In web-based editions of Special Words, you will be prompted to login by entering your email address and product key the first time you use the app, and you must do so before you will be able to access the activities. If you do not use the app for a long time, you may be required to enter these details again the next time you do use it. Installation instructions for web-based editions can be found in Chapter 9.
There are 4 card-to-card matching activities, each has several pages with a configurable number of baseboard cards per page (4 by default), and a sequence of cards to match that appear one at a time. When a card to match appears, the aim is for the child to match this to the correct baseboard card. They can do this in 2 ways: either drag the card to match over the matching baseboard card, or touch the matching baseboard card. Then the next card to match appears, and you repeat, until all are matched.
There are also 2 sound-to-card listening activities, in which there is no card to match. In these, the child listens for the word to be spoken, and then should tap the baseboard card that matches. There is no option to drag in these activities, instead a large "?" appears when the word is spoken, in the place where the card to match would appear in the other 4 activities.
Having matched all the cards (or sounds) on a page, you can repeat the same page (with the cards to match presented in a different shuffled order), or go on to the next page. When each baseboard card has been matched, it flips over to replace the picture by its word (or vice versa). Try it, and you'll get the idea!
There is an option to present a reward when all the cards on a page have been matched: this wiggles all the cards and plays applause. This is enabled by default, but you can disable it in the app's Settings (see Chapter 4). Other settings include options to display the words on the cards in CAPITAL LETTERS and to change the text size and font.
Children respond best to personalised activities: you can add your own pictures and words, and replace or delete any they don't like. We recommend you add 4 words and pictures at the outset, for yourself, your child, and other family members or pets. See Chapter 3 for how to do this.
We suggest using the Match Pictures activity, until your child has become familiar with matching at least the first few pages of pictures to each other. Then start using the Match Words activity, where both the baseboard cards and the cards to match have words instead of pictures on them. The idea of Match Words is to recognise and distinguish whole word shapes, it's not intended to teach spelling or phonetics.
Once you're successfully matching the cards in the first few pages of Match Words, start on Word to Picture, where the baseboard cards show pictures, but the cards to match show words. You can continue to use all 3 activities in parallel, gradually building up the number of words your child recognises. The 4th activity, Picture to Word, is the opposite to Word to Picture, matching a word to one of 4 pictures. We recommend using this once your child has mastered the other 3 activities. This particular activity an also act as a particularly effective assessment tool, and in many cases has revealed a child's sight vocabulary to be much larger than expected.
The 5th and 6th activities, Sound to Picture and Sound to Word, were designed in consultation with speech and language therapists, and can be used to encourage speech and test listening ability. By adjusting the volume, which can be done non-intrusively using an external keyboard, these activities can also be used for informal hearing testing. Audiologists may wish to add their own sounds, employ headphones, and calibrate the actual volume in dB: this will vary between devices. The use of external keyboards is explained in Chapter 8.
The sound of each word is spoken, firstly when its card to match appears, and again when it has been matched correctly. If you touch the card to match before moving it (or the "?" in the sound-matching activities), the sound is played again. Once your child has gained familiarity with any of the first 4 activities, it may be helpful to turn off the first speaking of each word, to see if they can still play visually without audible cues: use the app's Settings to do this (see Chapter 4).
Pressing and holding the lock to activity button for 3 seconds disables the activity selecting buttons in the tab bar at the bottom of the screen and the go to first page and go to last page buttons at the top, and the padlock icon changes to closed. Pressing and holding it again undoes this. Disabling these buttons can be helpful while playing, to prevent your child accidentally selecting a different activity or moving to the beginning or end of the Word List. In web-based editions on desktops (Windows, Mac and Chromebook) locking to activity will additionally make the window enter full screen.
When using the activities on a device with a large screen, the action bar at the top has a pull-down menu on the left for switching between the 6 activities, as shown above. Beside this are 3 buttons for moving backwards and forwards in the activity and refreshing the current page. You access other features in the app using the device's menu button: if it has no physical menu button, there is instead an overflow menu icon at the right hand end of the action bar.
On a smaller screen, if there is not enough room in the Action Bar, the pull-down menu on the left doesn't appear, but you can instead switch between activities from the physical menu button or the overflow menu.
In this guide, when we refer to the Android main menu, we mean either the overflow menu or the physical menu button.