The Doorway Talking Computer Materials has about twenty sessions. Each session (task) consists of two questions to be answered. The tasks are to be completed by pupils using a talking word processor to help them read the words and compose an answer.

The schme relies  upon an important facility in Textease and Clicker and also MS Word with Wordtalk installed; the ability of the software to speak a word when the pupils clicks on it (places the pointer over the word and clicks on the left mouse button. This method of activating the speech ensures that the pupil is looking at the words as they are spoken). 

The pupil works with a support person, auxiliary or parent volunteer. The pupil works both at the computer and with the printout at the end of the session

What are the expected learning outcomes?

The use of a this scheme should enable a pupil to;

  • become a more fluent reader
  • gain good phonic awareness
  • learn to formulate and write sentences
  • develop good ICT skills

Who are the materials suitable for?


Pupils who are not fluent readers, especially those who are still noticeably decoding words by sounding them out.
Pupils who need "overlearning" of a particular level of phonic patterns 

Pupils who have a significant deficit in reading and or spelling age with regard to their chronological age.


How do I run a Talking Computer Materials session?


 It is best if the computer can be booked in advance for regular 20 minute sessions so that the pupil can receive a boost to his/her phonic skills over a period of less than a month. A support person or a group of support people need to be identified and timetabled. 

Where should I start with a particular pupil?
The Doorway Talking Computer Materials exercises exist in eight sections from LevelA1 to Level C2. It is important to choose the right level for the particular pupil. You can refer to the full text of all the exercises to allow you to make your choice. These are available as .pdf files. If you have any doubts about the level you should consult with a learning support teacher. If you are trying to choose between two levels, you should probably select the easier level. The pupil can always go on to the harder level later

Before you start a pupil using a The Doorway Talking Computer Materials
Explain that he/she will be expected to do a task regularly, make a printout, keep the printout, read it to adults at school and to practice at home as well.


Note for the Support Person

Before a The Doorway Talking Computer Materials Session make sure that;

  • the software is working on the computer you are going to use and that the speech is working. If you are using headphones, make sure these are working
  • you know which task the pupil is to do today. The pupil should know
  • the printer is working
  • you have a highlighter pen

Starting The session

Load the chosen exercise

It should load up a question followed by several alternatives.

What can a witch sell?
a bag of shells
a book of spells
a cat that smells
a yellow bell

Follow these steps as closely as possible,

  1. Pupil reads the question and check by clicking on each word to listen to it, repeat this for each of the possible answers.
    If the pupil makes a mistake or is stuck he/she clicks on the word(s) to find out what it is. The pupil then says the whole phrase and checks it again. 
    (If the pupil is having too much difficulty at reading the words, perhaps this level is too difficult and a change should be made to an easier level.)
  2. The pupil formulates an answer to the question. If the pupil does not answer in a complete sentence, he/she should be asked to make it into a sentence. It might be necessary for the support person to turn the answer in a sentence, but the pupil must say the sentence.)

    Let's say that the pupil wants to say," The witch can sell a book of spells", if the pupils says just " a book of spells", the support person should prompt for a full sentence, suggest that the sentence should start, "The witch can......", say the sentence and she the pupil to repeat it; whatever is necessary for the pupil to say the sentence.

  3. The pupil is to make the computer say the sentence that he/she has just said. This is done by clicking on the words on the screen in the right order. If the pupil makes a mistake, he/she should be asked to try again. In some cases the answer will contain a word not available in the question or possible replies. Often these words will be available in brackets after the question - for example; What would be fun? (it)to fish in a tank to sleep in a bunk to play in the sink to pick up old junk

  4. The pupil should Click below the question and type in the sentence.
    The pupil should start typing with a capital letter ( use Shift and the letter - Caps Lock, Letter, Caps Lock is not acceptable)
    There should be a full stop at the very end of the last word - no space.

    The sentence might look like this; It is fun to play in the sink..

  5. The pupil should then check the sentence by clicking on each word
  6. The pupil should then move onto to the next question and repeat the steps 1-4
  7. The pupil should print out the page.

  8. (Not Level A) 
    The pupil should look within the words of each question/possible answers for words containing a common pattern.
    In the case of the example, the words are tank, bunk, sink, junk
    The pupil should click on these words to check the similarity and then highlight the words on the printout  with a highlighted marker.

    Move on to the next sentence to find the words with the common patterns listen to them and highlight them
If time allows. 
  • Scroll down to a blank area of the screen, and click ready to write.

    The support person asks the pupil to make the computer say a phrase - eg
    "a ball by the wall"
    If you are using Level A, you should have time for this
  • Go over the work - especially the highlighted words from a previous session
Work away from the computer
The pupil should take the printout to read to more adults. It can be taken home and be read there.
The pupil can copy down the words highlighted into a jotter and take them away to learn.

What if we run out of time?
Save the work and continue at the next session. 

What might go wrong?
We have found that problems can arise from the features in Pages/Textease which turn a piece of writing into an object. If pupils double click on a word, intending to make it speak, the computer treats this as a text object. It draws a dotty box around it. Beware! It is possible that you might lose that object just by pressing Delete.

Where did the idea come from?


The idea of using a talking word processor to support the learning of the common visual patterns in words was thought up by Miles and Clifford (1994). Their method became known as the Somerset method. Later it was revised and is published as Acceleread/Accelerwrite.

The idea for the Doorway Talking Computer Materials would never have emerged if it were not for the "Click on a word to hear it" feature, or "Click to Speak" which was implemented by Jon Duddington in his !Speak (Textreader) software. This feature was later implemented in Textease and Pages (Acorn and Windows). This feature was also introduced into the Clicker software ( Windows and Mac). A very similar feature is available in Wordtalk, a superb utility for MS Word, which adds speech output features including "Double Click to Speak". This scheme is best used with one of these pieces of software.




Almost all the content of this scheme is the work of Philip Whittaker. However it would never have been completed without the help of;  Ian Dewar, Edna Dickinson, Jeanette Fox, Caroline Lang and Marjorie Rae. 
Thanks to Isobel Middleton for being an inspiration.


Miles M and Clifford V (1994) A Way with Words, Special Education