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Example Environments included with SymWriter 2

SymWriter 2 has a powerful on–screen Grids facility to support writers. 38 example Environments are included with the program to demonstrate some of the features. These are described below. These Environments are installed in the 'Environments\English UK Example Files' Folder.

download pdf SymWriter 2 Example Environments.pdf

Example Environments:

writing environment

Getting Started Guides

00 Getting Started Writing is a teacher activity to introduce newcomers to writing with symbols in SymWriter. It introduces the main writing features such as choosing the most appropriate symbols and adding your own pictures.

The Getting Started Grids 1 –4 Environments are made by following the help tutorials. The PDF files for these can be found from the Help and Tutorials button on the SymWriter 2 launcher.

Personal Writing

Favourite Food
Write about what you like and don’t like for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Each sentence is spoken when the sentence is finished by clicking the ‘Return button’.

01 Getting Started Grid
Write simple sentences about what you like to do on holiday.

This is the first of the Environments that follow the Getting Started Help sheets that you can access from the Help menu.

Sentence – Self Assessment
For students to write about how well they did at school, including how they felt.

Use the Quick Edit button to change put in the student’s photo or to adapt the content for a specific student.

Sentence – Self Assessment – Scan has been adapted for a switch user.

Language work

Picture 1 – Who
The first of a sequence of activities on sentence building. This set asks ‘Who is in the picture?’

Parts of speech are colour coded:
‘Orange’ for person, ‘Red’ for action, ‘Green’ for object

Picture 2 – Doing
The second in the series asks the question ‘What is he/she doing?’

Picture 3 – What
The third activity adds an object to the sentence.

Picture 4 – Build Sentences
Using the same techniques as before, this time the sequences are brought together to build the complete sentences, one concept at a time.

Picture 5 – Write Sentences
The final activity in the language sequence is to write the whole sentence with all the options and distractors on the screen at the same time.

04 Getting Started Grids
Three sets of comparatives: bigger or smaller, taller or shorter and heavier or lighter. Write sentences using the appropriate vocabulary Grid.

A full stop is added and the sentence spoken when the ‘Return button’ is clicked.

Early learning

Animals like to Eat
This uses free–form Trays instead of a Grid to put the choices. When an animal is selected the image and some pre–defined text is written to the document. The sentence is spoken when the food item is added.

Colours – Vehicles
This activity gives students feedback. They are told if they choose the wrong colour and the answer is deleted ready for a new choice.


Listen to a Story – Goldilocks
Click on each line of the story to hear it and add it to the story document. Use the ‘Speak button’ to hear the text again. The current line is displayed in the window above the Grid. At the end, print out the whole story to read as a book.

This style of story building is used in the factual curriculum resources as an alternative to a print book.


Structured Writing – Nativity
A series of Grids have the words or short phrases needed to write sentences on the theme, in this case the nativity story. There are other structured writing Grids in the curriculum resource sets which you can download from the resources section.

Story builder – Nativity
Students using this Environment will be able to write some of the high frequency words from the keyboard, but the Grids, sorted by type of word, will help with vocabulary selection.

General knowledge

Fish Facts
The free–form Tray has pictures of sea creatures. When one is selected the picture is sent to the document and pre–defined text is sent to the paragraph beside it. This is spoken. This offers an interesting interactive way to discover information. Use the View menu to open the symbol browser to get extra help in understanding individual words.

02 Getting Started Grids
A sequence of Grids each with the content to write about what an animal eats. It includes command Cells for deleting the current text and for linking to the next Grid.

This sequence structure can be easily edited with your own content.

Curriculum – Science

Opposites with Feedback – Alive
Two sorting Grids to make lists of things that are alive and things that are not alive. In this example a spoken message is given for an incorrect answer and the selection is not added to the document.

Opposites – No Feedback – Float
This sorting activity is very similar to Opposites with feedback – Alive, except that there is no feedback and incorrect answers are allowed to be added to the document for later discussion or marking.

Category Sentences – Where do they Grow
There are three sets of vocabulary which are displayed by choosing from the left ‘menu’ Grid. Each of the fruit and vegetable Cells sends the Cell text plus the either ‘grow’ or ‘grows’ so that the grammar is correct for each sentence.

Curriculum – History

This set of 5 activities about Victorian Children is part of a complete topic on the Victorians which is available on the resources section, along with other curriculum topics.

Victorian Children 01 – Listen and Copy
Use this Environment first to listen to the information about Victorian Children, or to use as a research tool by copying just some selected sentences to the document as part of an investigation.

Victorian Children 02 – Questions

Use this Environment to answer questions about Victorian Children. Click the question mark button to send a question to the document and then select from the four possible answers below.

Victorian Children 03 – True or False

Use this Environment to test your knowledge of Victorian Children. Click on a Grid Cell to send a statement to the document and then choose from the true and false buttons. When you have chosen from either true or false, the cursor will continue onto the next line. 

Victorian Children 04 – Writing
Write sentences about the topic using these structures writing Grids. Each of five Grids contains vocabulary for two or three possible sentences. The ‘Full Stop Cell’ creates a new paragraph and the next character is automatically capitalised.

Victorian Children 05 – Vocabulary
This word-bank gives vocabulary suggestions for students who can write core vocabulary from the keyboard. The last tab links to some writing support actions such as making a new Sentence, capitalising the next letter.

Vocabulary and Word-banks

Vocabulary word-banks give support for specific topic vocabulary. Unlike the Structured Writing activities, the writer will need to also write common words from the keyboard.

Word–bank Symbol – Winter Weather
Three Grids of words about winter weather to encourage writing. The top bar also has formatting support. At this level most words needed by the writer will be available from the Grids.

Word–bank Text – Winter Weather
These text Grids have topic vocabulary to stimulate creative writing. Each of the winter words has a Grid with a number of descriptive words. Although the document is text, the meanings of the words can be seen in the symbol browser on the right.

Vocabulary – Mountains and Glaciers
These word-banks contain new topic specific vocabulary to help learning. The writer can choose to see symbols in the document or not by selecting the symbols/text icon.

The Vocabulary Typing Environment has the same content but the words are not sent to the document, they are there for reference for the writer to copy using the keyboard.

Word building

Word Building – br – cr
Word Building – c – an
Build words from starters and endings. Most words will show a symbol with any alternative meanings showing in the symbol browser. Incorrect words will be highlighted by the spell checker.

03 Getting Started Grids – 3
Create 3–letter words by selecting a letter from each of the three coloured Grids. This activity is also suitable for use with switches.

letter Spell – Christmas
Letter Spell – Halloween
Letter Spell – Snowstorm
How many words can be made from the letters given? Incorrect words will be highlighted.


Keyboard – Column Row Scan
These on–screen keyboards are designed to help people who need a scanning alternative to the standard keyboard.

The Keyboard – Column Row Scan is modified to work more easily with column/row scanning rather than single step scanning.

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