GraphoGame Rime

GraphoGame Rime is a computer game developed to teach pupils to read by developing their phonological awareness. Originally developed by a Finnish University, the GraphoGame group of programmes employ algorithms that analyse a child’s performance and constantly adjust the difficulty of the content so that the challenge matches the learner’s ability. The English version of GraphoGame Rime was developed by the lead grantee, the educational neuroscientist Usha Goswami, building on research into “rhyme analogy”. This is the notion that pupils learning to read in English learn not just through phonemes (“a”,”t”) but also rimes (“at”). Pupils sit at a computer, laptop or tablet with headphones on, and play the game for around 10 minutes a day. Instruction is focused on helping children to match auditory patterns with groups of letters (e.g. rimes) displayed on the screen. The game first focuses on rimes that are most common in English. But each child has a personal log-in, and the game offers increasingly challenging levels as they improve their skills. 

Why are we funding it?

This project has been funded as part of joint initiative with the Wellcome Trust to explore how insights from neuroscience can be used to improve education. You can read more about this here.

Several studies have shown the effectiveness of GraphoGame in developing reading skills and it was highlighted in the EEF Neuroscience and Education literature review. GraphoGame Rime has been the subject of two, small non-randomised studies, which suggest promising results on specific measures such as spelling (0.9) and phonemic awareness (over 1). However, the studies have limitations and further research is needed to test these results.

GraphoGame Rime is a simple intervention which, if shown to be effective, could easily be used in many schools.

How are we evaluating it?

The independent evaluation team will be led by Ben Styles from the NFER. It will be a small efficacy trial, with the grantee team still closely involved in delivery.

It will focus on struggling Year 2 pupils, who will have already had a year of formal teaching, probably focusing on synthetic phonics. It will last over 2 years, with a new cohort entering the trial in the second year.

The team will recruit 10 schools in Cambridgeshire with high levels of disadvantage (e.g. Peterborough) and identify pupils with low levels of phonological awareness. Around 20 year 2 pupils in each school will be recruited to the trial, and in the first term of the year these pupils will be pre-tested by the grantee team on a number of neurocognitive educational measures (e.g. vocabulary, executive function) while also doing an initial reading and spelling test that will be used in the final evaluation.

Individual pupils will then be randomly allocated to use either GraphoGame Rime for 10 minutes daily in literacy lessons, or have normal tuition. The intervention will begin in the second term of each year and continue until midway through the third term, with pupils receiving around 12-16 weeks of intervention. NFER will then collect post-test data on all Year 2 pupils, using a standard reading and spelling test.

In the second year, the schools’ new Year 2 pupils will go through the same process. Therefore in total, around 400 pupils will be randomly allocated to intervention or control groups over 2 years.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2018.