Syntax City by Smarty Ears- Review
Syntax City is an iPad only app by Smarty Ears, a well-known developer of apps for speech and language. This app was developed by Smarty Ears founder Barbara Fernandes, M.S; CCC-SLP, and targets a variety of grammatical elements in fun and engaging ways for elementary and middle school children. It contains no adverts, social media links or in-app purchases.
The app supports individual player profiles – and the student can choose from a selection of avatars to represent them or use a real photo. 1-5 players can use the app at a time and collects detailed data on each student’s performance. The students are vesting “Syntax City” and they are greeted by the major who explains, “We take our syntax very seriously around here. Back when our city was founded, we wanted to create a utopia where all verbs would agree with their subjects, all actions would be spoken with the right tense, and all people lived peacefully with the proper pronouns.”
Once they have grabbed an identity badge each student gets to choose which locations they want to visit today:
Beach: Third person singular agreement
Ski Resort: He/ She
Farm: Past tense verb agreement
Zoo: Regular and Irregular Plurals
Each student can just visit one location or multiple, and they can play with others that are visiting different locations. This is very useful when doing a group speech therapy session with students who have different goals.
At each location there is a short animated introductory video about the goal, and you can choose which level to work at. For each sentence one word is missing, the sentence is written and read aloud (this can be switched off in settings), and is accompanied by a photograph. The student has to pick which is the correct word to fill in the gap. In the easiest level there are 2 word choices e.g. was/ were and in harder levels there are more options to choose from. An animation is triggered by a correct answer. For each student you can choose what happens when they get an incorrect answer- either that answer disappears or a buzzer sounds. You can also choose whether or not they are given the option to record the sentence. Each location contains 50 targets and there are a total of 400 targets within 8 different activities.
In a group session the game will move on to the next player after a player completes a question. When a student is working on more than one goal questions will alternate between their various goals. As the student play the game they get rewarded periodically with stickers they add to their personal trophy room.
My daughter has Apraxia and as her articulation has improved it has become obvious that grammar is an area of difficulty for her too. She has IEP goals targeting various language goals focusing on aspects of her grammar. Since Syntax City was released her SLP has been using it in her Speech Therapy sessions and I have been using it at home and it has been a godsend! She totally loves playing Syntax City and is so proud of all the stickers she has earned. She will happily practice her grammar with this app -I usually play it as a 2 person game with her, where my “goals” are slightly different from hers and then I get her to “help” me on my turn so she is in reality working on these skills during both our turns. She loves this app so much that she will actually choose to play it when she has free-play time on the iPad! I’m really seeing improvements in the areas we have targeted so far. The one thing I would add to the app is the ability to have it speak the full sentence once the student has chosen the correct answer – I think this is good reinforcement for children who can’t yet read.
Overall, I would highly recommend this app for both SLP’s and for home practice for children needing help working on their grammar skills. It also has great data tracking which is very useful for SLP’s but also useful for parents who want to report back to their SLP about how the child is doing at home. My daughter LOVES this app and highly recommends it too!