This article first appeared in MAPE Magazine 3 Summer Term 2000
In the initial stages, Tray is a sort of 'hangman' activity, but to describe it in this way entirely fails to do justice to its potential as a tool for teaching and learning. A piece of text is stored in the computer but remains hidden from the readers except for its basic structure - an underscore marks the position of each letter, all punctuation and numerals are shown and capitals are indicated with a bullet. Children can be asked to make predictions about the text based on what they can see of its structure and to suggest possible letters. Once a letter has been successfully predicted it is possible to see all further occurrences of that letter. Thus the text is slowly revealed with the readers constantly revising their hypotheses about the words, the sentences and the text as a whole.
For maximum benefit to be derived from the software it is important that the activity is teacher-led, at least in the early stages. A group of around six children is probably best in promoting maximum discussion and interaction and thus the activity could easily be used as one of the group activities in the Literacy Hour. Groups need not be matched tightly for ability. The program works well with mixed ability groups who are able to support one another's learning. However the text should be appropriate to the interest and ability levels of children in the group.
Six sample texts are provided, three broadly suitable for Year 3/4 pupils and three for Year 5/6 pupils. The age groupings are only indicative, however - you may chose to use the Y5/6 texts with more able pupils in Y3/4 and vice versa. For each age group there is a poem, a piece of prose containing direct speech, and an extract from a non-fiction text. All the texts are given below with some suggestions about the issues you may wish to focus on in preliminary discussion, and approaches to developing the text.
In most versions of Tray screen printouts are available at all stages and can be used to map progress or for linked work away from the computer.
Activity 1 - A poem
Learning objectives linked to NLS Sentence and Text level work:
• to distinguish between rhyming and non rhyming poetry and comment on the impact of layout (Y3 T1 Text level work 7);
• other uses of capitalisation . . . e.g. new lines in poetry (Y3 T2 Sentence level work 8);
• to compare forms or types of humour (Y3 T3 Text level work 6);
• to identify clues which suggest poems are older, e.g. language use, vocabulary, archaic words (Y4 T2 Text level work 6);
• to identify different patterns of rhyme and verse in poetry (Y4 T2 Text level work 7)
• to recognise some simple forms of poetry (Y4 T3 Text level work 7);
• to analyse and compare poetic style (Y5 T1 Text level work 7);
• to investigate humorous verse (Y6 T2 Text level work 4).
Year 3/4 - Sample 1
5 little brothers set out together
To journey the livelong day,
In a curious carriage made of leather
They hurried away, away!
One big brother, and 3 quite small,
And one wee fellow, no size at all.
The carriage was dark and none too roomy,
And they could not move about;
The 5 little brothers grew very gloomy,
And the wee one began to pout,
So big brother said: 'What do you say?
Let's leave the carriage and run away!'
So out they scampered, the 5 together,
And off and away they sped;
When somebody found the carriage of leather,
Oh my, how she shook her head!
Twas her little boy's shoe, as everyone knows,
And the 5 little brothers were 5 little toes.
(This text may be too long for some versions of Tray. If so omit the final verse and just give out a text version of it at the end of the activity).
Year 5/6 - Sample 2
There Was A Young Lady From Ickenham
There was a young lady from Ickenham
Who went on a bus trip to Twickenham.
She drank too much beer,
Which made her feel queer,
So she took off her boots
and was sick-in-'em.
1. Direct the attention of the group to the layout.
Ask them what is distinctive about it and what it tells them about the text. Try to avoid giving too much away but be receptive to children's suggestions.
Issues to draw out are features which mark it as poetry:
• the distinct lines, usually with punctuation at the end;
• the use of capitals at the start of each line;
• the use of capitals in the line at the top of the screen (thus probably a title);
• the match between this title line and the first line of the text (for the limerick);
• the structure and number of lines (someone may spot that the Y5/6 text is a limerick).
• Children may also spot the strangely punctuated word at the end of the limerick and the exclamation marks and speech marks in the riddle. If these are not spotted at this stage do not point them out but leave them to be discovered later.
2. Having made as many hypotheses as possible on the strength of the structure alone, ask whether it is possible to make a guess at any of the letters.
