GraphoGame Rime is a computer game designed to teach pupils to read by developing their phonological awareness and phonic skills. Pupils work on individual devices supervised in small groups by a teacher or teaching assistant. The game is designed to adjust the difficulty to challenge the learner at an appropriate level.
Testing a computer programme designed to improve pupils’ literacy through teaching phonics via “rhyme analogy”
Language and literacy
There is strong evidence that developing phonological skills is an effective way to improve reading outcomes. GraphoGame Rime builds on this evidence, and on specific research which suggests that teaching children to recognise ‘rime units’ in families of words (for example “c-at”, “m-at”, “s-at”) develops a particular phonological skill which helps pupils learning to read. Previous, developer-led studies of GraphoGame Rime suggested that the game led to gains in reading skills, but these studies were small and had limitations. EEF and Wellcome Trust funded this project in order to rigorously test the impact of the game on Year 2 pupils.
This study provided no evidence that GraphoGame Rime was effective at improving reading outcomes over and above business-as-usual, and this is a highly secure result. Because the project focused on pupils who had been identified by the Year 1 phonics screening check as having low skills, comparison group pupils received other literacy support, including small-group and one-to-one activities, for similar amounts of time to that spent playing GraphoGame Rime by the pupils using it.
Teachers found the intervention easy to implement and considered it highly engaging.
EEF has no plans for a further trial of GraphoGame Rime, but will continue to consider other projects which use evidence-based approaches to raise literacy.
The trial found no evidence that GraphoGame Rime improves pupils’ reading or spelling test scores when compared to business-as-usual. This result has very high security.
The same is true when looking specifically at pupils who have ever been eligible for FSM. The security of this result is lower because the number of pupils is smaller.
Teachers reported that they felt sufficiently well trained and found the intervention easy to set up and implement. Teachers, senior leaders and pupils considered GraphoGame Rime highly engaging, motivational and enjoyable. Findings suggest that all schools implemented the programme with a relatively good level of fidelity.
Because the game was tested against business as usual, comparison group pupils received other literacy support, including small-group and one-to-one literacy activities, for similar amounts of time to that spent on GraphoGame Rime by pupils using it. This means the lack of observed impact shows that the intervention is no more or less effective than the support the comparison pupils received.
Full project description
GraphoGame Rime is a computer game designed to teach pupils to read by developing their phonological awareness and phonic skills. Originally developed by a Finnish University, the program underpinning the game can analyse performance and constantly adjust the difficulty of the game content to match the learner’s ability. The English version of GraphoGame Rime was developed to implement the ‘rhyme analogy’ research by educational neuroscientist Usha Goswami, based at the University of Cambridge. The intervention aimed to improve the reading ability of a group of pupils who were identified as having low literacy skills, as measured by the phonics screening check taken at the end of Year 1. The intervention was delivered by teachers and teaching assistants. Training, technical support and some delivery support was provided by researchers from the University of Cambridge.
This study was an efficacy trial of the GraphoGame Rime intervention, carried out during one spring term with 398 Year 2 pupils in 15 primary schools in Cambridgeshire. It was a pupil-randomised controlled trial designed to determine the impact of the intervention on the pupils’ reading attainment and was conducted with two cohorts of pupils over two years. The primary outcome was the raw score on the New Group Reading Test, administered by NFER test administrators within a month of the intervention ending, and provided by GL Assessment. A process evaluation used case-study visits, telephone interviews and analysis of data on pupils’ usage of the game to capture the perceptions and experiences of participating teaching staff and pupils. The intervention was implemented in schools during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic years.
GraphoGame Rime was funded as part of the Education and Neuroscience scheme, a collaboration between EEF and Wellcome Trust to provide funding for collaborative projects between educators and neuroscientists.