Fill in the blanks

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Chris Drage becomes nostalgic when he welcomes back a classic software program from the 1980sI Developing Tray is back

I never thought I'd live to see it, but a wonderful old software chestnut is back. Developing Tray, a tool for literacy work which exploits creative use of cloze techniques, was created by Bob Moy in the 1980s and it met with huge success. Now it has been rewritten to take advantage of modern technologies - developed by the IT Learning Exchange and published by 2 Simple Software.

Developing Tray treats a piece of text as a photo print in a darkroom developing tray. You can choose how much or how little of the text is displayed and get your pupils involved in discussing and predicting what the missing letters and words might be. Gradually you build up ideas about the subject matter and reveal ever more of the text.

Superficially, Developing Tray may appear to be a glorified Hangman game.

However, this program focuses on thinking about and analysing texts within any subject. It is the ultimate cloze procedure program; it supports reading development and is based on the commonly held belief that reading is not primarily a visual task but one in which readers anticipate and confirm meaning through the use of syntatic, semantic, logical and stylistic cues. In this, the new version loses none of its original power in helping to develop reading strategies of text prediction from clues revealed in context and syntax. It also lets you explore texts collaboratively. However, like all software tools,it is still down to the skill of the teacher to encourage the development of fruitful strategies and tactics.

The teacher can make the task easier for pupils, but the reward system favours predicting letters (thus gaining points) over "buying" them (with spending points).

Developing Tray always works best in collaborative situations where the discussion generated broadens the language experience to include listening and talking, as well as reading and writing.

By altering the text, Developing Tray can be adapted to support a wide range of reading activities. The editor program allows the teacher to insert any text and set it up ready for use. 2Simple Software can supply over 50 sample texts and a teaching aid, "Ripe for Development" (extra texts from the Devtray website), whose example texts are designed to help you use Developing Tray in poetry.

I particularly remember setting up a "mystery" paragraph about the Vikings for my Year 3 class in the mid-eighties on a BBC Micro. The children tackled it in groups of four while the rest of the class were engaged in a circus of related activities. As I issued it as a challenge, trying to unravel "Mr Drage's Mystery Story" quickly became the most popular, yet challenging, task of the lot.

Developing Tray is guaranteed to bring texts to life in your school too.

It's one of those programs that works perfectly well with all ages and abilities, and is a must-have software resource for any classroom.

Developing Tray

2Simple Software


pound;29 Single user

pound;149 2-10 Users

pound;249 Site licence

pound;15 per extra user

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use ****

Features *****

Quality *****

Value for money *****

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