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.

Imagine how different reading instruction would be if every word on every page was its own help button that instantly provides decoding, pronunciation, and recognition support. Now imagine that the word-button also includes instant access to the word’s definitions, synonyms, roots, and translations.

Welcome to the new era of reading instruction; a more neurologically efficient way to learn to read that compensates for variations in decoding skills, vocabulary, and native language, as it differentially scaffolds learning. 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.

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

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

To experience a collection of stories featuring this and other reading supportive technologies, please click here.

To install the Google Chrome Browser extension version of the PQ Pop-Up (and to be able to use it on sites including: ReadWorks, CommonLit, Newsela, Wikipedia, Gutenberg, Google News, and millions of others), please click here.

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