Monday, April 6, 2015

When to Add Symbol Support in a Mixed Ability Lesson

I’ve often struggled with the ‘when and where’ to add symbol support during a lesson in a mixed ability classroom.  I sometimes worry that the upfront presence of symbol support might ‘steal attention’ from the focus on text.

I’ve finally arrived at a solution that I feel ‘covers all the bases’ for the Animated Step-by-Steps.  Now when I add symbols to a page, I set up the file to automatically add the symbol support after the page animations have been completed.  We are now using the symbols as a final review of what we just read and saw, i.e., “Now let’s read the page using our picture symbols.” 

Intuitively this makes sense as it allows you to focus first on the literacy and comprehension components, then allows you to review what you just read using the symbols. I also like the fact that it is a layered approach and is less likely to result in ‘visual overload’.  I’ve chosen to illustrate the time sequence below, using SymbolStix  ( on a page derived from the free download, Brownies (

In a previous post I discussed how to add symbols to your Animated Step-by-Steps. Now let’s turn our attention to how we can make them magically appear, after all the page animations have been triggered.

In the downloaded Animated Step-by-Step file, a chimes sound signals that all the page animations are complete and it’s time to move on to the next page/step. In this post you will learn how to replace this simple ‘chime sound/animation’ with an animation that not only triggers a chimes sound but also causes the page symbols to automatically appear on the page. Your version of PowerPoint might look a bit different, but I’m hoping it will be similar enough to allow for an easy understanding of the conversion process.

1.     Don’t forget you will need to convert your file from a .pps to .ppt in order to edit the file.

2.     Add the symbols to the page. Size them (.8") and place them directly beneath their corresponding text (See previous blog post, titled Adding Symbols!)

3.     Hold down the shift key and consecutively select each symbol on the page.

4.     Group the symbols (right click and select group or select group under Arrange on the Home Tab)

5.     Select the Animation tab and open up the Animation Order dialog box (there is a reorder button that will make it appear).

6.     Delete the animation called heart. This will remove the current chimes sound (I always use a heart shape that dissolves in with a chimes sound off page; since it is off page you don’t see it but you can hear it when it is activated in the animation sequence).

1.     Select your recently grouped symbols … select the animate tab … select fade in … under effects options select the sound effect chimes from the list … under timing select start after previous … under speed select fast.

You have now successfully substituted the final ‘chimes sound animation’ with a chimes sound accompanied by symbol support. After all the page animations are complete, the symbols will automatically appear in conjunction with the chimes sound. They are now available for ‘reading the page, using the symbols’ (“Now let’s read the page using our picture symbols.” ). Obviously this conversion process will need to be repeated for each page in the file.

A few notes on ‘reading with the symbols’

If you are using the interactive white board to display your symbolated Animated Step-by-Steps, do not touch the board when pointing to symbols. Touching the board will move you on to the next page.

If you are using a symbolated file on your iPad (using the Microsoft PowerPoint app) this is not a problem. The motion to animate is a small swipe to the left. When you touch the symbols it does not trigger the next animation. In fact, if you hold down your finger it will make a small red dot appear.  How convenient is that?

’til the next post …

© 2015  Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.