ABRACADABRA, A Balanced Reading Approach for Children Always Designed to Achieve Best Results for All, is a highly interactive, early literacy web-based tool that supports beginning readers through 32 engaging activities linked to 21 stories of different kinds.
ABRACADABRA builds on the best available evidence for effective teaching of literacy skills. The tool draws on recommendations from the National Reading Panel and other literacy experts to present a balanced program of instruction. This means ABRACADABRA offers activities in four key areas: alphabetics (phonics and phonological awareness), fluency, comprehension, and writing. The tool’s 34 activities provide children an opportunity to develop and practice these essential skills, while encouraging a love of reading and writing.
The development of ABRACADABRA has been guided by a multidisciplinary team of education professionals, including researchers, policy makers, school administrators, language arts consultants, and teachers from Canada, the United States, and around the globe.
Over years ABRACADABRA has been used by thousands of students from countries around the world including Canada, Australia, the UK, Kenya, China, and others. It has proven to be highly effective. Results from 17 empirical studies show that an average student exposed to the tool for about two dozen hours performed at a higher level on all reading-related skills than students who didn’t use the tool.
ABRA has also been adapted for French-language speakers, offering activities that support the specific needs of children learning French, both mother-tongue and second language. As well, ABRA users have access to READS (called LIRE in French), a repository of over 700 free digital stories in 34 different languages that have been catalogued by theme, genre, reading level, country of origin, format, and language.
A Balanced Literacy Approach
ABRACADABRA activities support four key literacy skills: alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and writing. These skills have been identified by researchers, including the National Reading Panel, as being foundational for success in literacy.
Alphabetics: This skill refers to the ability to associate sounds with letters and then to use those sounds to create words. Children need frequent opportunities to practice sounds and words in order to make gains in fluency and comprehension as well.
ABRA offers 17 activities for practicing important alphabetic subskills such as syllable counting, auditory blending, rhyme matching, letter sound search, and auditory segmenting.
Fluency: This skill refers to the ability to read a text out loud accurately, at the proper speed, and with expression. Fluent readers are able to decode the words in a text quickly, and thus can concentrate on the meaning. ABRA fluency activities help children recognize high frequency words (those used often in texts), practice reading with expression, and improve their reading accuracy and speed.
Comprehension: This skill targets reading for meaning, i.e. comprehension, which is the goal of learning how to read. ABRA helps children develop comprehension skills through evidence-proven techniques such as sequencing, summarizing, and predicting events in a story as well as responding to questions about a text.
Writing: This skill addresses the use of letters and words to create sentences and texts for others to read, so that children can learn important lessons about communication. ABRA provides activities to help children spell words and write out sentences correctly.
Avatars and Group Work
ABRACADABRA can be used very successfully with pairs or groups of three children (the maximum size we recommend).
When working in groups, we suggest making sure each child has an avatar, a picture chosen by the child to represent her or himself.
Children select avatars by clicking the My Profile button on the ABRA home page. Many different avatars are available.
Before starting to work in pairs or small groups, one child should log in, making sure her or his avatar is displayed. Then, the next child will click on the Add User button and enter her/his log-in information. This child’s avatar should then appear on the bottom of the home page screen. The third child user will repeat this process, clicking on the button, logging in, and seeing the avatar displayed. Note that only three avatars can be displayed at any given time.
When students take turns working on an activity, they can click on their avatar at the bottom of the screen, which will then display them as the active user.