• The single letter word 'a' figures in both poems - children should be able to identify that the English language has only two common single-letter words - 'a' and 'I'. Since the letter is not a capital it is probably 'a'. This is the type of analysis you should be looking for as children work with the program. Try to draw it out in discussion, prompting where necessary.
• The riddle contains a word with an apostrophe (Let's). 'S' is the most likely letter to follow the apostrophe.
3. Predict the letter and choose to see all other occurrences of the predicted letter.
4. Discuss what else can be predicted:
• If the Y5/6 text has been identified as a limerick much of the first line can be predicted. If not, ask for a guess at the three-letter word beginning with 'a' in the final line ('and' is most likely).
See all occurrences of 'n' and 'd'. Draw attention to the word with 'ad' in the title and top
line. What could come after the 'd'? 'E' would be the best guess but proves wrong. What else could it be?
• In the Y3/4 text there are also three-letter words beginning with 'a' - of which some are 'and'.
There is also a two-letter word beginning with 's' - likely to be 'so'.
5. Continue to develop the text in this way making predictions and electing to see all occurrences until there is plenty to work with. After this you may prefer not to take the 'Show all' option but to predict each individual letter.
6. If the children get really stuck it is possible to see all occurrences of a letter without first making a prediction. Select the letter at the bottom of the screen by clicking on it and then choose 'Show all'. Discourage children from using this option too much.
7. When the text has been fully developed draw attention to the patterns of rhyme, to the archaic words and structures in the riddle (livelong, wee, none too roomy) which mark it out as older. Ask children to solve the riddle if they have not already done so and read or give out copies of the last verse of the riddle poem which is not presented on the screen.
Activity 2 - Fictional prose
Learning objectives linked to NLS Word, Sentence and Text level work:
• to secure knowledge of question marks and exclamation marks in reading (Y3 T1 Sentence level work 6);
• the basic conventions of speech punctuation (Y3 T1 Sentence level work 7);
• to use the term 'speech marks' (Y3 T1 Sentence level work 8);
• how dialogue is presented in stories (Y3 T1 Text level work 2);
• to identify the common punctuation marks (Y4 T4 Sentence level work 2);
• to use the apostrophe to spell shortened forms of words (Y3 T2 Word level work 15);
• to recognise how certain types of text are targeted at particular readers, e.g. junior horror
stories (Y4 T2 Text level work 9);
• to understand how dialogue is set out (Y5 T1 Sentence level work 7);
• to investigate the features of different fiction genres (Y5 T2 Text level work 9);
• to identify the key features of different types of literary text (Y6 T2 Text level work 7).
Year 3/4 - Sample 3
'I've had enough of this. I'm off!' Jenny cried.
She was trembling all over.
'No we can't stop now we're nearly there!' I pleaded. 'Come on. We've got to go down.'
She pulled at my coat. 'Go down? Down there? You must be MAD?'
'Well, I'm going. We have to stick together,' I told her. 'Come on. Let's go.'
I shoved my torch in my pocket, grabbed hold of the rope and stepped out into the dark.
(Typical text from children's cliff-hanger story.)
Year 5/6 - Sample 4
As you wander around the house, an ear-piercing scream from Miss Jones makes you nearly jump out of your skin. 'What's the matter Miss Jones?' you cry, running up the stairs to meet her. 'You haven't seen a ghost up here have you?' To your great relief she looks a bit sheepish and shakes her head. 'No, it's not that,' she gasps. 'I just looked in the bathroom.
There's a GIGANTIC spider in the bath!'
GO TO PAGE 134.
(Typical extract from an adventure game book.)
1. As with the poem, begin by discussing the layout and what this indicates about the text. Try to encourage pupils to identify some of the following features and thus make some hypotheses about the text. Try to avoid telling them at this stage whether their hypotheses are correct.
• Both passages are extracts with much direct speech, with questions and exclamations. The Y3/4 extract contains mainly short words and short sentences - suggesting that it is aimed at a young readership. The use of short sentences (and the word in capital letters - probably shouted) for dramatic effect could also be identified. The abbreviations (Let's, can't) as indicated by the apostrophes suggests speakers who are using language in a casual, informal way - these could possibly be children.
