Update: 4/8/20 Word Melodies version 1.0.1 is now available in Google Play as well as in the App Store. This new release fixed the bugs mentioned below.
I am SUPER EXCITED about Word Melodies! This app is the first, fully accessible app designed to teach early readers a wide range of reading and writing concepts. World Melodies - a free app - was released in the App Store on 3/21/20 - just in time for TVIs and families with young students to use during the COVID-19 school closures. Word Melodies is a sister app of the beloved Math Melodies app.
Word Melodies: General Information
Word Melodies is available in English and Italian. There are 19 - yes nineteen! - different game topics; each topic has multiple games and some games have three progressive levels. The games are listed in alphabetical order. Below is a list of the current game topics (remember, most of these topics have numerous subgames!)
- Compound Words
- Learn to Write
- Male and Female
- Nouns Adjectives, Verbs
- Proper Nouns and Common Nouns
- Punctuation Marks
- Question Words
- Singular and plural
- Synonyms and Antonyms
- Text Comprehension
- Vowels and Consonants
- Word Families
Word Melodies has fun, colorful images - perfect for students with vision and low vision. The games were carefully designed with high contrast colors, large print text, and uncluttered backgrounds. The screen layouts follow a similar, predictable design with the instructions at the top, game play in the middle area of the screen, and buttons (Back button, Done button, and Help button) across the bottom of the screen. The app is fully accessible with VoiceOver. Students who are emerging braille readers, can access all the text in braille on a refreshable braille display. Games that are played by selecting an answer are accessible with a braille display. Players cannot use the braille display to insert characters using the 6-dot Braille entry - only the onscreen keyboard can be used to input characters. Currently, there is not a braille display command for Drag and Drop; therefore, students cannot use the braille display to drag answers to the answer box.
The video below demonstrates playing the Identify Rhyming Words game using the refreshable braille display. VoiceOver can be muted with the M-Chord (Dots 1+3+4+space) so that the student must read the braille to play the game.
There are four basic types of game play:
- Select a choice or select a letter(s) from the onscreen alphabet
- Drag and Drop
- Grouping: Drag an item to the left or right basket
- Table: Select an item(s) from a table
Image of a "select a choice" game:
Image of a "Select" game that has a sound clip, highlighted blank answer box and on screen alphabet across the bottom of the screen.
Note: There are too many game choices to create video clips of each one; instead, I have created quick clips about each of the basic four game play types. These videos model what students should be taught, such as learning to listen to and exploring the screen layout - instead of right swiping through the app.
The next video demonstrates "Write the Letter in the Box" game, a "select" type of game play.
Image of a "Drag and Drop" game:
This video demonstrates the Drag and Drop interactive tutorial and the Drag and Drop "Reorder the Letters in the Alphabet Game".
Image of a "grouping" game:
This video demonstrates the Grouping game, "Drag the Word" (Proper Nouns).
Image of a "Table" game:
The last video demonstrates a Table game, "Nouns in a Table".
Editor's Note: Word Melodies is research work from the University of Milan. The Word Melodies team has been working on this app for a long time and then stepped up their efforts even more in order to release this app quickly to support students who are learning at home during the school closures. The developers are seeking feedback - especially about content, additional content needed, and priorities of any suggestions. (Note: There are a couple known spelling issues due to translation from Italian to English.) Be sure to provide positive feedback too - rate this app in the App Store and let the developers know what you think! Sergio Mascetti, Associate professor at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Milan, welcomes feedback and suggestions.
Report feedback here: firstname.lastname@example.org
While there are thousands of educational apps available for young readers and writers, these mainstream apps tend to be very visual and are NOT accessible with a screen reader. Word Melodies has blasted through the typical accessibility barriers and has created a quality, accessible app for emerging and beginner readers who rely on a screen reader and/or braille! This app is truly a "Multimedia" app - enabling students to use vision, auditory and braille to access the content. Word Melodies is an awesome series of emerging and beginner reader games for ALL students. The games are exciting, age-appropriate and teach so many concepts! The games also incorporate a number of tech skills that young students should be learning, including dragging to explore the screen, building spatial relationships and mental mapping skills, using drag and split tap, listening to directions and VoiceOver Hints and earcons, Drag and Drop gesture, digital grids/tables and more! Games for this age group need to include all of these skills in order to efficient tech users and to prepare students with visual impairments for high-stakes online assessments that begin in third grade. A huge thank you for this incredible app for young students who are emerging readers and writers!