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Reading for Meaning

Tom Snyder Productions

Ages 8 to 13

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
Kid Appeal
Ease of Use

Reading for Meaning Screen Shot arrow indentSystem Requirements

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Reading for Meaning is a program designed to assist teachers in instructing five skills commonly found in reading comprehension curricula: identifying the main idea, making inferences, sequencing events, comparing and contrasting, and determining cause and effect.

The program provides a model lesson as well as six literature-based lessons (two at each of three levels of difficulty) for each area of focus. The model lessons are narrated by roving reporter, Jamal Jeffries, who, with his “KidCam”, chronicles various events in the lives of four kids: Ariana, Jenna, Kevin and Sam. Each literature lesson includes a selected text, a graphic organizer and open-ended comprehension questions. The lessons may be selected in any order.

Educational Value

Reading for Meaning effectively teaches the aforementioned concepts (main idea, inference, sequence, compare and contrast, cause and effect) through its cartoon-animated model lessons. For example, in the model lesson for sequencing events, the “KidCam” follows Ariana, Jenna, Kevin and Sam on their class field trip to the aquarium. After watching this clip, students are asked to determine the important events and then to record them in the order in which they occurred on their graphic organizer. Students then use the information from their graphic organizers to answer a few questions about the episode.

The thirty literature-based lessons, designed to provide practice of these five skills, follow the same format, only instead of watching an animated clip, students read and listen to an authentic literature passage. Texts are selected from a variety of genres and include passages from such well-known works as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; The Velveteen Rabbit, Shiloh, The Call of the Wild, A Wrinkle in Time; The Red Badge of Courage and National Geographic WORLD Magazine. Unfortunately, the comprehension questions are not always terribly thought provoking; they are best accompanied by a class or group discussion.

Reading for Meaning may be a valuable tool for teachers preparing their students for standardized testing. It can be used by the teacher for whole class instruction or by individuals or small groups of students to reinforce concepts already learned. The graphic organizers can be used with any text to outline a passage, chapter or entire book. The program is recommended for use in grades 3-8; however, some of these skills are often taught in earlier grades. Fortunately, some of the texts are appropriate for less accomplished readers. Reading for Meaning could also be used to reinforce the importance of the writing process. As students use information from their graphic organizers to answer comprehension questions, they may also be encouraged to use such tools to organize their own ideas before writing a story or an essay.

Kid Appeal

Reading for Meaning is decidedly designed for classroom use. The animated clips provide for an entertaining alternative to the teacher’s voice; however, the less than sophisticated Charlie Brown style cartoon animation (the mouth doesn’t often move in sync with the voice) might not hold a child’s attention well at home. Also, the amount of writing involved is appropriate for classroom use but may not make this a very popular free-time activity at home. That said, the designers have chosen popular kid locations for the settings of the model lessons: the beach, a tree house, the aquarium, a campground and an amusement park. The “KidCam” method of conveying the information is also appealing to kids.

The program is easily navigable by children (and teachers), as there are on-screen instructions at every step. This is especially helpful if the teacher intends for the program to be used by individuals or small groups of students. As stated above, this program could be used with younger students, as well, especially since students can listen as well as read to practice their comprehension skills. The variety of authentic literature passages should provide an entertaining read for everyone.

Ease of Use / Install

Reading for Meaning is very easy to install and operate. The installation instructions printed directly on the CD-ROM remind users how to proceed as they place the disk into the drive. There are on-screen instructions every step of the way, so the program is easy for teachers to use with little or no preparation; this also enables kids to use it without teacher assistance.

Sample answers of varying degrees of quality are provided for each model lesson to demonstrate how to most completely answer a comprehension question. At the beginning of each lesson, a “print” button appears on the screen, so all of the accompanying worksheets can be printed with one click.

In addition to the model and literature lessons, the program includes a lesson plan library with another thirty literature-based lessons. Although they cannot be listened to or completed on the computer, the texts and activities can be printed. These might make very handy lessons for substitute teachers.

Best for... / Bottom-Line

Reading for Meaning is designed for classroom use. The model lessons would be most effective for whole class instruction if projected on a television screen. The literature lessons could be completed by individuals, pairs or small groups of students in a classroom with multiple computers or in a computer lab setting (headphones are highly recommended). Reading for Meaning could be used to teach the concepts of main idea, inference, sequence, cause and effect, and compare and contrast; it could also be used with older students to reinforce these skills.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other reading software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 98 or better, Pentium 200 Mhz Processor, 32 MB of RAM, 6x CD-ROM drive, 50 MB of Hard Disk space, Internet Explorer 5.0 or better (included on CD) or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or better, Flash Player 5.0 or better (included on CD).

Mac: O/S 8.1 or better, Mac 200 Mhz Power PC, 32 MB of RAM, 6x CD-ROM drive, 50 MB of Hard Disk space, Internet Explorer 5.0 or better (included on CD) or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or better, Flash Player 5.0 or better (included on CD).

Reviewed on:
-     Pentium III - 450 running Windows 98, with 128MB RAM and 24x - CD-ROM
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