The Magic Ladder’s PQ Pop-Up

Every word on every page of this site is its own help button.

This site demonstrates a new kind of reading support technology that can help learners of all ages learn to read, improve how well they read, and improve how well they understand what they read.

Click on any word on this page to experience it yourself.
(keep clicking until the box turns green).

Imagine an entirely new kind of instruction and support system for beginning and struggling readers. Rather than having to remember and apply abstractly ambiguous instructions, learners simply touch any word they stutter on and immediately receive decoding, pronunciation, and recognition support.  For words they recognize, but don’t understand, a second touch provides instant access to the word’s definitions, synonyms, roots, translations and, soon, all other relevant references.

Welcome to a new era of reading instruction; a more neurologically efficient way to learn to read and improve reading that compensates for variations in decoding, vocabulary, and native language, as it differentially scaffolds learning. Part instructor, part training wheels, and part safety net, we call it the Magic Ladder. 

Try it. Click on any word on this page (and keep clicking the word it until the box turns green). Clicking on any word instantly results in a pop-up help box that guides learners through the process of decoding/pronouncing/recognizing the specific word they clicked on. 

Decoding / Word Recognition Support:

Clicking through the available levels of recognition support, learners can see the word broken into more readable segments (where applicable), can see and hear the word’s individual letter sounds, can see and hear the word’s group-letter sounds, can see and hear an animated sounding out of the entire word, and finally, can have the word read to them.

Word Understanding Support:

If learners recognize the word, but don’t understand what it means, clicking the  WordExplore button in the Pop-Up opens the Reference Panel, which provides definitions, synonyms, roots, and translations for the word:

The Pop-Up remains available within the Reference Panel enabling learners to use the same process to recognize or understand any word they encounter in the reference content.

The instructions are this simple:

1 Whenever you see a word that you don’t recognize or understand, click it.

2 Once the word pops up in the blue box, try to read it again. If you still don’t recognize the word, click it (click inside the blue box). Watch and listen to how the letters are spoken and change their looks. Try and read it again.

3 If you still don’t recognize the word, click it again, watch, listen, and try again to recognize it. Watching and listening to the letters will help you figure out the word. Keep clicking the word and trying to read it until you recognize it.

4 Once recognized (initially or after the above steps) if you don’t understand the meaning of the word, click the WordExplore  button in the Pop-Up to access references and translations.

By scaffolding learners through the initial steps of help before having the word read to them, the system focuses and guides their learning to decode (rather than short-circuiting the process by just reading the word for them). By controlling the process with their clicking, learners choose just the level of help they need to recognize the word. Once they recognize the word, the popup disappears, and they continue reading right where they left off.

This ‘live on the edge of learning’ guidance not only helps learners recognize the word they clicked on, it is also the most neurologically optimal way to learn to read. Rather than abstractly teaching the relationships between letters and sounds “offline”, and hoping it will be later applied in the ‘live’ stream of reading, this approach supports learners while they’re actually in the ‘live’ stream of reading. With the on-demand Reference Panel, the Pop-Up reduces dependence on prior vocabulary knowledge and supports ELL and ESL learners.

See “The Phonics Debate of 2018” for more background on the concepts behind the Magic Ladder

To learn more about using the PQ Pop-Up, please click here.

To visit the Magic Ladder Library, a collection of stories featuring this and other reading supportive technologies, please click here.

This technology can be easily embedded in most websites with a few lines of code.

A few lines of code added to (embedded in) a website is all it takes to make every word in that site its own reading-help button (it can also be added to individual pages). The PQ Pop-up App code is embedded in each page of this site. It’s also embedded in its sister sites: The Magic Ladder LibraryChildren of the Code, and Implicity as well as a growing number of 3rd party sites (for example: The Story Preservation Initiative).  The PQ App can be added to public non-profit content sites for free.  It can be added to subscription and fee based content sites for a small fee.  Click here to talk with us about adding the PQ App to your content.

Browser Extensions:

The PQ Pop-up App is also available as a browser extension for Google Chrome (an extension for Edge is in the works). With the browser extension installed, students can use the PQ App on popular sites including:

To install the Google Chrome Browser extension version of the PQ Pop-Up, please click here.


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