I remember sitting with a student some years ago, a student who has dyslexia. I was coaching her in using her index card to figure out a difficult word. She grew increasingly frustrated, and finally told me, “Mr. Cort, I’m trying to use my card, but when I look at the page it just looks like a sea of words!” That’s when I decided to make an app to help her, an app that became “The Sounding Out Machine – Assistive Reading Device.”
My first goal was to help her get through the “sea of words” so she could focus on her challenging word. I made an app that allows students to snap a photo of their book page. Then I created a “word window” – a box that readers can place around a difficult word. Once boxed, the app isolates and enlarges the difficult word so a student can see it clearly and work on sounding it out, without the distraction of hundreds of other words.
My next goal was to create a “second teacher” – a digital guide to model how to chunk the difficult word into syllables and sound it out. In place of an index card, which was difficult for some students to manipulate, I created a digital card. This digital card mimics an index card by sliding across a word, phonogram by phonogram, blending the sounds together to build each syllable, using Blended Phonics. Later, I added a Synthetic Phonics option as well. Students can watch the app model how to chunk and sound out their word as many times as they like – and then students can practice on their own, with their own digital word card.
The result of these efforts was “The Sounding Out Machine” – the first Assistive Reading Device (or ARD). The ARD performs a role analogous to Augmentative Alternative Communication devices. In the same way AACs turn a child’s iPad into a communication device, the ARD turns the iPad into a reading assistant. It supports children reading paper books or eBooks in the classroom or at home.
For children with reading difficulties or learning disabilities like dyslexia, the device helps isolate and focus on a challenging word – when a book page can seem like a “sea of words.” And for all children, the device models how to chunk difficult words into syllables and sound them out, just as a teacher would.
Take a look at how the app works:
Download “The Sounding Out Machine” in the Apple iTunes Store: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/app/sounding-out-machine-assistive/id1063090009?mt=8