Publish at March 05 2018 Updated December 09 2021

A game to help children with dyslexia

A fun experiment that has been rolling out in France since the beginning of 2018

The situation of children with dys disorders can particularly upset a class. The teacher must provide them with special assistance while not omitting the rest of the students. In addition, prompt action must be taken so that they do not accumulate  delays in understanding sounds, letters and words. All the more so in a context where France continues to be the champion of educational inequalities. It therefore seems essential not to lose sight of its struggling learners.

There are various means and exercises to ensure the academic progress of these children. New research findings in neuroscience suggest ways to teach them differently. Among them, a playful approach to learning to read.

A serious game for dys children

Grapholearn offers a series of sequences in which children can decipher graphemes. Based on the engine of a Finnish game (Graphogame), this serious game offers modules in which they have to listen and identify sounds or words that appear to them. Some will be simple, but others will display distractors, i.e. similar sounds or terms that could fool the student. There are also games where learners have to form words from letters and even sentences to complete.

Each sequence includes about ten games in which the player must have at least 75 % correct answers. If not, he has to start the game again. After five successful or unsuccessful games, the next game is unlocked to avoid too much frustration in the case of failures or doing the same one over and over again.

Some games adapt to the child's behaviors: a few mistakes will make the next trial have fewer distractors. The fun part comes in the form of chests during the sequences. These give coins that the child can exchange in a shop accessible only after 10 minutes on the game. Open for a limited time (2 minutes), it allows you to trade virtual money for items to customize your avatar (hair, clothes, accessories).

A tool, not a panacea

In a series of conferences to present the game to teachers before the implementation in January 2018, different speakers who have worked on the app explained the different parts of the game and especially the advantages and limitations of Grapholearn.

The game provides interesting opportunities for children to retain graphemes thanks to numerous repetitions. Moreover, as the application adapts to the student's difficulties, ele offers a more personal experience. The game also offers immediate feedback to show the student what he or she has mastered or not. Especially since the experience is focused, meaning that children are immersed in the game with the tablet and a headset to fully understand the instructions.

On the other hand, there are limitations. The developers are working on a possibility for the teacher to provide feedback via the game, but so far this is not present. There is also no rephrasing of instructions. They can be repeated, but will always be said in the same way which can cause problems for some children. There are no review options either. Therefore, it is impossible to go back over everything that was accomplished in the first sequences, for example. In addition, teachers cannot choose the order of learning in relation to sounds or terms by following their curriculum. It is mandatory to follow the path created by the developers of Grapholearn.

Finally, the game highlights specific difficulties, but it does not remedy them. It therefore tells the teacher where the learner has stumbled, but it will be up to the teacher to work with this data and find ways to correct the problem.

Grapholearn is therefore not a perfect solution. It is neither the first serious game for dys disorders as this list from Coridys reminds us. However, it is available for free for parents and teachers in France on Apple and Android devices. Still, it gives kids a chance to learn to read differently, with a motivating playfulness. It will be interesting to see how the app evolves in the coming months and years.

References :

"Learning To Read And Learning Disabilities." Eduscol. Last updated : 7 February 2018.

GraphoLearn. Accessed March 2 2018.

Quilleret, Célia, and Cécile Mimaut. "France, Champion Of Inequalities At School Within The OECD Countries." Franceinfo. Last updated : 27 September 2016.

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