• The last line from the Y5/6 extract is in capitals and ends in a number. Children familiar with the format of adventure game books may recognise this. Capital letters in the middle of sentences probably signify names.
2. Build up the text by predicting specific letters as with the poems.
• The single letter words in the Y3/4 extract are capitals this time - almost certainly 'I'. In the Y5/6 extract there is both 'a' and 'I'. The letters following the apostrophes are 's' and 't'.
• In the Y5/6 text the 'M' of 'Miss' might be predicted.
3. When the text is well developed or completed, discuss the type of literature from which the extract is drawn and its appeal to the readership. The Y3/4 text is the conclusion to a chapter. A common feature of this type of book is the use of a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter to keep the reader engaged.
Activity 3 - Non-fiction
Learning objectives linked to NLS Sentence and Text level work:
• to notice differences in the style and structure of fiction and non-fiction writing (Y3 T1 Text level work 18);
• to compare the way information is presented (Y3 T1 Text level work 20);
• how written instructions are organised, e.g. lists, numbered points (Y3 T2 Text level work 14);
• to identify features of instructional texts (Y4 T1Text level work 22);
• to read and evaluate a range of instructional texts (Y5 T1 Text level work 22);
• to read and evaluate letters (Y5 T3 Text level work 12);
• to review a range of non-fiction text types and their characteristics (Y6 T3 Text level work 19).
Year 3/4 - Sample 5
To Make a Pompon
You Need:- cardboard, wool, scissors
What You Do
1) Cut two circles of card 8cm across.
2) Cut a circular hole 2cm across in the centre of each card.
3) Put the cardboard rings together and wind the wool round the rings passing it though the
hole in the centre until the hole is completely filled.
4) Cut the wool around the edges of the rings.
5) Tie a piece of wool between the rings and knot it tightly.
6) Take away the cardboard and fluff out the ball.
Year 5/6 - Sample 6
I'm about to go into hospital to have my tonsils out. The doctor said that I have to have it done because I am so often ill with tonsillitis. I'm worried 'cause I've heard that after the operation you can't eat anything and you end up talking funny. Is this true?
Helen, 10, London
1. As with the other types of text, begin by discussing what can be learned about the text by analysing the format. The Y3/4 text should be easy to recognise as a set of instructions or recipe of some kind. The Y5/6 text has some features of a letter but no address or date. It is taken from an agony page in a magazine and follows a format some children may recognise.
2. Predict letters as before.
• The numbers in the 'recipe' could be measurements followed by gm, cm, etc. Predicting cm and then taking all occurrences of 'c' will be very helpful.
• If the Y5/6 text has been identified as a letter then 'Dear' and 'Yours sincerely' should be easy to predict. Alternatively start with 'I' or letters after apostrophes. The use of the first person is a further clue to a letter, as is the final question.
3. Again, once the text has been developed, discuss the genre of the text, its fitness for purpose and its match to audience.
Learning objectives for all activities linked to the National Curriculum Programme of Study for English at KS2:
During KS2 pupils . . . explore language in literary and non-literary texts and learn how
Speaking and Listening - Range
3. The range of purposes for group discussion and interaction should include:
3b) planning, predicting, exploring
7. To talk effectively as members of a group pupils should be taught to:
7b) vary contributions depending on activity and purpose, including exploratory and tentative comments where ideas are being collected together and reasoned.
Learning objectives for all activities linked to NLS
Sentence and Text level work:
• to use awareness of grammar to decipher new or unfamiliar words (Y3 T1 Sentence level work 1);
• to identify different types of text (Y4 T1 Text level work 16);
• to revise the language conventions and grammatical feature of the different types of text (Y6 T3 Sentence level work 1).
You can read more about Tray in 'Tray and Sherlock in the Literacy Hour' by Bob Fox which is in the MAPE Focus on Literacy, and also on the Naace Primary website (Curriculum - English).
Unfortunately, Granada's version of Tray is no longer available, but all the activities can be carried out with:
Sherlock (Acorn Archimedes/A7000 etc. or PC Windows 3.1/Win '95/RM Window Box etc.) -
£35.00 + VAT single user; £70.00 + VAT site licence.
Available from Topologika Software,
Tel: 01326 377771; Fax 01326 376755.
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