Tray

Have you ever come across an ingenious program that holds an exponential amount of potential for use inside a classroom with a name that equally scales in common use? I have. That program is called Tray. And I dare you to try and find out anything about it with Google.

Tray is a completely open-ended piece of software (a phrase that consistently makes me weak in the knees, in case you wanted to know) and can be used with emergent readers right through to sophisticated textual analysis at A-level. Does this sound like a teacher’s best friend to you yet?

Tray is ideal for using collaboratively with pairs, mixed ability groups or with whole class involvement. Initially it will need some non-directive support and assistance from the teacher, just like the majority of new-fangled technologies, but because the program works very well with a large screen or on an interactive whiteboard, this task is made simple.

The program supports reading development by showing that reading is not simply a visual process but relies on anticipation which confirms language and meaning through a very light sampling of the text. Implicit grammatical and syntactical awareness can be foregrounded and made explicit and helps pupils practise and strengthen their grasp on the invisible cueing systems (semantic, syntactic, logical, affective or stylistic) upon which fluent reading depends. It enables pupils to engage in collaborative exploration of written texts and can support analysis of more complex and demanding texts. TRAY is based on the belief that comprehension is a case of emergent understanding and although the examples that are supplied with the program are usually poetry, it can be used with any form of text. On top of that the program provides provisions for you to create your own texts, making it very flexible.

So what’s the teacher’s role in a program that can be used autonomously by the pupils? The learners will initially need support during the Tray-based activities from the teacher. After the first attempts the teacher will need to encourage more fruitful approaches to using the technology be encouraging speculation and the use of the scratchpad feature. As time goes on and the learners gain more experience with using the program, the teacher should start to discourage frequent checking of individual letters and encourage larger units of text to be attempted before checking, therefore improving their skills in grammatical and syntactical awareness. The learners will also benefit from debate in the group as to why some decoding might be right or wrong. Initially, it’ll be up to the teacher to encourage the debates. Once the children become competent with the program the teacher will be able to step back and allow them to continue their autonomous development. Of course, competition is always a good motivator, so the introduction to prizes through high scores may be excellent encouragement for some development.

In Tray, you can change the appearance of the text at the start of the session by changing which letters are revealed and which are kept concealed, allowing the teacher and learners to adjust the degree of difficulty while using the program. Earlier session will naturally provide a lot of information so that speculation and prediction can begin immediately. A great way of keeping track of the predictions and progress would be to jot down the attempts and letters used on a piece of paper.

With all that being said, what do you think? Does Tray have a place inside the classroom? And just how hard is it to find anything out about it using Google?

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