Attention Span) testing can only be accomplished using
the computer. Knowing a child's VAS level is critical
in cases where whole word teaching methods are being
followed. The link below provides access to the free
0n-Line programme that tests both VAS levels and Basic
Reading Skills. This programme also provides an
explanation of VAS Theory so that educators can gain
an understanding of the reason why children with low
VAS levels become poor readers - and most importantly
- how this failure can be avoided.
VAS Theory was
developed by Byron Harrison and the author Jeanie Clyde.
Byron supplied data for thousands of cases, I supplied the
teacher's perspective; together we developed VAS Theory
which predicts which children will be inaccurate in whole
word guessing and explains the nature of their inaccuracy.
It started with Byron plotting the movements of eyes across
line drawings of houses and noting that the children were
paying most attention to those parts adjacent to spaces,
the chimney sticking up into space and the end of eaves
sticking out into space.
When we applied this technology to words, we found the same
principles applied: children were paying attention to those
lower case letters with limbs sticking up (or hanging down)
into space plus the two letters at the ends of small words.
Take the word
example. The letters with limbs hanging down or intruding
up into space are the 'g' and the 't'. The letters at the
ends are 'm' and 't'. He called these letters the 'high
visibility letters'. In the word 'magnet' the high
visibility letters are therefore m-g--t.
We then noticed that some children seemed to be able to
recall more of these high visibility letters than other
children and that the higher the number of letters that
could be held in memory, the better the chances of guessing
a word correctly.
Take the word 'magnet' again. The high visibilty letters
are m-g--t. If the child could hold all three letters in
memory, that visual pattern looked like
Some children were then often able to guess which one was
correct from the other words in the sentence.
However when other children looked at the word 'magnet'
they made more bizarre guesses such as 'meat', 'mist' etc.
It became clear that they were basing their guess on only
the two end letters: m____t. There are over 40 words that
share that pattern.
Other children were even worse readers because they were
obviously basing their guess on just the first letter. They
misread 'magnet' as 'mother', 'measles' or any of 400
possible words beginning with m-----.
We therefore developed a method of measuring how many of
these high visibility letters each indivual child was
holding in memory. We called this the VAS (Visual Attention
Span) level and the Harrison test is today the only means
of measuring a child's capacity to word-guess. If you
encourage word-guessing without first understanding the VAS
level you may unwittingly CAUSE bad reading
To gain further understanding of
VAS Theory click on the link the right hand side bar on