Ivan Sysoev, Anneli Hershman, Mina Soltangheis, Juliana Nazaré, Eric Chu, Sneha Priscilla Makini, Deb Roy


SpeechBlocks is a self-expressive literacy app that helps young children explore alphabetic principles through manipulating letter blocks. Phonemes and words are heard when letter blocks are tapped, put together (blended into words), or pulled apart (segmented into sounds). There is no correct combination of letters, so children can create real and nonsense words. SpeechBlocks encourages children’s intrinsic motivation by avoiding extrinsic rewards such as points or prizes. Words from a “word shelf” and letters from a “letter shelf” serve as scaffolds that children can use and remix.



Word Pong: Social Play with SpeechBlocks

We are experimenting with ways to incorporate social elements into our SpeechBlocks prototype to add meaningful ways for children to interact within the app. In this video, you can see children sending their words to one another through characters.


Piloting SpeechBlocks in the Classroom

In collaboration with Susan Fine from Northeastern University, we used SpeechBlocks as an early literacy learning tool and created a “Literacy Station” in a preschool classroom with 16 children. Each child received a mobile device with SpeechBlocks that they could use while engaging in different open-ended activities. These activities included free-play, building words related to their favorite characters, co-creating words to finish a story, making words to build sentences, and writing their own story book. During these activities with SpeechBlocks, children engaged in letter-identification, word-building, storytelling, and peer collaboration. During play, each interaction with the app was recorded, so we can not only see what words children made, but also get a unique process-based view of how children built these words. We have created a Play Observatory, which integrates children’s replayed log data of their screens with the video data from each session.



Susan Fine, CCC-SLP, Assistant Clinical Instructor, Northeastern University